After a month of wandering around more or less aimlessly, it was time for me to start wwoofing. Not only for my wallet, of course, but also to meet Japanese people and practice a little bit. After sending a few messages around, I decided that my first wwoofing experience would be close to Tokyo so I could go back to see the sakuras later, and chose Gabare Farm, located close to Fukiage, an hour and half away from the capital.
Gabare comes from an Ethiopian word meaning “Peasant”, they chose it because they both spent some time in Ethiopia.
Where you alone?
They had warned me that there would be another French wwoofer, who was also a French girl with a working holiday visa. We got along well and were, I think, a good team. The great thing was that she also wanted to practice Japanese, so we did not get into each others way, and we had more or less the same level, with my from not having talked in a long time and her only having learnt Japanese for about a year, since she didn’t speak a word when she first arrived.
We shared the upstairs part of the main house, where they lived, the second house being the grandparents'(and I think the children… when they were around). We also had a kotatsu, a Japanese table with a blanket and a heating system(which I kept repeating was the best invention ever), and around which our evenings rotated as it was a bit chilly. We slept with the feet underneath it, and I never felt cold, which was pretty amazing.
How was farming?The farming itself happens mainly on their land, behind the house. There are two greenhouses, and 4 enclosures, 2 for chickens, one for ducks and one for chicks.
The farming itself happened mainly on their land, behind the house, though they have another field a bit further away. There are two greenhouses, and 4 enclosures, 2 for chickens, one for ducks and one for chicks.
On their land, other than a field, there are two greenhouses, and 4 enclosures, 2 for chickens, one for ducks and one for chicks.
The days were very quiet, with not that much work, which I found surprising. They were also very structured, which I liked:
6:40: Waking up
7: starting to work
11: tea break
3:30: end of the working day.
It felt very relaxed, and we even had the full weekend off.
Work itself consisted in feeding the chickens (twice a day) and the ducks and chicks (once), picking up the eggs, picking up things in the fields, either to eat them ourselves or to feed the chicken, cleaning the eggs, work in the greenhouse (planting cabbages with very modern tools), making compost, planting seeds, planting baby cabbages in the field… Every day was different. One day they wanted us to cook French food, so we had the afternoon free for that. We also made udon!
Since she had to bring vegetables and eggs to a Kindergarten, it gave us the opportunity to visit it.It was quite interesting to see how kids were left free to run around in the dirt (for example, one of them was naked, holding a hose with water, which made me cold for him). Completely different from what we see in Europe.
How were the farmers?
The couple, Hiromi-san and Hiroaki-san, were lovely. They made us feel like part of the family, patiently listening to our attempts at Japanese. They lived with his parents, who were really cute, though very reserved, and had 3 children – the oldest two were 20 I think, twins, a boy and a girl. I haven’t seen the boy, the girl was really pretty, and the youngest one was a teenager who was at school in Tokyo, so he would only come back once in a while.
They have been WWOOF hosts since 2005 and had a book with notes from all of the people they had received. They lived with his parents, who were really cute, and had 3 children – the oldest two were 20 I think, twins, a boy and a girl.I haven’t seen the boy, the girl was really pretty, and the youngest one was a teenager who was at school in Tokyo, so he would only come back once in a while.
There was also a very old dog (always attached) and about 7 kittens, two free at all times and 4 or 5 in a cage, which I found very weird. When asked, I was told that they were too young and might get killed by cars, but the other two didn’t seem much older.
It was quite interesting to see a real Japanese house – it made feel like home, as it was filled with stuff that nobody needed, in boxes or not, a tendency I can have (but I did get rid of a lot of things when I made my boxed before leaving to Japan!).
Did you learn anything at all?
Overall, I have learned many things – that organic in Japan is not very regulated, that only 3% of farms are organic. That farming sometimes was super hand-crafted. For example, the birds’ houses were obviously hand-made, with doors hard to open and not very escape-proof (I once had a hen run away as I opened the door and had to run after it for 10 minutes before managing to catch it). I realised that hens eat anything (their food was made out of miso, fish and various other things), and was told that according to what they were eating, the yolks would have a different color: if you want very red yolks, you have to feed them paprika.
We once found dead hens, and it turned out that rats were attacking and eating them up (from the inside), which made me realise that most of them had no feathers on their bottom. Overall, in 9 days, I have seen 5 dead hens, which I find to be a high number.
I also learnt that baby chicks are 1 male (yellow) for 10 female (brown).
Conclusion: My first farming experience was a success, and I had a lot of fun.