One Final Look at Japan: Mount Fuji and Reflections

We left the farm in the morning and caught a train from Matsumoto to Kofu. In Kofu, we caught the bus to Kawaguchiko thanks to a helpful woman who made sure we did not miss the last bus of the day. When we got off the bus at Kawaguchiko, it was raining. We walked to our hostel thinking how thankful we were it had not rained while we were freezing on the farm.

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Life on the Japanese Farm

We had expected that working on the farm might be challenging given that we did not speak Japanese, but we quickly settled in. Takao-san’s English was excellent, so our instructions were clear, and he was full of fascinating stories. We learned his English was so good because he had spent two years in Zambia with the Japanese-equivalent of the Peace Corps. He arrived having not spoken English since high school more than ten years before and left fluent. By contrast Hisami-san and Grandpa did not speak much, if any English, but they still made us feel welcome. And little Mi-chan kept us entertained. She was the most animated person we have met… possibly ever! Eric thought she was just like a real-life anime character. She could be hilariously silly, but she could also go from calm to mad in a single second. This was all the more amusing because we never had any idea what she was mad about.

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Integrated Rice and Poultry Farming in Azumino

The Japanese farm on which we had agreed to volunteer was located in Azumino in Nagano prefecture. We had chosen this farm because we liked the description on the WWOOFing website and the bonus that the woman was a chef. Somehow, besides a bullet point that mentioned “meat processing”, the description did not actually say much about what the farm did, so there was little indication of how we were going to spend the next ten days.

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Escaping to Mountain Villages

The Hida train ride from Nagoya to Takayama was beautiful. The train boasts extra large windows so you can appreciate the view, which we did! The train wound along the river through the mountains where the trees were starting to change to yellow and orange. Also, trains in Japan have a cool feature where all of the seat backs can be moved from one side to the other of the seat so no one has to travel backwards. We think more trains should work this way.

View out the train window
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Castles and Cars in Nagoya

We arrived in Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city, under a rainy afternoon sky. We took the Kintetsu train two stops to the Kogane station and walked the short distance to our Airbnb. The apartment was located next to the train line and under the intersection of two highways in the southwest corner of Nagoya, and yet, at $71.50 per night, it was our most expensive accommodation to date. Budget accommodation had proven surprisingly hard to come by in Nagoya. The available hostel options all seemed crazy: we’re talking $30+ per dorm bed, and we think dorm beds only make sense if we are saving real money over other options. Despite its unusual location, the Airbnb gave us our own private space with a small cooking area, and it was perfect for exploring the city.

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Exploring the World’s Largest Metropolitan Area: Tokyo

Our flight to Tokyo from Seoul was very early in the morning, landing at 9:30am. After getting through customs and finding an ATM to take out some Japanese yen it was time to find our way into the city. Tokyo, and we would later discover, Japan in general, has a huge number of trains, all across various train systems. This means that most of the country is highly accessible by train (which is great!), but it can be a bit overwhelming at first to figure out which train you want, and extra hard to avoid very expensive trains by accident. We went to an information desk to get help rather than trying to figure it out ourselves, and we were quickly on our way.

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