HOME > History page

Hemp in Hokkaido dating back to the Jomon Period

Hemp string from the Early Jomon Period, nearly 10,000 years ago, has been excavated from the Torihama shell mound in Obama City in Fukui Prefecture. (Hemp) seeds have been unearthed from the Okinoshima Remains in Tateyama City in Chiba Prefecture.
These discoveries are said to be the oldest in archaeological history. The truth is, even in Hokkaido seeds have been excavated from both the Kiusu 4 Remains in Chitose City, and the Ebetsu Large Remains in Ebetsu City.
It is said that the "Ainu people" of Hokkaido did not especially use hemp. However, it is clear that there are traces of its usage in Hokkaido that date back to the Jomon Period. Future excavation and discovery may be promising.

The Land Development Bureau planted hemp

 The oldest record of hemp in Hokkaido is in the Ezo Matsumae Chronicles (1717・second year of Kyoho).
It reads, "In the western and eastern Matsumae lands, it is possible to farm grain, millet, Japanese millet, hemp, and tobacco," indicating cultivation of hemp in the southern area of Hokkaido controlled by the Japanese.

In 1873(the sixth year of Meiji), with the establishment of the Tondenhei system in Hokkaido, the government encouraged sericulture and hemp as vocational industries. The first areas cultivated by the Land Development Bureau were the towns of Kotoni and Yamahana (modern-day Nishi-ku, Sapporo), and in 1878(the 11th year of Meiji), it was recorded that the Tondenhei headquarters cultivated 30 hectares using seeds from Tochigi Prefecture. During the early Meiji period, 75% of cultivation in Hokkaido was in the Sapporo and Ishikari districts, and at the center of it all was the town of Tobetsu. Most of the fibers produced at the time were made for sardine and Pacific herring nets.

 Hemp Research(1937)

 Mr.Enomoto Takeaki who fought to the end with the new government in Hokkaido in the early Meiji period cultivates hemp during the Russian minister himself and is working hard on the hemp industry in Hokkaido.

In 1876, Kensaku Yoshida, an engineer from the Department of Agriculture, visited Europe and, upon returning to Japan, he drew up a plan to industrialize hemp spinning. The Hokkaido Hemp Spinning Company was founded in 1897(. At first it focused on hemp, but later began to put efforts into flax production. At Sapporo Agricultural College (modern-day Hokkaido University), there was a report on the experiment and practice of Takajiro Minami (Ikeda), and it is recorded that cultivation of hemp and flax were in the official curriculum.

In 1907, after the Sino–Japanese war, Hokkaido Hemp Spinning and Japan Hemp Spinning merged, and Imperial Hemp Spinning (Teikoku Seima) was established. This is the predecessor of Teikoku Sen-i Co., Ltd., which currently sells linen (flax) products. During the first and second World Wars, flax was actively grown for use in munitions, including military uniforms and rope. Many records of flax cultivation from this period still remain, but records of hemp are extremely few, and some desire further examination of documents.

Hemp planted by the Land Development Bureau became wild.

When the Cannabis Control Act was passed in 1948 after Japan's defeat in World War II, It was left without being cultivated, and the hemp became wild.

From 1969–1973, the Hokkaido Institute of Public Health carried out surveys of wild hemp in Hokkaido, from which it became clear that the concentration of THC, the main component in marijuana, was 0.56%–5.73%, with an average of 1.26%. Furthermore, each year 1–2 million wild hemp plants are removed.

Recent work around industrial hemp in Hokkaido

Inspired by the 2002 Hemp Car Project, the Industrial Cluster Research Society Okhotsk in Kitami City, Hokkaido, began to make efforts relating to this theme in 2003, and in 2005 they received a cultivation license and implemented inspection tours to regions with advanced work in hemp (Germany, France, Tochigi Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Korea, and Canada).

On August 8th, 2008, the Special Zone for Industrial Hemp Cultivation was approved by the Hokkaido Government, and preparations progressed for the creation of a new industry. Based on a document from the time of approval of the Special Zone, the merits of hemp promotion are as follows:

1) Along with a decrease in public enterprise, a change in business conditions is being demanded in the construction industry, which is the key industry in the Kitami region.
→Cultivation of hemp and manufacturing of industrial goods could change business conditions and provide employment security.

2) The number of fields and rice paddies that are no longer cultivated is increasing due to people abandoning agriculture and acreage reduction policies (10,000 hectares in Hokkaido).
→This is difficult to realize from the perspective of farmland security, which has concluded that the 500 hectares required for 1 lot for industrial production cannot be found in Hokkaido.

3) Groundwater contamination is continuing due to excessive nitrogen fertilizer and nitrate nitrogen.
→Hemp may be an effective cleaning crop for soil with nitrogen content, and this has been demonstrated at agricultural experimental stations in Hokkaido.

4) The cultivation of hemp for 110 days at a growth of 4 meters can fix carbon dioxide.
→The amount fixed is about eight times that fixed by forests in Hokkaido.

To summarize these merits, there is a possibility that hemp could be the next generation crop in Hokkaido.