Virtual strawberry picking event connects Japanese farm with big city folk in Osaka

A virtual strawberry picking event connecting a strawberry greenhouse at an altitude of about 1,000 meters with Namba SkyO, a commercial complex in Osaka's Minami entertainment district, was held in late June.

The online event aimed to allow people in urban areas to enjoy time in nature while physical gatherings and travel across prefectural borders remain difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic. The eight groups of 18 people, including families with children, that joined in seemed to have had a good time.

The virtual strawberry harvest was held in collaboration with the Higashimiyoshi Municipal Government, which wanted to promote its nature and local produce, and Toppan, a Tokyo-based company developing a remote experience system. The company held a similar apple picking event connecting Nagano and Osaka prefectures in 2020.

Takeshi Ueda, the 51-year-old head of the Ueda strawberry farm in the town, contributed to the event. Footage of the greenhouse streamed from smart sunglasses worn by Ueda was shown via a tablet to participants in Osaka, who decided which strawberries to pick. The strawberries picked by Ueda were shipped to the participants that very day.

During the event, Ueda explained about the Summer Amigo variety that is grown in this area, and a town official introduced the local charm points. A couple from the town of Misaki, Osaka Prefecture, who participated said, "It was the first time we've picked strawberries remotely, and it felt like nothing we'd ever experienced. It felt surprisingly realistic."

Ueda told the Mainichi Shimbun, "This system can also be used for teaching farming remotely."

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