The fureai bokujo from the top of the hill (Photo: Bob Jones)

Fureai Bokujo

A public farm over looking the Kiso River

The fureai bokujo from the top of the hill (Photo: Bob Jones)
Bob Jones   - 4 min read

The weather forecast had been rain. But as she got up that morning and saw the bright sunshine my wife, Ari, made a suggestion, “How about a drive to Fureai Bokujo?” So, round about 11 o’clock we were driving up Route 19. We turned off at the Ochiai junction and headed up the steep winding road to the pastureland.

Signs of the approaching summer were soon in evidence. At one point we had to slow down while a squirrel dashed out in front of us. A few minutes after that we had to stop while a 1.5 meter aodaisho snake slithered its way across the road. When we finally reached the bokujo, we realized that lunchtime on a national holiday is not the best time to arrive. After 15 minutes in the queue for the parking area, we did a U-turn and parked on the grass verge a little further down the road.

It had been a couple of years since we had last visited the bokujo, and one new development was the installation of a ticket booth. Previously, entry had always been free, but with a mere 300 yen for adults and no charge for children, who was going to complain, especially since the adult ticket came with a tear-off food voucher for 100 yen?

The food area was the first place we headed for. Lots of stalls were lined up with staff grilling sausages, burgers, yakitori and yakisoba. For 2,500 yen we could have ordered a do-it-yourself barbecue for two. but we settled for sausages with rice and miso soup.

Various things were going on around the pastureland. We weren’t particularly interested in the magician or the harmonica player, but there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy the presence of the animals. You could buy a bag of carrot sticks and feed the ponies. Children could take a pony ride, or step inside a small enclosure and pet the rabbits. And, if parents were prepared to fork out 500 yen, children could leash a baby goat or a rabbit and take them for walks – 15 minutes with a baby goat or 30 minutes with a rabbit. Ari and I were quite amused to see two little kids chasing after a rabbit that had somehow slipped its leash.

The highlight for us was the sheep-shearing demonstration. About 50 people had gathered round the shearer, who gave a short introductory talk and then wrestled a hefty sheep to the ground. Then, taking the electric clippers out of his belt, he proceeded to remove the fleece. Thinking back, I wish I’d thought of taking out my stopwatch and timing it. Anyway, the whole operation was over in a matter of minutes. As the shorn animal hobbled back to its pen, the shearer spread the woolly coat on the ground. Loads of kids crowded round to touch the fleece, which was a good 3 meters in diameter. All were surprised to discover how oily a newly shorn fleece can be.

We felt it was now time to get away from the crowds and adjourn to a more tranquil spot. We wandered away from the reception area, up a gently sloping path, through a wooded glade, and spent some time at a lookout tower which afforded us some spectacular views of Nakatsugawa and the surrounding countryside. We then made our way back to the reception area, had some of their excellent strawberry and vanilla soft cream, and decided to head back home. As we strolled to where we’d parked our car, I caught a glimpse of something moving close to my right foot. I jumped back as I spotted our second aodaisho of the day, and watched it slither into the grass and disappear. Farm animals are clearly not the only livestock to be encountered on a trip to Fureai bokujo.

Bob Jones

Bob Jones @bob.jones