Opinions are divided, with mayor having particularly strong feelings.

With a population of roughly 2.3 million people, Nagoya is Japan’s fourth largest city. As you’d expect from a town of that size, you can find just about anything you’re looking for in the city center, but in recent days pedestrians on their way to Nagoya Station have been startled by something none of them expected to see in such a heavily developed urban area: a surprise vegetable patch.

One of the walkways leading to the station has a strip of dirt next to the sidewalk, and with warm summer weather arriving in Japan, a range of seasonal produce has sprouted, such as tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and even stalks of corn.

▼ Yep, corn!

But here’s where things get really weird: the city didn’t know who planted the veggies.

The patch of dirt is managed by Nagoya’s Greenificaiton and Public Works Bureau, and citizens are allowed to plant seeds in it. However, they’re supposed to file an application with the bureau beforehand, and the types of allowed flora are generally limited to decorative flowers, with edible fruits and vegetables prohibited. In other words, the mystery farmer is breaking two rules.

▼ The patch is located near the Sakuradori exit of Nagoya Station.

Public opinion about the unsanctioned vegetable patch has been divided, both in on-site interviews with passersby and online comments. On one side are those who’ve gotten a chuckle out of the quirky surprise, while others find it inconsiderate to not even ask for permission before deciding unilaterally to bend the rules regarding what can and can’t be planted in what’s supposed to be a public-use space. Somewhat surprisingly, Nagoya mayor Takashi Kawamura is in the former camp. When asked by reporters what he thinks of the vegetable patch, his responses have included “It’s fun. It’s something everyone should decide on together, though. Hey, this might even be a turning point in sidewalk policy,” and “It’d be neat if we had tomatoes growing along all of Nagoya’s sidewalks. It’d be really awesome if we had watermelons.”

Less enamored with the situation, though, was the person with direct jurisdiction over the strip of soil, Greenificaiton and Public Works Bureau head Yasunobu Shinozuka, who said “We don’t think of [planting the vegetables without permission] as desirable.”

While some might accuse Shinozuka of being a stick in the mud, there could be legitimate concerns about allowing unregulated vegetable planting. There may not be any bears or boars in Nagoya, but any city its size will have its share of urban scavengers such as rats and crows that could be attracted to edible plants (and you really don’t want Japanese crows staking a claim to part of your town). There’s also the matter of what will happen to any unharvested fruit that spoils and is left baking in the midsummer sun, and there’s also the possibility that introducing vegetables to the patch without taking their compatibility with its preexisting flora into consideration could deplete the soil.

Initially, the bureau put up a sign at the vegetable patch asking for whoever had planted the seeds to remove the plants, but this was later changed to a request for the person responsible to simply contact the bureau in order to have a discussion between the organization, the planter, and the mayor, with the possibility of allowing the vegetable patch to remain if it is deemed feasible and unlikely to cause any problems. A 73-year-old man, who has remained anonymous to the public, has since spoken to reporters claiming responsibility for the vegetable patch, saying he’s been planting roadside vegetables in Nagoya since two years ago, pulling weeds to make room for planting and leaving the produce where it grows to beautify the city and brighten people’s day. If permission is granted, he said he’d like to continue to do so, as well as teach what he knows to others interested in growing vegetables.

Sources: Nitele News via Hachima Kiko, Chunichi Shimbun, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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