Attended JASID Spring Conference in 15 June 2019

I participated the 20th Spring Conference of the Japan Society for International Development (JASID) at Rikuzen-Takata city, Iwate Prefecture, in 15 June 2019.

Rikuzen-Takata is one of the biggest damaged cities of East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 11 March 2011. Almost all city center was totally disappeared by more than 15 meter-high tsunami only for a while. Now, Rikuzen-Takata has tried to build new city on the lost old city area with deep and long sadness with pray for many victim citizens.

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Visit Umaji Village

Visit Umaji Village in Kochi Prefecture. Umaji is Uma (horse) plus ji (road). It means we must reach Umaji by horse. But it is old story. Now we can enjoy smooth car drive to Umaji even though the road is narrow and winding.

Umaji, whose population is 930 persons,  is now famous as success case of local revitalization by processing of yuzu, very good smelling citrus. JA Umaji has 5 factories to process many kinds of yuzu goods, as yuzu drink, yuzu ponzu source, yuzu jam, yuzu chili, yuzu pepper, yuzu liqueur, yuzu cosmetics, yuzu ‘aromatics, and so on. Yuzu seed becomes good material for cosmetics.

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Amazing, isn’t it? Only 930-populated tiny village in mountainous area has 5 factories. Most of products are sold through mail order or internet to all areas in Japan, with increasing the number of fans of Umaji. Umaji offers the status of special villager to those fans.

This has been promoted by JA Umaji. JA Umaji has its very unique and impressive business model to revive tiny mountainous village, through the integration of production of yuzu, processing, and marketing.

However, as other villages in Japan, Umaji also faces to depopulation and aging. How is the way to satisfy with increasing market demand for yuzu products under decreasing of labor? Mechanization is one of the answer with 5 factories. But, is it sustainable in the future? Is it overcapacity or not?

The challenge of Umaji will be severer.