Gardening is a cherished pastime, a meticulous art form, and a source of national pride in Japan. After all, it's the nation that introduced the world to bonsai trees, rain chains, koi ponds, and every serious gardener's favorite tool, the hori hori. But for many hardworking Japanese city-dwellers, there's simply no time to work gardening into busy schedules that largely revolve around commuting. Train. Office. Train. Sleep. Repeat.

Enter Soradofarms, a clever urban gardening scheme that brings the veggie patch directly to the harried commuter via a network of members-only garden allotments installed atop some of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations. First spotted over at Springwise — and written about over at Co.Exist — the initiative not only beautifies the urban landscape but also provides commuters with a new, stress-relieving type of diversion while they’re waiting for their train home.

Soradorfarms can currently be found at five different stations operated by one of Japan’s major passenger railway companies, JR East, including Tokyo’s Ebisu station which is topped with a roughly 500-square-foot community garden. Here, greenthumbed commuters can take a load off by tending to individual plots measuring roughly 10-square-feet. According to Springwise, the cost of a tiny private plot atop Ebisu station is JPY 100,440 (a little under $1,000) per year. Seeds and the use of tools are included with the price although regular weeding service and “expert advice” will cost on-the-go gardeners a bit extra. JR East plans to further expand the scheme, launched in partnership with entertainment company Ekipara, to the rooftops of other Tokyo transit stations in addition to stations in other cities in which the company operates.

Makoto Kawada, a spokesperson for JR East, explains to Co.Exist: "We're promoting the greening of the city. We started this vegetable garden business out of a desire to contribute to the environmental maintenance and the revitalization of the area along the train line."

Although I can’t see community gardens blooming along some of North America’s busiest railways corridors — that headache-inducing hell hole known as Penn Station already has enough to deal with as it is without adding urban farming to the mix — this is a rather extraordinary concept. Hyper-local food production aside, Soradofarms encourage commuters to set aside their time-killing gadgets and gizmos once and for all — just imagine, escaping the office a few minutes early to connect with nature and socialize with fellow gardners/commuters. Can the newest US Weekly and 40 minutes spent Candy Crushing yield you a radishes, carrots,  salad greens, and perhaps new friend? I think not. 

Dedicated train commuters: if the rail station that you travel to and from day in and day out erected a membership-driven green space dedicated to horticultural activities on its roof or somewhere else in the vicinity, would you sign up?

Via [Springwise] via [Co.Exist]

Related stories on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

In Japan, rooftop veggie patches that cater to harried commuters
In Tokyo a handful of railway stations are topped with membership-driven garden allotments for greenthumbed commuters.