When I visited Kyodogakusha Shintoku Farm
(Japanese only) in Hokkaido, I only intended to learn a small-size cheese maker. But, it did not take much time, before I came to realize that Kyodogakusha is essentially a community of handicapped people to cooperate together and live a wholesome and natural life and that Shintoku Farm is one of the four farms of Kyodogakusha.
At the same time Shintoku Farm has an excellent cheese factory thanks to its leader Mr. Nozomu Miyajima (photo right), who is the first son of the founder of Kyodogakusha
and has been heading Shintoku Farm since its foundation after coming back from his study at Wisconsin State University. Only a few minutes'talk with him made me realize that he is a charisma as well as an innovative farmer. After having started pioneering work in 1978 in Shintoku, he tried to sustain the community with dairy farming. Through his national and international networks, he gathered ideas to realize his ideal and came up with a novel plan of cheese mill which should make the best use of natural power such as gravity, fermentation, natural stone and carbon in 1989.
Kyodogakusha was founded by Mr. Shinichiro Miyajima, father of Mr. Nozomu Miyajima, in 1974 and has six homes, two in Nagano, three in Hokkaido, including the one in Shintoku which I visited, and one in Tokyo. Mr. Shinichiro Miyajima was a teacher of Jiyu-gakuen (Japanese only), a school including all levels from kindergarten to university and based on the Christian philosophy, and established Kyodogakusha with a view to realize his ideal of education.
Mr. Miyajima says that a living body does not rot, because there is a difference of electric potential and negative electrons are circulating inside it. He adds that negative electrons, i.e. minus ions, activate gram-positive(**)
bacteria such as lactobacillus which plays a positive role in a living body as well as in cheese making process including preservation of hygienic environment in a barn. He built the whole complex - cow barn, milking parlor, cheese mill and storage - so that minus ions is abundant all through the cheese making process.
- I was surprised to hear the word "gram-positive" from Mr. Miyajima in the context of cheese making, because this terminology came from its Danish discoverer, Prof. Hans Gram, who is the father of my good music friend Christian.
I am not sure whether I could understand his theory. Anyhow, Mr. Miyajima said that his system really worked. In fact, his cow barn, which was built only with timber on a carbon mass, did not smell like other barns or stalls. Also Mr. Miyajima mentioned that the incidence of mastitis among his cows was kept to some 10%, which is a very good figure. Because the whole system is resilient against harmful infection, he does not have to fear claws which might bring disease-causing bacteria to the cow barn. He could also build his cheese mill only some 20 meters distant from the barn and this enabled him to transport raw milk from the milk parlor to the cheese mill without using pumps, i.e. without losing minus ions in the milk. Thus active minus ion is the secret for the super quality of Kyodogakusha's cheese.
When time comes cows come back to the barn spontaneously and take the natural feed vehemently.
Cows on the pasturage.
After feeding cows go to the rest space - fermenting floor - spontaneously.
Using this firm Mr. Miyajima makes excellent natural cheese and, for example, his camembert type cheese "Sakura" won the gold medal at the Mountain Cheese Olympics in 2004 and again in 2007. Kyodogakusha's cheese was offered to the international guests at the G8 Toyako Summit last year and highly appreciated by the VIPs.
I personally like his "Shintoko" - Gruyère type hard cheese. I have never encountered a Japanese cheese with such a strong character. Shintoko uses the milk produced during the pasture period - from June to October - and is matured more than 10 months. Most Japanese cheese makers produce only camembert and other soft type cheese, because they want to make money quickly and they believe that the Japanese consumers can only accept mild and soft type cheese. Gotha and Cheddar, together with Camembert, have large shares in the Japanese cheese production, but I think that they do not keep their character as Gotha or Cheddar, but are creamy and mild instead. Frankly speaking, I cannot distinguish them from processed cheese.
On the contrary, Shintoko and Mintal, both are hard or semi-hard type cheese produced in Kyodogakusha, taste like the best among the authentic European cheese. I can agree to the Mr. Miyajima's thinking that his cheese factory cannot run after fashionable products. He thought that their staff was not quick enough to catch up with hectic change of their products. Therefore he chose products, which is not influenced by short-term fashions but can be supported and appreciated by consumers as genuine, natural and environment-friendly foods.
Today, they are making raclette.
Camembert wating for the order
Now about 80% of the Japanese cheese market is occupied by the imported cheese. There is a room for Japanese cheese makers to expand their market share. In light of the gradually decreasing demand for fresh milk and butter, cheese will be the only hope for the Japanese dairy farmers, if they would like to live on dairy farming also in the future. The model developed by Kyodogakusha shows a good possibility for small farms, though not for everybody.
Raclett in the process of maturing
I am also interested in his attachment to Brown Swiss, a special species which produces good milk with little feed. This is really an ideal species if Japan wants to raise its food self-sufficiency, because our low self-sufficiency rate is to large extent caused by the feed imported from the US and other countries. If we can produce dairy products or meat using only domestically produced feed, we can drastically increase our self-sufficiency rate and food security. Mr. Miyajima suggests such a possibility as well.