Single Style / Vegetable Gardening Heals Hearts, Creates Special Feelings of Fulfillment

Lately, I’ve been interested in vegetable gardening. My condominium does not have a garden, but it has a balcony. I could also rent a vegetable garden plot. I’ve recently seen many women working the soil by themselves. I wonder how they spend time in their gardens.

Konan Agream, an agriculture experience and exchange facility on a hill in southern Takamatsu, has 51 vegetable garden plots. Each plot of about 50 square meters is rented out for ¥13,200 a year, including tax.

Yukari Yoshinaka, a 34-year-old in the city, was planting green soybean seedlings in the garden. She began growing vegetables five years ago. “I previously tried to grow green soybeans from seeds, but it did not go well. This time, I am trying to grow them from seedlings,” she said.

‘I can tell from the onions’

Under the sun and the clear blue sky, snap peas bore fruit while onion sprouts stood in a neat line. “When the sprouts fall over, it’s time to harvest. The onions have taught me the best time to harvest,” Yoshinaka said.

When she started vegetable gardening, she was under a lot of work-related stress. After she scolded a relative’s child in a strict tone, she realized how frustrated she had gotten. Working out at a gym didn’t help her feel any better.

Around that time, Yoshinaka visited Konan Agream with her friend and helped with gardening. Thinking that this might be the change she was looking for, Yoshinaka rented a plot and began growing sweet potatoes and other vegetables using the internet and illustrated guide books for reference.

When she sees the vines grow, she thinks they look cute. If the leaves are eaten by bugs, she cheers the plants on. One time, potato sprouts lifted up the sheet she had put over them, and “I felt like they were telling me to make more holes in it,” she said. Growing the vegetables had a back-and-forth feeling, like a conversation. Her mood gradually improved and now she doesn’t easily get upset.

Taking care of vegetables at the garden is now at the top of her weekend to-do list. Even when she is invited out by friends, she takes care of the vegetables first. Then she changes her clothes and goes to meet them. She gives them harvested vegetables, saying, “They’re my babies. Aren’t they cute?”

Sometimes, things do not go as expected. When the seeds sown in a row don’t sprout, she quietly apologizes to them in her heart and asks others who are more experienced in gardening for advice. She feels uneasy during typhoons and heavy rains.

“The more I take care of them, the more results I see. For me, vegetable gardening is the best way to heal myself,” she said.

On a Tokyo building

There are community vegetable gardens in central Tokyo, where people can drop by after work. The City Farm is a rental vegetable garden on the rooftop of the Diver City Tokyo Plaza commercial complex in Tokyo’s Daiba district. It rents out garden plots measuring 3 square meters each for ¥10,000 a month including tax. The garden is close to the Fuji Television Network Inc. building.

Actress Saori Takizawa, 42, shares posts about the garden on social media. She has been doing vegetable gardening for about 15 years. She first became interested in vegetable gardening after seeing her friend’s family do it. She planted cherry tomatoes in a planter her father had given her for her birthday. That was her first experience with vegetable gardening.

“As they grow, they sometimes fall over due to natural disasters or wither for no clear reason. I can’t control everything about them, and I have to wait for the next season to try again. That’s why it feels so rewarding to actually grow vegetables,” Takizawa said enthusiastically.

She learned about ingredients used in lotion and grew marigold, rosemary and other plants to make it herself.

“Vegetable gardening is a solo activity, but I can meet many people at the garden and be more connected. Vegetable gardening brings to mind something that I often forget about in my city life. I get a lot from it,” she said. She exchanges information with other users and the garden staff. She also likes sharing crops with the others.

Balcony farming

Courtesy of Maaya Ito
Maaya Ito shows her lemon tree.

Some people enjoy gardening on their balconies. Maaya Ito, 25, who lives by herself in Tokyo, is growing a lemon tree in a pot. She started growing it after getting a job amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

She spent most of her time teleworking. Since it was not in her nature to put things off until later, she sometimes worked through the night and found it difficult to make time for herself, even though she lived alone.

She bought a potted lemon sapling and started her new life. In April of the following year, the tree had flower buds that bloomed white flowers in May. When she looked at her balcony during work, she saw a butterfly coming to visit. She harvested two lemons in autumn of that year and three last autumn. She enjoyed them with things like tea. “I could feel nature while still in the city,” Ito said.

Items designed for women

Courtesy of Mizuno Corp.
Mizuno’s rainwear for agricultural use

There are agricultural tools designed with women in mind. Osaka based sporting goods manufacturer Mizuno Corp. launched a line of rainwear for agricultural use in 2022. The products are designed to be used during farming activities in orchards, but they are also great for daily life. Originally, the line was planned as part of a joint initiative under the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry’s Nogyo Joshi Purojekuto (Agriculture Girl Project) for supporting women in the agricultural business. The company also launched a line of pochettes for people enjoying home gardening.

As part of the ministry’s project, agricultural equipment manufacturer Kaneko Sougyo Co. in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture, developed agricultural tools that can be easily handled by people with less physical strength. Now, they sell the tools under the Lacuno brand name. The brand’s sickle can be handled effectively by users with weaker grip strength thanks to the ribbed handle. The brand’s shovel is made with aluminum, so it’s lightweight.

20% enjoy home gardening

Takii & Co., a seed and seedling company in Kyoto, conducts an online survey of 600 people aged 20 and older every year to ask whether they grow vegetables at home. While the number of people doing home vegetable gardening is on a downtrend, 26.5% said they did it in 2020 and 30% of those participants said they started vegetable gardening in March of that year or later, around when the COVID-19 pandemic began. “They were not able to go anywhere and were stressed about having to stay at home. They may have thought that vegetable gardening at home would be fun,” a Takii official said.

According to last year’s survey, 21.8% said they did home vegetable gardening. “Some people must have been surprised when they realized that they really could grow vegetables once they started and kept doing it.”