following piece was written for the Wwoof Japan Newsletter, July 2002.
I think it gives a pretty accurate idea of what Wwoofing can be all
more information on Wwoofing around the world, click
first Wwoofing experience was in France, way back in the winter of 1997.
I don't think I'll ever forget that place: I'd wake up each day with
frosty hair and lips frozen together as the shed that I was housed in
was so cold! Thankfully, since then I've had much better times on host
establishments, both in Europe, and now, Japan.
met many Japanese tourists whilst working in a Swiss mountain hotel
in 1999 and 2000. They'd pass through our resort in their thousands,
yet despite being herded like sheep by their guides, they were always
extremely polite and friendly: it was this led me to become interested
in their home country.
flew to Japan in the autumn of 2001, and was soon happily settled in
central Tokyo. It was the first time that I'd ever lived in a city,
and it made for quite a change from my previous alpine home, which had had
an overnight population of 30! However, after 6 months I realised
that if I really wanted to indulge in my new passion for learning the Japanese language,
I'd have to land myself in some crazy farming community where no one
spoke a word of English. Also, having done the typical English-teaching
thing for a while I was ready for a complete change of lifestyle: enter
Inn Milky House
in my digger
release of the new list in the spring of 2002 couldn't have come at
a better time, and within a fortnight of downloading it I found myself
at Country Inn Milky House in Niseko. Located 2 hours southwest of Sapporo,
this area sees a huge volume of skiers in the winter, and a similar
number of potato farmers in the summer. Milky House isn't actually a
farm at all, it's a pension, a family-run guesthouse that has been offering
"Active and Relaxing Breaks" for the past 20 years.
first few weeks
absolutely horrendous. With my very
limited Japanese I felt like a complete idiot, not having a clue what
was expected of me. Forming friendships with my new colleagues was also
difficult; it's hard enough to do so when you speak the same language!
Thankfully, Milky House is blessed with not only having an owner who
speaks English, but also very friendly and supportive Japanese staff.
Their patience continues to be muchly appreciated as I am forever saying,
“Wakarimasen!” (“I don't understand”) and then
getting my dictionary out.
Everyday is different
at Milky House, although we do usually follow a basic pattern: Up at
7.30am to make breakfast for our guests, followed by all the washing
up that that entails. Once the guests have taken enough photos of us
and checked out, we clean all of the rooms, make the beds, mop the floors,
scrub the bathrooms and toilets, water the flowers – it's a glamorous
lifestyle you know. It's usually about 12pm by the time that we've completed
those tasks. We then have 4 or 5 hours free time, before donning our
aprons once more to prepare the evening feast. The owner is a superb
chef, creating amazing 6-course meals every night with our help. Sometimes
it's Western style, sometimes Japanese style. I don't think I've ever
eaten so well before, and I'm really quite concerned about the size
of my belly!
supporters get in the mood at Milky House
down the local river
is what Wwoofing
is all about. In addition to the day-to-day running of this pension,
I've been given various tasks. For example, putting up fences around
tennis courts, acting as secretary for foreign guests,
chain-sawing, erecting a big canopy on the veranda, shovelling snow,
avoiding the phone when it rings, accidentally driving over big stones
with the ride-on mower, cutting telephone lines with a bush cutter,
operating the mini-digger (no accidents as yet, touch wood), painting
walls and planting flowers. For a few weeks I taught groups of visiting
schoolchildren how to perform a traditional English Country Dance. That
was certainly an interesting experience! This summer I have also played
a major role in revamping Milky House's online presence. With many guests
coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the pension badly needed a new English
homepage. Having seen my own site, Tame
Goes Wild, the owner asked me to make this a reality. With
the aid of some translation software and many hours spent in front of
the screen, I managed to pull together what you now see online.
In my spare time I've had quite a few adventures.
There's been the white water river rafting, the many wild World Cup
parties, the hitch-hiking trip around Hokkaido with a visiting fellow
Wwoofer, numerous soaks in the local hot springs and expeditions into
the Japanese outback on my friends 50cc scooter!
In between all of this activity, I have
been studying Japanese for at least 3 hours a day. Having arrived in
Japan 10 months ago barely speaking a word of the language, I'm quite
delighted at how much I have taught myself. If it wasn't for Wwoof,
I can honestly say that my vocabulary would be only 10% of what it is
today. Through Wwoof, I've had the opportunity to experience living
in a “real” Japanese environment, and believe me, it's a
completely different world from the one where you teach English in central
owner announces that breakfast is ready
teaching traditional English Morris Dancing...
Wherever I've Wwoofed, I've always left
feeling better off for the experience. I'd never say that it's easy,
but then it's the most difficult things in life that teach you the most!
Daily Mumble Archives
contain many more tales and photos from my time at Milky House during
the summer of 2002.
contain almost every photo I took between April and September 2002.