On 26 and 27 May, ECOPLUS conducted “a weekend farming workshop; rice planting” in Tochikubo village in Niigata Japan. Under the limitation of lodging space, we had eight participants from Niigata city and Metropolitan area.
We had water shortage caused by extremely small snow in previous winter in 2016, and low temperature and wet condition in 2017. This year we had enough snow as same as usual years but temperatures went up after March and it melted snow substantially. Farmers are worrying again the shortage of water.
On Saturday, we started planting seedlings in a smaller paddy which has around 800 square meters. Those paddies which have been growing rice without any chemical materials, the area was filled with so many creatures, like tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies.
Thanks to the strong sunshine, surface of the mud is very warm. We set 4-6 seedlings in one position 1 centimeter under the surface.
One of the participants was came from Thailand but she was from the central part of big city, Bangkok. She and his Japanese husband were so good at planting works although it was the first time for them.
At the dinner so many dishes using wild vegetables just harvested by the chef from their hills were appeared. Some were boiled and mixed with sesame source or vinegar source, some were fried as “Templa”. We enjoyed the gorgeousness of the life in the mountain.
It was also very nice weather on Sunday and one of the participants succeeded to see the beautiful sunrise at 4 o’clock in the morning.
After finishing rice planting using one hour and so, we had open air lecture from Mr. FUEKI Akira, a veteran farmer. He explained that in old days when the paddies were much smaller and narrow, they conducted rice plantings one paddy to next one moving water from upper paddy to lower one. He also taught that normally 20 pesticides, weed killers or other chemicals were used for rice growing in one season but for this totally organic rice paddy he uses no chemicals. Because of this, he needs to weed by hands at least three times before harvest in each paddies.
A reflection session by volunteers for “Welcome Yap” Project in past two weeks was held in Waseda University in Tokyo in the evening of Friday, 23 March. Among eleven volunteers, eight persons and a videographer who had been with us almost the period joined the meeting.
They donated their time and money for the project heavily since the first meeting in last November accumulating meetings and site visits to identify the most ideal places for the Yapese students. All of activities of each day was organized by responsible team members of the day. One of volunteers was an IT engineer who took days off for this project and joined almost entire period.
During the meeting, they exchange comments and fanny stories during the time, watching photos of Yapese students during the project. Many commented they will come back to Yap to see students they spent time together this time.
The project was supported by so many students, families, ex-participants of ECOPLUS’s program in Yap, and organizations, like Keidanren Nature Reserve Fund, United Airlines, Patagonia, Minamiuonuma City Board of Education.
After the Yapese students gathered with their host families in the morning 18th March, they had a social gathering. We saw their big smiles in the pictures during homestay, so that we could immediately find they had a wonderful time. Also, Yapese students gave a presentation and introduced about Yap, and their host families listened carefully.
After that, they enjoyed making ice-cream by making good use of snow, and playing with snow. Then, they had a reflection session about these days, and shared their findings and thoughts from their own perspectives.
For dinner, they ate more than the first day. We kept laughing during dinner and seemed to get to know well each other through these eight days.夕食では初日より食べる量が増えていたり、笑いが絶えなかったり、8日間もの間一緒に過ごしてきたことを実感しました。
In the morning, the Yapese students visited Yabukami primary school and learned Japanese traditional games and calligraphy from the school children. The Yapese students had an opportunity to give a presentation about Yap to the students and enjoyed school lunch for the first time.
In the afternoon, the Yapese students experienced Japanese traditional rope making and handicrafts with straws. Since Yap has similar tradition to make ropes, they did well. They had opportunities to introduce Yapese culture such as making ropes with the fiber of coconuts, as well as splitting coconuts.
After the fruitful day, the Yapese students left for another homestay in Niigata.
After farewell to the host family, We left Tokyo to Niigata. We shared the precious memory of a fun homestay and the feeling of expectation for the first snow in the bus.
After the Kanetsu tunnel, the snowy landscape showed up.The beautiful scenery took our breath away.
In Niigata, the local high school students came to meet us. We shared our own culture and the problems what we have each other.
In the evening we walked around the snow. We enjoyed the snow by throwing the snow balls each other and drinking the water from the melting snow.For dinner we ate local cuisines and self-made miso-soup and rice, After the dinner, we went out again and tried to make snow-candles. All of us made our original snow candles.