The northernmost island of Hokkaido in Japan seems like an unlikely place for native cannabis varieties to emerge, but this is where Hokkaido cannabis thrives.
There are countless varieties of cannabis. Each has been selectively bred to reflect specific traits that will suit the needs of all types of producers. Some are full of aroma, while others have been designed to increase size and potency. All of these domesticated varieties are derived from wild native varieties. Due to their genetic stability and breeding potential, these wild specimens are in high demand.
Many growers know the origin of the most famous varieties. Kush genetics originate from the Hindu Kush mountain range, and the autoflowering genetics of cannabis ruderalis was developed in the harsh climates of Siberia and Kazakhstan. Well-known sativa genetics originated in regions such as Thailand and Jamaica. But did you know that cannabis also grows wild in Japan?
Introducing: Hokkaido hemp.
Yes seriously. The East Asian island state is home to a fertile cannabis variety. On the second largest island in Japan – Hokkaido. However, this is not just a find of an old landrace. Hemp in Hokkaido is not only rare but also under threat.
This landrace population is unique in its genetic and chemical composition. This presents an interesting opportunity for breeders, researchers and conservationists. Unfortunately, the Japanese authorities are trying to destroy these wild hemp fields.
Hokkaido cannabis reputation.
Let’s take a closer look at the nuances of Hokkaido cannabis and find out what makes this landrace so mysterious and mesmerizing.
An Ancient and Proud Race: The History of Cannabis in Hokkaido.
Japan has a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis. Citizens can be sentenced to 5 years in prison for acquisition and 7 years for cultivation. This has not always been the case.
In Japan, the relationship with cannabis dates back to ancient times. Ten thousand year old hemp fibers have been found in Obama, a city in Fukui Prefecture, and ancient hemp seeds have been found in Tateyama, a city in Chiba Prefecture.
There is evidence that the indigenous people of Hokkaido grew hemp during the Jomon period, between 14,000 and 300 BC. A step in recent history reveals the first known mention of cannabis in Hokkaido. A manuscript from 1717 talks about the possibility of growing hemp and other crops on the island. Cool summers and low humidity make them ideal conditions.
The Hokkaido landrace has a rare genotype. Laboratory analysis confirmed that the parents are neither European nor Russian. This strain is likely related to Chinese and Korean cannabis strains. This makes them especially attractive to breeders trying to introduce this genetics into Western strains.
The preservation of this genetics is also a major concern. Law enforcement agencies in the Hokkaido area are in an ongoing battle against this “inconvenient” plant. According to reports, teams of people pulling plants from the ground manage to remove more than 8,000 plants in one day. Fortunately, it looks like they are losing the fight. Hokkaido hemp continues to grow faster than it can be suppressed. However, the export of this genetics remains an important requirement. When the anti-hemp movement reaches a tipping point, these unique specimens need to be preserved.
Low cannabinoids: the impact of cannabis on Hokkaido.
Hokkaido cannabis is unlikely to be a big hit in THC enthusiast circles. At least not until it is crossed with strains like gorilla glue. Since this strain has not been extensively bred, it contains only small amounts of cannabinoids. Flowers contain 0.086% thc and only traces of cbd, thcv, cbc and cbg.
Smokers are far from reddening their eyes due to this strain. However, this does not exclude interesting manifestations of cannabinoids after a number of crosses. The potential of this landrace remains untapped (yet). These flowers also produce small amounts of terpenes, of which pinene is the most abundant.
Blend of indica and sativa morphology: growing hemp in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido hemp is a tall and resistant variety. It has broad leaves with broad toes, which are often seen on indica varieties. This landrace has a thick and sturdy trunk which makes it resistant to strong winds.
It is characterized by strong lateral growth, dense branches and large distances between nodes. What makes Hokkaido cannabis especially unusual is its semi-autoflowering properties. This species begins to bloom shortly after the summer solstice – much earlier than conventional photoperiodic strains do. This rare trait is what breeders are looking for. If it can be transferred, it could lead to a new category of cannabis.
Hokkaido cannabis flowers turn into small, thorny colas. The flowers are dominated by sugar leaves of irregular shape, wide, long and dark green. The absence of a significant mass of flowers is a sign of their wild development. However, the lack of hermaphroditism suggests that at some point there was human intervention.
Seed collectors and cannabis aficionados will find it difficult to resist the urge to add this strain to their collections. Whether you choose to grow them or not, just owning these seeds is an act of genetics conservation. As European varieties of cannabis continue to be imported into Japan and local indigenous varieties are being destroyed, Hokkaido’s hemp must find an anchor in safe cannabis havens. As popularity grows, this variety will help create unique and desirable varieties. Its semi-autoflowering traits and genetic stability will surely attract growers looking for something new and interesting.