Monday, June 14, 2010

Brown's Field: A Sampling of Organic Life in Chiba

On a recent excursion to Chiba with greenz, an organization I write for here in Japan, we visited a little place called Brown's Field. A compendium of things - cafe, bakery, farm, and spa to name just a few - Brown's Field offers a little something for everyone. For us, it was a good cup of coffee with a tasty afternoon snack. We'd been on the go since morning touring the Nakadaki Art Village - an intentional community of farmers, surfers, artists, and doers - and Brown's Field offered welcome respite.

We were eager to check out the farm and cafe for ourselves as they catered our most fantastic-lunch of macrobiotic foods. (Some of the photos here come from that meal.) Started just over ten years ago by Deco Nakajima, a renowned macrobiotic chef, and her husband, Everett Brown, a photojournalist, Brown's Field offers plenty of food for thought (literally and figuratively) by giving visitors and the surrounding community a chance to explore ways of living sustainably. While much of the food served in the cafe originates from their own organic fields, the Brown's also help bolster the local economy by purchasing other items from nearby farms and businesses. Events, WWOOF opportunities, and workshops covering everything from detoxification to rice planting to cooking help draw people in and the friendly atmosphere (and great food!) keeps them coming back for more.

Sitting under the generous eaves of the bakehouse we munched on a soft, soft loaf of bread (nearly rivaling the one I found at a recent Slow Business event), and admired the wild feel of nearby herb garden. Inside, shelves were loaded not only with baked goods (there's a hearty looking sweet bread that I still think of fondly), but with locally made ceramics, jams, textiles, and glassworks. I'll confess to also eyeballing bags of plump pea pods. Delicious looking enough to make me forget both the recent meal I'd had as well as my own garden row full, they made me eager to see the Rice Terrace Cafe where we could see more of what was growing.

Up the road from the bakehouse past an orchard or two and more rice fields we found a cozy cafe with a wide veranda. Aptly named for its view over a rice field - recently planted by hand - the Rice Terrace Cafe offers a comfortable space to settle in with friends for a good chat or even alone with a favorite book. Guests are encouraged to stretch their legs with a wander over to visit the ducks who help weed and fertilize the rice field, greet one of the many friendly cats, or visit a nearby hammock to soak up the country air. Watch out though, for the male goat who brooks no trespassers within the radius of his rope. The resulting spill of hot chicory-enhanced coffee will be deeply disappointing.

We hope to head back for another WWOOF experience and sample more of that tasty fare we enjoyed at lunch. (Rumor has it there's a waiting list, so we'll have to sign up soon.) I'd love to learn more about the permaculture techniques they implement there, as well as get a cooking lesson or two, too!

Hoping to visit?
Brown's Field and Nakadaki Art Village are well worth the two hour train ride from Tokyo, especially if a whole weekend can be dedicated to it. (Nakadaki offers concerts and a farmers market one weekend a month, which would perhaps be a perfect - albeit busy - time to go.) It worked for us as a day trip, but it would be nice to be able to spend a little more time exploring.

Nearest station: Choujyamachi on the Soutoubu Line

More specific directions on how to get there by bike or on foot are available, too.


Anjuli said...

You have a way of making each and every place sound sooo inviting!! Makes me want to hop on a plane and go back to Japan for more exploring :)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Thanks for the kind words, Anjuli! And if you find yourself on a plane, we'll take you around to some favorite spots!