CONNECT COMMUNITY All photos belong to Mari Kurata and Sierra Nelson-Liner.
I knew I was home away from home when I arrived in the town of Hakusan. Maple leaves were changing their colors, children were laughing and sliding down the grassy hill, smoky aromas from festival stalls reached my nose—their flavors carried along the crisp autumn wind. My arrival was welcomed by warm hugs from Mari-san’s two children. The stalls were getting set up for food and handmade crafts. Live music began to play and Mari-san grabbed my hand. We ran up to the front of the audience and began to dance to “Chiisana Koi no Uta,” originally by Mongol800. The dancing carried into the evening as the coal fire cooking the wild boar kept us warm. It was a unique experience where I knew I was physically in Japan, but felt like I had just left the country. I am looking forward to attending the festival again this year. I started volunteering at Harold and Mari-san’s guest house and farm in August 2020 through WWOOF Japan. Each visit has brought me closer to being a part of Hakusan’s community. Hakusan-cho is a heart-warming countryside town that is internationally connected. Close to Tsu and Ise cities, it is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can enjoy onsen, seasonal fruit picking, and stay at Harold and Mari-san’s Guest House Ilonggo. There you can learn about countryside living, farming, and about having a multi-national family in Japan. Harold is originally from Silay City in Negros Island, the Philippines. While you stay with their family you can learn about Filipino culture by eating some of his delicious home-cooked Filipino food. Mari-san is a driven activist, mother, and community entrepreneur working to make her hometown an international-friendly one. This year she will host her town’s third International festival on November 20, 2021. I hope you all can attend! You can purchase your festival ticket here.