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Nanae’s good stories 05

Fur industry in Onuma

The fur processing skills of Onuma Fox Farm’s artisans, which used to support the industry in Onuma, has been handed down to the present.

In 1915, Onuma Fox Farm was an important tourism spot and helped to promote Onuma Park nationwide. In Hokkaido, which is severely cold in winter, animal skin was used as clothing and a tool in day-to-day life, and foxes and minks were raised until the early Showa era (1926–1989).

Onuma Fox Farm was planned and operated by Nichiro Fishery Co., Ltd., which imported seven pairs of ginguro foxes, three pairs of minks and three pairs of fishers from Canada and began to raise them in 1918. To develop the farm into a full-scale business, Onuma Fox Farming Co., Ltd. was established with a capital of 250,000 yen in 1921 (president: Kumatsuchi Matsushita), and several dozen foxes were raised on the farm. Located near the Junsainuma area on the west coast of Lake Onuma, the fox farm quickly became a popular tourist spot in Onuma. It is said that the farm had very good hygiene.
The fox farming business continued until around 1940, when the company was dissolved due to war. In 1945, Nabetani Fur Shop (Chiyozo Nabetani) in Onuma began to raise minks and process fur. The business was suspended during the Second World War but gradually resumed after the war.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (presently the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), the number of breeding stock animals imported from the USA in 1953 was only several dozen, but the number of minks raised in Japan rose to 1,000 in 1954, 35,000 in 1959 and 250,000 in 1963, and reached 400,000 in 1965 the fur from half of which was shipped to various areas in Japan and elsewhere.
In those days, mink raising was promoted with the slogan, “animals produce jewels,” and 95% of Japan’s minks were raised in Hokkaido. The cold climate was suitable for mink raising, and whale meat and fish were available as low-cost feed.

Even today, Wakamatsu Fur, a company engaged in the total fur manufacturing process from tanning to sewing and finishing, receives many overseas orders and also takes part in local product fairs and craft fairs, as well as dealing with orders for custom-made furs. Although the number of artisans has decreased, the world-class fur processing skill has been handed down to the present.

Coverage cooperation: Tokihiko Wakamatsu, Representative Director, Wakamatsu Fur Co., Ltd.