Jam collaboration shows power of fruit and fraternity amid reconstruction

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Packs of Mirairo jams are sold at the Koishiwara roadside rest stop in Fukuoka Prefecture.

FUKUOKA — “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” goes the proverb, but agricultural officials in two disaster-hit areas have put a twist on the adage: Make jam instead.

Jams made from fruits harvested in two places hit by major disasters — torrential rains in northern Kyushu in July 2017 and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake affecting Tohoku — are increasingly finding their way into consumers’ pantries. The products use yuzu citrus from Fukuoka Prefecture and apples from Fukushima Prefecture as their main ingredients.

The jams were jointly developed by a JA agricultural cooperative branch and a consumer co-op, and they went on the market in 2019. The number of units sold has exceeded 10,000 in the three years since their release.

With July marking the fifth anniversary of the Kyushu downpour, officials are undertaking a PR campaign to promote the products.

“We want people to get a sense of the process of reconstruction going on in these areas through the jams,” an affiliated official said.

F Co-op, a consumer cooperative in Sasaguri, Fukuoka Prefecture, and JA Fukushima Mirai, an agricultural cooperative in Fukushima City, are running the project and selling the jams.

After the 2011 earthquake, F Co-op deepened ties in Fukushima communities by providing assistance with agricultural produce.

On July 1, 2017, F Co-op signed a friendship and cooperation agreement with the JA branch. Four days later, torrential rains devastated parts of Fukuoka Prefecture.

JA Fukushima Mirai stepped up by sending monetary aid and supplies such as shovels to Fukuoka Prefecture via F Co-op, further deepening ties between the organizations.

In 2019, the JA branch and F Co-op started a project to make jams from yuzu produced in Toho, a village in Fukuoka Prefecture, and apples grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

The products were given the brand name Mirairo Jam (jam of future colors), with the intent of helping local communities aim for a future even brighter than that perceived before the disasters occurred.

The organizations sell two kinds of jams: one a marmalade mainly made from yuzu that has a bittersweet taste, and the other a sweet and sour jam predominantly made from apples. They are sold in 140-gram jars.

The collaboration has garnered attention, and 2,000 to 4,000 jars have been produced annually.

The jams sell out every year, thanks partly to F Co-op members buying them. Last year, the cumulative number of jars sold, including those sold in JA direct sales shops in Fukushima Prefecture, reached the 10,000 mark.

Originally, only one retail sales outlet in Toho stocked the jams, but from June, they are now sold at the Koishiwara Michi-no-Eki roadside rest stop in Fukuoka Prefecture and one other place. With two additional locations selling the products, the jams have better exposure to everyday consumers.

“The products were created because people in disaster-hit places supported each other,” said Masakazu Yasumoto, a division chief at F Co-op.

A director at JA Fukushima Mirai said, “I’ll be glad if people feel the bonds between the disaster-affected places.”

A pack of both kinds of jams is priced at ¥753.