Japan,whose cultural development was highly dependent on China, started beekeeping late. The oldest record says Yoho, a prince of Kudara (ancient Korea), released a beehive on Mount Miwa, Nara Prefecture, an experiment which ended in failure. Other sources say this was not for the purpose of beekeeping but for fortune-telling which this foreigner in exile had performed by using
bees. (Watanabe, Takashi. 1974).
In Japan, honey was treated as precious medicine since the old times. By the end of the 9th century, honey was presented as an offering to the Emperor from all over the nation. During the latter half of the 12th century, beekeeping started in Japan and became popular in the Edo Era. In those days, people believed a “king bee”, not a ” queen bee”, ruled the swarm. In the light of that knowledge about bees was far behind Spain where, in 1586, a researcher found that queen bees lay eggs.
In the past, it was the custom for farmers to keep wooden tubs of honeybees under the eaves of their homes or barns, practicing beekeeping as a sideline to their regular farming activities. Honey was utilized as a precious substance of high nutritional value, something hard to find in the gorges and ravines of this mountainous region. From the flowering of the ume (Japanese apricot) trees in February, to the making of the soba noodles in November, the farmers tended to their land and crops, while the honeybees worked alongside them, engaged in their own “farming” as they gathered nectar and prepared to propagate. Farming and bee cultivation are thus strongly linked in the cyclical nature of their enterprises.
Traditional methods of beekeeping persist along the ancient roads of Japan’s mountainous regions. From the 8th century on,honey was a precious battlefield supply, and historians guess that honey-cultivation was encouraged starting around this time. The story of Japanese beekeeping is like a hidden oral history of ancient Japan. Moreover, it is a traditional regional industry that can be put into active use today as a valuable resource for regional economic stimulation as well as for research on nature-based
manufacturing methods, something highly desirable today.
“From Various Internet Sites”