Monday, 10 May 2010

Super Dynamic!

Over grown Asparagus. すくすく伸びるアスパラ。

Last year at Tsukushi farm, throughout the entire rice growing cycle, our paddy was subject to careful monitoring and surveillance by sharp-eyed, indomitable sparrows. In Spring, they slipped through tiny holes in the nets covering the seed beds and glutted their endless appetite with delicacies (rice seeds). In Autumn, they pecked the plumpest grains just before our planned harvest day. In Winter, when rice was exposed to the sun, it also suffered the attentions of their omnipresent, watchful eyes.

We were particularly cautious this year, instituting nets protecting the seeds, so that even frogs could not approach the beds. In addition, I made a spare bed in the dry land area next to my vegetables. But all the seed beds in the wetland sank deep in the water due to unexpectedly heavy rainfall (our wetland runs with natural spring water which does not enable us to control the water level) and my dry land bed was half ruined by the sudden emergent activity of eager moles. Dear nature, what a super dynamic!

The other day, I found an article in the NY Times about 'Super Weeds', which described how the rapid growth of these so-called weeds has led American farmers to revert to farming practices abandoned twenty years ago when Roundup had been first introduced.

Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds

Roundup was supposed to eliminate labour intensive workload and provide minimal demand for till-farming. The rapidly developing resistant weeds which resulted, however, have displayed Darwinian evolution at aggressive speed and rendered human technology incapable of prediction or prevention.

In other rice fields in Japan, less damage has been caused by sparrows due to rampant pesticide use. Sparrows have not only taken enough nutrition by eating grains, but eating insects coexisting with crops.

My battle against creatures ‘gone native’ continues, but at least I can enjoy the super dynamic of nature.



つくし農園の前年度の米作りは、全ての作業を鋭い目つきで観察し、決して我々に懐柔されないスズメたちの、厳しい監督下のもとに進められました。春には、 苗床の上にきっちりと張られたはずの網の、小さな小さな抜け穴をかいくぐり、大切な種籾を食い散らかす。秋には、数日後にちょうど収穫を迎える、ふっくり と美味しそうに実った稲をつまみ食いする。刈り取られた稲が、あたたかな冬の日差しの中で陽光をふんだんに浴びている折には、必ず彼らの抜け目ない視線が きらりと光っています。

今年の我々は、スズメ対策に余念がありませんでした。苗床を覆う網にも、去年以上に気を配り、カエルでさえも容易に進入できないような頑強なものが張り巡 らされました。もしものときに備えて、田んぼだけではなく、野菜を育てている畑にも追加の苗床を用意しました。スズメ対策は周到だったにもかかわらず、思 いがけない春の豪雨により、苗床がすっかりと浸水してしまったのです。(つくし農園の田んぼは、自然に水が染み出す湿地帯にあるため、水位の人為的な管理 をすることができません。)しかも、畑苗代のほうは、突如活発に行動を開始したモグラたちによって、半分の苗が荒らされてしまいました。自然の、なんたる スーパーダイナミックさ!


Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds


農薬をたっぷり散布している日本の田んぼでは、スズメの被害が減少しているという現象が見られるそうです。スズメたちは、米だけを啄ばむのでなく、稲につ いている虫たちをも食べることで、必要な栄養分を得られているようです。


donk! ごちん!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Spring Has Come

the goat trying to encroach on a neighbour's territory. 隣家の領域を侵そうとするヤギ

When I was a small child, I hated the darkness heralded by nightfall. My parents used to put me in bed around 8 o’clock and my real struggle would start when they stealthily left the room and shut the door behind. No matter how physically exhausted I was after playing in the field all day, I could not go to bed immediately. Imaginary monsters and ghosts would be present at my bed. I built a wall on all sides with stuffed toys – two twin elephants, a monkey, a saint Bernard dog (bigger than me), a tall bear (taller than me), a teddy bear and a little doll called Nana-chan. I asked each one of them repeatedly in my most earnest manner that if something were to attack me, they would fight for me (I was not aware that my mother always came back to my bed a few hours later to rescue a child fast asleep, buried under a mound of fluffy toys.)

I do not know when nights first became my intimate friend. Reading books, taking a bath, watching films, talking to friends over a glass of wine...all my favourite activities take place after dusk. The moment I slip into bed and curl up under the warm quilt, I feel sheer bliss.

A large number of creatures sleep beneath the soil during the winter in my garden. In the underground world, less activity appears to occur in the dark season and it creates a tranquil appearance at the surface. Within my body, I am certain that fewer molecules are active. Warm bed and long sleep become the most irresistible indulgence. This winter seemed particularly long and dark so my desire to sleep had grown to its greatest. Please, leave me alone in the comfort of everlasting sleep! I do not want to know that day has already broken.

Yet, in this idle mode, cheerful messages arrive unexpectedly. An invitation from an old friend to visit her in Russia, a photo of a gorgeous and dark-skinned baby in Washington DC, whose mother I have not been in contact with since High School, an Australian friend who has spent adventurous months in Guatemala...

Spring has come and everyone is in action. Flowers are blooming, frogs are awakening, weeds are sprouting (and the goat is calling for more food). It is time for me to get out of my comfortable nest.

Let’s plant potatoes!

potatoes sunbathing before being planted. 植え付け前に日光浴するジャガイモ。


幼い時、日が暮れてからの暗闇が怖くて仕方がありませんでした。夜の8時には、両親に促されて子供部屋のベッドにもぐりこむのが習慣でした。両親が忍び足で部屋を後にし、ドアをそっと閉めたその瞬間から、私の本当の苦闘が始まります。一日中外で遊びまわって、どんなに疲れていても、すぐ様眠りにつくことはできません。想像上の怪物や幽霊がベッドの脇にそわそわとやって来るのです。周囲にぬいぐるみ -2匹のゾウ、お猿のモンチッチ、小さな私よりはるかに大きな等身大のセントバーナード犬、私の背を越える長身のクマ、テディベア、ナナちゃんという名の小さなお人形-でつくった鉄壁をぐるりと築き、一人ひとり(1匹いっぴき)に、(もしも何者かが夜中にふいに私を襲いにかかったら、一生懸命私を守ってね)と、出来る限りの思いを込めて何度もお願いしました。








Sunday, 14 February 2010

Preparing the Seed Bed

Seed bed in the rice paddy 田んぼの中の苗床

Today marks the New Year of the lunar calendar. Yesterday, the last day of the agricultural cycle, Tsukushi farm members gathered and visited the Ichinoya Yasaka Shrine near the farm to show appreciation for nature, the joy in farming, and the Kami’s custodianship of the land. The fine snow falling on us all afternoon grew heavier by the evening and covered our vegetable gardens and rice paddies with gentle white powder. When I woke up this morning, the entire land was shrouded in morning mist, which dispersed in the warm sunshine. Spring is nearing.


This time of the year is the best season for readying the land for the sowing season, so I had been busy tiding up the furrows, adding rice bran (husks) to the soil and preparing seed beds for both rice and vegetables. In order to experiment with different outcomes, I arranged two types of rice bed – one in a wetland (in the rice paddy) and the other in the dry land (vegetable garden).


Here are what I predict to be the merits and drawbacks:

Wetland seed bed 水の苗床
  • No perennial plants in the soil so the rice seedling roots can grow strongly and vigorously
  • Enough moisture in the soil
  • 宿根系の雑草の根が無いため、苗の根がすくすくと育つ
  • 土に水分がたっぷり含まれている

  • Sparrows will keep their beady eyes on the rice seeds.
  • スズメが狙いをつけて目を光らせている

Dry-land seed bed 陸の苗床
  • No sparrows
  • The dry and hard soil conditions will make seedlings more robust to sustain later growth
  • スズメが気づいていない
  • 乾いた固い土が、苗の根を丈夫にし、田に移植した後の成長がより促進される
  • Miscanthus (thatch) roots are thick with weeds.
  • 茅の根がびっしりと蔓延っている

The process of making seed beds:

1) Try to divert the goat’s attention 

2) Cut the weeds to the edge of the ground surface

3) Scrape off the surface of the soil to eliminate the seeds of the weeds in the soil. Remove any hardy weed roots if necessary with a sickle (I added some fallen leaves as organic compost, since I had moved soil when pulling out Miscanthus roots from the furrow)


4) Scatter rice bran on the surface

5) Cover the surface with rice straw and press several branches on top

The result is akin to a multi-thatched underground house. I hope I have created a comfortable home for hard-working microorganisms, in preparation for the sowing season in April.


Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Memory of Seeds

5th generation shizennou broad bean. 自然農5世代目の空豆ちゃん。

Last Sunday, I attended Akinori Kimura’s lecture held in Saitama prefecture. Although this was the second time I had heard Mr. Kimura talk, and despite much of the content being familiar, his gentle manner, passion for farming, and enthusiasm for educating people about the intersections of food, nature and their lives, were touching.

The session was conducted in collaboration with Isao Noguchi, the director of one of the leading non-F1 hybrid seed production nurseries. It was followed by a panel discussion with nearby farm managers, who grow vegetables using methods not dissimilar to what I have been calling here Natural Farming*.

*In Japan, there are several farming methods corresponding to the word ‘shizen’ (natural), and each method varies according to the definition of the use or types of fertiliser/chemical, weed management, involvement of plowing and so on. I have not yet seen a full description of the panelists’ farming methods but they do not use pesticides or fertilisers and conduct careful weed control and cultivation.

Mr. Noguchi’s presentation was very engaging and he warned about the practice of F1 hybrid seed production, namely, the use of Cytoplasmic Male Sterility (CMS) lines, which have come to dominate the current seed market worldwide.

He expressed deep concern about the massive scale of reproduction characterising recent seed breeding procedures, which use sterilised plants and crops to create certain types of F1 breed. His hypothesis about a possible link between the disappearance of honey bees and their collecting pollen from sterile plants awaits further study, but the way that species have become commodified, standardised, and ‘mono-characteristic’ so rapidly was particularly disconcerting.

There were many questions and thoughts occupying my mind after the lecture, but an expression that particularly made an impression on me was a phrase Mr. Kimura used in passing: ‘seeds must have memories’.

So I pose myself the question: what are the memories of seeds?

A gentle breeze in spring, strong summer sunshine, fallen leaves in autumn, crisp air in winter, the activities of micro-organisms beneath the soil, morning dew, the rustling of insects, perhaps the laughter of children on finding the first bud emerging from the ground? Perhaps memories of surrounding conditions have been stored inside and contracted within each seed, as it patiently awaits the replanting season to continue the next life cycle. These ‘memories’ are passed on generation to generation and create unique and strong species adapted to their local environments. F1 (CMS) seeds are implanted with a generic one-type memory which ceases at the end of a single life cycle. It surely is a human intervention to keep creating cloned species tailored to suit current distribution processes and market demand, without considering the perpetual and ongoing evolution and diversification of plant life.

These thoughts were planted in my mind to form part of my memory. They are sure to propagate, grow steadily and diversify as I spend days in my garden together with surrounding nature.

4th generation shizennou rice (after harvest).











1st generation snap pea (seeds newly bought from the nearby nursery...
because I ate them all last year). Overcoming the frost damage!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Enthusiasm for Craft

I took the plunge and bought this kettle.
water becomes sweeter. お水が甘いよ。

When I was a little younger and travelling a rural area of Southern China, I saw many beautifully hand-crafted souvenirs. Complicated embroidery, hand-dyed cloth, beautifully polished jade statues were in abundance. I derived no satisfaction from negotiating the prices with local people, but tried with my limited Chinese. My Chinese friends taught me the accepted negotiation technique: ask 10% of the originally offered price, then negotiate to half that price – you receive a 95% discount. Surprisingly it worked, but I felt uncomfortable and the item in my hand did not seem to have the original lustre any longer. The craft surely involved a great deal of time and effort in the hands of local artisans. Even considering the currency rates, the price did not seem adequate. I asked my Chinese friend how much the material cost would be. He said it would be approximate to the price I paid. He added that local people were happy when they could cover the material costs and that labour time is not valued.

I recall reading an article somewhere that Japan is one of the few countries where large numbers of professional artisans, such as potters and blacksmiths, are able to live comfortably without other income sources. Whenever I visit national museums and art galleries, I am surprised with the enthusiasm of the Japanese visitors, eager to experience the world of art and craft. The endless history of trial and error, exacting standards of quality, the devotion of lives – all these are appreciated and people want to have part-ownership of their own cultural heritage. In each household, you can see such crafts as pottery, kimono, roof tiling, Paulownia wood furniture and so forth.

Ironically, the same level of enthusiasm is not observed when people purchase vegetables.



以前にどこかの雑誌で、数多の陶芸家や鍛冶屋といった職人が、ものづくりのみで生計を立てられている国は、日本ぐらいであろうという記事を読んだことがあるのを思い出しました。国立博物館や美術館に行くたびに、美術工芸の世界を垣間見たいという、日本人来場者の熱意に圧倒されます。数々の挑戦と失敗、質への異常なこだわり、人生をかける有り様 -これらを心ゆくまで鑑賞し、部分的にでも所有できたらと思い描くのでしょうか。確かに、各家ごとに陶芸品、反物、屋根瓦、桐の衣装箪笥など、何かしらのこだわりの工芸品があります。


Thursday, 31 December 2009

Standing in the Kitchen

2010 Osechi  2010年度版お節

Dusting the shelves and cupboard, scrubbing the refrigerator and stove, polishing plates, cups, glasses and cutlery. As I clean, I cleanse my mind, and my appreciation for everything that kept me alive throughout the year grows. People, events, nature, books, encounters…I stand in the kitchen preparing Osechi (festive food for the New Year) and cast my mind over 2009.

The word Osechi was shortened from Osechiku – the food offered to Gods at the five seasonal festivals a year. Nowadays, Osechi is regarded as exclusively being for the New Year. People believed that they ate food remaining from the festive enjoyment of the Gods, so all the dishes are prepared to be eaten cold.

I prepared twenty items this year. Each item has a meaningful origin. Here are some examples:

Kuromame (black soya beans) – mame (beans) means ‘diligence’. Work diligently and stay healthy.

Tatsukuri (fried sardines) – tatsukuri literary translates as ‘cultivating the rice paddy’ and therefore signifies fertility and good harvest.

Kobumaki (rolled kelp with fish) – kobu comes from the word yorokobu (to be pleased). This signifies the desire to live happily.

Satoimo (taro) – the potato’s soft round shape indicates harmony.

Kazunoko (herring roe) – the abundant multitude of fish eggs means limitless prosperity.

Preparing meals always reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I started making Osechi three years ago in order to pass on my family’s tastes to the next generation. Besides this, I find the intensive three days of cooking to be relaxing, so enjoy the preparation process in itself. Most Osechi comprises ordinary vegetables easily found in any farms nearby, such as carrots, beans, radishes, and potatoes. Sadly, my Shizen-nou allotment contributed very few items this year. This is due to: a) inability to grow sizeable vegetables harvested this time of year; b) everything already having been eaten. Therefore, my New Year’s resolution shall be – add at least five more vegetables to the next year’s Osechi. Hopefully in five years’ time, when the soil becomes more fertile, all the vegetables will be Shizen-nou. Five years also allows me to improve my cooking sensibility and skills to the extent that I can bring out the best vegetable flavor.

Anyway, thank you everyone for your warm support throughout the year and very best wishes to all.

Planning Osechi  計画を練らないと、、、。





黒豆 - まめに働き、達者で。
田作り(ごまめ) - 田んぼを作る。豊穣豊作。
昆布巻き - よろこぶ。喜んで生きる。
里芋 - 円やかに角なく。調和。
数の子 - 数限りなく子孫繁栄。


お節に使われる野菜は、普段その辺りの畑で手に入るような、人参、大豆、蕪、芋といったものが主体です。悲しいことに、私の自然農の畑からはほんの少しの野菜しか登場していません。この理由は a) この季節に採れる形のととのった野菜が出来ていない。b) 既に食べてしまった。からだと考えられます。ですので来年の抱負は、何としても私の畑から後5種類の野菜をお節に起用するぞです。5年後には私の畑ももっと豊かになり、お節に使う野菜は全て自然農野菜となることを願います。5年という月日は、野菜本来の美味しさを余すことなく引き出せるような、繊細さと技術を身につけられる時間かもしれません。


Try some? おひとついかが?

Monday, 7 December 2009

A brief consideration of the concept of ‘Market’

Tsuku-Ichi つくいち photo by Yama-san

The first Sunday of each month, a small market called ‘Tsuku-Ichi’ is held at the Central Park, outside Tsukuba Station. To assist the Tsukushi farm manager and their colleague, I sell vegetables grown on the farm. The notable feature of ‘Tsuku-Ichi’ is its vision – producers sell to customers in person and provide safe, trustworthy and locally produced products. The homely, humble and relaxed atmosphere attracts around 250 people. No music, no advertising and no external funding involved. The market is filled with cheerful greetings, conversations and smiles between shops and customers.

The other day, I had the opportunity to help another Tsukushi farm member sell naturally farmed vegetables at a larger scale market called ‘Marche Japon Tsukuba’. This market was held for only two days in Tsukuba as part of Marche Japon Caravan, and was organised by assigned project staff and local volunteers. The Marche project was a great success, with key involvement of the biggest shopping complex in Tsukuba, attracting over two thousand people each day. There were many restaurants and cafes selling snacks and sweets at an spacious entrance plaza, along with vegetable and other fresh produce stands. All day long, you could hear a local school band playing music, broadcasted live talk sessions, a noodle shop’s special performances and much more. An endless lively atmosphere added special colour to the shopping centre for the weekend.

Both styles of market have their pros and cons. Tsuku-ichi’s customers are almost all regulars and have a clear standard for the selection of shops and products. Yet the size of the market is small, so if you are looking for an exciting place to spend Sundays, Tusku-ichi may appear too quiet. Marche Japon has more activities, and the large crowd of people creates a bustling atmosphere. People who may not yet be acquainted with organic produce are able to find out about these local products in a relaxed fashion. The down side to this is the required government funding and the extensive scale of preparation.

The natural farming method of Shizennou is as yet little known but one of the most important of its philosophies is energy efficiency and sustainability within a local community. It is regrettable that the funds for Marche Japon were massively cut back in the recently implemented Government revision process, however, I take this as an opportunity to reconsider the core concept of the food market.

Marche Japon Tsukuba
 マルシェジャポン つくば photo by Yama-san




先日、別の自然農園の野菜を売るお手伝いをする機会があり、「マルシェ ジャポン つくば」に行ってまいりました。

マルシェ ジャポン キャラバンの1企画で、つくばでは2日間のみの開催。多くのスタッフと地元のボランティアの方々が運営に携わりました。つくばで随一の大型ショッピングセンターで開かれた今回のつくばプロジェクトは、無事成功に終わった模様で、一日総勢2000人以上の来客数を動員したということです。中央の入り口付近のプラザでは、多くのレストランやカフェが食事やスナックを提供し、周囲には野菜やその他の生鮮品が売られました。一日中流れる、地元の学校のバンドや、実況中継を兼ねたライブトーク、お蕎麦屋さんの豪快な実演販売が繰り広げられ、その週末はショッピングセンターに溌剌とした色どりが添えられました。



Monday, 16 November 2009

Hare no Hi

A sunny Monday morning and my mother wears a traditional kimono, hurrying through the crowded subway station. On this day, she will be presented with the Ranju Hosho (the blue ribbon medal) for her services to the local community. The year coincides with the 20th anniversary of Heisei Tennou’s accession, my mother’s 20th year work anniversary, for which she will be granted the medal, and is 20 years since my grandmother passed away.

Festivals, seasonal events or individual ceremonies are often called by the Japanese ‘Hare’, in contrast to ‘Ke’, which refers to mundane matters. The commonly used terms ‘Hare-gi’ (formal attire) and ‘Hare-butai’ (grand occasion) originate in this concept, and the term ‘Hare’, which describes a sunny day, was once only used for the fine weather occurring after several days rain. On a ‘Hare’ day, people would wear special clothes, eat festive food, drink sake and refrain from work.

In order to follow the traditional custom, we decide to make my mother’s special day the ultimate ‘Hare’ day and indulge her – except I don’t let her use the taxi...and somehow become lost on the way...

friendly and helpful passers-by. とても親切な通行人の方々。





Friday, 30 October 2009

Generation to Generation

The rice harvest time has come. A grain of rice planted in Spring had sunk its roots deep in the ground, grown over twenty shoots throughout the Summer, with each shoot now bearing several hundred grains. By late Autumn, one rice grain had multiplied six to seven hundred fold, and was drooping under the weight of plump rice grains. I carefully cut the shoots, tie them up in a bundle and hang them over the bamboo poles. I do not neglect a single grain in the field.

When harvesting rice, I picture in my mind the scene of three peasant women in Millet’s famous painting ‘The Gleaner’ (1857) . They stoop to glean the last scraps of wheat in the field, and in contrast, there is a large stack of harvested wheat in the background for their landlords. In some areas of France at that time, it was apparently the usual conduct of landlords to leave some grain unharvested. Gleaning was considered the right of peasants who could not sustain their lives purely by everyday labour.

The other day when I was drinking with my friends at a local bar, one of them raised a question, namely, whether genetically modified crops could save the environment. His example was desertification in China, where rapid economic growth drives Chinese people to eat more meat, and in order to satisfy market demand, farmers are shifting to raise livestock such as cows, sheep and goats (no!) rather than growing vegetables. As a result, there is not enough grass or feed for animals and the trend further hastens desertification. I could have argued against his hypothetical question, based on a documentary film I saw recently, and from which I learned about some repercussions of GM products (for more information about the film, please visit the site:

The issue that struck me, however, was the fast growing demand for meat, which can be considered a symbol of wealth and success in that society. The vision of splendid banquet scenes, a wealthy Chinese student I met in Australia who never had eaten green vegetables in his life, the endless rotation of a demand and supply cycle on a massive economic scale – all the images made me dizzy.

For farmers, everything begins with seed. Generation by generation, farmers continue selecting the best seeds suited to the soil and climate in each area, and preserve and develop chosen species. However, commonly distributed F1 hybrid seeds are unstable for reproduction, and modified plant gene sequences are now usually patented, so giant corporations gain control of the seed market, and individual farmers risk losing independence. It is easy to criticise corporations and the way that farmers automatically shift their methods and produce in a knee-jerk fashion, but what alarms me is the way parents and consumers unthinkingly seek comfort and pleasure. Most children naturally enjoy meat instead of vegetables (in fact Awako the goat would completely ignore weeds and guzzle sweet cabbage leaves if given the chance. I am tempted...), but I do not believe that to be a good course for their future development. People’s individual outlooks are not simply formed by the corporate world view and pleasure principle. We should consider the way that, as humans, we take responsibility for future generations.

To return to my friend’s question: rather than reacting to consequences (like desertification) with an instant fix solution (like GM), we need examine causes, otherwise a cycle is locked in place.

After the harvest, I separate 2-3% of grain or seed from the portion to be consumed, until the next planting season comes. The French landlords’ custom of leaving 2-3% of crops in fields generated and sustained peasants’ lives. If every one of us who is not at a risk of starvation spared 2-3% of our time or effort on something or somebody else, it could make a great change in the world. I am not a professional scientist or tradesman who can make a direct impact on current trends. However, as a person striving to work in an educational field at the local level, I would like to gather as much information as possible to pass on to the next generation. Therefore, dear and faithful blog readers, if you can suggest any articles, documentaries, websites and so on that might be of future benefit, your small yet invaluable portion of life can be used to join generation to generation.

A seed bearer   種を運ぶヤギ
Cabbage please 「キャベツちょうだい。」









Monday, 5 October 2009

An Endeavour

One of the attractions of farming practice is the limitless sense of ‘space’. Within your designated area, daylight hours are yours to spend. You wander through various ideas as these arise or pursue and develop topics further. Once the field grows darker and you find that you are left alone in a dim light, however, you suddenly seek company – those with whom you can share your daytime thoughts.

We humans are all thinking creatures living in different environments. It is my aspiration to gather thinking individuals and create a common space to exchange and share thoughts, within a timeframe and away from everyday concerns. Participants can then bring thoughts shared back to their normal routine, and until the next meeting, nurse these thoughts in their everyday life.

This is my endeavour. Anybody who is interested, please come and join the group!


農に従事する魅力の一つは、無限の「場」に自分を置くことができることです。決められた区画の中での、日が沈むまでの限られた時間は、あなただけのものです。次々と 浮かぶアイデアに考えを馳せたり、ひとつの題材をより深く探ったり。けれども、あたり一面が暗くなり、自分がその闇に包まれ始めると、急に人恋しくなった りするものです。こんな時に、今日一日の考えを誰かと分かち合えたら…。

異なる環境に身を置いていても、我々人間はみな考える生き物です。日常のそれぞれの場で各々が考えることを、切り取られた空間ではありますが、多くの人と 語り合う共通の「場」が創り上げられたらというのが願いです。語り合いから生まれた考えを、いつもの自分の生活に持ち帰り、いつもの営みをまた続けてくだ さい。そして次の集まりまで、たくさんの考えを巡らせて下さい。


THINKING Green Grass Group 考える青草の会

What we do:

Deepen your thinking ability and broaden your vision by communicating with other group members through specific activities such as 'listening', 'speaking', 'reading', ‘watching’, ‘sensing’ in both English and Japanese.


Missing opportunities to use English or Japanese in your everyday life? Language use limited to business or academic fields, and seeking more opportunities for discussion in more relaxed environment? Come and join the workshops organised by the ‘THINKING Green Grass Group’ and create a space to develop ideas in both English and Japanese.

Improve language skills and further develop your thinking through facilitated interaction and engagement with other members. Share your developing thoughts – incipient ideas, specific interests, impressions of books/films and many more – in a series of targeted workshops. By listening to and engaging with other people’s ideas, explore deeper into yourself and the way you convey opinions or feelings – and simply enjoy the process itself in a comfortable atmosphere away from the clamour of the city. Delicious lunch provided.

While overseas experience is not essential, applicants are required to have work experience (such as company or self employment, housework, or post-graduate study). All participants attend both the English and Japanese sessions. The group intends to hold workshops on a regular basis in the coming years, but attendees can confirm their intention to participate on a per workshop basis.

For more information, please visit →

THINKING Green Grass Group 考える青草の会







詳細は、こちらのブログで →

Saturday, 3 October 2009

My ‘Boom’ – Ironware

I know I's rusting a bit. sigh... ちょっと錆びてますね、、、。うう、、、。

At home, frying pans, kitchen knives and other pans all used to be made of cast-iron.

The family sat around the table and attended thinly sliced beef in the sukiyaki pan. Meats easily burned when the iron plate was heated to its maximum temperature. My parents hurriedly served us cooked beef in each of our bowls, which contained beaten raw egg. I would patiently wait until the vegetables were done, while my siblings enjoyed medium cooked beef dipped in raw egg. I was not overly fond of raw eggs so there were always some beef slices left on the sukiyaki pan for me. My mother threw in plenty of fresh garlands of chrysanthemum leaves followed by leeks, tofu, strings of konnyaku (a gelatinous food made from “devil’s tongue” starch) and various mushrooms. She poured soy sauce in the pan and sprinkled brown sugar over the ingredients. When the juice from the vegetables met the sizzling sauce, it would fill the entire room with a salty-sweet smell.

My father, beer glass in hand, put more sliced beef in the heated sauce on the opposite side of the konnyaku. My mother, sitting next to him, would say, ‘meat and konnyaku should not be next to each other, as my mother (my grandmother) used to say’. I did not understand the reasoning at the time, but nodded obediently.

After the meal, my mother wiped the pan with an old newspaper, washed it with hot water without using detergent, heated it up, oiled it, and placed it back in the cupboard. Sharpening kitchen knives on a whetstone was my father’s favourite job. I loved watching his movements and the dull scraping sound created between an iron blade and a whetstone.

When I left home to study at university, the first item I bought was a non-stick frying pan. Teflon is an amazing invention, I thought. You do not have to stand beside the stove all the time because it does not burn easily. You can use the same pan for stewing vegetables. No need to worry about the rust, and cleaning is as easy as other dishes. Non-stick frying pans became an essential part of my kitchenware over the years.

It was only the last few years I returned to ironware. Now I have a cast iron kettle and frying pan, and a carbon steel knife, and am currently searching online for the best iron wok. You need to bathe the kettle with old green tea leaves every now and then and the knife requires regular attention in order that it not rust away. All the efforts involved in owning ironware, however, are easily outweighed by the benefits - when you taste green tea with mild hot water boiled in a cast iron kettle, experience the consistency of cabbage cut so finely with the carbon steel knife, and flip a fluffy pancake baked on a heated iron pan. They are out of this world.

Back at my parents’ place, my mother is shifting to lighter material utensils because ironware is too heavy for her to lift.

マイブーム - 鉄器








Thursday, 17 September 2009

A Wonder

munch munch munch.  もぐ もぐ もぐ。

When we adopted Awako (the famous goat repeatedly appearing in my blog pictures) from the eponymous restaurant ‘Awa’ (Millet) in the Nara prefecture, the previous owner summarised the nature of goats in one sentence: their memory lasts only for three days. For the first three days, Awako cried mournfully with all her might and looked frantically for her mother – although her eating activity never ceased. After three days, she gradually adapted to her new life. The only food Awako has access to in her new home is grass in the garden, so she samples about twenty different varieties of weed on a daily basis, and appears to satisfy her limitless appetite. She also seems to have completely forgotten her former existence as a gourmet, being fed delicious left-over fruit skins and chopped vegetables from the restaurant. She grows healthily each day. Her horns, bones, skin, fur...all made out of weeds. What a wonder.

In the farm, Awako is the only creature actively moving (eating) in my vision. Occasionally, gentle breezes blow in the garden. Pampas grasses sway in the wind and white clouds move slowly in the sky above. Awako diligently conducts her usual activity (eating). I suddenly realise how perfectly she fits into a picturesque vision of nature. All she eats and everything that sustains her is visible in the picture. She simply exists in nature and expedites its cycle. Grass transits her digestive system, her body assimilates necessary elements, nourishing substances constitute her body and leftovers are returned to the ground. Beneath the ground level, micro organisms absorb her droppings, fertile soils are produced, seeds stretch roots in the soil and sprouts push their heads up above the ground. Symbiotic activities occur simultaneously at multiple stages and perpetuate cycles running at innumerable levels. Inside her body, within seeds, plants, insects, even wood or stones. What a wonder.

I have become absorbed by the comprehensive worlds confronted by Awako but in the process find audiences may not always share my lasting admiration for the goat. My poor mother happened to call me that day and I rattled away about my newly discovered wonders. After a moment’s silence, I felt her smile at the end of the line. Her tender voice reached this end: ‘Children are my wonder.’ Of course, we are also a part of nature.

It is said that our entire body is transformed completely within one year, considered at the molecular level. Changes do not take place in one night, so even in a three day period there must be numerous changes inside our body. I am probably five times larger than Awako. Perhaps I should not dwell upon issues that are older than fifteen days. Awako does not forget routine actions, and develops naturally by responding to everyday challenges as these arise. Warmth and security felt under her mother seem to be forgotten, instead she knows how not to get entangled by a lead while walking. It took me almost three months to start something new after leaving my previous job. I am one of the wonders just like you are. I shall be able to make a successful transformation.


粟子(ブログの写真にしばしば登場する、有名なヤギです。)を、その名前の由来となる、奈良県にあるレストラン「」から引き取る際、ご主人がヤギの性格を端的に述べられました。 - ヤギは3日で忘れるから。