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Sone said that he initially thought Sato might give up, because the farm activities required both physical strength and years of experience.

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Sato would meticulously write down instructions in a notebook, and with every new challenge she took on, he became more convinced she was there for the long haul. After marrying a local man and giving birth to a daughter, she has continued her work. Although she is temporarily out of the settlement, she is commuting to her farmland from the same city and planning to rejoin the settlement after renovating her new home.


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There were individuals and families in the settlement who were my role models. I wanted to become like them and I wanted to revive their community. This idea has kept me going.

Abandoned Japan farm - Abandoned Japan 放棄された日本の農場 - 日本の廃墟

Sato, who now manages 1 hectare of paddy fields and 10 ares of vegetable fields, says unlike in Tokyo she enjoys close relations with the residents and interactions with her customers, some of whom she came to know through Facebook. The help of volunteers and new settlers not only lifted the spirits of the residents but also generated new ideas to financially revive the community, Sone said. The villagers market their brand of rice at higher prices rather than sell it through the agricultural cooperative, which often results in stable but average revenue.

The Iketani settlement story is not unique, according to Hiroshi Takahashi, the representative chair of a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization supporting people who are considering relocating to rural Japan.

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The number of visitors to his center and inquiries dramatically increased over the last few years, especially among those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who now account for 70 percent of the total. Takahashi believes the trend reflects the collapse of the permanent employment system in Japan and an increase in the number of unstable jobs as simply working at big companies does not guarantee security and satisfaction anymore. He added that more people are also opting to lead sustainable lives especially after the March reactor meltdowns, which laid bare the negative side of convenient and modern technology.

A government survey showed that about 40 percent of people are interested in moving to rural areas from Tokyo in search of a slow-paced life or better living conditions, among other reasons, but many raised concerns about finding work if they relocate. One day, I hope to become like them. Click to enlarge.


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Renegade Farmers : Japan Rice System Faces a Challenge - Los Angeles Times

Kanako Sato stands with her daughter by terraced paddy fields in the city of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, on Nov. Confusion reigns over scope of the forthcoming tax hike When the government raised the consumption tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April , Japan suffered a recession. One possible indicator if such a downturn will happen prior to next month's lon Foreign tourists with a clear intention to have deeper experiences in Japan are traveling to the countryside to enjoy nature, the unique landscape, tradition, culture and local specialties.

An aerial photo taken with a drone shows Sennin no Tanada, rice terraces in the village of Shiiba, Miyazaki Prefecture. Shiiba, a village in Miyazaki Prefecture, is recently attracting foreign visitors with Sennin no Tanada, meaning rice terraces of the hermit. Also referred to as the Machu Picchu of Shiiba, because of the resemblance of the landscape to the Inca citadel in Peru, the 4. The place had been little known among foreign visitors, but many tourists began to come after it was designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Currently, around people, mainly from the United States and Europe, visit the area annually.

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A tourist pounds steamed rice in front of a farm in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, many foreign tourists are attracted to a tour designed to interact with local farmers and get a peek into their lives. Two couples from the U. The tour, launched by a local travel agency BSC International in with nine different courses available, has attracted a total of 1, people by November. Tasting rice cakes fresh from the mortar, Johanna Donnenfield, a year-old nutritionist from Arizona, said this is the kind of tour she was looking for.

Rice cakes were rich in sweetness of rice, she added. Namahage Museum in Oga, Akita Prefecture, which exhibits Namahage — a local folk ritual in which men dress up as gods, wearing demon-like masks and straw capes, and visit homes — is one of the popular tourist sites for foreign people visiting the Tohoku region. The number of foreign visitors to the museum has constantly been increasing since it opened in