Commodification of tochi rice cakes in Kutsuki, Shiga Prefecture, Central Japan

Yuichiro Fujioka, Haruna Yatsuka, Yoshihiko Iida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mountainous areas in Japan have been faced with various environmental issues specific to these regions' ongoing depopulation, aging of residents, and economic globalization. Along with these problems there has been a decline in the use of forest resources and the relation between residents and the forest has changed dramatically. In response, regional development movements have been promoting the commodification of natural resources and the processed goods that can be made from them. The important issue in such regional developments is how to maintain the sustainability of production while overcoming the problems such as depopulation and aging. This paper examines the factors related to sustainability in the commodification of Tochi-rice-cakes whose main ingredient is Tochi nuts (nuts of the Japanese horse chestnut, or Aesculus turbinata Blume), known as tochinomi, in Kutsuki, Shiga Prefecture, Central Japan. Following the removal of their astringent taste, Tochi nuts are used as a major ingredient in making Tochi-rice-cakes. Residents of hamlet "A" had been gathering Tochi nuts from the local forest until the late 1950s and primarily produced Tochi-rice-cakes for consumption at home. Since the 1960s, however, the use of Tochi-rice-cakes and gathering of Tochi nuts had been decreasing. In the 1980s, the residents considered reactivating the process to boost the local economy, so seven households set up an association for the preservation of Tochi-rice-cake production. Initially, members sold Tochi-rice-cakes at various local events, then in 1988 they began selling the products at the farmers' morning market which had opened, and later at a shop near the Kutsuki Shinhonjin roadside Station, which opened in 1993. At Kutsuki Shinhonjin in both 2004 and 2011 Tochi-rice-cakes were the second most popular products sold at the station, and their ratio was almost the same (11% and 10%, respectively) in both years. Regarding the sales of the Tochi-rice-cakes at the farmers' market in 2004 and 2009, they were frequently sold in all open markets in both years. Most people (87 %) who bought the Tochi-rice-cakes at the farmers' market were repeat customers and not first-time visitors; thus, Tochi-rice-cake were in steady demand. There were few producers of Tochi-rice-cakes and most were elderly people, so their relatives tended to help with both producing and selling them. The important factors that sustained the production of Tochi-rice-cakes over a period of about 30 years in this area were (1) face-to-face selling at the farmers' market and various events, and (2) the independence of producers and the loose cooperative relations among producers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-55
Number of pages16
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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