Walking through the Nara countryside, it feels like life hasn’t changed in decades; and in many ways, it hasn’t. People here value a slower pace, taking time to enjoy life. Sometimes the old ways are the best: small scale and low environmental impact.
However, you will also find fast Wi-Fi connections and savvy social media, as a younger generation searches for the right balance between an ageless organic farming life and the modern world. There are opportunities to stay on farms or within a rural community to experience life’s simpler pleasures.
If you want to experience rural Japanese life without staying on the land, Shigisan Nodokamura Farm offers a farm experience that is very popular with families. Part working farm, part theme park, you can try fruit picking throughout the year. Children will also enjoy feeding the chickens, rabbits and goats.
Fruit picking is a popular pastime from late winter through to mid-autumn. Look out for Asuka Ruby strawberries in early spring, mikan (mandarin oranges) in summer and grapes and persimmons in early autumn. Some farms and orchards offer all-you-can pick and eat deals, and some charge by quantity, but the systems are clearly displayed. You will also find farm stands along the ancient roads such as the Yamanobe-no-Michi.
Tenri Kanko Farm and its eatery Cafe WaWa offer fruit picking in their orchards through spring and summer. There is also an extensive herb garden, a gallery space selling local crafts and regular yoga classes.
Deep in the valley of Miura Guchi near one of trails on the network of Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes, Mandokoro, a small minshuku or B&B, is an ideal place to experience country life. Share meals with the family and join in the daily farm life, chopping wood, planting rice and cooking Japanese dishes.
Kawanami is a high class Japanese restaurant in Nara City. The chef grows most of his own produce and offers the chance to try farm life on the weekends. On Sundays when the restaurant is closed, you can visit the farm, help with the harvesting and enjoy a free lunch.
At Sasayuri Ann, a beautifully restored farm house, you can experience traditional farming with all the comforts of home. Enjoy meals cooked on the traditional open hearth, wake up with the sunrise and try rice cultivation from planting to harvesting and threshing, depending on the season.