In March the Japanese Ministry of Health announced that it had detected radiation levels exceeding safety standards in vegetables from Fukushima and the neighboring prefecture of Ibaraki. Despite government efforts to assure the public that no contaminated products had been shipped to supermarkets, consumers across Japan have been spooked from buying produce from the affected areas. As a result, farmers in Fukushima and Ibaraki—even those whose crops remain uncontaminated—are struggling to cope with financial insecurity as they face a sudden drop in demand.
In response, a farmer’s market-like event titled “Blow Away Restrained Buying! Support Fukushima and Ibaraki Farmers!” has been launched to calm public radiation fears by inviting farmers from these regions to Tokyo to sell their produce directly, and have customers test for radiation themselves.
The event was planned with the intention of conveying accurate information directly to consumers, and giving them the opportunity to reassess the safety of agricultural products from Tohoku for themselves.
General Manager of the Japanese Agricultural Cooperation Association (JA) in Shirakawa, Fukushima spoke enthusiastically of the event’s aim: “I believe the information being presented to consumers is very limited. I really want them to know that this food is safe. I’m happy to see so many people show up these past two days, and I hope even more come to see what we’re doing.”
In addition to being given a platform to speak directly with farmers from Fukushima and Ibaraki, a number of Geiger counters—a tool used for measuring ionizing radiation—have been prepared at the venue for customers to personally test the safety of the vegetables they are purchasing.
Initially, both farmers and sponsors were apprehensive that overly-cautious consumers wouldn’t bother to show up, hurting producers even more. However, in the end, the majority agreed in favor of holding the event.
“These farmers are putting a lot on the line to bring their produce here and prove to customers that it’s safe,” spoke President Iimura of Ginza Noura Corporation, one of the two hosting organizations.
“There was heated argument among us sponsors about whether or not to hold the event. But we thought, ‘this is something we should do now to let people know that these vegetables are still safe.’”
Despite apprehensions, customers have been pouring in from the opening day, and the success of the event has so far greatly exceeded expectations. Selling began on the opening weekend at 11am, and shelves were already beginning to clear in the afternoon. Most vendors were sold out before closing.
One seller reported, “We even had some customers saying that they couldn’t find the vegetables they wanted at the supermarkets.”
On April 3rd, professional baseball player, and Fukushima native, Nakahata Kiyoshi came to encourage sellers and help raise awareness about the safety of the products.
The event is being held at the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Building in Yurakucho, and is scheduled to run from April 1st until May 8th, so there is still plenty of time for those of you in the Tokyo area to stop by and check it out. Though reports of contaminated produce continue to be aired on the news, what better way to know about the food you purchase than personally asking the farmers who grow it?
■Blow Away Restrained Buying! Support Fukushima and Ibaraki Farmers!
Campaign Schedule： April 1st – March 5th
Hours： 12:00 – 6:00（Mon-Fri） 11:00 – 5:00（Sat-Sun）
Place： Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, Building 1 Pilotis Area, 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Chiyodaku, Tokyo
Hosting Organizations: Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Corporation, Ginza Nouen Corporation