日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【April 2018 No.397】Feeling the Breath of God through Biotechnology


by Ueno Keiichiro, head of Research Planning

Kagoshima Prefectural Institute for Agricultural Development

Member, Kagoshima Kajiyacho Church, Kyushu District

 My parents met each other through the mukyokai (non-church) movement's nationwide aino (meaning "love agriculture") agricultural activities.  So I grew up watching my father engaged in farming, with him sometimes being in tears while at other times singing hymns. Also, my hometown of Fukuoka in Kyushu was rich in natural beauty, and I was fascinated by the beautiful world that God had made, so I chose to study science. My goal was to go to a university in Hokkaido, but the school I was able to get into was down south, in Kagoshima, where I studied agriculture for six years. During that time, I met my wife at an event that was attended by young people from several churches, and then we got married. I put down roots as an agricultural researcher of Kagoshima Prefecture, and I have been here in Kagoshima ever since.

 Because I am the eldest son in my family, even after I got married and got a job, I thought about returning to Fukuoka. However, I kept in mind the words of my parents. "What you can save by returning to your hometown is only our household, just one farming family. You must do work in Kagoshima, as that will bring joy to many farming families."

 That is how I became engaged in my job as a researcher. For many years, I have been working on using biotechnology to produce improved varieties of chrysanthemums, sweet potatoes, and other types of produce. I think there are many people who, when they hear the word "biotechnology," feel that it is against the laws of nature, or that it infringes on God's domain. However, biotechnology is something that draws out the power that living things originally possess. Whenever we encounter some new knowledge or discovery, we can become more skillful in realizing the depth and splendor of God's creation. And we can feel the breath of God.

 To give a concrete example, from autumn until spring, one can see white ring chrysanthemums at flower shops and funeral homes all over Japan. Those chrysanthemums are mostly a variety called jinme, (literally "sacred horse.") They are pure white and beautiful, but it is necessary to remove the side sprouts one by one by hand, which is a very time-consuming task. So I began my research by producing thousands of chrysanthemums from the leaves of jinme chrysanthemums and then choosing only the best of those. Among the types I chose, two varieties had few side sprouts, making the task of removing them much easier. Then I started to have a little fun with the words. I said, "Now we have a new jinme.” I took the word "now," which is ima in Japanese, and the jin of jinme, and put them together to make imajin (which is how the English word "imagine" is transliterated into Japanese). Then I took the word "new," which is ara in Japanese, and the jin of jinme, and put them together to make arajin (which is how "Aladdin" is transliterated). I called the two new varieties "Imagine" and "Aladdin." The flower of Aladdin is big, and this new type of jinme is now being produced all over the country, as if it really did come out of a magic lamp!

 Ten years ago, I relocated to Tanegashima Island. At that time, though it was the beginning of the sweet potato boom, the quality and yield size were unstable. Through repeated research, we developed a way to stabilize the yield and provide a steady flow of healthy, excellent seedlings to farming families. Now, moist Anno sweet potatoes are lined up in stores all over Japan. I am so happy that people appreciate the delicious flavor of the authentic Anno sweet potatoes produced in Tanegashima.

 This kind of achievement is greatly influenced by the presence of the members who worked together with us. It is not just about research and technology. When many people—including municipalities, agricultural cooperatives, and producers—combine their efforts, they can create something new. In the same way, my life was greatly influenced by getting to know my research companions. Thirty years ago I made some friends from all over the country when I went to Tsukuba for training to learn biotechnology, and this experience resulted in me going to America 20 years ago to study for one year. It was my first time to live overseas in an unfamiliar place, and I was so anxious. However, when I found out that it was the same city as Amherst College, where William Smith Clark had served as president, and where Uchimura Kanzo and Niijima Jo (also known as Joseph Hardy Neeshima) had studied as international students, it impacted me greatly. I felt that God was telling me this about my life: "You did not choose me, but I chose you." (John 15:16) I realized that God's plan, though it may start out as just a point, the point becomes a line, the line becomes a plane, the plane becomes a solid, and God's plan transcends the dimensions and comes close to us. God said to Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." As for me, I left my household in Fukuoka, and now I can finally accept that these words are also about myself.

 The church I belong to, Kagoshima Kajiyacho Church, operates a kindergarten called Keiai Yochien on the same property. My wife was a teacher there, so I also got involved in the events at both the church and the kindergarten. Again this year (2017), I am on the committee in charge of the Christmas events. The candlelight service, complete with the sound of the pipe organ playing hymns, has been held on Dec. 24 in the evening, every year. This event has a 40-year history. Including visitors, more than 250 people attend this event, which is more than three times as many as attend our normal worship service. The sanctuary is overflowing with God's blessings! Christmas is a time to wait expectantly for the Lord of reconciliation, blessing, and peace. This year's theme is "Joyful News From Heaven." We want to prepare to spread the joyful news to as many people as possible! (Tr. KT)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), December 2017 issue












 私が所属する鹿児島加治屋町教会は、併設する敬愛幼稚園と共に歩んでいます。敬愛幼稚園の先生をしていた妻とともに、私も教会や幼稚園の行事に関わってきました。今年も、委員として担当するクリスマスが近づいています。12月24日夜のパイプオルガンと賛美歌が響くキャンドルサービスは、40年ほどの歴史があります。一般の方も含め、当日は普段の礼拝の3倍以上、250名を超える人々が集い、礼拝堂が恵みに満ちあふれます。和解と祝福、平和の主を待ち望むクリスマス、今年のテーマ「天のかなたから、うれしい知らせ」を、ひとりでも多くの方々に伝えられるよう、準備を進めていきたいと思います。 (信徒の友2017年12月号より)

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