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Students help revitalize rest area in Shiga

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Honoka Nishiyama, left, and Shosaku Shimizu, chief of Agripark Ryuo, in Ryuo, Shiga Prefecture

By Takeshi Abe / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterOTSU — Believing the ideas of young women could revitalize the local area, the operator of a roadside rest area in Ryuo, Shiga Prefecture, entered into a collaboration with Shiga Junior College in Otsu to develop new products.

The partnership has proven successful, resulting in the creation of popular products using locally grown produce and livestock, with alumni of the college later hired to work at the rest area.

The rest area, called Ryuo Kagaminosato, is located along National Highway Route 8 and operated by a joint public-private venture. The operator and Shiga Junior College signed a cooperation agreement in May 2015, allowing 40 of the college students to help develop products. The students also assisted with the facility’s management as part of their school’s practical training program.

Students studying food and health under the living sciences curriculum and business communications created a new menu featuring Omi beef bowl called “Ryuo Gyudonmaru.” In addition to creating the recipe, they also designed the packaging. The college’s bread-making club created the “Ryuo Kasuku” sandwich, which features beef in a long bun. Both products gained popularity and became regular items on the menu. Ryuo Kasuku is sold on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.

Honoka Nishiyama, 21, of Koka in the prefecture, who was a vice chief of the club and majored in confectionery production, found a job in spring of last year at the operator of rest areas, which are generally known in Japan as michi no eki.

“Developing new dishes with fresh and various agricultural products is appealing,” Nishiyama said.

The operator signed another agreement with the college on Aug. 21, in which it expanded cooperation to Agripark Ryuo, another roadside rest area under its management.

Agripark Ryuo, which doubles as an agricultural park, sells various local seasonal fruits such as pears, grapes and peaches. Nishiyama works as a leader of its tea room and has produced new fruit smoothies using skills she learned at college. She aims to create new desserts and juices with her junior classmates from the college in the future.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

“I feel like I have responsibility, and I’m also grateful and enjoying [my job],” Nishiyama said. “I want to utilize ideas from the viewpoints of young women, such as using photos suitable for Instagram on social media.”

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