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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Eclipse


Zollet Simona
PhD Candidate, Hiroshima University, Department of Cultural and Regional Studies

Topic: Farmers’ markets in Japan: creating new spaces of action for alternative food initiatives?


Among industrialized countries, Japan stands out as the one who has gone through some of
the most dramatic and swift changes in the structure of its agri-food system. These include
both changes in the agricultural system (rapid intensification and mechanization, followed by
an equally rapid decline and marginalization of the agricultural sector and rural areas) and in
the food system (Japan is now importing a large amount of its food, and one of the reasons is
the “westernization” of food culture). Japan, however, has also a long history in relation to the
development of alternative food movements, which started emerging in the 1970s as a
response to the failures of the domestic agri-food system. One more recent example is the
development of farmers’ markets, which have a shorter history than in the US and in Europe,
having become popular only in the past ten years. While the concept of ‘farmers’ market’ had
been initially launched by government-led campaigns to support the promotion of locallygrown
food, farmers’ markets expansion has been in large part grassroots-driven. Farmers’
markets are being established, among others, by local organic farmers’ groups and by NPOs,
and one of their main objectives is that of creating opportunities for interaction and
communication between producers and consumers, and by extension between rural and
urban areas. Moreover, farmers’ markets are increasingly becoming a space for socialization,
leisure and community-making, the kind of “third place” that is often missing in contemporary
Japanese urban landscapes. Finally, farmers’ markets are opening up opportunities and
spaces for the organic farming movement, so far marginalized as a result of unsupportive
government agricultural policies. This research examines three farmers’ markets, all
established through the efforts of organic farmers’ and local NPOs, and investigates the
reasons behind their creation, the objectives of their administrators, the interaction among the
different stakeholders involved, and the visitors’ response. By drawing upon interview and
questionnaire survey data, we attempt to make a critical examination of the positive outcomes,
as well of the problematic aspects, of this fledgling alternative food movement.

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