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 completed master degree of organic agriculture in the Netherlands in 2011.
Especially, my specialization is agriculture, anthropology and food culture.
I often travel around rural villages in japan for my research on traditional knowledge, ethnobotany and local cuisine, "kyodo ryori".
My style of guiding is "experience the local communities"; visiting the ingredients where it grows, listening to the stories of local life, where generations have lived.
I try my best to organize a trip with unique experience for you in the off-the-beaten rural villages, especially in Kyoto and Nara. Please let me know your special interests, and I will suggest your trip schedule, such as cooking with locals, visit farmers, or stay at a farmhouse.
- tea tour (harvesting and processing tea, tea house, matcha poder making, tea museum in Kyoto)
- traditional handicrafts (visit workshops, pottery making experience, kiln in hidden valley)
- culinary experience (food processing workshop such as tofu, soba, yuba, somen noodle, traditional knowledge of food preservation)
- fermented food products (learning how to make sake, shoyu, miso, amazake, pickle, nattou, umeboshi by yourself)
- plant and ethno-ecology (sansai wild plant harvesting and cooking)
- learning rural livelihood (charcoal making, weaving trees, paper making from mulberry plant, silk worm, visit to temple of plant medicine)
- temple stay (meditation, shojin ryori at mount koya)
Please inquire at least 1 month before the tour departure date, when it is totally customized tour.
Please note that spring (March-April) and autumn (Septenmer-October) are peak travelling season in Japan, and it may not possible to offer special interest tours.
I recommend to reserve accommodations at least 2 months before your travel (half year before during peak travelling season).