Seiichii-san & Hisako-san are the happy owners of the Yuragisha Farm in Oze National Park Katashina Village. This hard-working couple plants tomatoes and apples, but also other vegetables such as sweet corn, zucchini and cucumber. In addition, they have groups of children and field-trips visiting their farm to pick tomatoes & make pizza and Soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles).
Aya and I helped with their tomato harvest one morning. However, soon after we discovered that this is not just an ordinary farm. Yuragisha is an inspirational and pioneering organic farm that is making a change here in Katashina.
At around 8:30 we had just finished picking the last tomatoes in one of the greenhouses, so Aya and I went to thank Seiichi-san for his hospitality. We find him in between his apple trees spraying them with vinegar. He tells us he will finish in 20 minutes so we should wait and have breakfast together. We happily accept his invitation and help in the kitchen.
Together with Hisako-san, who is also a yoga teacher in Katashina, we prepared breakfast – pasta with delicious fresh tomato sauce and some zucchini shortly roasted in garlic and salt & pepper. Seiichi-san turned on his favourite music (Jazz) and we sat down on the veranda in front of the house, that he built himself, and enjoyed the delicious “breakfast”.
As the morning sunlight flashed through the leaves of the tall trees Seiichi-san & Hisako-san began talking about their special apples. The 2011 earthquake in Japan had greatly influenced the two. They had realized that objects can be destroyed, but what matters is what we experience – what we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we smell and what we taste.
As a result, they wanted to grow a healthy and delicious apple for people to enjoy safely and remember in their heart. They had always wanted to farm in an organic manner but it is very difficult to make the first step.
Nevertheless, after listening to a speech about ‘Natural Cultivation’ of Kimura they finally received the courage and inspiration they needed to make a change.
After my visit to the Yurakisha farm, I headed straight to the office to research more about this ‘Kimura’. His story is truly inspiring. Apple trees are not native plants to Japan and hence they can easily be infected by fungus and other diseases in Japan’s humid climate. Farmers have continuously and quickly cultivated their apples, causing the plants to be very vulnerable. Therefore, it is believed to be basically impossible to grow apples without using any pesticides in Japan.
However, the pioneer, named Kimura, and his ‘miracle apples’ proved this illusion to be wrong. Due to bad skin irritations from spraying his apples with many pesticides he shifted to natural cultivation – only using vinegar for his apple trees. During the first years nothing grew, no flowers and no apples. People were laughing at Kimura-san and his ‘failing’ vinegar experiment.
After 9 hard year years, having lost all his savings and nearly all his hope, Kimura’s trees started to blossom again and carry juicy apples. Now the very happy Kimura has achieved higher yields than other conventional farmers. His plants grow best naturally and in a happy atmosphere.
Scientific research has shown that there are more microorganisms living in Kimura’s soil and on the leaves of his trees than in other conventional farms. Kimura’s sales are booming and everyone wants to taste his natural miracle apples. He wishes to spread his natural cultivation method to perhaps bring an end to the poisoning of our planet.
It has been 3 years since Seiichi-san and Hisako-san stopped using pesticides on their apples and began spraying them with vinegar once in every 10 days. They use special 5 year old organic brown rice vinegar from Kyoto – quite yummy actually. They use this vinegar, with its sterilizing and germicidal properties, to protect their apple trees from insects.
Apparently the vinegar additionally affects the amino acids of the apples – making them taste better. Similarly to Kimura’s experience, their yield has greatly decreased. This is because the plants are used to being sprayed regularly with pesticides. However, the trees are slowly adapting to the new method and Seiichi-san can already see a small improvement.
Hisako-san further explained about their work and their usual daily routine. She also added that they wear clothes that are comfortable while working because the plants will sense if they do not feel at ease. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about their ideas that plants could ‘feel’. Seiichi-san spoke wise words about how they believe that their plants have a spirit.Each tomato, every leaf and stem can sense our emotions and feelings.
This started to trigger my thoughts and I asked if that was the reason why they liked to invite children to their farm. Children have a happy, innocent and active spirit which the plants may sense. As Aya translated my question, Seiichi-san looked at me, as if he was a little proud of me for grasping their idea. With a smile he said that this was a very good question and that the answer was yes – they want to create a peaceful and happy atmosphere for their plants, themselves and our environment.
He told us that we humans also have this sense, but we seem to be losing it with time. Seiichi-san continued, the 2011 earthquake and all its consequences greatly affected Japan. He believes that in the following years people will change and maybe learn to appreciate nature and their roots again.
It is very inspiring to listen to extraordinary ideas, motivation and courage of the Yuragisha Farm. I took a sip of their sweet tomato juice that they had just made the previous day and let their words sink in. Seiichi-san is a wise man – it is not just his grey hair or his whispering soft voice but it is as if he also radiates some calmness and wisdom into this world.
Feeling inspired? Then read more about Kimura & his ‘miracle apples’: http://imaginepeace.com/miracleapples/?p=105
But why don’t you directly contribute to this step forward by helping at the Yuragisha farm!?