Department store chain Takashimaya Co. announced a plan to sell goods made of cotton grown on rice paddies that were inundated by tsunami after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Paddies flooded by tsunami often remain unsuitable for rice cultivation for years because of salt left behind from seawater. Cotton, however, not only can be cultivated in soil with high salinity, but also helps to desalinate it.
Takashimaya said the goods will hit the shelves March 11 next year, the first anniversary of the disaster. Clothing makers and other companies have enlisted in the disaster relief program, which will link tsunami-affected farmers directly with consumers.
Sock maker Tabio Corp., cotton yarn spinner Taishoboseki Industries Ltd. and other companies have formed the Tohoku Cotton Project, which helps keep farmers working by having them grow cotton instead of leaving their fields fallow and purchasing their cotton harvests. Cotton is now being grown in rice paddies in Sendai and elsewhere.
Takashimaya plans to request its business partners to manufacture towels and shawls using yarn made of cotton cultivated in rice paddies.
"We hope to provide assistance by developing goods that consumers can directly touch and use," a Takashimaya official in charge of merchandise said.
About 25 companies said they will participate in the project, including jeans manufacturer Lee Japan Co., clothes chain United Arrows Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co. Each of these partners will come up with plans for their original goods. JAL, for example, is considering making cardigans to be worn aboard planes. The project plans to call for more participants and expand the cultivation area to 10 hectares next year from the current 1.6 hectares.