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Is Japan Starving?


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Slightly off-topic, but let me just say that after the World War II, the GHQ attempted to change the palate of the Japanese, feeding children with bread and milk.  They never succeeded.

that's interesting Hiroyuki, I wonder what was the reasoning behind that strange attempt??

I'd like to think it was because the US cared about nutrition for Japanese children after bombing the hell out of thier country, but I think the real reason is we had a glut of wheat after the war ended and it became a tidy profit for US government to get rid of surplus wheat it had stored up. (I believe I read that in either Omnivore's Dilemma or Guns, Germs, and Steel. No idea which. I highly recommend both if you haven't read them.) Though I have heard milk is now drunk by most Japanese children and it's helped the younger generation tremendously. If you take a look at the older generation you'll see that most men are pretty short. Thailand has a similar situation with the introduction of milk to the diet of younger generation. The men in my family are mostly around 6 ft with one cousin topping off at 6'4. This was unheard of prior to WWII I believe. No a days it's not uncommon to see taller men in the younger generation. I believe it's common to have a rice based meal or a bread based meal as part of the school lunches in Japan also because of the policy from WWII.

Hiroyuki might be able to tell you more. :)

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Thanks OnigiriFB for answering before I did. I actually almost asked moderators to delete that post of mine because it was off-topic and potentially political in nature. I have nothing to add, except some very fundamental cultural aspects, which I shouldn't post because this is a food forum!

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I guess food will always be political - as my husband used to say (or rather sigh) as he dealt with tourist complaints "Tabemono no urami wa fukai!" (Resentments based on food run deep!").

I noticed the average height of young Japanese university students increase even over a decade. Unfortunately, the sight of fat children has become more common along with the sight of tall young men. And I'm not the only person to notice that average height of school children still appears to vary between the affluent western Tokyo suburbs and the less affluent eastern suburbs, so both income and socio-economic preferences probably come into it.

Milk and bread - I often wonder what the opposite would be - my kids used to get a handful of small dried fish on their lunch trays, which I guess would come as a surprise to western schoolkids!

It would be great if differences in taste were the only problems with food aid.

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It would be great if differences in taste were the only problems with food aid.

The USA sends food aid and it gets rejected since its GMO.

Or

The USA sends food aid and it gets stolen from the aid workers by warlords

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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  • 2 months later...
Hi,

someone said Japan is starving ... Is this true?

Yes we are starving for decent Mexican food and BBQ ribs, otherwise we have plenty of lovely things to eat.

To Helen: 3) Pressure from popularity of non-rice based Shochu ( distilled rice liquor), especially barley and sweet potatoes.

This sounds quite interesting, could you expand a bit on this, were these items used as feed, or something else?

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Hi, sorry for the delay...bit busy on the home front recently.

I'm not quite sure how to answer your question, but does this help at all?

Barley is mostly eaten in Japan as a "healthy" alternative to rice - long ago, it was also cheaper than rice.

Sweet potatoes (satsuma-imo) was also once a cheap substitute or "stretcher" mixed with rice, and is also a popular vegetable and snack food.

Recently, both have become more expensive (though it is a long time since they have been really cheap), and also harder to get, because brewers pay good prices to reserve crops for making spirits.

I think the "imo-shochu" boom has passed its peak, but a year or so ago, I noticed that even in fall (peak season), vegetable shops and supermarkets seemed to mostly have second-rate sweet potatoes, in smaller quantitities and at higher prices than usual.

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  • 6 months later...

Recently, one read that Japan's exports have fallen sharply, 45% over February 2008 numbers; also that the Japanese economy shrank by 12.7% over the past year.

A few thoughts arose and I hope you will help critique these, that are in the nature of thought experiments, meant to explore a horizon, not prescribe solutions.

One major expense to the economy is petroleum imports. Efficient use of oil is relevant also with respect to the Kyoto Protocol, since carbon trading rights have a market value. Thus, there are al least two immediate layers of savings to the economy with reduced use of electricity, say.

Agriculture practiced the the intensive modern way anywhere in the world, Japan included, consumes a lot of energy and its productivity, the efficiency with which inputs are used as a function of yield and unit area, is quite difficult to determine. The reason behind this is: what philosophical parameters do we include when defining efficiency. For each Production Function, only a finite number of factors can be included, and only a limited sphere can be stressed e.g. biological efficiency, efficency of return to capital, efficiency of energy, nitrogen use efficiency, water use efficiency etc. Efficiency is an apparently simple definition, harboring a universe of pitfalls, including the size of the system.

For now, let us just consider a single element, Nitrogen. It is vital to agriculture, and being an inert gas, dinitrogen requires considerable energy to be converted into biologically useful compounds. Consequently, living agents exist in great numbers who derive life energy by converting these compounds back into the inert gas.

Nitrogen is converted into agricultural fertilizer through a process using electricity. Petroleum to electricity is less than 33% efficient and leaves a carbon footprint, i.e. a carbon trading right debit. [Even a nuclear power plant or hydroelectric plant has associated with it relatively high high environmental costs including atmospheric heat load and water requirements.] That Nitrogen applied to flooded rice fields either as urea, ammonium sulfate or various NH3/ammonium complexes experiences enormous denitrification by bacteria and relatively inefficient uptake and use by the rice plant with its C3 respiration. A millet with a C4 respiration conserving carbon dioxide does a little bit better under certain circumstances; so do those Amaranthus with an operational C4 pathway. But hold this thought for a moment!

All the nutrients produced with so much Energy + N leakage end up in human sewage sytems where yet more energy is used to throw the valuable N compounds (just recently manufactured at such expense) BACK into the atmosphere!! This is like using brand new carboard boxes that then get thrown out after a single use! This is a vicious cycle that is eating up petroleum energy at both ends of the Nitrogen cycle in this particularly futile manner.

Now Japan is the world leader in trapping every iota of heat from industrial processes and recycling them back for the greatest efficiency. It also has an ancient culture of recycling human and animal waste most efficiently fr enormously productive agriculture. Japan also has the capacity to think radically out of the box in terms of INDUSTRIAL PROCESS and create exceptional technological solutions. Therefore, it is necessary that this FUTILE NITROGEN CYCLE be interrupted. Many tens of billions of dollars can be saved directly by reducing petroleum use, and also by saving on carbon trading rights.

The other path to carbon trading rights is perennial agriculture of fruit, nut and woody grasses, including bamboo and sugar palms. Japan may have limited flat land but her lower hill slopes have immeasurable potential. She could be flooded with reasonably priced apples, figs, grapes, nuts of diverse kinds and many other wonderful things. This land has a magnificent climate, enormous north-south spread, superb drainage, a magnificent horticultural tradition, sufficient rain, great lower slopes. Everything is perfectly in place, ready to take up any economic slack.

Perhaps more (young) people will be encouraged to take up part-time horticulture and creative ecological technologies, now that the export economy and the artificial lifestyle is souring! There already are a few back-to-the-land types clearing homesteads in the foothills. With them, we can see a return to innovative cropping systems, with an array of grains like millets, buckheats, quinoa, tarwi, Andean vegetables, perennial lupins [ L. polyphyllus], NAGOYA chickens, High egg prodcing geese [e.g. ZIE], small grazing pigs and many more exciting innovations.

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