As Japan’s tourism industry begins to recover from the border closures that were initiated in response to COVID-19, rice may have a greater role to play than ever before, featuring not only on menus but also travel itineraries.

Farm stays, sightseeing visits to picturesque rice paddies, rice-planting and harvesting excursions, and food tours in which participants make onigiri (rice balls) or pound mochi (rice cakes) were all experiencing growth before the pandemic. Now rural travel stakeholders are hoping this trend will accelerate as tourism resumes.

Travelers today, eager to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 and maximize their freedom from the confines of living in lockdown, are tending to avoid urban areas, instead opting for expansive spaces and open-air activities.