Recently, I receive a lot of couchsurfing requests, a few times a week, which is rather surprising considering the fact that I live in Shiga Prefecture. Shiga Prefecture isn’t a popular travel destination among most foreign tourists or it isn’t even known despite the fact that it is next to Kyoto.
Only thing Shiga is famous for is Lake Biwa which is the biggest lake in Japan, and even that itself isn’t an enough magnet to draw people.
However, a word Satoyama seems to be catching attentions of many currently and some people associate lake Biwa with Satoyama because of BBC documentary film called Satoyama: Japan’s Secret WaterGarden.
There are a lot of Satoyamas in Shiga prefecture since there are many rivers flowing to lake Biwa and Satoyamas are usually located at the upperstream of these rivers near mountains. Hino where I live is located at the upperstream of Hino river, one of these rivers.
So, as well as being the birthplace of Omi-Hino-merchants, Hino is special for being the land of Satoyama: There are mountains which belong to Suzuka mountain range in the eastern part and many rice paddies in the western part using water from Hino river.
Because I say in my profile that people can experience Satoyama life here, many couchsurfers show interests.
Christine and her family from Austria is one of them. They are interested in natural child rearing and sustainable ways of living. They stayed with us last Thursday to Saturday, and we had great times together.
We went cycling along rice fields, visiting a shrine and a river along the way. We had a lot of things in common and talked about educational systems, agricultural systems and many other things. I was surprised to hear that over 20% of farmers are organic farmers in Austria, and as the nation, they succeeded in banning GM products and Monsanto products all together.
First night, we had Ikigai Dinner; Natto, fermented brown rice, light fried Tempura, cold eggplants, cucumber sticks with miso, salad, and cold tofu.
My son spoke a lot of English this time. We have had many couchsurfers before, too, but he hadn’t been able to utter many words then. It looks like finally it has come to the point where all the inputs he had over the years began coming out. The kids played together a lot discovering many new things since both of them had to communicate in a foreign language. It must have been a great experience for them.
On the second night, they prepared an Austrian crepe dish called Palatschinken for us, and my son was more than happy to try it. You could put jam or ice cream inside, and it was so delicious.
Next time, we would like to visit them in Austria.
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