ECOPLUS conducted snow camp from March 20 to 22 in a mountainous village, Shimizu in Niigata, Japan with 12 participants including high school, university students and young adults. TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, Shimizu villagers and 2 other staff supported the program.
Due to extraordinary warm weather condition of this winter, snow was far less than normal. We only had 50cm to 1 meter of snow at the filed where it should have more than 2 meters. However, wet snow and strong wind suddenly came when the participants began to set up the tents, toilets, the fireplace and other facilities.
Finally they set up the living space. Creative boys’ and ladies’ toilets were built in snow decorated with leaves and trees. Cooking was also done on the snow. They cut vegetables on the snow table and made fire on the snow.
On day 2, we enjoyed snow shoe hike under the blue sky. Using traditional Japanese snow shoes, called “Kan-Jiki,” we started walking. On the surface of snow, many animal footprints were spotted. The villager, ABE Kazuyoshi, taught us they were raccoon’s or marten’s. We also found marks of hares, squirrels and others.
During three days, we spent time on the snow; cooking, eating, talking, playing, sleeping, and so on. Villagers offered us a big pod of wild bore stew and wild deer curry and rice. They talked about life and nature now and then. We concentrated our senses on listening, watching, communicating, without being annoyed by modern devices. By simply using time just for living, participants had rich and dense learning experiences.
Apart from smartphones and convenient shops, Students learned how to live harmoniously with the nature in Yap
Yap-Japan Cultural Exchange Program 2019 was held from 13 to 25 August with nine students from Tokyo and Kansai area including one graduate student. We stayed at Maaq village, Tamil and experienced traditional and local lifestyle of Yap.
We stayed at the Men’s house which is the community house for men in the village. The villagers finished two-year long reconstruction work of the house in June. Because the old one was damaged by high waves caused by sea level rise, villagers decided to raise the ground 1 meter up and reconstructed new build using old techniques. Their new Men’s house was shining beautifully at the seaside. We were staying in the house hanging the mosquito nets and laid on the coconut frond mat that they weaved by themselves.
For the first half of the program we took time to gain the skill and knowledge for living. Weaving the bag by the coconut frond and walking around the village seeking for some food, washing their clothes with lemon, making fire, learning how to cook taro, bananas, bread fruits and fish which was kindly shared by the villagers, husking the coconuts and so on. By receiving the blessing of the rich nature of Yap and learning the way of living and kindness of Yapese, the students slowly acquired their knowledge and skills of the island.
In the middle of the program, the students experienced the daily life of Yapese by home-staying for 2 nights and 3 days. They were experienced the diversity of lifestyles in Yap by cooking, fishing, learning traditional skills, and attending mass at the church. They came back from the homestay with shining smile and kept sharing about their different experiences and their lovely family until 2 am in the midnight.
The behavior of the students who created the “family” in Yap has been clearly changed. Each began sharing their knowledge and skills taught by their families at the homestay and enjoying “living” itself with feeling the freedom. In addition, they expressed their appreciation to the village as a “thank you activity” by cleaning weeds and picking up trash around the men’s house.
In addition, they were learning the serious problems what Yap island is facing and what the people are doing to solve those problems by joining the activities of TRCT which is an organisation to protect the environment in Tamil area, visiting landfill site, recycling center and the local plate factory made by the beatle nuts tree’s skin. For the students who get precious “family” in Yap, what is happening in Yap is no longer somebody else’s problem.
At the final sharing meeting at the Narita airport, the students shared what they have learned and some people were talking about their anxiety to go back their “everyday life” in Japan with tears. The beautiful nature and the people’s wisdom and love will continue to live in their heart forever. Reported by NAOI Saki
ECOPLUS held organic rice farming workshop called “Tanbo no I-ro-ha” or “ABC in a rice paddy,” on 8-9 June, 2019 at Tochikubo village in Niigata, Japan, having 35 students from Waseda University in Tokyo.
Since we had very limited rain falls in May, some areas of rice paddies dried up and it helped weeds to grow seriously specially at our non-chemical, totally organic paddies. Students waled into the paddy with bare feet and used fully opened hands like as rakes to clear weeds.
Paddies were filled by water thanks to the rain since Friday evening but in most of the paddies the soil was so solid because of long dry condition that it was difficult to push fingers in the soil and we needed to pull out each weeds. Started the work at 9 am on Sunday, it took 4 hours and more to finish two rice paddies which size is over 1,000 square meters.
Beside weeding in rice paddies, villagers gave them lectures, and a specialist conducted nature tour. Through those students had a chance to feel the relationship between nature, life and community. They left comments like, “I strongly leant the true meaning of to live”, “I understood the hardship of farming”, “I should have more appreciation on food”.
ECOPLUS conducted the first workshop on rice farming, called “ABC in a rice paddy” on May 25-26, 2019 at Tochikubo village, Niigata Japan. Under the beautiful summer sky, participants from metropolitan area enjoyed works in a rice paddy with songs of birds, cool breeze and lunch next to the paddy.
On 25th, the sky was totally blue with any pieces of clouds. So we went up above the village by car and walked an half hour to the top of Mt. Teruyama, which has elevation of 736 meters. We could oversee the ridge of mountains reaching to 2,000 m elevation and the Uonuma basin which is the heartland of the most sought after rice, “Uonuma Koshi-Hikari.”
During the walk to the top of Teruyama, we identified several edible plants just next to the path. We also surprised by so many butterflies circling around us. On the way back, we took the over four century old road used by worriers in the battle age in Japan. On that road, snow was still remained and another edible plants can be identified near the road.
On 26th, we concentrated our time for rice planting. The paddy which has been growing rice for 13 years without any chemicals was smoothed prepared by the locals. Rolling a wooden frame of hexagon shape, we set marks on the surface then we planted seedlings in line. At the beginning it was difficult to set the seedlings but with the support from locals, saying set the seedlings not to be floated away and not to push in too deep, participants learned the way shortly.
The planting work was finished in 3 and hard hours and the lunch started. So many dishes like, miso-soup with wild edible plants, rice balls, tempura of another edible plant, called “Yamaudo,” we deeply understood the richness and happiness to live close to the nature. Participants discussed a lot about the relation between nature, food and agriculture during the weekend.