Japan is a unique country full of diverse experiences. And while partying all night in Tokyo is an absolute must, there’s so much more to see and do beyond the enchanting neon haze of the major cities. With that in mind, Oita Prefecture has been on a mission to showcase the serene benefits and traditional ways of country life, having been the first region in the country to introduce nohaku (rural farm stays), much to the delight of travellers from all over the world.
Many farm stays that are now available go beyond accommodation, and allow travellers to fully immerse themselves in the daily routines of local people and communities by having them work alongside them. With Oita currently gearing up to be one of the host cities for this year’s Rugby World Cup, those wishing to see another side of the prefecture are already exploring rural farm stays and the different options and locations available. The idea first began in the late 1990s in the northern part of Oita Prefecture, with visitors experiencing what farmers do in a typical day. Since then, it’s evolved to over 280 nohaku locations in Oita alone.
Sites include rice fields, vegetable gardens, fishing villages and shiitake mushroom farms, with bed and breakfast being provided by a host family. Accommodations vary, but guests typically sleep on futons over tatami mats, embracing the ways of a traditional country home. Hosts usually only have two people at a time in order to ensure that people are accommodated throughout. Guests can harvest fruit and vegetables, cook river fish over open hearths, make their own bamboo chopsticks, fish on a raft – the experience depends on the host family and the location.
“Rural travel provides authenticity. Many major destinations can lose some of their originality, but the countryside has not been commodified yet. They are as they are, and allow tourists to escape the hyper-curated world of travel and connect directly with a culture different from their own,” Tourism Oita told Lonely Planet.
This article was produced in collaboration with Tourism Oita and written to reflect Lonely Planet's policy of editorial independence and impartiality.