Benji and I are about to jump on a plane to Japan. This time it is not just a holiday. We have an idea.
A new project… But firstly I want to tell you about life here in Kingscliff. It has been a year since we moved into our little house by the beach.
The kids have settled into their new school and are loving it. They are going to a Steiner school in Mullumbimby called Shearwater. It is a wonderful school and perfectly suited to our family. Eden is in Year 12, Kobi is now in Year 10, and Maya in Year 9. They are busy with friends, playing music, playing tennis, swimming, learning to drive, going to music festivals, and hanging out with family.
Ben is still doing projects in Victoria and New South Wales and has also started doing little bits of work up this way again. Fortunately he doesn’t need to travel too often and now when he does go back to Melbourne he gets to visit old friends and eat a delicious meal at one our old favourite places. He swims at the beach at least twice a day, regularly goes to the gym, surfs with me occasionally, and generally just loves exploring the little beach towns and hinterland of Northern New South Wales.
I moved here knowing I would need to find something for myself. The farm had given me so many extraordinary projects. I knew I needed to find something here. My first priority was the children. Ensuring they were settled and happy. Once they had settled, then it was my turn. I stalled for a while. Quite a while. Finding that ‘something’ was a little harder than I had anticipated. To be honest I felt completely lost and deeply lonely. I started looking for a small parcel of land, then thought perhaps moving closer to the kids school to an old house that I could renovate and turn into something special, might be an option, then I decided to start a Urban Farming project. The ideas were all motivated by my love to grow and the possibility to recreate or restore a space into something special. During my search for land I contacted a local farmer to ask if I could lease some land from them. The owner, Michele, responded by saying that they were unable to offer me a parcel of land but would I consider coming to work on her farm, Farm & Co. I started working there about a year ago, couple of days a week. I work in their market gardens, feed the animals and serve in their farm stall. It is the most beautiful environment surrounded by people who are passionate about growing food and connecting with the land. I also have leased a couple of people’s yards in and around town to grow my own vegetables and vegetables for the families that own the yards. I had thought about taking numerous yards and spaces and possibly selling to the local community but at this stage I am very happy with the two gardens as I am still discovering what it means to garden in the sub-tropics. In between my shifts up at Farm & Co and helping Benji with his business, I take weekly surf lessons, Japanese lessons and pottery classes. All of which I love.
So after a pretty uncertain year, where I was feeling a bit lost, I have finally realised that this little beach town has given me the opportunity to spend lots of quality time with my family, an opportunity to grow food but not needing my own land or farm to do so, and the opportunity to learn new things that I may not have had the chance to do if we hadn’t moved here. And when it comes to my wish to restore and recreate……well, that is why we are flying to Japan.
A few months ago, Benji saw a post on social media about “Abandoned Houses” in Japan. We wanted to learn more. We started reading about Japan’s declining population and that a large portion of young families are moving away from the small towns and villages and prefer to live in the major cities and in new homes.
Here is one of the articles we read:
This is obviously having a massive impact on the smaller towns and villages throughout Japan. It is estimated that there are around 9 million abandoned homes throughout Japan - that are just sitting there. Abandoned. 9 million. The Japanese word for an abandoned home is Akiya.
The Japanese government are using a “Free House” scheme to try and encourage young families to move back out to the towns and villages by offering minimal rent over a long period of time and eventually the family owning the home out right. We wondered if there was a possibility of buying one… An Australian can buy a house in Japan… We are able to visit without a visa for up to 90 days, twice a year….We found websites called Akiya Banks that listed thousands of Akiyas for sale. There are some beautiful old Japanese homes in rural Japan. Some of these home are over 100 years old. Some have been sitting empty for decades.
We would like to buy a little home and bring it back to life. Hopefully helping the local community in some way and sharing this space in Japan in some form..
We have lots of ideas.
Tomorrow we fly to Japan in search of that little Akiya.
Wish us luck!