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Organic farming, Japanese recipes


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Clearing a new garden; Japanese property laws

Our schedule is still all over the place, but we’re getting things done. Seems like the days I go to help at the restaurant are the slow ones, and when I’m doing something else, Hiro and her mom come home exhausted after a busy day. Today happened to have good timing—I cleaned and did computer work in the morning, and went to help for what turned out to be a busy lunch. Still, busy these days is nothing like it was even a couple years ago. We have our work cut out for us.

After lunch slowed down, Hiro’s aunt and I went to clear out a garden that had grown over. It’s one of the places I didn’t know belonged to the family property—as you can see in the pictures, it’s really in a lost corner between train tracks and a house! Hiro’s grandfather grew potatoes there and then planted plum trees, but they grew too big and the JR train company asked the family to cut them back. Since then the space has been largely neglected.

The trees you see in the pictures were the least of the work—the vines holding them together were easy enough to cut, but were spiderwebbed throughout the entire space, and are tough enough that there’s a footbridge in Japan built in a traditional manner out of the same plants. Removing each tree became a chore, and even with them out of the way, we still have a lot of work to do getting the vine roots out before we plant anything.

Hiro’s planning kumquat, lemon, and lime trees for this space. This should allow us to keep the weeds at a minimum easily while raising larger plants.

The garden space really begs the question of how you end up with a little corner like that as part of your property. In Hiro’s family’s case it’s a really long story, probably not unique, and I’m not sure I have a handle on it yet.

About a century ago they were big landholders. Before the war, the country bought a right of way to put the railroad through, and that split the property in two. As the family story has it, during the war the trains stopped right in front of the family home due to bombings, and all the passengers took refuge in the mountains.

After the war the landholding laws were changed under GHQ, and landholders were forced to sell to the country agricultural areas that were leased out to people who were either renting for profit, or who may have been the equivalent of feudal vassals. The country then gave the land to the people who were renting or working it. A couple decades later the current thoroughfare was put in to replace the river road; the country bought that land too, but it took more out of the property.

There were gains too: The land where the restaurant currently stands belonged to someone in a neighboring town who requested that Hiro’s family run a rice field there. Because of GHQ requirements, the family was given that land.

During Hiro’s grandfather’s life there were various requests for land donations to the town for meeting halls, encroachments by neighbors, which, left for more than twenty years became common law holdings (it’s a much longer story than that), and even a sale of a rented property—that issue was repaid with the field that we’ll plant with potatoes. So there have been lots of changes to the property, and strange little corners surrounded by walls on one side and train tracks on another are one result.

There’s another right of way going through right now, which I’ll detail later. This one’s not only taking family property, it’s removing mountains.

Let us know in the comments: What’s the smallest rice field or garden you’ve ever seen?

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