ABSTRACT

Introduction When distributing questionnaires about Japanese consumers’ perceptions of food safety in the wake of the destabilization of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, I asked respondents about ‘provenance’ or ‘place of origin’ (sanchi in Japanese). Yet respondents frequently used a different term that appeared in neither questionnaire nor follow-up questions to refer to the place where a food product came from: ‘brand’. Indeed, in Japan place-branding phenomena are proliferating,­especially­for­food­and­agriculture;­one­finds­fairs­celebrating­the­food­products of many prefectures, social expectations that travellers seek out unique gastronomic experiences and return with idiosyncratic edible souvenirs, and a new legal system for registering ‘regional collective trademarks’ – which the Ministry­of­Economics,­Trade,­and­Industry’s­(METI)­Japan­Patent­Office­refers­ to informally as ‘place brands’ – that is dominated by food products.1 But not all places have been successful at creating place brands. The focus of this chapter is Kyoto’s place brands for agricultural and food products and heirloom vegetables in particular. According to surveys conducted by Nikkei Research and Brand Research Institute, Kyoto is the second strongest place brand in Japan, Hokkaido being­the­first­(Brand­Research­Institute­2010;­Nikkei­Research­2011). Conceptualizing the ‘rural’ has become a problem for academics and policy makers­(Gray­2000;­Woods­2007).­The­aim­of­this­essay­is­not­to­engage­in­the­ debates­over­defining­or­identifying­the­‘rural’­in­places­or­discourse,­but­rather­ to present a case study of an agricultural economy that encompasses areas whose ‘rurality’ is diverse and often self-effacing. Indeed, even farmers in those areas of Kyoto Prefecture that are the least accessible, least populated, and most dependent on agriculture turn to the image of Kyoto as the taste-making capital of traditional Japan to market their produce. This is in contrast to other agricultural economies that choose to brand themselves as explicitly ‘rural’. Consider the example of Fiji Water, which is marketed as pure and pristine, its source being situated on a tropical island distant from the developed economies where it­ is­ exported­ for­ consumption­ (Wilk­ 2006),­ or­ the­Vermont­ Green­Mountain­ label which gives products from barbeque sauce to ice cream an image of ‘wholesomeness,­ purity­ and­ rusticity’­ (Che­ 2006).­ Predominantly­ rural­ New­

Zealand­has­even­adopted­the­slogan­‘100%­Pure­New­Zealand’­to­attract­tourists via an advertising campaign extending to television commercials, newspaper ads,­and­websites­such­as­www.newzealand.com­(Tourism­New­Zealand­2013). ­ In­ this­ chapter,­ I­ examine­ Kyoto’s­ twenty-­first-century­ agricultural­ place­ brands – particularly those for local produce – in light of the challenges facing the prefecture’s agricultural sector, in particular the threat posed by inexpensive domestic­ and­ foreign­ agricultural­ imports.­ I­ compare­ the­Kyō­Brand,­ the­Kyō­ Seasonal­Vegetable­Brand,­and­the­Kamigamo­Heirloom­Vegetable­Brand,­analysing similarities and differences in the ways they capitalize on Kyoto’s appeal in marketing their produce. My analysis reveals that small-scale farmers, local officials,­ and­ others­ engaged­ in­ the­ local­ agricultural­ economy­ are­ turning­ to­ Kyoto’s cultural and symbolic resources, emphasizing tradition and history, in an effort to reinvigorate the local agricultural economy. On the whole, these actions have been successful. Though Kyoto may appear to be a unique place, it offers lessons about place branding for other economies facing similar problems. ­ This­ chapter­ is­ based­ on­ fieldwork­ conducted­ in­ Kyoto­ in­ 2006-8­ and­ 2012-13.­ During­ this­ period­ I­ gathered­ archival­ materials­ from­ newspaper­ articles to brochures and documents about Kyoto’s various place brands for agricultural products and conducted semi-structured and informal interviews with farmers,­chefs,­local­government­officials,­local­entrepreneurs,­and­consumers.­I­ also conducted participant observation at events celebrating Kyoto’s agricultural and culinary traditions, including farmers’ markets, agricultural fairs, and more infrequent­ events­ such­ as­ 2012’s­ first­ Kujō­ scallion­ festival­ and­ the­ yearly­ Shishigatani squash ‘mass’ at Anrakuji temple.