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Intentional community-building project with sustainable practices in Otaru, Japan.

  • Favourited 536 times
  • Last activity: 27 Feb 2024

Availability

  2024 

 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks

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Details

  • Description

    Description

    About us:
    There's an old line that goes "What's the difference between an American and yogurt?.......The yogurt has culture." Which is to say I am American and as I'm in my 50's, I do tell old jokes.

    My wife Hiroko is slightly younger than me, but sh'es Japanese, so I have to admit she has more culture behind her. Because Japanese culture is so different to the West, it's a big draw and Otaru offers a good range of architecture, live music, theater and, of course, different kinds of food and drink. Most people know that Hokkaido is number 1 in Japan as its breadbasket, so many things are at their best here!

    I am active in sports (road biking, snowboarding, ice hockey) and in the community--working with neighbors to help them keep gardening, helping neighbors maintain and improve their properties, making and donating benches in a common space in central Otaru, etc. In addition, I've been working toward sustainability, such as reinvigorating the soil in my fields, planting fruit trees, making raised beds and water catchment systems, rationalizing energy & water usage, as well as landscaping and painting of concrete walls for a taste of color.

    We have lots of good neighbors and interact with them quite a lot, especially during gardening season....they give a hand with weeding, etc., and enjoy the various fruit and veg. This year was a bumper crop for corn, kabocha, sweet potatoes, strawberries blueberries and tomatoes...and I have high expectations for apples and kiwi production next year as well! And so do they!

    Hiroko teaches Japanese for universities in Sapporo and gets quite a lot of exercise walking/running with our papillon, Jimbei. We've taken on a rescue puppy Kanbei and trying to instill some manners...but he's more rebel than not, but with flashes of affection. In short, a good chance to learn Japanese in a normal context, with help from someone who's a pro!

    Hiroko really likes cultural exchange and languages and we've both lived abroad--me, UK, Israel, Germany, Denmark, Hungary and she's lived in the US, Hungary and the UK.

    As the country opens up again to travelers, I am looking to expand the community as I bring 3 currently empty houses up to scratch for comfortable living.

    If you've made it this far, well done! Now, I'd like to take this opportunity to save both of us some time in making sure we get the best match with each other.

    Recently, so many people have applied that I've been swamped just trying to read profiles and getting back to everyone.

    In addition, as I need to focus on getting the houses up and running, I am really looking for people with experience in specific areas so they can manage without too much input. For example, this past summer I was really lucky to have a young German who was very knowledgeable about plants and not only maintained our existing gardens, but also expanded them in size and health....super! So, for next Spring one main thing I'm looking help with is maintaining and developing the gardens/fields and that person needs to be able to sow, weed, make raised beds, etc. It would be a particular bonus if someone has experience setting up auto-watering systems.

    Whatever the main way you think you can contribute to my community, please help me by highlighting it at the top of your reply...and I'd love to hear any great ideas you have as well!

    Also, I am working on solar projects, both passive and photovoltaics, so ACTUAL experience with these would be massive.

    Another main area is renovations, but unless someone is really experienced here, this work will be primarily support, in order to avoid liability issues with using power equipment....so helping position materials, prep, painting, maybe some plaster work, cleanup, etc.

    Completed projects last summer include

    >>a large double-decker deck (with an aim to use the lower deck for morning and evening yoga, as well as outdoor seating for a cafe and the upper deck is slated as a work/chill-out zone for the crafts room upstairs)
    >>several Hugel cultur-style raised beds, which are now home to asparagus, strawberries, vegetable patch
    >>painting neighbors walls to brighten things up
    >>first stage of a vertical farming trial.

    Upcoming projects include writing up the results of the 1st stage of the trial, installing a kitchen, upgrading windows to double-pane, assembling the structure of our stage, finishing 2 bedrooms, insulating an attic and some walls, etc. AND...put the final touches on our own hot spring/sauna!! But, as always, so much to do, so little time!

    Finally, help on the SNS side is also a desired skill set, as I want to document the other work and develop the website with video, etc.

    So, if you have experience in these skill sets, please do contact me again and make the subject line a description of what you can do. I would also appreciate any pictures or other media you have showing what you've done. If you're really keen on joining us but don't have so much experience, please do feel free to apply--I was young once (long time ago), so I get it...but use "enthusiastic" as your subject line.

    A note on accommodations. At present I have 2 fully ready rooms in 1 house with toilet and bath, while another house has 2 rooms but only toilet currently available. Both houses have building materials in other rooms, with no kitchen available in either. I hope to get the kitchen and living room of one house up and ready to go this Spring.

    My log house serves as the common area for meals, lounging, events, music, etc. It has good wi-fi so digital nomads often work here.

    We particularly encourage people who are interested in learning language as we can offer intensive Japanese, as well as those interested in crafts on offer in Otaru, such as glass blowing, etching, Japanese sweets, making inkan, woodwork, etc. This of course means people interested in longer stays and a deeper experience. It is worth noting that local activities such as rock climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, etc. are a nice way to round out your experience and make it more attractive. Otaru is uniquely placed as a base for winter sports as it has 4 excellent ski areas within an hour away, plus the resorts of Niseko and Rusutsu slightly further afield, as well as many small areas closer in--something to suit every level, budget and taste. The powder's waiting!

    Finally, thank you again for you interest and time writing to apply, if you wish to join us.

    All the best,
    gp

    PS Note on photos...the first 2 are views from one of the workawayer houses, the others are pics of projects we completed thanks to workawayers, and finally pics of us!

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Art Projects
    Language practice
    Help with Eco Projects
    Teaching
    Gardening
    DIY and building projects
    Animal Care
    Creating/ Cooking family meals
    General Maintenance
    Help with Computers/ Internet
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    As my wife and MIL are both Japanese, obviously there is the opportunity to see a Japanese dynamic inside the house. And because we love our neighbors, there will be a chance to interact with them on a regular basis.

    For the musically inclined, we happen to have a number of drums, Buddhist singing bowls, a shamisen, didgeridoos, guitars, etc., although no talent in using them!

    In a former life, GP was an intercultural trainer for major companies and government organizations in the UK, so we often discuss cultural differences when the need arises, and he can provide extensive guidance on living in Japan, and Otaru specifically.

  • Projects involving children

    Projects involving children

    This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.

  • Help

    Help

    In terms of the project:

    Thanks to workawayers, we added a deck and bedroom to our main house, as well as doing a complete makeover of the kitchen! Since, we have been working on upgrading the gardens, out-buildings and recently acquired houses. We have been so lucky getting skilled and creative people and want to say thanks!

    We have been in Otaru now for over 4 years now and we are still working toward sustainable agriculture on the fields and landscaping of the ground in general. As we're moving into the winter, garden work takes a back seat, but I'm working to get winter gardening up to speed...that will eventually entail a solar-powered lighting and heating system, automatic watering and semi-aeroponics. If I can make it entirely carbon negative, I will be chuffed! Expertise in getting it going is very welcome.

    1. Our property has a fair amount of land with it, but it has been idling for quite awhile. I don't like using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, so my approach for the fields uses the lasagna method and hugelcultur--if you're interested in organic farming, nice! This year we put in 2 raised beds for asparagus and strawberries, as well as converting the main garden and a small side garden to raised beds. They were super productive over the summer and we're looking for even more next year.

    2. A long term goal is developing the property into the center of an intentional community and to start I am renovating 2 houses to allow interested people to have a taste of the area. These also double as accommodations for workawayers. The major project for the 1st house this year has been insulation...and that project is at a very advanced state. Next up is making the kitchen and living area beautiful.

    3. The previous owner of the property left behind a lot of things, many of which have enough value to put them online to sell. I could use some help with that.

    4. The bath house is almost complete....finished with cedar inside and plumbing for showers complete....just need to get the water re-heater installed to be ready to go....the goal is this Spring ...can't wait to have my own hot spring!

    5. This year when we were in full swing and had 4 or 5 volunteers at a time, we had the good fortune of having a good cook on the team--he kept us well-fueled and happy! Thanks Juan!

    I think that's about it...lots to do! So, help, please!

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    Japanese: Fluent

    This host offers a language exchange
    Hiroko loves language and studies constantly...with a particular interest in Spanish. GP is a slacker and has been cruising with his Japanese for ages...but would love if a workawayer enjoyed teaching at an advanced level.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation

    Rooms will be available in 1 of 3 houses, 2 of which we are renovating, with either a bed or a Japanese futon. While having their own rooms is generally considered a great perk, workawayers are expected to clean and otherwise maintain their accommodations throughout their stay. This includes airing their futons weekly, when possible, vacuuming common areas, and keeping the bath and toilet areas spic and span. In winter, it means keeping the path from the road to entry clear.

    Depending on the number of workawayers with us at a time, you may eat with us and breakfast tends to be Western-style, with bread, eggs, salad, etc., while dinner is usually Japanese-style, so miso-soup, fish, rice and side dishes. Other times, meals are taken in the log house, with ingredients supplied. As such, we can cater to quite a range of dietary requirements.

    We also frequently have themed dinners to honor the cuisine of our visitors, in fact, last night was Taiwan night. We have enjoyed the cooking of many different cultures, and we invite different Japanese friends and neighbors, so it's always a great way to get to know people, culture and practice Japanese!

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    Otaru offers plenty to do for sight-seeing and there are plenty of sources of information online about it. The same is true of Sapporo, which is close by. For those who prefer the outdoors, lots to do in the mountains or the ocean. For winter sports, Otaru is tough to beat...5 good ski areas within an hour (Tengu 15 min., Asari 20m, Kokusai 40m, Teine 40m, Kiroro 50m) plus the biggies a little further afield, as in Niseko, Rusutsu, etc., The back country also beckons for those with suitable knowledge. And I do a "front" country tours of surrounding hills when I don't have time to get out, as well as powder mornings on my little hill most days as a ritual with Jinbei...and Kanbei this year.


    As we've been in the area for several years, we can give some good recommendations of things to do. For most workawayers that has included glass-blowing and/or etching, and woodworking. Otaru is well-known for its craft work, so many opportunities are available.

    In terms of transport, I have several bikes and bus stops abut the property. You may also have access to our vehicles, depending on the situation.

    Hokkaido is well-known for quality food and Otaru in particular for fish, so you can expect to eat some great veggies and sushi/sashimi. The property in Otaru is close to the ocean and a hiking trail up to a bluff overlooking it. As the port for this part of Hokkaido, Otaru has a relatively long history and is very popular for the architecture and small shops and walking street. Our property is right next to the largest private botanical garden in Japan.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Can host digital nomads

    Can host digital nomads

    We have a dedicated shared space in the log house with WiFi, of course, which is where we also work. Our office is upstairs and visitors can use the downstairs area, which includes a work table, lounge area (with wood stove) and kitchen. If it works for us, sometimes we allow nomads to stay and work reduced hours if they manage their own meals or cook for us...we're flexible and love to have talented people around!

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    Plenty of parking.

  • Can possibly accept pets

    Can possibly accept pets

    Open to well-behaved critters.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Relatively flexible, but generally expect a fair trade of accommodations and/or meals for help

Host ref number: 816523315469

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