Kunisaki Peninsula is located in the North-East of Kyushu island, in Oita prefecture. It is well-known as a place of temples, landscapes and of course for its onsen, especially in Beppu city. In addition to that, Kunisaki Peninsula is also known as an important agricultural area. In 2013 it has been awarded the GIAHS designation as one of the World Agricultural Heritage sites.
The best way to discover the rural life of the Kunisaki peninsula is to spend the night at a nôka minshuku (農家民宿), which is the Japanese version of a farm stay. I was blessed to stay at the Maruka farm guesthouse, which is run by the Kamihira family.
Host family: The Kamihira’s
The Kamihira are not your ordinary farmers. Tired of their city life, Fusako and Masayoshi decided to leave Tokyo five years ago. They wanted a better life for their kids, far away from the extra-consumerism of the city, and to live in a more human and harmonious way closer to nature. Now by opening a farm-stay, they wish to give you a taste of this life too.
Spending the night in a traditional Japanese house
Besides their agricultural activities, the Kamihira spend their time welcoming travelers into their own house. Guests stay in a special guestroom, making the farm-stay experience comfortable. I think spending the night in this kind of accommodation is the best way to discover the Japanese countryside. By staying with locals on a farm stay, we can gain insight into the local point of view. Staying at Maruka farm-stay especially gave me the feeling of being a special family guest.
The Kamihira’s house is more than 100 years old. This is quite old for such a type of Japanese traditional house called kominka (古民家). The family did the renovations and refurnishing by themselves, adding a modern touch with good respect for the traditions.
The room where I spend the night was a charming washitsu (tatami floored room). Inside, two of the walls were fusuma (sliding doors) whose openings led to the shared parts of the house.
Maruka organic farm in Kunisaki
The Kamihira grow about 60 different vegetables on their farm. They also grow shiitake mushrooms, which are well-known mushrooms globally and by all Japanese cuisine aficionados. Shiitake mushrooms are mainly produced in Oita prefecture, accounting for 48 % of the national production. Moreover, the family also keep some chickens for eggs and a couple of goats for cheese making, a process that Fusako learnt in France.
Along with the classical organic agricultural process, they choose to trust natural sources of feed for their animals such as seeds. Furthermore, they do not use fertilizers of animal origin. The Kamihira sell their harvest directly to individual customers through a “basket” system that is sent all over Japan. By doing a farm stay here, you can learn many things on this farm.
Eating at the Farm: Local and Healthy Food
All the meals were prepared by Fusako with fresh, local and additive-free products. The vegetables were all grown on their own farm.
The evening meal consisted of three different dishes. Different types of sashimi (sliced raw fish) such as octopus, grilled vegetables and meat, and finally dangojiru – a soup speciality of Kunisaki Peninsula. Additionally, there were some extras too. A delicious homemade steamed brioche stuffed with pumpkin and shiitake was a real highlight.
In the morning I woke up to a traditional Japanese breakfast. The breakfast consisted of green tea, grilled salmon, and homemade miso soup. For those who would not appreciate the taste of fish early in the morning, Fusako can also prepare a more western-type breakfast upon request.
Early Morning Farm Work
Besides a warm welcome and good food, staying at Maruka farm is also a good opportunity to discover farm work.
At 6:30 the boy of the family Shinnosuke goes to feed the chickens, before accompanying his father to bring the goats to the pasturage. After that, he is ready to catch the school bus which stops by at 7:10.
After finishing my breakfast I went with Fusako and Masayoshi to the fields for vegetable harvesting. I was really moved by the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Fusako took the time to explain to me everything about the vegetables growing in the different fields around their house.
How to Get There
Maruka farm is a 25-minute car ride from the Oita airport. From Kitsuki station it takes about 30 minutes. If you travel with public transportation, someone can pick you up at the airport or the station. Do not hesitate to ask them.
How to Book a Night at Maruka Farm?
About Maruka farm
To learn more about Maruka farm one can take a look at their website home page here.
Sponsored by Tourism Oita