On Saturday 12th Groundwork Fukuoka held the Miso event in Yame-city. It takes about 1 hour by car from Fukuoka to the village, so we had to leave quite early in the morning.
The event took place in an old elementary school building, which was closed due to the small amount of children in the village. Therefore we were able to use the facility for our event. Around 9 o´clock about 20 people from all ages (children, elderly) gathered to participate in the event. Together we started cooking our own lunch.
First we started with cleaning all the kitchen utensils, which we brought ourselves, followed by cutting all the different ingredients for our meal into small pieces. In the beginning the grownups showed the young children and me how to cut the vegetables into the right size and afterwards it was our turn to do so. In the meantime some other children learned how to wash rice and put it into the rice cooker.
During waiting for the rice to be cooked, one elderly woman explained and showed us how the Miso (soybean paste) for the soup is made. This paste was put into the boiling pot as the last ingredient which gave the soup the good taste for what it is known in Japan.
Shortly before lunch we took the cooked rice and formed the famous rice balls called Onigiri. This is done by dipping both hands into water with salt and then forming the rice with a special hand grip into their triangular form. I also gave it a try but have to admit it is much more difficult as it looks like. My first attempts ended in round circles which made everybody laugh. Nevertheless I didn´t give up and at the end I kind of figured out how to make an Onigiri that could be recognized as one.
After finishing making Onigiris, we laid the table and ate together our own cooked meal. It was very delicious and everybody ate a lot. After lunch we grownups started to clean up while the kids were having fun by playing football. About 2 o´clock the event was over and everybody went back home.
All in all everybody had a great time. Especially I really enjoyed myself and it was really interesting to see and experience how a traditional Japanese food is cooked.
Written by Marcel
Joyo is a beautiful town in the Fukuoka prefecture with pure nature and lushly green. However even this city suffers from depopulation and the amount of vacant houses is increasing year by year. Since also the unused agricultural fields are becoming more and more, Groundwork Fukuoka started to plant vegetables, such as sweet potatoes. In order to help the city and stop it from its decomposition, the “Sweet Potato Shochu distilled liquor” Project” started in 2010.
To prepare the ground for the planting of the potatoes, four people of Groundwork and two local people met in Joyo yesterday. We left the office at around 8am and arrived an hour later. After picking up some more utensils, we started working on the field from around 9.30am. While two were cutting the grass, the others were collecting it with rakes. It was sunny almost all the time and around 26 degrees, so working there was very exhausting and tiring. Luckily we brought cold Japanese tea with which we were able to refresh ourselves in the breaks.
Afterwards the soil got aerated and we put new soil with fertilizer on top. After working for almost 4 hours in the burning sun, everyone was exhausted and hungry, so four of us decided to have lunch together.
But afterwards we had to prepare another field as well. The ground was very dry but full of weeds we had to get out by the roots. After doing that for a while and having another break, it looked like it was about to rain soon. So we shared the soil over the ground we removed the weeds from here as well and got ready to go back to Fukuoka.
For me this trip was an interesting experience. I was willing to try anything in the internship, but for physical work on a farm you should be physically fit. It is still good that I tried, although it was hard for me, because the nature of this city is very pretty and I loved the houses in this area that had this traditionally Japanese style.
After all everyone was mostly still in a good mood and we of course have some pictures to show you:
On Saturday and Sunday the 25th and 26th of May Yame city, which suffered serious damage from the northern Kyushu heavy rain in last July, advertized their fine figure towards revival in the public square in front of the Fukuoka city office.
On both days the sun was shining all time and a lot of people came to spend their free time on the exhibition. The traders from Yame were selling food, drinks and other products of their stores and besides the delicious meals the visitors could also enjoy life acts on the stage. Furthermore technical interested people could join one of the offered workshops and for example make chopsticks with their own hands.
Groundwork Fukuoka was also active on these days and together with two ladies from Yame, we sold fried Ayu and Syochu. The selling was really successful and on Saturday we were able to sell all the fish we had in stock. Even it was very hot I really enjoyed the work and was happy to meet so many nice and interesting people.
I honestly think that on this weekend the people from Yame really represented the recovery of their hometown and send a clear message about their reestablishment to the public.
We went to Hoshino village, in Yame city to assist with clean up efforts after the flood disaster. We chose to help out with cleaning out a communal building. Around this area there were many large pieces of wood from trees that had been knocked down as well as large stones that had been carried into the area. Because of all the flood water the dirt in the area had turned into sludge.
This communal building was where local women would meet and make different kinds of food such as jams and miso.. Inside in the storage rooms, they had barrels of miso that, unfortunately, had to be thrown out because of the water damage. There were at least 20 barrels. It was very difficult because in some areas, the mud was pretty deep (around 18 inches/35 centimeters) and difficult to wade through. While walking through this mud, there was a strong suction that threatened to pull off your boot as you stepped forward.
The floor to one of the rooms had been destroyed so we had to take all of the floorboards off and shovel the sludge from under the floor to a designated outside area. We used hoses to provide water so that others could sweep the mud into the drainage system without clogging it. There was a convenient river nearby that we used for water.
The work was exhausting! Many volunteers came to help and they were very kind. There were around 20 volunteers and many were from the area and used the building. The day was very hot but not as hot as it has been recently. I really enjoyed helping the people because they were so kind and because it had a big effect on the area. It also gave me an excuse to get muddy, which we all definitely did. Many of the volunteers were covered in patches of mud from their necks to their chests.
Overall, the clean-up efforts were very successful but there is still a long road of restoring the area. I felt very satisfied because we were able to make it easier and quicker to reach the goal of repairing the building.
Written by Stacy
Today we visited Yame. We were preparing a field, together with local people, for sweet potatoes to be planted. These sweet potatoes will allow us to produce our own syou-chu. The money that we raise goes towards helping the local people. We also helped to surround the field with an electric fence to protect our field from wild pigs, which like to eat sweet potatoes.
After this, we began the preparations for the sweet potatoes. First, we helped by making sure that the rows of soil were shaped similar to the other already finished rows. Once that was done, we used another tool to pack the sides of the rows to make them sturdier. Then, the tops of these rows had to be leveled to make it easier to plant the sweet potatoes. It was exhausting! It was a beautiful day but the sun beat down on us. We took a break and ate onigiri, pumpkin, and watermelon for lunch. After lunch, we headed out to pick plums.
Working with the plum trees was a lot of fun. We first had to use the weed whackers to clear away all the plants and weeds that have grown since the last time it was visited. Most of the trees had so many plums! It was unbelievable! We shook the trees to get them to fall. We climbed the trees and bent the branches so that others on the ground could reach up and pick the plums. We tried many tactics and were very successful.
After plum picking, we took another short break and went back to the sweet potato field. We now had the actual plants to begin rooting. We placed each sweet potato plant a set distance apart until we reached the end of the row. After we finished, we wrote our names on a placer and will see in November what kind of results we get!
After we finished, we went to a house in the area that is owned by Groundwork Fukuoka called Kawaguchi-tei. We had a wonderful dinner and as night fell, we went to see the hotaru (fireflies). They appear near the river and it was breath-taking. There were hundreds of them and it looked like a river of light. It was the perfect ending to our day.
Written by Stacy and Friedrich