Kagawa Prefecture’s Shodo Island boasts the largest output of olives in all of Japan. The olive is so much a symbol of the region, in fact, that it is both the prefectural flower and the prefectural tree.
The history of Shodo Island olives—and the history of olives in Japan—can be traced to 1908, when what was then the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce directed Kagawa, Mie and Kagoshima Prefectures to begin the trial cultivation of American-imported seedlings. Directing the prefecture’s efforts, the Kagawa Prefectural Agricultural Experiment Station selected Shodo Island as its cultivation area. All three Prefectures produced notable results, but weak development of the seedlings in Mie and Kagoshima led to the two prefectures abandoning the project midway.
In retrospect, however, this was not such a surprise: thriving in dry areas and calm climates, olive trees are not generally suited to cultivation in Japan. The June to September growth season of olive trees coincides with Japan’s typhoon-heavy rainy season, while sensitive olive trees are easily damaged by the harmful insects and tree diseases that pervade during the humid summer. However, the olives planted in the Nishimura district of the town of Shodoshima grew well, and by the beginning of the Taisho Period (1912-1926), they were ready for oil extraction. This was a testament to the extraordinary efforts of the farmers who were charged with cultivation management.
Among all of Shodo Island’s olive-related products, its olive oils have been especially well received both domestically and internationally. The story of the success of Shodo Island olive oil dates back to around the year 2000, when local farmers, continuing in their tradition of innovation, installed a small olive press in each farm that could extract oil from 50 kilograms of fruit at a time. The presses made it possible to extract the oil at each farm’s ideal pressing time—and since the flavor and aroma of olives will easily change due to small alterations in their quality, climate, storage conditions and time of harvest, this resulted in a marked improvement in quality. Shodo Island olives began to win awards at respected international exhibitions such as the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and the Olive Japan International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, garnering attention both locally and abroad.
Shodo Island olive oil is the product of years of effort and innovation on the part of the island’s farmers. We can only expect their tireless drive to continue to push their product toward perfection.
Shodo Island Olive Park
1941-1 Nishimurako Shodoshima Shozu-gun Kagawa Prefecture
1312-7 Konanchooka Takamatsu City Kagawa Prefecture