Slow Food Activities

The restaurants where slow food is served and facilities where regional produce are traded are extensive and enhanced. In 2009, the “Slow Food International Conference” was held in Tsuruoka.

Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops

Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops was founded in 2003 on an initiative of the Faculty of Agriculture, Yamagata University.

Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops aims to rediscover local gastronomy, looking on the existence and significance of indigenous crops within and outside of Yamagata Prefecture.

It also aims to recommend a safe and bountiful dietary life, contributing to the revitalization of food-related industries that derive from the region’s unique resources.

Hatake no Aji

As an achievement of dissemination, three booklets, Hatake no Aji (2009) (Farmland Dishes), Hatake no Aji II (2009) and Hatake no Aji III (2011) were supervised and published, in addition to the books Dokoka no Hatake no Katasumide (Somewhere on the Side of the Farmland) and Oshaberina Hatake (Talkative Farm), introducing recipes for dishes that use indigenous crops from the Shonai region.

Utilizing Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops — the “intellectual seeds” that the Faculty of Agriculture has—a hands-on workshop called “Oshaberina Hatake, learning the indigenous crops of Yamagata, the living cultural assets, from farmland” has been offered since 2010 in an effort to increase the number of farmers of indigenous crops in Yamagata, promoting sales, processing and consumption of farm products in partnership with agriculture, commerce and industries for high added-value. The workshop was attended by more than 100 students during the years of 2010 and 2011.

Food Education

Gakko Kyushoku at school
Education to the younger generation is of utmost importance to develop human resources that underpin the gastronomy.

The cohabitation ratio of three generations in Tsuruoka (22.3 percent in 2010) is significantly above that of the nationwide average (7.1 percent in 2010). As the three generations of grandmother, mother and the next generation live together, the ingredients and cuisines connected to local daily lives and traditional events, and distinctive gastronomy have been passed down in numerous households.

In Japan, at nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools and junior high schools, the daytime meal, Gakko Kyushoku (school lunch) is provided. It started in 1889 and Tsuruoka is reputed as the birthplace of the Gakko Kyushoku. Currently, citizens and the city are promoting increased use of local ingredients for the Gakko Kyushoku, such as the implementation of “local production and consumption.”

Furthermore, with a view toward stimulating public interest and raise awareness of the importance of food and local agriculture, forestry and fisheries through exchanges between farmers and youths, the city has been annually running a project “The day of school lunch fully made from ingredients from Tsuruoka,” using local agricultural and marine products since 2002. In 2008, a menu from this project received a prize at the “National School Lunch of Local Production and Consumption Menu Contest.”

In 2004, Tsuruoka applied to the central government to be a “Designated Structural Reform District,” which alleviates regulations and a “Special School Lunch District for Vigorous Children Nurtured from Local Production and Consumption” was certified by the national government. At that time, under the Child Welfare Act, delivering school lunch to nursery schools, which was prepared outside its own facility, was not permitted. This certification was meant to ease such regulations set by the government.

In the meantime, groups of local farmers that bring in produce to schools for Gakko Kyushoku have been organized. These farmers’ groups give farmland observation tours, involving the parents, and at “School Lunch Networking Events,” hardship and anecdotes about agricultural work are narrated to children.

In 2008, the “Plan for Food Education on Tsuruoka’s Gastronomy” was compiled, fully using the agricultural and marine products, as unique local resources, made from the best that nature has to offer, with rediscovery of Tsuruoka’s gastronomy nurtured by history and climate, citizen initiatives in food education activities of all sorts to foster gratitude for foods, and to live healthy, good lives.

In addition, a group of diet improvement promoters was organized among the citizens of Tsuruoka, and its 692 members are currently engaged in activities related to local health promotion through dissemination of appropriate diet, food education programs or promotion of local production and consumption, based on the three pillars of health promotion: diet, exercise and rest.

Female Citizen Reporters

Female Citizen Reporters in action
The city of Tsuruoka organized a group of “Female Citizen Reporters for Promotion of Tsuruoka’s Gastronomy” in 2011. Their job is to contact chefs and producers of traditional foods and to support the operation of disseminating information via the Internet. Their activities brought about creative tourism with a gastronomic theme, resulting in promotion of a robust gastronomic community.

No1. Farm Restaurant in Japan

In Tsuruoka, one can spot a variety of projects to enhance agriculture, forestry and fisheries, including agro-processing by the producers, agritourism, farmhouse inns, and farm restaurants, among others.

Within the city, there are seven farmhouse inns and farm restaurants, of which Chikeiken and Nouka no Yado, Omoya were nominated among “100 Landladies of Rural Inns,” surveyed by the Organization for Urban-Rural Interchange Revitalization.

Chikeiken was ranked No.1 among “farm restaurants to visit for summer vacation,” in an article written in 2009 for the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a leading financial newspaper in Japan. Reservations are required to eat in this farm restaurant, whose main concept is to relish completely additive-free dishes of home-grown Shonai rice and in-season vegetables just harvested from the home farm, in a peaceful farm house built some 50 years ago.

Nouka no Yado, Omoya, on the other hand, is housed in its own house of over 100 years old, where home-grown organic rice and dishes using indigenous crops are served. The restaurant is actively participating in green tourism and food education, while hosting children from the cities and partaking in activities to teach the importance of food and agriculture.


Nouka no Yado, Omoya

A place of Slow Food, Sanchoku (Farmer’s Market)

Sanchoku can be translated as “a place for direct connection, direct delivery and direct sale of agricultural products.” It denotes premises where the farmers provide the consumers with fresh foods and local specialties directly, without the ordinary route of distribution, such as a wholesale market.

Tsuruoka is well served by Sanchoku, with 14 major facilities at the core run by farmers and groups of farmers. Various slow foods, including fresh vegetables harvested in the morning are available at convenient places for citizens.

Activities Contributing to Preservation of Food Diversity

United Nations University, the only UN organization in Japan, is participating in activities related to sustainability and biodiversity. It organizes a Farmer’s Market in the public space in front of the university to promote mutual understanding, through exchanges and conversation, between producers and people living in the city.

Tsuruoka showcased our products in 2011, as part of our project to disseminate information promoting diverse agricultural products and the indigenous crops of Tsuruoka as well as to create ties with chefs in the Tokyo metropolitan area.