Lunch in a Small Mountain Farming Hamlet in Japan
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
The Lower Quarter
the lower ¼ of the hamlet of Hata (Takashima City, Shiga, Japan)
— scroll side-to-side — 水平にスクロールしてね —
or click through to a 7,900-pixel-wide version

In my previous post, I wrote how I spent a wonderful afternoon making tofu in japan with an 80-year-old farmer's wife. This post is about the rest of the visit, the experience that would normally be part of a tour one can take on a day trip out of Kyoto.

The tofu/meal part of the tour takes place in the hamlet of Hata (畑, literally field) tucked in the mountains of north-western Shiga prefecture. The terraced rice paddies, tended by hand for generations, can be quite photogenic, though my visit, two or three weeks before the planting, found them at perhaps their least photogenic.

Still, I was there, so I took some photos amidst a drizzle. The president of the tour company was my photography assistant. 🙂

Taking the Panorama Above photo by Emi Yoshida -- Copyright 2015 Emi Yoshida
iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 70mm — 1/240 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Taking the Panorama Above
photo by Emi Yoshida
Irregular Shape these terraces have not been modernized for heavy equipment -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Irregular Shape
these terraces have not been modernized for heavy equipment
Another of Me and My Assistant just because I can ;-) photo by Emi Yoshida -- Copyright 2015 Emi Yoshida
iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 37mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Another of Me and My Assistant
just because I can 😉
photo by Emi Yoshida
Photo I Was Taking Above -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Photo I Was Taking Above
Robust Farm House -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/800 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Robust Farm House

At the end of the tofu story I mentioned that the left over soy pulp is normally discarded because it has such a short shelf life, but that we made a dessert with it. Doughnuts!

Adding a bit of Pancake Mix perhaps 1 part pancake mix to three parts soy pulp おから¾、ホットケーキミックス&frac14 ;、卵一個 -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 38mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Adding a bit of Pancake Mix
perhaps 1 part pancake mix to three parts soy pulp
おから¾、ホットケーキミックス¼;、卵一個
Mixing with Digital Technology after having added an egg -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
Mixing with Digital Technology
after having added an egg
Raw Doughnut Holes ready for frying -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Raw Doughnut Holes
ready for frying

The main dish for lunch was going to be tenpura, an assortment of light batter-fried veggies. The tour-company staff asked whether such-and-such a vegetable would be included, and the answer was essentially "wasn't planning on it, but there's plenty growing outside anywhere you look... go grab some". So we did.

Foraging for Lunch -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 35mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 140 — map & image datanearby photos
Foraging for Lunch
Found Some! tour-company executive getting her hands dirty (whatever it was looked like weeds to me, but it turned out quite tasty) -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 110 — map & image datanearby photos
Found Some!
tour-company executive getting her hands dirty
(whatever it was looked like weeds to me, but it turned out quite tasty)

Much farther up the hill than the outside shots I'd taken before, I took the opportunity for more pictures...

Flooding the Paddies -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62mm — 1/250 sec, f/9, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Flooding the Paddies

In preparation for early-May planting, the paddies are slowly being flooded. It appears that water is diverted from mountain streams to fill the top paddy in any section; when it overflows, it starts to fill the one below, and so on.

Back of the House in a spot carved out of the hill -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 180 — map & image datanearby photos
Back of the House
in a spot carved out of the hill
in Front of the House small little garden area -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
in Front of the House
small little garden area

Back inside, the veggies we brought in were washed...

Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 58mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Pre-Prepared Veggies including eggplant, bamboo sprouts, mushrooms, some giant beans, etc. -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/640 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Pre-Prepared Veggies
including eggplant, bamboo sprouts, mushrooms, some giant beans, etc.
Batter Up! -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Batter Up!
Deep Fry in a shallow pan -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Deep Fry
in a shallow pan
Ingenious you learn some tricks over 60 years -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/50 sec, f/4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Ingenious
you learn some tricks over 60 years

I loved how she made more space in her tiny kitchen. She put a glass pot lid upside down over a gas-stove burner... it fit perfectly. On top of that a metal rack, and on top of that whatever had just come out of the fryer to drip and cool.

Assembly Line -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 27mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Assembly Line
Beans and Shrimp glopped in all at once, the combo fused together in frying -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Beans and Shrimp
glopped in all at once, the combo fused together in frying
Bean and Shrimp Combo -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/200 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Bean and Shrimp Combo
Savory Garnish adding a savory miso-based garnish she made herself, to the tofu she made herself -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Savory Garnish
adding a savory miso-based garnish she made herself, to the tofu she made herself
Meal prior to rice and soup being added -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 38mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Meal
prior to rice and soup being added
Receiving Rice -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Receiving Rice
First Taste of Our Tofu it was delicious, and could stand on its own without garnish -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
First Taste of Our Tofu
it was delicious, and could stand on its own without garnish

As I mentioned before, I was asked to join on this adventure to take photos for the tour company, but in the past I'd been on a variety of other tours with the same company as a test customer, to provide feedback on how to make their tours a better experience for their target audience (English-speaking tourists looking for something more than the popular tourist spots). For example, as part of one tour I visited this gargoyle-tile workshop. I've had some amazing experiences with them.

Anyway, along the lines of offering feedback, I suggested that the foreign tourist might want the option to sample some saké with such a fine meal, and somehow this lead to the lady bringing out some of her home-made spirits for us to sample.

In High Spirits -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 36mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
In High Spirits
Very Home Made the “ label ” says that it dates from 2000, 15 years old -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 42mm — 1/60 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Very Home Made
the label says that it dates from 2000, 15 years old

These kind of things are fairly simple to make... you fill a jar with something to provide flavor, say, plums, then top it off with some kind of spirit... perhaps vodka, shochu, or wine. Then wait enough years for the flavor to transfer, and voilà, you've got plum wine or the like.

Based on how one goes about doing it, the results can vary wildly. It's always fun to order plum wine at a restaurant without knowing the specific maker because the flavor can range from as sweet as Kool-Aid to as bitter as orange juice just after brushing your teeth, and the alcoholic strength can range from essentially water to this will not only grow hair on your chest, but will simultaneously burn it off.

Receiving a Glass -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Receiving a Glass
Bottom's Up -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
Bottom's Up

It turns out that this was at the extreme end of both, and it was too strong/bitter for me to enjoy. I have photos of the two tour-company ladies giving it a try, with their face scrunched up in an oh my gosh this is horrible anguished cringe. They looked like shar pei dogs. I will hold these photos for possible blackmail at a later date. 🙂

As a side note, I've (finally) discovered a way to get better photos when asking random folks to take a photo of me with my camera. Most folks are intimidated by a big SLR, and are not used to a viewfinder (they're used to looking at the back of their phone). In the past I'd set everything up, pre-set the focus point to some easy-to-notice location in the scene such as my eye, then tell them to place the little red square on my eye and press the button. Results have been very mixed, with most photos completely out of focus.

This time I had the bright idea to put my camera in live-view mode (a mode that I personally don't care for... I can't see the screen that close without my glasses) and focus in face-recognition mode. Then all they have to do is point and press, and hopefully it works out. It seems to have in the photo above.

To say that lunch was filling would be quit the understatement, so it was with some dread that we realized we'd still not had the doughnuts.

At least in my case, hot coffee does wonders to settle a full tummy...

Always the Gracious Host -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
Always the Gracious Host
Homemade Doughnuts -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Homemade Doughnuts

The doughnuts were slightly sweet, but not overly so, so Americans used to really sweet stuff would likely want to have these with honey, powered sugar, or perhaps marmalade. Personally, I liked them just as they were.

Warm Doughnuts, Warm Conversation -- Takashima, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 60mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
Warm Doughnuts, Warm Conversation

All in all it was a wonderful experience, just as all those I've had the pleasure to enjoy with Tour du Lac Biwa. On this photo-taking visit there was no one to translate (which is fine, since I can speak Japanese well enough), but on the full tour, English-speaking staff is there to explain and translate. Highly recommended.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

“Mixing with Digital Technology ”

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took several seconds to get that. But then it was all the more snort-worthy when realization hit.

— comment by Marcina on April 17th, 2015 at 11:51am JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve had some of that “plum wine” although it wasn’t called that. The recipe was with dried plums and Armagnac and stood for about three months. It was served with a plum in the glass as that is where most of the alcohol was. Rather delicious. Your experience seems to be quite the opposite.

I’ve had many that are exquisite, but this one was just too strong for my liking, probably due to the shochu base. —Jeffrey

— comment by Daniel Cutter on April 17th, 2015 at 6:12pm JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Enjoyed seeing your food photography, particularly the cooking scenes. Nice results for images made at ISO 6400.

— comment by Tom in SF on April 17th, 2015 at 11:34pm JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Very nice post Jeffrey, I enjoyed it very much. BTW, very proper etiquette, yours 🙂

— comment by Michael C in San Jose on April 27th, 2015 at 3:30am JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Visiting your site from Switzerland, which I came across via the DCR link to your elevation article. your tours and lunch looked super. I’m thinking about a trip to Japan and would be keen to do something like this. As well as cycling I’m also interested in skiing. Any tips on powder?
I don’t have any skiing experience in Japan. The one time I went skiing, it turns out that even if I’d sliced off my toes I still couldn’t fit into the largest boot they had available, so I spent the day in the lodge. —Jeffrey

— comment by Andrew on May 18th, 2015 at 6:58am JST (2 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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