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May 26, 2010

More Oyabaka ( This time its my fault)


Taking a break from farming to give Momo-chan some chi-chi love. (No matter how often I ask, Tomoe never does that for me in the rice field.)


We had decided not to take customers this spring, but there was one guy who was really flexible and he wanted to do a lot of the things I wanted to do anyway, such as ride and climb tall mountains - and he doesn't need a support van and is willing to camp in shrines or out of the way places. He sounded too good so we made an exception for him and now I will be doing a one-week trip. I will probably not have time to post anything until he is gone, so I leave you with many many photos of Mona Risa.

Once again, there were too many good ones and I couldn't narrow it down, so you have to scroll down through all of them.


The neighbor, who just came back from picking wild zenmai lady goos and gaas at her.


My mom says her hair makes her look like "That Korean leader guy". If he was this cute, I think the world would be very different.


Rice Is Almost Done

Rice PlantingRice Shoots for Sale

The rice is almost all planted. Only one small field remains which I have saved for a customer who wanted to try planting. It was much harder this year as I did most of it alone. Tomoe was able to help a bit, but was mostly busy with Mona and vegetable fields, and the friend who was a big help last year, and to whom we gave big bags of rice keep her on this year too, won't farm in rainy or cloudy weather. She only worked 5 hours. She better be doing a lot of weeding this year.

Neighbors Planting their Rice FieldNeighbors Planting their Rice FieldPlanting the Rice FieldPlanting the Rice Field

The fields produce way more than we can eat in a year, and even though we get a higher price for our rice than our neighbors, it is way too low for the amount of work (if I didn't enjoy it). I could have taken a family of four on a four-day trip, made a website or translated a few articles, or taught English to the neighbor kids and made more in 1/1000th of the time I spent (and will continue to spend) in that field. We keep more fields than we need because 1) a neighbor asked us to make use of his fields (not just rice fields) and we owe him a lot. 2) it is very enjoyable and therapeutic for us. 3) Friends and customers like to help and enjoy the experience.

Rice PlantingRice Shoots Before PlantingNeighbors Planting their Rice FieldNeighbors Planting their Rice FieldRice PlantingRice PlantingRice Planting

But... we didn't take any customers or friends this year due to baby-leave from work, so the way-more than we can eat fields we have for customers and friends to plant were all planted by me. And that is not me on the tractor in the photo.

Our goal was to do as much by hand as possible, but as time was running out I almost broke down and borrowed a little walk-behind mechanical rice planter slightly bigger than a lawn-mower. In the end, though, it worked out and I was able to finish.

I have photos of some hand planting going on in our fields, but no time to edit them. These photos are of the neighboring fields being planted with the community planter. Everyone takes turns carrying rice to the planter (I wanted to, but was not allowed to help because I don't use the tractor), and the few people in the community that have the skills to drive it take turns planting rice in everyone's field.

Neighbors Planting their Rice FieldNeighbors Planting their Rice FieldNeighbors Planting their Rice Field

May 19, 2010

Oyabaka (Amity's fault)


OK, I am not a professional art director or editor, how can I decide? Tomoe says "post all of them". I agree. Hence this big bunch of photos of Mona. (It's all really Amity's fault for requesting more, and I took about 100 yesterday.)


Its also a bit of oyabaka (parental craziness). I really have to make Mona her own website.

In the end, it is Amity's fault. Send all complaints to her.


This Morning (For Amity)


And there are more where this came from.

May 18, 2010

Long Day

After a Long Day

It was a long day for Mona as she accompanied us to the dentist in the nearest city.

May 11, 2010

Chickens At Akiyama Shogakkou


Today I went to one of the local grade-schools deep in the mountains - Akiyama Shogakou, where there are only 7 students. One of the teachers is a neighbor and asked me to come explain to his class how to keep chickens. I brought the chickens (for dramatic effect) and told them what chickens eat and drink, etc. Basically, I told them "Just feed them the leftovers from your school lunch".

The second graders are in charge of the chickens. Th photo above shows the two second graders and their teacher. The photo below is the school.


Mochi Rice

Tomoe In the Garden

Planting mochi rice. We were able to borrow a field further away from other people's, so we are doing it without water in the field. If we tried that in our normal field it would be "meiwaku" (troublesome) to the other people. Don't ask me why or in what way it would trouble them. I have exhausted my tiny brain trying to figure it out.

We will also be planting soy beans in between rice rows. The only problem, which Tomoe learned while chatting with neighbors in the bath last night, is that since that was originally a "regular" rice field, its water retention is too good. If we try to do it "dry" it risks being flooded when the rain comes, because there is a layer of clay below the field.

Tomoe In the GardenThirsty Tomoe

May 10, 2010

Mizubasho (again this year)


Better get used to it, cause from now on I am going to show photos of mizubasho plants every single spring - at least until I get the perfect photo. Two days ago there was a reporter/photographer who is making an article about clean water. The local office referred him to me, and so I took the opportunity to visit the famous flowers for the first time this year. Both of us agreed that we could have spent an entire day there taking photos.


May 08, 2010

First Sanasai Picking


OK. I went overboard on the photos today. I went for a walk with Tomoe and Mona and while Tomoe picked wild veggies and Mona slept, I took photos. I ended up with more that I like than I had hoped for. Sorry.

In these photos you see Tomoe picking Yomogi and kogomi (well, actually, I picked the kogomi, and also received a big bag from a non-local who we ran into who probably was afraid that we would rat him out for stealing the locals' veggies. Let it be known that I do take bribes.

Just so you know, Mona was not left out. She too got into the wild veggie picking fun.


Below are photos of what we picked. yomogi, kogomoi, gyojya-ninniku, and sugina


All in all, a good day.


May 07, 2010

Raspberries and Stag Beetle Babies


Haven't gotten much done in the garden yet, but got a lot of compost spread in the rice field. I intend to do a much better job of detailing the "rice story" this year, and have already spent many hours over the winter writing down details from last year. Look for it soon, but not too soon. :)

In our backyard garden and mountain field the only thing happening is that we spent a day building a nice three tier compost box with old wood, and only realized too late that it was too big for the backyard. I dragged it up to the mountain field and we built a smaller one for the backyard, which we only realized too late, is too small. Now we have to build another. Our neighbor is strongly suggesting that we use the plastic one that got completely crushed in the snow. She doesn't say why, but we think it is because she doesn't like looking at the wooden one.

Nozawana & Komatsuna

The komatsuna and nozawana and spinach planted last year have sprung back to life. The raspberries are threatening to take over. The rhubarb is looking tasty, and my baby gumi tree was all but destroyed by the snow and my neighbor's snow plow.

Oh, and we got our first asparagus for the year. Mona can't wait until she is old enough to partake.

Mona and First Asparagus

While we tried to spend some time taking advantage of the wonderful weather yesterday, our neighbors also took advantage to come and goo and ga at Mona. I feel bad that so much attention went to her and not to her future friend and neighbor Shyu, the boy riding the back of his grandma. The little girl is infatuated with "momo-han" (Mona-chan). I am amazed that she knows her name. I think I wrote before that very early on she was able to call my name "bebin" (Kevin), and recently she calls me "bebin-han", and yesterday was the first time I heard her call Tomoe by name.

Talk of the TownFuture FriendsMyu

Anyway... thats all.

Oh! I almost forgot about the little friends we found in the compost heap from last year. Stag beetle babies. I am not an expert, so I don't know what kind of beetle these will turn into, but some sell for a hundred dollars or more in Tokyo.

Kabutomushi LarvaeBurning in the garden

Random Beautiful Days


Random shots of the fine weather these past few days. It filled our living room with very much welcome sunlight, and made it hard to get any work done. We had a few people out to help spread manure in the rice field, but in the end they faked constipation and without any manure, we decided to ride bikes instead.


May 06, 2010

The New Kids


There are two baby goats at the local grade school. The female may be ours one day.


May 05, 2010

A long day away


Spent the day shoveling crap (cow crap, to be exact) into the rice field. The group of young people who said they would help backed out. (can't trust young folk) so I ended up doing it all alone.

Somehow it made coming home to meet Mona all that much better. I feel so lucky that I consider a rare day of four hours in the morning and five hours in the afternoon "long time to be away" from my daughter. Especially since I had the opportunity to spend a long lunch with her at home.

May 01, 2010

How Long



They didn't have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

I slip in bed when you're asleep To hold you close and feel your breath on me Tomorrow there'll be so much to do So tonight I'll drift in a dream with you

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you're miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up


Young Women


Living here has changed my view of femininisitic causes. Fire brigade parties almost always include "companions"- young women who pour drinks and laugh and sing karaoke with you. When I first moved here I was rather turned off by the idea. Now however, I am not so sure.

The young women are paying for their school with the money they make pouring our drinks and laughing at our joke. Sure, there is always someone who wants to touch their boob, and they usually try to jokingly and politely refuse, but in the end, if the customer insists, they allow it if only for a brief moment, and that brief moment is all that the customer needs. For the most part they are intelligent and know exactly what they are doing and why. If they want to refuse, they are strong enough to do so, and given that the men are always drunk out of their minds, it is easy enough to distract them with something else.

The other day Tomoe and I and a client went to a party hosted by a friend. Everyone there was in their 30s - except for one older man who heard about it and came because he "wanted to see young women." There was nothing perverted about him, and I can't blame him for wanting to be in the company of young women. Most parties he is invited to are only men drinking, and there is little chance for him to interact with younger women. He said that everyone feels the same way when they go to those drinking meetings, but no one mentions it because it would just make everyone feel worse.


In Tokyo, dirty old office workers always get to see young office women. Here what is a farmer to do? More importantly, what is a young man to do, when there are no young women to be found for even a drink and flirting? There is a small foreign-women population in our village. Women brought as wives from China or the Philippines. It is nothing like the stereotype "mail-order-bride" image. In fact, you have to be quite wealthy to get a bride. There are trips to the brides home country, and of course paying to bring her here and everything after that. The women don't enter into an agreement lightly. The man has to have a stable job that makes it worth her wild.

I can't imagine growing up in a place like this. And I can't imagine how "in demand" Mona will be...

BTW, the young man singing Karaoke in the first photo has a girlfriend from the nearby city, but still I wonder what he feels about life. He is a graduate from Waseda University (a very prestigious school) but he is the oldest son so has moved back here and will eventually take over the household in this village. Tomoe and I are also "elite", but we made the choice to come here on our own. It was not something obligatory. It must be hard being a man or woman who grew up here.

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