Budo Sansho

People involved with budo sansho

Kiyonobu Shinda and Takeshi Tomioka

Live in the city, work in the mountains
— A new style of agriculture

Kiyonobu Shinda
Kitora Farm
Takeshi Tomioka

Interview date:2019.5.14

Kiyonobu Shinda at Kitora Farm is from former Shimizu Town. He lives with his family in Kainan City and works at a sansho farm in the mountainous area of Shimizu area. On the other hand, Takeshi Tomioka originally from Yokohama, arrived as a local area vitalization contributor and has been living in Sakaigawa district for around half a year. What is the new style of farming from the view of these two?

A “U-turn” and an “I-turn”—Our trajectories

Shinda:I was in my hometown until I graduated from junior high school. I traveled to Wakayama City for high school, and then to Aichi Prefecture for college. After that, I joined the Self‐Defense Forces, but left because of an injury and started working in Tokyo. Then, I decided to try to make a living by farming and moved back to my hometown with the girlfriend I met in Tokyo when we married [the movement of people returning to their rural birthplace is known as a “U turn” in Japan]

Tomioka:It’s fine for me to work on a farm because I live by myself, but I think it’s a drastic decision for you to engage in farming with your family, isn't it?

Tomioka:I was born and raised in Yokohama. After I started working, I moved around Nagoya and Saitama but came to think that I wanted to start something from scratch. Aridagawa Town was the place I decided to move to when I went to discuss my plans at the migration center, and with others. [This type of migration is known as “I turn,” moving from a city to a rural area.] I moved to Sakaigawa district, and live alone. I’m learning everything from neighboring farmers and just planted a sansho sapling for the first time the other day.

“I didn’t have any interest in sansho until I came to Aridagawa Town,” says Mr. Tomioka

A year in the life of budo sansho farmers

Shinda:There is an image that farming is laborious work all through the year, but the busy time for sansho farmers is less than half a year—from April to the end of August. However, it is really tough during the peak in July and August. We get through that work somehow with the whole family pulling together.

Tomioka:Operation gets hectic because of the short harvest period.

Shinda:The average age of farmers around here is 80 years old. The housewives who help out with seasonal farm part time are aging too. It is important to make harvesting easy during the planting process. So that plants bear fruit at a height where you don’t have to squat down.

Tomioka:That too—everything including the process of growing plants, is interesting. We have to think about sun exposure and the strength of the wind when planting seedlings.

Shinda: I grow mulberry leaves and make mulberry leaf tea in autumn after my work as a sansho farmer ends in August. Also, I work as a gardener in winter in Kainan City. My wife has worked in apparel from the outset, so she has found work in that field, unrelated to farming.

Tomioka:It’s a good thing that sansho farmers can do other things for more than half of the year.

The power of sansho, as learned in France

Tomioka:Actually, I had no interest in sansho before I came to Aridagawa Town. After I arrived, I tried asking people around here how it’s used in food, but was met with a lot of responses like, ‘I don’t know.’

Shinda:Right. Since old times, around here, sansho was not for eating but was grown and shipped out. Unlike mandarins, another local product, it is not ready-to-eat, so I never tasted it when I was a child. For that reason, I first realized the greatness of sansho when I saw the positive reaction to sansho when it was introduced by a first-class European chef at an event in France.

Tomioka:What was the reaction?

Shinda:French people are conscious about aroma, and were surprised by the fragrance of powdered sansho, asking, “what is this?” There was another surprise, with the idea of the local chef who served up sweets containing sansho for taste sampling. These included chocolate with sansho, and sansho combined with cheese. I realized that sansho is considered and used as a kind of citrus fruit in Europe.

Tomioka:The fragrance of budo sansho wafts smoothly. I ate pound cake with sansho in it the other day and it was delicious.

Shinda:There are times when it’s not until you go on-site that you learn something. It is really interesting that markets are broadening overseas, with France at the head of the list, with uses that have never been thought of in Japan.

Elevation: 600 m. Mr. Shinda’s budo sansho farm in the middle of the lush mountains.

Mr. Tomioka checking the size of fruit at the sansho farm

Things we have found in this life

Shinda:So you’ve lived here in the mountains here for about a year. Is there anything you’ve had trouble with?

Tomioka:Well, not really. It’s about 30 km to the closest convenience store, so it’s a pain when I forget to buy something I need, but everything else is just fine. I wake up early every morning and enjoy going out on my terrace and sensing the changes of the season.

Shinda:That’s great, since you moved from the city. Around here shopping is a bit of a headache, so everyone buys in bulk once a week. For families, considering schools for the children, or your wife’s job, it’s also possible to live in the city and commute to the mountains like I do.

Tomioka:I think from now on, I’ll have to develop my farming method while living in this place. I am excited about cultivating the sansho tree I planted this year over the next five years.

Shinda:I think that farmers can live very freely in a sense. If you don’t feel like you fit in as an office worker, and you want to build something up from your own efforts, you will find great joy here.

Kitora Farm

757 Shimizu, Aridagawa town, Arida district, Wakayama prefecture, 643-0521, japan
Phone: 0737-22-7074

Kitora Farm Website

Mr. Shinda makes organic, pesticide- and chemical-free mulberry leaf tea, in addition to budo sansho.
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