2009/11/19 木曜日

Laundry Hangers Welcome in Japan!

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,国際家族 — admin @ 20:32:32

Carin Froehlich has help from her granddaughter Ava as they hang some laundry in the front yard of her residence in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, November 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)

US Residents Fight for Right to Hang Laundry!  reads the headline. It seems that most Americans are not in favor of viewing their neighbors underwear drying in the sun. The “hangers,” on the other hand enjoy the experience and are saving money by not using clothes dryers.

Well, all in favor of sun-drying their laundry, come on over to Japan!

When I first came to this country, while riding in a bus on the way to the hotel from Haneda Airport (‘way back when!) I was shocked to see laundry hanging from the apartment buildings. I was sure I’d arrived in the poorest nation on earth–laundry on the line was a sign of poverty as far as I knew.

Fast forward 30+ years and I’m a housewife who has never used a dryer that doesn’t take coins.  I’ve got my oven, we have air conditioning and heating, and I’m lobbying for a dishwasher. Amazingly, the clothes dryer is something I’ve never truly craved for.

Culturally,  lots of laundry out on the line is the sign of a diligent homemaker. My mother-in-law took pride in the rows of cloth diapers she had on display daily when my children were babies. When I cruised the neighborhood with the girls in strollers I was able to pinpoint homes with children of about the same age based on the clothes I saw waving in the wind.

Esthetically, I have my own methods. My mother-in-law taught me to shake out the wrinkles, and other than that I like to balance the clothes so the little hangers don’t tilt to one side. Heavy items in the middle,  with lighter items as you work outwards. Blouses and shirts on hangers on the balcony. Tablecloths and towels out in the yard where they get more sun.

Psychologically, there is something calming about hanging out the laundry. It’s usually the first thing I do after everyone leaves for the day; a few minutes to get my wits together before I do something more demanding.

Bringing it in, folding it, and putting it all away is not high on my list of favorite things, but then again you’ve got to do it whether you have a dryer or not!

2009/11/8 日曜日

Coco Farm & Winery

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,travel reports — admin @ 15:32:16

Although we’d heard of the place before, for some reason we’d  never made the trip. At the encouragement of a young friend of ours, we finally decided to make the trek to Ashikaga to visit Coco Farm & Winery. Thanks to the Kita-kanto Expressway, the entire “trek” took about an hour from “downtown” Maebashi.

Coco Farm & Winery was started more than fifty years ago, by Noboru Kawada, as a facility to care for 9 people with mental disabilities. Kawada is still the principal, but these days it is home to 130 such persons (aged 18-87) and 20 staff. The history of how a struggling school turned into a profitable winery and managed to achieve its goals for its students is an inspiring one, and you’ll enjoy reading about it on the official website–in excellent English. Read both “Vineyard News” and “Brief History.”

We went partly out of curiosity to see what sort of new occupations had been devised for persons with disabilities, but were quickly charmed by the atmosphere and forgot all about our “research.” We walked around and shopped in the gift shop for a while, then took the 10:30 tour of the winery (500 yen, in Japanese), and were back in time for lunch in the cafe. We had the “deck lunch” on the deck (of course), no more than a few yards from the mountain on which Coco grapes are grown. Lunch was light, but fresh and delicious, and extremely reasonable. With dessert and a little wine, it was a whopping 3500 yen for two. The wine on sale in the gift shop is also reasonably priced; in fact the whole experience was such a bargain that we decided that we didn’t mind paying for the tour–during which we learned everything we wanted to know about Coco Farm specifically and wine making in general.

One astonishing fact was that the place has been “organic” from the outset. The school had no money to buy pesticides or to go otherwise hi-tech, and they have raised all of their crops naturally using chiefly human power since the 1950s, long before it was stylish to do so. I could go on and on, but I’ll post some photos here and let you get the rest of the information from the Coco Farm & Winery website! (If you put your mouse over the photos, the titles will come up. Click to see them larger.)

First stop, the pleasant WC

Coco grape fields–straight up the mountain

shiitake raised in the forest next to the vineyard

Lunch on the deck

The “deck lunch”

Equipment from California!

Nice ride!

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