Building the Houjicha House

“If today we can enjoy Obubu as it is, it is thanks to all the work of those interns who arrived before”.

The words of George got stuck in my mind, as the car embarked on the steep climb across the fields. It was my second day at Obubu Tea Farm, and together with my fellow interns, we were visiting the Monzen tea fields, and George was explaining to us the story of Obubu and of its internship programme.

It is hard to imagine that the house I have been spending the past twelve weeks was not there before, the house where I met people that in so little time became friends, with those little corners that make me feel comfortable, and the little drawer where I keep all the cherished memento of my adventure in Wazuka, and the window in front of which I have been sipping tea every morning. It is hard to imagine that all these things have been built by complete strangers so that one day, many years later, I could live and enjoy that space.

I could only have a better understanding of this once together with my cohort of interns we got involved in the restoration of the Houjicha House.

In March 2023 Obubu acquired the building next to the office, consisting of a roasting factory and attached house. The first step Staff and Interns took was that of cleaning the building. The house cleaning went quite smoothly, but the same cannot be said about the factory. Houjicha dust was everywhere, covering with its reddish colour the floors, roofs and machines.

Once we thought that most of the work was done, and almost breathed a sigh of relief, we moved some planks off the floor, and uncovered a basin full of dirty water. The water was most likely coming from a hole in the roof, that Hiro-san and Kitazawa-san (the carpenter) promptly repaired, and had accumulated throughout mainy rainy days, collecting on the way a lot of houjicha dust. Because of this we renamed the basin “houjicha onsen”. After an endless afternoon, the onsen was clean, and the factory space could become the storage and packaging place that it is now that I am leaving Obubu.

The house itself, that I like to call Houmicha, is now hosting the Assistant Managers and will soon be welcoming new interns. However, the final product is far from what we saw there first. In the upper floor, we destroyed walls, floors, cut wood and removed planks, in order to build, following Kitazawa-san’s guidance, three new rooms.

It’s only by being involved first-hand that I realised how much work there is behind Obubu, how much previous Interns have contributed to make it what it is today, and how the buildings are just a tangible manifestation of it.

During the Japanese traditional ceremony there is a moment, after drinking tea, in which the participant gaze at the chawan and flips it to look at the signature of the artist that created it. By admiring the chawan, they show gratitude to the artist that made the cup. It is also thanks to the work and care he put in the making of the chawan that the tea ceremony can be a once in a lifetime experience.

So, I would like to take this moment to give thanks and show my appreciation to the work of the previous interns, that have contributed in making my experience as an intern a once in a lifetime experience. I haven’t met Ty (Intern #4) that supported the construction of Obubu House, or Agourram (Intern #19) that painted the drawing in front of which I have dinner every night, or Allegra (Intern #66) and Ariel (Intern #64) that, with their co-interns, have supported the construction of the Sencha factory, the same way as the future interns will not meet Andri, Yanis, Tran, Gaëlle, or Jia En, who have taken part of the restoration of the Houjicha House. By showing our adventures I hope to convey this sense of connection between past, present and future interns, and of how our experiences became somehow intertwined.

I really hope that the future interns living in the Houmicha will be able to find comfort in the little corners of the house, spend good time in the kitchen with people that will soon become friends, keep a little drawer in their room where to keep all the cherished memento of their trips, and find a favourite window in front of which to drink tea every morning.

Sarah, Intern #146

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One Comment

  1. Loved reading this, with teary eyes! <3
    Well done on the Houjicha House, must have been so much work! Looking forward to seeing it some day.

    Intern #50

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