Big-scale farm theme parks take root in Japan
PEOPLE who do not mind getting their hands dirty could do worse than visit one of the agricultural theme parks that have opened across Japan in recent years.
Visitors will be able to take part in farming experiences, buy agricultural products and enjoy good food.
These agricultural theme parks are often equipped with rental farmland, direct sales shops for agricultural products, restaurants and processing factories.
Though municipalities have operated such attractions before, large-scale agricultural theme parks have been increasing in the past few years, partly due to the entry of private companies into the industry.
Seiji Yoshioka, a senior official of the Organisation for Urban-Rural Interchange Revitalisation, a general incorporated foundation, said: "Agricultural parks and experience-oriented facilities are designed to vitalise local communities and promote local production for local consumption."
Namegata Farmers Village, for instance, is a sweet potato theme park that opened late last year in Namegata, Ibaraki prefecture, an area noted for its output of that produce.
The 33ha compound produces and sells confectionery made from the sweet potatoes.
Toshikazu Nagao, president of Shirohato Food which partly founded the subsidiary that runs the theme park, said: "The number of sweet potato producers has dropped due to the ageing population.
"We thought of the idea to convey the charm of agriculture to young people."
The theme park features a museum and also offers classes on making sweet potato cakes at 800 yen (S$10) a person, which are popular among families with children.
Over at Iga, Mie prefecture, meat lovers can attempt to make sausages at a popular farm.
The Iga no Sato Mokumoku Tezukuri Farm draws about 500,000 visitors a year and is considered a pioneer of the agricultural theme park concept.
The 14ha farm has its beginnings in 1988 as a ham factory but, in 1995, the place was revamped as an agricultural park.
It started producing its own local beer, bread and tofu, among other initiatives.
Besides making sausages at its factory, visitors can also dine at an in-house restaurant and enjoy being close to the farm animals.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK