Date : April 5 - 6, 2023
Report: Miyazaki Press Tour -The Power of Younger Generations Changing Rural Areas-
post date : 2023.05.15
Miyazaki has the highest food self-sufficiency and fourth-highest agricultural output value in Japan, and was the site of the G7 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting in April 2023. This tour covered a company aiming to solve the labor shortage due to the rising age of farmers through methods including robot tractors; farmers in the town of Aya, where sustainable farming initiatives are being pursued by the town as a whole as an “organic town;” and farmers who returned to their hometown and are now striving to develop products and create new local specialties. The tour also heard about efforts to revitalize the tourist destination of Aoshima, which was once a popular honeymoon spot, from the head priest of Aoshima Shrine and a company involved in the redevelopment.
A total of six journalists participated in this tour, from media organizations based out of China, France, the UK, and the US.
*This tour was sponsored by the Promotion Council for the G7 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting in Miyazaki, and planned and operated by the FPCJ.
*For details about the tour stops, see the tour announcement here.
The journalists visited Aya, known as a town of organic agriculture, and learned about Aya-Hayakawa Noen from Mr. Seiji Oku, the second president of the farm. After trying some organic carrot juice made using produce from the farm, Mr. Oku explained the philosophy of Aya-Hayakawa Noen and spoke about its organic vegetables. In the Q&A session, there were questions about what led to starting organic agriculture at the farm and about its initiative to accept interns from within Japan and abroad, as well as questions to the younger staff members about why they decided to try agriculture.
Katsuki Wines makes 100% domestic organic wine, and the journalists heard from its president, Mr. Yoshitada Katsuki, about how he first made wine without using agrochemicals, and about his philosophy of placing importance on a variety of grape cultivars and having fun while making wine. The tour then saw the vineyard. The journalists showed interest in who bought the company’s wine, and the difficulties faced due to the area not being considered suitable for making wine. They also asked questions about why the younger staff decided to learn about making wine.
Led by Yokoyama Kajuen’s president, Mr. Yoichi Yokoyama, the tour saw a mango greenhouse, and heard about how Yokoyama Kajuen grows its mangos. The journalists were interested in why the mangos were popular with Japanese consumers despite their high price, and took many pictures of the trees full of fruit. The tour then went to an avocado greenhouse, where the journalists asked about how much it costs to grow avocados, how profitable they were, and whether there were government subsidies. The tour then had an opportunity to taste the mangos, and were surprised at how delicious they were.
Guided by Mr. Ryohei Ochiai, Ochiai Shuzo Brewery’s master brewer, the tour saw machinery for processing potatoes for shochu, and the manufacturing process for ginger shochu, one of the main products Ochiai Shuzo makes for overseas markets. While hearing about how shochu is made and the history of the company, the journalists showed great interest as they took pictures of the brewery. In the Q&A session held while sampling shochu, there were questions about future plans for overseas expansion, and what Mr. Ochiai thought about the reduced alcohol consumption among younger generations.
The tour covered Ishihara Foods, which is engaged in “smart agriculture” such as using robot tractors. Its president, Ms. Shoko Ishihara, explained how she took over the family company after seeing how important employment was as welfare when helping with reconstruction in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and digital transformation (DX) initiatives such as using an app developed by Ishihara Foods to visualize the growth for each field and work status. After seeing the Residual Agrochemical Testing Center attached to Ishihara Foods, the tour intently took pictures of tractors harvesting spinach at the farm.
The journalists spoke with Mr. Ippei Nagatomo, president of Hinata Ichigoen, who quit his old job and moved back to Miyazaki to start this business. Mr. Nagatomo explained the unique features of how they grow strawberries, and how they made processed goods such as strawberry jam. Along with a technical intern trainee from Vietnam, he also discussed promoting growing strawberries overseas, and future plans. The journalists were interested in exports of Hinata Ichigoen strawberries overseas, how much it cost to grow them, and growing the strawberries higher up in order to reduce the burden on workers and help prevent water damage from typhoons. The tour then had the chance to try some fresh strawberries from the greenhouse, and were surprised how delicious they were.
<Aoshima Shrine & Aoshima Beach Village>
The tour heard from the twentieth-generation head priest of Aoshima Shrine, Mr. Yasutaka Nagatomo, about the history of Aoshima and the shrine while walking around the shrine grounds. The journalists showed great interest in the unique geography of the island, filled with tropical plants, and in explanations about why the number of tourists plummeted, and recent initiatives to revitalize Aoshima.
After Aoshima Shrine, the journalists visited Aoshima Beach Village, a redevelopment project using an abandoned hotel located in prime real estate in Aoshima. The tour was shown around by Not A Hotel Inc. staff involved in the redevelopment, and saw the high-class condo and hotel resort facilities, a barbeque area, and a swimming pool, as well as a trailer house currently under construction. The journalists showed interest in the guest rooms with the latest facilities, including appliances that could be controlled using a smartphone, and in the unique business model of using the condos as hotel accommodations when not in use by their owners. They asked questions about what kind of people were buying the condos.
<Promotion Council for the G7 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting in Miyazaki Briefing & Interview with Miyazaki Prefecture Governor Mr. Shunji Kono>
The journalists listened to a briefing about the Agriculture Minister’s Meeting from Promotion Council for the G7 Agriculture Ministers' Meeting in Miyazaki secretariat staff before hearing from Miyazaki Prefecture governor Mr. Shunji Kono. He discussed the appeal of Miyazaki Prefecture, including tourism resources such as sports taking advantage of the prefecture’s warm climate, its expansive food culture, and diverse historical sites. The journalists asked many questions during the Q&A session, such as the merits and goals of hosting the Agriculture Minister’s Meeting, the governor’s hopes for the other G7 nations, and the participation of youth and foreign laborers in agriculture in response to the decline in the number of agricultural workers.
◆Below is some of the reporting based on this tour.
Ishihara Foods brings high tech to Miyazaki farms (April 7)
Miyazaki coming alive with an innovative younger generation (April 7)
UCA News (France)
Japan is reshaping agriculture with technology (April 14)