Yamagata Prefectural Government Eyes Designation as One of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System for "Mogami Safflower"

2020-03-31 15:00 992

YAMAGATA, Japan, March 31, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Yamagata Prefectural Government announced on March 31 that it has decided to apply for designation as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), along with the Yamagata Safflower Promotion Committee, to inherit the traditional and unique "Mogami Safflower" agricultural system to the next generation and widely disseminate its value to the world.

Photo1: Safflowers

Photo2: Benimochi (safflower cakes for dyeing)

Photo3: Color sample of safflower dye

Photo4: Kimono dyed with safflower dye

1. Application for GIAHS designation

"Mogami Safflower" of Yamagata is a natural dye ingredient producing a beautiful crimson red dye. Yamagata is the sole prefecture with this unique and traditional agricultural system in the world.

The Yamagata Prefecture Safflower Promotion Committee, comprising Yamagata Prefecture and 8 municipalities and affiliates, decided to apply for GIAHS designation on March 27.

GIAHS is a system by which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) certifies areas of traditional agricultural importance that are important worldwide.

The committee is preparing to submit an application for GIAHS designation to Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries by June 10, 2020. In mid-July, safflower festivals are held in various parts of the prefecture, and the agricultural system is promoted at the venue where safflowers are in full bloom.

2. Safflower agricultural system

Originating from the Middle East, safflower spread across every region from the west to the east on the Silk Road. Today, safflower is mainly used around the world for its oil. However, safflower in Yamagata has been produced for the same long period, since 450 years ago, as a natural dye ingredient.

Safflower producers pluck the yellow petals of the flower and extract the red pigment through oxidation to produce the material for natural dye, called "Benimochi". It means safflower cakes for dyeing. This is a traditional and unique process that has not changed since the Edo feudal period.

"Benimochi," used to dye "Shinto" ritual costumes and as paint for ukiyo-e woodblock prints, was crucial in the growth of traditional Japanese culture. Even today, the dye is still used for "kimono" clothes and lip colorants.

Source: Yamagata Prefectural Government