I think the Japanese drink more beer than Canadians!!!!
Cxxx / Mxxxxxxx / Oxxxx / FARM
Wwoofing is such a great concept. You show up at someone's farm, agree to live and work with the family..and they take you in, feed you, give you a bed, expose you to new food and a bit of local culture. I have done this in Canada and New Zealand and it was always a lot of fun. Woofing in Japan adds the variable of a different language and a lot of food I have never seen nor heard of before.
The Kinezuka family in Fujieda took me in for a week, and all I had to do was put in 8 hours of back-breaking labour, and the rest was free sailing. My best buddy was the patriarch of the family, Toshiaki. In the first minutes we meet, we are having hand strength contests and putting back beer and sake while eating what was to become a serious array of (to me) exotic foods. Then it was off to an outdoor onsen (hot spa) to soak up some serious heat and watch the moon come up over the low mountains (Fujieda is in some small mountains just SW of Mt. Fuji).
It takes a certain type of family to want to take in a variety of un-skilled, non-Japanese people to help out on the farm. They have to be curious about the world, be open to other cultures and allow strangers to share their family life. The Kinezuka family is all this and more. There was a lot of warmth in the family, between themselves and towards me. It was the best part of the experience..that and the fact that they have a sense of humour, especially Toshiaki. I tend to may a lot of wisecracks about the situations I am in...even tho they may or may not come across in another culture. I felt very comfortable being myself in this family.
I bring 2 things with me when I am Wwoofing, a strong work ethic and the desire to eat everything placed in front of me. This went over well in the Japanese family. Kazue and Toshiaki seemed to be intent on not having the same food twice for my entire week. Everyday was a lot of new tastes and textures.
I got to learn about soy beans, rice and tea farming (very hands on, you could say), we got out to three restaurants, a tea festival, the onsen and some horseback riding. All in all, fantastic way to spend a week and one of the coolest experiences I have had in the past few years.
Thus ends my Japan visit for now..my plan was to visit 4 areas (City - Tokyo, Mountain - Fuji, Ocean - Izu Peninsula and Farm - Fujieda) and that went very well. Onto the next country!