Kiyoko Ojima awoke to the problems of the needy while in elementary school, when she came across a TV documentary about trying to find solutions to starvation in Africa.

"I wanted to help those who are starving by growing crops," she said of her passion for agriculture that has led her to run a vegetable field. "There are many people in Japan, too, who struggle to put food on the table."

Ojima, 39, engages homeless and other people on social assistance in work in the field, in the city of Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. "Our main goal is to help these people regain confidence ... so they can eventually get back on their feet," she said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.