Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nashi 梨 Picking! And Shizen no Mori 自然の森

Nashi 梨 means 'pear' in Japanese. But really, it's more like a giant yellow apple in texture, shape, and size. It tastes like a pear, but otherwise, consider it apple-ish. To cut back on the confusion I'll just refer to this tasty fruit as a "Japanese pear." Which, basically, is exactly what it is. Problem solved!

Sayaka and I went with a group of older Japanese folks for some pear picking excitement on our weekend. Although they often smell funny, older people are fun too. We really have no choice in the matter since there are very few if any young people in our area to hang out with. Let's just say you can count all the young adults in my town between twenty and under thirty with just your two hands. If you're looking for a date you'd be hard pressed to find anybody between high school teenagery and elderly decrepidation.

In an unrelated tid-bit: If you want romance, you'll have to resort to all kinds of twisted perversions (depending on whether you prefer barely legal or extremely old and wearing diapers -that's none of my business), or otherwise import a wife. Which many have done, in my area too, apparently. Just as a side note -many of my students (at least a few in *every school) has a Filipino-mother. And judging by their fathers' very traditional "Japanese" way of speaking, thinking, and doing things... I highly doubt they were at all international business entrepreneur types. More or less catalog online order of they wifey types. But that's just my guess (although it's statistically improbable that they all met via true love accidents).

As such we hooked up with a brave buckeneering bunch of elder explorers and ventured into the hillside to pick the produce which has made my city famous. In fact, when you drive into the city limits you will see the highway sign which has a little yellow pear cartoon caricature wearing a marathon headband and sachet. Sera town is notorious for having the best long distance running team in the country, and also for growing pears, thus the cute little icon. I'll try and get a photo of the little marathon pear for a later post, after all, it's worth seeing and will get a laugh.

Above is the famous European style Shizen no Mori "Nature's Forest" Youth Hostel.

After our pear-picking we went to a famous gelato place called Dona which sells home-made gelato ice-cream. Made fresh from the tit of a plump round Sera-cow. The Japanese are fond of claiming their 15 minutes of fame. If there is something worth bragging about, or just mentioning as a conversational piece, they never forget to inform your of why or what their particular region is famous for. Every region is famous for something, and after that is established the city governments of those regions dumb huge funds into sponsoring the project.

In the case of my town they've made their Japanese pears a 'tourist trap' for summer travelers. People from all around Japan can come to pick the pears. You basically go the the orchard and pay to rent a tree for an hour and pick all you can eat. You box the rest and pay for it on the way out of the park.

Japanese towns must resort to this sort of exploitation of their countryside just to get people to circulate and invigorate an otherwise dormant economy. Japan's self-sustaining mega-cities (i.e. Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, etc.) act like blood clots which cut off the cash flow throughout the country and causing local governments to resort to such tactics in an attempt to invigorate and stimulate the overall national economy. The sad thing is, more often than not, the tactic fails and the city goes bankrupt. Sera made the Hiroshima news for going bankrupt this year, but not too shocking considering that at least ten Japanese towns go bankrupt a week. I my opinion I think Sera held out as long as it could. Now it becomes a political game to see how the national government lends its loans to increase local government spending.

Across the nation of Japan are tourist trap 'ghost towns'. Large theme parks, monuments, and flower gardens abandoned due to budget restraints. This creates interesting and exciting opportunities for adventurous types to take advantage of a situation unique to Japan.

In a nearby area, of one such tourist trap there is youth hostel tucked away on the mountain side in the old Samurai town of Joge 上下. Now if you didn't have a map, you'd never find it in a million years. But due to its secluded nature the Shizen no Mori 自然の森 youth hostel is popular among backpackers (MG YH Address: 470-1 Yano, Joge-cho, Fuchu-shi, Hiroshima, 729-3423. Tel: +81-847-62-3244)

As if pear picking and gelato ice-cream eating wasn't enough we stopped at the Shizen no Mori hostel for a traditional Japanese lunch, or wa-shoku 和食. The above picture is of a portion of that meal, which was very healthy as you can see.

At the youth hostel I found a little Buddha cuddling his little Buddha-girlfriend outside. It was such a cute statue I had to snap a picture. These Buddhist statues, not of the Buddha himself but of other various iconographic religious figures within the folds of Buddhism, litter the Japanese landscape. Each one has a special 'power' to invoke if prayed to. This one happens to be romance! Oh the joy.

1 comment:

Natalija said...

They're called simply "Asian Pears" here, and I eat them all the time. My first experience with one, I love pears, and thought it'd be fun to try something new. So let it sit on the kitchen counter for a week, waiting for it to get soft. The typical pear eaten here needs to get soft before you eat it, as you well know. I finally just tried a slice of it, and it was juicy and sweet and amazing. It's crazy to see where they come from. They're quite expensive here, yesterday at the grocery store they were $3 each. I always tell people they're like an apple that tastes like a pear. So pretty close to what you said. Good stuff.