Rural Life Untouched In Japan: Farm Stays In Tokushima
Want to experience something not many have the chance to in Japan? How about doing a farm stay in Tokushima, where you can try rice planting, harvesting wild vegetables and so much more?
"I want to experience cultural points that you can only find in Japan, I want to spend time in an open, rural setting - I want to have a unique journey different from anything else."
If this sounds like you, why not stay at an agricultural, forestry or fishery farm*? There you will be able to experience traditional Japanese life in a setting far different than that of the city!
** Agricultural, forestry, and fishery farms have different names, conditions, and standards depending on their municipality and facilities. This article exclusively concerns those farm stays available in Tokushima prefecture. For more information, please contact each facility individually.
** Please note that services and amenities provided vary by facility.
What's a Farm Stay?
Image of a farm stay
A farm stay is a type of lodging system designed for international travelers where they can experience life in a rural mountain or fishing village while learning about the local culture and the lives of the residents of the town. In order to experience an authentic taste of Japanese country living, many of these inns are found in repurposed traditional buildings or are rooms located within actual farmers' residences.
In Japan there are farm stays all over the country, each with standards, features and names that all differ depending on the municipality they are based in. If you are interested in Japanese industrial culture, it might be a good idea to do a farm stay at inns all over Japan.
** There are both facilities that have and have not been certified by either the national or municipal governments among those that list themselves as farm stays or farm B&Bs. For details, please check the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery website and the websites of each municipality.
The view in the Iya area of Tokushima
As most agriculture, forestry and fishery farms are located in mountainous or coastal areas, the majority of these places offer plenty of clean air, beautiful starry skies and seasonally changing natural scenery. Plus, it is not uncommon for stays at these inns to include Japanese culture and nature experiences such as rice planting, soba noodle making, trekking courses and more.
In the majority of cases the size of the group or number of people accepted at a given farm stay is limited, so those wanting to really get into the local culture can practically monopolize the owner's time, and really savor the experience as a whole during your stay.
What Is a Tokushima Farm Stay Like?
This time, of all the farm stays possible within Japan, we would like to introduce those based in Tokushima prefecture.
Tokushima prefecture is located in the Shikoku region of Japan. It is a region wrapped up in natural wonders, with famous untouched places like Iya Valley, Oboke Gorge, and Kou no Sekyou, which is known for its fall leaves, plus one of the world's largest tidal currents, located in the Naruto Strait. To learn more about Tokushima, please see: A Treasury Of Beautiful Scenery - 9 Amazing Sights In Tokushima.
Throughout Tokushima prefecture you will find many mountainous and coastal areas that still retain the natural scenery and lifestyles of days past. While there are other farm stays located throughout the country, there are many genuine farm experiences that can only be had because of their location in Tokushima.
In Tokushima, accommodation facilities that satisfy certain conditions are certified as "Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inns".
These facilities must meet strict criteria, including points regarding the industry in which they are employed, and whether or not they offer agriculture/forestry/fishery based experiences, in order to become recognized. Only at a true Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn, can you spend a luxurious time in Japan's authentic countryside.
4 Things You Can Only Do at a Tokushima Farm Stay
1. Tokushima Exclusive Experiences
At a certified Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn (referred to as a farm inn from this point), experiences revolving around either agriculture, forestry, or fishery industry are always provided. Though it varies by facility, you can take part in courses such as rice planting, sansai (edible wild plant) picking, dragnet fishing, and other regular agricultural/fishery work opportunities.
Chopping your own firewood, cooking dinner over the fire, and heating your own bath water with the logs - you're sure to feel like you've become a farmer yourself at the end of the day!
But there are also other, exclusive to Tokushima experiences that are also highly recommended.
For example, you can try your hand at making Tokushima's famous regional product, indigo dye, or making items out of Awa washi paper, or many other regional activities that you can't enjoy anywhere else in the world but Tokushima!
Or in mountainous areas, where it is difficult to grow rice in paddies, you can also try your hand at soba (buckwheat) cultivation instead. In fact, we also recommend taking part in a soba noodle making experience while in Tokushima.
We tried it this time! Because it was our first time making soba, we felt a little confused, but thanks to the patient guidance of the owner, everything turned out great! The atmosphere was really peaceful, so we all had a really fun time learning to make soba noodles.
Plus, eating soba that you've made yourself somehow tastes different. We took some pictures and shared them with our friends afterward, and they were really jealous of our experience.
2. Tokushima's Regional Foods
Docomoyama's hirara-yaki (grilled dish of fish, vegetables and tofu)
Because Tokushima prefecture is rich in nature, one of the great pleasures of staying in this area is the cuisine. Guests can enjoy regional specialties and dishes made using locally sourced ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, if you are staying at an agricultural farm, you might find that you are enjoying fruit and vegetables straight from the field to the table too.
Tabi no Yado Okuiya's deer curry plate
Cuisine revolving around wild game such as deer and wild boar, also known as gibier cooking, is another specialty in Tokushima prefecture. It is famously referred to as Awa Gibier. Although wild game based cuisine might sound as though it would have a very meaty or peculiar taste to it, but when properly prepared, it is actually quite delicious. Mainly consisting of flavorful lean meat, you can really taste the wilderness in it, which is one of the charms that you just can't experience with standard beef or pork. If you are visiting Tokushima, then by all means please give Awa Gibier a try!
There are not many restaurants yet in Tokushima where you can enjoy Awa Gibier cuisine, but at some of the farm inns, you can - so if you are interested in tasting this regional specialty, please contact these inns. For more information, please take a look at this website).
Sake from all around Japan together at Kajiya Iya Romantei
3. Friendships You Can Only Make in Tokushima
At the vast majority of Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inns there is only enough space for a small number of people at a time, which means that it's possible to really get to know your hosts and hostesses. The people in Tokushima are all really kindhearted! And, because they are very interested in meeting all sorts of people, these inns are perfect for those who would like to make Japanese friends during their stay.
Some may only be able to communicate in Japanese, but they will overcome these language barriers through their own kind and cheerful natures.
4. Tokushima's Natural Scenery
Kajiya Iya Romantei as seen from outside
The majority of inns are located in either mountains or along coastlines, so even if you take a short stroll away from your lodgings, you will find yourself surrounded by natural landscapes that you can only dream of in the city.
Also, if you consult with the owner and staff, they may be able to travel with you to see the surroundings, or even guide you to little-known places in the area as well. For example, you may be able to visit the Iya district, which is said to be one of the last secret spots in Japan, or Ochiai Village, which is an Important Traditional Architecture Preservation district. These and other places are sights you can only enjoy in Tokushima prefecture.
** Please keep in mind, however, that these farm inns are scattered throughout Tokushima prefecture, and reaching these locations may be quite difficult from some places.
Ochiai Village (Miyoshi, Tokushima)
Kazurabashi (Vine Bridge; Miyoshi, Tokushima)
Oboke-kyo Gorge (Miyoshi, Tokushima)
Important Points to Note
Farm inns are sightseeing accommodations where guests are meant to experience life in an agricultural, forestry, or fishery based setting. As such, the amenities and services provided by these establishments are very different from those provided by standard hotels. For example, you should provide your own towels and toothbrush/toothpaste. Remember that the temperature and weather conditions in the city will differ greatly from that in the mountains or along the coast. Please make sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear to keep yourself warm.
Farm and fishing villages by nature are typically located in areas that are not easily accessed via public transportation routes. Trains and buses that do travel to these areas may not come as often as those in the city do either. Making your own arrangements regarding taxis or rental cars, based on your schedule and needs is very important.
The majority of facilities only serve traditional Japanese meals; as a result, there may be some cooking techniques or ingredients in dishes that non-Japanese people may not have tried before, or may not be able to eat for a variety of reasons. If you have any dietary restrictions, food allergies, or any questions regarding meals or food at a given inn, please consult with the facility in advance.
4. How to Make a Reservation
Reservation methods and correspondence styles vary from inn to inn. Those who are not confident in making a booking in Japanese should choose a facility where you can make email reservations in order to avoid any troubles or inconveniences.
Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inns are located almost exclusively in rural mountainous or on outlying coastal areas. For that reason, they may be somewhat difficult to access and may not have as many facilities or services that those in the city have. On the other hand, rather than having to fight your way through crowds at busy tourist attractions, you can spend your days relaxing in comfortable, natural surroundings instead.
As of March 2017, there are 39 different farm stay locations available within Tokushima prefecture. As the areas, facilities, surroundings, services, access routes, and other points differ between locations, for more information on farm stays in Tokushima, please refer to the Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn listings (Japanese).
A Special Thanks to These Farm Inns for Their Co-operation
Docomoyama (Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn)
Address: Tokushima, Yoshinogawa, Maruyama Misato 14-2
Website: http://wwwd.pikara.ne.jp/docomoyama/ (Japanese)
Kajiya Iya Romantei (Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Inn/Awa Gibier Ryotei)
Address: Tokushima, Miyoshi, Higashi Iyakyojo 141
Tabi no Yado Okuiya (Awa Gibier Ryotei)
Address: Tokushima, Miyoshi, Higashi Iyakyojo
Website: http://www.okuiya.jp/ (Japanese)
Sponsored by Tokushima Prefecture