Hokkaido Food Library

The Hokkaido Food Library is a wonderful English-language website which was developed to introduce local Hokkaido products to the world. The website is available in several languages, and in addition to the wonderful pictures there are interesting and educational descriptions of the food. You can search by season, area, or food type.

Hokkaido Food Library


While the ancient Japanese raised cows to work on the farms, it is believed that cows were also raised for their raw milk starting in the mid-seventh century. Cow’s milk was initially consumed only by the aristocratic class as a nutritional supplement, or as so, a processed food made by boiling down raw milk. The culture of cow’s milk consumption did not permeate to the general public until after the arrival of the black ships of Commodore Perry. The demand for raw milk grew as Western culture became more widespread, and as such the number of milk farmers started to increase, allowing average people to easily access it.
In the modern day, milk is not only consumed as a beverage, but also readily made into processed foods and sweets. Known as the dairy country, Hokkaido, in particular, has garnered popularity the world over for many of the dairy products made using Hokkaido’s locally-produced milk.

In terms of dairy cattle count, Betsukai Town is the leader with a total count of 215,000, which nearly triples that of Nakashibetsu Town’s total count, which ranks second. All of the high-ranked towns with large cattle count are located within Eastern Hokkaido, with most of the milk produced in towns situated along the Pacific Ocean.

Hokkaido has the largest milk production in all of Japan. There is a rich variety of dairy products made from Hokkaido-produced milk, including fresh cream, butter, yogurt, and cheese. Not only that, there are also many sweets and other processed foods are also made from Hokkaido's milk. Some examples include white sauce and cream stew made with wheat flour, butter, and milk that are sold in retort pouches. Also, skimmed milk powders are used widely as ingredients in foods and sweets. Moreover, whey, a watery by-product in cheese production, is also being used as feed for pigs in areas like Tokachi.

Japan Times: Slow food, an attitude as much as a meal

Slow food, an attitude as much as a meal

Taking time to appreciate the things we eat may help sustain our choices


OCT 31, 2006

In the 1960s, Japan’s first instant ramen changed people’s eating habits significantly by making it possible to get dinner in as little as three minutes. Even putting fast food and microwave dinners aside, eating has become easier and more functional since those days, due either to higher living standards that make it possible to eat out often, or to advances in the food industry that allow us to buy anything, anytime. Today, we take our meals for granted so much that some busy people even choose to survive on biscuit-type “nutrition bars.”

But this raises questions. Have we forgotten about the pleasure of taste? Are we really enjoying ready-made food? Does the convenience of being able to grab a bite to eat at a fast-food chain, no matter where you are, really compensate for a lack of home-cooked meals?

Writer Natsu Shimamura says modern trends make food boring. In her latest book, “Slow Food na Nihon! (Slow Food Japan!),” she emphasizes that they can also lead to a loss of local cuisine and culture. Shimamura, 43, was one of the first people to introduce the idea of slow food to Japan six years ago when she published her first book on the topic, “Slow Food na Jinsei! (Slow Food Life!).”

What you eat at mealtime is your choice. But the slow food movement argues that the varieties of choices now before you could narrow in the future, as a result of the trend toward the standardization of food.

Internationally, the slow-food movement has spread to more than 100 countries and has gathered more than 80,000 registered members since it started in Italy in the late ’80s. In Japan, the phrase slow food has become widely known in the past few years, chiefly because the media has picked up on the concept, often running features about “slow life,” “slow city” and “slow food” as alternative lifestyles for busy people.

But still, the real meaning of the slow food philosophy is not understood by many people — especially urbanites — who tend to regard the idea as fashionable but impractical; that was one of the reasons why Shimamura wrote her second book on slow food earlier this year.

“Slow food is not about a life of farming in the countryside. It does not deny [you] fast food, but questions the view behind it,” Shimamura said in an interview with The Japan Times.

“A key phrase for understanding slow food is ‘diversity of taste.’ I think the standardization of food could threaten the diversity of tastes available to us and narrow our choices. And that trend could threaten our fundamental right to enjoy good food. The movement is aimed at preserving a society in which people have the luxury of enjoying food.”

The main aims of the slow-food movement are, she explains, to protect local food producers, to promote taste education and to protect food heritage.

When she published her previous book, which mainly focused on slow-food philosophy in Italy, Shimamura did not directly associate the issue with the situation in Japan. Later she learned that local produce could be in danger of disappearing in Japan, due to the food industry’s mass production and mass distribution structure, unless action is taken to protect small farmers. She discovered that many producers of food actually live on tiny plots of land (as little as one-hectare in size). To raise awareness of the matter, in her second book she reported on 20 farmers producing “excellent food” across Japan.

The farming population in Japan has fallen to less than five percent of the entire population, from about 15 percent 45 years ago. In addition, more than half of Japan’s farmers are now older than 65. Trips to meet local farmers opened her eyes to that reality. She was amazed by the skills and wisdom they had developed over many years.

“These farmers are so cool. They are just too good to lose,” she says.

The slow-food movement pays attention not only to an individual country’s internal problems, Shimamura says, but also to global issues such as biodiversity and environmentally sustainable farming.

“You can adopt the slow-food philosophy even if you are living in a penthouse of a skyscraper because the fact is that you have to eat food, and that links you to the producers, no matter where they are in the world. This is the most fascinating aspect of this movement,” Shimamura says.

Pursuing slow food may cost more, since the produce of small farmers is often more expensive than mass-produced versions. Also, some people may say that the epicurean attitude of slow food proponents is similar to a gourmet lifestyle that often pays no mind to cost.

Shimamura, however, draws a clear line between the two.

“Gourmet people appreciate and enjoy the selected food on the plate with their refined tastes. Slow food supporters not only appreciate the food on the plate but also pay attention to the origins of the food, such as the producers and their lives and the food distribution systems,” she says. “Slow food may cost a bit more, but I am willing to pay for food that I really want to eat if I believe that it is fairly priced.”

Kazumi Oguro, editor in chief of a lifestyle magazine Sotokoto, echoed the view. With a monthly circulation of 100,000 copies that target readers in their 30s and 40s, Sotokoto was established seven years ago to promote alternative lifestyles that focus on environmentally sustainable living.

“Organic food is often more expensive. But if you believe it is good for you and also good for the environment, paying the extra cost is only reasonable,” he said.

But eating organic food is not the main point of the slow-food movement, Oguro adds.

Rather, it is about encouraging people to rediscover the excitement they once held for the taste of good food.

“Eating is one of the most fundamental pleasures of being human. How is it possible to lose that? Slow food is not difficult. It is saying ‘let’s enjoy food,’ and is trying to preserve a society in which you can pursue that pleasure,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Tokyo Foundation: Rediscovering the Treasures of Japanese Food

The Tokyo Foundation is an NGO that focusses on a wide array of issues – ranging to policy, economics. The also have a portion of their website dedicated to "Rediscovering the Treasues of Japanese Food." You can discover articles on agar, Japanese shorthorn cattle, or even the Japanese honeybee. These articles offer an interesting academic perspective on the history, economics, culture and development of each of these food sources. While you are there, check out other articles about political assessments of China, Russia, The United States, and beyond. Likewise, discover their intriguing articles on craft, community, and the cost of capitalism. Unique and provactive, The Tokyo Foundation is a wonderful alternative news source and database.

Tokyo Foundation: Rediscovering the Treasures of Japanese Food



The yuko is an astringent type of citrus fruit recently confirmed to be native to Japan. Aromatic and high in citric acid, the yuko has been used to flavor food. At one time this fruit was in danger of dying out completely, but a successful movement to revive the species has provided a blueprint for other such efforts.

History of the Fruit

It was only recently that the yuko was rediscovered and recognized as an astringent citrus fruit native to Japan. In appearance the fruit resembles the yuzu (Citrus junos) and kabosu (C. sphaerocarpa). When it ripens, the outer rind and flesh turn a bright yellow that calls to mind the lemon. The yuko has many seeds, a sharp but well-rounded flavor, and juicy flesh; the white inner rind is also edible, like that of the hyuganatsu (C. tamurana), another Japanese member of the citrus genus. The rind of the ripened fruit has a sweet scent similar to other fruits like the pomelo and yuzu.

The history of this fruit is far from clear. One theory holds that the yuko came about from natural crossbreeding between other species like yuzu and pomelo. The yuko grows naturally from seed, is polyembryonic, or capable of producing multiple seedlings from a single seed, and carries out monogonous, or asexual, reproduction. There are a number ofyuko trees standing today that have stood for more than a century, and it is believed that this species was in distinct existence by the middle of the nineteenth century.

Today yuko trees grow in areas of the city of Nagasaki like the Doinokubi and Sotome districts. These were part of the same Saga domain during the Edo period (1603-1868), but some 20 kilometers separate them, and it is thought that the yuko developed independently in both of the districts.

Yuko trees grow alongside pomelo and summer orange trees in residential yards and farm fields of the Doinokubi district, where, as in Sotome, people have harvested and consumed their fruit. The trees can also be found alongside area roads, though, suggesting that birds may have scattered the seeds to sprout in various locations. Nagasaki has traditionally been home to a large Christian population, including the clandestine Christians of the Edo period, when the religion was banned, and the area has deep ties to the faith. Some believe that the French missionary Marc Marie de Rotz (1840-1914) sought to spread cultivation of the yuko as a means of improving the living standards of the area's impoverished villagers.

In both Doinokubi and Sotome, yuko is used to add flavor to vinegared side dishes and to garnish fish including sardines. Children eat the fruit and drink its juice. The fruit has traditionally been floated in bathtubs for a fragrant bathing experience and used medicinally to treat the common cold and other ailments. Since the strains in use have come from naturally growing trees, rather than managed, cultivated ones, the fruit shows great diversity in the thickness of its rind, its size, and its flavor. For the people in these communities, leading subsistence lifestyles and depending on both farming and fishing for their livelihoods, this lack of uniformity may have even made the fruit more attractive to them, as they could choose from among the various yuko types according to their intended use.

Beginning in the 1960s, the yuko began disappearing rapidly from the Nagasaki region. There were various reasons for this. First of all, farmers introducing satsuma oranges feared crosspollination would reduce the value of their new crops. Second, mass production of vinegar and other seasonings reduced the need for homegrown citrus fruit. Third, the trees got in the way of farmers' efforts to expand fields for vegetable production. And fourth, the yuko trees grew tall relatively quickly, making it difficult to harvest their fruit. In Doinokubi in particular, urbanization and the expansion of residential neighborhoods accelerated the decline of the species.

In a few short decades the yuko had declined almost to the point of extinction. In 2001 Masanori Kawakami, then the chief of Nagasaki City Hall's branch office in Doinokubi and the head of the local public community center, learned of this threatened fruit and carried out a survey of the remaining trees together with researchers from the Nagasaki Fruit Tree Experiment Station and other organizations. This was the beginning of a movement to protect and revitalize the yuko populations, mainly of the Doinokubi and Sotome districts.

Read the article in its entirity here: http://www.tokyofoundation.org/en/topics/japanese-traditional-foods/vol.-11-the-yuko-a-native-japanese-citrus 

Shokuiku Zukan: Dietary Education Guide

This wonderful website is available in English and Japanese. The Japanese version features stories and information about food education in Japan. Even if you can't read the language, scroll through the pages and click random links for pictures. The English-language version showcases the beautiful and interactive artwork used as teaching tools. These "Food Guides" were developed to share information and increase awareness about different types of fruits, grains, vegetables and more. The images include descriptions of food nutrition, body functions it helps to support, as well as seasonal and geographic information. It is a website truly crafted with care and love.


English Language Version: http://shokuiku-zukan.com/en/guide-list/ 

Japanese Language Version: http://shokuiku-zukan.com/