“Protecting Lake Biwa by eating” – Shiga regional cuisine education
To develop a deeper affection for the region, this committee teaches children about Shiga’s regional cuisine. Teaching children about the regional cuisine and ensuring that the food culture lives on ultimately helps protect Lake Biwa’s environment. That is why, with many people’s collaboration, the committee established the “Shiga Regional Cuisine Museum.”
Kusatsu City, where the school is located, has been twice chosen as the “most livable city” in the Kinki region by Toyo Keizai Inc. But nature as well as the ties between people have been destroyed by rapid urbanization, and fewer people feel a sense of affection towards their hometown. This school’s environmental education aims to address these issues working together with the regional community to rebuild the town. Five years ago, the school began teaching all children at the school about living organisms, and the school and the region established a support committee to help with children’s learning. The same committee received the Let’s Show Award in 2014.
Thereafter, children who learned about living organisms started the “Shiga regional cuisine studies.” By expanding the purview from “living organisms” to “food,” they learned about how all lives are connected, and about people’s lives and culture. During these studies, they took a closer look at what makes Shiga’s regional cuisine, funa sushi (fermented sushi), so appealing. Fishermen and farmers brought fishes and vegetables, taught the children how to make sushi, and ate the sushi together. By interacting with people of different generations, children learn to have affection towards their hometown. And to share what they learned, the children established the “Shiga Regional Cuisine Museum,” and also visit various regional organizations to exchange thoughts and ideas about regional cuisine. By learning about regional cuisine, the children realized that protecting Shiga’s unique food culture also means to protect the environment that produces the ingredients, and that is it also important to bequeath the food culture (customs) to future generations. They also realized that “protecting by eating” is the quintessence of Lake Biwa’s environmental conservation. Sixth graders became quite intrigued by Shiga’s agriculture, forestry, and fisheries that produce the ingredients necessary for regional cuisine, so the 3 classes respectively study agriculture, forestry, and fishing.
Currently the prefecture is working to have “Shiga’s Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries” registered as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), and the school is working alongside these efforts to create an even larger support committee for education. The governor and the mayor have shown interest in this children-led initiative, which brings people back together and rediscover the greatness of this hometown, and helps residents realize anew that their town is truly the most livable place.