by guibi


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<   2010年 03月 ( 5 )   > この月の画像一覧

Another weekend in the countryside.

Today we went back to Okayama to look at more places. First we went to see a block of land (genya) which was the cheapest we'd seen to date.

It was made up of about 2,500 tsubo at the top end of a small valley. It had obviously been rice fields until several decades ago, but was now well and truly given over to wilderness. It seemed like it was a close second to Sho-o-cho but on reflection it'd take a heap more work just to get the place in a state suitable for planting anything. Sho-o-cho is way closer to a working state than here.
We meet Saiso san from "Archon", another estate agent specializing in traditional Japanese properties. He was very straightforward and showed us around a very nice old house with over 7,500 tsubo of land with it. Sadly, while the house was in pretty good condition, and obviously well built and cared for, it was right in the middle of a hamlet and was totally inaccessible by car. Not only that, but the 1 tan (300m) of rice fields had been farmed in the normal (oil-based fertilizer) way until last year, and it was right in the middle of a strip of similarly farmed paddies. Yet another disappointment was that the bulk of the land was forest, something like 7,000 tsubo of the whole property. Real shame as the price was great and the house itself would have been perfect if it had just been in a different place

The next place was in Hyogo ken, and we met Ashida san from another estate agent, "Slow Life". This one was in even better condition than the first. Once again though, it was in the middle of a block of houses and only accessible by car if you all breathed in and drove veeery slowly. I'm decided at least, I'm not sure that Kazumi is yet though. I don't think we're going to find an old Japanese house with all of the following criteria:
a) enough useful land attached.
b) a price we can afford.
c) of good enough condition to make it worth while.

I'm for a piece of land that we can build something unique and appropriate on. Sho-o-cho is looking better and better the more places we see.
by guibi | 2010-03-28 02:23 | About Us:私達について


Here's a quick list of some of the trees, veg and other plants that would be nice to have growing on wherever it is we decide to end up... No doubt it'll get added to and subtracted from as time goes by.

Trees (mainly) Indigenous to Japan
Fruit and Nut Trees

Nut Trees:

  • Ginko
  • Torreya nucifera. also called nut-bearing torreya or kaya
  • Chestnut – castanea (Castanea crenata)
  • Walnut Tree | Juglandeae. regia, Juglandeae. nigra
  • Japanese 'heartnut' walnuts
  • Hazelnut (カバノキ科; 樺木)

Fruit Trees:

  • Olive
  • Citrus:
    • Yuko
    • Chaenomeles japonica Rosaceae Japanese quince
  • Persimmon:
    • Fuyu (Jiro), Giant Fuyu, Izu, Fuji Fruit – diospyros kaki,

  • Cherry:
    • Goumi, Gumi, Natsugumi (Elaeagnus multiflora - Cherry Silverberry )
    • Great White Cherry (Prunus tai haku)
    • Cherry Sargeants (Prunus Sargeantii)
  • Apple:
    • Fuji,
  • Pears:
    • Yakumo, Shinseiki, (pyrus calleryana - Callery Pear),
    • Japanese plum (Prunus salicina),
    • Japanese blueberry tree (Elaeocarpus decipiens)

Flowering/Ornamental Trees:

  • Magnolia
  • kobushi magnolia (Magnolia kobus)
  • ho-no-ki, or Japanese big-leaf magnolia (M. obovata)
  • shide-kobushi or star magnolia (wetlands)
  • sakaki (Cleyera japonica)
  • Filicium decipiens - Japanese Fern tree (good as shade)
  • Japanese snowdrop tree (Styrax japonicus)
  • Japanese Horse Chestnut (Aesculus turbinata)
  • Japanese Tree Lilac - Syringa reticulata
  • Golden Japanese Maple (Acer japonicum aureum)
  • Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
  • Smooth Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum atropurpureum)
  • Garnet Maple (Acer Garnet)
  • Dissectum Maple (Acer Dissectum)

Other Productive trees:

  • Che (Chinese Mulberry – Cudrania tricuspidata) silk.
  • Japanese Mulberry - Morus australis
  • Chocolate Vine | Five-leaf Akebia | akebia quinata
  • kusunoki or camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Japanese Ligustrum (fast growing,berry bearing dense foiliage)
  • Japanese Orixa - Orixa japonica
  • Aralia elata Araliaceae Japanese angelica tree
  • Berberis thunbergii Berberidaceae Japanese barberry
  • Kerria japonica Rosaceae Japanese kerria
  • Lonicera japonica var. japonica Caprifoliaceae Japanese honeysuckle
  • Japanese rowan (Sorbus commixta)
  • Japanese beech (Fagus crenata)
  • Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
  • Urushi (Rhus Verniciflua)
  • kiri (paulownia)
  • Willow (柳-やなぎ)

Edible or otherwise productive plants.
Veg (mainly) Native Japanese
  • Roots:
    • Japanese turnips (kabu)
    • Gobo or Burdock root
    • Daikon radish
    • Jagaimo
    • Satsumaimo
    • Satoimo
    • Nagaimo
    • Renkon
    • Ninjin
    • Tamanegi
    • yurine
  • Leaves:
    • Komatsuna
    • Mizuna
    • Shungiku
    • Nanohana (rape seed blossom)
    • Mibuna
    • Hakusai
    • Horenso
    • mekyabetsu (Brussels sprout)
    • naganegi
    • hosonegi
    • aonegi & wakegi
    • lettuce
    • leaf lettuce
    • nira (Chinese chive)
    • kureson (watercress)
    • Okahijiki
  • Other:
    • Kaiware daikon (daikon sprouts)
    • Japanese eggplants
    • Kabocha
    • Japanese cucumbers
    • Takenoko
    • Negi
    • Tomato
    • Piman
    • Tomorokoshi
    • Okura
    • Goya
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • parsley
    • zucchini
    • luffa
    • hops
  • Mushrooms:
    • Shiitake
    • Maitake
    • Bunashimeji
    • Matsutake
    • Nametake/Enoki
    • Hiratake
    • kikurage
  • Beans:
    • Edamame (soy beans)
    • Moyashi (Bean sprouts)
    • soramame (broad beans)
    • sayaendô (snow peas)
    • ingen (string beans)
    • Azuki
  • Grains:
    • millet (kibi & awa)
    • hatomugi (variety of wheat)

      Herbs and Spices:

      • Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum)
      • Mitsuba (trefoil)
      • Green and purple shiso (perilla fructescens)
      • Shishito chili
      • Ginseng
      • Liquorice
      • Saiko
      • Ginger
      • Matatabi
      • Coriander
      • Basil
      • Goma


      • AINU NEGI
      • CLUSTER)
      • FORTINEI)
      • AIKO
      • AOMIZU
      • INUDOUNA
      • SHIDOKE
      • ITADORI
      • HONNA (Also called SUPPON)
      • NOKANZOU

      by guibi | 2010-03-25 02:09 | Forest Garden:食べる森

      A weekend in Okayama...

      Kazumi and I spent last Wednesday and the weekend driving about in Okayama prefecture.

      On Wednesday we just drove around the prefecture getting a feel for the layout of the land. Basically speaking, the prefecture can be divided into three parts. The Southern most area, sandwiched between the Sanyo expressway and the Seto inland sea, is the most developed. It has beautiful vistas overlooking the numerous islands that are scattered not far off shore. Some Japanese like to call it the 'Japanese Aegean'. But I think that's pushing it a bit. The central area is hilly, but the hills are soft in profile and there are large open valleys and flood plains. Ideal rice growing terrain. The land here is more reasonably priced than in the southern areas, but it's difficult to find large areas that haven't been broken up over the generations. Most of the land here is categorized as "No-chi" (agricultural land) or 'Taku-chi' (residential land). There are few areas of 'Gen-chi' ('wild' land) or 'San-rin' (mountain forest).
      The northern part, the area above the Chugoku expressway, soon becomes mountainous and as you move north you start to find ski resorts, tortuous mountain roads and quite severe valleys where what agriculture there is is obviously hard going. Of course, land here is cheapest and most plentiful. No-chi and Gen-chi are pretty equally divided with an awful lot of 'San-rin' and only a small part of the land there designated 'residential'.

      What we're looking for is basically anything bigger than 3000 tsubo (2.5 acres) with about an acre each of 'San-rin' and 'No-chi' or 'Gen-chi' with just a small amount of land suitable for building a house on. To be honest, we originally wanted an old Japanese farm house in do-up-able condition, but looking at a few of them over the weekend has made us realize that both in terms of time and money, it'd probably be too much for us. Anything cheap enough would just take too much out of our resources and would probably end up defeating us. To cut a long story short, while we realize that the setting up is going to take a good few years, getting the place running smoothly and in relative comfort is what we're aiming for. The sooner that we're able to do that, the better.

      So anyway, on Saturday, we met up with a real estate agent with whom we've been corresponding the last few weeks. He has an excellent website that is obviously aimed at the steadily increasing number of people who've had enough of the metropolitan life style and are looking to slow down a bit. Most of his properties are probably aimed at the newly retired 'U-turn' buyers. People who left the countryside in their youth and now want to return. These buyers are looking for an old house with maybe a half an acre of land on which they can do a little gardening. The prices are still exceptionally cheap all things considered, maybe a typical property would have 1,500m² on which would be a nicely refurbished 100 year old farm house. Hospitals and supermarkets would be within a 5 minute drive and toilets would be connected to the city sewerage system. There are lots of these and they go for somewhere around ¥20,000,000. Cheaper than you could buy a new 3 room apartment in Osaka or Kobe.
      Of course, we want something cheaper than that!

      Sato san, the estate agent, sat us down for a browse through his books and a detailed conversation on what we were wanting to do. Apparently, they have a word for it ('I-turn', people coming out of the city who've not lived in the countryside before), so it can't be all that rare. After a number of cups of tea, we decided to head on out and look at a few of the most likely candidates.
      I think it was a bit of a sales ploy, but the first place he took us while huge (over 6 acres) and in our price range, was a completely un-developed mountain side with the only utility being an unpaved road that the electricity company had made when putting a pylon on the top of it. The insects were teaming and it was impossible to walk more than a meter or so off the track. A wee bit more than we'd bargained for, but we had said we wanted to find a mountain after all... "Ok. Point taken. Let's go and take a look at something a wee bit more civilized, eh?" So that's what we did for the rest of the day. Of all the places we saw, one stuck out.

      You can see some more pics of it here and here.

      This 3,500 tsubo (3.3 acres) of land is located less than ten minutes north of the Chugoku expressway, just outside the town of Mimasaka, about 15km north-east of Tsuyama. Though it falls in the northern 'third' of the prefecture as described earlier, the landscape while getting higher is still 'soft'. Snowfall here is minimal, barely settling for more than a couple of weeks at the height of winter. Being north of the expressway, the prices are way better than those of land just 10 minutes to the south by car. The plot we looked at is on the west facing side of a one kilometer wide. 250m high valley that runs roughly North-South. It's the top third of one of the 'hills' that make for the western ridge of the valley. The view from there is stunning, and the sunlight from the southern aspect is un-obstructed about an hour after sunrise (at this time of year).
      If you can imagine, the contours of this side of valley can be divided into three distinct inclines. The lowest third gently slopes from the river and about a third of the way to the ridge increases to a more sharp incline which is about where the bottom three rice fields of the plot that we were looking at begin. Walking up this incline to the top of the agricultural land is best done at a leisurely pace. Just as one reaches the pond that sits above the terraced fields, the incline becomes steeper still and the forest begins. The 'San-rin' forest runs right up to the ridge line, and is planted with 20~30 year old Pine and Cypress. Not ideal wood for anything but construction 20 years from now, but nice and cool and doing its job of holding the hillside firmly in place.

      Below the pond (a water catchment type rather than stream or spring fed) are four terraces, each gradually getting bigger as you go lower. The top one presently has trees on it and along with the pond is classified as 'Gen-chi'. The lower three terraces are 'No-chi'. A small concrete surfaced track, just about big enough to get a 2 ton truck up, runs down the Southern side of these terraces beginning at the foot of the uppermost of the 'No-chi' terraces amd running all the way down to the road that runs parallel to the river at the bottom of the valley. Just after the lowest of the four terraces described above, and on the other side of the road are three more terraces, stepping down the slope. They seem to have been in use most recently, maybe until three or four years ago. The higher terraces have been abandoned a bit longer, I'd guess.

      Water seems to be plentiful, but the irrigation system is clogged with weeds and needs a thorough clean up. I think U section concrete water ways would be a good way to better manage the resources, it would also help to dry out the land which seemed a tad on the muddy side to me, but that could have been due to the three weeks of incessant rain we've had of late... but I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.

      We looked over the land with the estate agent, and went on to see a couple of other places. I found myself comparing all of them to this one though, and they all seemed to be lacking something in comparison. Anyway, after trudging around the country side for the best part of the afternoon, Sato san took us to meet a couple of his previous customers who were doing something similar to what we are envisioning, in as much as they live pretty much self sufficiently and away from the towns. One man in particular was very inspiring. A builder by trade, he had built his own house and a small, traditionally styled 'lodge' from where he runs 'self-build' courses for other fools like us. He uses timber from the forests, and gets pretty much all the difficult to make yourself stuff (windows etc.) from demolition sites and recyclers. He said he'd be happy to show us where to get stuff cheaply or for free, and help us with advice on constructing a place of our own if we wanted it.

      After all this, and as twilight closed in, we said thanks to Sato san and told him we'd be in touch. He wasn't at all pushy, and said that he understood these things need time and careful consideration.

      Having nowhere booked for the night, and a whole day of estate agents lined up for Sunday, we headed for McD to sit and drink coffee for a bit. We checked the maps and as we did so, both decided that no-one would know if we parked up for the night on the plot that had grabbed us so earlier in the day. So that's what we did. It was quiet like I haven't heard for a long while, and the lights in the houses across the valley flicked off one by one. By 10 there were barely any lights at all and had it not been so cloudy, I expect the stars would have astounded us. We wrapped up warmly, and despite VW Polos not being the most comfortable of cars to sleep in we drifted off fitfully with our heads buzzing with ideas. We were woken by a spectacular thunderstorm at about 3am and watched as the whole valley was lit up below.
      At sunrise, we woke and took another stroll around the property. Climbing right up to the ridge, and poking around all the terraces trying to figure out just how it might be turned into a home. Ideas came thick and fast, and our imaginations started getting the better of us... for the rest of the day as we toured more properties, it was referred to as 'our place'.

      We'll have to wait and see. We have another month before going to the UK, and only then will we have to make a final decision on whether it'll be Japan or the UK for the duration.
      by guibi | 2010-03-23 01:54 | About Us:私達について

      First steps...

      Well, we've got a busy couple of months ahead of us. In case you haven't read this introduction, we're looking to move out of the rat race and out into the middle of... somewhere. We're still not sure if it'll be Japan or the UK, but I have to say that Japan is looking more realistic at the moment.

      Back to the busyness. Last Saturday, Kazumi and I went up to Myoken to see a place we've been told about that's on the market.

      I went up there with Paul the other day, and was surprised just how big 500 tsubo is (just under a half acre). The house would be lovely if it was tarted up, but it'd be several years worth of work (or several million yen's worth of builders' fees) to get it anywhere near good. The land is big enough for veg, but there's no forest to talk of, and we'd like a rice field too. Don't get me wrong. The land is a steal considering where it is. I'm just not sure that we could do what we want to do there.

      On Sunday we got up at the crack of dawn and set off to Nara to see one Mr. Kawaguchi (video). He's been farming a piece of land up there for the last 30 years, and has developed a special technique sometimes known as 'Natural Farming'. If you're familiar with Fukuoka san, you'll know what I'm talking about.

      There are some pics up in the Photos section of the site.

      The next few days are going to be pretty busy too. We have a bunch of fudosan lined up in Okayama to show us some places that have caught our eye. What do you think of this for ¥2,800,000 !

      I'll let you know how we get on.
      by guibi | 2010-03-16 01:45 | About Us:私達について

      You want to do what? Part one of our story:

      Distracted, annoyed and saddened by the commercial 'noise' of modern capitalist society and my reluctant participation in it, I have been wondering for many years, too long in fact, how best to put my contrary beliefs into action. When I was younger, my energies were spent on resisting institutional authority and protesting the many injustices I witnessed on an almost daily basis. I have resisted the 'me first' ethos with all my heart.
      As I get older, I see friends and acquaintances falling by the way-side. Tired by the struggle, persuaded that there is no other way than the way that we are expected to behave, some become mere automatons, others become aggressive, yet others become vocal 'supporters' of all that they previously knew to be wrong with the world. Blissfully unaware. Co-opted. Ground down. Supplicant.

      I cannot resign myself like this! At a minimum, I need to live in a morally, socially, environmentally and realistically balanced way.

      I have hope that I can. I think it must be possible to walk another, more positive path. As time passes, I learn of more and more people with feelings and ideas like mine. Others are applying their principles to their lives. It's not an easy path, but neither is it as hard as some, usually those with a vested interest in the status quo, would have you believe.

      I see this new 'resistance' gathering more and more proponents. I need to become an active part of this. I need to get on a road of positive action as opposed to one of negative reaction. Primarily for my own sake, but for the sake of my partner, future generations and the planet too. Contradictory as it may seem, I see little choice but to choose this way.

      I need to root myself to the land. Re-establish my connections with nature and find a place where I can let nature teach me about the essentialness of life. The balance of existence. I knew it as a child. I must know it again.

      I see my partner and I putting ourselves in a mutually beneficial relationship with not only each other but with the land that we end up stewarding for the rest of our lives. It needn't be a solitary journey, in fact the more people with similar aspirations we can come into contact with, the better. No man is an island.

      How? Where? I do not have all the answers to these questions yet, but piece by piece, the jigsaw is assembling itself, and as I write I can approximate answers, or suggest part answers to these questions. At least as far as they are relevant to me. Hopefully, others will see a resonance in my reasoning and will be inspired to embark on their own journeys.

      Three questions I can answer. Who? Why? and When?

      Who: I have been fortunate enough to meet Kazumi. Kazumi is as lost and misplaced as I am. They joy of this is that while we are both in this state of stunned disbelief in regard to the way that society is currently blundering its way toward a precipice in a state of dogged collective and individual denial, we are not alone.
      More than this, she's good at what I'm bad at, and has faith that I can fill the gaps in her life. She has a fundamentally humanist approach to people, a strong sense of personal injury when faced with injustice whether aimed at her personally or not. Maybe most importantly, she believes in love. I can't think of anyone I'd rather set out on this journey with.

      Why: It baffles me that some might ask this. To me it seems so clear and obvious. If we take a moment to close our eyes and imagine the utopia that must surely exist in every man's heart, then open our eyes again and take a good look around, is it not obvious that what we call civilisation and progress today is so much closer to dystopia than what we saw in our mind's eye? Suffice to say that the blatant and wilful ignorance of the damage we are inflicting on ourselves, our neighbours and the planet and all its elements exhibited and encouraged by nations, 'leaders', corporations, educators, as both individuals and as groups, deeply offends me. My opening lines introduced some of this and I could go on and on about the various elements that offend me so. No doubt I'll be writing about them from time to time here too, but for now, I'm trying to tell you my story, and I'd prefer that it be a positive one.

      When: Simple. If not now, then when indeed? It seems to me that I've procrastinated long enough, and that if I'm to stand a chance of doing anything worthwhile with my life before I die, it has to start now.

      So that leaves the 'How?' and the 'Where?' The 'how' part of this journey is still in its formative stages, but I see some answers to the question starting to take form in my mind. Recognising my need to be an integral part of and true friend with nature, I see that there are few if any other ways better than starting with my relationship with the land. At present, I contribute nothing to the land. In fact, I take gratuitously and with scant thought or appreciation towards her. I need to fix this. I grew up closer to the land than I am now. My childhood was spent largely out doors where I saw the coming and going of the seasons, the plants and the life that was supported by it all. I loved it then. I was a part of it and it was a part of me.
      If I were to have custody of some forest, fields, streams and soil, how would I best be able to nurture it back to health? Maybe I should add that due not merely to economic reasons, I assume that I would be moving on to land shocked and abused by its recent mis-treatment.

      I have been greatly inspired of late, by the works of a number of people about whom I've been reading. Firstly, I stumbled upon the Lammas Project. A group of young people with a vision. They had obtained 130 odd acres of farmland in Wales, and were bent on setting up a sustainable and ethically meaningful community for themselves and like-minded others. I followed their story for about half a year and was thrilled when they finally managed to get permission from the local authorities to embark on their mission. As if the authorities had any right to prevent them in the first place! Pah! Anyway, this lead me to thinking that maybe I could become involved in something similar. I spread my jumble of ideas in front of Kazumi, and was amazed to see the look of wonder on her face. I suppose I should have known. She was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was. Great! First potential stumbling block out the way.

      We started ruminating on the concept of living in a sustainable way, and over the next half a year or so, spent untold hours poring over the internet, talking things over between us and looking for other sources of inspiration. It remains to be seen if it was time well spent or not, but I get the feeling that it will be seen to have been so.

      And then I found Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka san died in 2008. He lived on Shikoku, the fourth biggest of the islands that make up Japan, where he developed a method of farming sometimes known as the 'do nothing' school. He experimented with and developed techniques which went against the grain of accepted agricultural wisdom, employing no fertilisers, or pesticides, nor even tilling the land. He was, predictably, mocked and ridiculed by the established farming community, and written off as a disaster just waiting to happen. Surprisingly, his methods and philosophy, not to mention his crops, started to bear fruit. His yields gradually increased as both his techniques and the land that he applied them to began to improve over time. He established that the best that a farmer could aspire to become, was an assistant to nature, certainly not its master, and not even its manager. One of his books, 'The one straw revolution', made a lasting impression on me, and inspired me to take things to the next level. This was now very clear in my mind. I guess you could say that my journey began in earnest here.

      So, Fukuoka san led me to investigate this 'natural' method of farming. One of the first names that seemed to consistently crop up was Bill Mollison. You're reading this, so you probably already know who he is. He and David Holmgren developed what has become known as 'Permaculture'. Permaculture, as far as I can make out, describes a series of systems in which design plays an essential role in the development of a living environment that works with nature to produce a sustainable and balanced way of life that enriches the land on which it is applied as well as the lives of those who apply it. It aims to make a person's legacy a positive one rather than a negative one once he comes to his natural end. Having bought some books and being enthralled with the reading of them (they reminded me of the books always at hand in the toilet during my childhood), I decided to sign up for a two week course in 'Permaculture Design'. and to tie it in with a visit to my parents that Kazumi and I will be making in May. You've no idea how much I'm looking forward to that.

      Most recently, we've discovered two other Japanese notables. Kazumi has been reading books by Akinori Kimura. Sadly these books are not available in English, but she tells me that he is a farmer who followed a very similar path as that pioneered by Fukuoka. In Kimura's case, he applied this 'do nothing' technique to apples, though he came to it in a circuitous manner after his wife started getting terribly sick as a result of the chemical herbicides, fertilisers and insecticides that all farmers were encouraged to use at the time. After unsuccessfully trying organic techniques that merely replaced the chemicals with natural substitutes while leaving the basic techniques unchanged, he reached absolute financial rock bottom, at one point even considering suicide as his only recourse when it suddenly occurred to him where he might be going wrong, His focus moved from the plants to the soil and the seeming abundance of life springing up in the forest near his home. You'll have to read the rest yourself, or you can visit him on his farm in Aomori.

      The other farmer and writer who, as far as I'm concerned maybe a greater influence, is Yoshikazu Kawaguchi. I'm just now learning about the techniques that he has been developing, but am enthused that his farms are all within easy reach of where I live, so I'm planning a visit out there in the next couple of weeks. See if I can stay out of the way yet learn something too.

      I mention these farmers as examples of what I'm striving for, a sustainable and earth friendly way of life. Self sufficiency to the greatest extent possible.

      I'm keen to get off-grid. The way I see it is that if I truly want to withdraw my support for the capitalist system and all the damage it causes, I have to be responsible for generating my own power too. Obviously fossil fuelled power generation is out, so that leaves solar, bio-mass, hydro and wind. Wind seems unlikely to be dependable in-land, but luckily hydro and solar should be in plentiful supply. I'm researching all these now.

      A later development might be the setting up of a 'natural farming' school of sorts. A way to support others who might be considering a move back to the land. A form of mutual aid.

      So we come to the 'where' question:

      Up until this time, Kazumi and I had been pretty sure that we would find a better, or should I say more receptive, environment for setting out on the practical stage of this journey in the UK than we would in Japan. I'm not so sure that this is still the case. While the 'green' movement certainly seems to be becoming more strident and urgent in its European guise, the Japanese green movement is taking a different approach. Other considerations are the palpable resistance that seems to be rising in response to this new confidence in the positions that western greens are asserting. I wonder if the west is due a bigger breakdown than may already be coming due to the economic troubles that exist there, one that will be amplified by this confrontational approach by those opposing people pushing for change. Europe has a propensity for destructive social unrest.

      Conversely, Japan has a propensity for co-operative pursuance of goals that ostensibly aim to better the lot of the majority. Japan has shown in the past that this possibly unique penchant for epochal about-faces by society as a whole can be carried out with the minimum of disproportionately distributed pain and with stolid lack of complaint once a path has been set. Of course it could also be said that collectively Japan has in the past set out only on ruinous roads of reform, arguing, for example, that the Meiji Restoration led to the imperialist Japanese domination of its neighbours and its devastating defeat at the end of the Pacific war. Similarly it could be said that Japan's current problems of unsustainable pollution and social discordance, are a result of their having blindly followed the course set out for it by the victors of that war. Nonetheless, there is a distinct possibility in my mind at least, that Japan can achieve a more humane transition than Europe. This is yet to be seen, of course.

      There is also the matter of money. Land prices in the UK and Japan are still ridiculously inflated. Some argue that this is not just the result of speculation and greed, but the result of limited supply. This is of course nonsensical capitalist propaganda aimed at disguising the horrendous imbalances endemic in modern societies. That a piece of land in the UK, barely big enough for a family of four (I'm talking suburbia here) could cost more than ten times the national average annual wage strikes me as unfair to the extreme. Here in Japan, the land accepted as large enough for a similarly sized family costs proportionately the same, however, when we look at rural land the difference between the UK and Japan couldn't be more glaring. While rural land (without planning permission in the UK) might go for the same price as it does here in Japan, the Japanese land will have planning permission or even an old house on it. It is typically in need of restoration, admittedly, but is still as cheap as plain agricultural land is in the UK. So, I can afford to buy UK agricultural land or Japanese rural land, but would find it next to impossible to get permission to live on it in the UK. Kind of defeats the object, doesn't it.

      How much land do we need? This is an unknown at the moment. My guess is somewhere over three acres but under ten, unless a large part of that is forest. We need at least one 300m² field for rice/oats/rye, another 3~600m² for fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Twice that much space for fruit and nut trees. Space for a house and a couple of sheds, space for chickens and goats. Yet more land for forestry. The land has to have a natural source of water, preferably a gradient over at least the forested parts yet not be too wet nor too steep. The ideal fields would have been abandoned no less than 4 years earlier so as to have given them a chance to rest. We don't see the need to battle with adverse climate. Both Japan and the UK have large areas of land where the weather is very conductive to the fruitful practise of agriculture.

      If, as we tend to be these days, if we seriously consider doing this in Japan, then the question arises of whether to try to find an old farm house and do it up, or buy empty lad and self build. Unfortunately, most land with a house on it does not have anything like the amount of land we think we need with it. I want to keep the land all together as one 'lot', rather than have various fields spread around the place, as it were. The benefit of this would mostly be that a design a-la permaculture would be much easier this way. Secondly, it's nice to have it all together from the sense of accessibility and containment. There's a strong likelihood that we'd have conventional farmers as neighbours and I'd hate for our crops to get accidentally sprayed with some insecticide or another.

      So there you have it. My first attempt at putting my thoughts down in print. We'll see how things pan out, and I'll no doubt be writing more as ideas solidify and time progresses. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
      by guibi | 2010-03-10 01:16 | About Us:私達について


      About Us:私達について
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