Reflections in Canola

When I first found out I was placed in Takikawa on the JET Program, I researched the city online. A Google Images search showed me only Google Maps screenshots and eventually some yellow fields with barns in the background. When I arrived almost a year ago, I learned about the city’s gliders, its famous jingisukan, and its canola festival.

The year started to pass. I made trips around Hokkaido, explored Takikawa and its other festivals, and soon it became May. Talk of the annual canola festival began. Every year, the canola fields change their location because canola leeches nutrients from the soil and isn’t sustainable if it’s grown in the same place every year. This year, the fields were near the city’s roadside station. One day after work, some of us drove out to see them.

We got there a little before sunset. It was a clear day and there weren’t many visitors because it was a weekday, so we had the fields mostly to ourselves. The further out we looked, the yellower the fields became. In the distance we saw the mountains that surround the Sorachi area, and soon the sun began to set behind them.

On the weekend, there was a more formal canola festival. Tourists came from around Hokkaido, Japan, and even China and Thailand to see the flowers. Vendors at the fields sold different local products and canola flavored snacks. At the Maruka Highlands, there was a jingisukan festival where we ate jingisukan rice bowls and sat on plastic chairs wet from rain while a band played music.

This year, at the canola fields, I knew who would be coming to take my place once I return to the US, and I remembered my searching about Takikawa. I’d first learned about Takikawa last May. I was nervous about moving to Hokkaido where I’d be cut off from most of Japan and life is much more defined by its rural and isolated landscape. In the canola fields, it was hard to imagine having lived anywhere else in Japan.

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