Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Research Papers

Urban people as paddy farmers: The Japanese Tanada Ownership System discussed from a European perspective

Pia R. Kieningera1 c1, Eiji Yamajia2 and Marianne Penkera3

a1 Institute of Integrative Nature Conservation Research, Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Gregor Mendel Strasse 33, 1180 Vienna, Austria.

a2 Department of International Studies, Division of Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa City 277-8653, Japan.

a3 Institute of Sustainable Economic Development, Department of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Feistmantelstrasse 4, 1180 Vienna, Austria.


The degradation of the traditional cultural landscape due to abandonment of agricultural management is perceived as a serious problem in different parts of the world. Rising consciousness concerning this issue in Japan led to the formation of numerous voluntary civil farming programs. This paper presents a multi-method case study conducted in Japan (Ōyamasenmaida, Chiba prefecture) about a highly relevant rural–urban cooperation, where landholders lease out their rice terraces to city dwellers to grow their own rice under the intensive instruction and well-organized support by local farmers and other local experts. The activity is known as ‘Tanada Ownership’ (tanada means rice terrace). It is spread over the country and promises, in contrast to the short-term individualistic European models, long-term rural–urban relations, the valorization of local knowledge and natural resources as well as the maintenance of the rice-terrace landscapes in several regions of Japan. The particular goal of this research is the investigation of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the system and the motivation of its participants. The Japanese approach is compared with similar European initiatives and conclusions focus on the particularities of the Japanese Ownership System and its transferability to the European context. Despite the innovativeness and popularity of the Ownership System, scientific studies are relatively scarce and none of them published are in English. This article therefore presents an original and important contribution to the scientific community, as it provides insights into the Tanada Ownership System and puts it into an international context by comparing it with European initiatives of voluntary farm work.

(Accepted February 28 2011)

(Online publication April 15 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: