Life on a Secret Japanese Art Farm

Four things you can find in the country home of a Japanese eccentric and cultural luminary: 

A vintage calligraphy station

The dreaded mukade, centipede from hell

A very loud stereo

A kitchen table that can seat 20

Both times we met Teruo Kurosaki he was wearing sunglasses, indoors and at night, and surrounded by an entourage of beautiful and androgynous people. Like a Japanese Karl Lagerfeld. We were in Tokyo hunting for gems to share on our Family Gatherings, and ended up at a dinner hosted by Kurosaki, held in the middle of  the Tokyo farmer’s market he produces, drinking the coffee from his coffee company. We were probably sitting on chairs from his furniture brand, but I didn’t check. 

And shortly afterwards we went to check out his farm. We stayed for three weeks. 

Kurosaki found and bought Takigahara Farm in 2015 while he was in Ishikawa researching moss (as one does). From the 150 year old machiya farmhouse he and his tiny team of youthful peacenik farmers have grown a cafe, a hostel (yeah… but a Japanese one) and a rental house. We arrived in 2019 as guests to this tiny village and simply fell in love. 

Staying in the old farmhouse with our family of five was a crash course in Japanese culture. Japan shows you two hands; one carries an unrivaled reverence for history and tradition. The other holds the future, already arrived, flashing in red neon. Takigahara showed us both. A revolving cast of fascinating people were constantly arriving, staying, leaving. Artists or filmmakers with bizarre, seemingly unfundable projects, musicians,  the heir to a sake empire, a drunk neighbour, a hipster farmer with three live chickens under his arm… we butchered the chickens together on the back porch of the farmhouse. One of them had five eggs inside of her, each a different colour. We cooked the eggs, and then the chickens, and came no closer to answering the age-old question of which came first.

At night after we’d returned from washing ourselves at the onsen, the local hot spring, we (kids and all) would pull a soft futon mattress from where they were carefully stacked, place it on the tatami a cordial distance from any neighbour and fall quickly to sleep. No one thought twice about sleeping in a room of people who had been perfect strangers just hours before. Some of us would stay up nursing whisky and chatting in the kitchen, a paper wall away from the sleepers. Nobody was ever bothered by it. It was like they were drawing soundproof curtains around themselves, protecting their privacy, respecting the privacy of everyone else.

The only creature who respected no-one was the mukade, a 10 inch long centipede, glossy black with red legs and horns he stole from the devil. They say the bite won’t send you to the hospital, but just looking at it slithering across the kitchen floor nearly sent me to hell. 

The farm is still run by Ryo and Chocora, two beautiful young Japanese hippies. Their baby girl Ofri is a toddler now. Chocora helped Matilda dye her hair pink, and Ryo cried when we left. And of course that made us cry too. We’ve stayed in touch since, waiting to return, planning a Gathering and then getting kneecapped by the pandemic. But this April we will be back with a crew of curious families who have no idea how lucky they are!