Lighthearted Farmwork in the City

Rice farming at Roppongi Hills
Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Rice farming has been taking place on the roof of a 45 m building since 2003
(Photo courtesy of Mori Building)

   There are a number of large parks to enjoy in the skyscraper-filled cities of Japan, but recently, you can see more farms emerging in urban areas. An urban farmland leasing act was enacted in 2018, after which rooftop farms and community gardens started to appear in downtown residential areas.

   These farms give adults a chance to get hands-on in the soil, and help children to learn how their food is grown. Read on to find out more about this growing trend of downtown farming.

Farming on the Roof

   Japan has four distinct seasons each with their own beauty, so people living there are highly sensitive to the natural world and enjoy being close to nature. Because of this, a lot of people want to get involved with farmwork in order to get back in touch with nature and better experience the changing of the seasons.

   This desire has led to farms popping up on the rooftops of tall buildings. Increased greenery on buildings is also a good way of combating the "urban heat island" effect, where cities have a hotter climate than surrounding rural areas in summer.

In Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, people are farming rice on the rooftops to promote traditional Japanese culture and help build a sense of community. (Photo courtesy of Mori Building)

   Some rooftop farms rent out farming supplies, so you don't need to bring any specialized equipment. With advice from staff members at these rental farms, you can enjoy growing vegetables on the rooftop of a sunny building, and harvest your own seasonal produce.

"soradofarm Ebisu" is located directly across from a train station, so it is easy to access for people who want to try their hand at growing vegetables. They also have farming tools and canes for supporting plants as they grow.
(Photo courtesy of TOHO-LEO Co.)

Enjoy the Farming Lifestyle

   A company in Japan has been working with other companies and local authorities to create more areas where everyone living in the city, no matter their age, can enjoy farming. They've been setting up farms in the gardens and facilities of apartment buildings, childcare facilities, and unused land.

Simple vegetable farming in an apartment building's garden
(Photo courtesy of MY FARM, Inc.)

   Despite the fact that more and more land in cities is now covered with houses or stores, this company has been working together with landowners who have protected their family's farmland in prime real estate locations to create places full of nature, just like a traditional Japanese village.

The farming experience "Yakumo no Hatake" spreads across a prime downtown real estate location. (Photo courtesy of MY FARM, INC.)

   The location hosts events related to vegetable farming, and has a market showcasing fresh produce and foods processed in a natural way. It's a place for people to gather and socialize.

An event for young children, and making pizza in an outdoor oven (Photo courtesy of MY FARM, Inc.)

A market next to the fields (Photo courtesy of the owner of "Yakumo no Hatake")

New Ways to Enjoy Farming with the IoT and AI

   In recent years, technologies such as the IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) have made it easy for beginners to start growing vegetables. There are AI-assisted IoT sensors with ultra-wide-angle cameras that can send notifications to a special app, so you know exactly when to water or prune your plants. You can check the condition of your vegetables on the app anytime, anywhere using your smartphone or another device, and share this information with your family and friends.

Using IoT sensors to grow vegetables with AI assistance (Photo courtesy of PLANTIO, Inc.)

   Companies that use this system are taking part in shared cultivation, where people work together in groups to grow vegetables on rooftops, so people working in offices and stores and those living locally can all enjoy farming together.

A rooftop farm that does more than just farming — it is also available for lunches, meetings, and workshops. A great pick-me-up under the open sky. (Photo courtesy of PLANTIO, Inc.)

   This type of farming is good for the environment, relaxing, and also helps with children's development and educates them about food. People are also becoming more interested in organic food, and farmwork is becoming more accessible to people living in large Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka.