Allotment Gardens Sprout in Japan as Interest Grows in Urban Agriculture
Now there are 3,968 gardens, soaring to almost six times as many gardens over 20 years
By Kazuko Iijima and Junko Edahiro
Japan For Sustainability
JFS Newsletter No.136 (December 2013)
The number of allotment gardens has been increasing every year particularly as more urban dwellers feel the need for a garden as a place of recreation where they can touch earth. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the number of allotment gardens established in accordance with the two relevant laws, the Act on Special Provision of Farmland and the Act on Promotion of Development of Community Farms, was 691 as of March 31, 1993, but has now grown to 3,968 as of March 31, 2012, soaring to almost six times as many gardens over 20 years.
In recent years, an increasing number of people have become interested in farming through urban-rural exchanges, as a recreation or leisure activity, through education involving agricultural activities, or from observing the beneficial effects that gardening has on handicapped and elderly people. This led MAFF to promote more urban-rural exchanges. In 2002, the Ministry released a revival plan for food and agriculture, in which “co-existence of and exchanges between urban areas and farming and fishing villages” was given high priority. MAFF has made efforts to make the best use of the various resources available in farming and fishing villages and to realize a lifestyle where people in urban areas and farming and fishing villages can interact more easily.
In April 2003, the Act on Special Zones for Structural Reform came into effect and other special measures were also implemented with respect to areas where idle farmlands had become a serious problem. All of them worked to promote the establishment of allotment gardens. The number of people wishing to use small patches of farmland to grow vegetables and flowers increased and this led to wider implementation of the Special Zones for Structural Reform Act around the country. The Act on Special Provision of Farmland Act was revised to allow individuals and various entities such as local governments and agricultural cooperatives to establish allotment gardens, and these revisions came into effect on September 1, 2005. In March 2006, the government released an opinion statement saying that it is OK to sell crops produced in allotment gardens, showing a positive attitude towards their establishment.