Culture shock #2 The farmers are…カルチャーショック その2

~Blog by Akane~

It’s already September. Still very hot during the day even inside the building. My friends in mainland Japan tell me to be quiet when I say Wassamu is boiling hot. Surely, it is much cooler here compared to Tokyo or Okinawa. However, I need to remind you that there is very limited number of places in Wassamu that are air-conditioned! When it’s hard to bare, only the post office and the library will turn their air-conditioner on. I mean, when it’s about 31 C inside the office at Wassamu Town Office… We don’t even have fans, and I rely on my USB-connected desk top fan on desk.

Still hot, but it’s clearly turning to autumn.
I can see the wheat harvested weeks ago, rice turning golden and heavy, pumpkins harvested and in the containers, and there are still numerous different kinds of pumpkins to be picked up on the way. Oh, and there are also cabbages getting bigger and bigger. I’m rather impressed by the flow of agricultural procedures and fast growth in Wassamu, because it was only about three months ago when I planted those little pumpkins from the pots to the field. Now they are already yielding so many huge fruits! Summer in Hokkaido is short. Soon it’ll start snowing. People have to work fast and prepare for the long winter…

The farming is the vital force and the basic culture of Wassamu. Many people in Wassamu are farmers, and their caring, modest, quiet lifestyle is a lot to do with their way of life: preparing soil, ploughing, planting, weeding, watering, keeping their eyes on them day and night, and harvesting and again back to the start. I do respect people with different background and cultures. Although sometimes some things are unfamiliar to me that I get uncomfortable or get puzzled. I’m the one who has been treated as a strange Japanese person who eats raw fish and seaweed. That’s why I do not say farmers are “bad” or anything similar. They are the people who have sustained the human beings and our civilisation. However, to me, agiculture-based culture and ways of thinking are undeniably strange. So, this is about what makes the farmers the way they are, here in Wassamu, or probably in many parts of Japan that is living on farming.

Right to the conclusion first, I’m not a good farmer-spirited woman!
I’ve always been a ‘bad girl’ at school, or it was just that my innocent curiosity and spontaneousness made my teachers go mad. I was always considered being too different from others or simply stands out too much. I could not understand why I had to be punished by raising my hand and speak of my opinion that I never thought it would offend my teachers (and/or other classmates!)… As I grew up, I started to understand why I was different slowly. My parents were not the ‘average Japanese parents’ who teach their children to be the same as the others, and not to show their feelings or thoughts in front of the others. Instead, my parents always told me to ‘think and act with your own head and be responsible with your own doings’. This was, I didn’t know back then, but the most direct reason that I was not the favourable student. So, where was the major philosophy of the Japanese education coming from? Why do most of the Japanese teachers and parents tell their children (and even adults!) to be quiet and not to stand out?

Maybe, because the Japanese spiritual culture is coming from “agriculture as a community”. Of course, there will be people who’d say it’s Zen culture or else, and I still don’t know why the same agriculture-based European countries, especially the Great Britain with similar geological characteristics to those of Japan’s, such as being an island-country, acts almost oppositely. English culture teaches their children to be polite but as unique as they prefer to be, and try to encourage and extract the best part of each person from childhood. I’ve never been scolded by any British teacher for my expression of ideas or opinions, or even the way I painted pictures. Instead, I was sometimes told why I had nothing to express. Even the bad girl Akane in Japanese schools was lacking in her spontaneousness from many British teachers’ point of view…!

Anyway, I often felt unfair to be silenced to ask questions or say my opinions in mainland Japan but when I moved to Wassamu, I saw people who are surprisingly similar to my mentality. It makes sense that more people in Hokkaido have originality and spontaneous attitude compared to the people in mainland Japan, because of the history of pioneering and immigration from the mainland. Wassamu is a small, very conservative town with many farmers, yet the individual people are much more expressive and individualists. I see more people who are like my parents. It’s so interesting. My parents may have always been good ‘Hokkaiders’!

Seeing the expressive and more free mentality of people here, I see how they keep the superficial agriculture-spirituality at the same time. I could recognise what have formed the culture once again here in Wassamu that now I respect the people more and can accept my past, being scolded by Japanese teachers at school!

The farmers in Wassamu are mostly the descendants of the immigrants from different parts of Japan. They must have had compelling reasons to have decided to leave their home and move to the strange land with deep snow. Some were to escape from the natural disaster such as flood and crop failure, others were the brave people who wanted to start their lives anew in wild land. But they all shared the freezing cold weather, cut down the trees to make space for agricultural use. Furthermore, once they’d moved to Hokkaido, they couldn’t go home crying and saying the life on mainland was easier. Hokkaido was far when they didn’t have earoplanes or bullet trains. That’s probably why people are very practical here and they have less attachment to the ‘land’. They have survived the establishment of Hokkaido.

The farming requires a lot of work as we can imagine. I have experienced the small-scale farming for the first time in Wassamu this year and learnt that large-scale farming is indeed a hard work. The vast area to plough, plant, water, pest-control and harvest, and all with your responsibility and luck. If you don’t take care of them properly, you could see all the crops dying in front of you and won’t have any income but debt. It’s a risky business. And it requires physical fitness. Sleepless nights are usual during harvest time. Now, suppose you and your neighbour don’t get a long, but your neighbour is harvesting pumpkins all through the night till the morning. And in need of help. You’d feel the natural urge to help them even if you don’t like them. Because you do know how hard it is as the same ‘farmer’. Then, once you help them, they’ll thank you, even if they also didn’t like you much. This way, some inevitable bond is born and this has been like this since many generations ago. The agriculture is an endless game with nature, and farmers are bonded with unspoken agreement to help each other.

Farming is only possible during the warm, snow-less seasons in Wassamu, like most of the other parts of Hokkaido. Farmers have half the time for doing their works compared to the farmers in warmer parts of Japan. Needless to say, people have to rush at times. Also, agricultural fields are often attached to each other; some yours and others are your neighbours. Therefore, if you only think of your own rice field and spray pesticide right next to your neighbour’s pumpkins that need to be pollinated by bees, you are going to ruin your neighbour’s crops. So, you need to always be careful with the surrounding situations and what people are doing.

Always pay attention to what others are doing and don’t do anything too different…
Very much related to the farming.
Weeding nervously is also like trying to exclude and terminate different people from the school…
I’ve seen this before when I was at school… (Not sure if I was a weed, because I may not be that tough!)

Farming made people think and live this way.
But what about the farmers in Europe and America?
This is going to be an interesting topic to do some more research.

In the end, I don’t just criticise for complaining. I see, try to understand the fact along with the reasons behind the facts, then have my own taste, and personally, I always accept what it is like as a fact. I can like or dislike things, people or cultures, but I do accept them all.

I’ve come to compromise with my rather provocative, not-so-happy childhood in Japanese schools. Farming is important. And I respect farmers, and their culture.

See you soon!こんにちは。館洞です。

すでに天国へ住民票を移し、幸せに過ごしているであろうご先祖様達に思いを馳せ、お墓参りをしながら、実はカルチャーショックというのは、ご先祖様達とも関係が深いなあと、しみじみ思いました。カルチャーショックを受けるということは、文化が異なるということで、文化は地域性や先代からの慣わしによって形作られるものだからです。私たち一人一人に家族や大切な人がいて、習慣的に取る行動が似て来る。これが文化(カルチャー)だから…。文化を否定されたり侮辱されたりすると、人は自分や大切な人達をまとめて侮辱されたような気がして、とても傷ついてしまうことがあります。 続きを読む Culture shock #2 The farmers are…カルチャーショック その2

Two Wassamu Summer Festivals in a row2日連続夏まつり ~短い夏をエンジョイせよ!~

~Blog by Akane~

I said I’d write about my “Culture Shock #2” in my next blogpost, but I apologise. I’d like to just quickly report how much fun I had in two summer festivals in Wassamu during the weekend.

The first summer festival, or in Japanese, “Natsu Matsuri” was on Saturday, held by the small residential area community where I live. This part of Wassamu is relatively urban part of Wassamu, with shops nearby and public housings. Kazuki lives just behind my house, so we went to the Matsuri together.

We were hungry, so bought shaved ice cups and yakisoba noodles. Then we found a Hokkaido-sized seats on a comfortable straw mat and low tables to start relaxing to the fullest. There were many people although the community is not that big, and the nice traditional-style Japanese ballad (enka songs) were being played… Or at least I thought its CD was being played there with good speakers. But it was actually sung by the amateur singers of this community! They were such great singers, and the stage they were singing on was an improvised truck-stage with electricity line for speakers and microphones! Ah, Wassamu farmers, you have everything you need for work and entertainment…! I was truly impressed.

Not a good resolution photo since it was taken by my small mobile phone camera. However, the stage was great and so were the singers!

Listening to the songs and the talks of the people on stage, I was totally relaxed and in my euphoric mood. Then a smiling fire-fighter gentleman approached us and said hello, and politely gave us a pack of grilled chicken! We thanked him, and ate them and got full… What a happy moment.

Then the lottery time. We met an old lady Kazuki knows, and talked and I was surprised to find out she is 87 years old. Cheerful and curious, I respected her. Another old lady who seemed much older than the first lady was sitting next to me, and I took the prize she got at the end for her. She was very kind to me and talked with firm, polite tone of the voice. She thanked me for getting her the prize, and I imagined she probably lives alone and yet her mind and eye-sight so clear. Would I be able to be like her after 60 years? I couldn’t help respecting her.

The second festival I went to was on Sunday from the morning. “Wassamu Summer Festival” was the Natsu-Matsuri that involved the entire Wassamu Town, and this year, approximately 5000 people have come not only from within Wassamu but even from Nayoro (about 50km north of Wassamu) and Sapporo.

There were many attractions to the site, from the food and drinks to games and mobile zoo, and the Japanese Beetle Fishing. I particularly enjoyed the little zoo section, because I love animals so much! There were chicks,  ducks, great white pelican, gunea pigs, mini-pig, tortoise, rabbits, meerkat and goats. But it was very hot, so I felt sorry for the animals being touched by children. Hope they could rest well after getting back to North Safari Sapporo Zoo. (

The most popular part of this festival is the Beetle Fishing. Children love to queue up to catch the Japanese rhinoceros beetles by a threat with a small metal paperclip at the end. Costs 300 yen and some families got like 10beetles! The total number of the beetles gathered for the event was 1200. Wow. That was great.

Beetles in a wooden box to be fished! Kazuki and Toshiki preparing them.

I helped the Commerce and Industry Association of Wassamu as a staff to keep the beetles people had until they leave the festival site in the afternoon. Yes, I was a beetle cloakroom receptionist. I met like 500 people at least to check-in the beetles, then return the beetles as they left. The people, especially the children who came with boxes of beetles were good and polite people, and Ialso enjoyed working with the member of the association.

A boy trying to catch a beetle!

With Mr.Satoh, a memebr of Wassamu Commerce and Industry Associate. A great supporter of Wassamu Youth Leaders project, too.
With the Beetle Man
Goats and a great white pelican who came all the way from Sapporo to Wassamu on a truck via motorway...

So, I had a great weekend. I could eat, drink and meet new people. I had fun. Satisfied. Getting used to Wassamu. 

The summer in Hokkaido is short. In a couple of weeks, the temperature will start to decrease, the breeze getting cooler. People here enjoy summer as much as they can to prepare for the freezing cold, long snowy winter season.

Thank you for reading.

See you soon!



どうして気が変わったかというと、そうです… 先日の土日は和寒で夏まつりに2連チャンで行き、とても楽しかったからです。そろそろ、物欲にまみれた都市生活の毒素が抜けてきて、畑が青々とし、空が美しければ十分嬉しく、何か音楽がちょっとかかっていておいしい食べ物が登場するだけでウキウキ出来る、地方型エンジョイ体質に変化してきているのかもしれません。

とにかく、とてもリラックスした雰囲気の中、お祭に混ぜてもらえたのが嬉しかったので報告します。 続きを読む Two Wassamu Summer Festivals in a row2日連続夏まつり ~短い夏をエンジョイせよ!~