The history and current state of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) cultivation and use in Japan


  • Shinya NAKUI LLC OMEGA Farmers, Shibetsu, Japan
  • Tetsuo MIKAMI HAL GREEN Co., Ltd., Eniwa, Japan



alpha-linolenic acid, cultivar development, cultivation history, cultural practices, fiber flax, germplasm, oilseed flax, omega-3 fatty acid


Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is an ancient crop that has been cultivated for thousands of years for its fiber as well as for its oil rich seeds. The crop was introduced into Japan in the end of the 17th century, but its popularity did not begin to increase until the 1890s. The production of domestic fiber flax exceeded 45,000 metric tons in the late 1910s, and Japan had a well-developed linen industry for flax processing. In the 1960s, the mass production of synthetic fibers led to the collapse of Japanese linen industry, and consequently fiber flax culture in the country disappeared. In Japan, flaxseed oil with rapid drying property was once exclusively used for manufacturing a variety of industrial products such as paints, varnishes, linoleum, and printer’s ink. Recently, this vegetable oil has gradually attracted the attention of Japanese consumers because of its health benefits mainly attributed to its high content of alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid). Over the past decade, the consumption of edible flaxseed oil has been increasing rapidly, but domestic oilseed flax production remains small. In this review, we describe the history of fiber flax cultivation in Japan. The current state, problems, and perspectives of oilseed flax culture and use in the country are also presented.


Allaby, R.G., Peterson, G.W., Merriwether, D.A., Fu, Y.-B. (2005). Evidence of the domestication history of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) from genetic diversity of the sad2 locus. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 112(1), 58-65.

Bekhit, A.E.D.A., Shavandi, A., Jodjaja, T., Birch, J., Teh, S., Ahmed, I.A.M., … Bekhit, A.A. (2018). Flaxseed: composition, detoxification, utilization, and opportunities. Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology, 13, 129-152.

Čeh, B., Štraus, S., Hladnik, A., Kušar, A. (2020). Impact of linseed variety, location and production year on seed yield, oil content and its composition. Agronomy, 10(11), 1770.

Cho, H.J., Do, B.K., Shim, S.M., Kwon, H., Lee, D.H., Nah, A.H., … Lee, S.Y. (2013). Determination of cyanogenic compounds in edible plants by ion chromatography. Toxicological Research, 29(2), 143-147.

Diederichsen, A., Raney, J.P. (2006). Seed colour, seed weight and seed oil content in Linum usitatissimum accessions held by plant gene resources of Canada. Plant Breeding, 125(4), 372-377.

Dzuvor, C.K.O., Taylor, J.T., Acquah, C., Pan, S., Agyei, D. (2018). Bioprocessing of functional ingredients from flaxseed. Molecules, 23(10), 2444.

Ehrensing, D.T. (2008). Flax. EM8952-E, Oregon State University Extension Service, Corvallis, OR, USA. Retrieved from

Enokido, M., Ohashi, K. (2016). Deterioration and palatability of flaxseed oil during pan-frying. Bulletin of the Graduate School of Human Life Sciences, Showa Women’s University, 25, 35-49 (in Japanese)

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation). (2023). FAOSTAT database. Retrieved from https://

Fu, Y.-B., Diederichsen, A., Richards, K.W., Peterson, G. (2002). Genetic diversity within a range of cultivars and landraces of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) as revealed by RAPDs. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 49(2), 167-174.

Hall, L.M., Booker, H., Siloto, R.M.P., Jhala, A.J., Weselake, R.J. (2016). Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.). In T. McKeon, D. Hayes, D. Hildebrand, R. Weselake (Eds.), Industrial Oil Crops (pp. 157-194). Amsterdam: Academic Press and AOCS Press,

Hara, M. (1980). The History of Flax Business Development in Hokkaido. Muroran-City, Japan: Funkawan-sha. (in Japanese)

Japan Meteorological Agency. (2023). Weather data. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Jhala, A.J., Hall, L.M. (2010). Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.): Current uses and future applications. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 4(9), 4304-4312.

JSAPA (Japanese Specialty Agriculture Products Association). (2021). Local specialty crops – industrial and medicinal crops, and the material plants of Japanese paper. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Kimoto, S. (1963). The topics in the vegetable oil industry. Journal of Japan Oil Chemist’s Society, 12(2), 79-88. (in Japanese)

Kimura, T. (2017). Use of flax as food. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Kiryluk, A., Kostecka, J. (2020). Pro-environmental and health-promoting grounds for restitution of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) cultivation. Journal of Ecological Engineering, 21(7), 99-107.

Ludvíková, M., Griga, M. (2015). Transgenic flax/linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) – Expectations and reality. Czech Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding, 51(4), 123-141.

MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan). (2009). Implementation of inspections on imported foods. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan). (2020). Dietary reference intakes for Japanese. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Mikołajczak, N., Pilarski, W., Gęsiński, K., Tańska, M. (2023). Effect of ferulic acid and its derivatives on cold-pressed flaxseed oil oxidative stability and bioactive compounds retention during oxidation. Foods, 12(5), 1088.

Moen, D.G. (1999). The postwar Japanese agricultural debacle. Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies, 31, 29-52.

Nakano, A., Shimizu, H., Naitou, D., Hashimoto, S. (2009). Evaluation of oil yield and compressibility of flaxseed from Hokkaido and utilization of residual flaxseed cake. Bulletin of Hokkaido Food Processing Research Center, 8, 55-57. (in Japanese)

Nakui, S., Mikami, T. (2023). Production, uses, and ancestry of an oilseed crop, Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton var. frutescens in Japan: An overview. Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus, 88(2), 93-97.

NARO (National Agriculture and Food Research Organization) Genebank. (2023a). Database of plant diseases in Japan. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

NARO (National Agriculture and Food Research Organization) Genebank. (2023b). Plant genetic resources. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Nissin Oillio. (2021). Household dietary oil consumption exceeded 160 billion Japanese Yen in 2020. Retrieved from (in Japanese)

Ono, J. (2009). Functional properties and safety of flaxseed oil. ILSI, 98, 3-7. (in Japanese)

Oomah, B.D. (2001). Flaxseed as a functional food source. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 81(9), 889-894.

Parikh, M., Maddaford, T.G., Austria, J.A., Aliani, M., Netticadan, T., Pierce, G.N. (2019). Dietary flaxseed as a strategy for improving human health. Nutrients, 11(5), 1171.

Saiwai Shobo. (2011). The latest information about oils and fats in Japan. Retrieved from>yushi (in Japanese)

Simopoulos, A.P. (2010). The omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio: health implications. OCL, 17(5), 267-275.

Singh, K.K., Mridula, D., Rehal, J., Barnwall, P. (2011). Flaxseed: a potential source of food, feed, and fiber. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 51(3), 210-222.

Soto-Cerda, B.J., Diederichsen, A., Ragupathy, R., Cloutier, S. (2013). Genetic characterization of a core collection of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) suitable for association mapping studies and evidence of divergent selection between fiber and linseed types. BMC Plant Biology, 13,78.

Stamper, P. (2018). ‘Britain needed aeroplanes’: First world war flax-growing at Podington, Bedfordshire (UK). Landscapes, 19(2), 135-149.

Tanaka, Y., Okano, J., Sekine, K., Nomura R., Yuasa, M., Yonekubo, A. (2010). Fat intake and obesity among the Japanese. Oleoscience, 10(10), 383-392. (in Japanese)

The Commemorative Committee for the 70th Anniversary of Flax Business Development in Hokkaido. (1957). The 70th Anniversary Book of Flax Business Development in Hokkaido. Sapporo, Japan: The Commemorative Committee for the 70th Anniversary of Flax Business Development in Hokkaido. (in Japanese)

You, F.M., Jia, G., Xiao, J., Duguid, S.D., Rashid, K.Y., Booker, H.M., Cloutier, S. (2017). Genetic variability of 27 traits in a core collection of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.). Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 1636.



29. 03. 2024



Review Article

How to Cite

NAKUI, S., & MIKAMI, T. (2024). The history and current state of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) cultivation and use in Japan. Acta Agriculturae Slovenica, 120(1), 1–7.

Similar Articles

1-10 of 573

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.