Japan Photo Walks: Kiyosato KEEP

  Kiyosato KEEP

Kiyosato Kogen Highland Education Experimental Project (KEEP)

Just back from a three day school trip to an organic farm, KEEP, in the Kiyosato Kogen Highlands of Yamanashi prefecture – a couple hours’ drive from Tokyo.

KEEP started back in 1938, according to the literature, when the American missionary Paul Rusch (or maybe it’s “Rush:” I’ve seen it spelled both ways) gambled he could bring relatively small Jersey dairy cows to the Japanese highlands (KEEP is at about 1,400 meters, 4,200 feet, above sea level).

Today, KEEP runs as an organic farm with a herd of 140 Jersey dairy cows, an experiential education centre, and a resort hotel with in-house onsen hot spring. The facilities in the older part of the complex, where school groups stay, definitely show their age, and the heating system was a little out of control during our visit. The rooms were clean and maintained, however. And the setting, in a highland forest just starting to change colour when we visited in early October, with a view of the Chichibu Mountains and distant Fujisan, was a great experience in itself – especially when the free-range cows wandered up to the complex our first morning.

The first night, two staff members built us on a bonfire in the field in front of the complex. The next day we visited the Dormous Museum and went on a short (like, 1400 meter) hike to an observation deck looking out over an empty field and mist-shrouded mountains. Twice. The second time, Mr. B — the P.E. teacher — and the students in front spotted four deer disappearing into the bamboo grass.

Friday morning, before anyone else awoke, I walked the trail again, hoping for a deer sighting but settling for a peaceful amble in a young forest.

The students learned how to make butter.

By the way, the breakfast buffet was great: French toast; bacon; free coffee refills.

“Good times, good times,” as Mr. B the P.E. teacher likes to say.

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