Hemp in Japan: OK As Rope, Not As Dope

hemp lamp photo
Hemp lamps photo: greenz.jp earthday 2008

In Japan, hemp was always a very important plant for making strong fabric fibers, as well as weaving cloth for use in holy places like shrines and temples. The oldest hemp seeds and fabrics have been found in Fukui Prefecture dating back some 10,000 years.

Hemp was promptly banned by Americans in 1948 during the post-war occupation, but is going through a revival. It can be grown legally and local governments can grant licenses to farmers to grow hemp for fabrics and seeds for consumption. Some 90 percent of Japan's commercial hemp is produced by licensed farmers in Tochigi Prefecture. What on earth prompted the US authorities to ban hemp in a country like Japan?hemp japan hokkaido tokyo image
Photos from Kyodo and Hemp Works
Hemp, as most Treehuggers would know, is a very green crop that requires little or no pesticides, no herbicides, and controls erosion of the topsoil. No wonder young green activists in Japan are catching on to this miracle crop:

Oromina existed off two big open spaces, with a really massive collection of hemp and other organic clothing. Takaharu Kanayama, the friendly owner, who speaks good english, told us he carries about 12 hempbrands! Oromina Yokohama, is his second store, he also has a small shop in Tokyo. He has been in the hemp business for 10 years, and it is funny how things work the same in Asia as they do in Europe. The Japanese hemp fashion has a lot bright colors, interesting prints and unusual cuts.

Oromina in Tokyo is a shop with a fun website, dedicated to hemp, Naughty by Nature.

hemp japan kamidana photo
Photo: Wikipedia

Hemp ropes in particular are seen at hundreds of thousands of places of worship, called kamidama.

hemp japan bed photo
Photo: kaiminhonpo.com

Today, lots of shops are promoting hemp for beddings and screens, curtains and other interior design features - a cool and natural material that Japanese people have loved for millenia.

hemp japan shinto priests photo

Some say US chemical companies like DuPont wanted to control the synthetic fiber market, and this is why hemp was banned here in 1948. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised - but legal farming in places like Gunma Prefecture continues as long as the crop is not used as a drug. The Japan Times notes that there are many industrial uses for hemp.

More hemp:
Hemp in Australia
Hemp in Canada
Hemp in the UK
Hemp in France
Hemp in The Netherlands

Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Agriculture | Japan

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