Known nationwide for its fresh and plump oysters, the small town of Akkeshi has been a trailblazer in environmental management in Japan for many years.
On our first day, we had the pleasure of listening to Owari-san and Minatoya-san, two leading figures in environmental conservation and industry promotion in Akkeshi. I was deeply inspired by the efforts of the local government, as well as the townspeople, in achieving their shared vision of an “ecotopia,” as discussed by Owari-san. Their current environmental projects include the soap subsidy program and the Akkeshi cleanup project. In the soap subsidy program, the government encourages households to use soap instead of detergent, known to have a negative impact on the environment, by making soap more affordable and accessible throughout town. In the annual Akkeshi cleanup project, first developed in 1993, participants of all ages gather in May to help with gathering trash, in the aims of protecting the lake and reforesting mountains. In effect, these two government schemes have not only helped greatly in environmental conservation, but also helped raise awareness of environmental issues, reconnecting individuals with nature and passing on knowledge to the younger generations, who will become the wardens of the lakes and mountains of Akkeshi.
Aside from the efforts of the town in environmental conservation, I was also impressed by the current success of Akkeshi’s oyster industry. According to Minatoya-san, Akkeshi has used various oyster farming techniques, from broadcasting to the single-seed technique commonly used today. The single-seed technique is more beneficial than other techniques in that its produces oysters that are better tasting. Oysters produced through this special technique in Akkeshi have been branded as kakiemon (かきえもん) and are distributed throughout the nation. Minatoya-san hopes to expand the kakiemon market by encouraging more farmers to use the single-seed technique in order to meet greater consumer demands and make the kakiemon brand more known, perhaps even internationally.
Though small in size, Akkeshi town has big aspirations, which, through the combined efforts of the local government and the community, I am sure it can achieve. I wish the town and people of Akkeshi good luck in their future projects!