TOKYO — One day, a young Seiichi Yoshitama learned of a Brazilian immigrant who had brought coffee seedlings to Amami-Oshima, an island in the East China Sea near Okinawa. Yoshitama became intoxicated with the possibilities. Could this tropical shrub worshipped the world over for the invigorating effects of its seeds flourish in the subtropical climate of Japan’s southern isles?
Yoshitama was determined to find out. He visited the Brazilian immigrant who was more than happy to part with 100 seedlings of his agricultural swag in return for samples of Japanese agriculture — two bottles of shochu.
Those seedlings would be