Located directly across from Iwaki Shrine, Koiya Farmer’s Inn and its surrounding area will leave you charmed.
As if the guesthouse weren’t enough, what’s even more appealing about this place are the personalities of the owners and the dynamic between them.
In this article, we hope you’ll get a feel for not only the guesthouse, but also the playful relationship between the owners.）
Where the name Koiya comes from
(Takahiro) “I guess it was about 80 or 90 years ago. They used to sell carp here – the black kind that you eat. They used to eat those around here back in those days. You couldn’t get fish from the ocean here and river fish were sold to restaurants or inns. They were making money, I think, but then transport got better and fish from the ocean started selling more. Eventually they went out of business. That’s why the old folks around here still call the place Koiya.”
When you enter the gate, there is a pond in the middle of the property that recalls the Koiya of the past. Carp swim gracefully in the water.
Facing the pond, stands the guesthouse. When you step up from the entrance, there is a Japanese bamboo blind that filters the lamp light and creates a cool, crisp atmosphere inside.
How did you decide to start a farm guesthouse?
(Takahiro) “Well, having this basically abandoned building that we never really used was a waste. If you just let it go, the walls and the roof and things go bad. So, having heard about farm guesthouses, we thought it would be interesting if we started one. I guess that’s how this all got started.”
“My main job is farming, and my wife is mainly the one who is running the place. I think this setup allows for a good synergy, so we hope that the people who visit us enjoy their stay. And our farm-fresh vegetables, [to Tomoko] right?”
(Tomoko) “Yeah. If we started a guesthouse on our own land, it would only be me and the building; it wouldn’t be much risk, so we thought it couldn’t hurt to try. Plus, agriculture is pretty dependent on nature…”
(Takahiro) “Right. You can plan all you want, but one typhoon can come and, depending on the season, change your outcome by \1,000,000. That uncertainty is a little stressful, so we thought that if we had a guesthouse, it could provide a little stability. That’s what we thought. Then, of course, the coronavirus had to come along!”
Although they started this looking for more stability in their lives, they told me coronavirus has also impacted their guesthouse. But even so, they are meeting the challenge with a smile. They have faced challenges before.
(Takahiro) “We can’t count the number of times our plans haven’t worked out. But we just keep moving along…”
(Tomoko) “He’s the type of person that wants to try all kinds of things. ‘I want to try this; I want to try that!’ This guest house was one of those ideas we decided to try. [To Takahiro] Right?”
(Takahiro) “Usually I don’t really consult with her before I do something; I just do it. When it comes to farming, she’s not part of the team. [laughs] She wouldn’t even come to the fields. Does she look like a farmer? Can you picture her in the fields? [both laugh] When it comes to the guesthouse, though, there is cooking and cleaning and whatnot that has to be done, so it wouldn’t work without her.”
What did you think when you husband said “Let’s start a guesthouse?”
(Tomoko) “Having someone come and pay you money to stay isn’t really that simple – things have to be done right. Since we have a farm, we have fresh vegetables to offer, but, then again, we have no experience running a restaurant.”
(Takahiro) “Yeah, at first you were scared and saying No way! weren’t you? [laughs] We’ve never done anything like that! We’ll have strangers coming to stay in our house!”
(Tomoko) “But it was actually fun once we started.”
How do people spend their time at the guesthouse?
Could you tell us a little about how the guests spend their time here?
(Takahiro) “Oh, they do whatever they want! People who like to walk, walk; people who want to take it easy, take it easy.”
(Tomoko) “One time we even ate with some guests. I was explaining the dishes we’d be serving and they said, ‘Why don’t we eat together?’ They said they felt lonely eating just the two of them.”
(Takahiro) “Yeah. In the end, it’s all about forming relationships. It’s the same with eating dinner together. We’ve had people think Let’s go back to Koiya and pick some vegetables together and they’ve become repeat customers.”
Takahiro and Tomoko tell me that a lot of the guests that come to stay like to try farming and harvesting the crops.
(Tomoko) “Customers who choose the one night / two meal package can try harvesting vegetables free of charge if they like. We just want people to be able to try really farm-fresh vegetables. We usually have them pick the vegetables in the evening, then we put them on the table at dinner.”
(Takahiro) “Some people that live in the city want to give their kids a chance to get their hands in the dirt. They are just happy to see the weeds, bugs, and frogs.”
(Tomoko) “I guess you usually only see the vegetables in the supermarket, so they find it interesting to see the flowers on the actual plants and things. There are also moms who think that if the kids pick the vegetables themselves, they will actually want to eat them.”
(Takahiro) “Freshly picked corn is really sweet. There’s a lot of sugar in it, so you don’t even feel like you’re eating corn. That’s the kind of thing you don’t get to experience every day. But, if you come to a farm guesthouse…”
How did you become a farmer?
I asked Takahiro to tell me why and how he came to be a farmer.
(Takahiro) “Before I became a farmer, I raced motorcycles. Now I ride a tractor, though. At the racing circuit, there are race queens; in the rice fields it’s nothing but only old ladies. Pretty different, isn’t it?!? [laughs]”
That’s how he remembers that stage of his life. And when I asked him about meeting his wife…
(Takahiro) “I met her by chance at the racing circuit. She wasn’t a race queen, though!”
(Tomoko) “They can tell that just by looking at me! [laughs]”
(Takahiro) “I quit racing at 31. By that time, my eldest daughter had already been born, so I had to make a living somehow and once more devote my life to something. And then, I was talking to someone I know who happened to be a farmer, and I thought that kind of life looked good. So I decided to give it a shot. Time has gone by fast, but this year is my 11th being a farmer. [To Tomoko] I’ve stuck with it, haven’t I? Or maybe I’ve just been fooling around, I don’t know… But I’m doing what needs to be done!”
(Tomoko) “Who said you were playing around, don’t look at me! [laughs] If you do what needs to be done, I’m happy. [laughs] Since I’ve known him, he always seems to have a sense of what would be fun and interesting for him to do, and he often makes decisions using this intuition.”
(Takahiro) “That’s right, I’m the intuitive type for sure. I’m always thinking in terms of racing, so I feel like even if things go bad in normal life, at least I’m not going to die. As long as I do my job, things will be okay, so I feel like I can try anything. Once you realize that, new challenges aren’t scary at all. That’s how I think about everything.”
What’s the next goal?
Finally, I asked them what the next big plan was.
(Takahiro) “I want to start a carp business when I get older. I want my generation to bring it [Koiya] back. I’ve never really had the kind you eat before, so I think I want to raise the multicolored kind and maybe export them or something. They’ve been getting a good amount of attention recently, so I’d like to make them more popular.”
(Tomoko) “All you have to do is feed them! [laughs]”
The exchange between them during this conversation was amusing to the very end.
Fields, carp, a lively couple, a private cottage, and a soothing natural environment… Koiya Farmer’s Inn has it all.
Thorough relaxation, guaranteed!