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Tour de Nippon

Kumamoto Kosa / Uki

If one were to draw a belly button onto a map of Kyushu the approximate spot would be somewhere between the two small towns of Kosa and Uki. Kosa is filled with farm lands, fresh streams, and many small makers while Uki is a gateway to the sea and a heaven for fruit lovers as everything from grapes to tangerines grow ripe. In both towns we are fortunate to encounter connected communities that are surely the envy of rural towns throughout Japan. Both towns are working hard to create new histories while carrying on their heritage.


【Part 2 Uki】

Where obligation meets fun

Facing the Yatsushiro Sea and on the way to Amakusa, the Matsuai district of Shiranuhimachi in Uki City is a town of fruit cultivation, fishing and brewing. Although shiranuhi is a mirage-like phenomenon caused by the refraction of fires from ships for luring fish at night, many know it as the name of a variety of dekopon (satsuma orange) that was first cultivated in this area.

View of the Matsuai district from the orchard in the mountains

Although the brewing town’s quintessential white walls and storehouseshave been preserved to this day, the population has declined, and the local elementary school has closed. Mr. Takahiro Uchiyama and Mr. Kazuya Nomura are two fruit farmers behind the group “On the Soil,” and say that farmers are the ones flourishing in the region. Looking out from the town, one can see fruit trees planted all over the low mountain slopes, opening to the sea and sky. Enjoying the bounty bestowed by sunlight and sea breezes, the two focus most of their efforts on the soil. “Soil is very important for crops, and we are constantly learning through trial and error. Here at On the Soil, however, we consider the town to be the foundation for farming, fishing, and brewing. We want to take care of the fruits that grow in the soil of Matsuai, and we want people who care about the town to work together to revitalize it in an exciting way.”

Mr. Uchiyama (left) and Mr. Nomura (right) hold lively strategy meetings under the grapevine trellis.

After studying agriculture at a university in Tokyo and working at the central wholesale market, Nomura returned to his hometown and suggested to those around him that they try some new ideas. Uchiyama, who was ahead of the game in taking over the family business of growing fruit trees, laughs and says candidly, “At first, I didn’t know what he was going on about.” However, he gradually felt a sense of hope once he started to sell his own produce online. The two are currently busily engaged in renovating a 120-year-old soy sauce warehouse into an inn with a restaurant attached. In addition to the younger generation the older chaps in the local community who have been livening up the town by holding morning markets for nearly 20 years are also helping to bring the project to light. And the tow add that they are also getting a lot of inspiration just by hanging out with Palette team in Kosa Town. In addition to cultivating fruit;  fruit farmers of the same generation are also moving into hunting and mobile sales of their produce. The inn is scheduled to open in the early summer of 2022 and with it the town in addition to its pleasant seaside breeze has also gained a purpose.

“Shin Tenmaya” under renovation by On the Soil augurs well for new prosperity.

A little south of the center of Uki, in an area surrounded by rice fields, a new agricultural experience facility called “PLAY FARM” has just opened. Here, you can enjoy a picnic around the Tree House Cafe, or let the kids run around in the vast farmland. They have just begun a trial project that espouses playing and having fun, such as the rice-growing club that participate several times a year in everything from rice planting to harvesting, and the collaborative field project where anyone can join in a harvest. Turn responsibilities into something fun, while transforming their town and changing the current cultural norm. The hope and positivity we met in Uki was a breath of fresh air.

“Play Farm” has a symbolic tree as its landmark.
Met Mr. Michihisa Kono, one of the members of “Kumamoto Farmer Hunters,” a group of young farmers who are tackling wild boar damage.
Safe and reliable Kyushu soy sauce from long-established brewer “Matsuai Shokuhin”.

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How do you build a noble-minded town? A voyage of resonance and discovery.
“PAPERSKY Tour de Nippon in Kumamoto Kosa / Uki”
To be held on the weekend of March 25-26, 2022

On the first day, we will take a walk around the town of Kosa, meet its people , spend the evening at a social gathering with people from Uki, and spend the night at the “Common Idoe” campground. The next day, we will have some fun at ‘Play Farm’ on our way to the sea in Uki by bicycle, to see the dekopon fruits that are carefully grown by the people trying to revitalize the town.

Papersky’s Tour de Nippon project is about finding the magic of Japan’s rural districts, their inhabitants, nature, culture and food. We travel to various prefectures and ride bicycles. Traveling via bicycle allows us a clean and healthy way to explore Japan’s rural areas.
text | KaO photography | Yoshiko Otsuka special thanks | Yuki Ono (Tsugito), Masato Miyawaki