Tomorrow’s Forest – 明日の森

Aomori, July青森 7月

I purchased the JR East rail pass from Haneda Airport, and I hopped to a Shinkansen from Tokyo Station; this time my destination was Aomori Prefecture. After almost three hours of train traveling, I arrived at Hachinohe. Next morning a local train took me to Ottomo Station, where I met my host, Yuki.


My first impression of Aomori was pleasant; not too hot, but perfect summer weather. We arrived at Ashita No Mori and Yuki introduced the place. He lived there by himself with a cat, Akaminto. Soon we got company; Bilig from Philippines started his summer job, and also Yuki’s friend Kishi from Tokyo arrived.


It was time to have my first Japanese hot spring experience; in the evening we went to Tohoku Onsen, which was near Ottomo Station. The onsen was exceptional because of its mineral-rich black water. I was nervous, jet lagged and the only woman in our group, so I had to enter the spa area by myself. The water was hot and very relaxing; a perfect way to end a day.


Ashita No Mori had guests almost every evening; Modashi, a local musician, sculptor and scientist was a regular visitor, but also other people who were interested in this kind of alternative lifestyle. Together we planted trees, worked at the field and in the greenhouse. Every night ended with some live music at Modashi’s lead.


Kishi and I went hiking at Asamushi Onsen Forest Park, which is one of Japan’s top 100 best places to take shinrin-yoku, a forest bath. The 10 kilometre hiking route was hard; it felt like rainforest, and we were soaked wet from the first climb. This was my first time to experiencing a hot and humid Japanese summer.


They presented the original, black and white Godzilla at the Aomori Korona Cinema World, so Kishi and I went to watch it. The ‘Gojira‘ had its premiere in 1954 and was topical again because of the power plant accident at Fukushima. There were no English subtitles, but Kishi explained the plot to me while watching.


Kishi planting onions at the greenhouse
My cabin
Inside the cabin
Yuki and the next-door neighbor at the field
Kishi checking the cow at the Namiki Gelato
Beach near Asamushi-Onsen and Yuno Island
The 1954 Gojira poster
At the Tohoku Onsen
Hiroshi, Yuki, Bilig and Modashi: farewell at the train station

Ashita No Mori

Nakamuramichinokami, Tohoku, Kamikita District, Aomori, 039-2611, Japan



Tohoku Onsen

21-18 Kamisasabashi, Tohoku, Kamikita District, Aomori 039-2661, Japan

Asamushi Onsen Forest Park 浅虫温泉森林公園

Sakamoto Asamushi, Aomori, Aomori, 039-3501, Japan


〒039-2661 青森県上北郡東北町字上笹橋21-18


Hyōgo Park of the Oriental White Stork – 兵庫県立コウノトリの郷公園

Toyooka, April豊岡市にて、4月

On my day off I headed to see some huge birds; the Oriental white stork is also the prefectural bird of the Hyōgo Prefecture. The city of Toyooka is 70 kilometres from Ichijima, which takes less than two hours by train. The weather was magnificent, so instead of taking a bus from the station, I decided to go on foot. The 5 kilometre walk took almost an hour, and because of the stork signs, it was impossible to go wrong.


The Hyōgo Park of the Oriental White Stork’s main purpose is to restore the oriental white stork to back to its original habitation. They try to do this by organic farming; traditional farming methods bring the biota like frogs, snakes and crayfish back to the fields for storks to eat. Also, when cultivating rice fields the traditional way, the land is underwater longer, and this is crucial for the ecosystem. In Japan, the last wild population of kounotori was extinct in 1971. The park’s hard work was rewarded in 2007; after 43 years, the chicks fledged successfully in the wild.


As I arrived at the park, the big birds were sleeping under the trees behind a low fence. At the feeding time, more of these mighty birds came and circled above our heads; their prehistorical shrieks echoed from the mountains. Oriental white stork’s wingspan is over two meters, so they were a majestic sight. Kounotori is characterised as a national treasure of Japan.


There was also a hiking route which squirmed at the nearby hill, an exhibition center about the birds, and a shop full of stork items and groceries. I hiked the deserted path and its dry and rocky trail, lizards sleeping on the warm stones, until I stepped under the deep-green foliage of the forest.


Before dusk I arrived at Kinosaki, the famous hot spring town. The place was full of overwhelming small-town charm on a pastel-coloured background: people in their patterned yukatas, the weeping willows leaning over the canal, picturesque bridges and artisan shops.


The Kamatani River
Kounotori statue
Oriental White Stork
Kounotori water
At the hiking path

Hyōgo Park Of The Oriental White Stork

128, Nigatani, Shounji, Toyooka, Hyōgo Prefecture, 668-0814, Japan


〒668-0814 兵庫県豊岡市祥雲寺字二ケ谷128

The Hashimoto Organic Farm – 橋本有機農園

Ichijima, April市島 4月

This was my first time to WWOOF; back in Finland, I joined WWOOF Japan, and via their website introduced myself to the Hashimoto family. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm is functioning in many countries, and it’s a convenient way to experience unique country life.

初めてWWOOFを経験しました。フィンランドに戻ってから、私はWWOOFジャパンに登録し、そのサイトを通して橋本有機農園と知り合いました。World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms「世界に広がる有機農場での機会」は世界中に事務局が設置されています。少し変わった田舎の生活を体験するには便利な方法です。

I worked five days a week for eight hours per day. First task in the morning was to take care of the chickens; I fed them and collected the eggs. Rainy days I worked at the greenhouse, but mostly I spent my time at the rice paddy. It was hard work, and I learned to respect rice in a whole new way.


My hosts Keiko and Shinji were a friendly couple, and they made me feel very welcomed. Shinji used to live abroad, so he spoke perfect English. It was a busy time for farmers, but still he practised karate every morning. On the last day, Keiko gave me her mother’s old kimono and obi as a gift. Next summer, when Chihiro came to Finland, she helped me to wear it, and I could send a picture to Keiko, like I promised.


Shinji and Keiko Hashimoto
A rice paddy
Making the rice paddy
The water channel
The greenhouse
The chickens
The temple
The view from the temple
The guardian
The badger
Sho, the kimono and Chihiro

The Hashimoto Organic Farm

271 Ichijimacho, Shimokamosaka, Tamba, Hyōgo, 669-4343, Japan