For the second half of the beer challenge event,
we helped thin bamboo in the satoyama forest.
One of the most needed work in satoyamas are thinning and containing bamboo.
The task is quite challenging because the bamboo has grown densely throughout the steep hill sides. Its hard to get a good footing and find an unobstructed angle to push the saw through.
Bamboo can snap and not only whack you hard but cut you pretty bad too. Luckily no attendees got hurt. The event host had a chipper and the bamboo pieces were spread in the satoyama forest as mulch to speed up decomposition. Bamboo posts accumulate quickly blocking access and becoming a fire hazard. Management is crucial to maintain a harmonious balance in this ethnoecological system.
Pictured above is one of Yoshinori's interns, a father of two, joyfully carrying bamboo leaves back to the farm for mulch and compost. The basket is made of bamboo too. Bamboo is an amazing plant with an impressive amount of uses. The shoots are tasty, great material for charcoal, flooring, scaffolding, construction material, fence, etc. I recommend "The Book of Bamboo" for those of you curious about all things bamboo.
I ventured to the Southern tip of the Izu peninsula to visit the Bullocks, and their Japanese counterparts. During one of our walks, I saw this tree with daikon radishes hanging from it. Looks pretty bizarre. I think these are being dried out to make crunchy "takuan" pickles.
I heard that there was an onsen (hotspring) nearby with a green house enclosure in this area where they grow tropical fruits (e.g. bananas and papayas). I also passed by an onsen-powered greenhouse producing melons. The idea of having land with access to onsen water got me really excited. Maybe I can grow avocados, mangos, and coconut palms...... well, probably more realistic for me to grow bananas, papayas, and passion fruit.
In Fujino, I attended an open house event for a project called "Satoyama Nagaya Living - Fujino Project", led by permaculture design course graduates and one of the main instructors, an architect passionate about eco-communities. "Nagaya" literally means long-house, somewhat similar to what Bristish people call row house. The "nagaya" theme embodies their desire to explore the disappearing co-housing model of Japan, where sharing responsibilities and resources was a regular practice while respecting private space too.
The land is 200 tsubo (about 660 square meters) and each unit is about 66~70 square meters. There are four units total plus a community area for events. Each house including the land came out to be about 25 million yen. They sourced their materials locally (e.g. wood and clay) and the structure was designed to maximise passive solar energy. Energy consuming appliances like bath, washing machine, refrigerator, and oven are shared and located in the communal space to reduce energy use and associated costs.
They have a communal blog to share their experiences and encourage similar projects around Japan. They will be doing additional workshops and classes on satoyama living and other sustainability related topics.
Fujino city (pop: 11,000) is a hotspot for alternative culture, hosting a vibrant Transition Town movement and the Permaculture Center Japan. I read that during WWII many artists evacuated to Fujino, and ever since there has been a strong presence of art, like a huge love letter nestled into the forest. Fujino is also one of the closest satoyamas to Tokyo, that supports farmers whose lives are connected to the managed forest ecosystems. They also host one of the two Monbusho* approved Steiner schools of Japan.