by Ewa Nowogorski
Despite land scarcity and high land prices, Japan actually has a lot of farmland in Japan, and a person who has never been to this country would be surprised to learn that you can even find thousands of small communally or privately run farms in Tokyo.
I live about 40 minutes from the center of Tokyo by train, and there are many farms in my neighborhood. There is one right across the street from my home, and there is a rice paddy just a few minutes away by foot. Farms can literally be found in almost any residential area, right amongst the densely packed houses, and they play an important role in Japanese society. A lot of farms are communally managed, and they create a perfect opportunity for the community to socialize and cooperate with one another while doing something that bears fruit in the end.
All school children are taken to a farm at a few points in their school lives to help out there for a school trip. The purpose of this trip is to teach children valuable skills such as a sense of responsibility, teamwork, communication, and even compromise. And not only this, but Japanese people also place huge importance on understanding the value of food, and the hard work that is put into making it. Some families that can afford it will even rent farmland in their neighborhood for a few years while their child is growing up to personally teach them these values. And in this way, everybody knows where their food comes from, and they look at it as something that is not just taken for granted.
Land prices are crazy in urban and ven suburban areas in densely populated prefectures such as Tokyo, but farmland is specially subsidized by the government, making land much much cheaper. This incentivizes people to grow their own produce, which they can even resell for profit, and it is a favorite hobby of many people, especially elder people.