Monday, 16 February 2015

WWOOF Round 2 @ Tanbo Cafe 13 Jan - 2 Feb 2015

This was my second time WWOOFing with the Yamano's and it was AWESOME. Thought i should write something down since it has been long since I last posted a proper blog entry. 

Yamano's house in Winter  やまのいえ@冬
My first time with Tanbo Cafe was in September 2014 for two weeks, and was in time for the annual harvesting period so did great amount of rice harvesting as well as some bamboo work. This round it was mainly bamboo construction work as it was winter. I was lucky enough to be there during a busy period with a lot of events!

In Yamano's family, there is Teru-san - the father, Katsura-san - the mother, Katsumori - 10yo son, Fuwa - 7yo daughter. Usually Teru-san decides the work schedule for WWOOFer, Katsura-san takes care of our meals and other household matters, Katsumori & Fuwa are your playmates/Japanese language & culture tutors.

Normally on your first day, Teru-san will be upfront and explain all the do's and don'ts in his house, brief overview of the tasks and ask for your dietary preferences (if any). Expect a 1-on-1 conversation with him on job performance and special request (both-ways) on your third day of work.

A typical WWOOFer day in Tanbo Cafe (Note: timing varies depending on season or work priorities but will be around 36 hours per week):-

0700 wake up and table-setting for breakfast
0730 breakfast + rest
0830 work
1000 tea-break
1030 work
1200 lunch + rest
1330 work
1500 tea-break
1530 work
1700 free time
1830 help to prepare dinner
1900 dinner

WWOOFers would help with the dishes after meals so a day ends roughly at 2000hrs. You can also choose to eat-out then your free time starts from 1700hrs but my advice is DON'T because Katsura-san's cooking is sooo good that I almost flew up to the Fuji, shooting fireworks in my mouth every day. Ha.

WWOOFers get one day off per work week and as of Feb 2015, it is usually Sunday. You can borrow their bicycle to roam around the town or cycle 30mins to Kisarazu, the nearest train station for buses to Tokyo (1hr) or Yokohama (1.5hr) or trains.

Tanbo Cafe Interior 田んぼカフェ
Tanbo Cafe is still under-construction but scheduled for soft-launch this year, opening once per week, brewing organic coffee and juices! Currently used as store room for tools, bikes, working materials and baseball batting training area.

Compost toilet - i made the moon-shaped window on the right トイレお月様窓
Toilet is probably the coldest place to be in winter ha. It is a compost toilet with no flush. and NO smell! Lit using solar-powered battery and always greeted by a crescent moon made by yours truly.

:: WORK ::

Bandana: Autmn 2014 and Winter 2015 手ぬぐい
Before field-work, Katsura-san would let WWOOFer to choose a design of bandana as souvenir. It is a multi-purpose bandana with traditional Japanese motifs. I got "rice stalk 稲" in Sept 2014 and "opium seed 芥子玉" for this round.

NJM@work バンブードア
I worked on repairing the fence bamboo strips, bamboo toilet door(pic) and Tanbo cafe bamboo wall this time. Also did house-chores and helped out for events (e.g. coffee grinding ガリガリ, cup washing etc).
Completed bamboo toilet door 完成!
Magical tools for bamboo work
There are many specific tools for specific work in Japan. We have different tools to cut bamboo, to split bamboo and for other field work. Be sure you dont get them mixed up! During my stay there was another WWOOFer, Tom from England as well. Worked together splitting bamboo and filling blanks in Tanbo Cafe. Had great chats sharing experience on travels and teaching/learning too!

Splitting bamboo using magical tool 竹割り
Fill in the blanks in Tanbo Cafe 田んぼカフェの壁
Collecting dried bamboos for stove ストーブ用竹
We also collected bamboos from a bamboo forest nearby for stove. One full car of bamboos could last for around 10days in winter. Bamboo is only cut from Sept-Nov in a year.

We went to Shindo's place to help out every Friday, in exchange for Yamano's land and machine for rice planting. Did drain clearing as it was the main rice field task in winter preparing for spring.

Points to note: Teru-san can be very strict and upfront sometimes. This is his way of working. Just make sure you clarify whenever it is unclear and follow the instructions at work then there should not have any problem!

:: EVENTS :: 

Tagayasu Farm New Year Festival
Tagayasu Farm 耕す木更津農場
Tagayasu farm is a 30-ha organic farm in Kisarazu, ran by enthusiastic and relatively young farmers who want to make Kisarazu a better place to live in. More info on Tagayasu (in Japanese):

Tagayasu farm New Year Festival 耕す木更津農場新年会
Mochi pounding 餅つき
Was fortunate enough to get involved in their New Year Festival 2015! Free food and drinks and new year experience! Helped out selling coffee and juices with the Yamano's and I had free time going around tasting great food (belgian waffles, sweet potato, miso soup, eggs, bananas, mochi!) and trying mochi-pounding and bamboo horse. Around 180 adults and children attended this year's festival.

Katsura-san's birthday party
Homemade birthday cake + Homebrewed 二三味 Nizami coffee
It was Katsura-san's birthday so Teru-san and Fuwa made a cake for her when she went out for errands. Katsumori helped to write the words on the cake while I contributed by taking photos and video .. and eat. Happy birthday!

Takoyaki Party
Takoyaki party たこ焼パーティ
Homemade takoyaki. 'nuff said.

Rice-yeast making
Rice-yeast making 麹作り
Group photo with all who helped out チーズ!
Went to Matsuzaki-san place to learn how to make rice-yeast. Rice-yeast can be used to make miso, shoyu etc and the process will gives you SK-II hands. Had great fun and great snacks making rice-yeast on the rainy cold day.

Rope skipping Contest
Rope skipping contest 縄跳び大会
Kamatari Elementary School (where Katsumori and Fuwa go to) had school-level rope skipping contest during my stay as well. My first visit to japanese elemetary school and it looks just like what we seen in anime. haha. Rope skipping is serious business for elementary school kids. Fuwa won the second place for her level.

Asian friends アジアの仲間


It was my very first winter but luckily Kisarazu was quite warm as it is near Tokyo Bay. Only snowed a little bit on one day for few seconds. It helped having a room right on top of the bamboo stove as well. You can even go 'hansode' (short-sleeved) when it is sunny, no problem.

Window frost 雪の晶
Stay warm 暖める
Washing school shoes 靴洗いなさい!
As it gets dark very early (5plus) in winter, I spent my free time with the children before dinner and stayed indoor after dinner. They have picked up a new interest in poker card games and that was our number one most played games. Sometimes they have homework and I enjoy reading their elementary school books ha.

Went to supermarkets nearby for snacks shopping and game centre (arcade) with Katsumori sometimes. Apita (5min ride) with game centre, mister donut or AEON (15min ride) with bike shop, daiso, haircut place.
Mario kart マリーカート
Winter ice cream 冬ソフト
Ken's portrait ケンの顔
Went to Nokogiri Mountain (big buddha and panoramic tokyo bay), Tokyo (monja street and tokyo tower - dropped my wallet on my way back and found it back two days after ha) and around Kisarazu (Mt. fuji sunset and curry buffet) during my three off-days.


Baseball is still the number one favourite sports in Japan (although soccer/football is gaining popularity since 2002 World Cup). Katsumori is in his school's baseball team "Kamatari Little Heroes" and Teru-san joined as their coach some time in late-2014.
Kisarazu Sogo Highschool baseball team 木更津総合高校矢野球部
A baseball team will cycle pass Tanbo Cafe every afternoon (on weekdays) or morning (on saturdays) and they are from the Kisarazu Sogo High school. They made it to the Spring Koshien 甲子園 this year after a 44-year hiatus! Big banner was hanged at train station to congratulate the team.

Went to watch Katsumori's baseball training during one of my off-days. A really windy day. They have a girl in their team!
Baseball training 野球練習
Catchball practice キャッチボール

:: FOOD ::

and of course, FOOD! Your stomach will be very pampered with the Yamano's and Shindo's. Only showing some pictures that i have taken.
Mikan in winter 冬のミカン
Homemade Yuzu roll-cake 柚子ロールケーキ
Tempura feast 天婦羅盛り合わせ
Red bean soup - oshiruko - お汁粉
Last Dinner: temakizushi - 手巻き寿司


Had a private lesson with Teru-san on solar power charger. Long time no see, Kemahiran Hidup and Fizik! Ha. Making it into a mobile charger that I can carry with me wherever I go! In Yamano's house, lights in bathroom and toilet are solar powered, the car batteries are also solar-powered. 
NJM working on solar panel

Farewell group photo with Tom トーマス,Katsura桂-san, Fuwa布和 and Katsumori活護
NJM leaving with backpack solar charger
Bid farewell to them on a Monday morning and pretty sure I will be back again! またね!

Tokyo Bay sunset 夕焼き

Area: Chiba (Kanto)
Type of Host: Rice Farm, Farm Cafe, Eco-centre (Recycled oil fueled car; Solar powered car)
Keywords: happy family, awesome meals, tough work, bamboo & rice, tempura oil car, solar panel, coffee & baseball
Language: Japanese and some English

More about WWOOF


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Anonymous said...

so coool!!! I'm a fan!


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