Skip to main content

Rice in the Mail















One of the first things we did when we came to Japan was take a trip with One Life Japan. I'd connected with them while still in the States because their website was one of the few in offering information in English related to farming and gardening in Japan. I've since found a handful of others, but the blog of their adventures in rural Japan remains a favorite.

After years of living and working in Tokyo, Kevin and Tomoe transitioned to a country hamlet to farm organically and work on defining for themselves what it means to live sustainably. (You can follow along with their adventures here or go up for a working vacation that will knock your socks off.) On our first excursion we helped rethatch an old farmhouse and prepare their rice field for planting. I love rice, and always have. Standing in their then dry tambo was a thrill I can't even describe. I wanted to know everything and do everything. It was a fantastic and eye-opening trip, and got our own adventures in Japan off to a good and unforgettable beginning.

We returned a second time to help with the planting, and that again was an eye-opening experience. The fields by that time had been filled with water and sat patiently waiting in the spring sunshine for the seeds. The soil was surprisingly silty and silky smooth under my toes, and movement of any kind sent up a swirling gray-brown cloud of soil that instantly obscured the next step. Tiny frogs leaped about and all variety of critters swam along the surface of the field as we worked. We created a grid pattern using an old wooden rake, and then set the seedlings in by hand where the lines crossed. Kevin and Tomoe devised this method in order to ensure good spacing and relatively straight rows, two things their neighbors get using their automated planters. Opting to plant by hand is slower but more delightful, and it gives their touring guests something to do in-between biking and hiking the nearby mountains.

Sadly, we couldn't make it back that year to help with the weeding (an always monumental task, according to Kevin and Tomoe) or to help with the harvest (another monumental but more joyful task). Word had it, though, that the harvest was a good one, and that in exchange for my labor I'd receive a bag of rice. It was a generous offer, and I was darn excited at the prospect of eating something I'd grown, especially something so wonderful as rice. (The rice I grew this past season is now a lovely outdoor decoration, by the way.)

Now, more than a year has elapsed, and we've still not been able to meet with them again. Busy schedules on both sides and a new baby on theirs has kept us only in electronic contact. We keep in touch via our blogs and other electronic media, and wait for the chance to help with another project or simply sit down for a good chat. Kevin offers words of advice on this blog as he can, and I delightedly check on the charming growth of their daughter and the changing seasons on their farm via theirs. (They've got a ton of snow at the moment, so I mostly monitor how much shoveling they have to do.)

Much to my delight, though, a five kilogram bag of rice arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. With the harvest for this year in and rice still leftover from last year, they needed to make room. (I'm sending popcorn seeds in trade as Kevin says he's got enough fencing rigged up now to protect it from the marauding monkeys.) Just out of rice bought at a local farmstand, it was time to open the One Life bag. Measuring it out before setting it to soak took me right back to those mountain fields, and I suspect it will taste that much better for all those memories.

Comments

fer said…
That blog is great! I hope I get to go some day, It seems like a lot of fin!
I totally recommend it, fer. It's just an amazing time. You'll love it!
Urbangardens said…
Really enjoyed this post. I was born in Tokyo, left at 15 months old, but would love to go back to Japan. I have read about some wonderful little Tokyo urban gardens which I'd like to see. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading, Urbangardens! Let us know if you're ever in the city. There's so much to see here.

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro