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New hemp mascot character Asamiko-chan appears in Japan

    Oona McGee Sep 23, 2016

With her own official Twitter account and a town in Tottori Prefecture behind her, Japan’s first ever cannabis character comes dressed as a pink-haired shrine maiden.

Ever since Japan’s first lady Akie Abe spoke out in support of reviving the country’s hemp culture in an interview last year, the topic of cannabis cultivation has become a hot topic in Japan. While marijuana and hemp can be produced from the cannabis plant, the country’s Cannabis Control Law strictly bans the purchase, cultivation, and trade of marijuana. However, a very small number of legal hemp farms exist in Japan, and with the Prime Minister’s wife herself saying she’s considered applying for a permit to grow hemp, mainstream use of hemp products looks set to grow throughout the country.

▼ Ms. Abe promoted the SPA! magazine article on her personal Facebook page, where she was pictured surrounded by cannabis plants at a local hemp farm.

Now a town in Tottori Prefecture aims to promote the products even further with a new cannabis mascot character called “Asamiko”, which literally translates to “Hemp Shrine Maiden”. According to her official Twitter account, Asamiko-chan is a Hemp Sprite who lives in the hemp field at Chizu, in Tottori Prefecture, and her goal is to remind everyone about Japan’s history of traditional hemp cultivation while educating people about the beneficial uses of the plant.

Here, Asamiko-chan tells everyone that hemp fibres have been used in Japan since ancient times, to create products like rope, textiles, bags and kimono.

And here she reminds everyone of hemp’s connection to the country’s ancient Shinto culture, where the fibre plays an important role in Shinto purification rituals, and is traditionally used to create sacred shimenawa twisted ropes and suzunawa “bell ropes” attached to bells at shrines.

The cute, cannabis-leaf carrying character even has her own bio, which includes facts such as: her favourite food – onigiri rice balls flavoured with hemp miso paste; her specialty – curing tired people; her favourite phrase – “Do you know what hemp is?”; and her goal – to fill Japan with hemp farms. Her birthday, listed as 2 May 2013, is said to be the day that cultivation was restarted at the farm in Chizu after a 60 year absence, following a post-war ruling that eliminated its production in the area.

The farm behind the project, Hachijuhachiya (88th night), also known as “8108ya“, is hoping to increase public knowledge of hemp with the cute fairy character, as it continues to cultivate industrial hemp with no psychoactive effects on its hectare of farmland, which is the largest field amongst the country’s current 33 hemp farmers.

60年ぶりに麻栽培が復活 伝統的な麻づくりプロジェクト。 「八十八や」前編|鳥取県 智頭町|「Webマガジン コロカル」 https://t.co/8IWpbEcHjr
あのゆるキャラはどうかと思うが、事業自体はしっかりしてる

— マイケル(•ө•) (@s_inaba187) August 25, 2016

Hachijuhachiya currently produces 500 kilograms of hemp each year, with the stems of the plant used for textiles, deodorants, and food products, while the seeds are pressed for oil and roasted to make highly nutritional food products.

Not only is the farm working to promote the use of hemp throughout the country, the company has also helped to provide jobs and stimulate the local economy in Tottori, Japan’s least populous prefecture. To purchase products and find out more about the farm, visit their online store for more details.

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