Bad Japanese Importations: Kudzu

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In the early 20th century, soil erosion plagued the American South, but luckily there was a cure-all available from the Far East: kudzu (from the Japanese word for “vine,” 葛 or kuzu). Farmers expected the plant to crawl graciously like a high-class ivy, but instead kudzu grew a foot a day until it covered the entire Southern landscape like a layer of green, leafy icing.

Curiously, I’ve never heard anyone talk about whether the introduction of kudzu actually solved the soil erosion problem, but we all now read the vine-landscapes as a quintessential part of Southern culture. Americans, however, are hardly as crafty as the Japanese and have yet to turn kudzu into powdered starch-based food products or clothing (葛布). We just keep the vine as the butt of a cruel landscape joke and a symbol for R.E.M.’s early career.

For all the lamenting, I’m not sure the trees hiding underneath the monster weed are so special and unique to start with. At least kudzu’s Imperial expansion gave the Southern United States a distinctive environmental appearance.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
September 7, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

6 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    When I was a student at Kansai Gaidai, I always got なつかしい lookin’ out the train window at the kudzu. Besides, we all know that kudzu is useful: it lets you shoot ’60s Japanese action movie tribute movies from the comfort and convenience of your plantation’s veranda with ice tea aplenty! (Ice tea, now there’s another weird globalization story…)

  2. r. Says:

    i just got my mom to send me over a box of mason jars so we can drink sweet iced tea properly over here in shimouma!

  3. marxy Says:

    I vote for unsweet ice tea. I have some lipton bags, but will bring more.

  4. Chris_B Says:

    sweetened ice tea is bad

  5. Chris_B Says:

    but a fresh mint leaf goes good in the mason jar

  6. Brad Says:

    Wait,,,you can make iced tea without sugar? What is this strange new concoction you are describing to me? It sounds utterly horrible.