There's a really cool bakery up the road from me. Literally in the middle of nowhere on a road to nowhere in the middle of the apple orchards backing on to a mountain. check it out
It's run by a man and wife who escaped the city to live their dream of wood-fired bread and handmade furniture.
We were there the day they opened and we've been (sporadic) customers in the ten years since. We've watched them have a baby and him start school and bring his parents to live here and help out too and renovate a second 100 year old building on the property to start a cafe as well.
The bread is quite expensive and mister realist cum fatalist K predicted they'd never make a go of it as bread itself isn't so popular here and paying 500 yen for a loaf is unheard of. But they've survived and thrived and still sell the best bread for miles (and miles!) I LOVE their fruit bread made with mountain currants and wild blueberries. Yum.
So, yesterday when I had spent the morning helping the rice guru with his potato harvest in return foe picking his brain on green manure and crop rotation and soil improvement and I knew I'd be driving home past the bakery it only took a nanosecond for me to decide it was worth the risk of being busted in my dirty work clothes by a student or someone else I knew for the sake of seriously good bread for lunch.
So I walked in and chose my bread and alllllllmost got away with it when the door opened behind me and 'sensei???!!' and it was one of the mums from my play centre class. She looked slightly dumbfounded and asked what I'd been doing (I was wearing shorts and workboots which is a very odd combination here as shorts are only worn for sports day and everyone covers up head to toe to work outside) so I explained I'd been digging potatoes. We covered which neighbourhood we both lived in and how unusual it is for a foreigner to farm rice when the register operator chimed in- where's your rice field and why I was passing the bakery on my way home from potato digging when I lived in Okubo? So then I had to explain that I wasn't digging my potatoes but helping out in Ogura.
"Oh! Tsumura-san's place?"
Now it was my turn to look dumbfounded- it's about a 25 minute drive to Ogura and I know there are definitely a fair few farmers living there so how would she guess??
Well, waddaya know- the register operator lives in Ogura and Tsumura-san is famous there as the guy with all the foreigners staying and working there (he has about 50 wwoofers a year.)
Then I had to explain I wasn't a wwooffer but yes that's where I'd been. The owner came downstairs from vacuuming and the greetings started all over again and we had to explain to her how we all knew each other and I was feeling slightly claustrophobc by the time I grabbed my change and my bread and escaped back to the anonymity of my little white k-truck. This village living can feel like a very very small world!