Day 7;Next day was a pretty busy day. I would recommend to take the day before as a day to relax as there are quite a lot of fun things to do today. First of all is meeting the local kids. Talking with the adults of the town gives you sense of responsibility people have as a community, however meeting the kids gives you the raw fun nature that people grow up with.
So we went to an elementary school. If you have traveled to previous rural areas you would know how happy kids are to meet a foreigner. It was the moment for me to simply forget for a moment any worry I had and simply have fun with people that also share no worries.I joined their English class where a teacher from Canada was giving a class. I gave my introduction in Spanish, English and finally in Japanese and we head out for lunch. I hardly had time to finish my lunch with all the questions that the kids were asking. Especially when I told them I liked anime that that is when my food went cold. Everyone trying to find out what kind of anime I had watched and giving me a list of recommendations.Following the short stay at the school we headed for our main event today which was mountain-food-picking, making soba and helping with dinner.
We arrived at the house of Abe Yuta-san, whom owns the ryokan Kakuzan where we would be making soba and dinner, and headed out to the backyard of a friend of his. There are various villages within Ugo which are in between valleys surrounded by mountains of forests. So logically the backyard when we arrived was a hill with trees and lots of plants. What we would be searching for is called Warabi, which is a green long stick-looking plant which is part of the slimy vegetable diet of the Japanese. The other plant we were searching for is eaten raw dipped in Miso paste. Needless to say those two plants are green as well as the whole area. But I did not give up my search of my dinner. After about 45mins of learning the different plants in the area and how people don’t exactly need to buy food to live, I finally found my first and only Warabi.Luckily Abe-san and his friend (whose name I regrettably forgot) are not as inexperienced and actually found enough Warabi for the next 7 days (assuming a person eats 4 Warabi per dinner and their family is comprised of 5 members, meaning a lot of Warabi was found). They also found other vegetables that even if I had looked for them, they looked exactly like normal plants. It showed perfectly no matter how “civilised” I am I was incapable of searching food, let alone farm. It was a rewarding experience I must say. Definitely enjoyed learning how to survive on my own and especially the next part which is cooking and eating!
Arriving back at Kakuzan was the soba master (Shishou in Japanese) waiting for us. Since it was my first time doing this of course I had no idea what to expect. However, it remotely felt like making the pizza dough, however the process was a lot longer. One can easily make it oneself instead of buying. A good way to spend the weekend if there are no plans. Making 500g of soba took about 30minutes and actually cooking it is much slower than Italian pasta. Following the soba making was preparing for dinner. I had the pleasure to cook with two lovely ladies willing to teach me the way of cooking mountain vegetables, tempura and miso paste. Pretty much everything can be tempura and you can never go wrong with it. We used about 5% of all the vegetables “we” gathered that night for 5 people.
The organisers of this 10 day experience came as well to the dinner and we simply enjoyed the night dining and drinking discussing how things were going so far. I did not need to lie to tell them I was having an extremely enjoyable time learning and having fun. Definitely all kinds of events one always thinks of doing in Japan but never gets the chance.
Day 8;This day began following yesterday’s gathering experience by planting potatoes and flowers right next to the house I was staying. So if someone else comes to experience Ugo, I hope the garden would look ok. There were other places to choose from for planting as well. Once you get the hang of making a trench for the potatoes and the flowers, the process begins to look more rewarding. You can see what in the near future would benefit yourself. And it did not require extensive knowledge in order to achieve. I was already worried from yesterday’s gathering that I would not be able to plant.
To plant the potatoes, simply use older potatoes that have started to grow roots and cut them in a way that when placed on the ground, the roots are pointing upwards. Wherever it the cut was made we dipped it in ash so as to not let insects and worms get into that side of the potato. For the flowers it was a little easier. Simply dig the trench and put the already growing flower inside. You can make your designs for planting the flowers. At the end we simply watered the potatoes and flowers. I had some time to take a shower and change before visiting another elementary school. By this time the whole town knows that there was a foreigner living in Ugo and wanted to meet him.Having already been with the previous elementary school students I was less tensed and decided this time I wanted to more with them than just join their English class and lunch. As such, I asked the principal if it was ok to join the student’s physical education class and play sports together. That made the whole connection with everyone a little easier and overall more enjoyable. In the end, we all just want to have fun.By the end of the school event around 3pm I went back home to get changed as i was going to meet the mayor of Ugo and discuss the trip so far with him personally. To discuss anything and everything that I liked so far and dislike and what can be improved and how. And opportunity I received to share my opinion on this town can grow to attract more foreigners and experience what I have been doing. Of course this does not have to be a 10 day experience, can also be of 3 days.It was good to have a translator that works at the government as well to help me translate everything I had to say to the mayor and vice versa. I am hoping our meeting had been to his satisfaction and hope to see his new plans in the near future.To get clothes as I was going to stay at mountain top ryokan with the view towards the town. I did not know that such a ryokan existed in Ugo and I was excited to see what it was like. Needless to say, it was amazing. Each room had its windows facing the town from the top of the mountain. A remote area where definitely you can enjoy nature in comfort.A typical ryokan dinner, however this included a few delicacies i had not tried yet. For example the small crab which I could eat whole.And Ugo beef which was extremely tender with a curry sauce.Lastly, I had the opportunity to learn a bit how to play the flute for the Bon Odori dance. Getting that high pitch needed for the Bon Odori performance was crazy difficult. I am sure music players would enjoy learning as one of the events is to practice the Bon Odori and the flute is one of the options to play.Obviously I had no idea what I was doing.