31 Janvier 2016
January 30, 2016
By SAYURI IDE/ Staff Writer
When Sota Sato sought a way to help rebuild his hometown of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, still evacuated from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, he discovered a mouthwatering solution.
The 23-year-old in the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences knew instantly last June when he bit into "madei" beef, a speciality of his village.
“It was so palatable that it almost brought tears to my eyes,” Sato recalled.
Madei beef is a variety related to Iitate beef, a premium Japanese "wagyu" that Iitate is known for. In the local dialect, "madei" means giving greater care.
At a local products fair from the Tohoku region held Jan. 10 at the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Agriculture, Sato called out, “Madei beef is delicious! Why don’t you give it a try?”
The targeted 150 plates of madei beef were sold out at the event.
“The people’s reaction was more positive than I had anticipated,” said Sato.
Participating in the fair was a preview for a university festival in May.
He believes that madei beef has a great potential for underpinning the local economy.
Sato has been pondering how to resurrect the village, which is located northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in the wake of the triple meltdown.
Adoring Iitate's idyllic setting since childhood, Sato has always been devoted to the well-being of the village.
While in high school, he had already decided to become the village head someday.
Today, about 6,000 villagers are still displaced as Iitate is designated an area where residents cannot return to live yet.
During his search for a way to revive his hometown, he encountered Masao Kobayashi, a 59-year-old cattle farmer from Iitate.
Kobayashi is raising 142 madei beef cattle in a barn in Sanmu, Chiba Prefecture, after evacuating along with the animals.
Sato visited Kobayashi’s barn in June and tasted beef from the local breed for the first time in a very long time.
The experience made him realize anew that Iitate has something that residents can take great pride in.
Selling the madei beef at his university festival is an effort to bring attention to the local beef industry and Iitate’s plight.
He undertook the project with 16 others--peers from the village who are committed to doing something for Iitate and graduate school friends who empathize with the initiative.
Sato is aware that some villagers believe that rebuilding Iitate is next to impossible.
He concedes the enormous challenges facing the local livestock industry and said it may be the generation after his before it finally returns to the level before the nuclear disaster.
But Sato said he will never give up, doing whatever he can with comrades who share his goal.