Saturday, February 25, 2017

WWOOF-ing at Iijima Flower Garden

This was the second WWOOF host located in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture. The almost two weeks spent here was one of the best times in my life. It had its challenges, of course, but I loved it still.

Here's why I decided to apply with this particular host:
  • Located just an hour away from Tokyo
  • Surrounded by flowers and strawberries
  • Work load seems less intense
  • Within walking distance to the beach
The experience exceeded my expectations in so many ways.

I'll do a separate post for all the magnificient beach sights; let me share more in details on the flower garden itself. 

The Iijima Flower Garden is a small farm located on a hill in the small seaside town of Miura, Kanagawa. While the garden itself seems small, the owner actually has several huge plots of land nearby that produces vegetables in large amount for sale in supermarkets etc. In this beautiful little garden, visitors are welcome to pick and dig their favourite fruits, flowers and vegetables at their own pace, with a certain fee. 

About 5-6 greenhouses are lined on the side, mainly housing strawberries (STRAWBERRIES! ❤) from roughly January till May while flowers and vegetables are mostly grown in open areas around the garden. 

I'm a such a flower person and I really enjoyed getting upclose with so many different varieties in so many colors, some of which I've never ever seen before in real life. It was like wonderland to me, I couldn't help but thought nature is amazing hahaha flower spam starts now!

If you look closely at my finger tips you can see raw little patches left behind from skin that peeled off haha farmer's hands, I've never seen a rose as large as that. I suppose these were the flowers in season in mid-April

I don't even know what some of them are called! I took these photos on my last day here where most of the staff were off and it was a weekday. I was in the strawberry greenhouses all morning and when I got out for a short break, there was absolutely nobody in sight. A little scary at first, it felt like I was the last person left on earth but it was so peaceful, so quiet that I ended up enjoying it so much. Took my time to explore thoroughly and shot as many pictures as I liked without anybody getting in the way. I'm really glad my last day there turned out that way. 

Anyway female WWOOFers were mostly assigned to the many, many, many strawberry plants.

It was endless! We worked on it almost every day but there were just so much. Imagine the rows above but like ten times more. Besides these ones at the garden, there were also several down the hill too. Tasks include clearing off dried leaves, broken stalks, mouldy strawberries, picking off overripe strawberries to make jam, taking off stray weeds and runners - the long stray stalks that grows a new plant - as seen in the blue basket below.

We had it easy compared to the males, though it was tough in its own way too. These plants were on high stands but about half of the greenhouses had strawberry plants growing on the ground. When my back starts to ache I'd just kneel all the way haha luckily we were given protective gears and boots so that our own clothes don't get stained to badly. The weather was chilly outside but in the greenhouses, it was real warm to the point that I'd sweat even in a t-shirt. Within the first few days of the constant drastic temperature changes, I caught a severe cold lol #weak that said, we were only helping out till lunch time and had the rest of the day free so it wasn't that tough la.

Also didn't have my first taste of the strawberries until over a week after I started helping out in this farm; it just didn't occur to me that I could do it just like that hahahaha until a veteran staff got so shocked he said please help yourself and boy, was it DELICIOUS. So sweet, so juicy! 

I didn't go that crazy though I think I had less than ten in total thoughout the time there. The paying customers deserve it more I suppose. But I did occasionally have the fresh jam and juices ❤ 

Occasionally, we'd be temporarily assigned to other tasks such as pulling off carrots (SO FUN), cleaning daikon (while learning how to identify the most delicious ones), picking cabbages (back-breaking), planting new seedlings (real technical but fun) and such on other plots of land away from the garden, some at the bottom, some halfway down the hill. The view can be absolutely breathtaking. Look, it's so near to the seaside! 

Look, a daikon that has a black exterior but snow white on the inside! He broke it just to show it to us hahaha eh wait, or was it a yam? Either way, that was pretty damn cool. 

The two photos just above it were taken during the pulling carrot process. It was so satisfying to have the carrots pop out so nicely from the rich earth, just like popping a pimple hahahaha we had to clean the area for new plants after, that was a fun day of new tasks done together with the other WWOOFers! 

As mentioned earlier, I got the entire garden to myself on my last day there so I leisurely captured these shots of the beautiful garden space from multiple angles on a nice sunny day. 

Man, they turned out pretty good huh if I may say so myself hahaha that's their pet dog. Guess what's his (wait, or is it her?) favourite food? Yeap, strawberries! Those eyes were begging to be fed strawberries during lunch time when the owners all came back to the garden for lunch. It was a really luxurious lunch too that day; we had unadon. Yum. Given another chance to escape to Japan again, hopefully in the near future, I'd definitely like to come back here again. Hmm maybe next year? Later this year?

Iijima Flower Garden
1534 Kaneda, Minamishitauramachi, 
Miura, Kanagawa 238-0103

There's even a website now with social media pages and all wow they sure didn't have it back then when I was trying to look up more information haha can check it out if anyone's looking for a pleasant fruits, flowers or vegetables picking experience near Tokyo →

That's all from my WWOOF-ing experience in this charming farm and garden in Kanagawa. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chasing Sakura in Saitama

Thought I'd separate this post since it marks my first ever encounter with cherry blossoms!

SAKURA. FINALLY. I thought I'd completely miss it since it usually peaks in the first week of April and there I was arriving in early-mid-April. On the way to Saitama from Tokyo, in the train, I did catch sight of a few lone blooming trees and my heart swelled at the pretty, pretty view. It felt like I was in a Japanese drama; so unreal.

Brain had a hard time processing that I am really here, springtime in Japan.

When I got to Konosu, on the way to the farm house, there was also a small neighbourhood park lined with few blooming cherry blossom trees. You know how in dramas or movies there's always an entire stretch of cherry blossom trees blooming so exuberantly? To see a few lone trees in stark contrast against the plain park made the pale pink blossoms stand out so much more in its common everyday surroundings.

I didn't get to fully enjoy the final glories of the blooms until several days later when the host brought me to visit Sakitama Kofun Park さきたま古墳公園 a designated National Historic Site, home of nine ancient burial mounds.

It isn't as morbid as it sounds though with its spacious plains, beautiful path lined with cherry blossom trees and grassy hills that I wouldn't expect to be burial mounds unless specifically told so.
Apparently the name Saitama originated from Sakitama.

Okay end of history class lol photo taime!

Even the parking space looks like a drama scene with the carpet of fallen petals on the road.

Park entrance lined with sakura trees. 

The park is huge and it is so so so relaxing to stroll around. 

Some families enjoying a leisurely picnic under the sakura trees. 

Close up the delicate flowers. 


Can't get enough of these sakura-lined paths! 

Especially pretty against blue skies and cottony clouds 

#blessed hahahahaha 

Time for some light workout - going up the keyhole-shaped burial mounds. 

Like a family-focused commercial don't you think so? Haha 

Even the stairs going up are so pretty 

Amazing views from top of the mounds. 

Sadly, the season was ending. There were more petals on the ground than the trees. 

On the next day few days, there was a series of strong winds that were said to have completely stripped the loose petals from blooming trees and officially marked the end of sakura season. Woar lucky me then!

And that concludes my one and only experience viewing the iconic Japanese sakura blossoms in the springtime of 2014. What an unforgettable experience! Sharing about it here brings back all the pleasant memories of the brief, but memorable visit. Wonder when will I have the chance to see it again? Sponsors welcome hahaha