Getting Down in the Organic Dirt at ARI (Asian Rural Institute)

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Bean Crop Coming Up, Planted by Nisan's Work Group


My good friend Sawmi from Hualngo Land Developement Organization (HLDO) invited me to go to the farm.  She explained that this wasn’t just a day in the dirt, I would be meeting the people who run ARI (Asian Rural Institute).

ARI is an organization that attracts candidates from all over the world to come the countryside in Japan for 9 months and they will learn, use, and become leaders of their agricultural homes when they return.

The students attend lectures in each group.  They study about nothing going to waste on the farm.  They are encouraged by the staff to figure out the yes way for them to solve projects giving to them.  Each student is a member of a group which they will tend together.  In addition, each student has a small plot to plant and reap what every they like as a personal project.


Stepping out of the station we all noted the air was a tad drier and cooler than Tokyo.  It took nearly 3 hours of subways and local trains to get here.  Kathy met us at Nasunoko station in the farm’s van and wisked us over to the farm.  There was a mix of its permanent staff, volunteers, and the students.  We walked around the administrative building before heading out into the farm.  S
Nothing Goes to Waste on the Farm

Nothing goes to waste on the ARI farm.  Even the husks from rice are burned and added to the compost, or to make natural pesticides.  The mission is to get the students to adapt what they learn to their home country.  To learn how waste from one crop can be the nutrients that feds the next.

We came to Nisan’s groups plot of land.  They had just put down some beans on raised beds and then covered them with the straw leftover from a rice harvest.  The straw keep the grounds moisture and keeps the weeds from getting sunlight to grow.
Keepring the Crows Away, Scarecrow
All the classes are conducted in English and Kathy supported Nisan in her explaining their methods to us all in English.

Livestock is also raised on the property including pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and carp (fish).  Students often choose to study about a livestock depending on their need of their country.
Fresh Picked Farm Blueberries bu the Bowlfull

We had a communal lunch of fried (tempura) green eggplants, tomato and vegetables salad, a a slightly spicy potato salad.  I was thankful for the bounty, and even more so that it was a vegan meal.  The meal was topped off with bowls full of luscious blueberries.

All the participants, volunteers, and students joined in on the communal lunch.  A quick prayer song was recited and we dug into the food.
Nisan, Farmer and Future Leader

Nisan at the Communal Lunch

One man from Liberia named Romeo was giving drumming lessons to a Philippino guitarist before we all broke bread.  Really a lovely harmony.

There was so much to see and do at the farm.  I was full of joy to see Nisan coming forward as a farming leader.  I will continue to support her and the Hualngo Land Developement Organization (HLDO).

I didn’t walk away empty handed.  Nisan handed us a bag full of long beans, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, and long green peppers.  Also picked up a little rhubarb jam for a breakfast treat.

Those of you in Japan who might be wanting to volunteer, look into the ARI (Asian Rural Institute).  Or, if you know of a country’s people that could use some solid training filled with love invite them to check it too.

some special shout outs!

Kathy, for picking us up and showing us around.

Yukiko, for telling her story, and giving Nisan all the support she can.

Sean- from Hawaii,  you are on your path.

Romeo- for making me feel welcomed and reminding me of my youth.

ALL the ARI staff, participants, and volunteers. Who have made my world, OUR world, a better place.


Drying Garlic on the ARI Teaching Farm


Garlic curing behind the communal kitchen


Farmers' Workboots


Rows of women’s workboots outside their dormitory.


Keeping it Hot in the Greenhouse


Heated Hot House
Maize, Corn Drying, Ready for Grinding


Nothing but stone ground maize.


Blackberry Straight from the Bush


Fresh plucked blackberry in Nisan’s hand.

In the Heart of the Chiba Jungle, with Monkeys Too

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Cross Step Creek, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba


Summer is here.  I do love summer. The heat is relentless.  The storms are fierce, but best of all is the freedom to wander with a camera.

This year my photo wandering partner, Tomo, and I returned to Yororukeikoku.  Tomo chose to bring a TLR to capture the day.

Yororukeikoku lies deep in the heart of dog shaped Chiba prefecture.  A place so unvisited at this time of year, that we passed only to other hikers on a 10 kilometer trail in over 5 hours of time.

It took a bit over 2 hours by train including the double car Kominato line.  We took the train to the end of the line at Yororukeikoku station, snagged the remaining rice balls tow local summer mikans (mandarin organs) from the local conbini and made our way down the road.

The asphalt was streaming hot.  The conversation bounced around until I mentioned that it would be incredible if we encounter some “real” Chiba monkeys.  We both kind of laughed and kept stepping.

The winter storms had wrecked havoc on the paths, and many trails had been closed.  Our first major obstacle was getting around a fallen tree.  Not a big deal, but we would see other trees uprooted, and small landslides along the way.

The path criss crossed a small creek about a dozen times.  Sometimes it took us a minute or two to find the path on the other side.  After a rain storm, I am sure that the path would be even harder to keep track.

Lucky I had been breaking in a new pair of hiking shoes, which kept my feet dry and my ankles from twisting.

The first real rest we took about 2 hours in on the hike was an old homestead built in the 19th century.  All that remained were some of the foundation’s stones, and piles of broken shells and pottery.  It was a perfect place to break out some dried fruit and ice water, and just listen to the sounds of the countryside.
Jungle Hill Homestead with Ceramic Fragments, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba


We got back on the train, and we began to ascend out of the valley.  This is when, even though we were in the shade, the sweat began to pour from all of our pores.  We reached the first ridge in the forest when sometime darted down a tree on our left.  At first we both thought a raccoon, but, it scampered rather oddly, it was then we realized it was an honest to goodness Chiba monkey.  My home, I had made in jest, had come true.

But we weren’t out of the valley yet and we still had to climb higher.  After some strenuous moments of plodding forward we reached the top and a small paved service road.  The rest was mainly down hill.

Coming out of a the forrest there were a few small farms ahead.  When a small brown blur bolted across the road.  Yes!  We had seen another monkey.  Not only one, but in the trees and bamboo on our left we could see others jumping about.  I was elated!  After seeing a half dozen snakes, and countless frogs, we had eyed the reclusive Chiba monkey.

They must prove problematic for the farmers, because in this part of the jungle they had fenced in their farms, I speculate to keep the monkeys out.


Monkey Tree with Wiresm and Shadows, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba


The road leveled out to view rice paddies to our left and right.  The sun was falling and the sky was filling with some cloudy wisps.  The Kazusa-Ōkubo station was ahead.  We had about 40 minutes before the next train.  No one was insight.  This station’s area was the inspiration for the Okubo Nekobus stop in My Neighbor Totoro.
Wating for the Train, Kazusa-Ōkubo Station, Yorokeikoku, Chiba

We rested.  Shot our last couple of pictures, and waited for the train.  The sounds of summer were mesmerizing.  The chorus of cicadas, crickets, frogs, all in discordance harmony.  Not a soul was around.  Except, for the guy who drove up in a car, used the bathroom, then kicked up dust on his way out.  That was it.  We drank some cold water with paintings of Totoro to our backs and waited for the train.

A great day out in the jungles of Chiba.  Something I need to do more often.  I need to escape the concrete jungle for a lush green one.
Rice Paddy with Wires and Clouds, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba



Rice Paddy to the Hills and Sky, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba



Rice Paddy with Narita Memeorial Yoroukeikoku, Chiba


Time Heal Scars, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba



Small Gorge with Stream, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

The Summer Hunt is On! First, Kitasenju

Monday, August 4th, 2014

One Vine Strong with Corrugated Metal, Kita Senju, Tokyo


It is that special time of year.  The Days are long.  The air it think with humidity that the annual summer hunt begins.

No animals will be harmed.  In fact, no one, and nothing will be harmed.  The only suffering are my feet and sweat glands.

It is the time of year to hit the pavement and go on a serious walkabout around my city.  I have been here for 15 years, and there still are areas within the city limits I have never explored.  It was this passion for exploration that I hopped on a train to wander around Kitasenju.

I had heard that it has a bit of a shitamachi (下町) feeling.  Or, as I like to say, an old part of town.  The sun was blazing as I began to wander.  No plans.  No guides.  Just a pair of boots and a camera.

There were pockets of some lovely old houses on the tiny twisting alleyways.  It really must have been something 30 years ago.

These old pockets of Tokyo are very quickly succumbing to the bulldozer all in the name of progress.

My camera does process some negative special powers.  There have been many times I have photographed some of these nuggets of urban treasure, only to revisit them later to find a 7-11 in its place.  I hope it doesn’t happen.

Stay posted for more hunting updates.  Stay cool, and hydrated.

Catch you all in the shade.


Today Brocolli, Kita Senju, Tokyo



Shaded Garden Home with Bicycle, Kita Senju, Tokyo



Plussy Sign with Meagerie, Kita Senju, Tokyo



Red Wall with Aloe and Bicycle, Kita Senju, Tokyo

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