The government intends to lift the ban on the operation of restaurants on land intended only for agricultural purposes as early as next fiscal year. This will allow farmers to offer dishes using ingredients made from plant and livestock products they produce themselves, according to sources.
The move is aimed at increasing the income of farming households, bearing in mind the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact that might come into effect, the sources said.
Under the current Agricultural Land Law and the Law on Establishment of Agricultural Promotion Regions, only farming facilities — such as warehouses and livestock barns — are allowed to be constructed on such agricultural land. Dining and drinking establishments cannot operate there.
Those who want to open nonagricultural facilities are required to ask relevant local governments to delist the site as agricultural land.
However, authorities in many regions have turned down these requests, which creates a barrier to the expansion of the “farm restaurant” business.
The central government started a special system on a trial basis in some national strategic special zones in fiscal 2014, allowing the operation of farm restaurants on agricultural land. After examining these experimental cases, the government is considering introducing the system nationwide as it is expected to increase farm households’ income, draw more tourists — including foreigners — and vitalize local communities.
If farm restaurants meet specific requirements set by the central government, operators can open restaurants after obtaining permission from prefectural governments through procedures similar to those necessary to open dining and drinking establishments in commercial and other areas.
According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, there are about 1,400 farm restaurants across the country. These facilities are drawing attention as Japan’s rural landscapes are popular with foreign tourists and people are increasingly conscious of their health.