We have created a new form of eco-tourism in the town of Higashi Sonogi called “Green Tea Tourism” to promote exchange between rural and urban communities.
Green Tea Tourism began thanks to local tea farmers in 2014 with the goal of welcoming visitors from across Japan and abroad to learn about the flavors, health benefits, and qualities of Japanese green tea. In this way, the farmers could share their products with a greater audience around the world.
We want to invite visitors into our picturesque tea fields and share with them the best ways to prepare and enjoy green tea, the relationship between the tea farmers and the tea they grow, the history of tea in Higashi Sonogi, and how our tea is produced.
Our plans going forward include broadening our hands-on experiences and cultural exchanges throughout the town of Higashi Sonogi so that in addition to tea farming, visitors can learn about other types of agricultural industries such as rice and vegetable farming, livestock farming, fishing, and forestry.
We hope that through these initiatives, visitors can join our community to grow and learn together.
Nakao Village in Higashi Sonogi is a rural tea-farming community. The land of Nakao Village is located in a belt of hills which were created by volcanic activity long ago. It is at an elevation of around 250 meters, with Omura Bay to the southwest, Mount Kokuzo to the north, and Mount Tara to the south.
The valley in which the villagers reside was cut into this rock by the Sonogi River. The foothills of the mountains are often shrouded in fog, with warm afternoons and cool nights, which is perfect for growing tea.
The rows of stone terraces built by early farmers for growing tea combined with the views of Omura Bay create a breathtaking, uniquely Japanese landscape. The produce of the land, including tea, oranges, rice, and vegetables has been tended by generations of the same families. The bounty of the land has brought sustenance and enjoyment to residents and visitors alike. The village’s patron gods at Inari Shrine have protected the people over the ages.
The Festival of One Thousand Lanterns held in the fall is an ancient custom that brings the whole village together.In the local dialect, there is a word, “Unbantsukura”, which describes the warmth of a bright sun on a cold, windy winter day. It is a word evocative of the warmth and peace an infant feels when held at the bosom of their mother.
We hope visitors to Higashi Sonogi can also feel the comforting glow of “Unbantsukura” throughout their stay.
Higashi Sonogi has a long history of growing tea that stretches back over 500 years. In the Edo period (17th Century), Lord Omura organized the cultivation of tea fields, laying the groundwork for today’s industry.
This tea was first brought to the outside world in the mid-19th Century by a woman merchant, Oura Kei of Nagasaki, who was able to export the tea with the help of a British trader.
Higashi Sonogi is the largest producer of tea in Nagasaki. The leaves of “Sonogi Tea” are kept whole and rolled to gather up each leaf. This process, which makes a type of tea called “Tama-Ryokucha (Steamed Rolled Tea)” borrows from traditional tea roasting methods which came to Japan from China and Korea. This method reduces the bitterness of the tea leaves for a smoother finish.
By carefully preparing young tea leaves in this way, they unfold slowly when steeped in a teapot, bringing out a sweetness and rich flavors and aromas to enjoy.
Our association provides accommodations for guests to stay with farming families instead of at inns or hotels. (Approval for this activity has been granted by the Nagasaki prefectural government.) Guests will be able to enjoy time spent with farming families and join them in their daily activities. Guests who stay with farmers of Sonogi Tea can learn the best ways to brew delicious tea while sharing meals with them.
Breakfasts and dinners also become hands-on experiences as you help your host family set the table and prepare and serve meals. You can choose between different accommodation settings and host families.
For more details, please click here below on your hosts pictures
The name “Enchi” comes from the local dialect and means “My home”. The proprietor, Mr. Hisatsugu Nakayama, loves to chat and is known in the area as a person who always looks out for others.
He is also the Chairman of the Association and a founder of Higashi Sonogi’s Green Tea Tourism movement. He once played in a band and can often be found performing and singing at town events. His wife Setsuko has a cheerful demeanor and you can enjoy getting to know both of them during your stay.
The area around the farm has many rice paddies and farm fields. It is a pure example of the traditional Japanese countryside. Strolling along the fields here will relax and refresh your body and mind.
Jisaku Oyama never hesitates to chat with his guests in the colorful local dialect, no matter which country they hail from. Mr. Oyama is a down-to-earth fellow who can make friends with anyone, and he is also a key figure in Higashi Sonogi’s tea-growing operations.
But you will never hear him say himself that he is recipient of the Agriculture Minister’s Award and the Yellow Ribbon Medal of Honor for his service to the community.
His wife, Eiko, is a certified Japanese tea instructor, and promotes Sonogi tea at the family’s tea café, “Charaku”. She plays a motherly role for the Association, preparing various delicious foods and helping out however she can.
The Oba family are fourth-generation tea farmers whose land sits at a lofty elevation of 350 meters. Kazuyoshi Oba has followed after his father and grandfather with his passion for producing teas such as Japanese-style black tea without using pesticides or chemicals.
He joined an industrial-educational joint project for tea production, developing “Wonderleaf” a fermented tea which includes loquat leaves. Kazuyoshi and his wife Yoko are always ready to welcome visitors with a smile.
Their home lies deep within the hamlet of tea farmers. Cell phone signals do not reach the area around their home well, so a stay here is the perfect opportunity to “switch off”, relax, and escape from your worries.
The course, led by local tea farmers, starts at the town’s most beautiful tea field, named “Tabunoki”, and continues until the Oyama Tea Farm.
During the peak tea-growing season from mid-April until Mid-may, the tea bushes are covered with black tarpaulins which concentrate the color and flavors of the tea.
At this time the tea fields are almost completely black-colored, and it is not an ideal time to visit. This is why we recommend visitors come in early April.
■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 30 min.
■ Cost: From 500 yen/person
(Minimum 10 participants).
Learn how to brew delicious tea at the tea café “Charaku” run by Mrs. Eiko Oyama, a certified Japanese tea instructor. She will provide a lesson on how to bring the best flavors out of Sonogi Tea.
■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 60 min.
■Cost: 500 yen /person
(Including the service of Japanese sweets
In the town of Higashi Sonogi, there are several opportunities to take part in tea-picking throughout the year, from the first picking that takes place on the 88th day of spring, to second pickings and picking in the autumn.
The picked tea leaves can then be rolled by hand and roasted in a pot using traditional methods, and you can take the resulting prepared tea leaves with you to enjoy later.
Overnight guests will also have the opportunity to ferment their leaves to make Japanese-style black tea.
■ Available: Upon request
■ Time required: Flexible
■ Cost: Varies
* Visitors can also enjoy only tea-picking, and have the tea they picked processed and sent to them by post at a later date. Please contact us with any questions you may have.
Take a guided tour where you will learn about each step the tea takes from fresh leaves to finished tea.
■ Available: Year-round
■Time required: From 10 min. (flexible)
■ Cost: Free (for farm stay guests)
Participants will learn how to incorporate tea into their cooking as tea farmers share their recipes for using fresh tea leaves in sweets, tempura, and savory seasonings.
■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 60 min.
■ Cost: Free (for farm stay guests))
The trip was really a great experience and I was really touched by how nice and welcoming all the farmers, officials and villagers were. I can't tell you how pleased I am that I got to meet Nakayama-san and his family...truly wonderful. I would very much like to send them a Thank You card by post. I have been telling MANY people about the wonderful tea tour...all of them want to know more...Thanks again for everything !
I had a very good time and I was very happy to meet so many interesting people in such a short time. I really hope many people will come to discover this beautiful place and its great people. I will let all my friends know about my experience in Higashi Sonogi.
Today, less and less Japanese people know how to brew green tea at home, we even do not know the real taste of green tea. I was really shocked when I sipped green tea brewed by Mrs. Oyama at their tea shop Cha-raku. Deep green color, Umami rich taste and sweetness perfectly matched each other in one small tea cup. I became big fan of their tea and I order several dozens of packages every May.
Even though we stay in Japan for such a long time, we do not have chance to interact with local Japanese people, especially in rural area. Here in Higashi Sonogi, we made it.
The purpose of our tour is not shopping but truly rare experience about Japanese culture. It was great moment that we could experience Japanese green tea brewing.
Activities are begun by the tea farmers of Nakao Village in Higashi Sonogi to promote exchanges between urban and rural communities.
October 2015 The Higashi Sonogi Green Tea Tourism Association is founded.
January 2016 Nakao Village begins offering homestays and farmstays.
From March 2016 onwards The Association begins taking in overseas tour groups from the British company Inside Japan Tours.
Chairman: Nakayama Hisatsugu
Raise public awareness of and practice green tourism
Develop the infrastructure to allow farmstays and homestays for visitors
Train hands-on activity instructors
Provide training and study opportunities for Association members
Support the activities of Association members
Promote exchange with related groups and individuals
Other activities that support the objectives of the Associatio
To these ends, every pot of teat provided to visitors and overnight guests will be made with care, and we will teach them how to prepare tea and enjoy it.
To do this, we must train the next generation of tea growers and protect the scenery of our industrial heritage. We will also take visitors and overnight guests into our confidence and share with them the best viewpoints and scenery.
We hope to bring visitors and overnight guests into our community not as tourists, but as equals. We want to provide hospitality that promotes the exchange of good feelings.
We will serve our locally-grown rice and vegetables, as well as other seasonal products of the region, to visitors and overnight guests for their enjoyment. Of course, dishes that feature our tea as an ingredient will be served.
We will carry out our activities for visitors and guests in a way that we also enjoy and creates goodwill.
Chadō (茶道) ,the Way of Tea is a leading principle of hospitality that is deep rooted at Higashi Sonogi.
Higashi Sonogi is famous throughout Japan for two kinds of premium green teas tamaryokucha and shiraore. Now you can also drink them at home, and enjoy them brewed with hot or cold water. Made by Green Tea Homestay hosts Ooyama san and Nakayama san, these four teas are wrapped with traditional Japanese washi paper. They make a perfect gift and beautiful souvenir from Higashi-Sonogi.
All information is in English, making brewing instructions easy to follow. Worldwide shipping, directly from Kyushu!
We'd love to hear from you ! Please drop us a line
Please e-mail us for any inquires and also in order to ask for the homestay availability.
Be sure to contact us 10 days before the planned date . We will send you all necessary details and confirmation by e-mail.
Higashi Sonogi Town
Furusato Koryu Center
437-1 Sonogi Shuku-go, Higashi Sonogi Town,
Higashi Sonogi County,
Nagasaki, Japan 859-3807
Mr. Izuka Shoji