Updated: Jun 24
This is not the beginning nor was it the end of my trip to Japan. I am starting here because I think it is a relatively easier story to tell, So here goes.
I had a work holiday visa in Japan. I don't read or speak the Japanese language so as far as paid jobs go teaching English was on the top of list. I thought it would limit my experience so I opted for something different. That's when I came across Workawaying. A host would list a job offering you room and board for something like 5 hours a day for 5 days. Or something around those lines.
So my second workaway experience was to be a week buffer before the next workaway.
I am dropped off at the train station in Yaizu Shizuoka by two locals that took me into their home, out of complete random chance. A different and complicated story I'll get to in another blog post.
Shortly after being dropped off I am introduced to my host's Hila from Israel and Daisuke native to the area.
I went From Tokyo to Shizuoka to Yaizu to Fujieda
I was now in Japan's countryside the above photo was the nearest town to Hila and Dai's estate. The sign on the left directs you to a tourist area for tea tasting and ceremonies. The symbol to the right of the yellow clock informs you of Japan Agricultures (JA) shipping and receiving area. When Dai harvests a crop he takes all he reaps to JA where they grade and pay him accordingly.
Hila and Dai are a young couple living on a property that has an old feudal style house they rent out as an AirBnB. I don't have photos of the house but you can check it out at Yui Valley There was a Barn that is on the property that they renovated to be their own living quarters.
Most of the youth leave the simple country life for that more bustling city. Dai having a passion for grassroots style living. They made a deal with the current owner of the land. The owner who had no interest in living there or farming and propositioned Dai, it would be a shame for such a place and tradition just go to waste. So as long as Dai tended to the land and house and kept up with all the bills that came along with it. He was free to try his hand in the farming game.
Farming varies from season to season. When I showed up in March it would be my and Dai's first attempt at harvesting bamboo shoots aka takenoko 筍.
Early in the morning we ventured over to the plot of land where the bamboo grew.
I even got a crude recording of the ride up. The bamboo is grown in rows and unlike a seed the bamboo has a shoot. underground there is a system of roots and shoot pops up. If you don't get the whole of the root or shoot the bamboo will continue to grow and pop up more shoots. So in Dai's plot there is a little bit of everything. Old growth helping to sprout up new shoots fully developed bamboo that will be harvested in fall.
This is what we are looking for. Ever so gently dig out the shoot until you can see the roots.
With the roots showing you make one through chop at the base. The shoot will pop up if you do it right, very gratifying.
And that's basically the gist of it. We'd bag up the harvest and take it home where Dai would cut back the husk and make it presentable for grading. From there to JA then to market.
As we worked in our designated plot, In the plots to the left and right were our colleague farmers. a man on the left and woman on the right both in their 70's + harvesting shoots. They were harvesting at an abnormal rate for us. Often I would peek over to watch the masters at work and see if I could steal their secrets. Some how I got to talking with the man about maple syrup via Dai's translation. I blew his mind he'd never heard of maple syrup, which in turn blew my mind. Because what the hell do you put on your pancakes? answer: honey. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When in the bamboo forest there was also signs of wildlife. Bamboo debris and uprooted soil. Was told it was 50/50 monkey and boar. From there I went straight to " an do you eat the boar?" Some people do at when Hila and Dai attended their community meeting. They returned with a gift of Boar hunted local and cooked by an Elder. Tasted great,very tender. From time to time an Elder lady would stop in and share her knowledge and show us what she had foraged. Though I understood none of it I enjoyed hearing the cadence of foreign conversation.
Didn't see one monkey. Pretty bummed out about that one.
Did run into these characters though.
Overall I had an amazing experience that I'll keep with me forever. Hila and Dai are prime example of what I should strive for. Oddly enough my next workaway on the other side of the same prefecture were a similar group of people. So much so that Hila and Dai's neighbor had worked with my next workaway. Random? I dunno.