At the tail end of 2015, the first lady of Japan, Akie Abie, made international headlines by touting the revival of Japan’s hemp culture. In fact, Ms. Abie took her support a step further and claimed that she had considered becoming a hemp farmer to help reinvigorate the historical cultivation of hemp across Japan. Now, many Japanese citizens had a good reason to find her support shocking, considering that the country has some of the harshest laws against cannabis in the world.
Although hemp growing is a longstanding tradition in Japan, and a very select number of legal hemp farmers still exist in the country, their strict Cannabis Control Law makes it illegal to purchase, cultivate, and trade marijuana, the penalty of which could land you in a laborious prison camp for five years. But, it seems that the first lady has sparked a progressive movement in the country, which recently unveiled their first-ever cannabis mascot, an animated female character named "Asamiko".
The pink-haired hemp-based character is being promoted within the Tottori Prefecture, a coastal region on Japan’s main island, to help revive the waning number of cannabis farmers in Japan. The mascot’s name, Asamiko, literally translates to “Hemp Shrine Maiden”. According to Asamiko’s official Twitter account, the mascot lives in the hemp fields of the town Chizu, and her mission is to remind everyone about Japan’s rich and vital history of traditional hemp cultivation, while also educating people on the benefits of the cannabis plant.
Asamiko was developed as a project by the Hachijuhachiya (88th night) farm, which owns the country’s largest hemp field with 33 farmers working onsite. The farm, which currently cultivates industrial hemp with no psychoactive effects, is hoping to increase public knowledge of hemp with the cute animated fairy character. The mascot’s birthday is listed as May 2, 2013, because that is said to be the day that cultivation was brought back to the Chizu-based farm after a 60 year absence, which was primarily due to a post-war ruling that eliminated the production of hemp in the area.
The farm currently produces around 500 kilograms of hemp every year, using stems for textiles, deodorants, and food products, while the seeds are pressed into oil and roasted for healthy food products as well. Additionally, Hachijuhachiya has helped stimulate the local economy as well, providing jobs and hemp-based products in support of their community.
All in all, the introduction of Asamiko to Japan is a major step towards building up Japan’s hemp industry again, which could eventually help the country ease up on their harsh cannabis consumption laws. Thus far, the mascot has been educating the masses through social media, tweeting out lessons about the country’s ancient Shinto culture, which is strongly connected with hemp’s history, as well as the uses of hemp fibers for rope, textiles, bags, and even kimonos.
Who knows, maybe she'll be starring in her own hemp-based Anime show in the near future!
大麻のしめ縄は稲作伝来以前からの伝統だで！ pic.twitter.com/5p1jUs3ofv— あさみこちゃん (@asamikochan) August 27, 2016