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Agricultural Anime

Worried about Japan's food self-sufficiency, the country's Agriculture Ministry has produced an animated short—and a YouTube hit

What's the point of toiling on a report nobody will read? A few months ago, Japan's Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries Ministry tried something different. It hired Tokyo design studio Groovisions—a shop that has created visuals for MTV Japan—to make an animation short from a 62-page paper about the country's worrisome dependence on food imports. At four minutes, Ensuring the Future of Food has become a minor YouTube (GOOG) hit. In it, a narrator details the problems (including a taste for Western fare) that have led to a drop in Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio to 40% from 73% in the 1960s. A couple is shown eating hamburgers instead of fish and homegrown rice as aging farmers abandon the land. All the while, people and livestock bop to an electronic soundtrack. So far, the video, available with English subtitles, has drawn about 100,000 viewers. "Our goal was to raise awareness about Japan's low food self-sufficiency ratio here and overseas," says ministry official Takaya Komine. "The results have exceeded our expectations."

Hall is BusinessWeek's technology correspondent in Tokyo.

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