Just north of our apartment on the west side of Tokyo is a beautiful old Japanese farmhouse or kominka. It's long low profile sits back from the road behind a burnt wood fence, a smattering of trees - Japanese maples, zelkovas, and even a cherry or two - with a small kitchen garden just outside the front door. Built by early settlers here (similar to the farmers I work with) it is currently rented to a very community-minded family. On weekdays, the house is open to and used by senior groups for various activities, and on weekends small events or concerts fill the courtyard with happy sounds and feet. It seems to have become a little pocket of community here in the burbs.
We first found it last fall after being handed a flyer while at the Earth Day Market. It advertised a small harvest festival promising live music, good food, and fun. That's all we needed to mark our calendars and head on over. We found a treasure chest of fascinating growers, producers, and craftsmen and women all doing amazing things at this intimate (yet public) event.
This time was no different. Organized by Slow Business - a group that takes its cue from Slow Food and features businesses focusing on locally made, hand-crafted items - this event featured a similar mix that again made for great atmosphere. Serenaded by a rotating schedule of musicians as we strolled among vendors offering everything from baked goods to naturally-dyed handmade textiles to organic rice and tea, we snacked on fresh roasted spring vegetables and sipped sweet sake. Big enough to offer an interesting selection of items to eat, drink, and learn about the festival remained small enough that it was easy (even in very poor Japanese) to chat with growers and producers about their work and passion while children played tag among the tables. Diners seated inside enjoyed a seasonal meal of fish, miso, rice, and vegetables in the massive tatami room overlooking the courtyard and where an ikebana demonstration also took place.
Perhaps what I liked best about this event was that while it was about commerce (slow business or not, trade is essential in order to be able to continue honing your craft) it was also about building community and the pleasure of work. The men and women present, whether farmers, body workers, brewers, bakers, or musicians were passionate and enthusiastic about their creations and eager to engage with customers about it.
A Few Favorites
Who can resist organically grown green tea served up by the grower? Not me, that's for sure. I should be saving it for a present to take home, but I'm enjoying every last leaf, I confess.
Beautifully crafted tenugui made with natural dyes such as zelkova, kaki, and onion skin, Fukuoka-san's original designs based on nature and tradition are a feast for the eyes.
A La Main de Mariko
Considering how tasty the sample cookies were I'm still glad I came home with a loaf of Mariko's brown rice sourdough. Chewy and soft we couldn't bear to toast it (a rarity in our house), and a field trip to the shop in Kodaira may soon be on the calendar.
Four kinds of rice, rock salt, non-toxic mosquito coils and honey were just some of the offerings at this table. While not locally grown or produced, the source for these products is part of their appeal. Yukkuri Mura is an intentional community based around the farming methods of Masonobu Fukuouka, a seminal figure in Japanese and world agriculture. A field trip here may also soon be on the calendar to see Fukuouka's methods in real time. Meanwhile, we're enjoying the tasty rice!