Our second farm stay was at Yohey’s farm in the Wakayama Prefecture, South of Osaka. We chose it because he looked to be about our age and working with other young farmers. His house was very communal because in addition to Yohey, his wife, child, mom and cat there were many other people living there. Ti-chan, Lumiko and Lumiko’s 4 year old daughter were permanent Japanese WWOOFers who hadn’t left in two years. Mami actually lived elsewhere but worked on the farm and was around quite often. Di-chan, another woofer who seemed really young (he was 23), didn’t seem like a farmer to us. Come to find out his mother made him stay and work at the farm for two months because he wasn’t doing anything productive with his life. I guess it’s somewhat common for parents to do here in Japan. Then there were other WWOOFers who came and went besides ourselves. Itai, an Israeli guy who we became friends with, was the only other person there who spoke fluent English. To add to that for whatever reason there were 6, giggling 11 year old school girls staying on the farm the first couple days for some sort of camp or something. We’re still not quite sure.
Not everything was explained at first and the first few days were confusing as we tried to piece it all together. Luckily we befriended Mami and she helped clear some things up for us, but even then there were still some mysteries. Like one day Yohey’s wife and child were no longer there and then a few days later Ti-chan disappeared. He came back by the time we left and he told us his fiancé’s father was bitten by a poisonous snake and he had to go take care of him. So that cleared up one mystery, but at the same time we were surprised to hear he was engaged since his fiancé was never there or brought up in conversation. And eventually we learned that Yohey’s wife and kid left to go be with her brother who was having brain surgery. If this sounds confusing that’s because it was and it was further compounded by our lack of Japanese skills.
On the other hand though, the farm was a fun place to be with so many people. Someone always had plans or wanted to do something special and we were included in all of it. Like we visited a waterfall with Mami and Itai and went to some hot springs. One night Yohey wanted to BBQ so we all made fried potato balls and grilled out (or rather inside for some reason per Yohey, very bad idea). Another time Lumiko made Takoyaki (squid balls) with us and Ti-chan taught us how to make homemade Soba noodles. Okasan, Yohey’s mother arranged making traditional Japanese Moshi one afternoon, which involved using a giant hammer to beat rice into this popular dessert. Luca, the 4 year-old especially loved it. Yohey also showed us around and took us to quirky things in the area like a train station decorated in cats (it even had a live cat on display inside a glass enclosure). We visited his friend who is building an earth bag dome house (see picture). Plus Yohey loved to drum and took us along to many of his events in the evenings where he taught or was performing.
As for farm work we helped out where needed. A lot of the time was spent weeding fields, clearing the land to plant new crops, digging out ditches for rain water drainage, building planting mounds and of course planting seeds like potatoes and carrots. A couple of days we helped clear jungle from some land so that Yohey can one day build a community center where he can drum as much as he wants without disturbing his neighbors with the noise. Our favorite days to work were on the weekends because that’s when Yohey ran his pizzeria. We would usually work a few hours in the morning and then enjoy pizza for lunch before going back out.
Yohey’s was a fun and interesting place to be. It was great to be part of their community during our stay there. Cooking and sharing everything with a household of friends was a great experience and we saw how young, organic farmers are trying to make it in Japan and foster their beliefs to the rest of the country.