I have heard that sometimes companies offer bloggers products to review. Unfortunately, (hint, hint chocolate companies of the world...) this has never happened to me so you know I am being honest about my day today.
And also- before I gush on and on about another man- all is well in the Fukase household. We went out today as a family. And K was just as gushy as me (well in a much less gushy K style but still gushy by K standards)
So, anyway, the gush:
This morning bright and early K, the girls, friend and neighbour A and I headed up to the top of Nagano. The very top. One more step and we'd be in Niigata kind of top... It was quite a trek (I always underestimate distances in Nagano- on the weather map on TV it looks so compact...) but it was so, so worth it. Scenery like this:
and a slow, deep, wide river with sandy bends and the clearest water. A real old man river type river. We didn't make it down there today but talking on the way home we realised that both neighbour A and I want to go back and go swimming there. It's just that kind of river. And clean, fresh air (this coming from someone who lives in the country to start with!) and the kind of peaceful hush you only get in hamlets off the beaten track. The kind of place where Meg and Amy could play on the road all day and not have to move out of the way of a car- or even a tractor or spraying machine!
But we didn't drive up the highway so the girls could play on a deserted road, they can do that much closer to home... Kevin from bastish.net invited us up to experience harvesting rice. Neighbour A and I have had several conversations about taking on a rice paddy for next year but so far we've always allowed ourselves to be talked out of it- too difficult, too fiddly, not suited to part-time farming, not suited to our near-enough-is-good- enough farming style etc etc.
But Kevin had no qualms inviting our motley crew of rice-farmer wannabes and wild children up for the day and letting us loose on one of his seven rice paddies. He and his wife run a company that organises tours. Not sit on the bus for 8 hours listening to karaoke and lining up to take the photo at each stop tours but walking tours, hiking tours, cycling tours, experience country life tours and get to know the locals tours throughout a really beautiful part of Japan.
We had a fabulous day harvesting rice by hand and talking non-stop. Kevin kept us all entertained switching between English for the girls and I and Japanese for K and neighbour A. He knows an amazing amount about his area and earth-friendly farming and is really a part of his neighbourhood. He has been accepted by the locals to the extent that he borrowed a toilet for us when Amy served up a bathroom emergency like only a 3 year old can and then borrowed a dog for the girls when he found out Meg likes them. Wow. Feeling a little miffed actually. Not sure I have a dog borrowing kind of relationship with my neighbours....
After a hard day in the rice field:
(Neighbour A would like you to believe she did that all by herself. In the interests of truthful blogging I have to say that it was already started when we arrived and that is the sum of all of us working about 4 1/2 hours. I did say we were beginner rice farmers...)
We headed to the local onsen. Really local. A prehab building in the middle of the rice paddies with an honesty box for your 200 yen. But go inside and the baths are big, beautiful and fabulously warm and onsenny on tired muscles. There were three women in the women's bath when Amy, neighbour A and I went in. Woman 1:(to Amy) Did you have fun playing in the water today? You and your big sister sure can run fast. Woman 2: (to me): You were working at Kevin's field today, yeah? I live just in front of him. He's a great guy. How's his wife? Woman 3: (to Amelia) you're up from Matsumoto to visit Kevin? He's a great guy. Tries everything and always happy when I take him some cucumbers or something. Wow, Kevin has quite a fan club in the onsen-loving silver set!
The girls were exhausted from a day of naked water and mud play. They had such a good time playing they kept themselves amused- without parental intervention or interference- for the entire 4 1/2 hours we were working. For a 6 year old and a 3 year old that's bordering on a miracle. They fell asleep almost immediately in the car leaving K and neighbour A and I planning our next trip up to Kevin's. A wants to swim in the river, K wants to do more rice farming and I want to go cycle touring, or hiking, or snow shoeing... or all three... lucky he organises custom tours, too hey?
So for a holiday with a difference and a look at a part of Japan those of us who don't live in population 2000 odd mountain villages don't usually get to see, call Kevin.
And I'm just down the highway for a coffee and a gush session on your way home.