Adventures in the Kawauchi Forest

So last week, my team and I went on a cultural excursion which we had been invited to a few weeks prior. A Japanese acquaintance of the team had organized an educational field trip to Kawauchi, a village about an hour away from where I live, and they were making the trip available to us at a very reasonable cost and even provided transportation. We jumped at the chance to go, and I’m glad we did! We got to participate in some unique cultural activities, along with some local Japanese people who were also interested in the trip.

The first thing we did in Kawauchi was make soba noodles. We went to a nice lodge-type building (I’m not sure exactly what it was used for…some type of camp or recreation center, maybe?) and in one of the rooms was a soba chef who had us all set up for making the noodles. The ingredients and tools were prepared, and all we had to do was mix ingredients, knead, roll, and cut. They split us in teams of four to work together. I took some photos and videos of the process:

The master at work:

Soba making tools:

A video of part of the process. Ignore the part about “my new blog camera.” What I meant was that I had completely forgotten that my camera had a screen that I could flip around to video myself with, so I was trying it out for the first time. LOL. I never claimed to be good with technology…


And here’s the cutting process. The guy at my table had some practice in making soba, so he was showing us how it was done:

The finished product! The wider noodles are those cut by us amateurs. 🙂

Phase two of the trip was visiting a swamp, where there was supposedly a population of tree frogs. We took a bus from the lodge and drove about twenty minutes through the forest, then walked for a few minutes into the woods to a swamp/pond. As we walked, I remembered seeing, earlier in the day, the yellow caution sign by the road indicating wild boars in the area. I don’t know if they inhabited the part of the forest that we were in, but luckily, we didn’t see any. 🙂 We didn’t see any of the frogs, either, but we did see some of their egg sacs, which they create in the branches over the swamp.

That yellow ball is a sac of frogs’ eggs!

Phase three of the trip was visiting the former residence of a famous poet, Shinpei Kusano, for whom the villagers had built a house in the woods. Now the house is open for visitors, and many of the rooms look like they’re just as he would have left them a few decades ago.

This, I was told, was an old wine storage building which was used to store some of the poets’ books.

And here’s a picture of the outside, although the light did something weird with the reflective zipper on my jacket.

Last but not least, we visited the town’s Amazon Café, which we were told was a business in Thailand. I think this was their first store in Japan. If I remember what I was told correctly, they built the store in Kawauchi (even though it’s just an out-of-the-way village) as a symbol of hope and restoration after the tsunami.  The items there were expensive, but delicious. I had lime and honey green tea with bubble jelly, and it had a wonderful flavor. It was a great way to end our day exploring the small (but picturesque) village of Kawauchi!

 

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