Wwoof’ing at Himorogian in Chiba-ken, Japan.
Himorogian is the first wwoof host I visited in Japan. “Himorogi” translates to “finding God within nature” and “an” is an old word for farm. This was an amazing first experience in Japan. Katsura Shimoyamada spoke excellent english and was very patient with an American who had a million questions about EVERYTHING. haha. Tim-san, another american wwoof’er had arrived just 2 days before me. Tim was at the end of his 3-month stay and so had already absorbed a lot of the language and cultural behaviors. My transition into Japanese life was made much easier by him. He was also a hilarious sum-a-bitch and we had tons of fun riding our bikes through Ohara every morning and night harassing everyone we passed. *DING DING* OHAYOGOZAIMASU! [good morning!] A few old ladies giggled, many people stared at us, mouths gaping, with a shocked bewildered look that said to me “whaa?! a foreigner? in my town? how can this be?!”
^^^ Riding through Ohara which is part of Isumi City, Chiba-ken, Japan.
^^^Planting Potatoes with Tim-san in a free community garden space for Himorogian.
My biggest project at Himorogian was preparing their rice field for planting. Their field was designed in the traditional Japanese style which you NEVER see in Japan anymore. So far I have only seen 2 (out off about 5000!); one at Himorogian and one at my current wwoof host, Mori no ie. There are channels that water flows through to flood the field… as it rains throughout the year these channels fill with sediment and eroded soil. So my job was to clear them out, make sure the plots were level, and re-pack the walls [aze].
^^^ Working tha’ tanbo baby!
Something I found really hilarious is that crawfish/crayfish [zarikani] live everywhere in Chiba-ken! No one eats them though! (Ok, well I met one guy, James, but he’s american. doesn’t count.) Crawfish came here from America about 100 years ago when Japan opened it’s borders to the west for trade. Someone told me Japanese ate crawfish during WW2 when times were harsh, so it’s still thought of as food that poor people eat. This association also exists with brown rice! Apparently during WW2 people were forced to eat brown rice, so the older generation in Japan associates brown rice with poverty and white rice with luxury and status. The younger generation is beginning to change that status quo as more information comes out about the helth benefits of whole grain. Wow, I feel all informative. So anyway, this is all hilarious to me because I grew up in Louisiana surrounded by cajun culture which prizes crawfish [mudbugs, crawdads] as a delicacy! Chiba-ken actually reminded me of Louisiana in many ways. The soil had the same smell to it. Plants and animals were similar (Magnolias, Azeleas, racoons, bugs). It’s a river plane just like good ol’ Louusianne. It was a strange sensation and made me realize that the world is kinda similar no matter where you go. Certain conditions give rise to certain ecosystems. Evolution has to solve the same set of problems and similar lifeforms emerge.
^^^ Yoshinari Shimoyamada with a small crawfish in hand.
^^^ James-san and his daughter Hana-chan during their Japanese crawfish boil in summer of ’08. James said there are so many that he just uses a net and scoops these out of the water ways that zig zag through every Japanese town.
Time for bed! so I will leave you with some short videos I made while staying at Himorogian:
Me chasing Japanese kids around pretending to be Godzilla [Gojira], every gaijin’s fantasy realized! This was taken during a local organic co-op event where the members bout various food through their co-op and comparable products from the local super market. We all worked together and cooked up a storm and then we able to compare organic vs. not side by side. Oishii katta! [Delicious was!]:
Normal dinner at Himorogian. Tim-san was delighted with his discovery of rice coffee [gohan kohe]. Even Aki-chan likes it!:
I have more stories from Himorogian as well as a short interview I did with Katsura Shimoyamada, but these will have to wait. I didn’t mention Katsura in this post enough! She was amazing and I can’t wait to see her again! She taught me many things about homeopathy and flower essences and healing in general. We had great, deep, conversations about life, east and west differences, and a natural way of living. She is a great cook and fed us sooo well! Her shiitakes are #1! Ichiban! She showed me how to make miso, amazake, sake (her purple crunchy sake was amazing and something very few Japanese have ever had the pleasure of tasting), taught me how to sew, use a japanese bath, and so much more! Domo Arigato Gozaimashta Katsura-san! [Thank you Katsura! (mashta = past tense)]