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Trip Start Dec 27, 2011
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Trip End Apr 25, 2012


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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Saturday, March 3, 2012

Today we finished our work placement at the potato farm, possibly the only place in Japan without internet access. We are both pretty happy to be sitting in a clean and comfortable hotel room.
We arrived in Hitachiota on the 13th of February. Shortly after arriving, Toshika, our host, came to pick us up at the station. She took us back to the farm shop where she prepared a wild boar curry and rice. The wild boar had just been trapped the previous day. The rest of the boar was later smoked and put into a cardboard box along with the other smoked things (whole fishes and squids). 
We lived at the barn which included a wood stove for heat (not for the second story bedrooms though), a lot of raw meat laying around, a french guy, and one 20kg bag of rice that fed some of us three meals a day.
We met Hiroshi, Toshika's husband, one of the daughters, and the barn cat. Toshika explained that the bedrooms upstairs had not been touched since the earthquake (almost a year ago), so we would stay at their house for the night and clean up the next day. 
We did experience our first earthquakes in Japan. During the three weeks we were at the farm we experienced a dozen small earthquakes and tremors. Many of them were small, but a couple woke us up to the house shaking violently. We were able to capture the end of a small one on video which you can view.

Our first few days of work consisted of filling many mini bulk bags (they hold 750kg) with 15kg bags of fertilizer. Another HelpEx volunteer came to stay for a couple of weeks, so that sped things up. He was also Canadian, from Quebec. We had to cook all his meals for him because he could not cook, but cooking was one of the more enjoyable things to do at the farm so we never minded too much.
The next week or so was spent filling up the 4 greenhouses with sacks of potatoes. We laid them on the ground in a single layer to dry. The bags got flipped over after 5 days or so. After the potatoes began sprouting eyes we dumped the bags into more mini bulk bags so they could be taken to the fields and planted (yes, they plant potatoes in February!). It was a lot of labour and long days.
We spent a couple of fun days planting mushrooms as well which was a neat experience. We drilled holes into huge logs with a special mushroom planting drill bit. The mushroom spores are on wooden plugs, which we hammered into the holes. We watched our host go on a rampage with his backhoe to find trees for us to inoculate, knocking down what would amount to a small forest. The 1500 mushroom plugs we planted will be available to eat in two years!
  We also did some other stuff like package dried sweet potatoes (they taste kind of like dates and are very good). We cleaned farm equipment that had just gone on a rampage in the mud (see above). Brittany even made soba (buckwheat noodles) and served it to customers in our hosts' restaurant (I am sure it was quite the experience for the customers to have a waitress that did not know what you were ordering, luckily the restaurant only served soba).

We only had one day off a week, and no internet, so we had to have fun the old fashion way, staring at the fire. We often walked the two hour trip to Hitachiota city to visit civilization. We became experts at one of the arcade claw games in town (you move an arm around and try to grab stuffed toys, chocolates, and other prizes). We also visited the AEON grocery store, and perused the ice cream aisle every visit (there are no real slurpees in Japan, so ice cream is our backup).
  Our hosts did take us out for a meal at Genki Sushi which is a chain of conveyor belt restaurants. The food goes around and around, and you just grab what you want. The sushi is usually served two pieces per plate, and the plates are colour coded to signify price. We later stopped at the local tea merchants house, and he attempted to get us all drunk on cherry whiskey made in the Fukushima region of Japan, and sake made by the local high school kids. It was a very fun night.

We have a couple days in Tokyo to recuperate, next stop, South Korea!
    
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