For the next two weeks or so, I will be organic farming at a small town about 2 hours from Kyoto. I found the farm through an organization called WWOOF (World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers) which operates in many different countries including Japan. The concept is that farmers can host travelers or volunteers who agree to help out at their farm for 4-6 hours everyday in return for food and accomodation. The volunteers are called WWOOFers. WWOOFing during can range from one week to several months. I decided to do WWOOFing partly because it gives me an opportunity to experience the Japanese countryside, partly because it saves on travel costs, and partly because its something I've never done before and is bound to push me outside my comfort zone. Japan seemed to be a great place to do WWOOFing for the first time, considering how safe it is and also how hospitable people are here. The organic farm I chose is in a town called Ayabe (population~15000 people). It is near a city called Fukuchiyama and is equidistant from Osaka and Kyoto (but more inland unlike Kyoto and Osaka). The farm is pretty far away from civilization. I don’t see any convenience stores or anything nearby. My host picked me up from the train station and it took 25 minutes on the road from the train station to get here. There’s a bus which runs from the train station to my WWOOFing location, but it only runs 5 times a day, and doesn't run on Sundays. At first, the town looked fairly populated and developed, but then we drove into lush greenery and the main town was far behind. This place is close to the river as well as the mountains. It’s like those pictures that kids draw of the sun between the mountains and a river flowing in the foreground. Infact, I saw the setting sun here and it was beautiful. The sky was flaming red. I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunset before.
|A view of the sunset from my host's house|
|My beautiful room for the next two weeks|
Sayaka-san, my host runs a guest house called Furumaya and has her own organic farm on the side. Having studied in the US, she speaks fluent English. She was also a round the world traveler at one point and still continues to travel (especially to Africa) as a volunteer for Doctors without Borders. She loves to cook and lives on her own, with frequent visits from her parents. Sayaka-san welcomes foreigners who are interested in seeing the Japanese countryside. There aren’t many English speaking people in the countryside, so she stands out that way and is one of the few people here who is able to communicate with foreigners.
I am the only WWOOFer here for the next few days and I have my own room, which is besides the main house. It’s a square shaped tatami room with the most amazing view. There are some bugs and insects here, but they seem quite harmless.
|Part of the farm where I'll be working. The one in the picture is a vegetable garden.|
|Wood used as firewood in the winter and for carpentry|
My tasks involve things like laundry, washing dishes, folding towels, etc. as well as things on the farm, which I’ll find out about tomorrow. As of now, it doesn’t seem too difficult, but its certainly physically taxing.I have only done tasks inside the house so far, but even they have involved a fair bit of moving around, certainly more than I'm used to in Singapore.
Sayaka-san is really friendly and said that she chose to start hosting WWOOFers so that she could spend time with backpackers and also introduce some foreigners in the Japanese countryside, which is rare as of now.