Text: Kayo Arita
The second workshop was held in October 2023 in the backyard of the former Makigo Elementary School in Midori-ku, Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, with Mr Hirai, a forestry worker involved in environmental restoration, and Mr Ikechiku, a botanist from Fujino.
It takes a long time to restore a degraded forest into a rich food forest.
The forest will slowly recover and grow as it is replanted by us over the coming years.
The more we get involved, the more special the forest will become to us.
During the last wind weed clearing, we found tea trees and prickly pear trees amongst the dense bushes.
The sansho trees are in flower and bearing fruit, foreshadowing the changing appearance of the forest in the future.
The work proceeded in a relaxed atmosphere, with participants happily discussing what kind of fruit trees and wild plants they would like to plant in the future.
This was the second time the forest had been maintained, but the air and light were much better than before, and the thought of how the forest will change in the future gave us a sense of a brighter future.
On the hill behind Maki Township Primary School there is a 15 metre high chestnut tree.
All the participants agreed with Dr Ikechiku's suggestion that it would be a good idea to plant more chestnut saplings and at the same time create a good growing environment for these chestnut trees.
This is the best time to work outdoors as there are other magnificent maple trees.
The trees in the surrounding mountains have started to turn their autumn colours and the work is progressing in pleasant temperatures.
Today's fun was to cook acorns, a gift from the forest (as it is an edible forest), into a delicious dish.
But 2023 was a surprisingly bad year for acorns in Makisato.
It looked like the acorn cooking project was going to be a mirage, but as expected by the plant doctor, Mr Ikechiku, it turned out to be a success.
Before the event, he had walked around Fujino and harvested many acorns.
It is said that acorns were the staple food of the Jomon people.
Eaten as they are, they have a bitter taste, but if you take the time to carefully remove the acorns using a rocket stove and mix them with wheat and sweet sake, you get a very tasty and easy-to-eat pancake.
The rule of thumb for removing the scum is that it is OK when the colour of the boiled water changes from black scum to brown.
Although we wondered if this was OK, we changed the hot water five times to remove the scum, and it was a big job that took all day.
Even so, we used a rocket stove fuelled by waste wood to cook this dish, and the amount of heat used must have been quite a lot.
The Jomon people are said to have been gourmets, so they must have used honey and sweetened the food to make it tasty.
It was a fun day and the children who took part were overjoyed.