SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.18 (2022)

Cultivation of Local Turnips
in Mountain Villages in Japan:

A Case Study in the Ikawa Area, Shizuoka Prefecture


Department of Regional Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

turnips, slash-and-burn agriculture, tea field, farming for self-consumption, mountain villages

Studies on jikabu, a native turnip species, have been conducted in several areas, including reports about Shiiba Village, Miyazaki Prefecture, where slash-and-burn agriculture had been practiced. However, these reports are fragmentary, and specific cultivation methods have not been clarified. This study aims to clarify the cultivation of native turnips in mountain villages and the transition of cultivation methods from around 1955 to the present. The study site is village X in the Ikawa area of Shizuoka Prefecture. The results are summarized in three points as follows.

The first point concerns the cultivation of native turnips around 1955, when slash-and-burn agriculture was still practiced. There were two types of cultivation sites in village X. One was tea fields, where turnips grew naturally between tea plants. Those turnips grew on their own after konjak potato, which was also grown between tea plants, was harvested. Turnip flowers were used as a nectar source for honey bees. The other type of site was slash-and-burn farming fields, where seeds of the turnips collected from the tea fields were planted along with Japanese millet.

The second point is the current cultivation method of native turnips in jobata, or permanent agricultural fields since around 1985. Mrs. A from village X began cultivating konjak in a permanent field in addition to a permanent tea field. She let the turnips grow on their own in the permanent field and left their seeds to fall naturally in the field, creating a cultivation environment where turnips would grow naturally after harvesting konjak, just like the turnips in tea fields in village X.

The last point refers to the reason for using spilled seeds in the cultivation process. From around 1950 to the present, use of spilled seeds for cultivation of turnips has been common, which may be attributable mainly to the recognition that turnips grow wild and that there was an influence from the cultivation method used since Mrs. A’s grandmother’s generation, in which self-seeded seeds were collected and sowed in various fields.

In village X, tea and konjak were important commodity crops. Turnips, which grow on their own in tea fields after konjak is harvested, have been passed down from generation to generation as a by-product, although they are recognized as an important product for consumption by local people from autumn to early spring. This study has also clarified that the locally-grown turnips were closely related to the source of livelihood and the life of the mountain village, including slash-and-burn agriculture and beekeeping.