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WWOOFing in Japan

Have you ever considered spending several months at a time farming in Japan as part of the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) programme? Shermain, Ken and Kai Ni took time off work last year to do just that, hopping from one farm to the next, accumulating meaningful memories, a vast array of knowledge, and friendships along the way. Shermain even ended up finding employment in Kagawa, where she is now based.

Shermain travelled as an individual while Ken and Kai Ni travelled as a couple. In this post, they relate their WWOOFing experiences, and dispense some advice on how you can be prepared for your adventure!

Shermain Pea

1. How long did you go for and which towns did you visit?

Total: Almost 6 months.

I WOOFed from 2nd August 2016 – 30th October 2016, went and volunteered at Kamikatsu from 21st Nov to 15th Dec, and then back to Kagawa to WWOOF all the way till 25th Jan.

Places that I WWOOFed at:

Hiroshima  (h30077)

Ayagawa, Kagawa (h32438)

Shizouka (h6885)

Fujino (Kanagawa) (h35620)

Where to WWOOF in Fujino, Kanagawa

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Welcome to part 3 of a series on Fujino, Kanagawa, Japan. If you’re smitten with what Fujino has to offer and would like to work for board and lodging as part of a WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) arrangement, here are four places you can WWOOF at, and if you’re adventurous enough, you can do them all!:

1. Fujino Club

I have written an extensive post on Fujino Club here, it’s a great first-time WWOOFing location, and ideal for those who enjoy farm as well as kitchen work. Fujino Club uses natural farming methods, and from what I understand, they will also be employing permaculture methods from 2017.

To WWOOF with Fujino Club, find them on the WWOOF Japan network under Kanagawa in the Kanto region.

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Permaculture Center Japan in Fujino, Kanagawa

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In my recent post on Fujino Club, I mentioned my visit to Permaculture Center Japan (PCCJ) in Fujino, Kanagawa. Here is a walkthrough of my experience there. It would not have happened without the help of the people at Fujino Club, who helped organise this trip, and I would like to acknowledge them for their kindness.

This is part two of a three part series on Fujino, Kanagawa, with a focus on WWOOFing and permaculture. WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunity on Organic Farms).

PCCJ Founder Mr Kiyokazu Shidara found some time amid his busy schedule to give a few of us a tour of their permaculture demonstration site. He elaborated that it has been designed as a self sufficient site, and in summer, it is possible to live there.

Here is Mr Shidara, explaining the design of the plot of land from a vantage point. He walks around with a toolbelt, and the ‘kama’ – a popular Japanese hand tool for weeding, was visibly sticking out at the side.

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WWOOFing at Fujino Club in Kanagawa, Japan

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I had my first WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) experience in late September, and I found it life-changing. I picked Fujino, in Kanagawa, Japan, because of its transition town status, and because I missed Japan dearly. Almost everyday, I watch the NHK World channel, which occasionally features urban farming and/or slow living television programmes. There’s lots to say about this place, so this post kicks off the first of a three-part series on Fujino, Kanagawa.

Fujino is located one hour by train from Tokyo, and it costs around S$17 to commute between these two points by train, and another S$3 by bus to get to Fujino Club, where I chose to WWOOF. Fujino is the first transition town in Japan, and residents are keen to be self sufficient in its energy use, and already have their own unique currency system known as Yorozu – a passbook which logs the exchange of products or services. This town has long attracted creative folks, and is home to many artists.

Fujino Club’s most notable eco features include its EV (electric vehicle) charging station, solar panels and natural farming methods. However, what I found most memorable was the warmth and connection that I felt in the company of its staff, including its owner, Mr Kuwahara, and his wife, Sachiko. I was so sad to leave that I cried on a few occasions.

During my time there, I worked in the Korean kitchen and at the farms, and a couple of times, I helped out with laundry and cleaning the Airbnb residences. All the work I did felt meaningful and I felt fulfilled at the end of the day, especially when staff members express their sincere gratitude. My work experience there taught me valuable lessons about team dynamics, work ethic, and about identity in a community. I realised that it doesn’t matter what type of work one does – e.g. cooking/cleaning, or one’s title. As long as work needs to be done, anyone can step up to fulfil the task, and having an ego about it is not necessary, because all the work that needs to be done is important.

Also, I ended most of my days at the Yamanami onsen (hot springs) down the road, the perfect way to wind down and recharge before dinner time. Fujino Club gives its WWOOFers two onsen tickets a week – a much appreciated bonus!

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The restaurant is cosy, and features beautiful calligraphy by Sachiko, and art work by local painters, potters and sculptors.

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The restaurant offers such lovely views, everyday I got to marvel at this.

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There is also a tennis court on the premises for those who enjoy sports.

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Lessons from living in the hinterland

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[PS. If you are having difficulty reading the extended post on your mobile device, please click on “view desktop site” and it should load. Can’t seem to fix this, other posts seem to work on mobiles though]

So the house is finally sold and my boyfriend, Dan, has decided to move closer to Sydney till the end of the year, before his mom looks at buying another property in the Northern Rivers. Sorry for the blurry photo – it was a screen capture from realestate.com.au, the lovely photo was taken by Elders Real Estate. For now, my journey of rainforest/remote living will be put on hold. Fingers crossed that he will move to Sydney for a short stint so that I can do more self sufficiency courses with Milkwood, since there are none in Byron Bay for the rest of the year. Of late, I’ve been extremely keen on fermentation, in particular – water kefir, but I will talk about that another time.

In these last 3 and a half plus years of jetting between Singapore and the subtropical Byron Hinterland, specifically Upper Coopers Creek, I’ve learned a lot about simple living and about the beauty of living with the seasons of nature, something that I didn’t pay attention to much when living in Perth for 7 years, and even less so in Singapore. It’s an experience I love and treasure greatly, being in sync with nature is beneficial to our health and well being, and being a gardener reminds me of this.

Living in the rainforest and off the land is often romanticised but it can be costly and involve more effort than what many people think. Selling Houses Australia – one of my favourite Australian television programmes, shared a surprising statistic about how 50% of city dwellers who buy into country towns change their minds and move back. It’s certainly not for everyone.