Kei Kawana’s kingdom is Neighbor’s Farm, a 2,000-square-meter plot overlooked by the Tama Monorail, which regularly zips by overhead. This March, she celebrated her first year of agricultural activity, the culmination of many years of patient work, planning and wading through bureaucracy.
Kawana, an alumna of the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is part of a growing trend of young farmers from nonfarming backgrounds seeking to enrich their communities by producing healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. At just 28, she is bringing fresh blood into a business where the typical Japanese farmer is swiftly approaching retirement — as of 2015, Tokyo farmers had an average age of 63.9, only slightly lower than the national average of 66.4.
Although the number of farmers in the greater Tokyo area is dropping, there are still around 12,000 active farms, growing a variety of produce ranging from komatsuna (mustard spinach) in the relatively central wards of Setagaya and Edogawa to the more exotic passion fruit of the outlying Ogasawara Islands.