Walking around Naka – 中を歩く

Okayama, November – 岡山、 11月

I found endless joy from Naka Village’s winding roads, mountain paths and quiet forests. Anywhere I went, there were narrow, clear watered streams following the road. The nature at Naka differed completely from Finnish; it was more exciting!

津村市・中村の曲がりくねった道、山道、そして静かな森を見つけた時は、これ以上ない喜びを感じました。 どこに行っても、道に沿って細くて透き通った小川がありました。 中村の自然はフィンランドでみる自然とまったく異なるものでした。もっとわくわくするものだったのです。

The roads were deserted, and instead of cars or people I saw kingfishers glistening in the sun, small fishes in the stream, and even escaping baby wild boar. In the forest my path passed the villager’s shiitake mushroom logs, bamboo groves and small waterfalls. The air felt damp and everywhere was bottle green moss and fallen leaves.

道には誰もおらず、車や人の代わりにカワセミが太陽に輝き、小魚が小川を泳ぎ、野生の子どものイノシシが逃げるのを見ました。 森の中では、シイタケの丸太、竹林、小さな滝を通り過ぎました。 空気の中に湿気を感じ、いたるところに緑の苔や落ち葉が広がっていました。

The mountainous roads were quite exhausting to walk; no matter which way I walked there were hills, and slippery moss-covered asphalt. Sometimes a sudden shower from the sunny sky surprised me: it’s called kitsune no yomeiri, the fox’s wedding.


Arts And Crafts Village

3090 Misaki-cho, Kume-gun, Okayama, 709-3407 Japan


〒709-3407 岡山県久米郡美咲町中3090

Snail Vision Nature Healing Trip – スネイルビジョン

Okayama, November岡山、11月

One morning we headed for Asahi River; Toyomi’s friends Chika and Tomoki Koga took us to try some packrafting. Tomoki taught us how to fill our Alpacka Rafts with air and how to use the paddle; then he gave us a dry run in the parking lot before releasing us to the river.


The Alpacka Raft with its under 3 kilograms weight is light to carry, it doesn’t take much space when it’s empty and it’s very easy and quick to fill. It can carry a lot of weight and was effortless to steer; it moved like a feather in the stream. One by one we glided to the water with our colourful packrafts, and started to paddle.


Once we got the hang of it, Tomoki urged us to lay down in the bottom of the packraft, and relax. The river was perfectly calm, morning was beautiful and we enjoyed the serene feeling while floating away. Tomoki’s Snail Vision organizes these trips in various environments. I was lucky to have this great opportunity to try it out! For me it was a new way to experience nature, and I definitely want to do it again someday.

慣れてきた頃、ともきさんは、パックらふとのそこに横になりリラックスするように言いました。川はとても穏やかで美しい朝だったので、私たちは浮いている間、パックラフトに漂う穏やかさを満喫しました。ともきさんが設立したSnal Visionは、このような旅を様々な環境で提供しています。私はこのような体験をすることができて本当にラッキーでした。私にとって、この経験は自然を違った角度から楽しませてくれました。またいつか絶対に行きたいと思っています。

Getting the gear ready
Toyomi filling her Alpacka with air
Serene Asahi River

Arts and Crafts Village – アーツ&クラフツビレッジ

Okayama, November – 岡山、11月

I found Arts and Crafts Village from the Workaway Japan site. I traveled from Osaka to Mimasaka Oiwake Station, where I met my host Toyomi Harada. Amid mountainous forests was tiny and isolated Naka village. As soon as I settled in the Workaway House we had a yoga class.

Workaway Japanというサイト(Workaway:1日4時間、週5日ボランティアとしてお手伝いする代わりに住む場所と3食を提供してもらえるサイト)から、私はアーツ&クラフツビレッジを見つけました. 私は大阪から美作追分駅へ向かい、そこでホストの原田豊美さんに出会いました。山岳地帯の森の中には、小さくて佇む中村(中村:村の名前)がありました。ワークアウェイハウスに落ち着くとすぐにヨガのクラスがありました。

Toyomi and her carpenter husband Yasunori had lived there 25 years; they had a small cafe, wood workshop, weaving and indigo dyeing classes. The building was an old school, and there was a lot of space for those activities. Toyomi was an energetic 60-year-old, and she took care of everything; running the cafe, Airbnb guests, Workawayers, stray cats and vegetable fields.


My daily tasks were cleaning the yard, washing dishes and making fire to the cafe’s two fireplaces. This was the place where we usually spend time; we cooked, entertained guests and Toyomi even spun yarn in this former chemistry classroom. The old building was very cold during winter, and we had to burn wood from morning till late night.


The cafe
Arts and Crafts Village school building on the right
The cafe from outside
Toyomi spinning yarn at the exhibition in Okayama City
Yasu’s beautiful furniture

Arts and Crafts Village

3090 Naka, Misaki, Kume District, Okayama 709-3407, Japan


〒709-3407 岡山県久米郡美咲町中3090

Tokyo German Village – 東京ドイツ村

Chiba, December千葉 12月

My husband and I visited the Kikuchi Family and Chiba once again in the winter. Kumi and Hiroto took us to see a magnificent illumination in the middle of the countryside; Tokyo German Village, which is actually in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture.


This winter illumination is one of the three best illumination of the Kanto area, they have three million LED lights on the landscape, all over the fields and buildings. The theme park is open throughout the year; visitors can enjoy the illumination during winter, and the seasonal flower fields, golf course and picnics in summer. There is also German food and beverages.


Tokyo German Village

419, Nagayoshi, Sodegaura, Chiba, 299-0204 Japan


〒299-0204 千葉県袖ケ浦市永吉419

Senshu Park – 千秋公園

Akita, May秋田 5月

The last day of my Rail Pass I traveled to Akita City, the hometown of Endo. The journey from Tokyo took almost four hours even with the Shinkansen. Cherry blossoms had already fallen, but now it was azalea blooming time, and everywhere was bright pink, aniline red and purple bushes.


Senshu Park is in the heart of the city; a luscious green oasis full of things to see throughout the seasons. It’s built to the ruins of Kubota Castle, and there still are some of those ancient buildings like omonogashira gobansho, the guard house. One of the Kubota Castle’s turret towers is restored, and open to the public.


The park is one of Japan’s top 100 historical parks as well as one of the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots. They also have a beautiful Kogetsu pond, a few museums and shrines in the area.


The outer moat
Kogetsu Pond
Tower of Kubota Castle
View from the tower

Senshu Park

1-6 Senshukoen, Akita, 010-0876, Japan

Kubota Castle Ruins

1-39 Senshukoen, Akita, 010-0876, Japan


〒010-0876 秋田県秋田市千秋公園1


〒010-0876 秋田県秋田市1 秋田市千秋公園1番4

Niigata – 新潟

Niigata, May新潟 五月

After Shodoshima and Osaka, I headed to Tokyo; I still had a few days left on my Japan Rail Pass and wanted to explore some new cities. Inspired by Sato’s father, I booked a day trip to Niigata.


After a two-hour journey I arrived at the city and immediately felt relaxed; the weather was a bit cooler, and the streets were less crowded.. I fancied a bird’s-eye view, and the best place for that was Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP building’s free observation deck.


Niigata took me by surprise. I don’t know what I had imagined, but certainly not this; wide promenades at the river banks, fishing vessels and old tug boats floating in the shiny water, people enjoying beautiful weather while sitting on the benches. No wonder why it’s called the city of water.

新潟には驚かされました。 川岸の広い遊歩道、釣り船、輝く水上に浮かぶ古いタグボート、人々はベンチに座って美しい天気を楽しんでいます。私はどんな街を想像していたのかわかりませんが、間違いなくこの様ではありませんでした。水の都と呼ばれるのも不思議ではありません。

View from Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP building
Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP
At the riverside promenade

Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP

3-1-1 Bandai, Chuo Ward, Niigata, 950-0088 Japan


〒950-0088 新潟県新潟市中央区万代3丁目1−1

Shōdoshima, Day Two – 小豆島 2日目

Kagawa, May香川 5月

Our accommodation was comfortable; the cabin had a kitchen/living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a balcony with a great view to the sea. Near was a hot spring, which we visited before going to sleep, so we could wake up refreshed to the new day.


After breakfast we said goodbye to our lovely cabin and drove off to see the day’s first sight: senmaida, ‘one thousand rice fields’ arranged like tiny shelves on top of each other on the hillside. Probably because I come from a very flat country, everything related to mountains are enchanting for me, but these fields! How is it possible to cultivate them?


Next we visited the Shōdoshima Olive Park, which was like a small piece of Greek with its beautiful flower and herb beds, olive groves and shiny-white buildings. They also have Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service herb shop Corico that was a must-see for Chihiro and me.

次に、小豆島オリーブ公園を訪れました。美しい花とハーブの花だん、オリーブの木立、輝くような白い建物があって、そこはまるでギリシャの一角のようでした。スタジオジブリ「魔女の宅急便」の映画のロケセットがあるハーブショップ コリコは、千尋と私には必見の場所でした。

Sunrise from our cabin
Senmaida fields
At the Olive Park
Kiki’s Delivery Service herb shop Corico

Shōdoshima Olive Park

1941-1, Kagawa, Shozu-gun, Shōdoshima, Nishimura, 761-4434 Japan

道の駅 小豆島オリーブ公園

〒761-4434 香川県小豆郡小豆島町西村甲1941-1

Shōdoshima, Day One – 小豆島 1日目

Kagawa, May香川 五月

Early in the morning we drove to Kobe harbour, and to ferry; our destination was three hours away, the gem of the Seto Inland Sea. Shōdoshima is one of the Inland Sea’s 3000 islands, and famous for its olives and soy sauce.


The ferry ride was pleasant, we had breakfast and played cards on the floor among other passengers. When we arrived in Shōdoshima, our first attraction was Nijushi no Hitomi Movie Village. It’s the actual shooting place of the Twenty-four eyes (Nijū-shi no Hitomi), filmed in 1954. After soomen lunch we fed the big carps on the canal and played on the beach. The weather was perfect for outdoor activities, sunny and bright.


We also visited a soy sauce factory and last, the Angel Road. It’s a narrow pathway which connects the mainland and few other small islands; it appears twice a day during low tide. Angel Road is a magical place; the sea and its waves had sculptured the rocks and softened the sand, and emerald green seaweed covered the rocks on the shore.


The Port of Kobe
The ferry is leaving
Arriving to the ‘Olive Island
Nijushi no Hitomi Movie Village
The Twenty-four Eyes movie’s teacher and pupils
Soomen lunch
Soy sauce factory
At the Angel Road
The sea water was chrystal clear
Mikiko and Otoosan
Our cabin

Twenty-four Eyes Movie Village

甲931 Tanoura, Shōdoshima, Shozu, Kagawa 761-4424, Japan


〒761-4424 香川県小豆郡小豆島町田浦甲931

Back to Osaka – 大阪に帰る

Osaka, May大阪 5月

After saying goodbye to the Kikuchi Family and the Jinpuu staff, I headed for Tokyo Station, and took a Shinkansen to Osaka. Golden Week was about to start, and because of that, the Tanaka Family and I would travel to Shōdoshima Island.


Golden Week has a great impact on already crowded stations; everybody wants to travel at the same day, and queues are tremendous. Thank God, Kumi had helped me to send my luggage to the Tanakas, so I didn’t have to carry it!


When the Shinkansen arrived in Osaka, my sadness had almost disappeared, and I was ready to face some new adventures; we began our holiday at a sushi carousel with Mikiko, Otoosan and Ojiisan. It’s been a year since the last time we met. In the evening, we had dinner with the whole gang; I was happy to be with my Japanese family again!


Otoosan and Ojiisan
Back at the house
Cold soba noodles

The Kikuchi Family – 菊池ファミリー

Chiba, March千葉 3月

Jinpuu‘s heart and soul were the Kikuchi couple; warm-hearted Kumi and always active Hiroto. Jinpuu was his father’s company, and Hiroto took the lead when he retired, and also Kumi worked at the office. Hiroto was a leader who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty; he shoveled soil, climbed high on the trees and sweated with us at the Tokyo site.


Hiroto was a hardworking, funny and generous man. Every morning he took his moped, drove to a convenient store to fetch us coffees; he treated me uncountably number of lunches, dinners, snacks and beverages. Kumi helped me so many ways during my apprenticeship at Jinpuu: she took me to a hairdresser, sent several boxes full of my stuff to Finland and introduced me to WonderREX second hand shop. (Come to think of it, WonderREX may be the reason I had to send some of those boxes!)


Hiroto loved his family; he always had time for his two boys. We had a lot of farewell parties and company events, and the kids always joined the crew. Jinpuu was a tight community, and they all made sure that I fit in. 


A huge WonderREX!


30-1 Koshiate, Mobara, Chiba 297-0007, Japan

総合リサイクルショップ WonderREX 茂原店

〒 297 – 0007 千葉県茂原市腰当 30 – 1