Tokachi: Bounty of the Northern Lands *RERUN
Tokachi in Hokkaido Prefecture is home to Japan's largest field and the fields in the district account for more than 10% of Japan's field area. Farmers here have to deal with a harsh winter, with farming only possible for around half of the year. During the short farming season, farmers produce crops including wheat, soybeans and potatoes. 130 years ago, a pioneer with a hoe in his hand arrived here and opened up this northern land. The spirit of the early pioneers continues to harness the riches of the land.

Hero in Tokachi

The delicious bounty of Tokachi dates back 130 years to the arrival of a pioneer named Benzo Yoda and other settlers. One by one, they felled huge trees and created this farmland. Having studied large-scale agriculture, Benzo saw great potential in the land and tried to cultivate 56 different crops including rice and azuki. He also produced butter and condensed milk, which were rare in those days. The land opened up by the pioneers still provides numerous riches.

The Dazzling Red Diamonds

Azuki beans were once referred to in Japan as "red diamonds," and many farmers made a fortune from the beans. However, new cold-resistant varieties of azuki put an end to the azuki-led bubble economy in Tokachi, which relied on frost damage to harvests elsewhere boosting local prices. Now Tokachi's azuki beans account for 60% of Japan's azuki production. In the early pioneer days, azuki beans were an important source of nourishment as they could grow on poor soils. The beans are harvested in the fall. Farmers this year again pray for another good harvest of red diamonds.

Banba Horseracing

In the pioneer era, the settlers shared their triumphs and struggles with large farm horses known as banba. Banba played an important role for the settlers, plowing fields and dragging logs. Although tractors have taken over the role of these horses, some people still breed the powerful horses to take part in traditional banba horseracing. Banba races, where the horses drag heavy sleds, require both speed and power. Farming families were proud of their horses and raced them against each other.