Sustainable Tourism: Higashi Sonogi, Japan

Hand rolling tea
Hand rolling tea

Green Tea Homestay; Higashi Sonogi, Japan

Nakao Village, nestled in Higashi Sonogi, Japan, is a rural community with a rich history of tea cultivation. Geologically, the land was originally formed by volcanic activity. Today, the average elevation is 250 meters altitude. Tea has grown in the region as early as five hundred years earlier. During the Edo period, “Lord Omura organized the cultivation of tea fields, laying the groundwork for today’s industry.”

Green Tea Homestay is managed by Nakayama Hisatsugu. The tea factory has been operated for over 70 years by the Nakayama family who is committed to environmentally friendly practices across agricultural cultivations. They initiated an outreach program in eco-tourism in 2014. “We hope to bring visitors and overnight guests into our community not as tourists, but as equals. We want to provide hospitality that promotes the exchange of good feelings.”

Hands-on experience

  • On a pay-per-activity basis, visitors may participate in a guided walk through the tea fields, in tea picking and processing, or in a tea factory tour. Per-day homestay experiences are also available. Green Tea Homestay specializes in the production of green tea, notably Tama-Ryokucha (steamed rolled tea).
  • Visitors can participate in learning how to brew tea as well as “how to incorporate tea into their cooking as tea farmers share their recipes for using fresh tea leaves in sweets, tempura, and savory seasonings.”
  • Beyond Tea, visitors may participate in additional cultural activities such as rice and vegetable farming, livestock farming, fishing, and forestry. For homestay guests, they will participate in public bathing at the Ureshino Hot Springs.

Cultural engagement

  • Visitors are encouraged to come throughout the year. One notable festival to attend in the fall is The Festival of One Thousand Lanterns. Unbantsukura, a word in the local dialect, reflects the soul of the festival: that one may cherish the bright sun and its distant warmth on a cold, wintery day. Unbantsukura is embedded in one of the five principles of the Higashi Sonogi Green Tea Tourism Association: locals and guests alike can experience unbantsukura in cross-cultural exchange.
  • The Nagasaki prefectural government has approved homestays for Green Tea Homestay. The homestays are highly integrated: guests can join families in daily activities, including hands-on meal preparation and sharing, learning to brew tea, and engage in rich discussions.
  • The website shares details of various Japanese phrases, words, and family names in both standard Japanese and in the local dialect. Visitors can take advantage of additional language learning opportunities on-site.

Local involvement

  • The chairman is Nakayama Hisatsugu of the Higashi Sonogi Green Tea Tourism Association. This association was founded to connect rural tea farmers to one another.
  • “Tea was first brought to the outside world in the mid-19th Century by a woman merchant, Oura Kei of Nagasaki, who was able to export the Tea with the help of a British trader.”
  • Transparency is intermingled with a familiar touch of connectivity, as the main website enlists the names and background information of three homestay families.

Environmental sustainability

  • They do not label their tea as natural or organic; however, they only use homemade organic fertilizers to preserve the land and topsoil.
  • The area is about 1500 acres (600 ha).
  • The multi-generation families not only produce tea but also oranges, rice, and vegetables.

Green Tea Homestay is ideal for someone wishing to participate in an afternoon trip, a day trip, or a weekend excursion.

Higashi Sonogi Town
Furusato Koryu Center
437-1 Sonogi Shuku-go, Higashi Sonogi Town,
Higashi Sonogi County,
Nagasaki, Japan 859-3807

CONTACT: Mr. Izuka Shoji

Hands-on Experience | Cultural Engagement | Local Involvement | Environmental Sustainability

Traveling to origin is an unforgettable experience for tea enthusiasts who respect the host community. Responsible tourism generates economic benefits for local people and an appreciation of village life in the tea lands. Tea Journey evaluates tourist destinations including landmarks, museums, and promotes host gardens that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability, and cultural engagement while providing hands-on experience in tea cultivation, production, and tea culture. – Dan Bolton

Higashi Sonogi, Japan | Kurseong, India | Pinglin, Taiwan

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