KYOTO -- A psychiatrist is bringing together agriculture and social welfare here to create job opportunities for those with disabilities -- all through organic craft beer.
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This autumn, 61-year-old Shunsuke Takagi will launch his unique project, calling on welfare centers engaging in organic farming and using ingredients like barley and hops cultivated by those with disabilities to produce special regional craft beer.
"I've set the stage," he said. "Now the next step is to create jobs for those with disabilities."
During his time working at a university hospital, the Hiroshima-born psychiatrist was involved with the movement to change the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology's official name for schizophrenia, "seishin bunretsu-byo" in Japanese, meaning split-mind disorder. Takagi proposed "togoshitcho-sho," meaning loss of coordination syndrome, as a new name, and it was officially adopted by the society in 2002.
After becoming an independent practitioner in Kyoto in 2004, he teamed up with non-profit organizations in Kyoto to open "ACT-K," a project that allowed patients access to psychiatric treatment, lifestyle support and other services at home. While working on the project, he lamented, "There are too few employment opportunities for patients."
The idea then came to him that "craft beer is easy to become familiar with and could easily become a good local product," and Takagi established the Kyoto Ichijoji Brewery in the city's Sakyo Ward in 2011. Two up-and-coming brewers joined the project, and the company was so successful that it won a prize in a competition held by the Japanese Craft Beer Association. As operation of the brewery has stabilized, Takagi now plans to brew the craft beer with the cooperation of facilities and farms that hire people with disabilities.
"By working, people with disabilities can get involved in society, build connections with others in the community, and regain their self-confidence," Takagi explained with a glass of beer in hand at a popular pub his brewery manages. "It's not that people can't work because their symptoms are severe, but there are jobs even people with severe symptoms can do."
"First, I would like people to try the beer and then learn about the people who make it," said Takagi. "It would be great if it worked out like that."
(Japanese original by Miki Myochin, Project Promotion/Editing Office)