Leaning against the long handle of my scythe, I pause in my work in the orchard and gaze out at the mountains and the village below. I wonder how it is that people’s philosophies have come to spin faster than the changing seasons.
The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.
During the past few years the number of people interested in natural farming has grown considerably. It seems that the limit of scientific development has been reached, misgivings have begun to be felt, and the time for reappraisal has arrived. That which was viewed as primitive and backward is now unexpectedly seen to be far ahead of modern science. This may seem strange at first, but I do not find it strange at all.
I discussed this with Kyoto University Professor Iinuma recently. A thousand years ago agriculture was practised in Japan without ploughing, and it was not until the Tokugawa Era 300-400 years ago that shallow cultivation was introduced. Deep ploughing came to Japan with Western agriculture. I said that in coping with the problems of the future the next generation would return to the non-cultivation method.
To grow crops in an unploughed field may seem at first a regression to primitive agriculture, but over the years this method has been shown in university laboratories and agricultural testing centres across the country to be the most simple, efficient and up-to-date method of all. Although this way of farming disavows modern science, it has now come to stand in the forefront of modern agricultural development.
I presented this ‘direct seeding non-cultivation winter grain/rice succession’ in agricultural journals twenty years ago. From then on it appeared often in print and was introduced to the public at large on radio and television programmes many times, but nobody paid much attention to it.
Now suddenly, it is a completely different story. You might say that natural farming has become the rage. Journalists, professors and technical researchers are flocking to visit my fields and the huts up the mountain.
Different people see it from different points of view, make their own interpretations, and then leave. One sees it as primitive, another as backward, someone else considers it the pinnacle of agricultural achievement, and a fourth hails it as a breakthrough into the future. In general, people are only concerned with whether this kind of farming is an advance into the future or a revival of times past. Few are able to grasp correctly that natural farming arises from the unmoving and unchanging centre of agricultural development.
To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin out further and further from the centre. At the same time, a centripetal effect asserts itself and the desire to return to nature arises. But if people merely become caught up in reacting, moving to the left or to the right, depending on conditions, the result is only more activity. The non-moving point of origin, which lies outside the realm of relativity, is passed over, unnoticed. I believe that even ‘returning-to-nature’ and anti-pollution activities, no matter how commendable, are not moving towards a genuine solution if they are carried out solely in reaction to the overdevelopment of the present age.
Nature does not change, although the way of viewing nature invariably changes from age to age. No matter the age, natural farming exists forever as the wellspring of agriculture.