What better way to get to know someone’s culture and way of life than to live, work and have fun with them?
That’s why Hitoyoshi-Kuma, a designated Japan Heritage site in southern Kumamoto Prefecture, has developed farm stays for tourists. As part of the region’s green tourism program, the experience is designed to showcase what daily life is like for farming families, while encouraging interaction and cultural exchange.
Try your hand in the fields
A handful of families, each involved in farming, fishing or forestry, have opened their homes as guesthouses. By introducing their agricultural practices and daily activities, they hope to provide visitors with a unique insight into rural Japan.
What’s more, by doing simple tasks together, hosts and visitors alike can overcome language barriers and enjoy interacting with each other.
Though the program's website is only in Japanese, many of the families involved speak some English and are great communicators, enabling non-Japanese participants to take part with ease.
Be inspired by food
Thanks to the small size and proximity of the hosts’ farms – often on their doorstep – visitors can expect seasonal vegetables, fruit and even rice to be served direct from ground to plate. Better still, the hosts serve much-loved homecooked Japanese dishes that can seldom be found in restaurants.
For those interested in traditional food, the hosts are on hand to provide recipes and teach the basics of Japanese cooking using their fresh ingredients.
Slow down, get cosy
My overnight stay with a rice-farming family allowed me to get a taste of farming while soaking up the natural beauty of Hitoyoshi-Kuma.
More important, though, the experience gave me an opportunity to spend time with people who have a genuine interest in the world. Thanks to their warm welcome, their cosy home became my home for a couple of days of relaxation and fun.