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Hita, Japan

Arriving in the Japanese port city of Fukuoka, we hustled to the bus station to catch the bus to our next destination; Hita. This small town of about 70,000 people is nestled in the mountains of central Kyushu island. Here we will be working on another farm for around ten days. The house is quite full as they already have one WWOOFer and a Japanese agricultural student.

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The first day of work we went to one of the farmers' numerous fields that are sprinkled around the town. This particular field is next to the nicest house in the city and has several security cameras installed. The owner also has a full chest and arm tattoo and is unquestionably yakuza (mafia). Because of this, the fields are free to use as no one else wants them.

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Another of his fields is out in the surrounding mountains. Here the issue is wild boars that like to play in the rice paddies. To prevent this we installed an electric fence around the paddies after cutting the bushes down with sickles and weedwackers. The day ended with me testing the fence and a sunburn on my forehead.

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Third and fourth day are spent picking weeds in a field and pruning his decorative gardens. He said the last time was in May but I don't think the previous WWOOFer trimmed that much as it was overgrown. I must thank my mother for making me tend to her numerous gardens, as I impressed them with my trimming abilities.

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As for the food there is almost to much to eat. We have had several great meals and here is a small collection of them. The first is tonkatsu or a breaded pork cutlet served with a silky smooth egg tofu, blackened eggplant (skin removed), miso soup with house made soybean paste and rice from thier fields. The pork was cooked perfectly, moist and tender, with a crispy exterior that held together.

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Another great meal was home made sweet curry. It gains its sweetness from tomatoes and bananas and the flavor is rounded out with several different spices and yogurt. Unfortunately, the picture was taken by Ben and it along with other pictures disappeared from his phone.

We also visited local craftsmen. There is a small village that was created in the late 16th century by Korean pottery craftsmen. Only ten families are allowed to practice the trade and it is strictly regulated. It is a craft that is taught from father to son.

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For dinner we had tonkatsu, a breaded and fried pork cutlet. It was cooked perfectly with the inside still moist and the outside crispy. As usual a menagerie of side dishes were included.

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In the morning we had mochi pizza. Mochi is a certain type of rice that is pounded until it becomes a sticky paste. This mochi here was made by our hosts from their own rice and was exceptionally good. The flavour was more robust and the texture was silky. Bake it into a pizza with fresh ingredients and you have a great dish.

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We made a journey to the outskirts of town to visit the last remaining blacksmith in the city. Here I picked up a new knife to assist me in all of the cooking I will need to do to test recipes when I return home.

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On our next free day, we went to find Ben some new shoes. I told him that it might be an issue due to his enormous, American feet but I think we found a pair large enough for him. They had a selection of odd geta (Japanese wooden sandals), including one with wheels and a pair for two people to wear back to back. This is a Japanese version of a three legged race. They also had several signed geta by famous sumo wrestlers, baseball players and others.

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During the summer months, Hita city builds a giant fish trap to snare the local ayu fish. This is highly prized as it has a sweet pleasent smell similar to watermelon. It is salted and cooked over coals til its blackened. The meat is sweet and is one of the best river fish I've ever had.

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We stopped by a local miso/soy sauce/fish and meat sauce/ramune factory. While it was not the busy season, the president still gave us a tour of the factory and explained the processes behind thier 30 different products. Apparently, there is a different type of soy sauce for each type of food. Ramen has one type, udon another, sushi a third, etc. Half of the restaurants in Fukuoka city use this factory's products and they export them to Michelin Star restaurants in Europe and America. I asked about the production and for the large bottles (about 1.8 gallons), they churn out 300,000 in a single year. One of their signature products is Ayu fish sauce. Using the fish that we had eaten earlier, they produce a sweet smelling and robust flavor sauce. They also make ramune (soda) here and have patented their rainbow selection of organic ramune. I have had ramune before but they tend to have to much sugar. However, these were nicely balanced and had great flavor.

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Hita is renown for its fresh water and many factories have been built here to utilize this natural resource. One we went to was the Sapporo company and were able to taste a selection of their beer. Three large glasses within twenty minutes left me a little tipsy.

While we were going to only stay 7 days initially, we ended up at Renge farm for 16 days because of the great hosts, city and food. However, everything comes to a end and now we must continue on. There are only 17 days left before we return the States.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 19:31

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