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Farmers on western Japan island striving to revive tarnished image

TAKAMATSU (Kyodo) -- Fruit farmers on the western Japan island of Teshima, which once became the center of a scandal involving massive illegal waste dumping, are making progress in reviving their products' tarnished image.

    Disposal of industrial waste removed from the island in the Seto Inland Sea was recently completed, work which took more than a decade. Farmers had once stopped using "Teshima" as part of the name of their mandarin oranges, the island's main product.

    "The history of Teshima mikan (mandarins) began when my father cultivated mountain slopes" in the late 1920s, says Shoji Yamamoto, 84.

    Yamamoto remembers being told by wholesalers not to label his produce as Teshima mandarins even though his farm was some 10 kilometers away from the site where waste had been illegally dumped for years.

    He had to sell his mandarins under the name of the nearby island of Shodoshima, but he has started selling them as Teshima mandarins again and now has customers making repeat purchases.

    Other farmers on Teshima have branched out into growing strawberries.

    Strawberry farming on the island began in 1999 with the support of the local government and agricultural cooperatives.

    Hajime Tada, 52, cannot forget the complaint he received 15 years ago for selling fruit grown on the island under the Shodoshima name.

    He now sells his produce as Teshima strawberries.

    "We shouldn't be ashamed of the name Teshima. It's the islanders' duty to pass on the history of fighting the threat of that industrial waste," Tada said.

    All decontamination work on the island including groundwater purification is scheduled to be completed by March 2023.

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