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Preserving Tsuruoka's Heirloom Crops

Culinary knowledge has been carefully handed down from mothers to daughters in every household in Tsuruoka. However, with modern-day changes to family structures and lifestyles, younger generations nowadays are less inclined to learning about and making traditional food. To rekindle their interest in local food, we have started holding hands-on workshops about traditional dishes and how to make them.


The Yamagata Heirloom Crops Genealogical Storage Centre was established at the Faculty of Agriculture of Yamagata University in 2004 to preserve the diverse variety of heirloom crops in Tsuruoka City. At the centre, heirloom crops are cultivated and exhibited, serving as learning materials for students in the university.


In 2003, the Yamagata University Faculty of Agriculture established the Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops. This forum aims to changing public perception of heirloom crops by making suggestions relating to the rediscovery of local gastronomy and a healthy diet. It also encourages local F&B sectors to use locally grown produce, which in turn supports the community and directly.

Admission to the forum is open to all parties interested in the history and cultivation of heirloom crops, seed-saving and processing methods, and folklore related to heirloom crops.


Yamagata University Faculty of Agriculture, with the cooperation of the Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops, aims to educate producers of heirloom crops by promoting the sales, processing, and usage of crops through partnerships among farmers, businesses, and other industrial sectors. Between 2012 and 2015, the faculty held a series of workshops known as the Talkative Farming Workshop: Learning about Yamagata’s Heirloom Crops, Living Cultural Assets from the Fields, subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to further public knowledge of heirloom crops. Although this programme was only offered for 4 years, it enjoyed high attendance. Students who completed the programme received the title of “Yamagata Heirloom Crops Navigator,” conferred to them by the dean of the Faculty of Agriculture.


Upon completion of this programme, navigators make use of the knowledge and industrial network they have gained to play vital roles in the development and circulation of information related to Tsuruoka’s gastronomy and heirloom crops. 

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