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Nanae’s good stories 02

Birthplace of dairy farming in Hokkaido

Nanae’s cheese was served to the Emperor Meiji.
The production of cheese was started to meet the need of people from overseas.

After Hakodate Port was opened in 1854 based on the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity, there was a need to provide foreign vessels with food, fuel and water. The Tokugawa Shogunate got Ezochi back under direct control, and established a cattle farm around Ikusagawa to provide beef and milk to people from overseas. It is considered that this stock farm was the origin of dairy farming in Hokkaido.

However, brown bears were often spotted in Ikusagawa, and they easily preyed on calves because there were no electric fences to protect cattle in those days. The stock farm was forced to close because it was unprofitable, and the remaining cattle were sold to people in Togeshita.

In Japan, there was no culture of eating beef and drinking milk until then. Cattle were raised to plow fields but not to eat. However, the lifestyle was modernized in the Meiji era (1868–1912), which led to an increase in demand for beef and milk, and full-scale daily farming began in the Meiji era.

In 1875, Japan’s first cheese was made from milk at Nanae Public Garden, an experimental farm of the Hokkaido Development Commission. In 1876, when the Emperor Meiji toured Ouu, the Hokkaido Development Commission invited the Emperor to Nanae Public Garden to show him the achievements of development in Hokkaido, and served milk, cheese and ice cream for lunch, which were made at the public garden.

In the late Meiji era, the development of stock farms in the Onuma area was put in the spotlight again. Reclaimers opened stock farms in the area, and a ranch association was organized in Togeshita and Niyama in the Taisho era (1912–1926) to manufacture and sell butter.

In 1945, Yamakawa Farm Natural Milk Co., Ltd. began manufacturing bottled milk using milk produced on its farm. Milk from hybrid Holstein-Jersey cows contains high ratios of milkfat and milk solids, and the company has won a number of awards for the high quality and excellent flavor of its milk, including the Hokkaido Milk Quality Improvement Grand Prix in 2006 and the Gold Prize in the Foodex Japan 2013 Local Milk Grand Prix.
Dairy products from Nanae Town, including Yamakawa Farm Natural Milk, is highly regarded by people not only in the town but also in Hokkaido and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Coverage cooperation: Hisashi Yamada, Curator, Nanae Historical Museum, Yamakawa Farm Natural Milk Co., Ltd.