If you are looking to get up close with nature, then a trip to a Japanese farm is highly recommended. Whether you're travelling to Nagano, Hokkaido, Iwate, or Tochigi, there are farms of various varieties where you can get hands-on and enjoy many agricultural methods, the Japanese way. From wool making workshops, wasabi tasting, lavender field viewing, and the feeding of wild animals, all can be enjoyed during your travels across Japan:
1. Daio Wasabi Farm (Nagano)
Daio Wasabi Farm is a popular tourist spot in the Azumino area. On its huge grounds, wasabi horseradish is cultivated using spring water from the Northern Alps whose quantities reach 12 tonnes per day. A stroll through the wasabi farm is one of the charms as you enjoy the pristine scenery of Azumino. But there are plenty of other things to enjoy on the farm. At the pickled wasabi workshop, you can try your hand at making these pickles (separate fee is necessary) which can be done in about 20 minutes so that you can take them home right on the same day. Also, you can sample some of the spring water which supports the farm that has been selected as one of the Top 100 Famous Sources of Water in Japan. You will definitely want to have that famous fresh taste of the water and wasabi.
The first thing that draws your attention on the farm is the water mill that stands alongside the Tate River. The area was chosen by the late director Akira Kurosawa to be the site for his film “Dreams” (1989). The sight of the 3 water wheels turning slowly has remained the same since those days. If you would like to fully enjoy the clear waters of the Tate River, then it’s recommended to board the Clear Boat from the dock close to the mill (separate admission required). The boat has a transparent bottom so that the bottom of the river can be seen. You can view the sight of river fish swimming and river grass swaying.
Genuine wasabi ice cream is the most popular item on the farm. Since there is the image of wasabi adorning sushi, it’s hard to imagine it in something like ice cream, but it is exceptionally tasty with a refreshing sweetness. What is also interesting is the slight pungency that hits your nose as you continue to eat it. There are plenty of other examples of wasabi cuisine with dishes such as wasabi stem croquettes and emerald-green wasabi beer! At the soba restaurant, you can enjoy Shinshu soba along with fresh raw wasabi, so if you want to enjoy Japanese horseradish in a more orthodox manner, then this is recommended.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Daio Wasabi Farm
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Daio Wasabi Farm
- Tours in Daio Wasabi Farm
2. Koiwai Farms (Iwate)
The huge 3000ha pastoral lands of Koiwai Farms is a famous historical farm symbolic of Japan representing the fine Koiwai brand. At the time of the opening of the farm in 1891, barren wasteland was developed through long years of cultivation and afforestation. The name of the farm was derived from the first characters of each of the founders’ family names, and the Koiwai brand is now something that can be seen in all of the supermarkets in Japan. Coming to Shizukuishi, you can spend time at Koiwai touring the farm while admiring the wonderful view, enjoying the attractions at Makiba-en Park and participating in the nature walks. Spend a relaxing day at facilities which include a direct sales shop of Koiwai products and restaurants which boast fine cuisine.
On the wide pasture in the park with Mt. Iwate in the distance, a quiet scene of freely roaming sheep and cows plays out. There are also plenty of attractions such as performances by sheepherding dogs, horseback riding and archery. As well, visitors can take part in workshops such as crafts using wool and butter making. It’s also fun to participate in walks on the nature trails through forests in the park with trees that are over 100 years old.
At Koiwai Farms, you can sample farm fare which uses ingredients such as fresh milk. Sanrokukan Farm Restaurant is famous for its Western dishes such as steaks, stews and omelettes which feature ingredients from the farm. There is also a corner for light meals with a menu including pizza and ice cream. For people in the know, there is the dish of Milk Ramen which is popular for its unusually good taste. Elsewhere, there are still plenty of other places to enjoy such as the Makibakan Jingisukan Hall for barbeque lamb and beef, and the Tenmon Café which is attached to the astronomical viewing center of Tenmonkan.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 600 / Child: ¥ 300
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Koiwai Farms
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Koiwai Farms
- Tours in Koiwai Farms
3. Farm Tomita (Hokkaido)
Furano City in the center of Hokkaido is especially famous for its lavender and every year, numerous tourists come and visit for that wonderful scent and view. Farm Tomita is renowned for having the largest lavender field in the Furano area. Boasting a wide 15 hectares, the peak time is in July and so the journey to the farm is notable for its traffic jams. Also, the farm’s Traditional Lavender Field has the longest history of its type in Japan. Its grand landscape unfurls like a violet carpet and the scent of lavender floats over the area. From the slightly elevated field, you can get a panoramic view of the rural landscape of Furano along with the lavender field where you can appreciate the breathtaking beauty. There are also many other flowers besides lavender that are being cultivated in places like Irodori Field with its colorful poppies and baby’s-breath.
Hokkaido is overflowing with delicious foods. At Farm Tomita, you can enjoy different kinds of cuisine using locally-produced ingredients. The lavender-infused soft-serve ice cream is especially popular. It’s something that has to be tasted while viewing the beautiful lavender field. Farm Tomita sells many original products such as lavender by the stalk, potpourri, and lavender essential oil. Bringing back lavender-scented souvenirs as a memento of your trip would be wonderful. What is also popular is Japan’s greatest dried flower arrangements.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Farm Tomita
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Farm Tomita
- Tours of Farm Tomita
4. Nasu Alpaca Farm (Tochigi)
The homeland of the alpaca is the 3000m highlands of the Andes Mountains in South America. With the Nasu Highlands sharing the same climate close to Tokyo, Japan’s first alpaca breeding farm was started there in 1999. The 200 original alpacas which came over from Chile have now grown to 400. The Peru Alpaca & Llama Breeders’ Organization (known as SPAR) has recognized the facility as “the farm raising the world’s friendliest alpacas”. Due to a 2008 Japanese commercial which used an alpaca, the animal became an overnight sensation. What is truly adorable is that it will come over to you if you call to it.
People who have seen alpacas have said in unison that they are healing because of their large watery eyes and the corners of their mouths that seem to curl up in a smile. With their eyes large enough to make easy eye contact with humans, fluffy fur and amiable personality, you end up smiling in spite of yourself. Shearing season is from the latter part of May to June. Since they have slender bodies in summer, you will have to visit at another time of year to witness their soft fur.
There are two areas where you can freely meet the alpacas. At the Petting Area, you can touch and feed them, and you can take a souvenir photo with Kurare-chan, the alpaca which became famous on that commercial (limited to weekends). The Strolling Area is popular for being able to walk with baby alpacas and taking souvenir photos. The leashes can only be held by junior high school students and above, but even little children can touch the alpacas. However, it should be warned that when the alpacas are scared or when they are scrambling for food, they have a tendency to spit.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 800 / Child: ¥ 400
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Nasu Alpaca Farm
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Nasu Alpaca Farm
- Tours of Nasu Alpaca Farm
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