Rural Retreats: Exploring Farmstays in Japan

  • 3 min read
Rural Retreats: Exploring Farmstays in Japan

Away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan cities, farmstays in Japan offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience inaka (rural) life. Guests can choose to stay with a farmer and their family or even rent out a whole farmhouse for a more private getaway. As part of these experiences, guests are invited to partake in agricultural activities whilst enjoying the peaceful countryside lifestyle. Farmstays are a great way to to connect with nature and the local community. "Minpaku" means staying in someone's home, and "nouhaku" refers to staying in a rural area while enjoying activities like farming, forestry, and fishing.

Minpaku accommodations can be found on sites like Airbnb or STAY JAPAN. In the inaka, you can stay in a ‘kominka,’ a traditional and quaint Japanese house. This style of accommodation is typically roomier and more affordable than hotels, and often include the cleaning fee in the total room fee. Room types vary, and you may have to cook for yourself if you don’t eat out. Additionally, many minpakus tend to be in residential areas, so it’s best not to be too loud or disturb the neighbors. In exchange, you'll get an authentic taste of Japanese life completely removed from tourist areas. 

Rural Retreats: Exploring Farmstays in Japan

Ranging from traditional farmhouses to modern guest houses, farmstays typically provide accommodations on a working farm. Some may offer private rooms or dormitory-style accommodations. WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) offers the chance to stay on an organic farm, where travelers can work in exchange for room and board. Farmstays are a great way to immerse yourself in new and unfamiliar cultures and get to know your host family through joining in on their daily farm activities. Keep in mind that your host family may or may not speak English, or may have only a basic understanding of English. Be open to learning a few new phrases to enhance communication between both parties. During these stays, guests can also learn about traditional farming methods and practices specific to the region, as well as enjoy fascinating local landscapes and communities nearby.

One of the best parts of farmstays is the fresh, natural, and locally grown food. Host families often prepare meals using fresh ingredients from their own farms or nearby producers. Some of Japan’s tastiest food comes from the most inaka areas. Northern regions like Hokkaido and Tohoku specialize in delicious dairy and sake, whereas Kyushu is known for the best imo shochu (a distilled drink made from potatoes). It’s worth researching on your own which region would best suit your tastes.

Rural Retreats: Exploring Farmstays in Japan

Final Things to Consider

When researching farmstays, it is important to consider the timing of your stay, factoring in location and weather. Summers in Japan can be brutally hot and humid, requiring full-body UV clothing to prevent heatstroke when planning on being outside for long periods. It is also worth looking into the different types of bugs and wildlife you may encounter while in inaka Japan.

Compared to summer, winters in Japan may be too frigid for a farmstay. Because most homes in Japan do not have central heating, guests need to pack adequate indoor and outdoor winter clothing. Even with a heater in your room, the rest of the house might be freezing cold!

One final thing to consider: even though Japan is known for having a world-class transportation system, getting to the inaka may require renting a car. Even when they exist, buses headed toward the countryside may run just a few times a day. In this scenario, renting a car is the most convenient way to get around. Choosing a small, compact car will help you maneuver through narrow countryside roads, but please be mindful that there are little to no guardrails and cell service in the countryside. When headed towards an area you are not familiar with, it may be best to request a shuttle or ask the host family to pick you up.

If you’re someone who likes to venture off the beaten path, consider a farmstay to relax and soothe the soul away. A one-of-a-kind experience, farmstays can help to enhance your existing skills and bring about new ones you never knew you had.


About the author:

Samantha KwokSamantha Kwok

Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.

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