We had our first Chiba Prefecture Tour last Saturday and the first itinerary was a workshop for Mi. The first time I saw this tool was when I watched Ayase Haruka’s Hotaru no Hikari, I guess.
This is a traditional tool used by farmers in Japan and is considered one of Japan’s important cultural assets/property. In other words, production of this tool is decreasing, and since makers are mostly of the old age group, the government is making efforts not to lose one of their country’s treasures. The guide told us that even the younger generations do not know what this tool is, and what it is used for.
I think this tool serves the same function of that of the Filipino “bilao” given that both are large woven tray-like tools, and mostly used for removing rice chaff and winnowing rice. However, the big difference lies in the materials used. The traditional mi’s are made of woven fuji, a wisteria native to Japan.
It is really heartwarming to see these farmers make so much effort in preserving something that is a big part of their culture – something that if was not existent, will not be able to feed the locals.
Though the mi’s do not sell well nowadays, these seniors still continue to make them. It takes about two hours to make one mi, if done nonstop. So, usually, it takes half a day to complete one. A maker typically completes two mi’s a day.
As this is a workshop, some visitors come and observe the production of the mi’s. One could experience making their own mi with the guide of the experts in the local.
They also have this area where they conduct this Rice Relay Game where visitors can participate and use the mi’s. But instead of using real rice in the game, bean bags are provided.
I think the only problem foreign tourists will encounter here is the language barrier – yes, the guide speaks only in Nihongo, and the flyers are written in Nihongo. Nevertheless, you would be able to see and feel the authenticity of the mi, and that about accounts for the fun and knowledge you will get when you visit here. All the locals are also very hospitable and very cheerful.
The workshop is located at Sousa City, of, of course, Chiba Prefecture.
And all you have to do is take the JR Train until Youkai City Ichiba Station. From there, ride the bus going to Narita Station, and alight at Kizumi bus stop.
More from their website: http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~puusan/fuji.html