Nashi in Haki

Nashi in Haki,
For the ones who are familiar with the internationally known fruits you are aware that nashi pear means an “Asian pear”. Well you may be a bit wrong. How that could be you wonder? It is because in Japan of course nashi is a “pear” and an European pear is “EU nashi” 🙂 Small difference but this is exactly what I like about being here, it challenges your perception on every step. But why I’m talking about nashi on the first place you may ask? It is easy, I’m dreaming about them nearly every day now. Is it because I love them so much? Well I like them but the major reason for my recent obsession is rather my second host dedication to his family business. Correct, you guessed right my host number two Hayashi San Shingo is very enthusiastic nashi grower and in this case that stands even in the tough competition of Japanese standards.

From what I’ve learned during the last month of February, Hayashi San has came to his recent home in Haki which is located close to Asakura city more than fifty years ago with his family as a small child. They have done rice farming and his father had a small nashi orchard in that time already. What was the major reason for Hayashi San to expand this part of their family business I’m not sure but it certainly worked. In the time of my stay there were five decent size nashi orchards with several hundreds of grown and well kept trees. Their age was around 28 years and they should be fruiting nicely up to 50 years of age or even bit more. It is hard for me to imagine how much work was to plant all of them and work the land on the first place to be able to create the orchard, not mentioning the erection of all the necessary supporting structures. Here it is unlikely as in Czech Republic where the branches of the trees are left to grow naturally upwards with just pruning  being done. The structure of the canopy here is altered so it is kept low and extended into the sides so there is actually not need most of the time for any leader to work them which is very handy. Well at least as long as you are not European and you do not hit your head every time you passed by. It took good two weeks without shaving after I left for the scratches to heal again.

Here I’ve had great opportunity to experience how hard it is to keep the trees nice and in shape. I do not know how many of you are familiar with all the routines of the works on the orchard. I know a bit about that because we have had garden with some fifteen apple and pear trees so my further had to prune them every year, harvest the fruits, process them if necessary to whatever products like jams, compotes or apple cider and take care about the leaves and next year whole circle again. Well it was spring here already so it was time for me to learn a bit more about pruning and especially about painting the cuts so they do not get infected. I’ve done pruning just a bit on trees which were surrounding the orchards and I can tell you it was quite an exercise because we have used just the usual “cutter tongs”. Hayashi san had a bit of advantage using together with his son the pressured air improved version which was saving enormous amount of work. The painting was quite fun as long as it was not too cold or if the sun did not shine too strongly because with the first your toes and fingers would freeze and with the second you couldn’t see anything. Thanks God Hayashi San was really nice and if it was cold we would make a nice fire to warm ourselves up at the tea breaks with some nice green tea from thermos flask and various tea crackers. I really liked this moments because you were just relaxing in the nature, having small chat, sipping hot tea and feeling good.

I’ve been in Haki for a month and I have to say that I really liked this stay. The town was quite small and we have lived at his outskirts very close to the mountains. I’ve shared a room with another volunteer Sebastian who was from Germany and who was a chef and came to Japan to learn more about their way of cooking. Our room was traditional tatami based, with shōji entrance and of course containing kotatsu. The house by itself was quite modern as most of the houses in Japan. However it still means, especially in the South, that it was open to the nature so there was not really way how to heat it which with some two months of “winter” was fine with local folks well not so much with me I’ve to say.

If i should mention three things which I’ve enjoyed most during my stay in Haki they would go as follows. If I start from the everyday based ones I’ve became a great fan of tsukemono which was a speciality of Fujiko our host’s wife. She was preparing tsukemono also called Japanese pickles from many, many different types of vegetables ranging from radish (daikon), carrot (ninjin), pumpkin (kabocha), turnip (kabu), onion, garlic etc. Very often she would cut the vegetables on a thin slices of various shapes and dry them first and after that infuse them by marinating with different types of brines  made from bit of salt and diluted soy sauce, miso or even sake, some of them I’d just to guess. She would serve them quite fresh or “young” but sometimes she would marinate them for weeks or even months and “o’mamma mia” it was so good because they would actually get partly or completely fermented and it was just delicious! To be honest more than third of my daily dishes would compose from various tsukemono rivaling around the table just the passion of Fujiko San. I’m going to write an article on this topic, whoever for now you can check for example this link which gives you some basic info and importantly links to literature. During my stay in Japan I’ve basically gave up on meat, having it just sometimes as a “protein” enjoying much more nicely marinated tofu, discovering the pleasure captured in a piece of konnyaku (LINK to my manual), or just having third helping of soy milk based soup which was just simply amazing. I had to master myself during my stay to not to overeat too often and it was quite pretty hard I’ve to say.

So Fujiko San’s cooking was my first enjoyment in Haki. The second everyday fun was with bear, actually rather “Bear”. You do not have to worry I did not get crazy after my stay in Alaska and there were actually no bears left in Kyushu anymore, Kuma is just a name of our host’s dog. Please check the picture because if you do, you know how 90% of dogs looks like in Japan. When we came he was barking on us and even trying to bite us, he was chained to guard the house and that I think was the reason. However the second or third day Hayashi San asked me if I want to go for a stroll with him and I did, making both myself and Kuma very happy. With help of Sebastian we gave him “an hour of pleasure” every day till my leave. I particularly liked to walk with him by myself because we would go very often to the forest running around on the animal tracks, skipping and jumping, climbing the hills just having a great time. I think that I’ve realized based on this experience why so many people have a dog. It is a great way to get you out from your home no matter what and give yourself some exercise exploring kilometres of landscape around your place in a very different way. I’ve managed to teach Kuma simple orders sit and come unfortunately he was not capable to realize who is the boss so my two tries to let him wander without leash did not work, he just run away. This confirmed to me that if I’ve a dog in the future, it would be trained properly so it is much more fun for both the man and the beast. What was however nice to see was how Kuma became gradually much more friendly to the outside people. First he would bark and try to bite them being very aggressive, becoming however less interested in them later on and even sniffing to them at the end. With Kuma I’ve managed to find many beautiful spots in the countryside and let my mind rest in a beautiful nature. You can see some of the spots which we have explored on the pictures in the gallery.

The last but not least activity which I will mention here were the trips during our off days to various locations around Haki and also sightseeing  with Hayashi San – pottery, rice gardens in the mountains, budhist temple, onsens and many others. More than talk about that I’ve just upload some pictures so you can have a look. I’ll come back to some of these topics later on in dedicated articles because I want first to collect more material before presenting it. I’ll update this article later on, so you can check where are these places around Haki, so you know where to find them if you are around.

Well and just one extra note, the family had the traditional ofuro which is a Japanese style of bath, in this case heated up by fire made from branches of the nashi trees. I had a chance to experience this pleasure every day and it was great I want one of my own in the future too! It kind of reminded me some of the visits of my friend Annabelle when I was in California. She had a nice wooden porch by the side of her house in the garden and big bathtub just standing there with hot and cold water as much as you please. With bit of red wine, some snacks, listening to the birds, watching the roses to move with some nice jazz radio in the background, that’s what I mean by “having a good time!”

If I shall conclude my stay in Haki as volunteer I can say that we did a lots of work, being treated well and we have had a good time here. For me it was especially interesting because I could see how a traditional farmer family in Japan lives, I learned more about orchard upkeep which is due to my future plan to have orchard by myself very important and I did many wonderful trips into the surrounding places which were really beautiful.

I hope that you have found a bit of inspiration in this post, the next one is going to be from my stay in Omura where I’ll be volunteering in a bakery cafe and language school.

Sincerely from Kyushu, Japan,

Frantisek Algoldor Apfelbeck

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~ by algoldor on March 31, 2012.

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