A day of mixed blessings on the farm. Rupert shot incredible footage – some of which involved re-staging angles and frames that had been captured in the harvesting season of late summer last year, some of which involved new scenes of farm life and of airport activity. With the audio work things went less well. The parabolic mic, which I’d previously relied upon to draw in close to acoustic events, has seemingly given up the ghost. No amount of tinkering with cables, connectors or recorder settings produced the slightest whisper of a signal. Resorting to other microphones at my disposal, the struggle was then to find ways around the strong winds that were whipping through the farm, tearing at the poly-tunnels, bending the trees and ruffling the bamboo, sending the crows left and right and buffeting the microphones however snugly blanketed they were in the fluffy wind-shields. I felt like a fisherman who had seen the neighbouring boat’s haul bulging with a shining, writhing catch only to raise her own net for find a few limp sprat and some sodden telephone directories.
The wind was also sending up clouds of fine dust from the fields. The soil here seems so fertile, a dark chocolate when wet and a milky coffee as it dries out. That fertility is expressed in the organic crops that push their way through the earth. The rotovator was at work today drilling rows in which to plant onions – negi – seeded from last year’s reserves and started in a lower field nearer the farm buildings. With smooth, spare movements, Shimamura-san took armfuls of these from the yellow plastic vegetable boxes and laid them on the diagonal banks of the newly dug furrow, burying them with deft movements of his gloved hands and tabi-clad feet. It remains hard to believe that this area was once forested by tall trees and shrub. Harder still to imagine that the forest’s transformation was effected in the chaos of the immediate post-war years and was often wrought – as we gather was the case for Shimarua-san’s father – in the evenings after work on another’s farm was finished. That the soil’s fertility depends, at least in part, on nutrients derived from the weathering of ash thrown out by past eruptions from Fuji-san – the symmetrically coned and snow-topped volcano that is an enduring symbol for Japan – only deposits another layer of complexity onto an already abundant site.