We had a much more relaxed start to the day today: breakfast at 7.45am and no educational stuff until 9.30am, which meant we had enough time to go for a walk and see orange trees, bamboo plants, and a random shrine or two in the countryside around the hotel. It was pitch black when we got here last night, so we were able to see just how remote this place is this morning. There is the hotel we’re in, what looks like another hotel across the river, and the village to one side of us. And wooded mountains on every side.
Our first seminar of the day was in the hotel, from the president of Irodori, Mr Tomoji Yokoishi. Irodori is a group that was set up to help people in rural areas make a living. From climbing trees and collecting leaves. Seriously. One person has made 200,000 yen in one day. That’s £2,000. One woman was still climbing trees until she was 95. The concept is that high-end restaurants like to decorate food with leaves of the season, and Kamikatsu is surrounded by the leaves that are in demand. Irodori has helped mostly older people set up a farmers’ cooperative to take advantage of this, and they are reaping the rewards.We got to visit the warehouse that the cooperative paid for, and saw some of the farmers delivering their leaves.
Back to the hotel for lunch, and then to Kamikatsu Zero Waste project on our way back. This rural area has never had household rubbish collections, but the zero waste facility has been set up essentially as a skip, but with a huge emphasis on recycling. People can bring their stuff and sort it into various boxes, and for those residents who are not very mobile, volunteers do household collections every couple of months. There is also a bric-a-brac shop, but you don’t pay for what you take: just note down the weight. Kamikatsu aims to be zero waste by 2020.
Then the long drive back to Takatsuki. Really long. Slept for most of it. We went out for dinner to a Thai and Bali restaurant because a few people were getting fed up of the choice of fish or raw fish. It was probably my least favourite meal so far and it was quite an expensive night. But up to this point I hadn’t paid for anything so I didn’t really mind.
We asked Hideyuki to translate a tattoo Shaun got when he was 15 because he liked the look of it. The look on his face made us think it must have said something like paedophile, but it says “blood and guts”. It was funny to him because the “blood and guts = courage” analogy doesn’t really translate, so in Japanese it kinda means sickness.
Hideyuki’s students – affectionately termed “the boys” by Neill – were quite taken with Chris’s muscles, so he treated them to a big bear hug before they left, lifting them a few feet off the ground.
The “chin chin” conversation was going on on the other table, so I told Shaun, Liv and Marion what it meant. We decided it would be funny to say “chin chin” instead of “kanpai” on the next round, and received shocked looks from Komal and the 3 Japanese people. Komal asked Hideyuki to explain to us what it meant, and I think he was slightly confused when we said we knew exactly what we were saying!