Vision

To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process.
僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン(Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。
化石燃料や原子力に頼らず、他国の資源を取らない、
自給自足な国へのトランジションを実現させてゆきたいです。

Friday, July 29, 2011

Trip to Japan 2010: exploring Japanese permaculture Part 2


NETWORKING WITH SUSTAINABILITY ACTIVISTS
and JAPANESE PERMACULTURE PRACTITIONERS
日本のサステナビリティー活動家やパーマカルチャー実践者巡り

SAITAMA: Farming experience for city dwellers
埼玉 ビーチャレと金子さんの霜里農場

Jan. 15th
This picture is from an event I went to called "Beer Challenge",
a program for city dwellers who want to get a taste of farm work/life,
with the final goal of making beer.There are three events per year related to barely growing and processing. The organisers offer another version called "Rice Challenge". I think there is a trend both in the US and Japan where urban folks are interested in reconnecting with the source of their food and beverages.

For this particular event, we stepped on the young shoots of barley to encourage root growth and strong stems. I was told that this is a strategy in response to tsuyu, the Japanese early summer rainy season. If the stems are tall and thin, the barley will bend from the weight of the water from the rain, and the barley will mold.

The irony of this picture is that the tractor had already done the "stomping" for us. I think very few farmers actually step on the barely with their feet these days. It's also ironic that I paid about $25 to go do (fake) farm work after living on a homestead-farm the past 7 months. And I don't even drink alcohol!
I love irony.

I went barefoot.
Living in Tokyo really makes me long for connection with the earth.
What a pleasant sensation of feeling cold dry soft soil and young barely shoots beneath my skin. That's the good life.

A big reason I attended the Beer Challenge was to meet kindred souls in Japan.
The host farm, called Shimosato or Frostpia Farm, was featured on a TV special that I saw,
and I learned about Yoshinori Kaneko, the owner, who has been practicing organic farming since the 70s.

He uses a CSA model, and unique features of his farm include veggie oil for fuel, biogas production, biochar production, solar electricity and water heating, ducks in his rice paddies, free-range cows and chickens, shiitake production, and interdependence with the satoyama. He hosts interns too.
The website of his farm is:

The bonus irony is that Yoshinori was away that day to do a lecture at an agricultural university. The other person I was hoping to meet, the organiser of the event, was not able to be there either. In Hawaii we would call this "ah big bummah".

Well insulated compost.
I love the practical artfulness of rural Japan.
Bamboo posts and leaves are from the adjacent satoyama forest, and the rest of the material are from the rice fields and gardens.

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.


SHIZUOKA: Izu peninsula to meet up with the Bullocks
静岡 南伊豆でブロックスに会いに

Jan. 16th

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.


KANAGAWA: Fujino a hotspot for alternative culture right by Tokyo
神奈川 藤野の里山長家プロジェクト

Feb. 12th

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.


*Japanese equivalent to Ministry of Education

Part three will be about concrete projects that I'm thinking about plugging into,
and some really interesting artist farmer elders that I came across.

BONUS PICTURE
Ojizo sama.
Stone bodhisattvas that can be found all over Japan,

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