Tsukuba Farmers Still No.1 at Growing Grass ! A closer look at our surprising turf-lawn heritage
Compared to other places in this mountainous and densely populated archipelago, Tsukuba offers plenty of open space. One feature which I found surprising when I first arrived was the abundance of open fields of grass- lawns not fenced off, which tempted me to take off my shoes and run, play fetch with my dog, have a picnic or take an afternoon nap on them.
If you have (or have already given into) the same urges, you might want to think twice before indulging (or re-indulging). This is because these enticing plots of green (or gold, in winter) are not meant for your recreation. They are actually agricultural fields belonging to local farmers – and the grass is an important cash crop (Tsukuba City is the number 1 grass producer in the country). Thus, by walking or running on the turf you might be damaging the goods and subsequently cutting into the farmers earnings (unlike the US, however, nobody will threaten you with a shotgun).
Even if you don’t give a hoot about the farmers, you might want to know that these fields are chock-full of powerful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Many Japanese families with such fields around their houses don’t drink water from their wells and I’ve also heard it said that dogs have been sickened by daily walks on these lawns.
Turf lawn growing has a long history in Tsukuba. Before and during the war, farmers grew the grass which was used for airstrips and runways. In post-war Japan, turf has been used for river embankments, parks, and sport fields. The business really took off with the boom in golf-course construction in the 1980s.
The golden days of the golf clubs has long passed, but there is still a demand (though quite reduced) for lawns put into private homes, sport facilities and parks. Tsukuba City still produces 50 percent of the national crop and remains the number one producer. The Union of Turf Grass Growers in Tsukuba has announced that it has developed 3 new varieties of turf-grass: Tsukuba-Hime, Tsukuba-Kagayaki and Tsukuba-Taro, all which have been designed for resistance to disease and hardiness to cold and other climatic problems which have made life in Japan for other species difficult. You can see farmers seeding grass fields in March and April, and maintenance being carried out throughout the year. Harvesting happens whenever grass is needed somewhere. So, next time you pass by an enticing open field, even if there is no sign posted, you might want to KEEP OFF THE GRASS!
All these turf-lawn fields make Tsukuba`s numerous moles ( mogura) very noticeable. Read more about it HERE.