IN JAPAN, agricultural areas endowed with natural beauty definitely attract youngsters during weekends.

Globally, young people have been attracted to Japan for its technology, animation, manga, or electronics. Japan’s agri-tourism and activity-based tourism appears to have gone one step ahead in welcoming youth from all over, not only to see and experience what Japan has to offer in agriculture, tradition, and modern culture, but also the places where they can be employed.

Fukuroda Falls, Ibaraki, Japan.

In particular, Japan’s shortfall of human resources and the perception that rural tourism is a luxury activity are resulting in a boom in rural tourism, particularly among international visitors, on a demand-driven basis.

Agri-tourism or agro-tourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. Agri-tourism has different definitions in different parts of the world, and includes a wide variety of activities, such as engaging in farming activities and buying produce direct from a farm stand, navigating a corn maze, slopping hogs, picking fruit, feeding animals, or staying at a bed and breakfast (B&B) on a farm. Other terms associated with agritourism are “agritainment,” “value added products,” “farm direct marketing,” and “sustainable agriculture.”

Many governments of countries around the world, especially Japan, have provided good support structures that operate better than the existing ones to attract youngsters to agriculture and location traditions. The Japanese agritourism industry has attracted youngsters from all over to actively participate in farming, learning the Japanese food traditions through activity-based tour programs that incorporate entertainment aspects.

Recently, Ibaraki Prefecture and JTB corporation in Japan coorganized agri-activity tourism activities for foreign students in the country. Approximately 25 students from different countries participated, and experienced a fun, fully-packed schedule.

The tour took two days, and the first stop allowed them to appreciate the history of, and learn how to make, Japanese traditional paper called “Washi.” This is Japanese handmade paper produced in a traditional manner. Papermaking was first brought to Japan by Buddhist monks, but Japan quickly became the leading producer of paper. Traditionally, the Washi making process was undertaken by farmers as a seasonal task, as the crops for this were planted along with their regular crops. The farmers would process the crops into paper during the months when it was too cold for them to work outside. Ibaraki has great historical significance when it comes to Washi.

Participants also enjoyed a traditional barbecue lunch called Hiryori at a traditional and old-fashioned grass (Kayabuki) house, and a visit to Fukuroda Falls, a farmers market. On the same day, the youths experienced a Japanese hot spring or “onsen.” Ibaraki has many natural spas, which attract a lot of domestic travelers. The past few years have seen the arrival of a handful of stylish luxury spa resorts, and some mid-range options where guests benefit from a hands-on, personal approach.

Students at the Kiwifruit Country Japan during a study tour.

The second day saw the young participants getting to see how to harvest taro (satoimo), potatoes, matcha (green tea harvesting), and making rice balls or onigiri for lunch, along with the harvesting of persimmon fruits. The visitors took home bags full of persimmons picked directly from the farm. They also enjoyed a visit to a chestnut jam shop, which produces chestnut jam purely from Japan-grown chestnuts.

Apart from Tsukuba science research center, Ibaraki is blessed with fertile earth, a nearby ocean and mountains, and a mild climate, Ibaraki is a cornucopia for abundant foodstuff, boasting the highest production of agricultural products such as melons, lotus roots, and green peppers nationally. Each region inside the prefecture utilizes their area’s specific characteristics in order to produce various agricultural and marine products, including seafood.

Also, nationally, Ibaraki food produce has enjoyed the highest turnover at the Tokyo Wholesale Market for twelve years in a row. As a base provider of food for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Ibaraki continues to offer high quality and fresh foodstuff. Thus, Ibaraki is the nearest prefecture to Tokyo capable of delivering agricultural products in accordance with Japanese tradition.

In nutshell; Japanese agri-activity tourism provides a complete outdoor recreation and educational experience with entertainment. It lets visitors get to know what Japanese hospitality is like, along with the industry of agriculture from farm to market. This is a tour highly recommended for everyone who wishes to be part of Japan! (AB Newswire)

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2017 issue.