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Akemi Ishimoto

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Akemi Ishimoto has been making kancha (Japanese: 寒茶), a unique winter bancha in Kuo village, Shishikuicho, Tokushima Prefecture for more than 35 years. 87 years young in 2024, Akemi Ishimoto has been a leader in preserving the centuries old folk tea tradition of Shishikui Kancha. She is affectionately called "Kancha Ba-chan” (translates, roughly, to kancha granny) by the people in this region. Akemi-san says that she has never met anyone that has loved kancha more than herself and one can clearly see her passion for kancha when witnessing her make this beautiful tea.

Akemi-san founded the Kancha Production Association in 1988. This was the year the movement to make kancha into a specialty product in the Shishikui area became full-fledged. This movement was spearheaded by Akemi-san and at the beginning, the association consisted of approximately 20 farmers, most of them being grandmas. Kancha was commercialized through Kaifu Japan Agricultural Cooperative and other outlets. They cultivated the tea, processed, and sold it. Currently, due to depopulation (only a few households remain in Kuo village), it is mainly Akemi-san who is keeping the Shishikui kancha tradition alive.

Over the years, Akemi-san has provided hands-on learning experiences of kancha making, mainly for the children in this region. Unfortunately, there is no successor for her kancha. Consequently, there is a high possibility that her wild and wonderful mountain tea fields will become abandoned in the near future.

Despite the inevitable decline of Kuo Village, Akemi-san has helped to shine light on this small mountain village. In Tokushima Prefecture, in depopulated areas where the population is rapidly aging, villages where elderly people actively and independently participate in a variety of local activities and contribute to regional revitalization are recognized as model cases so that other regions may be inspired and/or learn from them. Called, “Active Senior Certified Villages'', Kuo village received this recognition in 2021, thanks to the efforts of Akemi-san and the Kancha Production Association.

Shishikui Kancha Crafting Process

 

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  • Shishikui Kancha from Tokushima Prefecture - Handpicked by Farmer Akemi Ishimoto

    Akemi Ishimoto

    Shishikui Kancha from Tokushima Prefecture - Handpicked by Farmer Akemi Ishimoto

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