Sunday, 31 January 2016

Life WWOOFing @ Heart n' Tree, Tsurui-mura, Hokkaido

I WWOOFed at Heart n' Tree, a quaint farm cafe/guest house/cheese factory located on the top of a hill, overlooking the beautiful village of Tsurui. Here's a glimpse of my WWOOFing life there.

I stayed with the Hattoris, which consists of Otousan (Dad), Okaasan (Mum), Obaachan (Grandmother), Momo-chan (Daughter of the family) , Cuppi (their little toy-poodle), and mini-pig-chan and two meh meh-san (goat. I'm sorry but I can't remember their names) . 

From left: Okaasan (Mum), yours truly, Sara-chan (Part timer at Heart n' Tree), Momo-chan, Hsiao-kun (WWOOFer from Taiwan)
And everyone's favourite Otousan (Dad)! 

I was treated as if I was a part of their family, from Day 1 till my very last day at Heart n' Tree. Okaasan would ask me to rest whenever I'm feeling tired, especially on those day where we had to work from morning to night because we had some special function. 
 The family's house
Cheese factory.

The guest house, family house, cheese factory and cafe are all located about 10m apart from each other. 


I stayed in Heart n' Tree guestroom, which is located in another building separated from the family's house. I had the whole room to myself, which came with two beds, a coffee table, a sofa and a clothes rack, placed right next to a nice warm heater!
My cozy room! We are free to use the washing machine provided too!

The rate for a normal paying guest for a night stay (inclusive of two meals) at Heart n' Tree guesthouse is ¥8,800.

As there is no bathroom attached at the guest house building, we had to use the bathroom at the main house which was a pain to walk back to my room on those late, cold and windy night.

Daily routine

I wake up at about 6/7ish every day and have a simple breakfast at my host's house which typically consisted of rice and konbu (seasoned seaweed) or leftover soup from last night or bread from the cafe. My official work time starts from 9am, where the first duty of the day is to feed the pig and goats.
Then off I go to the cafe. First duty at the cafe would be a really simple toilet cleaning (but to be honest the Japanese really know how to keep their toilet clean so there isn't much work here), wash the dishes if there's any, bake their daily bread, chop/dice some vegetables, fold the oshibori (cold wet towel served to customers when they are sited), brew coffee, wipe the tables and so on.
Heart n' Tree Heart-shaped Cinnamon bread & custard bread with various toppings!
After we are done with the preparation we would have a cup of coffee together...until the first customer set foot into the cafe! Okaasan or Momoko-chan would delegate the jobs fairly among us WWOOFer and Sara-chan every day so we get to experience different job scope at Heart n' Tree, be it making pasta from scratch, making cheesecake, serving customer, preparing the pizza/salad, making Chai Tea, clearing tables and so on!
The interior of Heart n' Tree cafe.
Veggie pasta made from scratch!

Heart n' Tree makes every thing from scratch - their bread, cheese, pasta, curry and so on. They even smoke their own bacon & get their milk from a family friends' farm!

Here's the link to Heart n' Tree menu in case you're curious :)
Lunch was usually simple as it always gets busy during lunch time in the cafe. like bread from the cafe accompanied with a side of stir-fried vegetables. There are days where we could only have lunch at 3pm!
And occasionally, we get to eat Heart n' Tree's signature pizza for lunch!!
On a not-so-busy day, we would unleash our creativity, and doodle paper bags together!

I usually end my work day around 4ish-pm, just in time to watch the beautiful sun set over the horizon, painting the sky with a beautiful purplish-yellow hue.

Life after work vary from day to day. On a busy day after work, I would just laze around in the Hattori's living area, using my laptop, or just chatting with Otousan, alongside with a nice cold bottle of beer.

As it gets really cold during winter at Tsurui village, we rarely head out any where at night. I did try jogging on a warmer evening (around -7°C ) in which I regretted so badly when I was heading back as I forgotten that Heart n' Tree is located on top of a hill (so the run BACK was really tiring) & the land was engulfed in darkness (no street lamps gulp).
A large flock of cranes at Tsurui-mura, spotted when we are on the way to Kushiro from Tsurui!
On not-so-tiring days, we would either:

-go grocery shopping at the nearest town, Kushiro

-just spend the night chatting at the dining table, exchanging stories about Taiwanese, Malaysians & Japanese culture.

-watch a movie together.

-go to the Onsen together.

-or do nothing at all.

Life is really simple and chill at Heart n' Tree :) Even the wildlife animals there are pretty chill. Sometimes we get to see wild deer , fox & cranes loitering around the village!


Oh my favourite topic to cover.
Otou-san cooking Teriyaki Chicken!
My meals at Heart n' Tree mainly consisted of home-cooked & store-bought Japanese food and home-cooked Western food. 
My first dinner at Heart n' Tree on Christmas night!

Nabe Udon & Karage (Fried Chicken)

Yakisoba (Fried Japanese buckwheat noodle) with a twist....we added lots and lots of cheese into it
My happy meal
Sashimi platter for new year eve,
Sashimi, Croquette & potato salad!
Sukiyaki! We would crack a raw egg into a bowl, and dip the meat inside the raw egg!!
Jingisukan (ジンギスカン, "Genghis Khan"), Japanese BBQ mutton
Seafood Aglio Olio & Pizza for my last dinner at Heart n' Tree!

The best pork dish I've ever tried in my life, cooked by the youngest son of the Hattoris, Daichi-kun, who works in a high-class Italian restaurant in Tokyo.

The Hattoris couple really love their beer so I get to sample all sort of beer from Hokkaido throughout my stay there.

Day Offs 

On my very first day off I followed Okaasan to Kushiro as she had work. I toured around the city alone
Nusamai Bridge
View from Kushiro Art Gallery Observatory tower on the 10th floor
MOO Kushiro
Went to the Art Museum and met three kind Japanese there who treated me to lunch at the restaurant on the 9th floor of the Art Museum, overlooking the beautiful port city of Kushiro.

Day Off 2

It was on the 3rd of January 2016 and we were burned out from all the New Year parties/sleeping beyond 1am/cleaning up so I stayed home and do nothing at all.

Day Off 3

It was supposed to be a normal working day but I ended only working two hours cause we went on a spontaneous trip to Teshigaka!
 Lunch at Teshigaka Ramen
 A trip to the Onsen is not complete without Onsen Tamago (Onsen Hard-Boiled Egg)

Went to an Onsen and ended our day with visiting Otou-san's friend who stays in a house made out of straw.

Day Off 4

It was the restaurant's rest day as well so all of us went to Kushiro for Ramen

Celebration/ Special Occasions

I celebrated Christmas & New Years Day with my host. On Christmas day (which was also my first day at Heart n' Tree) we had a sumptuous sushi dinner accompanied with beer. And on New Year Eve,
Photo Credit: Otousan 
The Hattori's son came back from Tokyo and we had guests from Taiwan!

 Visited a shrine & jinja !

Read about my experience HERE.

Osechi-ryori! A special bento consumed only on new year that took us more than 3 days to prepare!! 

 Behind the scene photo for the preparation of Osechi-Ryori!
1st January Dinner + Mochi Party 
Mochi pounding! Not the most glamorous photo but it was real fun!! 
Just a random day where Sara-chan & I wore a kimono for dinner!
 Visiting a family friend's straw house.

It was a fun & eye-opening experience WWOOFing at Heart n' Tree. I've learnt a lot and garnered new friendship or family-ship at Heart n' Tree. There was ups and downs but the overall experience was irreplaceable. Would definitely recommend WWOOFing in Heart n' Tree!

"Life is an adventure. Life is beautiful." -Otousan, Masato Hattori.
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