As the largest producer of green tea in Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture is blessed with mile after mile of picture-perfect countryside. Venture deep into the heart of Shizuoka, and the landscape becomes a glorious patchwork of enormous green tea plantations, winding over mountainsides and valleys bisected by rivers and that are peppered with tranquil towns and villages. One such town is Kawane, a fairly wide area amongst the mountains that spreads along the snaking Oi River about an hour northwest of Shizuoka City.
Kawane is as beautiful as it is remote. An endless sea of green tea fields, Kawane is the type of remote and rural scene in which time seems to stand still. Dotted amongst Kawane’s many green tea farms are some of the most idyllic farmstays in Japan. If you’re looking for an incredibly enriching experience amongst some of the most gorgeous and tranquil countryside in Japan, look no further than a farmstay in Kawane.
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Getting to Kawane
A huge part of the appeal of staying in Kawane is in getting there. It’s around an hour by train from Shizuoka City, with a change needed at Kanaya Station. The journey from Kanaya is simply breathtaking, with the train winding along and across the beautiful bending Oigawa River into the rising hillsides that pave the way to Kawane.
During the journey it quickly becomes clear why Shizuoka Prefecture is Japan’s largest producer of green tea, as no free patch of ground goes to waste. Almost every spare spot of land that passes the train window is taken up by neatly trimmed green tea plants, no matter how small or impractical they seem.
Arriving in Kawane
The local train travels along the Oigawa Main Line as far as Ieyama Station. Here, you’ll be met by your friendly host who will drive you through even more of Kawane’s sumptuous scenery further along the Oi River to the green tea farm where you’ll be spending the night. The landscape en route consists almost entirely of sloping tea fields, all perfectly tended and stretching as far as the eye can see.
Reaching the Green Tea Farm Accommodation
The farmstay accommodation is a beautiful cabin that sits right in the heart of the countryside. The cabin’s bucolic setting is matched by its beautifully decorated interior. The modern cabin is designed in a traditional Japanese style that is commonly seen in the countryside and perfectly suits its setting.
Sunlight streams in through the sliding doors that open onto the engawa veranda that skirts around the edge of the main room. In the center of the cabin is a hearth, over which both the evening meal and the next day’s breakfast will be cooked. In the bedroom, fluffy futons are laid on the tatami floor.
There are several nods to the nearby Oigawa Railway line that passes by the front of the cabin. Today, this section of the line is mostly used by historic trains including steam-powered locomotives that carry passengers on special scenic excursions between Kanaya and the town of Senzu further north. Just outside the cabin is a terrace that faces the platform of Jina Station.
Helping Out on the Farm
After settling in there are a few small things to take care of, starting with some early preparations for dinner. Even the nearest luxuries such as supermarkets and convenience stores are quite a distance away, but being in the heart of a farming community in the middle of the Japanese countryside means that there’s an abundance of ingredients very close by.
In fact, many of the vegetables are grown in the cabin’s garden, and you’ll be expected to get your hands dirty and help dig up some of the locally grown vegetables, including the enormous daikon, that will be used in your evening meal.
Time for a Spot of Sightseeing
Before dinner is served there is just enough time to explore some of stunning scenery and local landmarks. A short drive north of the farm stay is the Shiogo Suspension Bridge. Originally built in the 1930s the bridge was once a vital crossing for local residents needing to reach the opposite side of the Oi River. Today, if you brave the incredibly wobbly and narrow rope bridge, you’ll be treated to mesmerizing views of the river and the sweeping green hills of the surrounding valley.
Meanwhile, a short drive south of the farm stay brings you to a group of onsen spa resorts. Located on the banks of the Oi River, the cluster of spas offer a range of indoor and outdoor public baths that are fed from local hot springs. Besides the hot springs, the resorts also have several dining options, such as cafes and restaurants that serve up traditional, hearty Japanese dishes.
Lending a Helping Hand Cooking the Evening Meal
As the late afternoon becomes the early evening, there is the chance to spend a few hours unwinding and relaxing back at the green tea farm. Before the evening is out, before or after the evening meal, be sure to take advantage of the cabin’s glorious bath. A soak in this heavenly bath is more than just re-energizing. Combined with the relaxing nature of the rural retreat, you will almost feel reborn.
With the night beginning to draw in, hot coals are placed in the hearth, where the main dishes of a healthy, hearty and delicious evening meal will be cooked. Having helped pick the vegetables from the farm earlier in the day, you’ll also be tasked with helping cook parts of tonight’s meal.
As grilled fish and yakitori sticks are placed on a grill over the glowing coals you’ll be taught how to make traditional countryside fare, such as a thick soup made from grated yam and a Japanese potato salad. A large metal pot is hung from the ceiling over the coals in the hearth once they have reached a high enough heat.
Inside the pot, a rich broth bubbles away before a mix of regional ingredients of a nabe, or stew, are added, including boar meat and plenty of fresh vegetables, including mushrooms, cabbage, and daikon. Once the ingredients are cooked through, the nourishing nabe is eaten whilst sitting next to the hearth, looking out onto the night sky.
After dinner the rest of the night is yours to relax and unwind even further in the comfort of the cabin. With barely a sound to be heard outside and the darkness of the night illuminated by a sky full of stars, the nighttime makes it clear just how tranquil and wonderfully peaceful the countryside of Shizuoka really is. Roll out the futon and you’re guaranteed a wonderful night’s sleep among Kawane’s tea fields.
A Country Breakfast To Set You Up for the Day
Early the next morning, a typically traditional Japanese breakfast is served, once again cooked over coals in the hearth. Breakfast is a little more modest than the previous night’s meal but no less delicious. Freshly grilled fish and a soup of vegetables accompanied by traditional side dishes of pickles, tofu, and sliced omelet are the perfect setup for the day ahead. After checking out, your host will drop you off back at Ieyama Station fully reinvigorated from a restorative mini break amongst Shizuoka Prefecture’s green tea farms.
How to Book a Green Tea Farm Stay
Click here for more information about the green tea farm experience in Kawane including how to book your own stay via the booking form at the bottom of the page.
How to Get to Kawane
To get to Kawane take the Oigawa Railway line from Kanaya Station to Ieyama Station, a journey which takes just over 30 minutes. Kanaya Station can be reached via the Tokaido Line and is a 30 minute train journey from Shizuoka Station or 40 minutes from Hamamatsu Station. On arrival at Ieyama Station you will be met by your host who will drive you the rest of the way to the green tea farm.