Nihon Kusaki Lab / Special Prize
The Japan Plant and Vegetation Research Institute (J-PRI) is uncovering the potential of vegetation in satoyama throughout Japan in order to realize an everyday life in which Japanese trees and unnamed wild plants are a natural part of our dining and living environment. The Institute has partner-affiliated mountains throughout Japan and aims to realize the valorization of Japan’s pristine edible plant resources, including the procurement of its own raw materials, and the accompanying revitalization of local industries, sustainable food supply, and new international competitiveness. It is a research institute that repeatedly goes into satoyama throughout Japan to collect, record, and present information, experimenting with delicious valorization.
Detailed explanation of the submitted project or idea.
Mountains of Japan are home to many native plants that are no less potent than foreign spices and herbs. For example, there are Japanese mountain peppercorns called futoukazura, Japanese cinnamon trees such as nikkei, and trees famous for their fragrance such as hinoki (cypress), sugi (cedar), and kuromoji (spicebush). However, there is a strong image that “mountain plant resources = building materials,” and there are almost no projects to review plant resources from the viewpoint of food. Nihon Kusaki Lab focuses on the value of such mountain plant resources and has added new value to them, producing products such as gin, syrups, and salt.
Comments from Judges
In commercial forestry, undergrowth and shrubs that get in the way of people or machinery are often cut down and left on the forest floor along with fallen leaves and branches. All this waste material hinders the regrowth of the forest, but there’s no cost-effective way to remove it for human use. Nihon Kusaki Lab takes a bottom-up approach which can coexist with the performance-driven forestry sector. The Lab aims for more diversity in both industry and food culture by collaborating with local people. I look forward to seeing what amazing tastes might emerge next from forests across Japan and worldwide.
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