Encyclopedia of niime

Maku Team discusses their Vision: The cycles of Farming Life. <part 1>

2022 . 10 . 09

Besides working on making things, ‘tamaki niime’ works for more details to fundamentally change clothing, food and housing while thinking about a globally friendly environment. In this situation, the role of the ‘Maku Team’ (farming team) is to grow cotton, the original material of niime products, and make vegetables and rice for the staff’s meals, providing them with a vital resource. Therefore, their works are the core power of their creation.

I interviewed three team members, Ryosuke Yanagi, Shoko Fukumori and Ryo Kobata, who are seeking their own farming. I asked them to talk about their big visions and desires for the future.

— I was requested to have an interview because you have a big announcement from the Maku Team.

Yanagi: Well, I cannot say it’s a big announcement. Do I have to make it a big deal?!

Fukumori: (laugh)

— I am so excited to interview you. I expect to hear about your big visions for the future of the Maku Team.

Yanagi: I see…I announced it at a general meeting last week.

— Well, just a minute, should we talk about it later for fun? But first, shall I ask you what you are doing now?

Yanagi: Oh, that’s all right. I see. (laugh)

— Well, starting again, what type of farming work are the Maku Team doing at this time of the season?

Yanagi: At this time of the season…

Fukumori: The cotton buds are blooming.

— I see.

Fukumori: It’s about harvest time.

Yanagi: The cotton buds bloom gradually from fall to winter. So we could harvest them at the end of November until first frost. Right now, while harvesting, we are working on making soil this year called *’Kinchan’s (fungus) soil making’.

— Is that the one made by Mr Kinchan?

Yanagi: That’s right! Mr Kinchan! It’s Mr Toshimichi Yoshida’s. He came to tamaki niime’s story telling.

*There is a farm called ‘Kinchan Farm’ in the countryside of Sasebo City in Nagasaki, run by Mr Toshimichi Yoshida. They use a physiologically active substance (Kinchan power) to make microorganisms in the soil and grow vegetables full of vitality. That whole process makes the earth full of fermentation bacteria.

Yanagi: One of the characteristics of making such soil is that the hilling width is wide, about 140 cm. That is almost twice as big as the regular size. Therefore, we are challenged to grow cotton and food products simultaneously in one of the hills.

— Wowww…

Yanagi: Mainly, we are growing different plants together. We first tried to grow summer vegetables, and now we are trying for fall and winter vegetables. Besides planting cotton, we planted seeds for leafy green vegetables such as Choy-Sum, Bok-Choy, or Chives simultaneously.

— You planted cotton in 140 cm width hills…how many rows did you grow in each hilling?

Yanagi: Two rows.

— How much space do you put between each plant?

Yanagi: 50 cm, and we plant vegetable seeds between them.

Fukumori: We plant them horizontally.

Yanagi: And we will harvest rice soon. It’s in October.

— On the 6th of June, you recruited people to plant rice, and the other staff joined them. And everyone planted by hand.

Yanagi: That was the event called “Here is niime village! (Rice planting version)”, which was planned by the Maku Team. As the second and third events, we plan to ask customers to harvest rice and cotton as a fun experience this fall.

— I see.

Yanagi: We want to harvest by hand with our customers and staff.

— That’s wonderful …

Fukumori: Until last year, we used a combine-harvester mainly and partially cut by hand and with hand push machines and dried them in the Sun. But this year, we want to do it with hands and manual binders like the old ways.

— How much area do you have?

Fukumori: We have almost 107.000 square feet this year.

— Wow!

Fukumori: Since we know a farm house that used to hang rice plants to dry in the Sun using special hangers called Hasagake a long time ago, we are collecting wood to make them.

— It sounds like too much work to cut rice plants in such a big field’s worth without a combine- harvester.

Yanagi: We are scheduled to do it in 2 days this time. — You want to finish cutting them all in just 2 days, right?

Yanagi: Yes.

— That’s incredible …you will dry them manually, too. I have no doubts that the rice you are making would be so tasty.

Fukumori: We have incredible scenery, too. Cutting and drying can be beautiful pictures.

— You ask the Toru Team to shoot such scenery.

Yanagi: Many general farmers nowadays wouldn’t understand why we use manual methods.

— What we are doing is going back in time.

Yanagi: Yeah, just going backwards.

— Yes. Yanagi: Conversely, we may allow people to see the parts of people’s connections hiding under efficiency.

— Yeah, yeah. Yanagi: Is this way of agriculture what ‘tamaki niime’ can offer, which is the original way of agriculture? It is not farming for industry, but a power of work for living created by people. It can connect with various people. We want to weigh that concept in: Here is niime village.

In the countryside of North Harima in the 1960s, in my childhood, such farm scenery still existed. Families and relatives all helped to work together to plant rice plants and chatted, having tea and lunch while sitting at the ridge footpath between the rice fields. You have a great feeling here as you walk on the rice fields with bare feet, watching tadpoles swimming between planted rice plants, time flowing slowly, smelling ridge grasses, and feeling comfortable in the sunshine. People have had such experiences when growing rice plants in the event: Here is niime village.

Yanagi: I don’t mean to deny the development of farming, but I want to say it’s good to have such agriculture. We are not farming for business but doing it to emphasize self-sufficiency. I don’t mean this is our company’s suggestion towards society, but it’s fun to have such farming.

— It can be an alternative to the ways of farming.

Yanagi: The skill development of agriculture machines is fantastic. I am not against it at all. It’s so much fun and feels great to do with everyone.

— I also remember when my family and relatives planted rice plants in my childhood. I remember the feeling when I ate rice balls together with my parents when they took a break to have tea. Children were playing at the ridges of the footpaths.

Fukumori: Our staff’s children are just like that.

Yanagi: I love such scenery.

Fukumori: They only meet each other when planting, but they become terrific friends. They have so much fun.

—It makes a real difference. I think children feel something different to play in such surroundings.

Yanagi & Fukumori: Yeah.

— By the way, are three of you, including Mr Kobata working for the same job without dividing roles in the present task?

Yanagi: Yes, we are assigned to work on the same task. — How about you, Mr Kobata? You joined this team in February. Have you worked on the farm before?

Kobata: No, not at all. I have never done that. — You were dragged into this?

Kobata: Before coming here, I talked with Yanagi about working on the farm, but we were working different jobs. I worked in Hokkaido as a short-term seasonal worker or helped to work while farmers were busy, but I was asked to work here at a suitable time. — I see.

Kobata: At that time, I was trying to understand why an apparel company needed me to work on the farm.

Fukumori: (laugh)

— I don’t blame you.

Kobata: After coming here, I found out they keep goats. Recently I got my hunting license.

Fukumori: Yeah, you got it!

— Mr Kobata, are you going to hunt?

Fukumori: The boss got it, too. The person who decided to hunt got her license with us.

— I see.

Fukumori: All members of the Maku Team have it.

Kobata: They are doing things over my imagination. I have never done farming, just graduated with an economics degree. Before working here, I was looking for work a little, thinking of having a normal lifestyle, so I have never imagined myself having such a life every day.

Yanagi: You are so lucky. (a big laugh)

Fukumori: (laugh)

Kobata: It’s exciting…

— It’s pretty different from general ideas or has reverse ways.

Yanagi: Thank you for coming here.

Kobata: Not at all. My pleasure. From early on in this business, tamaki niime showed directionality beyond the framework of fashion brands. Including an approach to farming or many other things that look like having no connections, are connected tightly in the centre of their brand visions of ‘the creation of niime village’.

Yanagi: Hunting is…hard, but we are thinking of receiving ‘lives’ at the same time and have made a ‘hunting club’ with 11 members.

— A hunting club!

Yanagi: We got the hunting license test results the other day. Everyone passed for the trap hunting.

Fukumori: How many people passed the gun test?

Yanagi: For gun hunting, half of the people have passed.

— Do they have different tests for the trap and the gun hunting?

Yanagi: Yes, they do. A testing day is the same, but each test is done separately.

— Recently, there have been many female hunters.

Yanagi: There were many young women at the test.

— Women are more interested in ‘receiving animal’s lives’.

Yanagi: They may also be interested in environmental problems.

Fukumori: I think so.

Around the mountains of Taka-cho, North Harima and Nishiwaki City, where ‘tamaki niime’ is based, there have been damages caused by deer and wild boar destroying crops on the farms. Taking measures to solve the problem, they set up fences on the boundary between the mountains and villages to try to terminate vermin by hunting.

  Fukumori: After catching them, we would be so sad if they were treated like industrial waste. If we could appreciate their lives instead, it would be suitable for animals.

— …I think so, too. Then you can be the ‘Maku (planting) Karu (hunting) team’ even though you are called the Maku team.

Yanagi: What are we? What team are we?

Fukumori: I don’t know. (laugh)

During the interview in the back yard, two friendly goats come in, eating grass. The white one is Arachan, and the black one is Maachan. Their godmother is Ms Tamaki.

Fukumori: They are adorable. We take a bunch of pictures and videos. — Yeah, they are. Don’t you take them to the fields?

Yanagi: They also go to work!

Fukumori: They sometimes do. They eat weeds.

— And they also poop to give fertilizer.

Yanagi: That’s right. That’s right.

— It is nice that they are helpful to eat weeds…well, you feel comfortable talking now, would you tell us this ‘big announcement’?

Yanagi: The big announcement…how would I start? It’s connected to the one I have been telling you about. My motivation to get into this company is the movie: Big Little Farm.

— You had a movie presentation of that movie in the backyard.

Yanagi: The movie gave me the motivation to get into this company. It broke my prejudice or my fixed idea of farming. In a way, it was a shocking movie.

— Wow.

Yanagi: Before being hired at ‘tamaki niime’, I sent the DVD that I was impressed with because they asked me to send my resume with my portfolio, but I didn’t know what the portfolio was. (laugh) After I started working, I knew people working with apparel companies would send their collections of work. So since I didn’t know what to send for my portfolio, I came up with the idea to send the movie to break my prejudice against farming.

— Did they recruit people who want to work in farming? Again, it’s an excellent way to appeal yourself to get a job. For example, sending a picture of vegetables you grow.

Yanagi: Since I didn’t practice any actual farming yet, I thought it would be difficult to do such things… So I just tried to go for it! (to Fukumori), did you watch it with the boss?

Fukumori: Yeah. I watched it.

Yanagi: Yeah, with that movie he sent, the boss understood what Yanagi wanted to do and hired him; that was a year and a half ago. At first…

— What kind of movie is the Big Little Farm? Can you give me a rough idea? Why were you so impressed?

Yanagi: Hmm…what impressed me was that humanity fits neatly into the ordinary cycle of life. A cycle has been produced because we exist.

— I see.

Yanagi: In my own image, I thought it would go wrong if humans intervened in the natural cycle. Because we intervene in the cycle of the earth environment, and even if we farm naturally, it is still the destruction of nature. But when I watched that movie, I knew that humans could coexist with nature.

— I see.

Yanagi: I thought it was awesome. The living scenery itself is just beautiful.

— Wow!

Yanagi: The subtitle of Big Little Farm says ‘the way of your ideal lifestyle’. Thinking back now, the way I want to have in my life is I live in the natural environment receiving its blessings and giving back to nature; that’s how I wish to live in the beautiful cycle.

— I see.

Yanagi: I am getting to understand that, and thinking how I am practising in ‘tamaki niime’. That connects to my future vision of the ‘Maku team’.

— You just had the first step, and you will have the next stage from now, right?

Yanagi: When I started working, I couldn’t do anything because I had no experience in farming. First, while studying, I had the chance to go to many places and learn many things. The company has been planting many seeds for me.

— I see. Even though you belong to the Maku Team, you feel they plant for you.

Yanagi: That’s right. (laugh)They planted for me. We got help with the kitchen’s soil-making, too. We could have done better in growing cotton. We have been spending time without good results of making good soil, and the cotton harvest decreased, so the plants produced were less than waist height.

— Was there any chain failure?

Fukumori: Maybe. Because we used the same area.

Yanagi: It must have, but also the soil of the roots had…

— The soils became bad…

Yanagi: Yes, having the soil without chemical fertilizer, we must constantly make soil to keep good soil.

— You really realized.

Yanagi: So we tried with ‘Kinchan’s soil making’ this year, but we are still determining how we will do it next year. Anyway, we got away this year.

Fukumori: It’s totally different from the last year’s.

Yanagi: It looks absolutely different.

Fukumori: The cotton plants without pinching grows twice as tall as last year’s.

— You can tell the differences in their growth, well, because you have been watching them.

Yanagi: We finally could get good results. The original powers of the cycle of Big Little Farm are plants, bugs, fruits, and soil bacteria, but the animals have a critical influence on it.

< continued >

The discussion of the three people kept going, centring on visions of farming and Yanagi’s passion. Please look forward to the next one!

What are the contents of the Big Announcement that will finally be revealed? What is the life cycle in which nature and people live harmoniously along with the global environment? Please look forward to hearing about the ideas of ‘the ideal farm life’, which is connected to the ‘correction of the distortion of the earth’ stated in the ‘tamaki niime’ brand mission slogan.

The events of October, the second and third versions of ‘Here’s niime village’, want people to participate in harvesting rice and cotton festivals!!

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa.
English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa.
English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.