Industrial Hemp in Japan
Old woodcuts about hemp farming
Miasa village in Nagano prefecture
Hemp farming in the mountains of Gunma
Hemp harvest in Nagano
Hemp is one of the most versatile plants known to mankind. Its fibres can be
used for textiles and ropes or made into paper. Its seeds are a valuable
food rich in unsaturated oils, which can also be used as fuel. Hemp requires
few pesticides as it quickly outgrows any weeds. It leaves the soil clean for
other crops. When hemp stalks are dew-retted in the fields most nutrients are
returned to the soil for the next crop.
Flexible and environmentally friendly
When in the middle
of the 19th century in California Levi Strauss invented the original jeans
he made them from hemp canvas because it was the most durable textile
Hemp could replace many uses of cotton, which uses 50% of all agrochemicals
used in the USA. Unlike cotton hemp grows in many climate zones, from the tropics
to subarctic conditions. It will grow anywhere in Japan, from Okinawa to Hokkaido.
From the Jomon era until the late 18th century, when imported British and American
cotton took over, hemp linen clothed the Japanese masses.
Hemp oil is so versatile that it can be used instead of diesel fuel
or you can fry tempura in it. Before petroleum and electric lightbulbs,
lamps burning hemp seed oil illuminated homes around the world. One ha
of seed hemp produces about 1000-1500 litres of hemp oil plus several
thousand kg of cellulose-rich fibre. One ha of fibre hemp produces about
8000-11000 kg of dry biomass.
Hemp oil for food and fuel
As a renewable resource from living plants hemp does not contribute to the
greenhouse effect. The growing plants absorb as much CO2 as will later be
released when oil or other plant matter is burnt. Unlike fossil fuels
(oil, coal, gas) or nuclear fuels hemp could supply us with raw materials
for thousands of years, without ever changing our climate and without
producing waste that remains radioactive for millions of years.
Hemp is an excellent archival material, for use in paintings and books.
Most famous paintings are painted with hemp oil on hemp linen. In ancient
China the art of making paper from hemp (and mulberry bark) was guarded
as a state secret, but eventually the knowledge found it's way to Japan,
and also to Europe via the Arabs. In 1390 the first European mill processing
hemp rags into paper was founded. In 1455 Gutenberg printed
the first printed book in Europe on hemp paper. The first two drafts
of the U.S. Declaration of Independence were written on Dutch hemp paper.
Traditional Japanese paper (washi) was made from hemp and mulberry fibre.
Nowadays hemp is virtually unavailable for this purpose though a limited
supply of hemp paper has been manufactured in Tochigi recently. Hemp and
mulberry paper are also used for ritual strips of paper decorations used
at Shinto shrines. Japan imported the recipe for paper making from China
where most paper still contains hemp today.
Only around 1850 did paper from wood pulp start to replace hemp. Trees
were cheap, but now they are rapidly getting depleted. Over a period of
20 years one hectare (ha) of hemp can produce as much paper as four
hectares of forest. Japan still imports much of its wood pulp from tropical
rainforests which are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
Today hemp is staging a comeback, used by fashion designers and mass producers
alike. In addition to established producers such as China, Romania, Hungary
and France hemp crops are now also grown in Australia, Canada, Britain and
Germany where for decades there had been none. It is legally cultivated in
at least 30 countries around the world, including every G-7 country.
Even in the USA an experimental crop is being grown in Hawaii under a government license.
While processing is established for historical uses, innovative applications
are being investigated. Hemp is used for products as diverse as car dash
boards or panels (BMW, Audi, Cadillac) and horse bedding. Hemp fibre has
excellent sound proofing qualities and is extremely water resistant. It has many applications in the construction industry where its use helps prevent
deforestation. Hemp stalks can be made into plywood and chipboard and
hemp hurds are a good insulation material.
Hemp seeds are a good source of protein and one of of the highest quality
vegetable oils (rich in unsaturated fats). Unsterilised hemp seeds are sold
as bird feed in Japan. Hemp seeds are also still contained in shichimi,
the spice mix used with ramen noodle soup. They can be used in place
of flour or tofu.
Mr. Nakayama who has a hemp farm in Shizuoka produces hemp seeds for use in
cosmetics. Others want to produce seeds for use as food. Currently it is
very difficult to cultivate hemp in Japan as that requires a licence and
many prefectural governments have not issued any new licences for a long
time. Many other countries (for example, Germany, Austria and Switzerland)
do not require any licenses for farmers to grow hemp. Current Japanese
industrial hemp regulations far exceed what is required by United Nations
drug treaties that Japan has
ratified. These treaties specifically exempt hemp grown for non-drug use
from any required controls:
1. If a Party permits the cultivation of the cannabis plant for the production of cannabis or cannabis resin, it shall apply thereto the system of controls as provided in article 23 respecting the control of the opium poppy.
2. This Convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes.
1961 Single Convention
on Narcotic Drugs
In 1950 a total of 4049.2 ha of hemp was grown in Japan, employing 25,118
farmers. By 1996 licenses for only 12.4 ha (31 acres) of hemp were issued by prefectural
governments, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Most of that hemp, 12.0 ha (30 acres), was grown in Tochigi prefecture,
about 50 km north of Tokyo. The most common low-THC breed is called
"Tochigishiro" which was developed by the Tochigi Agricultural Experiment Station (See Institutes in our hemp address list).
There were only 102 licensed hemp farmers left in the entire country by 1999.
Japan suffers a problem from having protected its food markets against foreign
competition. It is under immense pressure to open its farm markets as it
vitally depends on equally open industrial markets abroad for its exports.
When rice imports displace domestic production, some Japanese rice farmers
will have to switch to other crops. Hemp also grows well in areas where
tobacco or mulberry (for silk) are still cultivated. It is well suited to
the Japanese climate, is environmentally friendly and currently faces no
Industrial Hemp in Japan (1999)
University of Kentucky: Economic Impact of Hemp (USA)
Hemp in British Columbia (Canada)
WestHemp (BC) Cooperative (Canada)
Hemp in Germany (in German!)
Hemplobby.org has a great 16 page brochure to print out.
The Ohio Hempery is one of the oldest hemp businesses in the USA.
The Hemp Food Association
Hemp Today, by Ed Rosenthal.
ISBN 0-932551-14-9, published by Quick Trading Company, Oakland, $19.95. A good overview of all aspects
of the global non-recreational hemp industry.
The Emperor wears no Clothes, by Jack Herer.
Queen of Clubs Publishing. $24.95. A good primer into the history of hemp prohibition.
Hempen Road, by Eiji Masuda and Dave Olson. $25.00
Hemp in the Pacific Northwest,
from Canada to California.
2103 Harrison NW, Ste. 2756
phone: +1 (360) 705.3804
Hemp for Victory, by US Department of Agriculture, 1942.
H.E.M.P, 5632 Van Nuys Blvd., Suite 210, Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Video included with annual membership, $20.00. A documentary
made about hemp by the US Department of Agriculture during WW2, encouraging
American farmers to grow hemp for the war.
If you have RealVideo then you can watch Hemp for Victory
online at the Legalize! USA website.
Note: This video is also available on the Taima-CD ROM.
Contact us for details.
Hemp in religion,
as a "drug",