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Eastern Kyushu dairy, ‘MHIJEMU’: Managing sustainability through food production

Into Eastern Kyushu’s Oyama district food is not just elevated izakaya, but also freshly roasted soybeans and freshly sliced sausages. Food also serves as a driving force for the nascent sustainable farming initiative. Successes and challenges from the region show that, if done carefully, small scale agribusinesses can integrate their farming strategy to control all inputs including soya bean and greenhouse gases.

Transportation for food from Eastern Kyushu requires a biological artistry. Otherwise, there would be no chance of keeping food fresh. This artistry takes several forms, the most reliable being Chinese steamed bean curd. Other techniques, such as fermented soya bean paste; fermented plum; soya bean paste with water; and fermented oysters are also used. Because of their long shelf-life, mainland Chinese used to take such preserves with them when they visited Japan in the past, and now they still serve such Japanese foods to East Coast coastal tour groups.

Over recent decades, more and more are realising that the best shopping cannot be found at the supermarket. The reason is because of inadequate refrigeration and cold storage facilities. Whole grains cannot be kept overnight. These grains will perish, no matter how ingenious the methods of preservation may be.

In the beginning, Iwawara Hachikyo Mitsuda (HHM, or MHH, as Hokkaido’s 2nd largest department store is known) was a combination of its investors. In 1953, one particular investor, Shigeru Ehara, a Japanese trader, was dissatisfied with the practice of using plain rice for cooking purposes. He believed that only the best grain could be used, and he started to invest in barley, rye, and hay for his own grocery store in order to display the best quality of grain. While foreign grain from the US became popular in Iwawara, local rice remained undistinguished.

In 1952, MHH began to make investment in Nagasaki and northern Kyushu in order to ensure that it could ship milk products directly to Hokkaido. Hamburger, salad, salad dressing, butter, pickles, tea, whiskey, and cannabis (high value items) were the products first imported by MHH.

The MHH store then relocated to Yokohama, But for the past 30 years, MHH has maintained a warehouse in Oyama, which serves as a kind of information and research centre for its mixed formats. Currently, MHH owns over 20,000 barns that produce good quality agricultural products. Since MHH has to ensure that its profits survive market risks, it is committed to making sure that such returns secure suppliers and retailers.

HTMI’s farm-to-table restaurant at MHH is currently the only stable setup in the area of Oyama. Everything including vegetables, meat, rice, tofu, meat tenderizers, bird’s nest, and soya beans, are prepared on the site using MHH’s own procurement service. The dishes come with a soybean spread made with soy beans imported from Africa, and SBIF rice (agricultural cheese) grown on MHH’s farm in Oyama.

These are several examples of the business process now emerging in Eastern Kyushu. For culinary tourism, it is indeed important to pick your spots wisely.

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