Hello from Karuizawa

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Wendy
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Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Wendy » Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:18 pm

Hello all,
My husband and I are looking at akiya properties and hoping to begin a large garden/small farm. My husband is a farmer from Mexico and on a spousal visa, working in facilities management and gardening at our school. I wonder how he can be "certified" as a farmer here...and if that will help us be able to purchase farm land. Any thoughts welcomed! I've really enjoyed reading past posts in this community.

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Zasso Nouka » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:38 am

Welcome Wendy and thank you for joining our little community.

There are several ways to become a certified farmer, all of them will require the cooperation of the municipality you are intending to move into so you will need to liaise with them. One way is to choose an area that is actively encouraging newcomers and they can sign you up as registered farmers, you will then quite likely be eligible for assistance and guidance from the municipality that is helping you. Another way is to 'control' a certain amount of land, either buy renting or buying that land but again you need to speak with the local council before purchasing anything. The amount of land varies considerably from area to are. In our city it is 1500 tsubo but other cities have different rules.

The most critical thing is to speak with the agricultural department of the area you intend to move into and find out how helpful they will be and what restrictions may be in place. The worst thing you could do is charge and then find that they don't want newcomers and start raising barriers or forbidding you from pursuing the choices you want to do.

Technically, if you are not from a farming family you should complete a 3 year course before being registered as a farmer but in the right area this could be waived altogether or could be some sort of informal apprenticeship with a neighbour. In the wrong area you would be forced to take a 3 year full time course at an agricultural college.

If you rent or buy land classified as sanrin (山林) none of that applies and within reason you can do what you like but once again check with the local council before purchasing or renting to find out what restrictions may apply in your area.

In any conversation with council staff it's best to avoid mentioning specifically what type of farming you are intending to pursue, by that I mean organic/bio intensive/permaculture/etc as there is quite a bit of misunderstanding about these with the agricultural department staff. Just keep it simple and don't necessarily go into specifics.

Given the ageing populations of most villages and the low esteem farming is held by young people it's quite likely once you've integrated into a community that you will be offered farmland to rent for very cheap prices. Sometimes as low as a few vegetables or covering the cost of land tax. In the right areas you might not need to be a certified farmer to do this or you might.

Although there are national laws that clearly state what you can and can't do they are interpreted very differently by local councils and this is why you really really must speak to the staff in an area you are interested in.

Hope that helps in some way

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by gonbechan » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:53 pm

Hi Wendy welcome to JSL.

Looking for akiya is probably one of the best ways to get the kind of land you need or to be 'certified' as a farmer.
When you register for the akiya bank of a specific area, there will be a contact number you can call. Talk to them about what you want, and if certification is not going to be easy or not. Sometimes just moving your choices one valley over can be a huge difference.

Nagano has a pretty good 'New Farmer' project: http://www.pref.nagano.lg.jp/noson/sang ... index.html
You might give them a call. They seem to have a system where one can work (and get paid) towards certification.

Looking forward to hearing from you and Senor Wendy as you embark on your new adventure.
Senor Gonbe speaks Spanish if Senor Wendy ever feels the need.

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Wendy » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:52 pm

Thank you both for such helpful advice! Looking forward to exploring that Nagano program.

We are in real estate suspense at the moment, and should know more on Friday. The place we're looking at has three small parcels for a total of 1440 square meters; one is residence, one is farm and one is forest (I'm assuming sanrin?) The listing agent initially said that we could buy the forest tract (which is actually cultivated) and the residence, but it would take a month's application time to get the farming tract....then he checked with the local agricultural board and they said we couldn't buy either the sanrin or the farming tract immediately.

Whatever it takes, we're up for. I just hope the seller is patient; we are proposing buying the house outright and then the other lots when we are legally able to, or lease them if all else fails. The listing agent (who is involved in the akiya bank) kept saying how we are the perfect couple for the program, exactly what it is designed for and that he hoped that we would bring other foreigners into the community (!) He knew a lot of details about the place, and knows the seller's situation well, so I am hoping that his good will and wishes reflect that of the seller.

I'll get back to you all, but whatever happens on this deal I know this is a forum I will frequent! Thoroughly enjoying reading about others' journeys finding and creating places in Japan!!

I'm so nervous!

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Zasso Nouka » Thu Jun 22, 2017 6:05 am

Good news indeed Wendy,

However don't rush into anything until you get a firm commitment from your local council on the sanrin and farmland or you could end up with a property you are unable to use in the manner you want. Better to know before proceeding if the agricultural department is going to be cooperative or obstructive and then making plans accordingly. A helpful council will be incredibly useful later whereas an obstructive one could throw up all sorts of problems for you later on. Unfortunately some councils are very set in their ways and would almost rather see their communities decline than bring in new people, others will bend over backwards to help newcomers and those are the ones you want to look out for.

When we were initially looking to buy land we went around and met staff at all the local agricultural departments to sound them out and then ruled out areas where they weren't helpful. Work closely with your agent and possibly go in and speak with various departments in your local council. If you can swing it go and speak to the mayor, making good contacts now can be incredibly helpful later on.

Best of luck.

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Wendy » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:06 am

"Japan simple life" Ha ha ha!!! And we're just starting....
All good to know, and perhaps going to meet someone on the council is something we will be able to do today, or soonish. I do know that the mayor of the municipality does not live in the main town of the municipality, but rather this same little hamlet with the house we are interested (I suspect population 250 max).

(I feel like I'm messing up your greetings thread with technical questions....I'll move to another thread as this develops)

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Zasso Nouka » Fri Jun 23, 2017 5:57 am

Wendy wrote:I feel like I'm messing up your greetings thread with technical questions....I'll move to another thread as this develops
Don't worry, we can split the posts off into a new thread if we get enough material or if you would like that.

Whether you want to meet the mayor or not is probably more dependant on what your future plans are or how strongly you feel about the house and land. If you are thinking of a little bit of land for some hobby farming and growing your own vegetables then it's probably not necessary as you could easily rent another bit of land off someone. If your are planning to do something a little bigger like selling some produce through a local michi no eki then it can't harm to have a cooperative mayor on your side. Certainly talking to the staff at the council is a good idea as they are the ones you will be dealing with in the future. Just going in there and talking to them can open up possibilities that might have seemed more tricky before or it can show which options just aren't going to be possible in that area.

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Wendy » Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:24 am

Well, I just wrote one of the most profoundly insightful, yet pithy replies ever, and managed to delete it before posting.
So, my quick summary:

Thanks for your note...great to have encouragement and wisdom at this point.

We are needing to find housing for the time being...driving distance to work. That the house tract still has a bit of garden space is great and will be super for now, and quite possibly the long run. The meeting today (real estate agent and seller) will deal with if the owner is willing to stagger closing on the three parcels, with us buying the house now and promising to buy the other two as we get certified (estimate 6 mths to a year)...even without the extra parcels, it's a good match for what we need. The real estate agent is enthusiastic about us and has talked to the council, that's where the time frame is coming from. We'll visit them personally as soon as we are able (complicated by needing a translator).

Our plans: mainly hobby--Mexican kitchen garden for him; for me, I'd like to have a garden of fiber plants (ramie? flax?) and dye plants (I am into spinning yarn and weaving). Beyond the hobby stuff, and perhaps more important is to learn more about Japanese farming techniques and to have neighbors (but not apartment-close) neighbors. If we get the tracts, I'd love to plant "Japanese" vegetables and then learn to cook with them. It's all good.

Fingers crossed!

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by donguri » Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:43 pm

Hi Wendy and welcome!

Having just gone through buying a big hunk of mostly agricultural-categorized land and an old farmhouse/outbuildings as non-registered farmers, I can tell you it's possible, but you definitely need the cooperation and help of as many local folks as possible, in the short- and long-term. Our process began in November last year and we were able to take possession in mid-May. The final name transfer and final cash payment will take place in the next couple weeks. The biggest hassle and time-suck was dealing with the ag-land. Despite everyone involved- the town, the previous owner, the neighbors, us- wanting it to happen, there are still a lot of archaic rules that exist. As with many Japanese bureaucratic situations though, as long as you have the appropriate documents, stamped properly, it will work out. In our case, most of the reams of paperwork were handled by the previous owner, and then reviewed and stamped by my husband (Japanese).

I've been absent from the forum for a while, too busy (!), but I'll try to write up some more details of our ongoing experience, in case it may help you or others in the future.

In the meantime, I would advise, as have others, be patient. It's hard, I know, but you'll find that almost everything moves slower out in the sticks.

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Re: Hello from Karuizawa

Post by Wendy » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:48 am

Thanks for your words, donguri! Much will be clearer today....we are supposed to sign our contract today, and will be able to ask some critical questions about the tiny strip of farmland that is creating the issue. The house and another tiny tract should be good to go, fingers crossed! In our situation, we weren't searching for farmland to farm, but rather a place to live...when this house came up it really resonated, and now we are actively pursuing the idea of home + small farm. More later.....hope today is a big one!