Japanese farmer worried about former associates in Ukraine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shinichi Kimura shows photos of his former associates from his time in Ukraine during an interview in Tsugaru City, Aomori Prefecture, on Wednesday.

AOMORI — A Japanese farmer from Aomori Prefecture who grew soybeans on a large scale in Crimea before it was annexed by Russia in 2014, expressed anger over the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying, “It is regrettable that beautiful streets and nature have been destroyed.”

Shinichi Kimura, 71, currently farms in Tsugaru City. He first visited Ukraine in 2007 on his way home from an international trade fair for agricultural machinery in Paris. Along with an acquaintance in Ukraine, he planted Japanese soybeans there. He then found out that the soybeans grew quite large there without fertilizer.

Kimura was fascinated by the rich soil and had a dream to engage in farming there, so that he could help people in the event of a food crisis.

After Kimura began cultivating soybeans on a large scale in Crimea in 2009, he worked with local people for about two years, traveling back and forth from Japan. The workers praised him, saying, that the soybeans have obviously grown well through Kimura’s way of planting the crop.

Kimura also felt that Ukrainians had a high level of trust in Japanese products. On one occasion, Kimura was asked by an interpreter close to him to buy boots in Japan as a souvenir.

Although he sometimes faced difficulties handling issues related to leasing farmland, the magnificent natural scenery of Ukraine encouraged him. In the end, however, he gave up farming in Ukraine because he could not see a future.

The landscapes of Ukraine, from the historic streets in Kyiv, to the slowly flowing Dnieper River and the beautiful night views are still vivid in his memory even after more than 10 years away.

Courtesy of Shinichi Kimura
Shinichi Kimura, left, is seen during a visit to agricultural land in Ukraine in an undated photo.

After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Kimura said he was speechless to see videos of Russian attacks damaging parts of Kyiv.

“If fields are trampled by tanks and agricultural equipment is destroyed, it will be difficult for farmers to rebuild their lives,” Kimura said.

He called his acquaintances in Ukraine, including the interpreters and fellow farmers, to try to find out if they are safe, but has not been able to reach them.

“I wonder if the people who took care of me are all right,” he said. “I want someone with strong leadership to end the invasion.”