Rice Harvesting Work under the Difficult Circumstances by Typhoon #19


Ecoplus conducted rice harvesting workshop on Oct. 13-14, 2019, at Tochikubo village, Minamiuonuma, Niigata. Due to the slow growth of rice in this year, we once postponedthe schedule one week and caused by typhoon #19, or “Hagibis,” we set the workshop one day later. Students and adults from metropolitan area were struggled to come struggling confused train and highway networks. At the end seven participants succeeded to participate the program.


With the heavy rain by the typhoon, the rice paddies was covered by an inch or two of water. It was quite tough condition although most of rice were not knocked down by the wind. In such condition, a high school boy, who experienced the work first time, learned and acquired how to cut straws and to bind those by a year old straws.


In the rice paddy, no chemical pesticides nor weed killers has been used for over ten years. Only organic fertilizer has been used. Because of such efforts, many weeds were covering the ground and many insects were hopping around. Sheaves of rice were hung along the bars called “Haza,” for sun dry for around 10 days. Through this, participants experienced the way of traditional rice production of the area until some decades ago.


Participants left comments like “Accumulating the experience for long years, I am still feeling that how difficult to make food is, and how important to have harmonious relation with the nature is. ” “I identified so many knowledges embedded in the harvesting works and I felt the tick accumulations of knowledge for long years.”


Harvest Organic Rice by Sickles, Oct 13-14, at Minami-Uonuma


In the rice paddies in Tochikubo village, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, which is the heartland of famous Koshi-Hikari-Rice, ears of rice are getting ripped. With less sun shines since mid-August, the progress is bit late but rice paddies are now having beautiful yellowish color. We will conduct harvesting workshop on 13-14 Oct.

【宿泊】地元の温泉民宿 7,500 円(1泊2食、温泉付き、男女別相部屋)

Program Fee including lunch on day 2 and insurance; 5,000 JPY. Student discount, 50%; Children under 6 years old, lunch fee and insurance only.
Gathering spot; JR Shiozawa Station of Joetsu Line
Accommodations; Local Inn, dormitory rooms male/female separated; 7.500 JPY including dinner/breakfast
Compliment; 2 kg of harvested rice after sun-dried process.

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お問い合わせはtappo@ecoplus.jpまで。Contact; tappo@ecoplus.jp


Michigan Students Learnt Japan in Minami-Uonuma


ECOPLUS hosted a group of students from University of Michigan from 19 to 20 May in Minami-Uonuma for their learning on the relation with environment, life and culture through experiencing rice planting, weaving and other activities.


The trip was conducted by the relation with Ms. Leslie Pincus of University of Michigan and TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, as a part of their 3 weeks long tour to Japan.

Drying cooked mountain vegetable, “Zenmei.”


On 19th, they strolled around the village of Tochikubo which is located on the slope of around 500 meters elevation. They were deeply impressed by the scenery of mountains covered by white snow and young green, saying “this land might be so expensive.” They also encountered an old lady who was drying mountain vegetable called “Zenmai.”


On 20th, they experienced traditional rice planting by hands. They screamed a bit while they put their bare feet in the muddy soil of the paddy but later they acquired how to plant young seedlings in line and they finished the work in three hours.

Traditional sitting loom, called “IZARI-Bata,” or いざりばた


On the last day, 21st, they came back to the city area, “Shiozawa,” to learn about the local ramie cloth called “Echigo-Zyofu,” which has over a thousand year history. Specialists from Echigo-Jofu technique preservation association demonstrated how to get fibers fro the skin of the plant, how to dye the yarn for patterns, and how to weave. Some of the students experienced actual works by their hands.


Through the three-day stay, they seem to deepen the understanding on the relation with life and nature, like getting fuels from the forest, drinking water from the spring, making the water system running around all the terraced rice paddies.

Students from Yap learned a lot in Japan, Short Videoーーヤップ島の若者招へいのビデオが出来ました

A short video was completed and we finally succeeded to set our website to host the big video file on our site.
We still miss those smiles and shining eyeballs of all students in Japan.


ヤップの若者の滞在の様子 link to daily reports


DAY 6) Sharing Traditional Culture and Wisdom 南魚沼で日本の伝統と文化に触れる

Visit Elementary School, 薮神小学校を訪問
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.


Making coconut rope ココナツの繊維で作るロープづくりを紹介
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.



Messages from host families 新潟のホストファミリーから 

“Only for one day, but I enjoyed precious time with my wonderful son.” (from a host mother)

  • We are collecting surveys from host families in Niigata.
  • Karate/Judo, Kimono dressing, Candles in snow hole,
  • Walking along Bokushi-street, Shopping, cooking Gyoza, Shabu-Shabu…
  • Play with Host Sisters/Brothers, Challenge Skiing,
  • Sit tight on massage chair, Talking about their villages,
  • Talking about their Futures…

Some mothers felt nervous about their kid’s health because some of them did not use tick “Futon”.

We wonder what they thought in the plane leaving Narita Airport.

Also, there were many surveys saying 1 day trip was too short. Cooperation between host families or schedule improvement would make next program better. We will make these voices as reflection and try to make better program.

130410南魚沼アンケート「たった1日 すてきな息子ができて、幸せなひとときでした」(あるホストマザーより)


  • 空手・柔道体験、着物着付、雪灯籠づくり、牧之通り散策、ショッピング、餃子づくり、しゃぶしゃぶ、、、
  • いろいろな場所へ行き、いろいろな物を食べ、ホストシスター・ブラザーと遊んだり、
  • スキーにチャレンジしたり、マッサージ機にはまったり、
  • 自分の村のことや将来の夢を語ったり、
  • 時には布団をかけずに寝てお母さんを心配させたり。




Cultural day, March 27th, 3月27日禅寺とラーメン

(by Sakane Natsumi)
Today was the last day in Niigata.
Last night Yapese kids and young staff members had a great meeting until late at night.
However, especially group C members (we divided into three groups and made dishes or washed the dishes in turn) got up early and started to make breakfast.
After the breakfast, we cleaned all the rooms, toilets and corridors.
During the cleaning, some host families came to say good-by to their “kids”.
1130327龍澤寺でJun 130327松井食堂ラーメン
We left the accommodation at 9:30 and went to the Ryutaku temple.
The monk taught us three important things: maintaining the fine posture, catching your breath, living in peace and harmony. Then we had an experience of ” Zazen”, it is a kind of meditation. What we had to do was simple but it was difficult. To make good posture, concentrate on breathing and count the number.
For lunch, we ate chinese noodles which are called “Ramen “, then took a little walk and went to Takano-san’s parents’ home. They welcomed us kindly and served us extremely good water and snacks.
At 2:30, got into the bus and left Niigata. It took 3 and a half hours to get to Tokyo.
For dinner, we separeted into three groups, which I mentioned above, and went to restaurants (two groups went to Japanese-style food restaurants and the other went to Gyudon-shop which serves beef on rice)
Humm…..what I want to say the most is I am really tired but had a great time in Niigata!
Kids’ faces are now totally different from what those were before we went to Niigata, they looks more cheerful, relaxed, satisfied. I hope they learned something from visit in Niigata and will apply the learning to their own lives when they go back to Yap.
 まずはじめに 和尚さんから3つの大切なことを教わります。姿勢を整えること、呼吸を整えること、そして心を整えること。その後、お経があった後、いよいよ座禅に入ります。
130327龍澤寺でみんなで2 牧之通り散策
 その後少し散歩がてら牧之通りを歩き、高田屋さんで古い建造物や品物を見せてもらい、最後になんと高野さんのご実家にお邪魔させていただきました短い時間でしたが、ご両親は大変あたたかく向かい入れてくださって、非常においしい井戸水やお菓子を くださいました。
 ふぅ、、、とにかく新潟への旅はかなり疲れて、いまいち頭も働いていませんが、新潟の皆さんには本当によくしていただいて、非常に充実した4日間でした。子供たちが少しでも多くのことを今回の新潟への旅で学んでいることを望んでいます。ではでは、これでようやく私も寝れます。おやすみなさい。    坂根菜摘

“Zen” at a temple, お寺で座禅

At the final day in Minami-Uonuma, students visited a local temple and experience “zen” and Japanese calligraphy.

南魚沼最終日の今日は、地元のお寺を訪ね、座禅と習字をさせてもらいました。 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During zen practice, students were quite good to stay in the same pose, the monk admired.



They walked through an old street redeveloped recently resembling similar atmosphere as same as hundreds years ago.


Straw rope making, 縄ないを習う

After enjoyed playing in the snow, elder persons of the village taught students how to make rope with rice straw. In Yap, rope is made from coconuts fiber. Students were quite good rope makers, elders admired.



Joverlyn made a small sandal with this local elder.


Boys took the first hot spring in their life time.



Snow ball fighting! March 26th, 雪合戦に夢中!

(by Xinle Su)
Today started off with a trip to the local junior high school! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there but looked on as the school girls bade farewell warmly to the Yap youths. It sure seemed fun!
We went to Tochikubo Village soon after, when it was time to play in the snow! Before we even went to the actual snow playing area, chaos had already erupted as the youths started snowball fights. When we reached the snow area, youths had fun sleighing down slopes, building snowmans and houses, and barbecuing marshmallows. Before long, two hours had passed, and we trudged back to the community house tired but satisfied, ready to fill our stomachs with delicious local food. A kind of food of worthy mention during lunch was fermented soybeans, otherwise known as natto, which can apparently only be found in Japan. The 豚汁tonjiru was filled with much ingredients and warmed our freezing bodies.
130326塩沢中学校2s.jpg 130326イグルーの前s.jpg
At the same community house, we were joined by 4 masters of straw-craft who taught us how to make sandals from straw. While it required much effort and patience to get the technique right, it seems that quite a few people completed making the sandals!

We returned to our lodging after that, at which point dinner preparations started. We had this “competition” whereby everyone in the cooking team had to cook his or her own version of fried rice, with a variety of seasonings offered. One interesting dish was from Christo, who added curry seasoning. Thumbs up for the imagination!

After a brief rest, we had one of our longest meetings! We divided into three groups to talk about experiences in Niigata and Tokyo after a general discussion. The atmosphere was lively and brimming with energy.

Everyone was dismissed at about 10, so they must be really tired from such a long day. お疲れ様でした!






夜は午後10時まで、これまでの活動をふり返ってのグループディスカッション。長い一日ご苦労さまでした。        今日の記録係 シンレ・スー