Project Kokusan | My Mission to Only Support Made in Japan

An elderly Japanese farmer pulls a kokusan daikon from one of her fields

As of this writing, it’s the first week of 2022. That means that we’re quickly coming up on the two year mark since foreign tourists have been prohibited from entering Japan. Seeing as I am a writer who has the mission of helping more people get off of the beaten path, these past few years have been trying to say the least. As I outlined in this rather odd piece though, I’ve been able to maintain some sense of sanity by instead focusing on my love for Japan as a whole. Much to my surprise, some of my most joyous moments in 2021 were actually when I was dropping cash willy-nilly on vendors and restaurants in the Japanese countryside.

On that note, I’d like to introduce what I am officially titling #ProjectKokusan. Translated directly, the Japanese word kokusan means something like “domestically produced.” The label is used widely all across the Japanese archipelago to refer to items that have been, you guessed it, made locally here in Japan. #ProjectKokusan is therefore an attempt by any and all involved to more consciously consume only goods and produce that has been sourced by hard working Japanese farmers and craftsmen. It’s a call to action to try our best to support local vendors whenever we can.

A bunch of kokusan souvenirs on display at a shop in Japan

To be frank, #ProjectKokusan is something that a few of us Japan-loving fanatics have been trying to practice for a while now whenever possible. I am merely looking to give the concept a name so that those looking to better support Japan can have a call to rally around. The idea originally came to me after I first completed a two-week fast. While experiencing the clarity that only a few days without food can bring (try it if you don’t believe me), I realized that I could just simply opt out of supporting anything that wasn’t made in Japan. Rather than eat some foreign-sourced grub, I could just fast until there was some locally sourced wagyu to enjoy.

Of course, one of the silver linings of this kokusan-only restriction is going to be that when I do eat or purchase something, I can really splurge. Since I’ll ONLY be consuming things that are made in Japan and abstaining from anything else, I can take all the money that would be allocated elsewhere and really go no holds barred. For example, rather than spend a few hundred yen on your standard three squares a day, I can instead pool all of that money into one killer kokusan meal. For me, this is generally going to mean wagyu plus some organ meats with an occasional side of daikon but you get the point.

As alluded to thus far, #ProjectKokusan also applies to all wearables. While other members of the cult are a bit more blessed than I am when it comes to ummm… sizing issues (note that I am a big dude at 187 cm), I’m going to make a concerted effort to only purchase products that were made in Japan. Though I can already foresee having some issues trying to find clothing that fits, I guess an acceptable alternative to “made in Japan” is “sold in Japan” when there’s absolutely no other recourse. This way, at least SOME of my purchase is going to paying taxes to support the country that I love so much.

A kokusan bowl of green matcha tea in Japan

Unfortunately, one indulgence in regards to Project Kokusan that a caffeine field like myself is certainly NOT looking forward to is giving up coffee. You see, though Japan does indeed have quite the endemic coffee culture, there simply aren’t any kokusan coffee beans for me to support. As a result, I’ll need to get my daily fix of caffeine from green tea or something entirely that is produced regionally here in Japan. Then again, maybe removing all of the corrupting influences of “gaikoku” from my life will super charge me such that I don’t need caffeine anymore. I guess we’ll see…

Anyway, if you’d like to join the cult and I in this celebration of all things made in Japan, please share your kokusan goodies on social media with the hashtag #ProjectKokusan. You’ll be seeing a lot of this tag from me in 2022 as I endeavor to only eat local produce and only buy items made in Japan. While it’s going to be rather difficult for someone like myself who doesn’t cook, I am looking forward to the challenge. And hey, eating savory wagyu and regionally raised oysters every day doesn’t seem like that bad of a fate now does it?

A craftsman in Japan makes a kokusan piece of glasswear

In closing, allow me to also mention that I have some HUGE plans for 2022 when it comes to supporting Japanese artisanal goods and crafts. In the coming months, I’ll be looking to launch a major e-commerce platform that seeks to connect would-be buyers with regional products that they would love if they only knew they existed. Truth be told, this is something that I’ve been trying to do for some time. Alas, it was only recently when I finally cracked the nut of how to do this in a win-win-win way for the craftsmen, the buyer and the marketer. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates soon.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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