A native of San Diego, California, Nick Sugihara attends Bard College in Upstate New York and is currently an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo. He has begun filming for his project “Growing City,” a documentary on urban agriculture in Tokyo, but is still seeking funding. Nick was kind enough to stop by to discuss his project with us.
Ryugakusei Town: What was your inspiration behind growing city?
Nick Sugihara: When i came to college i started working on farms a little bit and quickly fell in love with the work. Deciding to come to tokyo was kind of a separate thing from that but when i got here i really missed that kind of work and being involved in agriculture so i started looking around for ways that people were interacting with farming in the city.
RT: What is unique about Tokyo compared to other urban farming?
NS: One thing is the effect that Fukushima has had. A lot of the new urban farming projects that I know of and even some of the older ones have been influenced by people who are afraid of radiation. Some of the farms and farmer’s markets have seen a drop in business as people are unwilling to buy food that is grown near tokyo…There is also a sort of renewed interest in where people’s food comes from. With the fear comes a kind of “hype” and awareness about what’s going on.
RT: Are you afraid?
NS: No. if i’m living here, i want my food from here. The only things those plants are being exposed to is what I’m exposed to every day. If I was scared I would move.
RT: What are some challenges of urban farming in tokyo?
NS: Taxes are expensive…
RT: How about the lack of space?
NS: I think a really common misconception is that you need a lot of space to grow a lot of food. That isn’t really the case. I talked to a guy i know at Bard who runs the farms there and they just harvested 210 pounds of garlic from a little over an acre of land. The scale thing is not such an issue. We’ve been sort of tricked into thinking it requires a lot of land to grow a lot of food in the states but this is probably due to the fact that “big ag” (America’s massive farming industry) has taken over so much land. But i think tokyo has plenty of space to grow a lot of food.
RT: What do you hope to show in the movie?
NS: I hope to show the “state” of urban farming/agriculture in tokyo and the real tangible things people are doing. “What it looks like:” not an abstract concept but as something that is happening.
RT: What has surprised you with your experience making this film in Japan?
NS: I was surprised at how willing to talk to be a lot of the farmers were. Not all of them were, but a lot of them were very nice and open and excited to talk to me about farming.
RT: Thanks for stopping by Nick.
NS: It was a pleasure.
Make sure to check out the trailer for Nick’s project and see how you can get involved at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1869647643/growing-city-a-documentary