Xue Feng, a 26-year-old freelance graphic designer originally from Harbin, China; currently based in Toronto, Canada. Working via laptop as she travels around East Asia.
Xue-San, you’ve been in Japan a few times. Where else have you travelled so far?
“I went to to Tokyo, Nara, and Nagoya, and a smaller place called Kariya three or four years ago. This is my third time to Japan, exploring the southern part of the country. This time, I went to Osaka, Hiroshima City, Onomichi, Fukuoka, and Nara.
The place I’ve stayed longest is Daisen-cho, roughly three weeks. I stayed two weeks in Onomichi and Naha. I don’t have a tight schedule for travel. If I like a place, I stay. If not, I move on.”
So it seems you like the Daisen area then?
“Very suitable for living. More nature for me equals more happiness. In my case, as a designer, the old saying that “nature is the source of inspiration” really works well. It’s a good flow of energy here. And I think in Japanese folklore, there are tons of kami–gods in the mountains. Here I’m surrounded by the mountains and the ocean. Everywhere you see is green. You see nature, you hear nature.
I really enjoy working in Nomadoma’s office. Every time I look out the window, it’s rice fields and endless green. I picked up drawing again, I just have the urge to draw stuff. The sound of wind, mushi, frogs, birds… All nice. For sure I can concentrate on my work. I’m more focused.”
Are you working during your stay at Nomadoma?
“Yes, I do work and experiment with other stuff here. I just had a handmade tofu-making session with the locals yesterday. There are so many activities going on, and locals are very easy to make friends with. Neighbors sometimes come here to say hi, or bring some local-grown veggies for us. I like this kind of feeling–a small community where everyone knows each other. Here it’s a strong bond.”
Natural interaction with residents as a visitor?
“There is no clear division between visitor and resident, I feel. Nothing staged for tourists, not the planned “tourist” activities. Very casual, natural.”
So you got a look at traditional heartland culture first-hand? Not something most foreign visitors get to experience, I think.
“Not at all. I think most of them haven’t heard of Tottori-ken before.”
Sort of an untraveled path. Is that appealing to travelers?
“For sure, this part of Japan is not written about in travel guides. I think for travelers, it’s an unknown place for them to explore. I think it depends on what they’re looking for. If they want to see the side of Japan with giant electronic stores, endless gift shops, and large amounts of heavily-decorated “kawaii”-style girls, maybe Tokyo is the place to go. If they want to experience the real, down-to-earth Japanese way of country life, then Daisen-cho is the place.”
How about food?
“Seems like everyone is good at cooking. I sometimes got invited to parties, like a few days ago when I went to the village leader’s BBQ party. I love the neighbors’ BBQ. Food… shiitake is good. And handmade konnyaku. So much better than the supermarket ones. Daisen milk… 21st-century pears… giant green onions… the list goes on and on.
There’s also a fish market at the port, easy access. I hated fish before, but after I tried the really fresh ones there, it totally changed my perception. Now I started eating fish and trying a lot of kinds. It’s a really big change for me!”
You got to the fish market… without a car or train?
“Oh, yes. Mountains and ocean are close to each other. Nomadoma is in a good location in-between. It’s very easy to get around by bicycle. Very nice view, and it took less than six minutes to reach the port.”
What do you like about living at Nomadoma?
“Most guest houses I’ve stayed in seem mainly interested in money. But Nomadoma is a place for people to interact, to learn and share. It has a huge living room and kitchen for everyone. The structure is a beautiful space to hang out in.
Also, the staff here are amazing. Very yasashii. For example, they know I love tofu… so Yabu-chan, the manager, asked the locals to show me how to make it. I’ll climb Mt. Daisen soon with other Nomadoma staff, too. They are friends to me now, not job titles.”
One question of great personal interest–how did you like Daisen-G Gambarius?
“I went to Daisen-G Beer for sure! I’m really surprised it’s only ten bucks for all-you-can-drink, especially considering the beer was voted World’s Best! The food was super good too.”
Sounds like you hold Daisen and Nomadoma in high esteem. Will you visit here again? And where will you stay?
“For sure! I want to live here! Nomadoma is my second home!”