Narita Dream Dairy Farm - a successful dude ranch near Tokyo

Information bulletin of the ranch. Many events wait for children and their parents during the coming summer vacation.
"Narita Yume Bokujo" (Narita Dream Dairy Farm) is located in the north of Narita International Airport and one of the most successful dude ranches in Japan.

Visitors can enjoy camping and barbecue, play archery and field athletics, fish carps and try making butter. Of course cattle are feeding on grass, as it is a dairy farm, and visitors can try milking cows. They can also touch small animals such as goat, rabbits and hamsters. A special attraction is a light railway which is kept intact by hobby engineers and authentic old steam locomotives carry people on holidays.

The SL "Makiba Line" is operated by the members of RASS. Copyright of the photo belongs to RASS.

Mr. and Mrs. Akiba in their office
The farm offers diverse kinds of dairy specialties such as ice cream, yoghurt, cake and bread using milk produced on the farm. Recently it offers shochu (Japanese spirit) made from sweet potato planted in the farm. Souvenir shops offer a huge variety of farm related items. For campers all necessary things for camping are available including tents, electricity, freshly baked morning bread and sauna! There are even special facilities for partner dogs of ranch visitors such as dog run field and dog café.

"Narita Yume Bokujo" was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Akiba in 1987. Since then the dude ranch has been steadily expanding and attracting increasing number of visitors. Mr. Akiba emphasized that they have not invested a lot in expensive facilities but created as many possibilities as possible for the visitors to do in the nature. People might be impressed by gorgeous facilities, but they would think it enough to see them once. But, pleasant experiences can keep visitors return to the ranch. The sample of information bulletin of the ranch (see top of this page) shows us how many attractive programs are offered by Yume Bokujo.

"Narita Yume Bokujo" is a sort of nick name and its official name is Akiba Bokujo which was established in 1887 in Sunamachi, Tokyo, exactly 100 years before the opening of the dude ranch and the present owner Mr. Hiroyuki Akiba is the fifth generation. The dreamy development of Yume Bokujo is indeed the result of rich idea and excellent executing capability of Mr. Akiba and his wife. However, it was not their original wish to open a dude ranch. If they could continue and expand their dairy farm in 1987, they would have been happy to do so and they might own a mega farm by now, but no dude ranch.

By the mid-1980s Akiba Bokujo expanded its cattle herd to some 200 milking cows, which was extremely large compared with the then standard size of Japanese dairy farms, namely only a few cows for milking. Mr. Akiba intended to increase the number further to several to ten hundreds but could not obtain support from the government which engaged with expanding the size of ordinary farms. On the contrary, due to the nationwide overproduction of milk, the increase of milk production was forbidden by the organization of milk producers. Mr. Akiba had to stop his plan of increasing the cow number.

At the same time, the target level of milk fat percentage was raised from 3.2% to 3.5% in 1987, in order to better meet the needs of the market. However, this forced Mr. Akiba to give up rice wine and soybean sediments (*) as feeds for his cattle and to use imported bulky feed, in order that he could reach this new target.
"Rice wine and soybean sediments" are cheap byproduct from sake and tofu production and they were abundant in Japan.
Mr. Akiba came to buy imported feed through a company related to the milk producer he delivered his milk. The payment for delivered milk used to be paid by the milk company after deducing payment for feed. One day, Mr. Akiba found negative price for his milk; feed was more expensive than milk. At this point he realized that he could not go further this way. He and his wife then considered what to do and came to the conclusion that opening a dude ranch was the only possibility for them to escape from this dead end.

They invested some 300 thousand dollars to prepare necessary facilities. A lucky factor was that they had a 30 ha land in the north of Narita Airport, which they obtained a few years earlier in exchange with their farm land in Yachiyo, when a railway company wanted to acquire it for a new railway station. 30 ha is an exceptionally large area for a dairy farm near Tokyo. They could utilize it and started a dude ranch with facilities for barbecue, archery and mountain bike and milking experience. Then, they were surprised with joy, because they could earn far beyond their expectation already in the first month, though they had not made any serious promotion activities.

Restaurant and souvenir shop

Mr. Akiba personally buys appropriate souvenirs in the US.

Pudding made in a mess kit which is used by campers
This is the story related to the opening of Narita Yume Bokujo. Mr. and Mrs. Akiba were really pioneers of combining a dairy farm with milk processing and related service and realizing higher profit. This exactly embodies what the present administration wants to encourage farmers to do so as to increase their income. The catch phrase of the policy is "roku-ji sangyo ka" (creating hexagonal industry(*)).
"Primary industry" is agriculture , secondary industry is "manufacturing" and tertiary industry is "service". If a dairy farmer who belongs to the primary industry expands his activities to other two areas, the addition of "primary"(1), "secondary"(2) and "tertiary"(3) results in "hexagonal"(6).
However, such an enterprise is realizable only when farmers have idea and ability like Mr. and Mrs. Akiba. Not everybody can cope with challenges he might have in the areas other than farming. What is necessary for agriculture policy is to creat favorable conditions for able and spirited farmers to give full play to their abilities, I believe.