The Emerging Organic Market in Japan


In Japanese, “Yuuki nou-hou” means organic farming.

”Yuuki” can be translated directly as organic and “nou-hou” is farming method. But, more precisely, “hou” means something more related to the Japanese culture: in fact, this word refers to a method or a process used for doing things. Basically, it means “how” things are done.

Another common way to refer to food grown without chemicals and/or pesticides is “Mu kachou”.

The requirements to meet in order to consider a food as “organic” are established by a law called “Organic JAS” (Organic Japanese Agricultural Standard”, firstly approved in 1999).

In 2000, the Organic JAS has ratified and added to an already existing JAS law of 1950; the last revision dates back to 2006, 10 years ago.

The main aim of this law is to ensure that foods and drinks respect a certain standard of quality and that are produced by a safe and natural method.

After the Organic JAS law was officially approved, only producers meeting specific criteria in production system could label their product as certified organic products (in Japanese “Yuuki nousanbutsu”) with a JAS mark label.

The JAS mark looks like this:


As it is easy to think, the process of certification of meeting the standards is long in time and complex in procedures: the process implies inspections, analysis and researches made by a technical JAS certification staff.

Moreover, the certification process must be annually renewed: the JAS body have to verify that the a farm continues to meet the JAS certification standard in quality and production method in time.

The standards of JAS certification are based  primarily on international organic standards, primarily in order to allow compatibility with the international trade.

The conformity of the JAS law with international standers implies not only that Japanese farmers are required to meet criteria for their domestic and/or international sales, but it implies also that international farmers have to meet those requirements, if they want to sell in Japan.

In Japan, this market is emerging slowly in time: it is still rare to find organic food on Japanese tables and in the supermarkets’ supply.

The main supply-constraints of the organic market, which represent obstacles for its sustainable expansion, are:

1. General price level. The Fukushima disaster in 2005 arouse the feeling that nothing can be considered natural, healthy, and so organic, anymore. Moreover, during this crisis, certain food as “natto” (fermented soybeans) and yogurt became scarse when the energy-efficient production systems could not assure the constant supply of electricity in order to maintain an hygienic and healthy environment. As a consequence, after the nuclear tragedy in Fukushima, the general prices of food arose.

2. Prevalence of a small-scale farming in Japan, where the climate is generally humid and hot.

3. The strong presence (and so, the strong influence) of the Government in the Japanese agriculture.

On the other hand, the demand-side constraints limit the growth of the organic market.
These constraints are concerning, mainly:

1. Prices. Organic food is quiet expensive since it is, for the most, imported and it is supposed to meet high-quality standards. it is even more expensive if we compare the prices of organic food in Japan with the one in Europe or in the United States, where far more organic food is cultivated locally.

2. Limited range of availability in organic food. The selection in Japanese convenience stores or in tiny markets is constrained if compared with the great selection of fruits and vegetables we can find in other places.

3. Low consumer awareness about what “organic food” is.

Although, the rainy season has just begun in Tokyo. As every year, from the ending Spring to the early summer, most of the Japanese territory is visited by a daily light rain, for a period that varies from the specific area of Japan to another.

For instance, in Tokyo the seasonal rain (the so-called “tsuyu”, which literally means “plum rain”, because the rainy season coincides generally with the season of Japanese plums or “ume” maturing) goes on pouring down for two weeks, approximately, in early June.

japanese ume

Thus, the proximity of the rainy season means that rice fields in the river valley are busy in being planted and that the soil and plants get hydrated.

During this season, trees and plants give delicious fruits and the Earth rejoices in a deep, colorful blossoming. There are plenty organic markets in Tokyo, and in the nearby, that offer a great variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, cultivated naturally and directly harvested from the land.

These are just few of the markets that will take place in Tokyo in the next weeks:

Koenji’s Farmers’ Market

Relatively small, but lovely and intimate, where farmers from Koenji, Nakano and Sendagaya-ku meet to offer local seasonal organic food.

Where and when?

2-1-2 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0002

Saturday, June 18th, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


United Nations University (UNU) Farmers Market

Every weekend, farmers and producers are gathering in The UNU Farmers market to offer: pesticide-free products, a wide (sometimes unexpected but interesting) range of mushrooms, seasonal fruits, organic coffee, chestnuts and pickles.

Where and when?

Address: 5-53-70 Jingu-mae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan

Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. 4 p.m.


Earth Day Market

Producers from Tokyo and from other parts of the Kantoo region will gather here to sell the seasonal products and home-made food.

Where and when?

Saturday, June 25th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Market of the Sun

This is one of the largest farmers’ community in Tokyo and it will offer more than 50 different varieties of vegetables (Western and typical Japanese products, all cultivated locally) and seasonal fruits

Where and when

Address: Tsukishima Second Children’s Park, 1-11-4 Kachidoki, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Saturday, June 11th and Sunday, June 12th

earth day