Deep in the mountain, 2 hours away from Kyoto city by car, the village is outside the range of mobile phone, and the old house is standing in the foot of Mount Oue.
In the off-the-beaten village, called Amaza, a couple started a community project, making natural dress by using locally available plants.
"Meoto", the name of the shop is literary means "a couple" in Japanese; Tecchan, a husband, is growing indigo plants and collecting natural plants nearby and dying cloth, and his wife, Miya-chan is sewing.
A traditional building with herb garden and indigo farm, with the calm flow of stream besides the farm.
The residents of the village is just three, and rest of the houses are empty.
As is often the case with rural villages in Japan, most young people leave from the village and nobody can cultivate agricultural lands, and the lands are getting desolated.
Whole Living Base
The meoto couple started to make "whole living base", leading organic life with community people - making food, clothing and shelter (In Japanese, we have the term yishokuju, which stands for yi 衣 clothing, shoku 食 food, and ju 住 shelter).
This weekend, there was a open house, exhibition and cafe, and the village was flourished with many visitors.
Visitors for 3-days program of Indigo Farm Stay, one-day visitors, and also local elderly people also gathered to eat lunch; from small kids to ground mothers and fathers enjoy spending their time there.
Organic lunch buffet
After helping the kitchen during lunchtime, we harvested indigo.
Indigo cultivation can be seen also in Egypt, India, China and Africa. The origin of the word "Indigo" was from India.
Japanese indigo dying was once introduced as "Japan blue" by Atkinson in meiji era.
The main production area is Tokushima, and once indigo was intercropped with wheats.
After harvesting wheat in summer, indigo leaves are getting bigger toward the end of July, and indigo can be harvested twice, the latter time is in September.
The indigo colorant is insoluble and cannot dye as it is. There are several ways to extract indigo colorant - deoxidization, alkalinize, and fermentation.
Soaked the harvested leaves into water and leave it for 3 days. Under the deoxidized condition, indigo colorant is soluble and precipitated in the bottom. The dried indigo paste can be preserved for a long time. This is called "door-ai".
The other way is making "sukumo". Mixed with wheat bran and charcoal, the indigo leaves are fermented for 6 months. In order to activate microorganisms, sometimes Japanese sake liquor is also added.
sukumo and indigo
Collecting dying plants
yamamomo (morello rubra, myrica), akane (Rubia argyi, madder), gennoshoko(Geranium thunbergii), kihada (Phellodendron amurense, Amur Corktree), biwa(Eriobotrya japonica, Loquat), yomogi (Artemisia indica, mugwort), kuzu (Pueraria lobata, Kudz)... These are dying plants, and it is also medicinal plants as well.
The locally available plants change seasonally, and this time we collected Aoso (Boehmeria tricuspid).
Even if we dye with the same plants, the color is also different dependent on fiber of the cloth.
Akaso can be found beside the stream
The color variation with different fibers.
Indigo Farm Stay will be also organized in September. Here is the movie;
Please contact me if interested in this experience.
I had a wonderful time in Nara with Chisato as my guide. Chisato helped me schedule a one day tour of Nara with all of the sites that I wanted to see including a tea ceremony experience. She was very attentive as she guided me through Nara and explained the history and details of each site. Chisato communicates very well in English and she is very intelligent. She was flexible during the tour ... read more
I had a great time with Chisato. She met us at the station, showed us around Uji, and took us all the way to the tea farm. She was a nice guide and we had a great time. read more
“ Wonderful day in Nara and hiking the Yamanobe no Michi "Ancient Trail" ”
2 months ago
Traveler: Geoff - Tour Guide: Chisato
During my day with Chisato we spent the morning visiting the Todaji-ji Shrine, Nara Park and other key sites. From there we boarded the JR train and headed to the trailhead of the Yamanobe no Michi ancient trail. We sauntered along the trail visiting the Mika Shrine, the Hirara Shrine, Genpien Temple, Stone Pagoda and garden, a waterfall, fruit farms, a medicinal plant garden, and stopping to cha... read more
“ Unique and educational tour away from the crowds. ”
It was so nice to get away from the crowded sites in Kyoto and Nara and out into the country and see things that few tourist get to see. Wild plant foraging, kudzu starch, and koji fungus production were real highlights of our trip. If you have a specific interest in wild plants or herbal medicine you'll get a lot out of this tour.
Chisato picked us up right in our hotel lobby, and was very ac... read more
“ Nara soy sauce expedition ”
4 months ago
Traveler: Quentin - Tour Guide: Chisato
I had a really great day being driven around the Nara prefecture by Chisato. She has a passion for traditional Japanese food production, and was the perfect guide with whom to visit four traditional soy sauce manufacturers and a miso maker, all on one snow-filled day. We started early and finished late, and Chisato's enthusiasm and professionalism never wavered even when we realised the rental ... read more
Chisato took me on a day trip from Kyoto to visit a great new tea company & farm in Uji. I have long been an avid tea drinker, but I did not know the history and farming process for Green Tea. Chisato provided great reading material on the way to the Farm, which helped me familiarize myself with the tea plant and process to grow and harvest tea. When we arrived, we were taken on a nice tour of the... read more
“ outstanding tea-experience ”
7 months ago
Traveler: Kirsten - Tour Guide: Chisato
chisato organised an excellent tea experience for us. She has customised the tour precisely to our wishes. We visited a tea farmer family. We got the opportunity to pick tea flowers on their farm. Afterwards the tea farmer served various dishes containing tea leaves. We did taste different kinds of tea. At last we visited local tea traders. We owe her an unforgettable day and this unique tea exper... read more
“ An exceptional tour guide ”
7 months ago
Traveler: Andrew - Tour Guide: Chisato
We asked Chisato to help us with two unique and custom agricultural and craft tours, and not only did she research and organize what we were looking for but she did considerable additional work on her own time to make sure everything went smoothly. We would highly recommend Chisato for any tour. read more
“ Fantastic 5 days! ”
8 months ago
Traveler: Sandra - Tour Guide: Chisato
I spent 5 days with Chisato; 2 of which were spent exploring medicinal herbs and farming outside of Kyoto. Chisato is extremely enthusiastic and knowledgable about agriculture. She is always eager to share her experiences which makes the trips so much more than your usual run-of-the-mills tours. Chisato is a wonderful, detail-oriented guide that I would not hesitate to recommend to others! read more
“ Day trips to Kyoto surrounds ”
1 year ago
Traveler: Michelle - Tour Guide: Chisato
I had the pleasure of two very full days with Chisato visiting areas of particular interest to me around Kyoto. She went out of her way to offer a customised tour most well suited to me and was very flexible in adapting to my changing travel plans in the weeks leading up to my visit. She is very knowledgeable and especially passionate about her special areas of interest which include food and a... read more