Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In the fields

Rain today. . .thin strings of mist rise up and out of the valleys, clinging to the tree tops before flowing into the gray swirl of clouds overhead.

I spent the day yesterday introducing myself and talking with villagers. Most people were out working in their fields, so it was a bit difficult to interrupt. Also, it's hard to describe the look that comes over people's faces when a white guy suddenly walks up and begins speaking Japanese. So, I'm thinking I need to revise my tactics a bit. At the same time, in a town of 1,000 I'm sure that most people now know who I am, and have a semblance of what it is I'm up to.

Because Otaki used to be a forestry town, I haven't seen many rice paddies in production--though these may begin being planted towards the end of next month. Most people grow vegetables in fairly small field plots. Red turnips 赤かぶ are a major crop here, but planting must come later because I haven't seen any yet. Most people seem to be planting long onions at the moment.

The residents who are planting tend to be older, in their 60's or 70's, and it is not uncommon to see electric wheelchairs parked adjacent to fields. While working outdoors people dress to protect themselves from the sun. Women wear long pants and long shirts with aprons that tie in the back covering their upper bodies. Most cover their heads with bonnets or conical shaped straw hats. Men tend to wear long pants and shirts with either a wide-brimmed straw hat or a regular baseball cap (often embossed with a "JA"--Japan Agriculture--label). Men and women often wear rubber boots that come up to their mid-calf.

Today I am going to Ina across the mountains to the east. The agricultural college of Shinshu University is located there and I am going to meet with a professor who works with GIS and satellite imagery in forestry applications. The majority of Otaki land area is comprised of steep slopes that are difficult to get to, so I'm hoping that there may be some digital data that help me assess the condition of forests here.

Ontake-san was peeking it's head out of the clouds a bit yesterday. . ."Hi Ontake!"

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