Wwoofing at Goka farm
or ten days in the middle of nature full of discoveries and wonders.
The little train sinks into the more and more isolated valleys and I feel like I’m going into the heart of Japan. I finally see Mount Fuji in the distance, huge beautiful giant that dominates the country. The train drops me off and I meet a French couple, also on their way to join Goka Farm. I will spend the next ten days doing wwoofing in a Japanese family living in a remote mountain valley not far from Mt Fuji. They decided to live in self-sufficiency, trying to depend as little as possible on the government and respecting nature. One hour of electricity per day, no internet, wood-fired cooking, traditional bath, permaculture, harvest of natural plants in the surrounding forests, largely vegetarian diet, reuse and inventiveness … A rather remote life from mine that I’m pretty excited to meet.
The house is a traditional booth filled with incredible odds and ends. Tatamis, sliding paper doors, outside cooking. The Goka family welcomes us: two young adults in their thirties and three young girls. I am dazzled by the view of the valley. It is so green! Small isolated houses and terraces cultivated by hand. And that’s all. The green nature and the silence all around. I feel like I have been projected in the past. Finally a Japan a little more traditional. Calm and serenity invade me instantly.
The days pass to the rhythm of the sun. Morning fog on the mountains. I spend a long time looking at nature around me and I feel like I’m hearing it live. There is something mystical here. My work is divided between helping to harvest the fields, harvesting ferns and bamboo shoots in the forest (this is the season) and helping with the preparation of meals. It’s physical while being relaxing at the same time. With the other wwoofers we learn to prepare rustic but good meals: onigiris (rice balls), bamboo shoots and salads, production of noodles and soy sauce, cooking bread over a wood fire, monitoring of umeboshis (salted plums (they are macerated in salt for almost two months).
Our free time is divided between learning traditional techniques: loom, jewelry creation with fire and torch, visiting neighbors, helping the market in the nearby city and exploring of the surroundings. The few inhabitants of the valley all live more or less independently and are almost all artisans. I go for long walks in nature enjoying solitude and tranquility. During an excursion I come across a big abandoned hotel. I sneak into the place, a funny impression sticking to my skin. Everything is still present: bowls, glasses, kitchen items, books, toys, sheets, figurines, soap, shoes … Only the dust and a certain disorder testify to the abandonment of the premises. Memories of Chihiro’s Journey and images of a nuclear disaster come to my mind. Back in Goka Farm I learn that the boss of the hotel burdened by the debt has disappeared about 5 years ago leaving the hotel behind him. Time has no influence here.
My stay in this island of tranquility comes to an end and after 10 days with the Goka family, I go back to civilization. The shock is quite hard and I have a little trouble listening to the permanent announcements of buses and trains. Although quite short I feel that my stay at Goka Farm has opened my eyes to something important. I do not know exactly what yet but I feel that a new path has be revealed to me.