A day on the cabbage farm

So, not much to post in this one, just thought I’d share some parts of what has been my day-to-day for the past 2 months (as of writing I have left the illustrious world of cabbage farming). And also apologies for the lack of photos – taking my most important possession (well, 2nd to my passport) to a cabbage field was not in my list of things I wanted to do.

5am – start work!

Wow, yeah, this was a…not so much a shock, rather it just took a little getting used to do.

In summer it wasn’t that bad, as it was already relatively warm (at least by UK standards) by this time in the morning, and fortunately I only got to experience a handful of days where it was legit cold, and riding in the back of a truck (FUN! No really.) on these days, usually accompanied by some rain wasn’t the *best* way to start the day.

5am – 7:30am – cut some cabbages!

Or rather ‘harvest’, but we just used cut (切る) as short-hand i guess, nothing to it – just cut the cabbage and chuck it in a pile…many hundreds of times. Even on dry/warm days it’s surprisingly ‘wet’ work – so waterproof clothes and wellies it is. Only real downside apart from being amazingly tedious, is the often encountered rotten cabbage – enough to turn anyone’s stomach – you just sort of get used to it…until one disintegrates in your hand and you begin to question all your life-choices up to this point. Anyway, moving on…

7:30am – Breakfast on the field!

A delicious homemade bento by the wife of the couple who run the farm – Taeko(妙子)-san. Always delicious, and always most welcome.

It is worth just taking a break from this seemingly-endless barrage of boring text to appreciate the scenery in which I was doing this job.

IMG_8474IMG_8391FullSizeRender

ok good? back to the tedium

8:00am-finish – Loading cabbages!

So, pretty much every part of lining up boxes, packing the cabbages into said boxes and then loading them onto pallets on the back of a tractor. I usually did more of the ‘lining up’ and ‘loading’ than anything else – you know because I’m a man (lol).

This did involve plenty of opportunity to drive a tractor, which was at times fun, occasionally terrifying, but usually just pretty ordinary. Oh yeah, proof:

img_8826

Finish depended on a few things such as: the field (quality of cabbages, integrity of ground), and if we had any extra helpers (and how quick they were at cutting cabbages). Recently it was around Midday, but there’s been a few days that finished at 4pm (bleh), and a few that finished at 11am (yay).

And then?

Well, free time to see all that sights in Tsumagoi (嬬恋村)…so pretty much just reading, and studying.

Although depending on the other folks volunteering, I did end up spending a decent amount of time just chatting to the awesome people that were volunteering there or helping them learn English, which was kinda fun – please don’t take this to mean that I actually want to be an English teacher – this is most definitely not the case.

Advertisements

Miscellaneous Food Pics #12

Holy shit a new blog post!

Oh wait, it’s just another food one.

1. Cabbage ‘Cider’

IMG_8390

Yeah…

I mean, I saw it and I just had to buy it.

Fortunately it didn’t taste anything like cabbage, it was basically fizzy sugar water (not even alcoholic! the outrage!) with a faint aroma of cabbage.

totally worth the 250¥ for the novelty, but yeah, not something I’ll ever buy again.

2. Donald Trump ‘gourmet’ milk chocolate

IMG_8433

Hmm, this post is turning out a little weirder than usual. Oh well.

This was given to me as a present (or just a joke, I don’t know), by the wife of the couple I’m working for. They got it from a friend who bought a few bars of it whilst on vacation in Hawaii.

It tasted like cheap advent calendar chocolate, and there wasn’t an image of Donald Trump inscribed in the chocolate.

I was most disappointed.

3. マジミラいちごサンデー (Magical Mirai Strawberry Sundae)

img_8681

I don’t know if I’m going to be posting the Magical Mirai pics publicly, but I was most definitely there eating this surprisingly predictably expensive ice cream (though it did come with a free gift).
What actually surprised me was the fact that the filler/base was not cornflakes! It was rice crispies. wow.
img_8687

Apparently it doesn’t take much to surprise me.

4. Multicoloured Soumen Noodles

img_8540

Because I guess if someone would want unnecessarily colourful noodles it’d be me.

5. Miso ramen

img_8542

Ridiculously good ramen at a quiet place buried in the alleys and sidestreets of Ueno. Looks pretty standard, but it was pretty fantastic. Probably the 2nd or 3rd best ramen I’ve had in Japan.

7. Style free beer

img_8468

I get it, “style free” because it’s me! Hahahahaha.

No.

Sugar-free beer, ideal for diabetics, or people that want to drink disgusting-tasting beer.

8. 久しぶりのナイフとフォーク (First knife and fork for a long time)

img_8528

First time I’ve used a knife and fork in something like 5 months…so that was fun. Also, the combination of food was pretty…interesting.
Steak + jus – fine.
+ cabbage – o…k, sure, I’m I guess we work on a cabbage farm, so ok
+ spaghetti bolognese – no.

and of course there was rice and miso soup on the side, because Japan.

Joking aside, that steak was cooked perfectly and absolutely delicious.

WWOOF-ing in Tsumagoi (嬬恋村)

So, where were we?
Ah yes, after doing another round of sightseeing (see recent posts), I headed once again to Tokyo for a few days. There it was more of the same old Tokyo stuff that I always do, and then it was time to hop on a shinkansen to Karuizawa (軽井沢), and then head to my home for the next couple of months – a small village in Gunma Prefecture (群馬県) called Tsumagoi (嬬恋村).


#38

Having mostly experienced living in big cities (Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto), I wanted to experience the rural side of Japan. And fortunately for me (and my bank balance) there’s a scheme called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) whereby you can totally work on a farm virtually anywhere in Japan (in fact it’s worldwide), and in return you’re provided with lodgings, meals and whatnot.

So here I am working on a farm, a cabbage farm no less – apparently Tsumagoi is something like the ‘cabbage capital’ of Japan (a sentence that is perhaps the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever produced), producing 90%+ of the cabbages consumed in Japan. Kinda neat, but it is still just cabbages so nothing to get too excited about.

IMG_8416

just look at all them cabbages

The folks that i’m staying with/working for are a couple in their late-60s(!), and they run a guesthouse as well as a relatively small cabbage farm, I say ‘relatively’ but there’s still plenty of work to be done, and whilst it varies from planting, watering and misc. tasks like cutting grass etc., at this time of year the main job is harvesting – for which I’ll do a separate post to bore everyone with the cabbage-y details.

img_8384

Anyway, it’s pretty much nothing like I expected, I didn’t realise before coming here that Karuizawa is synonymous with holiday homes and guesthouses/lodges etc. so it’s a lot less like a ‘village’ than I imagined and more like I’m just staying in a quiet rural retreat. Which isn’t too bad, though it does mean that everything is pretty far away – which is fair, I’ve just been spoiled by cities which excellent transport connections.

But still, plenty of opportunities to practice my Japanese – which is great (the opportunity that is, not my Japanese).

Oh, and bugs, loads of bugs. Though, I do seem to have reached some sort of accord with the bugs in as much as, they don’t bother me and I don’t kill them…is what I like to think, but the reality is more that I don’t think the guesthouse I’m in was used much before my arrival, so the bugs have probably just retreated into the recesses until I leave.

Anyway, look forward to more cabbage-based blog posts coming soon. or not, i don’t know.

Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖)

One of Mt Fuji (富士山)’s 5 great lakes.
Before you get excited (lol as if) at the thought of some neat Mt Fuji pics
IMG_8280

It was very cloudy, so I couldn’t see the summit 😦
Which would’ve left me a bit miffed, but I wasn’t coming here out of my way so to speak – it was a bus from Takayama(高山) to Shinjuku(新宿), Tokyo, that I opted to stop over at Kawaguchiko for a few hours. (Still a bit miffed though)

Also, on the topic of Mt Fuji, I opted to not even try and climb it (this year at least) – mostly due to the sheer expense of travel, equipment hire, lodging etc.. I’ll try and make it a thing to do in the future (honest!)

Anyway due to the time restriction I only really got a few things done:
A look at Mt Fuji from the other side of the lake
IMG_8220IMG_8221

The ropeway for some nice pics of the lake, and surrounding mountains (it’s not just Fuji!!)
IMG_8222IMG_8252IMG_8234IMG_8241IMG_8247IMG_8236
Amusingly they had a camera and laptop set up so that you could “get a photo that looks like it isn’t cloudy”, where for something like ¥1000 (~£7) they’d photoshop you into a non-cloudy Mt Fuji backdrop. I opted not to, and bought an ice-cream instead. I think I chose well.

A cruise on the lake
IMG_8259IMG_8273IMG_8280

IMG_8336

and that was it. Not much to say really, it’s a really cool huge lake, with lots of tourist-trap shops and whatnot as you’d expect.


#36

But wait!! Just when all hope was lost.
IMG_8340IMG_8341IMG_8348

Yeah, a hurriedly-taken photo from a inside a bus doesn’t exactly make for a ‘nice’ photo, but I don’t care 😛

On an unrelated note, this was the last of the sightseeing posts that I was catching up on, so everything after this will be fresh new content.

Bear in mind I currently live in the middle of nowhere. The content may be a little dull.

Kamikōchi (上高地)

One of the reasons I opted for Kanazawa (金沢) and Takayama (高山) instead of…well, anywhere else was the really good transport links to other fun stuff, like Kamikōchi (上高地).

It’s basically just a huge area in/amongst the mountains with loads of camping and hiking spots – though due to time and (lack of) desire to climb a mountain in crazy hot temperatures, I opted for the easy hiking trails.

IMG_7995

Bus change at a nearby onsen

So one of the main attractions of the southern area of Kamikōchi is this big-ass lake Taishō Pond(大正池), known for it’s reflection of the mountains in clear water.

IMG_7998

unfortunately it was a pretty cloudy day, so the glorious mountain view with the lake was obscured

IMG_8006

but the water was absolute luscious

IMG_7997IMG_8002IMG_8005IMG_8007

A little down the way through some vaguely swamp-y areas

IMG_8009IMG_8014

there was a smaller lake

IMG_8018

based on the name it was a (smaller than previous) lake, but it was flowing…so no?

IMG_8022IMG_8025IMG_8029

So, a little further down the route and

IMG_8033

spoilers: I didn’t get eaten by a bear

Anyway, a little further down the trail…
IMG_8040IMG_8042IMG_8043

and we get to the River Azusa (梓川) that these hiking trails run alongside.

IMG_8055IMG_8059IMG_8074IMG_8078IMG_8084IMG_8085

And then Kappa Bridge (河童橋)
IMG_8101IMG_8102IMG_8105IMG_8108IMG_8109

Thus ends trail #1, off further up the river for trail #2
IMG_8120IMG_8136IMG_8146IMG_8147IMG_8149

Which ends with…you guessed it, another bridge!
IMG_8170IMG_8175IMG_8178

And now trail #3 back south to Kappa Bridge…for which I guess I didn’t take any photos…huh.

aaand we’re done – back at the visitor centre
IMG_8200

Really fun day, a bit cloudy, but still absolute gorgeous, if I was more of an outdoors-y person I would totally have camped here and tried some more adventurous trails…but yeah. That ain’t me.

Map!


#35

As you can see, relatively close to Takayama – I guess if there’s one thing Takayama is good for, it’s getting out of Takayama (sorry Takayama).

Random anime guff + some night pics from Akihabara (秋葉原) + Ikebukuro (池袋)

I created this post when I went to Tokyo back in…April? But I didn’t make it public because no-one really wants to see this kind of stuff other than me.

But I then I posted the Evangelion stuff from Kanazawa and thought “meh, why not”.

So here’s a bunch of photos taken from Akihabara (in Tokyo) back in April, and a few from Ikebukuro (also in Tokyo) taken a week or so ago in the middle of July.

Akihabara (秋葉原)

FullSizeRender

the classic ‘electric town exit’ view

IMG_5574

no idea what any of these characters are, and the writing is mostly in chinese

IMG_5576IMG_5578IMG_5621

IMG_5622

because why not have a life-sized girl with some sort of mecha-suit in your shop window?

IMG_5845

every time I walked by this shop I almost ended up buying some old snes games or something, then realised I really didn’t want to have to buy a snes and lug that around with me too

IMG_5846

IMG_8375

“High School Fleet”. I guess they want to create another “Kancolle”? But this time, the girls aren’t actually ships? No idea.

Ikebukuro (池袋)

IMG_8360

Stumbled upon some sort of mini summer matsuri (festival) in the middle of Ikebukuro, complete with food stalls and everything

IMG_8357.JPG

IMG_8355.JPG

I can assure you this arcade was very well air-conditioned, but what’s on that screen?

 

So yeah, aside from the anime guff, no real theme to this post, essentially just a bit of housekeeping and a place to store these images.

Takayama (高山) pt2

So, Hida folk village (飛騨の里) is a preserved village.
Well I say ‘preserved’ village, the houses were built during the Edo period (1603-1867), and were actually relocated from their original locations to create what is essentially an open-air museum.
I went relatively late in the afternoon, so it was really quiet (literally 2 buses of primary school kids were leaving just as I arrived…thank god).

The fact it was so quiet led to it being kinda creep at times, so I’ve included a couple of videos too, to try and reflect that.
IMG_7899IMG_7900IMG_7905IMG_7909IMG_7911IMG_7914

IMG_7919

IMG_7934

IMG_7937IMG_7936IMG_7938

It was pretty hot out, so after walking around for almost 2 hours I headed to grab a drink at a rest area, and they had a machine where you could stamp a coin or something with your own message.
I totally forgot to actually do this because I was captivated by the fact that it looked like it was running on an old Commodore 64 or something, just look at those graphics!

Anyway, headed back to town noticed in one of the shop windows near the bus station there was a couple of posters for anime that were set in Takayama – I always find it neat when small(er) town and cities are like “OMG we were in an Anime”.
IMG_7948IMG_7949

Got to my accomodation which was a gorgeous tatami room, with doors that opened onto a small stream (no photos, because the residents of the adjacent house were in the garden having dinner, so I didn’t want to disturb them). Popped out and took a few night time photos around the area
IMG_7962IMG_7958IMG_7963IMG_7964IMG_7965IMG_7970

And that was it for Takayama (technically – i did come back the next day, but only to sleep and leave the following day).

When my plans changed due to the torrential rain, I gained a day (not doing an overnight bus from Hiroshima back to Kyoto), and honestly, I’m really glad that I chose (admittedly, somewhat blindly) to spend 2 days in Kanazawa rather then Takayama.

There really isn’t enough for 2 days unless you want to rent a car and do some exploring of the neighbouring areas, and Kanazawa is just so much cooler (in my opinion of course).