Tag Archives: taima

Japan’s First Lady Touts Revival of Hemp Culture via WSJ

Source: Japan’s First Lady Touts Revival of Hemp Culture – Japan Real Time – WSJ

Dave Notes:

“Very glad to see this article discussing a very fascinating aspect of Japan culture. I worked as a mushroom farmer and hitchhiked throughout remote rural areas in Japan and saw cannabis culture of all sorts — from traditional handicrafts and religious artifacts to folks harvesting wild cultivars for smoking and extracting.

A few annotations if i may:

1) My 1996/8 research essay traces the history of hemp in Japan and various uses and appeared in Cannabis Culture, Journal of International Hemp Association and Hemp Horizons

2) JapanHemp.org has gathered a massive repository of hemp artifacts and information in English and Japanese.

3) Note the wandering warrior poets Basho and Kobayashi Issa wrote about hemp on their journeys and hemp in mentioned in other literary classics.

4) The National History Museum in Sakura has many garments with unmarked cloth which are clearly not silk, cotton or mulberry, but not labelled as hemp – in fact the characters do not appear anywhere in the museum though the movement and trade form Korea and India was discussed as was the advent of silk production.

5) A commenter below mentioned wild Hokkaido cannabis and i can concur that these tall, robust, wild and THC-laden plants indeed do exist on roadsides and country areas.”

##

Japan’s first lady raised eyebrows after telling a Japanese magazine that she has considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

There seem to be few dull moments in the life of first lady Akie Abe, who sometimes spends her time hosting a web-based talk show, harvesting honey from a bee farm and even paying occasional visits to the contentious Yasukuni Shrine.

Most recently, Ms. Abe raised eyebrows after telling a Japanese magazine that she has considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

In an interview with Spa!, Ms. Abe was quoted as saying that she had become interested in hemp cultivation and considered applying for a permit to grow the plant after studying its history.

“Hemp is a plant of which all of its parts can be used effectively,” Ms. Abe is quoted as saying. “While it is not yet permitted in Japan, I think it can be put into great practical use for medical purposes as well.”

Of course, hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, and Japan maintains a hard line on marijuana. The Cannabis Control Law enacted in 1948 bans the import, export, cultivation and purchase of marijuana. But prior to that, hemp was widely grown in Japan and used to make fabric and for use in imperial ceremonies. There are legal hemp farms in Japan, but they are rare and require a special permit.

Ms. Abe said in the article that she’d like to revive Japan’s tradition of growing hemp. “I’ve even considered myself to apply for a permit to grow hemp,” she was quoted as saying.

The article included a photo of the first lady visiting a legal hemp farm in western Japan in August and posing for a photo in the middle of the plants.

Ms. Abe has promoted the article on her personal Facebook page, encouraging those interested in the topic to pick up a copy.

Zen Rambling in Japan ~ Originally in Heads Magazine

Authour's intro in Heads Magazine

Authour’s note: This article “Zen Rambling in Japan” by me Dave Thorvald Olson originally appeared in Heads Magazine (now defunct) in the Vol. 6, Issue 4, circa: Spring 2006, as the cover story for the Travel Issue.

The iteration below is a late-version draft rather than the (apparently misplaced) submitted final version so there are some minor errors. This article is also markedly different from my “classic” Hemp Culture in Japan articles (see below) as this all original piece concentrates on modern times and practical tips rather than focusing on history and cultural change.

Heads did a beauty lay-out (excerpt scans included) and added several ancillary articles about Japanese culture in the issue. I’ll try to add in the photos where {indicated} in the article.

Be wary and read all the safety tips and caution closely – neither the Japanese police or Yakuza are to be trifled with but, if you keep it chill the good times are in store.

Ganbatte!

dvo, June 2010, Vancouver.

More Hemp in Japan

Hemp Culture in Japan – a 1992-7 ground-breaking treatise on the history and cultural significance of hemp in Japan is available in .html or .pdf . For alternate versions, visit JapanHemp.org, a site dedicated to Hemp in Japan. Published in Cannabis Culture magazine (#13 & Best of …), the Journal of International Hemp Association (V.4 N.1), as well as excerpted in several books including Hemp Horizons (USA), Hemp for Victory (UK) and “Hanp” from Norway.

Zen Rambling in Japan - Heads magazine cover

Zen Rambling article in Heads magazine Zen Rambling in Japan article in Heads magazine Heads magazine - Dave bio

Forget Everything

Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travelers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee which all taste the same in ubiquitous vending machines. You will also find a vibrant underground culture of tokers enjoying quality weed, homegrown from imported foreign seeds in crafty gardens, or harvested from the wild fields on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. And, while weed is not cheap in cities, and can be hard to find in the countryside, with some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures in the land of the rising herb.

Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea and finishing up with a bowl of wild Hokkaido herb smoked from a long “kiseru” pipe.

Checking the Scene

While cannabis holds cultural significance in Japanese history, all varieties were declared illegal in post WWII by the US occupational government. However, good genetics have existed in Japan for decades, both domestic strains of high-THC fiber hemp THC and imported strains from tourist hotspots from India, Thailand or Jamaica by young Japanese turned on during the 1960-70s when worldwide youth culture turned to individual thought and away from the rigorous norm imposed by society.

In recent years, many young Japanese have traveled to Australia, Canada and New Zealand and brought back seeds, growing techniques and liberal attitudes, and, in the past 2-3 years, growers may legally order the seeds from finest breeders in Canada or The Netherlands. Coupled with access to experienced grow advice via the Internet or myriad books, it is just a matter of time until new flavors emerge from these novice growers.

With the lack of big commercial grow-ops and sketchy quality of imported weed, many experienced smokers either grow their own or make an annual trip to Hokkaido for a harvesting wild cannabis for private stash which, while untended, can be a sticky treat.

Electricity is expensive in Japan so any indoor operation must be efficient and certainly discrete, but close-dwelling Japanese are used carving out bits of privacy in confined spaces and enthusiasts squeeze small, personal-use gardens into apartments, closets, and greenhouses.

greenhouse
In suburban areas, back porch greenhouses gardens with a few plants blend well in with the neighbourhood.

Since you aren’t growing yourself, you’ll need to find some a friend. But, due to the harsh punishments, tokers are obliged to keep low-key and with the city prices at $30/gram, usually aren’t ripping bong tubes all day long if you know what I mean.

Find a reggae club, surf beach, or mountain festival, make some friends and be patient and respectful and follow your nose. In the cities, you may also find open-minded foreigners teaching English or running a street stall who may be able to lend a hand in a hookup.

If you are more fortunate, you may find quality stash illicitly imported from Holland, more common in the last 8-9 years. The strains are different each time and the price is sky-high at $40-$80/gram, but you also may end up with a wild goose chase or a dicey situation.

There is also a busy trade of lower-grade, seedy ganja imported from The Philipines or Thailand, and sold for $15-30/gram by organized crime organizations (Yakuza) at train stations by hired foreigners – along with speed, cocaine and whatever else they have. This is not your best option as you are likely to be ripped off, arrested, or turned-in for reward money. As one Japanese friend in the Tokyo-area points out, “There are many Iranians in Tokyo, they always have hash, not weed. They are usually around the big stations but I think it is dangerous to get in touch with them because police keep eye on them.”

Punishment for growing is harsh in Japan but the police are more concerned about organized crime gangs than personal use or small-scale growers so, as long you are low-key and not disturbing the peace, the Japanese police will rarely bother with you, but remember this is the country that jailed Paul Mccartney for 1 oz. and native rocker star Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi’s (think of a Nihonjin Springsteen) career was almost destroyed when busted with 2g of weed. Same goes with non-fiction writer Nobuhiro Motobashi who was also relegated to a penance of public groveling for minor possession charge.

Trips & Places

Honshu, the biggest and most populous of the four main islands, varies from the pacific-side, which is crowded with cities and fast-paced lifestyles, and the over the mountains running down the spine and life slows down but a little less convenient.

Since you probably arrived in Tokyo, check out the busy urban area of Shibuya to get started. Under Japanese law, it is illegal to possess or import a drug itself but the plant from which it comes, is legal. As such, marijuana seeds, mushroom spores kits, whole peyote cacti and paraphernalia are commonly sold in the hectic recreation areas like Shibuya.

Out of the town a ways, score a quintessential Japanese moment at a now-legal, microbrewpub with a view of the famous Mt. Fuji. If you are gung-ho you can walk up the giant cinder cone with fantastic views, no shade and with yes, … plenty of vending machines near the top. Or cruise over to Yokohama to Blaze pipe to buy a piece and take a roll on their skateboard ramp.

From the busy Tokyo/Yokohama area, high-rollers can head down the idyllic Izu peninsula for surf and boutique hotels, otherwise, grab your stash and head into the hills!

Between Nagano and Tokyo, make your way through Tochigi prefecture where you might meet Takashi Okanuma who is growing legal hemp under a license to make traditional “zouri” sandals and maintain a traditional hemp weaving craft called “nara sarashi.”

The field is carefully administrated by the local agricultural agency and is grown with a low-THC cultivar called Tochigishiro derived from a indigenous strain containing cannabidiol acid and thought to be indigenous to Japan since the Neolithic Jomon period. However heavier THC cultivars also existed since ancient times, likely brought from China via Korea as did rice and Buddhism. At over 15ft, these native varieties of hemp was the tallest tested by the USDA in 1930s and with over 4% THC.

{Picture Caption: In the countryside, a few plants grow from imported seeds grow well – perhaps disguised with bamboo, goldenrod grow – on valley and mountain sides where the only other visitors are likely harvesting mountain vegetables and rare matsutake mushrooms and understand the importance of safe herbs for medicinal use.}

Another hemp farmer in Shizuoka prefecture, Yasunao Nakayama, has worked through the government red-tape and processes his hemp crop into oil for skin products which he sells at a shop called Kaya and, along with other local farmers, hosts a “hemp festival” every August in Shizukuishi village in northern Iwate Prefecture.

Further along, in the fat middle belly of Honshu is Nagano prefecture, with the Japanese Alps and fertile valleys with farms, this is the historic heartland for hemp culture in Japan. Most recently famous for the incident at the 1998 Winter Olympic games in which the first-ever snowboard gold medalist, Canadian Ross Regabiatti tested positive for marijuana and was briefly stripped of his medal. Regabiatti stood his ground and after days of interrogations and hassles, his medal was returned and a cannabis hero was born and the strain Nagano Gold named in his honor.

Just a few kilometers from the historic snowboarding run is the town of “Miasa” meaning “beautiful hemp.” A tiny rural hamlet in this breadbasket area, Miasa celebrates its hempen heritage with a seven bladed leaf emblazoned on the village brochure and the local museum displays scenes of hemp processing techniques common to the area until the 1950’s.

The Nagano area is home to communities of homesteaders who dropped out of city life and moved into abandoned houses in forgotten valleys. Reviving villages after a long slumber of disrepair when a generation went away to war and never returned leaving remote communities occupied with only old folks. Once the prefectural government moved them into apartment homes in nearby towns, the historic homes stood unoccupied for decades until these new residents squatted in to rebuild and keep the old customs alive.

Nowadays, this progressive element combined with the stunning scenery, make the area around the ski town of Hakuba a worthwhile visit. Summer months feature counter-culture music festivals, programs at an alternative arts retreat, plus hiking and/or paragliding through a range of jagged peaks, well-adorned with mountain huts and hot springs. Head up during the O bon holiday (mid-August) – a Shinto festival during which people visit graves of ancestors and generally party down with festivals.

The northern island of Hokkaido boasts wild cannabis, adventurous winter sports, the Sapporo brewery and more hot springs. This wild cannabis is no mid-west ditch weed, instead it is more than folklore that potent weed survives (flourishes in fact) untended in fields around the sparsely populated island.

Crafty stoners head north in early autumn to prospect and harvest quickly at night, filling trunks and driving straight back to city or holing up for a couple of days in a cabin to cure and make the sticky, seedy weed into bubble hash. The police know people do this but, there is so much land to cover, and cannabis disguised growing in so many fields that the yearly eradication and arrest programs hardly make a dent. If you are feeling dangerous, head to Hokkaido during early fall for clandestine harvest but, bear in mind that this is tricky business and not to be undertaken lightly. Otherwise, take your snowboard and enjoy Sapporo’s snow festival and beer instead.

{picture of weed drying in cabin or field with hard to see cannabis plants}

Back on Honshu, history enthusiasts must visit Kyoto, the venerable old capital city of which survived the bombings intact and is now a busy city of temples, museums and nightlife. Poets and philosophers have come here for centuries seeking knowledge and peace through aesthetic arts and meditative practice. Alternatively, Nara is a smaller and more low key city with more history, ancient temples and semi-wild deer wandering the streets and parks.

Heading down the Pacific coast, you’ll come to Okayama, served by the bullet train but cheaper to stay in, this medium sized city is a handy jumping off city for trips to Shikoku and nearby artistic exploration. Sometime called the Venice of Japan, nearby Kurashiki is a town of numerous museums including Japanese folkcraft, archaeology, toys, natural history and a eviable collection of modern modern European masters at the Ohara museum (e.g. Picasso, Pisarro, Degas, El Greco, Cezanne, Monet, Millet and Tollouse-Lautrec). Also near Okayama city is Bizen, one of a handful of traditional pottery centers in Japan with walk-in-sized kilns that look like giant wasps nests are fired for weeks at a time.

Every trip needs a reality check, in Amsterdam it is the Anne Frank House, Japan’s heavy history lesson is the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima. Besides the buzz kill, you may learn something plus Hiroshima is a good city for Okonomiyaki restaurants where you grill your own savory-pancake type creation.

From Osaka or Kobe, hop an overnight ferry to the smaller island of Shikoku featuring a sparse population, surf culture, sacred hemp fields, and the “pilgrim’s path” – 88 sacred sites spread around the island visited by white-clothed pilgrims like an oriental Road to Santiago. On the ferry, dig the Inland Sea, turquoise blue and smattered with tiny islands, while picnicking on the big open floor with new friends. Hitch and hike your way around the coast, pitch a tent on the beach, or use simple pilgrim hostels along the way and you’ll left alone to meditate on what wandering poet Issa Kobayashi meant when he wrote:

The grass around my hut also
has suffered
From summer thinness.
Just when I hear
The sundown bell,
The flower of this weed

Shikoku’s Pacific beaches have great surf and cheap land so attracts surfers and drop-outs who may not fit in with the rigorous Japanese city life, sounds like a good place to meet cannabis aficionados. Head to the south central coast for the surf town of Kochi with a restored castle and surrounded by national parks, this is a great area to let the good times roll and rent a board or explore the sandy beaches, tropical plants and unique coral and rock formations.

Inland, in Shikoku’s farming region, hunt for the clandestine hemp field growing secretly for the Imperial family’s ceremonial use. Once cannabis was made illegal by the US-occupational forces and the Hemp Control act “taima torishimari hô,” this village continued growing to preserve the sanctity of sacred Shinto rites requiring hemp as a symbol of purity including the imperial coronation ceremony several years back when they revealed their illicit field to the relief of the royal folks.

{photo of author hitchiking on Shikoku}

To discover some traditional Nihon, point your thumb towards the San-in coast from Tottori to Shimonoseki on the Sea of Japan side (or Sea of Korea depending on who you ask). A stretch of fishing and farming villages with traditional festivals – drums beaten by drunken farmers and fishermen who are back at toil hangover and all the next morn, men who will be out on the squid boats bobbing offshore with glowing lamps attracting tomorrow’s sushi.

Far away from the tourist track, you’ll find giant sand dunes complete with camels, hidden coves for snorkeling, the finest Asian pears on this planet, open air hot springs and climbing on high empty mountains

Heading further south brings you to the more tropical island of Kyushu, and further yet, the entirely culturally different island of Okinawa.

From Kyushu, catch a ferry to continue your trip to Korea from the closest point between the countries. This same area is site to pre-historic cave paintings depicting what appears to be foreigners bringing a five-leafed plant and horses to Japan. Go find the cave and decide for yourself.

Zen of Travel

Traveling well in Japan is an exercise in simplicity – pack light with versatile clothes and shoes that are comfortable but are quick to take on and off (trust me). Unless you are planning to stay in one place, don’t bring your surf/snowboard because you’ll quick grown frustrated lugging it around in confined spaces, trains, subways, rooms, lockers – everything seems just a wee bit small.

Food

If traveling on the cheap, you can buy most anything from omnipresent vending machines to sustain your journey (including beer) – indeed instant food can be tasty and purchased in the most remote places. Beverages of every description including the aforementioned coffee machine with 30 brands all sweet, milky and strong (served at 110 degrees until one day, all machine magically switch to cold coffee). Look for noodle stands for huge steaming bowls of miso ramen or udon noodles, slurped standing up. Abundant shopping markets sell prepared foods to take away and fill your belly while saving your money.

Take some chances cause you aren’t likely to find Mexican food or peanut butter. Local fruits and vegetables are much less than imported ones. Dairy products are outstanding as is tofu of course. In this land of sushi, killer seafood everywhere and most always safe and clean if sometimes a bit odd (puffer fish anyone?). Japanese beef is famous raised on beer and massage, you can enjoy it in small strips you grill on a hot plate on your restaurant table. When you get serious hungry, find an all-you-can eat curry rice joint for a mound of rice smothered with Japan-ified sweet curry laden with meat and veggies.

Crash space

Most all flights arrive in Tokyo or Osaka, if you are on a budget, get out of the big cities as fast as possible! If you have a friend’s place to crash at and who will show you around, then you’re styling, otherwise, make a smart choice or you’ll spend a lot of money staying in the city.

Besides hostels – which can be rather stale and poorly located in the city but sometimes fantastic in the countryside – you can stay at a Japanese-style “Ryokon” (an traditional bed and breakfast inn with tatami mats, kimono robes and funky food), or western-style chain hotels (some even with a strange Denny’s in the lobby), but the smart late night partier finds a handy gaudy “love hotels” which are rented for a 4 or 8 hour block – usually close by train station. Rooms are ordered in like fastfood – pictures of available rooms are lit up on a board (i.e. jungle room, bondage room), push a button to select and slide money through a window and voila, your heavenly crash pad awaits.

Once in the countryside, you can find accommodations in temples and monasteries if you are looking for some enlightenment or just a memorable night.

Getting Around

Buy a Japan Rail pass to cover the long distances – the trains range from clunky locals and to the warp-speed Shinkansen bullet train, prices range accordingly but all are timely and relatively comfy. Like a Eurorail pass, the JR pass must be purchased outside of Japan and gives you unlimited travel on most routes. Get to know the schedule to make your life easier at the manic stations and plan smart so to catch sleep en route.

The train stations are the hub of activity in any town with myriad restaurants and accommodations close by. Every station offer unique pre-prepared box lunches called “eki-ben” (literally = station box lunch), a great way to sample local cuisine while taking a slow train through new areas. Take a chance and get off at random towns to find family-run restaurants, empty beaches, historic temples and great walks up to samurai fortresses.

The overnight coach buses are another great way to cover the long distances in quiet and comfort. These ain’t no Greyhounds but rather sleek, comfy cruisers whisking you through the night to a distant destination in a whole other climate.

To get off the beaten path, get you left thumb ready to hitchhike. Thumbing around is a great way to meet people and often score a meal, or visit to their village or other adventure. Make a sign of where you are going – write in ABCs or find a friend to write the Kanji characters.

Communication

Everyone studies English for years in school but who remembers their high school Spanish, German or French lessons? Me neither.

Do not fear, with a dozen words (remember the Karate kid), much patience, and a small notebook, you’ll skid along just fine. Japanese are very impressed and grateful when anyone makes an effort to understand their unique culture and difficult language and will respond with kindness to your noble effort.

Hello: Konnichiwa (ko-NII-chi-wa
Goodbye: Ja Nae (Sayonara is more formal)
Excuse me: Suimasen (see-mah-sen)
Thanks/Thank you: arigato – domo arigato (Mr. Roboto)
How are you?: Genki desu ka? Answer: Genki desu!
Yes: Hai No: Iie
Please: Kusasai or Onegaishimasu
Foreignor: Gai-jin (or Canada-jin, American-jin, Nihon-jin, etc.)

Tokers know the word “ganja” or use “taima” (cannabis) or “marifana”
Say, “dozo” for “here you go” when passing the joint.

Arriving & Departing

You’ll likely fly in and out of Tokyo or Osaka and the officers take their immigration procedures very seriously so have your shit together. Clean your pockets and fingernails to prevent stray crumbs from your killer going away party from cutting your trip short.

Under 26-years-old Canadian, Australian and New Zealand travelers wishing an extended trip may qualify for a six-month working-holiday visa allowing you to make some money along the way. You’ll get a Gainjin Registration Card which you MUST keep with you at all times, and turn it in when you leave.

Ganja train

For me, I got caught the ganja-train in Nagano, high in the hills, stuck with a broken down van. Followed unclear directions to third-hand friends, I ended up living with a group of big city drop-outs, reinventing life in the hills. Ended up in counter culture festival in an abandoned children’s ski hill…. Teepes and psychedelics. Drums and tents, fat joints passing around – especially after the very-plain clothes cops went home. That’s when i learned about he wild Hokkaido herb. Seems too good to be true but turned out to be better than believed. I didn’t believe the story of trunk full of potent weed until an afternoon in a teepee in Nagano.

After a festival weekend, I was still in full party mode. Feeling jaded about the look of the weed, I rolled a giant joint of the weed harvested in a clandestine evening operation. The weed was seedy but sticky and dense which seemed a contradiction – thick sweet smoke, couching hard, heavy indica high…. Before I knew it, the teepee was spinning and I wasn’t sure if I channeling the ancient local shogun or the native north Americans. The festival, camping in tents, watching sunrise after all night drumming, I could’ve been anywhere.

Resources

Check out JapanHemp.org for comprehensive list of head shops and news articles and historical research.
Japan Hostel Association: http://www.jyh.or.jp/english/
Official Japan tourism: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/
Japan CANNABIS CONTROL LAW in English: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/legal_library/jp/legal_library_1994-07-15_1994-35.html

Bio

Dave Thorvald Olson is a North Vancouver-based writer and entrepreneur who also brews up the “Choogle on with Uncle Weed” podcast and made the 1997 documentary film “HempenRoad.” He’s enjoyed herb in fourteen countries on four continents so far.

Hempen culture in Japan | Cannabis Culture

Hempen culture in Japan

Cannabis has been an integral part of Japanese culture since the beginnings of its history. Cannabis is a sacred herb to the religion of Shinto, and was also used and praised by ancient Zen poets and Buddhist monks.

Cannabis culture was suppressed and banned by US occupying forces after World War II, and today most Japanese don’t realize that “marijuana” is the same plant as cannabis, which was once as much a part of Japanese culture as rice.

Yet now Japanese cannabis culture is making a comeback. Many Japanese youths have learned to enjoy marijuana while travelling overseas, while farmers and universities are researching and experimenting with industrial hemp. Activists and scholars are educating the Japanese people about cannabis’ history and beneficial uses, and more Japanese are seeing the prohibition of cannabis as part of unwelcome American influence.

With the burgeoning growth of cannabis culture in Japan and around the world, perhaps Japan will lead Asia in shaking off prohibitionist dogma, and once again honouring cannabis as a sacred and beneficial plant.

-|-

 

Japan’s Ancient Hempen History
Hemp since the Jomon

Cannabis has grown in Japan since the Neolithic Jomon period (10,000 to 300 BC). The term “Jomon” itself means “pattern of ropes”, which were certainly made of cannabis hemp. These ancient people lived a civilized, comfortable existence, and used cannabis for weaving clothing and basket making, as well as using the seeds as a food source. What isn’t clear however, is when and how the seeds arrived in Japan.

Some scholars insist that cannabis was abundant in Japan before contact with China or Korea. However, impartial analysis suggests that, like much of its culture, cannabis was almost certainly imported and adapted from China.

Seeds from Korea

The Japanese staple of wet-field rice made its way from China to Japan around 300 BC. The seed stock first went to Korea, then was brought by traders across the narrow but rough channel to Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, which is the closest point to the Asian mainland. It is likely that cannabis seeds made the same voyage before or around the same time.

In support of this theory, a cave painting found in coastal Kyushuu depicts tall stalks and cannabis leaves. It too is from the Jomon period, and is one of the earliest Japanese artworks in existence.

Ancient pot graffiti: Korean traders bringing cannabis to Japan.

Ancient pot graffiti: Korean traders bringing cannabis to Japan.

The richly coloured painting depicts several somewhat strangely dressed people in baggy short-pants and tall curved hats. Horses and ocean waves are also clearly rendered.

The picture apparently depicts Korean traders bringing a plant by boat. Along the stem of the plant are small pairs of budding leaves or branches. The plants themselves are tall and at the top bear large, distinctive, seven-fingered cannabis leaves.

Surrounding the top of this cannabis plant figure is a sun-like aura, suggesting the continuing connection between the sun and cannabis in Shinto. This is strikingly similar to the hieroglyphic carvings from Mediterranean cultures, which show a similar sun/cannabis motif.

Feudal hempen cultivation

During the fuedal era of Japan (c. 14th-15th Century) hemp fibre cultivation was encouraged by the fuedal lords (Daimyo), cannabis cultivation was encouraged by the feudal lords (Daimyo), wanting hempen-ware’s high resale value from the wealthy city merchants, who favoured cannabis hemp for making fine clothing.

Japanese merchants dealt in coins which had square holes in the centre, and were carried on strings of hemp. The Japanese five yen coin still has a hole in it, left over from this practice.

Cannabis was a major crop and the primary source of clothing fibre until the 17th century, when cotton was introduced. Cotton began to replace cannabis as a fibre crop because of high yields by heavy fertilizer use and the development of mass processing methods.

Yet sturdy cannabis hemp continued to be used for a variety of specialized purposes, including long-line eel fishing lines and packaging ropes to name a couple.

-|-
The Emperor’s Hemp Clothes

When Emperor Hirohito passed on in 1989, a coronation was held for his heir. The Emperor himself is regarded as a direct descendant of the gods and acts as a sort of high priest in the pagan Shinto belief.

Since Hirohito’s son was becoming the “living entity of God”, there had to be a special Shinto ritual. In Shinto, cannabis is the symbol of purity, so the new Emperor had to wear cannabis hemp garments, which had become unavailable over the course of his father’s long rule.

A group of Shinto farmers in Tokushima-ken had thought ahead and planted a symbolic yet subversive crop, and presented the Emperor with his new clothes made of pure local hemp They are still producing this crop for the exclusive use of the Imperial family.

-|-
Cannabis in Shinto & Zen

Purity and fertility are paramount shinto concepts, and cannabis is an essential symbol of both.

In the long journey from India to China, the teachings of the Buddha were considerably altered. The Japanese further adapted and intertwined Buddhism with their traditional mythological religion of Shinto.

Shinto is the ancient “way of the gods”, a ritualistic expression of profound respect for the kami (the intrinsic god-like spirit) in nature. Plants, animals, rocks and trees all possess a sort of spirit or reverence which can be terrifying or peaceful. Purity and fertility are paramount Shinto concepts, and cannabis is an essential symbol of both.

Geisha relaxing and smoking a bowl between (or with) their customers.

Geisha relaxing and smoking a bowl between (or with) their customers.

The Cannabis Goddess

Shinto creation stories tell of the Japanese islands rising from volcanoes and hot springs. A Goddess and God figure descended to people the country with their direct descendants.

This first pair then begat the founding goddess-figure, Amaterasu Omi Kami (Sun Goddess). She is enshrined at the holiest of places, the Ise Shrine (Ise Jinja).

At that shrine on the Ise peninsula, the special prayer given for the founding Goddess of Japan is called “taima”, which literally means “cannabis”. Cannabis, salt and rice are the sacred staples that are used as part of all the rites at the shrine.

In fact, cannabis, mulberry fibre, and cloth and paper made from them are offered to the gods at all Shinto shrines, along with salt, sake and rice.

In olden times, wandering pilgrims were obliged to leave an offering of cannabis leaves and rice to the pathside phallic-fertility statues of the Sahe no Kami (protective deities) before embarking on a journey.

Hempen Purity

At Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, certain objects are symbolically made from hemp. For example, the thick bell-ropes must be hempen, as is the noren, a short curtain which acts as a symbolic purification “veil”, meant to cause evil spirits to flee from the body as the head brushes lightly beneath it.

In another old tradition, rooms of worship were purified by burning cannabis leaves by the entrance. This would invite the spirits of the departed, purify the room and encourage people to dance.

The element of purity is stressed again as undyed hemp fabric was an important part for the household of the new bride. This undyed hemp came to symbolize the “womanly virtues” of faithfulness, chastity and obedience. Like the undyed cloth, an old saying goes, the woman must allow herself to be dyed any color her husband chooses.

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Hemp Seed for Food

While soy and rice have long been Japan?s nutritional staples, cannabis seed was also an important part of the diet, used mostly as addition to vegetables or else as gruel.

When the armies of the fuedal age went to war, they subsisted on balls of ground cannabis seed and brown rice gluten to keep them strong.

In contemporary Japan, ground cannabis seed remains in the diet in Shichimi (seven spices) used for flavoring Udon noodles. Unsterilized cannabis seed bird food is readily available as well.

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The Gods’ Harvest Party

Another Shinto tale tells that every October, all the dieties from around Japan gather at a sacred site in rural Shimane prefecture, at Japan’s largest shrine called Iizumo Taisha.

Shimane is far out of the way of any urban center, and besides being “Home of the Gods”, it was home to bounteous cannabis harvests up until about 50 years ago. During this month, the rest of the nation is left unprotected from calamity while the gods hold a harvest festival and match-making celebration.

Zen Hemp Haiku

Zen, the meditative, Taoist influenced branch of Buddhism, was also influenced by cannabis, in the forms of marijuana and hemp. Samurai and scholars who followed Zen’s subtle tenets express cannabis’ inspiration in arts like Haiku (short poems).

In the following Haikus, the feeling of cannabis is clear. The wandering Zen poet Issa Kobayashi writes:

The cannabis around my hut
also has suffered
From summer thinness.
Just when I hear
The sundown bell,
The flower of this weed.

Basho the Haiku Master writes:

The cannabis- How wonderful it is!
The summer drawing room.
Trees and stones, just as they are.
Ah, how glorious!
The young leaves, the green leaves,
Glittering in the sunshine!

And one more, author unknown:

When all things are hushed,
suddenly a bird’s song
arouses a deep sense of stillness.
When all the flowers are departed,
suddenly a single flower is seen,
and we feel the infinity of life.

(All haikus quoted from Drake)

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The Hempen Arts

A common pattern in fabric is the traditional “asa no ha” (cannabis leaf), where the seven blades of the leaf intersect to form a mandala-like pattern. This pattern is often seen in curtains, quilts and kimono (seen on background)

This pattern is also commonly seen in paintings depicting the “floating world” of Geisha. These colourful art prints often depict the subject’s kimono with this geometric leaf pattern, as well as relaxing and smoking a long slender pipe while between customers (opposite page). Another interesting artifact from that world is a hair comb, detailed with cannabis and what are likely Japanese maple leaves (below).

A widely celebrated painting from 1929, Shimizu’s Taima Shukaku (Hemp Harvest), depicts farmers cutting down thick, dense hemp fields, surrounded by a vibrant valley. This painting was a finalist for a kind of national “painting of the year” award from the government.

Wood-cut prints from a 1979 artistic agriculture grow book show the same dense fields. One caption explains how one must walk through the fields to “ventilate” the plants. Other captions include a three-step water-retting technique, and a means of bleaching with potash and lime.

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Archery & Sumo Wrestling

The bowstring used by Zen Archers is specifically made of cannabis, which reflects a connection with the meditative practice of Zen as well as verifying hemp’s toughness as a fibre.

Sumo wrestling involves an elaborate pre-bout ceremony called dohyo-iri, in which the reigning champion carries a giant hempen rope around his ample girth to purify the ring and exorcise the evil spirits. This purification ritual continues even to this day, with the approximately 30 pound hempen belt being worn by Hawaiian-born sumo champion, Akebono.
Leaping Ninjas!

A well-known folk story tells of a technique used by elite ninja assassins to improve their jumping skills.

The learning ninja plants a batch of cannabis when he begins training, and endeavors to leap over it every day. At first this is no challenge, but the plants grow quickly, and so must the diligent ninja’s jumping ability. By the end of the season, the warrior can alledgedly clear the full grown stand of cannabis. This certainly attests as much for the plant’s vitality as to the ninja’s leaping ability.

US Cannabis Suppression in Japan

Cannabis cultivation came to a legal halt in Japan during the post WWII allied-forces occupation. Allied troops lived in Japan and helped to rebuild and reshape the nation which had been battered by the destruction and poverty of wartime. The foreign troops were certainly surprised at the abundance of cannabis, growing both wild and cultivated.

When American General Douglas MacArthur and his colleagues rewrote the Japanese constitution in 1948, they were sure to include the Taima Torishimari Ho, the Cannabis Control Act.

Western companies seized upon this new, tightly controlled post-war market, and offered new synthetic products to replace the traditional. The cannabis plant was almost completely eradicated, and thousands of years of growth and breeding were greatly diminished under an avalanche of post-war change.

Hemp for Victory

Ironically, it was the Japanese Imperial Army’s invasion of the Philippines a few years earlier that had acted as catalyst for the US “Hemp for Victory” campaign to replace the Manila-hemp used by the armed forces.
Japan had also relied on domestic and Southeast Asian cannabis crops to make their uniforms, helmet linings and other war accessories for their Imperialist campaigns, until WWII.

Loss of memories

Despite the intentions of the centralized government and the Cannabis Control Act, cannabis was still cultivated and growing wild in cities, especially along railways, until the mid-50’s. As was the case in many other countries, most farmers had no idea that this outlawed plant “cannabis” was the familiar crop they still used for everything from bird seed to fine woven cloths.

Most Japanese believe that marijuana is a narcotic, and do not realize that it is the same plant as cannabis hemp, which was once as much a part of Japanese culture as rice. In a mere half century, MacArthur’s Cannabis Control Act managed to almost totally wipe away the memories of cannabis culture, which had endured for several thousand years after its beginnings in the Jomon Period.

The Japanese term for cannabis, asa, still has a familiar sound to the Japanese people, most of whom just assume that it has just been replaced by new, better fibres. Fortunately, much information survives in art, books and stories. Wild cannabis also continues to grow in abundance, now a weed in areas where it was once a valued crop.

Government permits

Like other governments, the Japanese parliament continues to be hesitant and under-informed about the benefits of extensive cannabis cultivation. Yet the current legal status still allows cannabis to be grown, with a permit.

However, the permit application process is lengthy, frustrating and futile, as the government rarely issues permits. It has been so long that most civil servants respond simply with a blank look.

Cheeba Cheeba on Hokkaido Island.

Cheeba Cheeba on Hokkaido Island.Hemp Stores

Hempen household accessories like washcloths and curtains continue to be sold in Japan, made from Chinese and Korean hemp. More recently, new hemp products from western manufacturers are taking off. Given Japan’s enthusiasm for traditional, rugged North American fashion, this will be a burgeoning industry should the restrictions relax.

There are now several stores carrying cannabis hemp products, including the Earth Shop and Cheeba Cheeba run by expatriate American Neil Hartman on the island of Hokkaido.

In Kyoto, a traditional hemp shop called Asakoji has continued to serve patrons since the 1600’s, surviving wars and prohibition. Perhaps more importantly, the store emphasizes the age-old connection of spirituality, art and agriculture, a vital example of cannabis in Japan. Their hemp noren sign boasts in Japanese “We only know about cannabis, but we know every detail.”

Cheeba Cheeba: owned by expatriate American Neil Hartmann

Cheeba Cheeba: owned by expatriate American Neil HartmannAt Taimdo (cannabis shrine) in Tokyo, a hemp shop sells mostly imported hemp goods and is a centre for activism and research. Citizens are increasingly using political means, as well as spiritual, to restore cannabis cultivation in their homeland by distribution of information and products.

Changing the Laws

For two decades following the passage of the Cannabis Control Act, the law seemed to exist only on the books. Many farmers still grew hemp and the law was not enforced.

Earth Shop on Hokkaido Island.

Earth Shop on Hokkaido Island.

Outside pressures built up, and in 1967 the Cannabis Control Act was enforced for the first time, when 20 stalks were seized from a farmer’s collective in the Shinshu, Nagano region. The ensuing legal proceedings sparked the cannabis liberation movement in Japan.

Symposiums in the 70’s

In the early 1970s, the first modern cannabis symposium was held at Kyoto University and a court challenge was filed to argue that the ban was unconstitutional. The cannabis movement became a struggle not only against cannabis laws, but also against the pressing thumb of US influence, symbolized in the continuing occupation of Okinawa by US military forces.

Cannabis conferences are now attended by a diverse group of lawyers, doctors, students, and farmers who are lobbying the government and encouraging research.

In Iwate prefecture, an association of hemp farmers promotes a festival in which they invite the public to join in the harvest.

Earth Shop: also owned by Neil Hartmann.

Earth Shop: also owned by Neil Hartmann.Tests and Research

Research and test cultivation of low-THC hemp has been going on at many Japanese universities for several years.

In Tochigi prefecture, a group has recently begun producing and marketing rugged, refined paper made from pure, domestic cannabis hemp. This handsome paper is available in limited supply and is being used for printing cards and book-covers.

Shinshu University in Nagano is also cultivating, and various projects are underway in Iwate and Fukui prefectures and on Hokkaido, showing cannabis’ potential in many latitudes and climates.

Earth Shop Manager, Haruko

Earth Shop Manager, HarukoBlitzing, Challenging, Building Houses

Shizuoka lawyer Hidehiro Marui has been representing marijuana arrestees for much of his 20 year career, and also owns a coveted permit to cultivate cannabis for personal research. He and his colleagues are blitzing the mass media, publishing research and dissertations in popular magazines to encourage public education about cannabis and its potential products.

Cannabis’ potential as a building material is especially intriguing to this group, who plan to construct hempen houses throughout Japan, reducing their massive importation of wood as well as showing a useful application of hemp.

Before 2000, Marui’s group plans to challenge the Cannabis Control Act and test its constitutionality. This could have a resounding impact on this island nation, and will certainly call the Japanese people to debate at many levels.

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Pot Prices in Japan

Pot is more expensive in Japan than North America, but so is everything else, with a cup of coffee going for as much as $7cdn.

Police always quote a “street price” of 6000 yen ($65cdn) for a gram of marijuana, but the actual price is usually about half that. An ounce sold to a friend goes for $600 to $900cdn.

On the northern island of Hokkaido marijuana grows wild, so it is very rare that anyone spends money to get it. People there are very friendly and will often give big bags full to their friends. Since it is wild the quality is not world class, but it is free.

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Marijuana Smokers in today’s Japan

While smoking marijuana is not as wide-spread in Japan as it is in Canada, Japanese cannabis culture is certainly alive and well.

The most popular drugs in fast-paced Japanese society are nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, followed by amphetamines. In 1995, there were almost 20,000 arrests for speed, compared to about 1,500 for pot.

In the big cities, it isn’t hard to find buds or hash in small quantities. It is nonchalantly viewed as a trendy western drug by many casual urban users. Something you do a couple times before you “get serious” with your life. The chunks of hash are primarily sold by Iranians in the parks or train stations, but the police are rounding up many of these people and deporting them for visa violations and minor infractions, in actions that often seem racially motivated.

The commercial product comes mostly from the Phillipines and Thailand, smuggled in by boats, the packages tied to off-shore buoys and passed off to the locals. It also comes in from Hawaii, brought in by smugglers posing as tourists.

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Ross Rebagliati: Hempen Hero

The 1998 Winter Olympic games are over and done, but their effect is still being felt in Japan and around the world. After snowboarding for ten years, hosting my own TV program on snowboarding, and learning to speak fluent Japanese, I was given the honour of having the best possible seat for the first ever Olympic Snowboard Halfpipe competition.

The competition began on February 8, with minimal presence from Japanese media, who are known for only covering events with Japanese competitors. Since there were no Japanese snowboarders, their media turnout was rather weak for Ross Rebagliati’s gold medal performance.

That all changed on February 9 however, when it was announced that Rebagliati would lose his medal due to a pot-positive pee test. The Japanese media had finally found something they could cover, and for the next two days the papers were filled with articles concerning the decision. Debates were held on TV with panels ranging from professors to actors. One of the most common wrap-up comments heard from reporters was something to the effect of “loose morals in other countries can lead to problems like this.”

The overall opinion of the Japanese media? Marijuana is bad and Rebagliati should have his medal taken away. Even after his medal was reinstated, TV shows rambled on endlessly about how the Olympic Committee had made a big mistake and the medal should definitely be taken away. Many argued that Rebagliati should face charges in a Japanese court.

It is unfortunate that such uninformed people should be in a position to create and influence public opinion, but in Japan it is very difficult to voice an opinion that goes against the laws.

During the two days before the medal was returned, I spoke to many of the Japanese staff involved in the snowboard competitions. Not once did anyone question why marijuana was even being tested for. The only thing anyone ever said was “mottainai” (what a waste) or “Taima suttei baka da ne” (he’s a fool for smoking marijuana). The most common comment was “snowboard ga image warukunaru ne” (now snowboarding will have a bad image). Again and again I was reminded how far Japan has to go towards proper marijuana education.

Yet all in all what happened was not only good for Japan but for the hemp/marijuana movement world wide. Thanks to Ross Rebagliati, the movement to legalize cannabis got a big boost and some great press. He proved to Japan and to the world that you can smoke marijuana and still win a Gold Medal and be a hero for your country.

? By Neil Hartmann, Earth Shop, Hokkaido

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Miasa-muras town brochure. Residents there are eager to grow legal cannabis.

Miasa-muras town brochure. Residents there are eager to grow legal cannabis.Homesteading Hempsters

In the mountains and countryside, the situation is somewhat better as the skills of growing are still practiced. Unfortunately, it’s hard to meet growers and smokers out in the countryside (that’s why they live there). Several people I met there had moved from the big cities to homestead and grow in the rural areas.

Due to the scarcity of equipment and the high cost of electricity, most crops are outdoors in clearings on steep hillsides in the dense forests. The genetics come from various seeds brought back from vacations to Thailand, Jamaica, Amsterdam or BC, and then worked into the Japanese soil.

Some growers in villages use small greenhouses alongside their house, hoping no one stops by to see what’s growing.

Expansive wild and semi-cultivated crops of cannabis grow in the vast rolling hills on the cold northern island of Hokkaido. Young city folk often try to harvest the rugged fibre for personal smoking use, with little success and often legal problems. The police know this trick and station roadblocks during harvest season, often catching people with their trunk full of plants.

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The government’s gold medal crops

In February of this year, the Nagano region of Japan hosted the Winter Olympic Games. Yet despite all the media frenzy around Canadian pot-puffing gold-medal snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, the local hempen heritage received no exposure.

The best example of local Japanese cannabis culture is the town of Miasa-mura (beautiful hemp town), located in Nagano-prefecture, amongst the foothills of Japan’s Northern Alps.

When asked how much cannabis used to grow in this region, one farmer responded by asking “Do you see these rice fields?” He pointed to the vast checkerboard of rice fields he’d been cutting and bundling. “Before the war, we didn’t grow rice here, we grew cannabis.”

Miasa-mura’s town brochure even features a distinctive cannabis leaf. The town educates visitors with a hemp and flax museum and spinning equipment on display.

Many residents are anxious to resume legal hemp cultivation, and are frustrated by the long and always unsuccessful application process.

The Nagano government administers the growth of one or two closely monitored hemp fields, of exactly one thousand plants each. They are grown at different locations in rotating country villages. The local authorities count the plants at the beginning, middle and end of the growing season, to ensure that none have been taken.

The hemp fibre isn’t used at all, but the seeds are harvested to maintain a fresh seed stock in the town coffers. The hemp crop is then completely burned in the field. Although a waste, at least Japan’s acclimatized strains aren’t extinct, as has happened in many other countries.

The feds’ private stash

The federal government also continues to maintain its own private stash of cannabis seed and plants for posterity and experimentation.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Medicinal Plant Garden has maintained a seed stock and bred varieties of “asa” for research since 1946, when cannabis hemp was in short supply due to the war. Given the Japanese knack for detail and research, their large, secure complex in suburban Tokyo is likely a valuable cache of information and genetics.

While the original intent of the compound seems to have been to advance the medicinal use of cannabis, this motive has been lost under a cloud of paranoia, even though the use of seeds for health and medicine is common information.

The director, Torao Shimizu, maintains that the plants are just to teach people what cannabis looks like, so they can destroy it should it be found growing in their area.

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International Cannabis Culture

In these rural areas, cannabis culture grooves on with an international twist. It is wonderful to pass a bong around in a foreign land, knowing that you are among folks with the same understanding of the plant as you. This is especially true in Japan, which is so often seen as a crowded, neon, worker hive. It feels great to meet people living a life like yours in so many ways: same tunes, same thoughts, same ganja.

One friend told me about Bob Marley’s visit to Japan about two years before he died. Bob’s entourage hadn’t brought any weed with them to Japan, so Bob was excited to meet this friend who was able to provide Bob with buds from his apartment closet grow system. Bob stayed at his apartment for a couple of days and gave him a percussive gourd as a gift.

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Japanese strains of hemp

According to a 1912 US Department of Agriculture comparison study, Japanese strains of hemp were taller and bigger than European and Chinese strains.

“…Japanese Hemp is beginning to be cultivated, particularly in California, where it reaches a height of 15 feet. Russian and Italian seed have been experimented with, but the former produces a short stalk, while the latter only grows to a medium height.”

The USDA continued experimenting with Japanese strains with remarkable success. A strain from Tochigi-prefecture grown in Virginia even broke the USDA height record.

Since definitive research on Japan’s crop volume was destroyed in WW2 fire storms it is difficult to arrive at a clear estimate of how well these strains grew in their native soils.

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Japanese Pot Cops

Japanese police still work hard at catching pot people, especially importers. Police literature quotes from a book called “What is Marijuana”:

“Marijuana abuse causes disorder of time concepts, confusing past, present and future. Addicts sometimes see what can not be seen, or sometimes see themselves as beautiful ladies, birds or animals. Sometimes they fall into a state of lethargy.”

Japan’s anti-pot establishment also targets famous people to publicly defame. In 1995, one of Japan’s most popular rock singers, Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi, was caught with under 2 grams of grass. He was jailed, fined millions, had his concerts canceled and had to publicly apologize.

Remember that the Japanese jailed Paul McCartney for two ounces in the early seventies, and it was only with great diplomatic pressure that he was released.

Japanese have also been at the other end of the rope, as the Phillipines hanged a Japanese convicted of smuggling several ounces of pot in the early 1990’s.

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the kanji for cannabis means `big hemp.`

the kanji for cannabis means `big hemp.`Cannabis in the Japanese Language

In Japan’s beautiful and bewildering language, cannabis is expressed by an ideogram character, adapted from Chinese, and pronounced “asa”. This character is read “ma” in Chinese and represents two plants hanging upside down from the rafters of a drying shed. Note that only marijuana plants would be hung to dry in thus fashion, as cannabis grown for fibre is field-retted after harvest.

Since the decline of cannabis cultivation, “asa” has become a sort-of catch-all term for replacement crops such as jute, sisal, flax linen, as well as cannabis, making it a bit confusing. However in any dictionary or other languge resource, it is unmistakable that the asa character means cannabis.

A character which refers to cannabis more specifically is “taima”. “Tai” (or “Dai”) means “tall” or “big”, while “ma” is the original Chinese reading of the “asa” character. This is the “official” word for the plant used in the law that prohibits its cultivation.

There is an amazing piece of linguistic proof that the ancient japanese were very aware of cannabis’ enlightening uses. The japanese character for “to rub” consists of “cannabis” and “hand”. Of course, you rub cannabis only to get hashish.

Cannabis culture also lives on through family names such as Asada or Asahara (hemp field) and given names like Asako (little hemp child) or Mamiko (hemp flower).

the kanji for `to rub` is made of `cannabis` and `hand`.

the kanji for `to rub` is made of `cannabis` and `hand`.Other Cannabis Culture terms used in Japan

marifana ? Common slang adaptation of the Mexican/American word for cannabis.
choko ? A modern Japanese slang for weed. Similar to ganja, which is also used.
kusa ? “Grass” as in “You got any grass?”
dozo ? This is the way to say “here, take this” as you pass the joint.
happa ? “Leaf” A common term used the same way as “weed”.
maku ? The verb “to roll.” Try “happu o maku” for “roll up some weed.”
happachu / happaboke ? “Weed junkie”, used a bit lightheartedly sometimes, as the suffix also refers to harder drugs.

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Social Stigma & Good Bud

To be caught smoking weed in Japan is a very big deal. Their justice system is efficient and precise at measuring out your sentence, no matter how much influence you may have in another country. There are many foreigners languishing in Japanese jails who were caught bringing in a stash to get them by while they were living and working in Japan.

It is a social stigma to be caught and many Japanese parents fret that if their child goes overseas to visit or study they will become either pregnant or start smoking pot and then not be a proper worker/citizen. Marijuana is considered by many to be as bad as any other drug, and smokers are referred to as “happachuu” (leaf addict) the same as a junkie.

For several years, Japan has had a working holiday visa arrangement with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so it has given many young Japanese a chance to explore the world and try many new things, and then take their new foreign habits back home to share with their friends. To many young Japanese who feel stifled by the rigors of their society, Vancouver is known for snowboarding, good music and good bud.

Emerging from the Shadows

With total dependence on foreign oil, crowded cities, toxic-patches of oceans, hazardous nuclear reactors, aging population, exessive golf courses and little farmland, Japan will quickly have to look for new options to carry itself into the next generation.

Japan is starting to realize this and has begun to take steps towards meaningful alternatives such as recycling and reducing consumption, especially with wood products.

With Japan’s traditional skill at arts of the land and soul, combined with their modern prowess in manufacturing and mass-marketing, it will be exciting to see what impact the resurgence of the cannabis plant will have upon the nation’s economy and culture.

As Japan realizes its role as a global leader, Shinto’s sacred herb can help reconnect them with their past, and guide them towards a clean and sustainable future.

Endnotes:

? A longer and more complete version of this article, including a thorough bibliography citing all sources, can be found online at:

? Please contact for permission before quoting or publishing any part of this research.

? Thanks to Joe Wein of Kanto region, Japan who has an excellent collection of articles and resources about hemp in Japan available at: http://www2.gol.com/users/joewein/hempjpn.html

? Thanks also to Hidehiro Marui, author of What is the Ganja and Asa and Human Culture. Marui’s Japanese web page is at:

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