【News】Inbound tourists going rural to experience life of Japanese farmers (Apr. 1, 2017)

Students enjoying oden of local traditional vegetables with Sekiguchi and his family (in Iida city, Nagano Prefecture)

Students enjoying oden of local traditional vegetables with Sekiguchi and his family (in Iida city, Nagano Prefecture)

Farmstay is key to make both farmers and travelers happy

Staying at farmers’ house is becoming one of the popular options among inbound travelers to Japan as more and more international travelers choose to experience traditional life of Japanese farmers instead of a stay at a city hotel.

On March 29, 2017, five students from London Business School (LBS) sat around a kotatsu (a traditional low table with a built-in heater), enjoying dinner and conversation with their host in their 70s, Kaneyoshi and Katsuko Sekiguchi, at their house in Iida city, Nagano Prefecture. During the day, the rice and vegetable grower took the party to his leek field and taught them how to make insect cages out of rye straws, using gestures to communicate. The dinner they cooked was oden (Japanese traditional fishcake, tofu and vegetable stew) served with leek sauce, which was prepared using local specialty, Chiyo negi leek.

Kaneyoshi (right) showing Chiyo negi leek field (in Iida city, Nagano Prefecture)

Kaneyoshi (right) showing Chiyo negi leek field (in Iida city,Nagano Prefecture)

The farmstay program to invite 128 LBS students and offer licensed accommodations at 32 farmers’ houses on March 29 and 30 was organized by Iida city, which has the experienced of hosting primary and junior high school international students for more than 20 years. Minami Shinshu Tourism Bureau coordinated the tour of the record large number of inbound travelers for the city.The students are of various nationalities, are in their 20s or 30s and major in finance and economy. Each farmer accommodated a group of four to five students.

Kaneyoshi said confidently, “With over 20 years of experience of hosting international travelers, I could handle this with no problem. I just talk to them in Japanese and they understood me all right.” Ushio Kondo, 31, also hosted the students at his persimmon farm. He used a translation app in his smart phone to communicate. “I learnt about this app from a Korean student who stayed with us some years ago. I use it if necessary.”

“Everyone here is so polite and gentle. People live close to nature and the houses are built in harmony with nature to my surprise,” said Elie Farhat, a 31-year-old tourist from Lebanon. Zoltan Szilagyi from Belgium, a 31-year-old traveler, also said contentedly, “I thoroughly enjoyed simple and slow life in the farm, which I don’t find in big cities or established tourist spots.”

Kento Yamauchi, a 29-year-old official of the Ministry of Finance born in Iida city, designed the tour. “Farmstay is the key to boost the number of inbound travelers to Japan,” he said.

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