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Nanae’s good stories 04

Birthplace of Danshaku potatoes

The first person who cultivated potatoes in Japan, which helped to overcome the post-war food shortage, was a baron who specialized in mechanical engineering.

Baron Ryokichi Kawada, who was a board director of Hakodate Dock, imported 11 varieties of potatoes and made a test growing of them on a farm named Seikaen in Nanae, which led to the cultivation of Danshaku (Irish Cobbler) potatoes.

He was the first person to get a driver’s license in Japan. He owned a steam automobile called Locomobile, and was also the first person who drove a car in Hokkaido.
Ryokichi Kawada had once been in the UK to study mechanical engineering (shipbuilding technology). Remembering the delicious potatoes he ate in the UK, he bought Irish Cobbler potatoes, which originated in the USA and are also known as Eureka in the UK, and chose to grow them in Nanae because the area’s cool climate and soil are ideal for potato cultivation.

He had the philosophy that the country couldn’t develop without both industry and agriculture prospering, and he was convinced that it was necessary to develop the food base. Thus, Ryokichi, who was a specialist of mechanical engineering, introduced agricultural machinery at his own expense and opened his own farm.
Eventually, the Irish Cobbler became popular among neighboring farmers and was widely cultivated because this early variety is delicious, highly adaptable to the environment, has a high yield and is highly storable.
In the Taisho era (1912–1926), the area’s potatoes were shipped as seed potatoes to the Honshu region under the initiative of the Nanae Agricultural Society. At that time, these potatoes were named Danshaku potatoes after Baron (Danshaku in Japanese) Ryokichi Kawada. The potatoes were highly prized in Honshu as an excellent variety from Hokkaido.

After that, Danshaku potatoes helped to overcome the post-war food shortage, and have been a common sight on Japanese dinner tables ever since.
A monument with an inscription saying the “birthplace of Danshaku potatoes” was erected in 1947 at the Seikaen site along the national highway to honor the accomplishment of Baron Ryokichi Kawada.

Coverage cooperation: Hisashi Yamada, Curator, Nanae Historical Museum