Highlight of Yesterday’s Mountain Ride: Friendly Farmer Lady
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Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/2500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

As I mentioned yesterday, I went on a scooter ride into the mountains of Ikoma in northern Nara Prefecture. The highlight of the trip was chatting with the lady seen above, at some rice paddies and vegetable fields in the mountains near the border between Osaka and Nara prefectures.

We got to chatting about all kinds of things, including how nice it was out in the country, and what a perfect time it was to see the rice fields, as they're brimming with mature rice waiting to be harvested. She even laughed at my jokes, which is rare among people of any age and background... when talking about language (she doesn't speak a word of English), I offered my standard joke: “Why, English is easy.... heck, in America, even kids can speak it!” but instead of groaning and rolling her eyes like most people, she burst out laughing.

Eventually she turned to go back to her work, and I to my camera...

Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 82mm — 1/2500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

From time to time we chatted further, and I stole some shots of her as she shuffled up or down the street...

Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/3200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Quick with a Laugh -- Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/2500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Quick with a Laugh
Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/3200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

I didn't realize it at the time, but that's her husband in the vegetable garden in the background. As I turned my attention to some macro shots of rice still on the plant, I could hear her voice wafting up from below... “and he has a boy in third grade, he said”...

When I popped back up to the road, the husband waves me over with a few words of English and we chat a bit. The lady shows up with an apron full of green peppers for me. The husband then starts cutting stalks from a huge plant and shoving them at me, then another, and another.

I didn't know what the first two were, but I recognized the last one as shiso, a large very fragrant herb similar to cilantro. It smelled wonderful.

Then the wife came up again with a bundle of scallions, which smelled amazing I never knew how good fresh scallions could smell. (The powerful and exquisitely yummy fragrance was all but gone a few hours later, so even fresh scallions at a farmers' market are unlikely to be fresh enough to experience their true aroma.)

Bountiful Harvest of my mountain scooter ride -- Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Bountiful Harvest
of my mountain scooter ride

I was worried about being able to get this all back to Kyoto on my scooter, so excused myself before their generosity surpassed my ability to transport.

Later, from a rise further down the mountain, I looked back toward their plots...

View From Afar -- Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
View From Afar
Walking Home -- Ikoma, Nara, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Walking Home

After having taken her portrait not long after we first started chatting, she said something about sending her a copy, mumbling it as if talking more to herself than to me, because, I suppose, she didn't think it would be okay to ask. But of course I'd bring her a copy! It's a small village and if she's not at her fields, I'm sure I'll be able to find her just by showing her photo around. She said, then, that she'd have to prepare a gift for my eventual visit, to which I replied that merely being able to come out to see the rice fields was my gift.

Continued here...


All 8 comments so far, oldest first...

Dear Jeffrey
More than one perfect flower in the mountains – I think your farmer lady post is one of the best!!! Its put a really big smile on my face this morning and I even laughed at your Heck – even the kids speak it joke…I think the best picture is the “Quick Laugh” hope that she likes it when you go back with the copy.
Lovely stuff.
Great to see you out and about in the country and at least that means you are not locked up behind your desk all the time!
Best
Annie

— comment by Annie in London on September 28th, 2011 at 6:27pm JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Agree with Annie – this is vintage Friedl photography and, I guess, an archetypal rural Japanese scene. I wonder whether you found out what the various plant-gifts were, as well as shiso ? I’m sure the lovely lady can’t fail to be delighted with your photographs.

One of the two plants I didn’t know turned out to be モロヘイヤ (Mulukhiyah, whatever that is). I chopped it up and slow boiled it for a while to make a light soup, though it wasn’t very satisfying (because I’m not much of a cook, but I wanted to try with these veggies myself). Fumie’s mom used it a different way (with tomatoes and hot peppers) to make something quite yummy. We still don’t have any idea what the other plant was, but I ate it raw, as a salad, as suggested by the farmer. I’m not quite sure whether I liked it or hated it. I’ll have to write down the name next time…. —Jeffreuy

— comment by Peter in Wales on September 28th, 2011 at 7:22pm JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Great post; made me smile too and reflect on my next encounter and pictures…

— comment by Olivier on September 28th, 2011 at 7:35pm JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

I’d never heard of mulukhiyah, but it sounds like needs quite a bit of pepping up to give some flavour, so I can imagine Fumie’s mother’s recipe would do the job. I see the recipe on the Wikipedia link has plenty of garlic, cumin, coriander, so suppose the mulukhiyah is mainly to add nutrients and body. How interesting that it should be grown in the wilds of Japan !

— comment by Peter in Wales on September 28th, 2011 at 10:06pm JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

While in Iwakuni I rode past a farm similar to the one here. It was always very well kept and I would have loved to go out and work in it. Thanks for bringing back some memories.

— comment by Dale on September 29th, 2011 at 1:21am JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Fantastic little story… we visited Nara on our recent trip (the more typical park area with the deer and temples) – I always love going to Nara. I bet those veggies were fantastic.

— comment by Jon V on September 29th, 2011 at 5:15am JST (6 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Lovely post; it makes me feel homesick for the hospitable and generous farmers I lived among in Kumamoto. Natsukashii…

— comment by Karen in Virginia on September 30th, 2011 at 10:10pm JST (6 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Great post. Maybe you met the farmer again…

— comment by Anne on October 1st, 2012 at 4:35pm JST (5 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink
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