On our return from our most recent trip to visit my wife's family in Japan I posted on my pleroma account about my ambitious plans for 2020 in order to hopefully facilitate a move to rural Japan as early as Spring 2022.
This article is an attempt to flesh these out a little and to have somewhere that I can more easily refer to for updates, amendments etc. So in no particular order:
Japanese Government's Rural Initiative (not correct name but will update and write about in greater detail in the future)
This is a scheme aimed at encouraging more families to move from the big Japanese cities to rural locations, with a focus on encouraging retraining, community involvement and company creation. Each town government has its own requirements and these can change on an annual basis.
Successful applicants have up to three years to make a life in the town and contribute to the local economy, during which time the government will subsidise rent, home refurbishments and pay a regular, sufficient wage. After three years then you are on your own so to speak but by then hopefully you have established an income of your own.
A brief look into the scheme would suggest that so long as I have a driver's license by the time of application and am capable of participating in an interview, then I should qualify. I already have a litany of ideas the biggest of which is to have my own craft beer brewery however, it is a mid-to-long term plan and hopefully some of my more immediately implementable ideas will impress the government officials when the time comes.
Japanese Language Proficiency Tests
Initial plan is to sit and pass JLPT N3 - which I should already be able to do, but the intention is to study for it properly in order to establish a study pattern for the more challenging N2 exam which I hope to sit in 2021.
If I'm to get back to a level where I can participate in a Japanese interview for the above scheme then the JLPT exams will help to focus me and fill the large gaps in vocabulary that have appeared since I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Japanese in 2011 - not that I was particularly good with the language back then, I was more interested in Japanese feudal history.. regardless, N3 this year, N2 next.
Starting next week, I'll be trying to brew a different beer each month and attempting to study the science of brewing so that by the time we move to Japan I have a solid knowledge-base from which to reach out for potential brewery internships as brewing beer at home is kind of illegal in Japan (unless under 1% ABV).
I am still a beginner and my second brew was somewhat of a failure. I hope to improve my understanding of the basics, tighten my quality control processes and become very familiar with the different grains, malts, hops and yeasts over the next few years. I'll initially probably be focusing largely on IPAs but before we move to Japan I want to experiment with dark and sour beers. I'll endevour to record everything in my blog and as my Japanese improves, add translations where relevant or interesting to build towards a profile which can be understood by potential future employers.
Study the science of brewing
Hand in hand with the brewing plans, I hope to find some online courses or books from which I can learn more about molecular biology etc. I want to be in a position where I understand protein chains, yeast storage and quality, water quality etc. This knowledge will be very important when the time comes to establish a brewery but also before then it will enhance my ability to design beers based on more than a hunch about tasty flavour combinations.
I recently re-visited the Heriot Watt University MSc Brewing & Distilling course page and discovered that it may be possible for me to study towards a Postgraduate Certificate online which if an application was successful would enable me to study exactly the content that I will need to for a career in brewing. I have contacted HW admissions and if I get a positive response to my multiple questions then I think I'll apply for this course which would begin in September this year. Fingers crossed!
Depending on work-load and progress with this, I may also reach out to some Scottish craft brewers to see if there are any prospects for short-term internship or shadowing to set in place for next year.
I already do a fair amount of cooking at home and when time allows like to spend 4-6 hours in the kitchen making delicious #vegan food. However, as my future in Japan will revolve around both drink and food and in all cases vegan varieties of them all, I need to up my game and focus on mastering some fundamentals from which potential menus in potential cafes or food trucks might be devised.
I've previously worked in the kitchens of hotels and pubs in a variety of roles and several of these roles involved cooking for the public so I'm not completely unfamiliar with the requirements, but if I'm to be a lone vegan cook in our wee village in rural Japan, then I'll need to really understand dashi options, umami and cooking with the local ingredients I'll have at hand. Fun!!
Get the house in order
Literally! We've had an unfinished garage conversion for several years now! The building contractor who was hired to do the work upped sticks and ran away when the council returned a list of issues. Since then it has fluctuated in importance and several attempts to enlist the help of other contractors to finish the job have failed. We need to get this fixed once and for all or selling the house in a few years time is going to be somewhat of a challenge.
Undoubtedly there will be more plans made, developed and or abandoned as the year progresses, but I hope to write about as much of it as possible, particularly where it relates to potentially interesting information uncovered as we learn more about the processes and challenges of moving (back) to Japan.
Next year: driving licenses, JLPT N2, studying for Japanese beer proficiency tests (yes, really), strengthening of pretty much everything above.