I’ve been on the farm for about 2 weeks now and life on the farm rarely gets exciting but that does not mean that I am not liking it. After everybody that was already here had moved on to new pastures either heading back to their own country or heading to somewhere new I slowly but surely got some new people here, currently there are three WWOOFers Kento, Anika and myself but we are expecting another on the 11th Sep.
My daily routine consists of getting up at 07:00 for shower and breakfast then by 08:30 Oshima san organises people to do things and we set about our tasks. First normally for us is a trip into the field to harvest a pepper which grows specifically in this region of Japan. It’s known as a Mangangi, it’s delicious to eat and as you can see looks shiny and beautiful.
Once this and the eggs are collected from the chickens we head back down for packing and sorting, all of which is done by hand then the day is not always clear, we could be preparing new fields by spreading fertiliser on them, or clearing old fields of crops or tackling the sometimes monstrous weeds. You really just have to wait for instructions, watch, learn, repeat. I know that may sound dull but still at the end of the day things get done and there is a satisfaction that comes along with that. This week we did have a bit of excitement though; we were digging in one of the upper fields trying to make a channel for the water to be able to drain away when one of the staff freaks out and runs towards us. The reason why he run was simple, he had just disturbed a nest of Japanese Hornets.
These things as you might be able to see look pretty gnarly. They are about the size of an adult thumb and known for being super aggressive. If you disturb one or many in this case the main thing you need to do is not panic, easier said than done. We did the sensible thing and backed away slowly while they investigated the spade that was sticking out of their nest to see what they could do about it. Luckily nobody got stung because from the stories I have read on the internets it’s rather a nasty experience and that is about as exciting as it gets around here. But I am loving it, even if I have to deal with scary beasts like this one from time to time.
We did manage to take in some local culture. While I was surfing a website to check out things to do in Osaka I found a link to a little festival near to where we are called Yaokawachi Ondo now I don’t really know what this festival was about and at the time I did not know even if I could get there but I wanted to at least try. I surfed the internet a bit using Google Translate to figure out where it is, and how I get there. Following this up with some help from people who can read Japanese (Kanji) and the transit section of Yahoo.co.jp and I had information on how to get there. So I suggested to my fellow WOOFers that we should go check it out. The following night we headed out into the wilds of rural Osaka to get to the festival. Catching the bus was simple even though we did it a bit wrong. Busses in Japan work almost in reverse of what they do in Western culture. You get on at the back of the bus and take a ticket from the machine, you keep the ticket until the end of your journey you exit via the front and then pay the relevant fee which has the same number as on the ticket, dropping coins or notes into the hopper. There is a simpler way, you can get something like an Oyster Card where all you need to do tap in and out of the train or bus and you can store money on the card very similar to Oyster.
Transport in Japan so far seems to run to a very strict time schedule. If you think that the Germans provide a reliable service then I am sure you will find Japan actually more impressive. There are a few things to note about Japanese trains, firstly they are huge, they have a lot of standing space and feel really airy, secondly they have Women only carriages, watch out for these. I believe this is because Japan does have some problems of perverts getting on crowded trains and touching women, although I am not sure how prevalent this is. Finally they are super clean, not only are the seats clean, the train itself including the outside looks spotless, the platform is very clean as well as the whole station. In fact I am going out of my way to try and find any litter anywhere in Japan so far.
Kento and I arrive at our destination head to the actual festival which is basically a big stage in the middle of a field surrounded by people dancing and some food hawker stalls on the side. We stood listening to the traditional style music a while before walking around a bit and meeting up with Anika. We were impressed by the uniform style dancing, taking a few pictures especially with two dancers who were fully kitted out with a Kimono and being really happy. Photo session over Kento and Anika got drawn into the crowd a bit and started to join in on the dance. The dance itself is very simple, consisting of about twelve steps, not exactly complicated so easy to join in and have fun with and the Japanese people around were very encouraging and smiley. Some of the amusing bits of the festival was that during the dance every now and then it would come close to the crowd, protecting the crowd were people holding big red directing rods and whenever they thought they crowd watching were in danger of colliding with the dancing people in the middle they would strongly usher people back. Not exactly pushing but being very polite and Japanese about it all. I could not help but laugh at this, the dancing circle does not move quickly, were not talking a mosh pit here we are talking a very polite, well organised and the people on the side were really in no immediate danger apart from possibly getting a foot trodden on but accident.
So we all wandered round a bit more and managed to grab a beer from a seller for free. We tried to pay, oh yeah we tried but the man behind the machine said no. So we drank our free beer, went around the food stalls having a look and smell as to what was available and then ended up back at the beer vendor who provided yet another free beer. I still can’t quite figure out why they were free but I’m not going to question free beer. He was using something called the Tornado delivery system, I believe implemented and designed by Asahi, in my eyes a completely useless and over-engineered way to get beer into a glass. Okay it looks pretty but seriously did this really need re-engineering?
With the festival coming to an end we decided to get out early to avoid the crowds, all three of us really happy that we had the chance to experience this very local feeling festival. It was made better by the way the people there made us feel very welcome. So that was this weeks excitement, but it’s not over yet. Tomorrow I have my first day off since I have been here and I make my way into Osaka and in the evening I have something planned. More news on that in the next entry.