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japanese hemp

Japanese hemp

Folks are still able to buy hemp clothing and household accessories that come from mostly China, Korea and now the US and Canada. Hemp and its breezy feel is particularly favored as summer apparel in the muggy heat. The domestic Japanese hemp is especially finely woven and some weave have a sheer, crepe quality is unlike anything else in the world.

By early 1970’s, Gonda was still half a century behind, no utilities, roads or services. A village with just old folks remained and the city officials removed them into city condos rather than provide infrastructure and services. For a decade the area stood vacant, silent, fading back into the hills except for an occasional relative, bringing ceramic saucers of sake and oranges to the graves. Retired from the Navy, Steve and his family resettled the village and homesteaded there, tending to the area and again using the bounty of the mountains. With hard work and smartly planned organic agriculture, Gonda’s fields once again bloom with life. In their valley, there are discovering the rich agriculture history of the area.
On Shikoku (the smallest of the four main islands) hemp is grown for the use of the Imperial family.

Certainly a waste of seed but at least the acclimated strains aren’t extinct as has happened in other countries.
Most fled the rural life except for the oldest child of each family who must remain to carry on the family traditions, maintain the graves, tend the elders and run the house. A household bursting with long-living elderly and scant few workers.
Even some government workers are owning up to Hemp’s heritage, as a Health and Welfare spokesperson points out, “In the first half of the century, cannabis was a prescription drug for treating asthma and other respiratory diseases, but Japan was forced to adopt stricter controls due to international pressure. This means that under Japanese law, cannabis is treated as if it was as dangerous as heroin or cocaine . . . although it could be said that cannabis is as addictive or mind-altering as alcohol.” (Young)

1912 “. . . Japanese Hemp is beginning to be cultivated, particularly in California, where it reaches a height of 15 feet. Russian and Italian seed have been experimented with, but the former produces a short stalk, while the latter only grows to a medium height.” (Dewey, Dodge)

Household accessories like washcloths, curtains continue to be sold, made from Chinese and Korean hemp. More recently, new hemp products from western hemp manufacturers are taking off. Given Japan’s enthusiasm for traditional, rugged North American fashion, this will be a burgeoning industry should the restrictions relax.

At several universities around Japan, research and test cultivation of low-THC hemp has occurred since the early 1990’s. In Tochigi prefecture, a group has recently begun producing and marketing rugged, refined paper made from pure, domestic hemp. This handsome paper is available in limited supply and is being used for printing cards and book-covers. Shinshu University in Nagano is also cultivating but information is not widely published. Various projects are underway in Iwate and Fukui prefectures and on Hokkaido, showing hemp’s potential in many latitudes and climates.

Definitive research about the history of hemp cannabis in Japan. Traces many uses from Neolitic to modern times. Published in several magazines.

Japanese hemp

The law was passed despite the fact that Japan had no particular problem with cannabis abuse. Indeed, the plant grew prolifically across the country, and was regarded as a highly important crop serving practical, religious and spiritual purposes.

Farmers in Japan are keen to see the law changed, and for hemp cultivation to become an easier process. Some have suggested that the Kyoto Protocol supports their views. This document forms part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Hemp cultivators point out that hemp is a sustainable crop, and could be beneficial for the environment.
It played an integral role in Shintoism (Japan’s indigenous religion). Shinto priests believed that cannabis cleansed the air; they would wave bundles of leaves around them to get rid of negative spirits. In fact, cannabis was regarded as a symbol of purity, which is why brides often wore veils made from cannabis when they were married.

“Cannabis farming used to be a year-round cycle,” he stated. “The seeds were planted in spring then harvested in summer. Following this, the stalks were dried then soaked and turned into fibre. Throughout the winter, these were then woven into cloth and made into clothes, ready to wear for the next planting season.”
The Japanese government is notoriously negative about cannabis use. This is so much the case that they even requested that Japanese nationals should “respect Japanese law and stay away from marijuana” when visiting other countries where the drug is legal, like Canada.
Prior to 1948, cannabis was widely cultivated in Japan. It was valued for its practical uses in making textiles and rope, for example, and as an integral part of religious and spiritual practices. With the introduction of the Cannabis Control Law by US officials its use, sale and growth became banned in the country. Now cannabis use is deeply frowned upon.
This certainly wasn’t the case in the past. Junichi Takayasu, the curator of Taima Hakubutsukan (Japan’s only hemp museum) explained to The Japan Times how prevalent cannabis cultivation used to be in the country.
The Cannabis Control Act specifically lists cannabis seeds as an illegal substance. However, the law is ambiguous on this topic, and it seems that the seeds are legal to possess, as long as they’re not used for cultivation. If the seed is sterilised (and can’t be germinated), then technically, it’s also legal to mail it into the country.

This number slumped in the years that followed, but it wasn’t the law that brought about the decline. In fact, it was the growing popularity of artificial fabrics that caused it, and the elevated costs of the cultivation licences.

Before 1948 cannabis was widely used across Japan. Now, after US intervention, it’s viewed as dangerous, and punishments for using it are severe. Read on.