What Abukuma NS net?
Abukuma is a small organization run by a couple that moved from urban Tokyo to rural Fukushima over 20 years ago, in search of a simpler life. Through the years, they have gained an appreciation for nature and life by learning how to grow crops and live in the challenging environment of an isolated mountain village.
Their mission is to share this appreciation for nature, primarily through camps for children where children from the cities get to experience farming activities in the rural environment. Other programs involve forest work, agriculture seminars, and visits to local schools. They also run lodging facilities on-site that can be reserved by the general public. Lodging is offered in combination with experiences such as making handmade udon and making pizza in a wood-fired oven. They also respect the local community that helped them learn how to live in this environment. Like many rural communities in Japan, there are decreasing numbers of young workers and children. One of their objectives is to energize the local community by bringing in people from outside the village to experience and gain an appreciation for life here.
Abukuma is located on the outskirts of Samegawa-mura, an isolated, rural village in the mountains of southern Fukushima Prefecture. The area is mostly forests, rice paddies, and pastures for cattle. There are sources of natural spring water locally.
Samegawa-mura has only one signal light in town, and there is no access to public transportation. The closest convenience store or grocery store is 40 minutes away by car, in one of the neighboring towns. Some local points of interests include Tengubashi Bridge, Kanotsunodaira Flatlands, and Eryuda Falls.
Samegawa-mura has four distinct seasons. Spring and fall are especially scenic, with the changing colors of the trees and the blooming of flowers in the spring. Winter is brutally cold, with temperatures sometimes going as low as -15℃.
Abukuma has been hosting international volunteers from various countries for over 10 years. The host couple relies on volunteers from Japan and abroad to run their programs and help with various tasks around the site.
The primary focus of the work varies with the season:
Spring: Getting the vegetable fields and rice fields ready for planting, and maintaining them after planting.
Summer: Running the non-stop series of camps for children.
Fall: Harvesting the vegetables and rice.
Winter: Doing forest work.
Year-round, there are camps for children that volunteers help with, but the camps are heavily concentrated in the summer. When guests stay at the lodging facilities, volunteers help to clean before and after their stay, and help to prepare any meals that the guests request. Other year-round tasks include cutting weeds, walking the dogs, and feeding the chickens.
Abukuma partners with the non-profit organization NICE (Never-ending International workCamps Exchange), which partners with volunteer organizations around the world. If you are interested in volunteering at Abukuma, please contact NICE to find out what the partner organization is in your country.