The history of Fujisako Tea Estate

We never use artificial chemicals,no matter what that resolve is ingrained in the hisotry of FUJISAKO TEA ESTATE

In 1946, after the Second World War, the first generation tea master, Tsunao Fujisako, first opened the tea estate in the village of Sagara, Kuma District in southwest Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu. Known as the "Origin of the Mist", the estate is surrounded on all four sides by mountains rising up 700 meters or more. The extreme temperature difference bewteen morning and night makes this valley the perfect place for growing tea.

Tea cultivation began here when 70 families received 100 sacks containing the seeds of Japanese tea. However, of those 70 households, only 30 were able to grow anything. When the tea leaves eventually budded, only three tea farming households had managed to grow enough to make saleable products. 96% gave up along the way.

Cultivation from seed is truly a difficult task. It takes as many as fifteen years to raise tea to a stage where it’s ready to be plucked. Until then it isn’t clear if the plants will even bud or not. One of the main difficulties is that running a tea estate is an expensive business, especially when you can’t develop any products for the first fifteen years.

In order to pay for the upkeep of his tea fields, the first generation Fujisako tea master Tsunao moved to Tohoku, a region of northwest Japan. He worked in construction for ten years, regularly sending money back home to Sagara on the island of Kyushu, south Japan. At that time, no other tea farmers in Japan were cultivating their tea from the seed.

The cultivation process itself is slow. It takes a long time before merchandise can even start to be made and there will be no income before this. This is the harsh reality of growing tea from the seed.

Passing on the techniques and practices

Fujisako Tea Estate began in 1946 and was inherited by Kenichi Fujisako, second generation tea master and son to Tsunao, in 1976.

In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in the war, everything in Japan, from politics to the economy, was conducted in accordance with American policies. One of those policies concerned mass consumption and mass production through the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

In America the damage caused by such chemicals had already become a serious problem. Widespread use in America shifted the weight of public opinion against the application of chemicals and their use had to be minimized. Plummeting sales signaled a make-or-break situation for the the major distributors in agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Their attention turned overseas – to Japan. If they couldn’t sell their chemicals at home, then they would have to sell them abroad. This phenomenon still continues to this day.

Everyone had to follow the orders of certain groups involved in the tea trade without question. If pesticides and chemical fertilizers were not purchased, deals would not be brokered and no financing could be received. Fujisako Tea Estate was no exception, but the second generation tea master Kenichi refused anyway.

“Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are a danger to human health and damaging to the environment. But if sales go up, surely it’s fine to use them.” While contemplating the pros and cons of their use, Kenichi suffered damages due to chemical fertilizers and pesticides and his business was brought to the verge of bankruptcy. That was in 1977. It was then that Kenichi made his mind up.

Tea processing machines inside the factory
These tea machines were installed over 50 years ago and are still in use to this day. If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it” – the mindset of the Japanese people when it comes to machinery. Whether it’s people, material items or nature, we must treat everything with the respect it deserves.

"I will absolutely never use chemicals!"

Kenichi took the first chemical free step in 1978. As soon as he stopped using chemicals, the estate was hit by an epidemic. Yields fell sharply and the tea tasted terrible. The price slipped to almost nothing. Even so, he still didn’t use chemicals! That’s how strongly Kenichi felt.

Neighbors would mock him, saying things like, "Kenichi’s a fool, doesn’t he know any better?" or "He doesn’t use nitrogen fertilizer. He won’t grow tea that way. What an idiot".

He was virtually outcast.

First Kenichi removed the remaining chemical fertilizers and pesticides from the soil using electrolysis. He wanted to return the estate to its natural state as fast as possible. Electrolysis on a farm of 8 hectares cost somewhere in the region of \2 million, but somehow, Kenichi gathered the funds.

Even after the electrolysis treatment, he still couldn’t produce any tea. He had to leave the field to recover for seven years. The estate became infested with bugs. Weeds grew unrestrained, but not tea.

The neighbors began again, "Fujisako’s tea farm is overgrown with weeds. He’s either given up growing tea or gone mad".

Kenichi persevered and persevered, unmoved by such words, and at last, in the tea harvesting season of the eighth year, he could finally start production.
"Ah, it’s back! At long last it’s back!" And so it was. Little by little the tea growing conditions improved.

Tea Flowers 
The white petals and yellow stamens are the flowers’ trademark. These tea trees have continued to propagate their seeds since ancient times, pollinated by wind borne pollen from other regions. The tea plants bear seeds from October through November.

Nurturing the innate power of the tea

We trust the growing to the tea!

This is what Kenichi was able to appreciate. The idea is to leave the tea’s growth to the forces of Nature. There never used to be any dependence on chemical fertilizers or agricultural chemicals. Everything simply returned to Nature.

As for the tea produced with these methods, the quality had risen high enough to claim the Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize in 1986.

We passed the residual chemical detection test and were awarded "Clear"in every category