Musings / June 13, 2019

The Yomiuri Shimbun Novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa was born in Tokyo in the mid-Meiji era (1868-1912). His mother soon fell ill and he became an adopted child of the Akutagawa family, who were his relatives. But he often met with his birth father.

Akutagawa wrote in an essay, “My father was a milk seller and seemed to have been one of the small successes.” He was taken to a pasture in Tokyo’s Shinjuku area, and was given ice cream there, according to his essay “Tenkibo.” To describe it in modern terms, his birth father may have been a dairy farmer. It’s hard to imagine cows peacefully grazing in Shinjuku, but it’s no wonder that production areas were located near areas of consumption in an age without cold storage technology.

If this was the first form of the dairy industry, the second is also facing significant changes. The number of dairy farmers is said to have decreased by 60 percent in the last 20 years due to the aging of dairy farmers and a shortage of successors.

This means that about 37,000 dairy farming households decreased to 16,000 households, which works out to as many as three households a day. There has been little bright news in this industry, but a film titled “Yamafutokoro ni Idakarete” (In the arms of mountains) produced by TV Iwate has won popularity for its vivid presentation of a dairy family. It’s a documentary covering 24 years in the life of a family that tries to cut through mountain land and raise milk cows only with natural grass growing there.

One of my work colleagues who has already seen the film said it’s “an emotional masterpiece full of love of family and milk.” Is this the third manifestation of the industry?

(This is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s June 13 issue.) Speech

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