Japan Data

Growing Popularity of Allotment Gardens in Urban Japan


Allotment gardens that offer city dwellers a chance to raise vegetables over the weekend are becoming increasingly popular. Idle land on the outskirts of large cities is being rented from farmers by local governments or agricultural associations to be subdivided for individuals who pay a fee to farm on it.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries found that, as of March 31, 2017, there were allotment gardens, or shimin nōen (literally “citizen farms”), in 4,223 locations nationwide, occupying an area of 1,371 hectares and divided into around 188,000 different plots of land. These allotment gardens, which are usually on the outskirts of large cities, are around 2.5 times more than numerous than 20 years ago, and the number of individual plots has more than doubled during that time.

The types of gardens include the so-called kleingarten, or “small garden” in German, with simple lodgings so gardeners have plenty of time to tend their plants, but the most popular option is to just take a day trip to a garden that is not too far from one’s home. Around half of all Japan’s allotment gardens are concentrated in the Kantō region. Looking at Tokyo in particular, 13 of its 23 cities have allotment gardens or gardens that allow visitors to gain hands-on experience. Both of those options are extremely popular, to the point where potential gardeners have to be chosen by lottery or wait for a cancellation.

Recently, there are more allotment gardens that prepare everything a newbie will need to get started, such as farming implements, seeds and seedlings, and fertilizer, as well as guidance provided by farmers. These allotment gardens seem to meet the needs of city dwellers who want to experience the joy of harvesting their own food, with some help from professional farmers, and also want to easily head out to the fields on the weekends without having to carry too much. Nonprofit organizations and venture businesses are also involved in some of these support-style allotment gardens, resulting in the expansion of other new initiatives, such as gardens equipped with barbecue facilities.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: © Pixta.)

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