Original news story presented by Odawalab.
Before coming to Odawara , Mr. Toyoaki Hosoya worked as a freelance web creator in Tokyo. In 2019, he started a new life in Odawara as a new farmer. We asked him about his current efforts, and what he sees as the appeal of the city.
by The Editorial Department of Odawalab
47-year- old man, struggling as a novice farmer
Three years have passed since I moved to Odawara. I came here as if I was led, and now I am engaged in agriculture, mainly cultivating fruit trees and vegetables.
After two years of training at a local farm in the city, I opened my own farm called "Natural Farm Libra". Besides, I was able to become a certified new farmer of Odawara City in September 2022.
In addition to the Japanese apricots, mandarin oranges, and kiwifruits that I learned during the training, I am also cultivating taro with my colleagues.
For taro, in particular, we have received the understanding and cooperation of farmers in the Oniyanagi district, and are making efforts to grow them on a large scale by using fallow fields. Currently, we are cultivating seeds in the neighboring town, but we will start planting in the Oniyanagi in the spring of 2023.
This taro is nicknamed "Taro Hojo" by myself. “Taro” is a same sound of Japanese most popular male name which is like “John” in English-speaking countries, and “Hojo” is a family name of Samurai who once ruled huge Kanto area based in Odawara castle, and became the symbol of the city.
I would like to do my best so that this taro is recognized as a special product of the district, and hope that this crop will be tasted and loved all over Japan.
Until he found the candidate site, Odawara.
I think I vaguely started to think about "living in the countryside" after I turned 40.
I started looking for a candidate site around 2016, thinking that if I were to start a new life, it would be better to start while I was still physically strong. At first, I focused on relatively distant areas such as Boso area in Chiba and Izu area in Shizuoka.
Time passed without any concrete progress or decisive factor for several years, finally I found Odawara in the summer of 2019.
I chose Odawara because of its good access to the center of Tokyo and airport, and because of its geographical location, such as being a town by the sea. For those simple reasons, I can't say that I was very enthusiastic about moving to Odawara at very first time.
Since I was moving to a rural area, I started to think that I wanted to be involved in a job that is rooted in the community in parallel with my main business of web production, so I decided to research the occupational situation in Odawara on the Internet.
Then, the key word that caught my eye was “Agriculture”.
Why did I pick up the word ?
Actually I don't know it even myself. However, when I was an office worker, I was an editor in the food department of an EC site and I saw many crops and the stories of farmers. Also, I grew up in the country side in my childhood, So I think that the factor of liking nature had something to do with it.
Visiting the Agricultural Administration Division of Odawara City
It is said that seeing is believing. I really wanted to visit the place once. I think that the fact that it was within easy distance from Tokyo when I first thought of it helped reduce the psychological distance I had to move.
I decided to visit the city's agricultural administration section at that time. At this point, "agriculture" was still just one of many job options, but meeting local people may lead to new discoveries and progress. It's an action that thinks like that. It was early September 2019.
The Agricultural Administration Section lady staff was very polite and taught me about the actual situation of agriculture in Odawara and how to start farming. As I listened to her story, I remember that my expectations for farming grew steadily.
“ It might be cool to do farming while continuing to work on the web !! ”
I was thinking about what would be convenient. Then, I proceeded to talk about specifics, I was told,
" In order to start a new farm in Odawara, you must either attend the prefecture's Agricultural Academy school (for one year), or receive practical training while working in the local farm (two years). You have two options. "
Acyually, it was unrealistic for me to go to the Agricultural Academy without working for a year, so I was more interested in training under a farmer.
“ Could you introduce me to the farmer I am training with ? ”
“ You will have to find a place to train on your own. ”
Honestly, I thought that this would be a long run. It is not so easy to find a place for agricultural training on my own in a land where I have no connections. It feels like my high expectations have subsided.
Having said that, agriculture was just an option for me at that time, and the place Odawara was also. Until then, I had been working towards moving for many years, so it was common for me to run into this kind of wall.
On the way back to the station. It suddenly occurred to me to take a look at the Local Employment Service. There might be local new job information which I couldn’t find in Tokyo. This idea was a big turning point.
There was. Only one.
There was a job offer for "Agricultural Trainee / Recruitment".
The dream of immigration became a reality in an instant
From there it was fast.
I sent my resume the next day, got an interview right away, and returned to Odawara the following week. The next day, I was contacted that I had been hired, and 10 days after that, I moved to Odawara.
Before I knew it, I was already cutting branches of Japanese apricot blossoms in Odawara !!
Honestly, I asked myself “Is it okay to make such an important decision in life in such a moment ?” However, turning points come unexpectedly suddenly like this, so I wondered if it would be a good idea to ride on this momentum. Also, more than anything else, I was overwhelmed by the pressure of my master saying, “ Come here right away ! ”
Looking back on it now, I feel that my migration was a combination of many opportunities.
Of course, I was able to find a place for training right away, but it was also the timing when the work I was working on in Tokyo had finished, and I was able to live in an empty house owned by my master. Problems such as "work at the new destination", "current job", "housing", etc., which tend to be barriers to migration, have been cleared up at once.
The road of moving to Odawara opened less than a month after visiting the city. My experience is a special case, so it may not be very helpful for readers, but I recommend that people who want to migrate to "go to the area" and "meet the local people" anyway.
You may be able to get useful information not only from city officials, but also from local restaurants and real estate agents. Of course, you can come and see me. Especially for those who want to try farming from now on, I think I can talk about the reality of agricultural training and how to select the crops to grow.
To describe Odawara in one word
It's "a town with wonderful countryside landscape".
The Shimo-Soga district where I live is an area where the word is perfect.
The area is related to the Soga Brothers, who appeared in the Japanese TV series "The 13 Lords of the Shogun", so it's attractive to be able to explore history while hiking. If you go to a slightly higher place, you can see a wonderful view of the town of Odawara, Sagami Bay, and Mt. Fuji.
In winter, the Japanese apricot blossoms of Soga area is also famous. The scenery of blossoms and Mt. Fuji competing is a winter tradition in Odawara.
The Gotemba Line is the only train service in the Shimo-Soga area, but the city's largest shopping mall is nearby, so if you have a car, you'll be fine. It's an area where you can enjoy a countryside life that is different from the area around Odawara Station, so I hope many people will consider moving to the Shimo-Soga area. I will be waiting for you there !!
*By courtesy of The Editorial Department of Odawalab, City of Odawara, English version Reposted and translated by Toyoaki Hosoya from the original article of Odawalab website. https://odawalab.com/