By AKIKO KOGA, Kyodo News
KITAMI, Hokkaido (Kyodo) Despite the bad impression many have of hemp due to a perceived rise in marijuana use, the city of Kitami in Hokkaido is trying to create a buzz by cultivating the plant for its many industrial uses.
The plant is grown on a plot on a hill slightly outside the center of the city, which lies on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, and protected by a 2.7-meter-tall fence covered with grating.
Hidetaro Funayama, 58, represents a group involved in a city development project aimed at growing hemp without a narcotic component for the production of construction materials and "washi" paper.
He has been working on the cultivation of hemp since 2006 after visiting Germany, a nation considered to be advanced in processing hemp for industrial use, in 2003. He learned that Germans widely used the plant as an eco-friendly material and interior finishing material for deluxe automobiles.
Kitami's periphery is known as a natural growth area for hemp and Funayama said the plants keep growing no matter how many times local officials try to get rid of them.
The Hokkaido Prefectural Government recognized the land as a special place for the growth of hemp for industrial use last August in response to an application filed by the Kitami municipality.