Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Manmade Mother Nature

Jason and I had this illusion that if we tried hard enough, we could be the outdoorsy/nature type too. Of course we never quite get it. There was the time when we went camping by the sea, and I was kept awake all night by the sound of our tent flapping against the wind and worrying that it would get blown away. When we stayed in a tree-top cabin inside the Daintree National Park in Queensland, Australia, we freaked out when we thought a wild animal had gotten into our room after the rain when it was merely making a lot of noise on the roof. We swore off camping for good last summer when we saw a snake less than 200 meters from where we set up camp in Izu peninsula, but were still not smart enough to stay away from a cottage in the middle of Hakuba snow country on a recent ski trip. All these mishaps and more finally made us realize that we are hopeless city folks who would not last a day in the real wilderness. That notwithstanding, we do like to venture out of the city once in a while to “get in touch with mother nature” even if it’s the manmade kind. This time it brought us to Chiba, a prefecture just outside of Tokyo city, to get a taste of life on the farm.

Our friend Tomoko and her colleague Taka planned the two-day trip and invited us to tag along for the fun. We (eight in all) met up at a highway rest stop on a Saturday morning and went to a place called the Mother Farm, as in mother nature? Or the mother of all farms? Probably the latter because this place has everything: cows, sheep, ducks, pigs, horses, the biggest rape blossom field in Eastern Japan, a Mongolian barbecue restaurant, and a mini amusement park. Everything runs on a schedule: the ducks march three times a day; sheep breeds from around the world are on parade in the auditorium; you can try your hands at milking a cow; and kids can race alongside miniature pigs in a ring. There’s fun to be had by the whole family.

The next day, we went to a farm for 30 minutes of all-you-can-eat strawberry picking for 1200yen. I had expected a tiny patch of field with half-ripe fruit, but instead it was a giant greenhouse with rows and rows of strawberries of different varieties. My favorite was a long strawberry called Akihime, so sweet! We soon realized that our worries that thirty minutes is not enough time was totally unnecessary; we slowed down and all but stopped eating after the initial fifteen minutes. A classic case of “eyes bigger than the stomach” (眼大肚子小)

With a full belly of strawberries, we set out for our final destination: tsuribori, Japanese-styled fishing on a fish farm (you toss back your catch or pay exorbitant price to bring it back). We opted for the toss-back variety, so for 500yen, Jason and I rented a skinny bamboo pole of a fishing rod, and a small basket full of tiny shrimps. We hooked the shrimp onto the line and dropped it into the fishpond. Soon afterwards, a fish swam towards the bait and started nibbling at it. We held our breath and waited for it to bite, yet it never did. It just kept on nibbling until the whole shrimp was gone. Shrewd fish, these are! They must have learned their lessons the hard way and found out how to circumvent the problem. An hour later, after having caught only one fish, we started sprinkling the water with handfuls of shrimps to hide the one that’s on the hook. This is where the fish really impressed me. They would dash quickly to the bait, then upon seeing the shiny hook, come to a skidding stop and slowly swim away with a disdainful look on their faces. How smart!

You can see photos from this trip here, including the cute Komimi that I befriended.


Rachel said...

Hey, loved all the pictures. Those strawberries--oh dear, how long does strawberry season last? And do you think I can get there before they're all gobbled up? I have this vision of a hoard, transported straight from the Shibuya station crosswalk on Friday night, descending upon those beautiful strawberries like a plague of locusts.

Lynn said...

I think it should still be good for another month, because there were still plenty of green strawberries when we went. Plus they do rotate which rows people can pick on a certain day.

The owner of the pension did tell us to go first thing in the morning though, to avoid bus loads of tourists ;oP BUT, with people rushing to see cherry blossom for the next couple of weeks, you might not even have to fight the crowd =o)