ECOPLUS conduced an “on-line tour” in Minamiuonuma on Jan 30, 2022. That is one of four tours which were organized by a tour company called “KNOTWORLD” with the budget of Niigata prefecture government.
For the tour, we had more than 30 participants from all over Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa. From 11 a.m. the tour was started under the theme of “snow” guided by TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS.
At the beginning, snow cover rice field of Tochikubo village was introduced. The place is 300 meters higher than town center. So the snow was reaching to 3 meters. Then, the camera moved to the house of Mr. FUEKI Akira, who has been growing non-chemical organic rice. He explained the harvest of the last season was good because of well weather condition.
The sun-dried non-chemical organic rice was delivered to the participants in advance so that they prepared cooked rice for this “tour.” Tasting the rice together, comment filed was filled with voices, like “Texture is soft,” “Sweet,” “Well sticky,” and “Grains are powerful.”
Mr. FUEKI also showed us how to manage a lot of snow fallen on the roof using traditional wooden slide. Participants learned the ways of living in deep snow.
In the later part of the tour, we visited Shiozawa Tsumugi Textile Museum. The area has more than 1,200 years of history of fabric. In old days, hemp closes and later silk ones were weaved. Mr. NAGUMO Masanori, the curator, explained the process from getting strings from fiber of outer skin of hemp plant to weaving with very traditional weaving mechanism.
Although it was a very short and on-line tour, participants asked many questions and comments through out the program and many are enjoying eating rice during this lunch time period while joining the tour.
It was the first time for ECOPLUS to organize the virtual tour. We learned a lot about online techniques, skills and tips for such unpredictable time caused by COVID-19. We really appreciate the kind support and collaboration by all participants and related persons today.
Ecoplus conducted day camp programs on March 6 and 6, 2021, at Shimizu village in Niigata, Japan. In the two days, 20 elementary school kids joined. During the program, they identified several animal tracks, dug snow caves, enjoyed flying snow sledging and were keeping laughing all the time.
On March 6, although it was sleeting, children were excited to come into the forest. They learned the different shapes of buds of plants and observed the foot prints of hares. Many of those experienced to use local snow shoes called “Kanji” during the walk.
After the lunch, it was the time to play on the snow. Some of those started to dig the snow using shovels. Their trials turned to a project to make snow caves. One of those was quite big enough to accommodate some children sitting inside. They also made a snow wall using snow blocks pulling outside from the cave, then their secret base was established. The walls between each one were also melted during the playing. The bright laughing voices were echoed in the tiny aged village.
On March 7, the weather condition was a bit better. With the clearer visibility, some of images of living creatures were identified. A naturalist, Mr. FUKASAWA, identified a “KAMOSHIKA,” or a Japanese serow, but it hided in somewhere. Then, a deer was spotted on the mountain ridge next to the village. Children enjoyed observing the deer with big antlers clearly with a powerful mononocular.
Children left the positive comments, like “it was nice to have new friends,” “It was fun to take lunch in our snow cave,” or “Sledging was very exciting.”
All of the participants are from this “snow country” and many of those said they were enjoying skiing. However they also said that they did not do sledding not so much, nor making snow caves next to their houses. It may be connected to the situation that many of new houses in the area are surrounded by concrete paved ground with running water for melting the snow. The children in the snow country look like losing the opportunity to play with snow in their daily lives.
“Kanjiki,” or Japanese snow shoes, were also unfamiliar for those. The tradition in the area is also fading away. The reactions from the participants showed the value to learn the nature and life in the place and to have the face-to-face dialogues with others through experiences.
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.
ECOPLUS will conduct a snow camp in a mountainous village, Shimizu, in Niigata from March 20 to 22, 2020. The area is know as the deepest snow area in Japan which has 4 meters of snow in mid-winter. Even in March, we expect more than 1 meter of snow. Participants will enjoy snow and learn the ways of living in snow. English language support available.
TAKANO Takako, the executive director of ECOPLUS, who travelled over frozen Arctic Ocean and other remote areas in the world will organize the project. With the strong support from the local people, participants will learn the knowledges and skills of the mountainous village and will enjoy the beauty and power of the snow.
Participants: Youth over 15 years old, like his school and college students. Junior high students may be joined based on the situation.
Program : Camping on snow, Hiking with Japanese snow shoes, dynamic snow sliding, Cooking, Snow toilet, Making snow statues, Sledging, and any other creative activities on snow.
Assembling; 10:50 am, March 20, at Shiozawa Station, of Jyoestu Line. Toki 309, departing Tokyo at 8:52 has easier connection at Echigo-Yuzawa station.
Break up: 15:30, March 22, at Shiozawa Station, of Jyoestu Line. (tentative)
Fees: 23,000 JPY including food and tent accommodations, programs, insurance. Travel cost and rental gears are excluded.