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Obubu Tea said

News about a tea field that just escaped the Tsunami in Japan

http://www.iwate-np.co.jp/cgi-bin/topnews.cgi?20110330_1

For those of you who read Japanese, this is a news story about a tea field in the Rikuzen-takata City, in the town of Kesen-cho. Tea from Kesen, or Kesencha, has been cultivated here for 300 years. 130 years ago, the region was the fifth largest producer of tea in Japan with over 500 tons produced.

Now, there is one tea field left, owned by Konno-san, age 96. Every year in early June, a community of several dozen tea picker women come to pick tea for Konno-san continuing a centuries-long tradition. But this year they are not sure whether this will happen.

With the town destroyed (see video of Kesen-cho town here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6nM814erBI), people are living in evacuation centers or have moved away to their relatives’ homes elsewhere (one woman is still missing…). Konno-san himself is now living with his daughter away from the tea field and is worried that he can’t take care of the plants. (At age 96?! The story doesn’t elaborate on who helps him…)

We don’t know if our tea fund (Tea Lover to Tea Lover, http://www.obubutea.com/donate) can help this situation, but we’ll try to contact Konno-san to see if something can be done so that this tradition does not die.

And if they can pick tea again this year…what a symbol of hope and revival will that be!! Will update when we know more!

9 Replies
Obubu Tea said

Here is a news report in Japanese about the tea field…you can see more of the field, and how close it was to the destruction:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3ZoofnWsAo

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MMT said

AS much as Japanese tea is one of the best teas, the problem is that Japan has been
compromised. The water system is unsafe maybe be possible. Radiation can travel under ground and birds and fish are infected. Even though the Tea fields are far south, it means nothing. If people are willing to take the risk of drinking contaminated tea, I wish them luck. Remember, radiation in small amounts will still over time eat you from the inside out. Cancer will be your decision. Be careful…

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Ottawa Tea said

MMT: Food can be tested for radiation upon export or import to another country. Not all of Japan will be affected and it is wise to base decisions on evidence, not fear. Forgoing Japanese tea if there is no real reason to ( and we can test to make certain that it is safe) is bad for everyone involved, especially during this period when we should be doing what we can to support our friends in Japan. Thank you for sharing this story, Ian!

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MMT said

Ottawa Tea, I share your faith in Japan. I do not wish anything bad in Japan. I have been preying for the people in Japan. If you understand that most goverments lie to save face and money. They will say anything to get you to buy there products reguardless of it being safe or not. Maybe you are a believer, however I am not. I do not trust Japan or the USA when it comes to safety of our foods. There past record speaks for itsself . Once you lie , you always lie. Enjoy your Japanese Tea, I will stick with the best Tea on earth, thats Chinese Tea.

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Obubu Tea said

MMT > Everyone needs to balance their time and effort with their priorities. If your priority is not Japanese tea but Chinese tea, then obviously there is no reason to spend the time and effort to find out whether or not Japanese tea is safe. But thank you for your faith in the Japanese people. The Internet has allowed us to force the government to be more open and honest…you have people living in the prefectures surrounding the power plant posting radiation levels in their homes by the hour on Twitter!

Ottawa Tea > Thank you for your faith in Japan. Doing the research yourself on whether tea from a specific region is susceptible to radiation contamination or not is difficult, especially with language barriers, but not impossible. http://atmc.jp lists background radiation, radiation levels in tap water and radiation levels in rain by the day in Japanese, but with a Google translate toolbar.

Of course, understanding what the figures mean takes a bit of work, and I’m still trying to figure it out. But here’s what I know.

In Nara Prefecture (we are just north of Nara in southern Kyoto), average background radiation is normal: 0.05 microsieverts per hour.

By contrast average radiation level in America is 0.34 microsieverts per hour
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert#Hourly_dose_examples
Of course there are other sources of radiation, such as an x-ray exam at the doctor’s: 90 microsieverts (0.090 millisieverts or mSv)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(radiation)

However, what is of most concern is how much radiation contamination is in the rain…which gets into the groundwater. This is measured in Becquerels and is affected by the half-life of the radiation particles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becquerel

I believe contaminated rain getting onto plants that you eat can be dealt with by washing your food properly.

In Nara, Kyoto, and regions west, this level has been zero.

In one minor production region, Saitama, there have been more significant levels…to the point where you should wash your hands before eating if you were outside in the rain.

This article has a good explanation (though still difficult to understand since all this about Sieverts and Becquerels is difficult to understand).
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110321p2a00m0na006000c.html

Finally, we feel the most important thing is to know where your food is coming from. Whether Chinese tea or Japanese tea, how far back into the supply chain can you trace your tea? (Can you guess Obubu’s selling point? ;) )

By the way, we’re working to get more farmers from various countries, including China, to be more available to their customers online via http://www.teafarms.org (still under development).

Ottawa Tea said

Hi Ian! I love the CSA concept, and think that it is fabulous when we know where our food comes from. We have CSAs for produce here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and my local butcher only deals with local farmers whose pictures are posted on the wall, but I never thought I could be involved in a CSA for tea! I loved the concept I read about on the obubu website — and then was sad that it was targeted at those who spoke Japanese. If you think that an English (and French!) speaking person would still benefit, please let me know.

And thanks for the info on radiation…I trust my government but it was very good to have more information and I certainly learned something.

As always, Japan is in my thoughts. Isn’t it amazing that through technology, we can connect during difficult times and if nothing else, provide moral support.

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MMT said

Dear Obubu Tea Plantations: Thank you for all the data and research on the situation in Japan. I wish you well. I have been to Japan many times and visited a few Tea plantations. I was very impressed. But still the sitaution is unchanged. Your country is going thru a very difficult time. I will still pray for your recovery. As far as you providing data from the internet and what ever your goverment says, If its the truth or just playing it down, I think its in holding patterning. Remember one thing, its people lives we are concerned about. Do some more research on the long and short term effects of radiation. You might be shocked. Everyday the problem is not resolved, more and more people could suffer later. There’s no cure for this sickness.Taking Radiation readings are a waste of time. I trust them less because everday its a different story. Ask the Ukraines about Chernobyl. Many hundreds of miles away and still people were effected. They were eating the crops, what ever was growing and they were washing it also. Sorry Thats does not cut it. I fully understand your protecting your business. For those people out there who want to take the chance of purchasing Japanese Tea this harvest, I wish them luck. There’s to much illiness in this world, and to add radiation poison to the list is just to much.

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With all due respect, MMT, posts like this have a tendency to feed panic. We know that everyone has a choice, and I’m certainly not going to try to convince you to drink Japanese tea. That’s not the point. When you write posts like this, it doesn’t help the very people that you say that you are praying for. I respect your opinion, but I also wish the Japanese well and in so doing, think that some thoughts are better kept to oneself.

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MMT said

I deeply apologize for my comments on this post. I was only concerned about people and there health. You may find it hard to believe , but I did donate money to help japanese people who are in real need of help. I have visited Japan in the region where Tea is harvested and met a few Tea farm owners. I saw no shortage of $ 90,000 Mercedes-Benz & Lexus cars at there factories. I really hope the money I donated covers your First Class Trip to Macau, or is it Thailand and of course Hawaii.
My last comment on this subject. Sorry I upset many people. The truth hurts..

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