Nature’s Answer

Japanese photographer, Daisuke Takashige, shares his observations of a dilemma faced by three farmers.

Do you want to create a border with nature?

There was an incident at the farm. It was the beginning of May when I visited Kai, a farmer growing vegetables in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. A newly-planted sweet potato spout had been spotted by a wild boar living in the nearby mountains, and had been uprooted.

Kai stopped his small pick-up truck, stepped out, and noticed it immediately. He looked bothered. But I didn’t see the extent of this until seeing my photos enlarged on my computer screen. I had chased his silver pick-up all the way to his farm, which is hidden in the middle of the forest like a secret place; fascinated by the beauty of the light falling on the field, I directed him for a photo, “Hey Kai, look here!”.

“Maybe I’ll put up electric fences after all,” Kai murmured, frustratedly. “But Momoji will make a fuss about this.” Momoji is a farmer who grows rice in Inaya, Nagano Prefecture. I had visited his farm to take some photos just a few days earlier. The two sell their produce at the Farmer’s Market at UNU, and you can tell they are close, just by looking.

“Do you want to put up a border against nature?”, is what Momoji says of the electric fences erected to keep out wild boars. After a few days of taking photos at the farms, I sensed that this did not just represent a physical border. Borders do not exist in nature, separating species from food sources in an ecosystem. They are man-made creations, where humans have diverged from the natural ecosystem. You could also say that the wild boars who have to resort to eating the crops have also diverged from nature. In such times, farmers go through the difficult decision, debating whether or not to put up electric fences. In the same way, people also turn to pesticides and fertilizers, putting up borders.

“It’s just a matter of sharing a bit of what you have,” says Momoji. I listened as I stared at the fertile-looking black soil; the volcanic ash soil of Mt. Ontake. At the end of April, the fields were yet to be greeted by Spring. “If the ecosystem is strong and stable, there will be no mass outbreaks of a specific species. And even if it were to happen, there is always a reason for it,” continues Momoji. “You just need to look at the field from nature’s point of view. It’s over as soon as you use the word ‘pest’ – that’s a human-centered way of thinking,”. Kai’s remarks come back to me.

Before going to either of their fields, I’d visited another farmer, Tom, whose farm is right by Narita Airport. For those who know him at the Farmer’s Market, Tom is like a god of farming. When farmers and chefs alike talk about him, they glow with respect. If I took their picture at the time, their affection would definitely shine through. Tom also has to navigate the balance of animals and crops. When I ask about his approach, his response is charming, “I let them play,” he says. Tanuki and rabbits visit Tom’s field from the woods. Tom gets creative, he’s used balloons, solar lights, even radio to encourage them back to the woods; indeed, he seems to be truly existing amidst nature.

Daisuke Takashige
Daisuke is a Tokyo-based photographer.