In March this year, Japanese journalist Harumi Hayakawa wrote a piece for the Japanese publication Asahi Weekly in which she explained why the terrifying Australian fires of December 2019 actually made her like the Blue Mountains even more.
In her article she described the many ways the community came together during and after the fires and how, like the green shoots that sprouted from blackened eucalypts, the community gave her “a glimpse of hope in a dark world filled with alarming news of the pandemic”.
She wrote that the “bushfires highlighted the strong sense of community and humanity here.”
She also drew an analogy between the community and the rare pink flannel flowers that appeared, phoenix-like, throughout the burnt landscape when heavy rains followed the fires.
“Just as the bushfires woke the sleeping beauty of the pink flannel flower, the fires woke something in the hearts of those living in these communities. Those with different strengths and skills have worked harder in their own ways toward the same goal: creating a better society for the community and the planet.”
“Why do I like the mountains better now? I love the countless, resilient, ordinary people who care for others and for nature.”
In the six years she’s been in Blackheath, Harumi herself has been a regular volunteer at two community farms, and she’s participated in a restorative planting blitz with a neighbour who lost 80% of their bushland vegetation to the fires. One of the first things you notice when you visit her home are the beautiful curtains in each room. She was delighted that a neighbour helped her make the curtains in exchange for Japanese lessons; and another neighbour offered her free shiatsu classes as long as she ‘paid it forward’. It’s all about growing strong community bonds and a sharing economy.
It was this bond that was like a balm to Harumi after back-to-back crises. The Lockdown hit her, and many in the Mountains, hard. With an average of four million international tourists a year to the Mountains, Harumi had been enjoying working at the Tourist Information Centre in Katoomba. Overnight, tourism dropped by 90% and the Tourism office closed.
She took a deep breath, reconnected with her community, and decided to focus on seeing the Lockdown as an opportunity to learn news skills – like shiatsu.
She also started her own business teaching Japanese and Japanese culture – all those reasons so many of us have always wanted to visit Japan … the food, the origami, the calligraphy, the ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement) … the elegant aesthetic. You can now follow her Spring Studio on Instagram @spring_studio_bm
When I visited her in her Blackheath home, we sat in her beautiful garden drinking green tea and enjoying the delicious daifuku she’d whipped up that morning with sweetened red azuki beans. “Daifuku means ‘big luck’”, she explained. I definitely felt in luck as I gobbled them down!
Before we left, we’d arranged a trade … I’d video her cooking classes in return for learning her daifuku recipe!
Harumi is excited about volunteering at the Community Farms in Blackheath because she’s learning more about growing both the food and flowers she loves in a way that’s healthier for ourselves, the bees and the environment. She’s keen to use flowers in her ikebana that haven’t been sprayed and grown with chemicals and she finds that learning to grow food gives her more confidence in the future.
“Every week I learn something new. Last week I discovered you could eat celery roots and that we could cook outside, even in the middle of winter, with a solar oven!”
She’s also discovered the incredible grounding that occurs when you take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the earth!
As we enter another Lockdown, why not expand your horizons and experience Japan online with Harumi’s Spring Studio … you can even learn how to make daifuku!
Contact Harumi via 0417 681 277 or via Instagram @spring_studio_bm