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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Private Property, Welcome

I was in for a surprise when I drove onto our property and saw an obasan (old lady) walking around our property like she owned the place. Erika politely asked what she was doing. She said that she was harvesting warabi  (mountain vegetables). From my understanding, this was a common practice in the countryside. They come from all over to harvest warabi and wild berries when they are in season. I found the whole experience kind of strange since I was under the impression that we lived out in the middle of nowhere. These “bush people” park along the gravel road that leads to our home. At one time I saw a group of four people wandering in the tall weeds (over 2 meters high), actually I didn’t see them, I saw the weeds moving. I told Erika that in the U.S. they would be arrested or shot for trespassing. Interesting…all of a sudden I didn’t feel like we had any privacy. This was even more apparent since we didn’t have a bathroom to take care of things. I would look out for Erika and she would do the same for me when we had to take care of business. Erika asked the obasan if she were afraid of being bitten by a snake. She calmly said no and told us that it’s more dangerous if you don’t have boots on near your house. That made sense in a peculiar way. I thought the large bucks roaming in the weeds and bugling was unique when we visited last fall, but this certainly tops that experience. I could see the weeds moving and I knew there were people out there…searching…searching for mountain vegetables. I had to know what was so special about these delicacies. As fate would have it, our neighbor just so happen to be cooking up a lunch that included these elusive vegetables. I couldn’t wait to taste the wonderous flavors of warabi. It kind of looks like a green sprout. You know like when a small fern starts to open. I opened my mouth prepared to be taken away by the exotic flavor…nothing. It tasted like soy sauce. “What’s the big deal?” I couldn’t believe people would waste the time and risk being bitten by a poisonous snake to eat this. “I don’t get it.” The neighbor was quick to point out that the taste was more of a symbol than an actual taste. It was supposed to taste like spring time. “Oh, I get it.” I politely finished my plate and went back to whacking weeds.
I promised to join the “bush people” when the wild berries are in season. I was told all kinds of edible fruits and veggies grow wild in Tsukahara. When I was whacking weeds in the yard, I was afraid I was destroying someone’s natural dinner. I soon got over the feeling as the yard was quite large and I was getting very sore and tired. Erika and I took turns whacking weeds. The weed wacker was borrowed from her brother. I don’t know if they have this kind of tool in the U.S. Just picture a long pole with a small gas powered motor on one end and a spinning tablesaw blade at the other end. If you are not careful, a person could get seriously injured. It works very well for the intended purpose and someday I would like to purchase one. They run about $400.
We must have looked pathetic to visitors with our house in terrible condition, a yard full of weeds, I’m unable to walk, I haven’t shaved in 5 days, and no water or septic. At least the weather was good. We had to rest in the car because the house was uninhabitable. The neighbor brought us food and water while we tried to cut down the weeds. It felt good to work even though I could use only one leg. I think Erika was convinced that Japan was good for me after she experienced our little bit of hardship. She was impressed with the fact that I didn’t complain. In the U.S., I would have been upset, cussing and complaining about the situation. In Japan, I was perfectly calm and accepted the situation. I enjoyed the opportunities the situation opened up for us. We were given a chance to meet all sorts of kind and generous people because of our difficulties… it was fate.

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