Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Japanese Rent-a-Cow System

Stories about the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII and the upcoming parliamentary election cover the front page of the English edition of the Asahi Shimbun. Reform of Japan's postal system is the top issue in the election. The ruling LDP is fielding candidates to challenge party "rebels" who voted against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal reform bills.
The post office/savings banks are said to be popular in Japan's rural communities, which are experiencing demographic shifts as younger people leave for urban areas. Inside the paper is a story that reflects the decline of traditional farming culture:
Rent-a-cow system keeps everyone content
Four black wagyu Japanese cows graze contentedly on common weeds--kudzu, pigweed and overgrown goldenrod--effectively acting as "live weed eaters" in the fallow rice fields of Yanai city, on the Inland Sea coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The cows are part of the city's "rent-a-cow" system for local farmers. Many of the farmers are elderly and ready to retire but do not want their fields to become overgrown with weeds and infested with pests. They fear those pests could ruin their neighbors' crops.


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