Japan, France and the Gulabi Gang


An alternative to Bollywood – Fandry is a movie with a social message

I have to catch up on quite a few stories and decided to try and combine them in one post!

I spent 10 days in Japan in May and it was a very short, but intense impression of the country. I am eternally grateful to Hiroe and Mitsuo that they helped me in so many ways. I will never forget those days in Delhi when it was 48 degrees and Hiroe shared her Japanese green tea from her fridge with me. And I will never forget my first night at the hotel in Kyoto when suddenly two familiar faces appeared in front of my door – that of Mitsuo, who had come all the way from Germany, and that of Yoko, who had become my friend in Sweden and had come all the way by train from Shizuoka only to meet me . Of course, I will also never forget maccha, mochi and yatsuhashi!! I remember Hiroe saying on Kishima Island, where we were served the most amazing Natural Agriculture lunch I have ever eaten in my life, that she never thought I could eat that much…! (*^▽^*) Well, I did miss lassi, but as I had come from India and was returning there, I didn’t have to wait long until I could have that again, either… In Japan I took part in the “Grand Sampai” in Misono, the headquarters of “Shumei”, which takes place there every year and has a programme with the Sampai itself, visits to the Miho museum and the “kominka” (traditional Japanese house) in the Shumei farm village, visits to Tokyo or Kishima Island (where Natural Agriculture has been practised since 1962), a performance of the Shumei Taiko (traditional Japanese drumming) ensemble, an Ancesor ceremony and a New Members Gathering (in which I finally took part after two years;)). On our “free day”, Hiroe and Mitsuo showed me around in Kyoto and we visited Kiyomizu-dera temple, had a rickshaw tour in its area and visited the Arashiyama bamboo forest.


Yoko & I happily reunited!

IMG_2373 Kopie

Hiroe and I on the way to Miho Museum

IMG_2406 Kopie

Another happy reunion! I & Norikazu in the Shumei farm village where he has been working since he came back from Germany


With Alan Sensei and Mitsuo in the “kominka” (traditional Japanese house)


Our amazing lunch at the Shumei farm village – miso soup, salad and tempura


Alan Sensei and I on beautiful Kishima Island


In Japan the “menu” usually is displayed in the windows of restaurants!

Japanese Toilet

Japanese toilets have many options… ;)


My best sushi ever:)


My favourite sweet from Kyoto in two different forms – soft and hard. It is called yatsuhashi and usually made of rice flour, sugar and cinnamon:)


A lunch in Japan can simply consist of three different kinds of rice :)


Too many choices! The Natural Agriculture menu of Miho Museum..


A must have in Japan – maccha (which is also prepared in tea ceremonies) latte with Japanese sweets such as mochi or green tea based sweets


Our sporty rickshaw man – in fact the rickshaw was invented in Japan


Two women dressed as “maikos”, the prestage of geishas


Lighting incense in Kiyomizu-dera temple


Walking through Arashiyama bamboo forest

Now that I have started working for Shumei in Steinfurth, about which I already wrote a post two or three years ago (how incredibly much has happened in my life since then!), I decided to report on one specific occasion, my visit to France with Mitsuo. It was my first time to France and again a short trip (two thirds of which we spent driving), but worthwhile in many regards. Benoît Périé had met his Taiwanese wife Shiu-Hsia in Indonesia where they both were working and returned to his home area in France with her, where he started an organic (biodynamic) vinyard ten years ago. They heard of Shumei through their friends in Taiwan and started using the methods of Natural Agriculture last year. We helped them with the harvest and learnt a lot of interesting things about winemaking. Hiro, the head of the Shumei centre in Paris was also there, and sometimes we had pretty long translation chains – for example from Taiwanese to French to Japanese to German. :)


Shiu-Hsia and Benoît Périé


.. and their Natural Agriculture vineyard near Marcillac-Vallon


Stamping the grapes the traditional way


Soon these bottles will have a Shumei label as well


Best to be enjoyed with the local speciality, “Soleil de Marcillac”


The harvesting team – Hiro from Shumei Paris centre, Xuquiang, an intern as a Chinese student from Toulouse, Shiu-Hsia and Benoît with dog Bouchon, their friends Shu Ling und Rich Chen from Taiwan, I and Mitsuo

My tasks here in Steinfurth are very diverse and the people I work with could not be kinder. They even give me thanks every day for helping them. :) Apart from helping with the deliveries and the weekly offer list, replying to emails, visiting projects such as the one in France or giving talks about Natural Agriculture as I did in Vienna, creating contacts, helping with translations and “PR”, I am also free to make my own suggestions, and, for example, made our farm a wwoofing member recently or keep advertising our “wild herb excursions” on Couchsurfing, which has attracted very interested people so far. I always like meeting new people and I also enjoyed the visits of our short-term interns very much. Since shortly, Ryo has joined us as an intern from Japan for three months and he is a great enrichment. His mother had an accident when she was pregnant but thanks to doctors and prayers she survided and could give birth to Ryo. Also, I am very glad that since last time I was here, Naoko has joined our team as Toshihito’s wife. She is a very kind and intelligent person and very supportive of Toshi, who is doing a great job representing Mitsuo while he is travelling. And of course, Mitsuo’s and Keiko’s children have grown, but are not any less cute than I remember them.


The Steinfurth gang – with Ryo (making faces ;)), David and Toshi


Preparing the vegetable boxes for our “customers”


Weighing celery


Naoko and Toshi packing vegetables for our customers in Berlin, where Shumei also have an office and a café


Takashi from Shumei Berlin centre, our short-term interns Marius and (back), Toshi and Naoko (front) and I


Cute little Aoi being very focussed on her piece of cake…


Akiko and I in Vienna. She had come from London where she is doing an internship at the Shumei office. She is my age and wonderfully mature and beautiful person both outside and inside.


With Shumei member Dang from Berlin, where he has a Vietnamese restaurant, which I am hoping to visit soon. He sent me Jackfruit chips after his return!!! :)


One last step back in time – at the European Anniversary in London with members from Italy and Turkey, Joe Sensei and Tamao Sensei

Lastly, I wanted to share my impressions of the Independent Indian film festival in Frankfurt. I was able to watch two of the movies offered, “Fandry” and “Gulabi Gang”. Both movies address social issues of Indian culture with which I have become familiar during the my own visits there – the restricting effects of the cast system for “lower cast” people and the sufferings of women in a patriarchic and corrupt society. You can find the trailers of the movies here (Fandry) and here (Gulabi Gang). The gap between the traditional lifestyle on the countryside and the efforts to imitate the “West” in cities is probably bigger in India than anywhere else. Unfortunately, some people seem to forget that progressive thinking has nothing to do with one’s lifestyle and that treating women respectfully would be a much bigger progress than building more and more shopping malls.


The “Gulabi Gang”, a group of Indian women activists from Uttar Pradesh and active across North India


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