Hi! I’m Julie, the newest member of the project (but not for long). I arrived in Itoshima Saturday evening, and here’s my post about what we do when we’re not working on the project, a little cultural immersion time. Because traveling is about enjoying new experiences right?
My main goal while in Japan is to improve my Japanese, so I do my best to talk with Japanese people every chance I get. Sunday morning when I went for a walk, I passed a man with a plastic bag picking up garbage on the beach. We exchanged an ohayou gozaimasu and continued on our way. Monday before work I was feeling motivated and went for a run on the same beach. Again I saw this man, but this time I stopped to thank him for picking up the trash, because that’s awesome. We chatted for a bit, found out we lived just down the road from each other, and he asked if I would come by in the afternoon to his home, the one with all the greenhouses, he said. So I did. Or tried to at least. I didn’t actually know which house he meant, and wasn’t feeling quite brave enough to start knocking on doors asking for Minoru-san. Little did I know that the dozens of greenhouses in the place I was looking for him all belonged to the company he built and passed on to his son, and that any one of the people I passed would have known exactly who I was looking for. Alas, I headed home figuring I would see him the next morning again. But I was pleasantly surprised when he knocked on our door that evening (he was friends with the last man who lived here, so he knew exactly which house we were staying in). Even more exciting, Minoru-san brought with him a big cardboard box filled with veggies — carrots, radishes, salads, sprouts, and greens, some stuff I had never even seen before and couldn’t tell you what it was called.
Kind man, we thanked him profusely and he headed back home asking for nothing in return. The following morning on our now daily beach/garbage pickup walks, Minoru-san mentioned a festival that would be going on later that morning, Samurai’s on horseback shooting bow and arrows! Now before you think my Japanese is that impressive, I understood the word Samurai and gleaned horseback riding and bow shooting from the gestures that accompanied the invitation. After work Minoru-san came by to walk our little group of gaijin to the Sakurai Shrine down the road where the festival would take place, took us on a little tour and introduced us to some of his friends. As per tradition before a festival we each took a small shot of purifying sake, ate a bite of squid and seaweed, and sent a prayer offering at the shrine. Then we got to watch an impressive ceremony with everybody all dressed up in traditional clothes followed by the two Samurai horsemen galloping by hitting targets with their arrows. All this in a peaceful, shady, beautiful location surrounded by other residents who’d come to watch. Plus there were adorable little Japanese children dressed all fancy parading by.
Minoru-san bought us all some bean paste filled mochi, freshly made and still warm, we even got to see how they were made. But his kindness and generosity didn’t end there. He then invited us — all six of us — to lunch at a fancy beach restaurant with delicious food and a gorgeous view from our outdoor table. We ordered salads, pastas, and pizzas to share, and Minoru-san wouldn’t take no for an answer when we tried to refuse beers as well. We shared the food over conversation, me and Aswin chatting in Japanese and translating back and forth for the rest of the group (who also learned a few words that day!) After lunch we went back to the greenhouses for a private tour of Minoru-san’s business, Kubota Farms (http://www.kubotafarms.com/) which specializes in organic herbs and sprouts, but grows a wide variety of crops. The fifty or so employees had the day off, but we got to see their workplace complete with solar panels, a kitchen, and a napping room. Minoru Kubota has an incredibly impressive system set up, and we went around picking and tasting all of his sprouts in the different greenhouses.
Minoru-san’s house was just across from his workplace, and he brought us home to show us his cars. Customizing and driving cars is his hobby, he said, and he had several lined up in his garages along with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
I had asked Minoru-san where the Itoshima farmer’s market was located, supposedly the biggest one in all of Japan. Instead of explaining where it was he said, why don’t I just take you there. So we all hopped back into his 7-person car, a real luxury given that our work car can only seat a driver and one passenger at a time, and drove out to the city part of Itoshima. First we stopped at a small market which did not feel at all like the biggest market in Japan. But then we continued on and he showed us where the real farmer’s market was. Unfortunately, it is closed for another couple days for renovations, but now at least we know where it is located.
So that was our fun day spent with Mr. Minoru Kubota, our new Japanese friend who luckily likes foreigners (his words, not mine). There’s no way we can repay his kindness and the awesome time he showed us, but as a small token of our appreciation we’ve invited him over for dinner and beers this Sunday. The plan is to make small dishes from each of our countries: Poland, England, Canada, US, France, Holland, Denmark, China. More on that to come. Cheers.