Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Well the one disappointment of Kyoto is the hostel PCs have their
USB ports blocked up, so I won't be able to upload pictures for two weeks.
But aside from that Kyoto is as great as it was when I left it. Spent yesterday
running postal errands, buying a cheap bike for the two weeks and settling in,
and this morning I woke up at 6.30 and cycled out to Ryoan-Ji, a temple with an
iconic rock garden. Really beautiful and made all the better for being so quiet
at that time of the morning.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Backlog:Soba and Mochi

Forgot to put this up, here are the photos and videos from the noodle-making party I went to at Akio-san`s friends house a few weeks ago.

There was a full count of ten digits after believe it or not.
We were trying to make soba (round thin noodles) but when old muggins here
tried they came out as udon (flat thick noodles). However I got to hold a huge noodle blade!
And there were great soba noodles to eat after,
accompanied by the largest beer I`ve seen.

In terms of amazing kitchen weaponry this noodle knife comes second only to the mochi (rice condensed via constant pounding) hammer.

I had a go but I think I have to work on my degree of ferocity.

Im leaving the Matsumuras for Kyoto in a few hours, I dont trust myself not to cry on the way out, its been amazing here.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A stream of photos

Crows flying over the apple trees

The delicious bento (boxed lunch) I had at the band rehearsal.

Ogurayama Farmhouse (and I live in the Wwoofer house, the orange one on the right)

The local onsen which always reminds me of Tracy`s Island from Thunderbirds

Laidback Monkeys galore

Night shot of the driveway (this was moonlight under a 1 minute exposure)

Fairly self-explanatory photo.

The mascot of Nagano train stations, though it occasionally changes hats.

Monday, 20 December 2010


My Christmas present to myself was a visit to Jigo Kudani monkey onsen. More pictures and words soon.

EDIT: Jigokudani is about 3 hours by train from where I am in Nagano. I`ve seen these iconic monkeys around the pages of national geographic and most spectacularly in the film Baraka (thanks Hari!) so its been on my list of must sees, so glad I managed to accomplish it, owing largely to the efforts of Kate-san who I went there with.
The rules at Jigokudani with regards to not feeding or otherwise interacting with the monkeys must have been laid down pretty hard because they completely ignore people, you could literally put the camera five inches from their face and they wouldn`t mind, as you can see from the photos in the next post I got pretty close.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Mushroom Kingdom

Here`s Hide-san and I gearing up for our favourite pastime- throwing mushroom fertilizer on apple trees.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mystery crop

I don`t know what they`ve got growing in here but it certainly looks cool.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Fruits and a manhole cover.

Just to sum up the last 2 weeks or so (yes they were quiet enough to be summed up by the above subjects).

Here are some apples that Fuwa-chan and Wara-chan put opaque tape on to block the sunlight and make these pictures. Try it at home!

Whilst we`re trying things at home the persimmons continue to shrivel well.

I ate one on my tea break yesterday, it was truly delicious.

And just to show you how proud Misato is of its apples- its written on the manhole covers.

Yuki and some machines.

The snow has finally turned up- don`t believe me? Here.

Its actually all melted but I`m sure there`s more to look forward to soon.

Now I wanted to show a few of the machines you see about the place. They`re either conventional things but a lot smaller like this tractor (with hand and shadow for scale)...

...or this digger (modelled fetchingly by Hide-San).

Or they`re in this strange category of farming machines that seems to owe a lot to George Lucas`s first 3 star war films.

This one is a close relative of R2D2 for sure. I haven`t seen this machine in action but the name Skyroad Ace makes me want to.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how many worlds this thing has destroyed.

And this to me looks just too menacing to be a run of the mill cherry picker- obviously waiting to have its laser cannon attached and sent out of the hangar.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Here`s furious George, the cup I drink from every day. So-named because of his resemblance to George Bush.

I never really finished (or started) my point about Matsumoto and frogs. Matsumoto is full of frog paraphernalia- can`t remember the full reason why but it`s something to do with the words for frog and returning safely being very similar. Anyway this is a pretty original statue and one I visited last time I was here.

Sign for a supermarket.

A encouraging sign, don`t know what for though.

A really beautiful morning- one thing I really like about this place is how different every morning looks.

Accepting an Oscar for best supporting role.....sorry.

One more field of apples to harvest and then we`ll be moving onto other jobs- probably indoor stuff like bean-sorting given the cold weather should be coming in next week.

My favourite apples are the ones with the goldy-brown sheen, though its probably psychological I could swear they taste better than the regular Fuji apples.

Did I mention Toa-chan is bowling mad? He`s regularly found looking through this book of bowling techniques.

I realize I`ve not mentioned much of life here actually.
I live with the Matsumuras in Ogurayama farm just outside Azumino city, Nagano prefecture.
The Matsumuras are Akio-san and his wife Terumi-san, his mother who we all know as Oba-san (grandmother) and their 3 children, Fuwa-chan (9), Wara-chan (6) and Toa-chan (2).
The days are pretty easy going, we wake up at 6.40, eat breakfast and do a few household chores then start work at 8. November is the month of the apple harvest so its mostly picking but also throwing fertiliser (which in this case is a waste product from a local mushroom farm- a kind of mushroom-laden soil) on the trees that we`ve finished picking from.
There`s one non-wwoofer who works with us, Hide-san who is from Osaka and incredibly helpful and funny.

Work finishes at 3.30pm and then I usually study Japanese, which I find a lot more draining than the farm work. Dinner at 6pm and I usually manage to stay up about 2 or 3 more hours studying and reading before sleeping the sleep of the physically and mentally tired, full-stomached farmhand.

Christmas Illuminations

On Friday night we went to a nearby national park to see some Christmas illuminations- I found a setting on my camera that made it look like the set of Tron. Annoyingly videos aren`t working off this computer so I can`t show you the truly creepy Christmas toy they had in the gift shop but I`ll put him up another time.


Today is Sunday (or nichi-yobi) which is my day off, and it`s time for me to get a load of pictures up that I didn`t have time to upload during the week.

Firstly some photos of food because some of you have been wondering what I`m eating. The answer is this- a lot of rice and a lot of fish and a lot of this cool grated root thing called Gobo, its slightly sweet and amazing. In the top pic the rice has black beans in it and thats a bowl of delicious miso-soup to the right. In the bottom pic there are two o-inari (rice wrapped in a kind of tofu skin). O-inari (hope I got that right, thats what the kids just told me they`re called) are one of my favourite things, they`re indescribably moreish.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A few unrelated things

Here`s all us wwoofers working hard, really clear day today, check those snowcaps at the back.

This is what a single scissor looks like, I didn`t even know they existed.

Here are the kaki (persimmons) that are going to dry over the next month and become a delicious christmas snack. I can`t wait!