Honoka Onuma's story

Japan

Honoka Onuma’s business Onuma Farm aims to provide opportunities for people to experience a certain lifestyle through agriculture and food. 

After graduation, Honoka returned to Minamisanriku, an area of Japan severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. She wants to build a viable economic environment for the people who moved to Minamisanriku and create a vibrant community where people want to stay. Honoka leased land to grow fruit whilst selling crepes from a truck at the weekend and raising 500,000 yen (About USD 3450) through crowdfunding. Her dream was to start a farm café. She decided to join our Futuremakers programme, supported by Standard Chartered Foundation and implemented by our member in Japan, ETIC., as she felt too busy to initiate the business planning to realise her dream, and wanted to use the programme as an opportunity to focus on it. 

Through Honoka’s crepe van, she uses fruits from the farm and eggs from the chickens she farms. She also offers seasonal agricultural experiences on her farm, such as digging sweet potatoes, and her efforts have helped local farmers become enthusiastic about green tourism. The older farmers encouraged Honoka to use part of the government subsidy to attend a training course to become certified as an organiser of green tourism. She is currently taking the course. Honoka strongly feels that she wants the elderly farmers, who support her work, to feel proud when they retire from farming. After getting the certification, her goal is to become the point person to coordinate visits and market green tourism for farmers in Minamisanriku. 

Honoka’s peers on the Futuremakers programme have been hugely useful in the development of her business ideas. Initially, she had a strong desire to put the spotlight on local farmers but one of her peers gave her a new perspective. She was told that if she only focuses on the local people and not the newcomers, and things don't work out with the locals, it will be hard to retain the newcomers  - she wanted to create a vibrant community where people wanted to stay.

In addition, her peers and the programme mentor encouraged her to conduct fieldwork elsewhere in Japan in order to learn from other regions. For Honoka, the fieldwork turned out to be a transformational experience. After meeting the business people of Shimanto, Kochi, who are excited and passionate about their work with a sense of crisis and responsibility for their local community, she felt that Minamisanriku, where very few people moved since the earthquake, still needs to go a long way to have a similar mindset and attitude. Honoka says that she learned a great deal about her future direction and gained a different perspective. She is also inspired by how other entrepreneurs are moving forward to the next business phases and the speed at which they are doing so.

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