November 1, 2012


So, I've introduced to you my Ate Nhea and her little Japanice family in my last post. As I resume writing about my adventures and learnings as a kankoukyaku in Japan, allow me to share what the family does for a living.

Kagoshima Prefecture is one of Japan's biggest agricultural producers. Livelihood in the region includes raising Black Cattles and Berkshire pigs for meat production, fishery, and fruits and tea production.  

The Kato family, for one, raises black cattles for a living. The variety that they raise is known as the Japanese black wagyu, which meat is considered as one of the finest in the market. It might be homegrown but when sold in their local supermarkets, it is far more expensive than the ones imported from Australia or USA. 

As soon as I arrived, they toured me around the barn. I got a glimpse of how they feed and groom the cows. Actually, the business is not their own. They are employed by a local company that produces beef meat. Young cattles (usually around 9 months old) are delivered to them and are left under their care. Their major responsibilities include feeding the cows twice a day, in the morning and then again in the afternoon, and grooming them every once in a while (representatives of the company helps out in grooming). After one year and six months, the company collects the fattened cows and delivers another set of young cattles. And the cycle goes on... Currently, they have about150 under their care. 

We'd come home late from sight-seeing around the town and find all these mad hungry cows expectantly staring at us

Although they are employees of the company, most resources that they use are their own. The barn that house the cows, for instance, are theirs. From their own farm located a few blocks from their residence, they grow the grass feeds. All their equipment, just the same, are their own investment.

As I didn't have anything to do while Ate Nhea and Akira work in the barn, I volunteered to lend a hand.

Meet the Kato family's chubby cows! During my stay, I helped keep them fat and stout.

The task was quite easy, anyway. We only had to distribute among the cows the grass and the powder feeds. It usually takes Ate Nhea and Akira around 45 minutes to cover all the tasks. With me helping out, we'd be done in no time! 

The Kato family found a barn assistant... in me! :-)

I was terrified of the cows at first. You see, there really aren't a lot of them from where I've been in the past few months. Around the block where I live in Singapore, there were quite a number of fat cats, but not fat cows! But surprisingly, it only took a few minutes for me to be comfortable around them. They are black and huge, yes, but they can be gentle too. At first, a lot of them weren't too pleased with me touching them either. I'd tap their foreheads and they'd abruptly move to the rear part of their booth where I couldn't reach them. But soon, probably after they see me helping out deliver their food, they became more receptive of my presence and touch. As days passed, I grew particularly fond of one, who, I fondly called Kulugo.

Cattles are known for their brawniness and vigor, but they sure appreciate being cuddled too. :-)   

Meet Kulugo (left), my favorite among all them! The wart-like blemish under its left eye sets it apart from the rest.

The twin tanks contain feeds (powder) which is mainly consists of corn. The company refills them regularly.

Before Ate Nhea joined the family, Akira and his parents have been involved in the business for 40 years . It has been their major source of income for all those time and it has proven to be a profitable venture for them. There are some families in the region who start and operate the same business on their own without having to sign up in a company. However, the benefit that I've seen so far of being mere "caretakers" is that they are able to enjoy regular income without having to worry about risks and problems that usually entail running a business. Also, as they only need to work one hour each in the morning and in the afternoon, they have a lot of time for family and other personal interests.   

Guy from the company delivers new young cattles

Taking care of animals wasn't something new to me. I've had quite a number of pet dogs since I was a kid. Bopol, Kirei, Kuro, Pikoy... up to now, I still fondly remember each and every one of them. But at one point, it dawned on me that it is entirely a different thing to raise animals which fate was already imposed on them even before they were born. All the time I was helping out in the barn, I made a conscious effort not to think about what will happen to the cows when they've grown fat enough. I enjoyed every bit of the experience but I told Ate Nhea that I don't need to know when the company truck ever fetches Kulugo