土と手根部 Dirt and the Heel of a Hand

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土と手根部

 6月上旬の平日の夕方に匠の聚の陶芸体験工房に下った。大きな窓越しに山々の夕焼けが見えた。その窓沿いに何台かの電動ろくろと木のスチュールが並んであった。工房の反対側の大きなテーブルに手回しろくろが何個も用意された。僕は抽選の結果でそのテーブルの手回しろくろで作業を始めた。

 今夜は匠の聚の「夏の陶器」教室の1回目だった。他の13名の参加者と一緒に、合計4回の陶芸教室に参加した。僕らは鈴木智子先生の作った石膏型を一人ずつ選び、自分の手回しろくろに設置した。僕はカレーのための食器を作りたくて、長くて深みのある型を選んだ。板状粘土を石膏型の上に乗せて、手根部で粘土を型に合わせて押した。この静かな作業を続けながら、テーブルを囲んだ参加者の間、雑談が自然に始まり、流動的に進んだ。みなさんは自分のペースで自分の作りたいものに形を与えた。最後に、傷や気になったところを濡れた「なめし皮」で仕上げた。2回目の教室にその食器に色を塗った。

 「夏の陶器」の3回目に、手回しろくろから電動ろくろに移った。まず、電動ろくろの真ん中に粘土をどんと投げつけた。両手を濡らし、手根部と小指の間のL型を使いながら、くるくる回る土をちょっとずつ持ち上げた。そして、右の親指で土のてっぺんを覆い、倒すように土を向こうへ押した。「それを何回も何回も練習してください!」と山本喜一先生は応援で言ってくれた。僕はラーメン鉢を狙い、粘土の真ん中に親指を両方差し込んだ。親指が凹みを作り、土を食器のような形にした。

 結局、4回目の仕上げ作業をしていた時、ラーメン鉢が電動ろくろから落ちて、大きな傷がついた。鈴木雄一郎先生は筆を取り、手際よく「ドベ」の土をラーメン鉢の傷に塗った。「土の硬さが違うから、焼く時に割れてしまうかもしれません」と彼は説明してくれた。それは仕方がないと思い、ラーメン鉢の運命を窯に任せるしかない。

 「夏の陶器」で土と再びつなぐことができた。石膏型にくっ付いた土、電動ろくろで永遠に回りそうな土。土を触ることは人間性の深いところとつながっているような気がする。少なくとも、この何万年前から続いてきた作業は、毎回僕にスマホを忘れさせる数時間をくれた。その時間の結果である食器を、これから日常生活で使いながら、あの土の感覚を嬉しく思い出す。

Dirt and the Heel of a Hand

On a weekday evening in early June, I stepped down into the pottery experience workshop at Takumi-no-mura. We could see the sunset over nearby mountains through the large windows. Lined up along those windows were numerous electric pottery wheels and wooden stools. On the other side of the room was a large table prepared with a number of manual pottery wheels. As the result of a lottery, I began my work with a manual wheel at that table.

Tonight was the first night of the “Summer Pottery” classes at Takumi-no-mura. The other thirteen members and I participated in a total of four pottery classes. We each chose a plaster mold made by Satoko Suzuki-sensei, and set it onto our manual wheels. I wanted to make a dish for curry, and chose one that was long with depth. I placed a board-shaped piece of clay over the plaster mold and pressed it with the heel of my hand, shaping it to the mold. While continuing this quiet work, participants around the table naturally began a conversation that just flowed along. Everyone gave shape to what they wanted to make at their own pace. Finally, we finished off any scratches or points of concern with a wet leather nameshigawa. At the second lesson, we painted color onto these dishes.

For the third Summer Pottery class, we moved from the manual to the electric pottery wheel. First, we heaved a big lump of clay onto the center of the wheel. I wet both hands, and using the L-shape between the heel of my hand and my pinky, I brought the spinning dirt up little by little. Then, covering the top of the mound with my right thumb, I pushed the dirt away from me as if knocking it down. “Practice that over and over again!” Kiichi Yamamoto-sensei said in support. Aiming to make a ramen bowl, I plunged both of my thumbs into the center of the clay. My thumbs created a hollow, and turned the dirt into the shape of a dish.

Eventually, when I was finishing it during the fourth lesson, the ramen bowl fell from the electric wheel and suffered a large tear. Yuichiro Suzuki-sensei grabbed a brush and skillfully applied wet dobe dirt to the torn part of the bowl. “The dirt’s hardness will be different, so it might crack when we bake it,” he explained. I figured that couldn’t be helped, and all I could do is leave the ramen bowl’s fate to the oven.

I was able to reconnect with dirt through the Summer Pottery classes. The dirt stuck still on the plaster mold, the seemingly infinitely spinning dirt on the electric wheel. Touching dirt seems like it is connected with a deep part of being human. At the very least, this work that has continued for tens of thousands of years always allowed me to forget about my smart phone for a few hours. The results of that time are the dishes, which I will use in my day-to-day life while I happily recall the feeling of dirt.

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屋根の下にあるもの Things Below the Roof

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屋根の下にあるもの

棰木。通柱。鼻隠し。それらを含めて、住宅の図面にはおよそ38個の部材が載っていた。白黒のA3紙に部材の細かいところが描いてある。川上さぷりの土井理事はコーヒーを杉のテーブルに置き、明るい表情で「もう、みんなを覚えた?」と僕に聞いた。

 18年前に設立された川上さぷりは、吉野材の加工施設である。「それまでは、我々は山に行っていた」と土井理事は言った。「原木が売れなくなったから、なるべく付加価値をつけたかった。原木だけじゃなしに、木を製品にしたら、また還元できる」。最初、彼らは山の木について何でもを知っていたが、木材の加工が新たな分野だった。いくらの値段がいいか、木をどうやって乾燥すればいいかなどが分からなかったから、彼らはそれぞれのノウハウをだんだん身につけた。そのうち、迫から東川に移った川上さぷりは、最適な機械を整え、加工施設として運営するようになった。

 現在、川上さぷりは住宅に使う木材を加工することに集中している。白川渡と北和田にある村営住宅は最近の事例だ。一軒の住宅を建てるには、木材をたくさん使い、近くで育てられた木を活かす。しかし、川上さぷりの与えた付加価値はそこで終わらない。あのA3図面に載っているおよそ38個の部材の組み合わせは、家の壁、戸、窓、屋根を支える。そこに住んでいるのは、新しくこの村に住まいを求めた人々だ。お祭りやクリーンキャンペーンに参加する人々、通りすがりの車に手を振って挨拶する人々だ。山で育てられた木はコミュニティーで活かされている。

 僕は土井理事に話しを聞くため、川上さぷりを少し見学させてもらった。僕は敷地に入ったとたん、木材の香りが漂い、大型エンジンや高速刃物の音が聞こえた。従業員は柱になりそうな分暑い木材をヤードの奥からフォークリフトで運んだ。もう一人は防音用イヤーマフを装着しながら、分暑くて長い木材をローリングコンベーヤに乗せて、切った。倉庫の天井に届きそうな細長い木材は何枚か壁にたけかけられていた。この木材は、かつて山で代々育てられた木だった。これからどこかのコミュニティーで生き続けるのだろう。

Things Below the Roof

Taruki. Toshibashira. Hanakakushi. Those are some of the 38 components shown on the residence blueprints. Specific details of the parts are drawn on the black and white A3 paper. Kawakami Supply’s director, Mr. Doi, set our coffees on the wooden table, and with a bright expression asked me, “So, have you memorized all of’em?”

Established 18 years ago, Kawakami Supply is a facility that processes Yoshino lumber. “Until then, we had all been working in the mountains,” Mr. Doi told me. “Wood wasn’t selling so well, so we wanted give it some added-value. By selling not just wood, but also wood products, we could help bring the industry back to where it was.” At first, they knew everything about trees on the mountain, but lumber processing was a new field. They did not know things like what prices would be appropriate or how to properly dry the wood, so they gradually acquired the know-how for every step in the process. In due time, Kawakami Supply moved from Sako to Unogawa, assembled the appropriate machinery, and began operating as a processing facility.

These days, Kawakami Supply is focused on processing lumber for housing. The village-owned residences in Shirakawado and Kitawada are two recent examples. Building a residence uses a lot of lumber, and makes use of trees grown nearby. However, the added-value brought by Kawakami Supply does not end there. The 38 parts on that A3 blueprint combine to hold up the walls, doors, windows, and roof of a house. Living there are people who wanted to try living in our village. People who participate in festivals and cleaning campaigns, or wave hello to cars driving by. The trees grown in nearby mountains are being put to good use in these communities.

After speaking with Mr. Doi, I took a look around Kawakami Supply. As soon as I entered the yard, there was the scent of lumber and sounds of large engines and high-speed saws. An employee used a forklift to carry some thick, pillar-like lumber from the back of the yard. Another wore noise-reducing ear muffs as he loaded long, thick lumber onto a rolling conveyor and cut it. Planks of lumber that looked like they could reach the roof of the warehouse leaned stacked against the wall. This lumber were all once trees grown over generations on the mountains. From now, they will continue living in a community somewhere.

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心の拠り所 Where Your Heart Can Rely On

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 寄席出囃子が流れてから、お寺に座った十五人の客は手前の女性から目を外さなかった。彼らの右に弥勒菩薩像は静かに立っていらっしゃい、左の縁側の下に波津地区が広がった。着物を着た女性は拍子木を見台に叩き、声を一瞬で上げ、荒い言葉を拭き捨てた。数秒後、落ち着いた口調と表情に戻った。彼女はそのやりとりを繰り返し、突然、みんなから笑いを誘った。左の縁側から涼しい風が吹いてきた。

 今年も波津のみなさんは、匠の聚のイベントに合わせ、地区の弥勒寺で「弥勒茶屋」を開催した。昔、近所の子供たちは弥勒寺まで登り、宿題などをしたと言われる。お寺が長い間使われなかったが、波津のみなさんは去年から一歩ずつ、それぞれのできることで弥勒寺を復活した。具体的な計画などを立てずに、自然に現在の形になったらしい。一人は弥勒寺の歴史を分かりやすくまとめ、小さな資料で配った。お花をしている先生は色とりどりの花でお寺を飾った。若手の夫婦は近所の野菜を使ったキッシュやアイスや飲み物を出した。波津の木工作家は料理のための器、お花のための一輪挿し、落語のための見台を作った。関西弁で落語を演技する女性は客にテレビやスマホより楽しくて、面白い二十分を提供した。表の人も、裏の人もみんなはこのお寺に心を込めている。

 大きな拍手の後、受け囃子が流れた。キッシュを食べ続けた客はいて、きんすを鳴らして参拝した客もいた。僕は座布団に座りながら歴史の資料をゆっくり読んだ。最後の段落に、次の文章が載っていた。「昔から弥勒寺・弥勒菩薩は住民の心の拠り所・集いの場となってきました。今も波津垣内の人々には『弥勒さん、弥勒さん』と親しまれ、見上げれば、今も昔も、弥勒さん!と慕われています」。

 それぞれのできることから始まった集い。人を笑わせる、食べさせる、美しい弥勒茶屋。波津の上からみなさんを見守る弥勒寺。これから住民の心の拠り所として賑やかになると思う。

Where Your Heart Can Rely On

After the jangly entrance music started playing, the fifteen guests sitting in the temple never took their eyes off of the woman in front of them. To their right, a statue of Miroku Bosatsu standing quietly, to their left, the Hazu district spread out from under the temple’s ledge. The kimono-clad woman struck the small table with wooden sticks, raised her voice in an instant, and began spitting out some harsh words. A few seconds later, she went back to her calm tone and character. She repeated the back and forth, and suddenly, elicited a laugh from everyone. A cool breeze blew in from the ledge on the left.

Once again this year, the people of Hazu co-ordinated with Takumi-no-mura and held the "Miroku Tea House” at the local Miroku Temple. It is said that a long time ago, local children would climb up to Miroku Temple and do their homework, etc. The temple had not been used for a long time, but last year the people of Hazu revived it step by step by just doing what they can. Without a specific plan or anything, it just naturally came to be as it is. One person summarized the history of Miroku Temple and passed out small leaflets. A teacher practicing flower arrangement decorated the temple with all kinds of colors. A young couple made ice cream, drinks, and quiche made from local vegetables. A woodworking artist living in Hazu made dishes for the food, vases for the flowers, and the table used in the rakugo performance. The woman performing rakugo in Kansai dialect offered guests a twenty minutes that was more fun and interesting than their television or smart phone. With people in the front and people in the back, everyone put their hearts into this temple.

A big applause, and then the jangly exit music. Their were guests who continued eating their quiche, and there were also guests who struck the kinsu and prayed. While sitting on my cushion, I slowly read about the history of the temple. The final paragraph had the following words. “From a long time ago, Miroku Temple and Miroku Bosatsu have been a reliable presence and a place to gather for residents. Even now people of Hazu feel close with “Miroku-san, Miroku-san”, and if we look up above, both now and a long time ago, we long to meet Miroku-san!”

A gathering started by people doing what they can. The Miroku Tea House, making people laugh and eat. Miroku Temple, watching over everyone from above Hazu. From now on, I think it will be very lively as a place people’s hearts can rely on.

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ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

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ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り

 ミミズを刺す、朝の県道258号線。僕らは軽ヴァンで中奥方面へ県道を走った。チゴロブチの近くにおじいちゃん一人はぽつんと椅子に座りながら、中奥川を見下ろしていた。そのあと、枌尾地区と中奥地区に人影がなかった。中奥より登りながら、県道が荒く、狭くなった。僕は助手席から中奥川の自然な綺麗さより、ガードレールのない道路と数十メートルの崖の方を見ていた。「誰もいないといいけど。」と友達は軽ヴァンをどんどん走らせながら何回も言った。しかし、道にあちこちにトラックが停めてあった。窓に釣り道具のステッカーが貼ってあった。僕らは昔人が住んでいた瀬戸地区を超え、さらに川の上流へ登った。

 手掘りトンネルを抜け、小さな橋の脇に軽ヴァンを停めた。友達3人と合流して、みんなは竿を伸ばし、長靴を履き替えた。僕は腿まで届く長靴を友達に借り、必要な道具をリュックで運んだ。5人で川の下流へ歩きながら、道路の端に近づかないように言われた。「魚はおれらを見たら、逃げてしまうから。」と友達は注告した。数分歩いてから、川へ降りる道を見つけた。転がりそうな石を踏みながら、僕は不安な足取りで急な斜面を降り、なんとなく河原に無事に着いた。

 竿から伸びた糸。糸に結ばれた針。針に刺されたミミズ。僕らは竿を大きく振り、ミミズと錘を川の上流へ投げた。ミミズは川の流れにゆっくり運ばれ、時々石に引っかかった。僕らはそれを繰り返しながら、源流へ一歩一歩登った。アマゴは警戒心が強くて、石の影で隠れたりしながら、とても綺麗な川でしか生きられないらしい。なんだか親近感を感じる人間もいるのだろう。友達は大きな岩の後ろで体を隠しながら、岩の上から糸を投げた。彼はいくつかの石の間に落ちたミミズをサングラス越しに見届けた。数秒後、糸のついたアマゴは空中でもがきながらくるくると回った。僕は友達と同じところからミミズを投げてみたが、何も釣れなかった。

 5人はそれぞれの場所を狙いながら、川を少しずつ登った。数回、僕は竿の位置と角度を忘れ、糸が木の低い枝に巻き込まれた。長靴のおかげで深いところを歩けたが、どうしても歩けなかったところまだあった。一歩一歩、岩から岩へうまく登れたが、思うどおりにいかなかった。大きくて、急な勾配をもった平らな岩を登ろうとしたら、手の掴めるところがなく、足の踏み場がなく、四つん這いになったまま、進めなくなった。お腹をなんとなく岩に付けようとしたが、それもうまくいかなくて、結局、川に見事に落ちてしまった。

 そのうち、僕らは車の近くに帰ってきた。友達は車から食パンと用意した材料を川の畔まで運んだ。みんなはガスカートリッジとカセットコンロを囲み、ホットサンドをどんどん焼いた。黙々と釣りをしたみんなは、サンドイッチを建てながら盛り上がり、興奮した。スマホの電波が届かない、山奥の渓流で焼きたてのホットサンドを食べる楽しさ。パンの上に具をたっぷり乗せても、お腹がぱんぱんになるまで頑張って食べても、材料がまだ残っていた。あの楽しい時間が永遠に続きそうだったが、雨色の雲に追われた。ゴミや何もを残さずに気をつけながら、持ってきたものを早速片付け、県道258号線を下った。

 白川渡で吉野川の本流へミミズを投げ、釣りをした。中奥川の透明な渓流と比べて、大滝ダム湖までゆっくり流れる吉野川は深くて、少し濁っていた。アマゴはいなかったけど、ものすごく大きな鯉、ウグイ何匹が見えた。僕らは最初に壁の上から川の深いところへ竿を振ってみた。友達は広い川の遠いところまでルアーを投げ、長い糸を手際よく巻き上げた。一人は小さくて、名前の知らない魚を釣った。僕らは川の浅いところに近い岩へ下り、川の上流へゆっくり登った。友達は大きなウグイ一匹を川から持ち上げた。何匹ものミミズは行方不明になった。壁と岩を行き来する数時間。

 雨色の雲が結局、約束を守らなくて、僕らは黄昏どきまで穏やかに釣りをした。夕飯の時間を知った魚の群れが次々に通り、何匹もは友達のミミズを召し上がった。友達はみんなのためのホットコーヒーを淹れ、おかあさんの作った苺大福を出した。手作りの苺大福が柔らかくて、甘かった。朝から夕方まで、僕は魚を一匹も釣れなかったから、「僕は釣りをした」となかなか言えない。「釣りの大半は、誰と釣りしているかだろう」というセリフを子供のころから覚えている。名前不明な、やすっぽいテレビ映画からだ。でも、今までも忘れられなかった。やっと意味が分かったような気がする。

Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

Piercing the worm, the morning Pref. Rd 258. We drove our light vans up prefectural road toward Nakaoku. An old man sat by himself in a chair near Chigorobuchi, looking down onto the Nakaoku River. After him, there was no sign of anyone in the Sogio or Nakaoku districts. As we climbed past Nakaoku, the road turned rougher and narrower. Sitting in the passenger seat, I found myself looking at the guardrail-less road and dozens of meters of cliff, rather than the natural beauty of the Nakaoku River. “It’d be nice if there’s no one else there,” my friend said multiple times as he drove the light van farther and farther. However, there were trucks parked here and there along the way. There were fishing equipment stickers plastered on the windows. We passed the Seto district, where people once lived a long time ago, and climbed higher upstream along the river.

We went through the hand-dug tunnel and parked the light van beside a small bridge. We convened with our three friends, lengthened our rods, and changed into our long boots. I borrowed some thigh-high long boots from my friend and carried the necessary tools in my backpack. As the five of us walked downstream, we were told not to get too close to the edge of the road. “If the fish see us, they’ll all run away,” my friend warned us. After walking for a few minutes, we found a path that lead down to the river. Stepping on rocks that looked like they could crumble anytime, I took unsure steps down the steep slope and somehow made it to the river in one piece.

The line leading out from the rod. The worm pierced on the hook. We gave our rods a big swing and threw our worms and weights upstream into the river. The worm was carried slowly by the stream, and was sometimes caught on a rock. We repeated this, climbing our way step by step toward the source of the river. Apparently amago are a very frightful fish, hiding in the shadows of rocks, and are only able to live in very clean rivers. There are probably some humans who can somehow feel a kinship with them. My friend hid his body behind a large boulder while swinging his throwing his line over it. He watched through his sunglasses as his worm landed between a cluster of rocks. Seconds later, an amago attached stuck on a line writhed and twirled in the air. I tried throwing a worm from the same place as my friend, but couldn’t catch anything.

The five of us each took aim at our own spots while slowly climbing up the river. I forgot about the location and angle of my rod a few times, getting my line tangled up in the low branches of trees. I was able to walk through some deep spots thanks to my tall boots, but there were still some spots that I couldn’t quite get through. I climbed step by step, boulder to boulder, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. When I tried to climb a large, steep, flat boulder, there was nowhere for my hands to grip, nor for my feet to step, so I ended up flat on all fours and unable to move. I tried sticking my stomach to the boulder, but that didn’t work either, and I ended up falling beautifully into the river.

In due time, we ended up back near our cars. My friends carried loaves of bread and ingredients they’d prepared from the car down to the riverside. We all surrounded the flames of portable gas cartridges, and cooked hot sandwiches one after another. Having quietly fished, we were all now loud and excited as we built up these sandwiches. The joy of eating a fresh, hot sandwich along a mountain stream far away, where there isn’t any cell phone reception. Even after loading our bread with plenty of stuff, even after eating our hearts out until we were full, we still had ingredients left over. That fun time seemed like it could continue forever, but we were chased away by rain-colored clouds. As we were careful not to leave any trash or anything else, cleaned up everything we brought with us, and headed back down Pref. Rd. 258.

In Shirakawado we threw our worms and fished in the main current of the Yoshino River. Slowly flowing into the Otaki Dam Lake, the Yoshino River was deep and a little muddy in comparison with the clear streams of the Nakaoku River. There weren’t any amago, but we saw a very large carp and numerous Japanese dace. We first swung our rods from the top of a wall into the deep parts of the river. One friend threw his lure to the far side of the wide river, and quickly reeled in the long line. Another friend caught a fish whose name I didn’t know. We moved down to some boulders near a shallower part of the river, and then slowly made our way upstream. My friend pulled a large Japanese dace out from the water. Worms went missing in action. A few hours of going back and forth between the wall and the boulders.

The rain-colored clouds couldn’t keep their promise, and we were able to fish in peace until twilight. Schools of fish knew that it was dinner time, passing by us one after another, with many partaking in worms offered from my friends. One of my friends made hot coffee for everyone and brought out strawberry daifuku made by her mother. The homemade strawberry daifuku was soft and sweet. From morning to evening, I wasn’t able to catch a single fish, so I can’t really say I was “fishing”. "Most of fishing is about who you're fishing with," a line I remember from my childhood. It was from an unknown, cheap TV movie. But I haven't been able to forget it, even up to now. I feel like I finally understand what it means.

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

も・な・か Mo-na-ka

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

も・な・か

 冬の昼下がり、西河のアルボールに入った。外が寒かったから、僕はホットコーヒーを注文して、真ん中のテーブルに座った。ストーブの上に乗っていた餅が膨らみ、やかんからの湯気が正面の窓を曇らせた。太田さんはお冷とお菓子を運んできて、「これを知ってる?」と僕に聞いた。僕はラベルを見て、「あ、サイチュウですか」と答えた。キッチンでコーヒーを淹れていた中平さんは大きく笑った。カウンターで立っていた小林さんは微笑んで、僕に言った。「違う、違う。『も・な・か』ですよ、最仲」。常連さんも突っ込み、アルボールの3人と楽しくやりとりをした。やがてコーヒーが運ばれ、僕はそれをゆっくり啜りながら、周りの会話を楽しく聞いた。 

 この3年間、やまいき市の手伝いをしながら、アルボールがだんだん毎週の楽しみになった。朝市に買い物しに来る小林さんは、いつも経験者ならではの商売アドバイスを優しく、こっそり言ってくれる。太田さんは一言だけでみんなを笑わせ、朝市を盛り上げる。中平さんの明るさは周りの方々にも広がり、初対面でも人の笑顔を引き出す。昼の頃、その中の一人はアルボールの玄関から「お〜い!できたよ!」と呼ぶ。彼らのおかげで、僕と他のやまいき市のメンバーは暖かい昼ごはんを食べられただけではなく、笑いで溢れた土曜日も過ごせた。

 3月の下旬、アルボールは5周年を記念するために、お客さんにぜんざいを出していた。もともと1〜2年間だけお店をする予定だったが、めはり寿司からダムカレーまで様々なものを出しながら、あっという間に5年間になったらしい。アルボールは4月から6年目に入り、定休日を火・水曜日にしながら、一生懸命営業を続ける。僕もこれから教えてもらうことを楽しみにしている。この3年間でアルボールで習った「味のある日本語」が日本語能力試験に出ないかもしれないけど、僕はこの貴重な道具を忘れられない。

Mo-na-ka

On a winter afternoon, I entered Arbol in Nishigawa. It was cold outside, so I ordered a hot coffee and sat down at the middle table. The mochis on top of the heating stove were expanding, and the steam from the kettle fogged up the front window. Ms. Ota brought me water and a snack, and asked me, “D’ya know what this is?” I looked at the label and replied, “Oh, is that saichu?” Ms. Nakahira gave a big laugh as she made the coffee in the kitchen. Standing at the counter, Ms. Kobayashi said to me, “No, no. ‘mo-na-ka’, it’s monaka.” One of the regulars chimed in, and had a fun back and forth with the Arbol three. Soon my coffee arrived, and I slowly sipped it while enjoying the conversation around me.

While helping out at Yamaiki-ichi these three years, Arbol gradually became something I enjoyed every week. Coming to shop at our market, Ms. Kobayashi always quietly and kindly gave us the business advice of an experienced merchant. Ms. Ota would make everyone laugh with one word and liven up the market. Ms. Nakahira’s friendliness would spread to those around her, even eliciting a smile from those she met for the first time. Around midday, one of the three would call out from their doorway, “Oi~! It’s ready!” Thanks to them, not only were the other Yamaiki-ichi members and I able to eat warm lunches, we were also able to spend Saturdays filled with laughter.

In late March, Arbol commemorated their five years by serving zenzai to its customers. They originally planned on running their shop for only a year or two, but while serving up anything from meharizushi to dam curry, it turned into five years before they realized it. In April they will enter their sixth year, and while closing the shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ll continue their business as strong as ever. I too look forward to the things they will teach me from now on. The “flavorful Japanese” I have learned from them in these three years may not appear on the JLPT, but it is a precious tool that I do not want to forget.

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光るもの The Shining Ones

光るもの

 川上村シルバー人材センターは役場付近の労働会館にある。多くの村民は親しみをこめて、「シルバー」だけで呼ぶ。シルバーの会員は村民さんに依頼された臨時的・短期的な仕事をする。お家の掃除、障子の貼り直し、春からの草引きや草刈りの仕事が多い。シルバーの56人の会員は60歳から88歳までの幅広い年齢層がある。その中から、毎月の末ごろに「しばざくら会」のメンバーは事務所に集まる。

 僕は2月の集まりを覗きに行った。手作りの干支、アクセサリー、色とりどり裁縫材料が事務所に温かい雰囲気を与えた。壁にある振り子時計と何枚のカレンダーが時間をコツコツと計った。真ん中の長いテーブルに座っていた数人の女性は、イチゴのストラップの作業で忙しかった。「今度、匠の聚のアートフェスティバルでこんなもんを販売する」と一人は教えてくれた。後数人が事務所に着いて、みなさんは3月の草引きの日程調整をした。それから、突然カメムシが一人の手に着いて、突然事務所を騒がせた。「美味しそうなところに飛んできたや!」と笑いながら、みなさんは早速裁縫の作業に戻った。着物を解いて、その材料でカバンを作る人もいた。「ここに来て、みんなと話して、色々を教えてもらうのが楽しい」と一人は言ってくれた。みなさんの住んでいる地区が違って、日常生活でお互いになかなか出会わないかもしれないけど、シルバーの仕事で会える。そのうち、コーヒータイムに入り、僕はみなさんと一緒にコーヒーとロールケーキをいただいた。でも、あっという間に、みなさんはまた作業に戻った。もちろん時計の振り子が揺れ続けた。

 村民さんに頼まれた仕事をするシルバー人材。使わなくなった服を新品のカバンに変えるシルバー人材。この事務所でみなさんが仲良く話し合ったり、笑ったりして、とても素敵な空間だと思った。これからしばらく草引きの仕事で忙しくなりそうだが、みなさんは相変わらずお元気でやるのだろう。今朝、みなさんのお話を聞きながら、なぜ「シルバー人材」と呼ばれているかが分かった。みなさんは本当に光っているから。

The Shining Ones

The Kawakami Village Silver Human Resources Center is located inside the Labor Hall near the Village Office. Many village residents familiarly call it just “Silver”. The members of Silver perform temporary or short-term jobs requested by village residents. There are a lot of jobs cleaning houses, re-applying the paper on sliding doors, and pulling or cutting weeds in the spring. The 56 members of Silver have a wide age range from 60 to 88 years old. Among those, members of the Shibazakura Club meet the end of every month in the office.

I went to take a peek at their February meeting. The handcrafted zodiac animals, accessories, and colorful sewing material gave the office a warm feel. The pendulum clock and numerous calendars on the wall diligently measured the time. Sitting at the long table in the middle of the office, a number of women were busy knitting strawberry straps. “We’ll sell these at the next Art Festival at Takumi-no-mura,” one person told me. A few more people arrived at the office, and everyone coordinated their schedules for pulling weeds in March. Then, a shield bug suddenly landed on someone’s hand, sending the office into a flutter. “It landed on a delicious spot,” everyone laughed, as they quickly got back to their needlework. One person was taking apart a kimono, with plans to use that material to make a bag. “It’s fun coming here and talking with everybody, and having them teach me things,” one person told me. Everyone here lives in different wards of the village, so though they might not see each other in day-to-day life, they can meet when doing Silver work. Eventually it was time for coffee, and I sat down to have a coffee and slice of roll cake with everyone. However, before I knew it, they were all back at work. Of course, the clock’s pendulum continued to swing.

The Silvers, performing jobs requested by village residents. The Silvers, turning clothing that is no longer used into a brand new bag. With everyone in this office chatting and laughing, I felt like it was a very beautiful space. They will be busy from now on pulling weeds, but I am sure they will do so with vigor as always. This morning, while listening to everyone’s stories, I realized why they are called the “Silvers”. It is because they really are shining.

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草餅の朝 A Morning of Kusamochi

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(Please scroll down for the English version.)

草餅の朝

 柿の葉寿司のレッスンが無事に終わった。「早朝やけど、今度、草餅を作ってもらおうか」と徳岡さんはにっこりと笑った。あんこを包んだよもぎ餅は「草餅」と呼ばれる。徳岡さんは柿の葉寿司と同じように、ほとんど毎日草餅を作っている。

 僕は朝七時ごろ西河のお店で徳岡さんと合流してから、大滝の上まで急な坂道を登った。工房の中に入り、暖房で脇で餅を丸めていたお母さんに挨拶した。餅米とよもぎを蒸していたセイロから湯気が上った。徳岡さんはその餅米を餅つき機に移し、よもぎを中に混ぜた。餅米がだんだん緑になり、そして大きな塊になった。徳岡さんはその塊を出し、小麦粉をかけた。お母さんは一口の量を塊から掴み取り、掌で平にした。「この上につぶあんを載せて、こうする」とお母さんは説明した。指を動かしながら、お母さんは餅をつぶあんの周りへ押し上げ、丸めた。餅の表面が滑らかな円盤形になった。

 僕はお母さんと一緒に座り、自分の手で草餅を作ってみた。お母さんを真似しようとしても、餅が思うように動かなかった。「左手の使い方が大事、こうして、こうして」と徳岡さんは見せてくれた。僕の手の効率がだんだんよくなった。餅が掌にくっついてしまったら、すぐあきらめて、手を洗うしかない。小麦粉もちゃんとつけなきゃ。草餅を一口ずつ木箱で並べた。二つ目の塊が出来上がり、つぶあんを載せて丸める作業を繰り返した。徳岡さんは手際よく草餅を販売用のプラスチック箱に入れ、ラベルのシールを貼った。

 徳岡さんは余った一口を取り、僕の渡してくれた。緑の餅がやわらかくて、中のつぶあんが甘くて、とても美味かった。僕はうちでよもぎを料理で使ってみたことがあるが、うまくいかなかった。やっぱり草餅が正解だった。「最後に、明日のための餅米を洗わなあかん」と徳岡さんは言い、僕を流し台へ連れて行ってくれた。

A Morning of Kusamochi

The kakinohazushi lesson finished without delay. “It’ll be early in the morning, but next time, I’ll have you make kusamochi,” said a smiling Mr. Tokuoka. Mugwort mochi wrapped around red bean paste is called “kusamochi”. Just like kakinohazushi, Mr. Tokuoka makes this almost every day.

After meeting up with Mr. Tokuoka around 7 a.m. at his shop in Nishigawa, we climbed the steep hills to the top of Otaki. I entered the workshop and greeted his mother, who was next to the heater balling up mochi. Steam flew out from baskets steaming mochi rice and mugwort. Mr. Tokuoka moved the mochi rice to the mochi pounding machine, and mixed the mugwort into it. The mochi rice gradually turned green, and then into a large clump. Mr. Tokuoka took the clump out and covered it in flour. Mrs. Tokuoka grabbed a piece off and flattened it over the palm of her hand. “We place the red bean paste on top and wrap it like this,” she explained. While moving multiple fingers, she pushed the mochi up and around the red paste, then rounded it off. The surface of the mochi became a smooth, disc-like shape.

I sat with Mrs. Tokuoka and tried making kusamochi with my own hands. Even if I tried to imitate her, my the mochi would not move as I hoped. “It’s important how you use your left hand, so go like this, and like this,” Mr. Tokuoka showed me. The efficiency of my hands gradually improved. When mochi stuck to the palm of my hand, the only thing to do is give up and go wash my hands. I also had to be sure to apply enough flour. We lined the kusamochi one by one in the wooden box. The second large lump of mochi was ready, and we repeated our work of loading the red bean paste and rounding out the mochi. Mr. Tokuoka quickly packed the kusamochi into plastic containers for selling and added the sticker label.

Mr. Tokuoka grabbed a leftover kusamochi and handed it to me. The green mochi was soft, and the red bean paste inside was sweet and delicious. I have tried using mugwort when cooking at home, but it did not go very well. As I expected, kusamochi is the right choice. “Finally, we need to was the mochi rice for tomorrow,” Mr. Tokuoka said, and led me over to the sink.

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圧し、包む作業 Press and Wrap Work

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

圧し、包む作業

 地元の伝統食品である柿の葉寿司について聞きたいと思い、川上村西河の徳岡さんを訪れた。「圧してみる?」と徳岡さんは温かく微笑み、お店の奥へ案内してくださった。僕は手袋にお酢をつけ、型の底に鯖を一つずつ入れた。また手袋にお酢を少しつけ、型がいっぱいになるまでご飯を鯖の上に乗せた。型の蓋を閉め、体重を使いながら、両手で型を強く圧した。蓋を開け、型を裏返してみたら、5個の鯖寿司が綺麗に並んでいた。お店の前に戻り、お寿司を柿の葉で包む作業に入った。両手の何本かの指を順番にゆっくり動かしながら、徳岡さんは一個を包み、木の箱に入れた。僕は彼の手を真似しようとしたが、最初に指が思うように動かなかった。四、五個目からリズムができ、「右、左、右」の作業に夢中になった。あっという間に木の箱がいっぱいになった。

 川上村の柿の葉寿司は日本遺産として認定されて、国籍を問わず観光客に愛されている。吉野山が観光客で賑わっている桜や紅葉の季節に、徳岡さんは一日に早朝より夕方までかなりの量を作る。冬も休まずに、徳岡さんは一年中、鯖と鮭の寿司を一つ一つ圧し、柿の葉で包む。保存食である柿の葉寿司は昔から塩で辛かったが、徳岡さんは現代の好みに合わせ、塩分を控えめにしている。「やっぱり『おいしい』や『口に合う』と言われたら、嬉しい」と徳岡さんは一個の寿司を柿の葉で包みながら言った。

 僕は柿の葉寿司を何個も持って帰り、レコードを流し、美味しくいただいた。川上村の家庭はみんな柿の葉寿司を作れるとよく言われる。当然かもしれないが、僕の実家で柿の葉寿司を作らない。僕は自分の手で寿司を圧し、柿の葉で包み、家で食べることによって、みんなの生活を少し垣間見たような気がする。一個を作るためどのぐらいの手間がかかるかを実感したおかげで、これから食べる柿の葉寿司がさらに美味しくなる。

Press and Wrap Work

As I wanted to ask about the traditional local dish, kakinohazushi, I visited Mr. Tokuoka in the Nishigawa district of Kawakami Village. “You wanna try pressing it?” He asked me with a warm smile, and led me to the back of the shop. I wet my gloves in vinegar and placed individual pieces of mackerel on the bottom of the shaping mold. I once again wet my gloves with vinegar and loaded rice on top of the mackerel until the mold was full. I closed the lid, and using my body weight, pressed down strongly with both hands. When I opened the lid and flipped the shaping mold over, five pieces of sushi were lined up perfectly. We went back to the front of the shop and got to work wrapping the sushi in persimmon leaves. Slowly moving multiple fingers of both hands in a specific order, Mr. Tokuoka wrapped up a single piece of sushi and placed it in a wooden box. I tried to imitate his hands, but at first my fingers wouldn’t move how I wanted them. I developed a rhythm around the fourth of fifth piece of sushi, becoming absorbed in the “right, left, right” work. Before we knew it, the box was full.

The kakinohazushi of Kawakami Village is a recognized Japan Heritage cultural property, and is loved by many tourists regardless of citizenship. When Mt. Yoshino is busy with tourists in the cherry blossom and colored leaves seasons, Mr. Tokuoka makes a ton of sushi from the early morning into the evening almost everyday. Without taking any time off in the winter, Mr. Tokuoka continues to press mackerel and salmon sushi, then wrap them in persimmon leaves year-round. As a preserved food, kakinohazushi was originally very salty, but Mr. Tokuoka has catered to modern tastes, and tries to go light on the salt. “Of course I’m happy when people say, ‘It’s delicious’ or ‘This is just how I like it.’,” he told me as he wrapped a piece of sushi in a persimmon leaf.

I took home some pieces of kakinohazushi, put on a record, and ate the delicious local specialty. I am often told that most households in Kawakami Village can make kakinohazushi. It might go without saying, but the house I grew up in did not make it. By pressing the sushi, wrapping them in persimmon leaves with my own hands, and finally eating them, I felt like I caught a short glimpse of everyone’s life. Getting a feel for how much work goes into making one piece of sushi, the kakinohazushi I eat from now on will taste even more delicious.

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上社での新年 New Year at Kamisha

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

上社での新年

 丹生川上神社上社の手伝いを始める前に、宮司さんに白衣を着せていただいた。何層もの白い布に包まれ、自分の行動が普段と違って感じた。世界が一際静かになった。しかし、それについて考える余裕がなく、早速宮司さんの手伝いに取り掛かった。

 足袋と草履に慣れていない僕は砂利の上を歩いたり、階段をのぼったりして、足の長い宮司さんについて行こうとした。大晦日の朝から宮司さんの孫と一緒に本殿を掃除して、昼からテントを立てて、休憩所のストーブを準備した。竹箒で砂利を道から掃いてから、夕方の前に家に帰り、数時間仮眠した。

 大晦日の夜から神社に戻り、白衣に着替えた。さらに寒くなったから、村民ととんど焼の火を囲んだ。「よう燃えとる、よう燃えとる」と一人は言った。零時からみなさんは本殿に入り、宮司さんにお祓いしていただいた。本殿の三階までの階段が金で光っていた。龍神である高龗大神(ルビ:たかおかみのおおかみ)と色とりどりのお供え物は、みなさんを新年へ歓迎してくださった。最後に、僕は参拝者にお神酒を注いだ。その後、参拝者はテントで暖まりながら、日本酒を飲んだり、おつまみを齧ったりした。

 数時間深く仮眠して、鮮やかな夢を見てから、元日の朝六時前に目覚めた。宮司さんは受付窓で座ったまま、ずっと参拝者を待っていた。晴れた空に恵まれて、初日の出が上流の山々の裏からゆっくり上った。僕は宮司さんと奥さんと一緒に年越し蕎麦を食べてから、受付窓で参拝者を待った。地元の知り合いが来たが、大阪府や兵庫県からの参拝者が多くて、ご祈祷、朱印、お守り、おみくじ、甘酒を求めて、初詣でに来た。この数日は神社の一番忙しい時期らしい。寝不足の宮司さんと奥さんはバタバタしながら、いつも明るい笑顔で参拝者を迎えて、ゆっくりお話を聞いた。

 神社の手伝いの最終日は少し寒くなった。宮司さんは朝から本殿の隣の水神社でお祭りを2回行った。昼から成人式の七人がお参りに来た。みなさんが本殿の前で写真を撮っていた時、淡い雪が降り始めた。日が山の端に差し掛かり、僕は竹箒で砂利を石畳から掃いた。帰る前に、僕も百円玉を赤い販売機に入れて、おみくじを引いた。

New Year at Kajisha

Before I started helping at Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha, I was dressed into white clothing by the reverend. Wrapped in layers of white cloth, my actions felt different than usual. The world became a shade quieter. However, I did not have time to think about that, quickly got to helping out the reverend.

As I was not used to the tabi socks or zouri sandals, I did my best keeping up with the reverend while we walked across gravel or climbed up and down the steps. In the morning, I cleaned the main hall of the shrine with the reverend’s grandchildren. In the afternoon, I helped set up the tent and prepared the stove heaters in the rest area. After sweeping the gravel from the paths with a bamboo broom, I went home just before evening and napped for a few hours.

I went back to the shrine the night of December 31st and changed into the white clothing. It was even colder than before, so I gathered around the tondoyaki fire with other villagers. “It’s burning good, burning good!” one person said. After midnight everyone entered the main hall to be purified by the reverend. The steps leading up to the third floor of the main hall glistened in gold. The dragon god Takaokami-no-okami and the colorful offerings welcomed everyone into the New Year. Finally, I poured the sacred saké for our worshippers. After that, the worshippers warmed themselves in the tent while drinking saké and munching on snacks.

After taking a deep nap for a few hours and seeing a vibrant dream, I woke up just before 6 a,m, on the first day of the year. The reverend was still sitting at the office window, waiting for worshippers. We were blessed with clear weather, and the first sunrise of the year slowly climbed up from behind the upstream mountains. After eating toshikoshi soba with the reverend and his wife, I waited for worshippers at the office window. Some locals I knew came, but there were many people who came all the way from Osaka or Hyogo Pref. for prayers, shuin stamps, amulets, fortunes, and amazaké on their first shrine visits of the year. These few days are the busiest of the year for the shrine. While the sleep-deprived reverend and his wife were busy running around, they greeted every worshipper with a bright smile and took the time to lend an ear.

My last day helping at the shrine was a little colder. That morning the reverend performed a ceremony twice at the small Sui Shrine next to the main hall. In the afternoon, the seven young villagers of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony paid a visit to the shrine. While they were all taking a photo in front of the main hall, a light snow started falling. As the sun approached the edge of the mountain, I swept the gravel from the path with the bamboo broom. Before I went home, I slipped a 100 yen coin into the red vending machine and received a fortune.

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木について語る:MoonRounds Talk On Wood: MoonRounds

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木について語る:MoonRounds

 「満ち欠けする様にみえる自然のリズムに沿う」をイメージして、渡邉崇さんは自分の工房を「MoonRounds (ムーンラウンズ)」と名付けた。工房でろくろで木を回しながら、彼はお皿、茶碗、一輪挿しと他の「器」を作る。木工作家である崇は天然のオイルや草木で作品を染める。作品を見たら、一つ一つにストーリーがあると分かる。

 「この間、台風で倒れた木や。」と崇さんは言い、県道を崩壊させた風倒木を指した。この分厚くて、300年生の杉の木は、吉野林業の長い歴史の証拠でありながら、自然と暮らす危険の証拠でもある。大きくなって、傾いてきて、倒れそうな街路樹もMoonRoundsの工房で並べてあった。何かとのゆかりがある木がよく崇さんの工房に届く。木に傷の跡や節や歪んだところがあっても、崇さんはそのいわゆる「欠点」を「特徴」として活かす。木の由来を暗示する特徴だ。それぞれの木は他の木と違う、独特の経験があると思い出させる特徴だ。

 もちろん崇さんは傷のない、節のない木も使う。吉野杉、吉野ヒノキ、桜、栃、楠の木の作品が棚で並んでいる。大きくて平らなお皿の年輪がだんだん溶けて、長い雲のように見える。一輪挿しの年輪が潮の干満のように優しく上下する。年輪に合わせた茶碗の縁が海辺を離れた長い波のように見える。冬目を数えなくても、MoonRoundsの作品を見ながら、生命の経過を感じる。作品を一つずつ作るための思い、木とともに生活してきた人間、地球とともに進化してきた木。時計で計れない生命の経過だ。日常用品ではなくても、こんな作品と暮らすことはその生命の恩返しだ。

 MoonRoundsの工房の上に弥勒寺というお寺がある。崇さんは木工の腕を貸して、近所の方々と一緒に弥勒寺を改装している。年に数回みんなで「弥勒茶屋」を開催する。近所の方は弥勒寺の歴史を調べて、参加者のための資料を作る。崇さんの奥さんは身内の冗談を交えた落語をする。座布団に座っている参加者は柿の葉寿司を齧りながら、笑い合う。この環境がMoonRoundsの作品に写っていると僕は思う。みんなの独特の力で成り立っている弥勒茶屋。木や草木の自然な模様と色彩を活かすMoonRounds。どちらにも人を受け入れる暖かみがある。どちらからも、自然のリズムに沿った暮らしの魅力がにじみ出る。

Talk On Wood: MoonRounds

In an image “along the waxing and waning rhythm of nature”, Takashi Watanabe named his studio “MoonRounds”. While spinning his lathe in his studio, Takashi makes plates, bowls, vases, and other “vessels”. As a woodworking artist, he dyes his works with natural oils and grasses. When you look at his works, you can see there is a story in each one.

“This is the tree that fell in the last typhoon,” Takashi said, pointing to the fallen tree that collapsed the prefectural road. This thick, 300-year-old cedar was both evidence of the long history of Yoshino forestry, as well as the danger of living with nature. A street tree that was chopped because it grew too large and was about to fall was also lined up in the MoonRounds studio. Trees with a connection to something often arrive at Takashi’s studio. Even with scars or knots or deformations, Takashi brings those so-called “flaws” to life as “characteristics”. Characteristics that suggest the history of a tree. Characteristics that remind us that every tree has had a different, unique experience.

Of course, Takashi also uses trees with no scars or knots too. Works made of Yoshino cedar, Yoshino cypress, cherry tree, horse chestnut, and camphor tree are lined up on his shelves. The year rings on a large flat plate gradually melt into what looks like a long cloud on the plate. The year rings on a vase softly ebb and flow like the tide. The lip of a bowl cut inline with the year rings looks like a long wave far away from the shore. Even without counting the winter rings, I feel the course of life while looking at the works of MoonRounds. The thought that goes into creating each work, the people who have lived with the trees, the trees that have evolved with the earth. It is the passing of life that cannot be measured by a clock. Even if it is not something you use everyday, living with these kinds of works is a way to say thank you for that time.

Above the MoonRounds studio is a temple called Miroku-ji. Takashi lends his woodworking abilities to help renovate it with his neighbors. A few times a year, they hold an event called “Miroku Tea House”. A neighbor researches the history of Miroku-ji and makes pamphlets for the participants. Takashi’s wife performs rakugo storytelling, throwing in inside jokes for locals. Participants sit on floor pillows while munching on persimmon leaf sushi and laughing together. I feel like this environment is evident in the work of MoonRounds. Miroku Tea House, formed via everyone’s unique skills. MoonRounds, bringing to life the natural patterns and colors of trees and grass. Both of them have a warmth that brings people in. From both of them emanates the beauty of a lifestyle along the rhythm of nature.

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木について語る:山を守る人と、人を守る山 Talk On Wood: People Who Protect Mountains, Mountains That Protect People

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木について語る:山を守る人と、人を守る山

 毎年春から、玉井久勝さんは野球の試合で審判する。夏の盆踊りを準備から片付けまで、玉井さんは主役的な役割を果たしている。消防団の分団長と山岳救助隊隊員を含めて、玉井さんの肩書きが十九個になる。「人と関わるのが好きだから、こうなった」と本人は言う。英語で言えば、玉井さんは「帽子をたくさん被る」という表現を使うだろう。しかし、玉井さんが何よりも被るのは帽子ではなく、ヘルメットだ。

 玉井さんは山を管理する「山守」だ。野球の監督が試合の様子を見て、選手を換えたりすると同じように、玉井さんは山の様子を見て、吉野杉とヒノキの木を間伐したり、伐採したりする。密植された木をちゃんと育てるために、草刈り、枝を切る「枝打ち」、間伐の作業を定期的にする必要がある。他の仕事と違って、毎日こつこつとした仕事の成果が見えるのには年数がかかる。「木を育てるにはすごい時間がかかる」と玉井さんは言った。「野菜とかだったら、春に植えたら秋に収穫できるけど、山はそうならない。スパンが長くて、成長が遅い。。。でも、風や雪で倒れる時はいっぺんや」と玉井さんは苦笑いで言った。「自分が育てた山がだんだん大きくなっていくのを見るのはやっぱり達成感がある。若い時はあまりそう思わなかった。」 

 密植された、繊細な年輪で有名な吉野杉を育てるのはかなり時間がかかる。山守は山で切った木を原木市場まで運んで、競売する。昔は、吉野杉とヒノキがよく売れたが、だんだん苦しくなった。「日本の文化が変わって、木材の使われ方が変わり、消費量が減って、外材が入ってきて、国内の材木の値段が下がった。」と玉井さんはそれについて正直に言ってくださった。林業の不安定はもう一つの課題とつながっている:山守の後継者を見つけることだ。

 玉井さんに山のことを聞いてみたら、ストーリーが始まる。彼の目が輝き、彼の声が鮮やかになる。人好きな玉井さんは何年か前から子供たちと山の話をしたり、若者を山に連れて行ったりしている。山で吉野林業の基本を教えて、間伐を体験させる。玉井さんは若者と意見交換をしながら、いつも仲良く交流している。もちろん教育の目的もあるが、この川上村で木を大事に作っているということが分かってもらったら、それは商品とつながるかもしれない。「例えば、木のテーブルと鉄のテーブルがあって、どっちを買うとしたら、木のテーブルにしてほしい。」と玉井さんは言った。「そのうち興味があったりしたら、そういう作る現場にも参加したいという人ができてくると、仕事をしてくれる人が現れるかもしれない。」

 玉井さんは山に行く前に、まず、山の神にお参りする。一月、六月、十一月の七日である「山の神の日」には山で仕事をしないということも決まっている。危険な現場で働いている山守たちは山の神に見守られていると言ってもいいかもしれない。私たちは山を大切にしたら、山に大切にしていただくような気がする。少なくとも、僕はそんな印象を受けている。私たちの使う木、私たちの飲む水、下流へ流れる川が山々で生まれる。私たちに不可欠なものを使い続けるために、山を大切にしなきゃ。

Talk On Wood: People Who Protect Mountains, Mountains That Protect People

Every spring, Hisakatsu Tamai starts umpiring baseball games. He is a central figure from the preparation to the clean-up of the Bon festival in the summer. Including captain of our Volunteer Fire Dept. unit and a member of the Mountain Rescue Squad, his titles continue 19 lines down the page. “I like interacting with people, so it turned out like this,” he said. In English, we’d say that Mr. Tamai “wears many hats”. However, the thing he wears more than anything is not a hat, but a helmet.

Mr. Tamai is a yamamori, a manager of the mountains. Just as a baseball manager watches how a game goes and replaces players accordingly, Mr. Tamai watches how a mountain develops, while thinning and chopping the Yoshino cedar and cypress. In order to properly raise these densely planted trees, one must regularly cut grass, chop branches, and thin the forest. Unlike other jobs, the results of the daily grind only come decades later. “It takes a very long time to grow a tree,” Mr. Tamai said. “With vegetables, you plant them in spring and harvest them in autumn, but these mountains aren’t like that. It’s a long span and the growth is slow…but when the trees fall down, it’s right away,” he said with a wry smile. “Of course, it’s fulfilling to see the mountains I’ve looked after gradually grow and develop. When I was younger, I never felt that.”

Densely planted and famous for its fine rings, Yoshino cedar takes a long time to grow. Eventually, yamamori transports the trees from the mountains to the lumber market and auctions them off. In the past, Yoshino cedar and cypress sold very well, but it has gradually become a struggle. “Japanese culture changed and the way lumber is used also changed, with people consuming less wood and the introduction of foreign materials, the price of domestic lumber went down,” Mr. Tamai told me honestly. The instability of forestry is connected to another issue: finding yamamori successors.

If you ask Mr. Tamai about the mountains, the story starts. His eyes light up and his voice becomes animated. A people-person, for years Mr. Tamai has talked with young people about the mountains and taken them into the mountains. He teaches them the basics of Yoshino Forestry and allows them to experience tree-thinning first-hand. Mr. Tamai and the young people share opinions with one another and always seem to get along very well. Of course the purpose is educational, but perhaps if people understand that trees are so carefully grown in Kawakami Village, that might lead them to a wood product down the line. “For example, if there’s a wooden table and metal table, and they’re going to buy one, I want them to choose the wooden one,” Mr. Tamai said. “At some point, they might be interested and want to come participate on-site where we grow these trees, so someone might come here to work.”

Before Mr. Tamai heads into the mountains, he first pays respect to the God of the Mountain. On the 7th of January, June, and November, known as the “God of the Mountain Day”, no one dares to go into the mountains. You might be able to say that the yamamori, who work in a dangerous environment, are being watched over by the God of the Mountain. It seems like if we take care of the mountains, the mountains will take care of us as well. At least, that’s the impression I get. The wood we use, the water we drink, the river that flows downstream are all born in the mountains. In order to continue using these essentials, we need to take care of these mountains.

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春に黄、秋に朱 Yellow in Spring, Vermilion in Autumn

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春に黄、秋に朱

 やまいき市の朝市で季節の花束は秋の陽光を静かに浴びる。バケツの中で花束に雑じっているのは長い枝についた小さな朱色の実だ。毎週、お客様は「これはグミ?」と聞く。僕は「グミではない、サンシュユです。」と言っても、説得力があまりない。花の先生の力を借りるしかないと思い、高原の梶本靖子さんを訪ねた。

 梶本さんは中学校一年生の時から生け花を稽古している。学校から帰ってきて、山に生け花の材料をよく取りに行った。大人になり、生け花を教えるようになったら、花を育てることにした。そのうち、サンシュユの花も育ててみた。春から咲くサンシュユの黄色い花を山でよく見たが、自分で育ててみたら、秋のサプライズがあった。「秋から実が成り出して、初めて分かった」と梶本さんは言った。熟した果実が中国で薬用にされているらしいが、梶本さんはそんなものを作らない。春に咲いた黄色い花を何本残したら、秋にその枝から小さな朱色の実が成る。そのおかげで、春でも秋でも、サンシュユの木から生け花の材料を取れる。

 梶本さんは野菜も作っているが、サンシュユの方が簡単だ。「裏の草を刈って、ほっとくだけだ!」と梶本さんは笑った。「枝を何本切っても、毎年いっぱいになるね。今の株は私の背ぐらい」。サンシュユの枝が長くて、まっすぐで、高原の青空まで届けそうだ。鮮やかな朱色の実が賑やかだが、もう季節の終わり頃だ。春に緑色のつぼみから繊細な黄色い花が生まれる。「花を取る時が楽しいな、やっぱり。『わー、咲いてきて、嬉しい』や『わー、実が成った』の時」と梶本さんは言って、微笑んだ。梶本さんは毎年の春から様々な花をやまいき市の朝市に出している。お時間のある方、ぜひ見に来てください。

Yellow in Spring, Vermilion in Autumn

At the Yamaiki-ichi morning market, seasonal bouquets of flowers quietly take in the autumn sunshine. Mixed with the bouquets in the buckets are small, vermilion-colored fruits on long branches. Every week, customers ask, “Are these gumi berries?”. Even if I say, “They’re not gumi berries, they’re Japanese cornels,” it is not very convincing. I figured I needed the help of a flower teacher, and visited Yasuko Kajimoto in the Takahara district.

Ms. Kajimoto has practiced ikebana since her first year in junior high school. She would come home from school, and then go into the mountains to find flowers and material for ikebana. As she became an adult and started teaching ikebana, she decided to grow flowers herself. In due time, she tried growing Japanese cornel. She often saw its yellow flower blooming in the spring on the mountains, but when she tried growing it herself, she found a surprise in autumn. “These fruits started started growing in the autumn, it was the first time I’d heard of them,” she said. These “cornelian cherries” are used in Chinese medicine, but Ms. Kajimoto does not make anything like that. When she leaves some of the yellow flowers that have bloomed in the spring, small cherries grow on those branches in the autumn. Thanks to that, whether it is spring or autumn, she can get material for ikebana from the Japanese cornel.

Ms. Kajimoto also grows vegetables, but Japanese cornel is easier. “I just cut the grass around the back side, and leave it alone!” she laughed. “No matter how many branches I cut off, it’s full every year. Now, the trunk is about as tall as I am.” The branches of the Japanese cornel are long and straight, and seem like the might reach up to the blue sky in Takahara. The bright, vermilion-colored fruits lively, but it is just about the end of their season now. In the spring, fine yellow flowers will be born out of the green buds. “Picking the flowers is a lot of fun, of course. ‘Wow, look what’s bloomed!’ or ‘Wow, look at these fruits!’, times like that,” Ms. Kajimoto told me and smiled. Every year, Ms. Kajimoto gives a wide variety of flowers to Yamaiki-ichi. If you have time, please come see them.

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グラウンドゴルフ大会 Ground Golf Tournament

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グラウンドゴルフ大会

 「エリック、今夜予定ある?」と近所の人に声をかけてもらった。僕は特に予定がないと答えた。「もしよかったら、グラウンドゴルフ大会に来てください。」と彼は言った。僕はグラウンドゴルフのことを聞いたことがあったが、まだやったことがなかった。面白そうだった。僕は軽い夕食を済まし、暖かいジャケットを着込み、上多古の家を出た。

 18時ごろあきつの小野スポーツ公園に着いた時、ドラム缶の炎が既に燃えていた。選手たちは三々五々でゆったりと来た。僕は木のゴルフクラブと緑色のボールを借り、広いグラウンドでみなさんと練習した。僕はボールをスタートマットに乗せ、マウンドの反対側にあったホールポストを狙いながら、ボールを打った。ボールがマウンドを上り、綺麗な曲線を描きながら下へ転がり、ホールポストに柔らかく当たった。もちろん一打目のホール・イン・ワンで驚いた。残念ながら、まだ練習だけだった。

 そのビギナーズラック(初心者のまぐれ)」が実際のゲームに続かなかった。ボールがホールポストを通り過ぎて永遠に転んでいったか、思ったほどなかなか転ばなかった。試行錯誤でだんだん慣れるかなと思ったが、グラウンドゴルフのコツをなかなかつかめなかった。打数が次々に上がり、前半が終わったら、もう20打を十分超えていた。

 休憩をしながら、選手たちはベンチで座ったり、ドラム缶の炎を囲んだりした。みなさんの前半がどうだったかと聞いてみた。「もう、あかん!」と何人も笑って答えた。みなさんもうまく行っていないような気がして、僕は少し安心して後半のゲームに出た。

 後半は前半と変わりなく、打数が3つ、4つずつ上がった。ボールを最後のホールポストに入れて、微かな雨が降りだした。1回目のグラウンドゴルフが難しいと思ったが、ラストから2番目になると予想しなかった。やまいき市の生産者や常連さん、お祭りなどで出会った人もグラウンドゴルフ大会に出場した。僕はどのぐらい失敗したにも関わらず、そのみなさんの意外な面を見るのはとても楽しかった。

Ground Golf Tournament

“Eric, do you have any plans tonight?” my neighbor called out to me and asked. I answered that I didn’t have any plans in particular. “If you’re interested, please come to the Ground Gold Tournament,” he said. I had heard of ground golf, but I had never tried it. It seemed interesting. I had a light dinner, put on a warm jacket, and left my house in Kodako.

When I arrived at Akitsu-no-ono Sports Park around 6 p.m., the drum can fire was already burning. The athletes came leisurely in threes and fives. I borrowed a wooden golf club and green ball, and practiced with everyone on the wide ground. I placed the ball on the start mat, and hit it while aiming for the hole post on the opposite side of the mound. The ball climbed up the mound, and while drawing a nice curve, rolled down and softly hit the hole post. I was of course surprised to hit a hole-in-one on my first shot. Unfortunately, it was still just practice.

That beginner’s luck didn’t continue into the actual game. The ball would either pass through the hole post and roll to eternity, or it just wouldn’t quite roll enough. I thought I would gradually get used to it through trial and error, but I couldn’t quite find the knack of ground golf. The strokes went up one after another, and when the first half was finished, I had already surpassed 20 strokes.

While taking a break, the athletes sat on benches or gathered around the drum can fire. I asked everyone how their first half went. “Oh, it’s already terrible!” a couple of people laughed. It seemed like things weren’t going well for everyone else either, and I was a little relieved as I started the second half.

With no difference between the first half and second half, my strokes climbed in increments of three and four. I put the ball into the final hole post, and it started to slightly drizzle. My first try at ground golf was difficult, but I didn’t expect to finish second to last. Many growers and regulars from Yamaiki-ichi, as well as faces I recognized from festivals, participated in this Ground Golf Tournament. Regardless of how many times I screwed up, it was a lot of fun to see this other side of everyone.

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Kuraya Diner くらや食堂

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くらや食堂

 次から次へと来る台風の間、見事に晴れた日があった。僕は昼から柏木のくらや食堂まで自転車に乗った。お店がそれほど大きくなくて、木のテーブル、椅子、壁が店内に独特のあたたかさを与える。僕は阪神タイガースのカレンダーの下に座り、鳥にんにく炒め定食を注文した。国道169号線を走る大型トラックが青いのれんを揺らし、僕は数秒対岸の山を垣間見ることができた。キッチンからクリルのシューシューとにんにくの匂いが漂ってきた。

 2年前に川上村に来た僕は、現在のくらや食堂しか知らない。国道が元々柏木の街並みを通り、劇場や映画館や様々な店に挟まれた。奈良交通のバスターミナルの近くに、くらや食堂があった。対向車が来たら困るほど国道が細かったが、この街並みがとても賑やかだった。その国道が山の下に移された時に、くらや食堂は現在の場所に移転した。

 「ミョウガを食べるけ?」と店長の倉谷さんはカゴを持ちながらキッチンを出て、僕に聞いた。柏木に昔の賑やかさがなくても、倉谷さんは奥さんと一緒にお店をとても明るく続けている。「人が減っていて、ネガティブな考え方が多いけど、希望を持って、ポジティブな考え方を持っていて欲しいな。」と倉谷さんは言った。本人に会ったら、その気持ちが絶対に伝わる。くらや食堂に来るたびに、そんな倉谷さんと話し合うのが一つの楽しみだ。もちろん料理も一つの楽しみだ。

 鳥にんにく炒め、きんぴらごぼう、豆腐とミョウガの味噌汁、サラダとご飯が運ばれた。高級な料理ではなくても、とても美味しくて食べやすい。お店のメニューに麺類や丼などがあるが、僕はいつも同じものを注文する。僕は次回、別のものを食べたいと思い、倉谷さんのおすすめを聞いてみた。「昔から単品で作っているけど、最近カレー風味の鳥揚げ出し炒め定食を作っている。やっぱり鳥が多い、私は鳥が好きやから。」香ばしくて、温かそう。雨の日にぴったり合う、前向きの料理だと僕は思う。

Kuraya Diner

In between the typhoons coming one after another, there was one incredibly clear day. Around noon I rode my bicycle to the Kuraya Diner in Kashiwagi. The shop is not all that big, and the wooden tables, chairs, and walls give it a warm feeling. I sat below the Hanshin Tigers calendar and ordered the Garlic Chicken Lunch. The large trucks driving down Nat. Hwy 169 flap the blue shop curtain, and I can catch a glimpse of the mountain on the other side of the river for a few seconds. The sound of the grill and the scent of garlic drifted out from the kitchen.

As I just moved here two years ago, the current Kuraya Diner is all I know. The national highway used to pass through the town of Kashiwagi, sandwiched between a playhouse, movie theater, and many shops. Near the Nara Kotsu Bus Terminal was Kuraya Diner. The highway was so narrow that any on-coming cars would cause trouble, but this town was still very lively. When the highway was moved down the mountain, Kuraya Diner relocated to where it is today.

“Do you eat myoga?”, the shop owner Mr. Kuratani asked me as he carried a basket out of the kitchen. Even if Kashiwagi does not have the same liveliness it once had, Mr. Kuratani and his wife continue running their diner with a bright outlook. “With fewer and fewer people, there are a lot of negative ways of thinking, but I want everyone to have a dream and stay positive,” Mr. Kuratani said. That feeling definitely comes across when you meet him. Every time I visit Kuraya Diner, I look forward to speaking with Mr. Kuratani. I of course look forward to the food as well.

The garlic chicken, kinpira burdock, tofu and myoga miso soup, salad, and rice arrived at my table. It is not high-class food, but it is delicious and easy to eat. There are a variety of noodle and rice bowl dishes on the menu, but I always order the same thing. I was thinking I want to try something new next time, and asked Mr. Kuratani for his recommendation. “I’ve been making this dish for a while now, but recently I’ve been making the Curry-flavored Chicken and Fried Tofu Lunch. I like chicken, so as you might guess, we have a lot of chicken dishes.” It sounds very savory and warm. I feel it is a forward-thinking dish, perfect for rainy days.

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実りの月 Harvest Moon

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実りの月

 今年の八月が普段より暑くなっても、やまいき市の生産者たちは毎週野菜をたくさん出してくれた。タマネギとジャガイモが山ほどあったおかげで、僕はフライドポテトやオニオンオムレッツのような様々な料理を挑戦することができた。キッチンがめちゃくちゃになったが、そういうものかな。その他、東部地区盆踊り、お祭り、友達の来村、といつもの仕事で忙しくなった八月はあっという間に終わった。八月三十一日にやっと一息ついて、白川渡の八朔祭に誘っていただいた。

 十八時前に白川渡の八幡神社に着いた。金曜日の夕方がだんだん暗くなったが、神社は提灯の灯で静かに照らされた。気軽な挨拶と子供の笑い声で溢れた黄昏で、僕は八朔祭の由来を初めて聞かせていただいた。「八朔」は八月朔日の省略で、旧暦の八月一日の意味だ。この頃、稲の穂が実りを見せ始めるため、たくさん実りがあるように神に祈る祭りだ。みなさんは階段を上り、お参りした。僕は手作りクッキーを持って来て、みなさんに食べてもらう前に、お供え物にしていただいた。

 上多古に住んでいる僕は白川渡のみなさんに会う機会がそれほどない。そのため、せっかく誘っていただいたら、みなさんと話したり、食べたり、飲んだりしたいだ。伊勢音頭の歌詞を知らなくても、みなさんと手を叩きたい。人数が少なても、外の暗闇の中で太鼓のビートと即興の歌に合わせて踊るのが最高だった。

 夜が遅くなり、みなさんはそれぞれの道で帰った。人の歌や笑い声の代わりに、虫の鳴き声は夜の空気を支配した。懐中電灯が闇の僅かな一箇所しか照らさなかったが、谷の上の夜空が無数の星で光っていた。僕はその星を眺めながら夜の涼しい風を肌で感じ、あんなに暑くてバタバタしていた八月の素敵な終わり方だと思った。川上村には田んぼがなくても、今年みなさんの作物はたくさん実りがあるように心の中で祈った。タマネギとジャガイモも大歓迎だ。

Harvest Moon

Even though this August was hotter than usual, the growers of Yamaiki-ichi gave us a lot of vegetables every week. Thanks to having a mountain heap of onions and potatoes, I was able to challenge myself by making French fries, onion omelettes, and other dishes. My kitchen was a mess, but that’s how it goes. Other than that, an August busy with the Eastern District Bon-odori, festivals, visits from friends, and the same work as usual went by in a flash. I was finally able to take a breath on August 31st when I was invited to the Hassaku Festival in Shirakawado.

I arrived at Shirakawado’s Hachiman Shrine just before 6 p.m. The Friday evening gradually grew darker, but the shrine was quietly illuminated by lanterns. In a twilight filled with casual greetings and children’s laughter, I learned about the origin of “hassaku” for the first time. “Hassaku” is an abbreviation of “hachigatsu-sakujitsu”, or the first day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Around this time, ears of rice begin showing their crops, so it’s a festival to pray for a large harvest. Everyone climbed the steps and paid their respects to the shrine. I brought homemade cookies for everyone to eat, but first left it as an offering to the shrine.

As I am living in Kodako, I don’t have many opportunities to see the people of Shirakawado. That’s why since they were kind enough to invite me, I really want to talk, eat, and drink with everyone there. Even if I don’t know the lyrics to Ise Ondo, I want to clap with everyone when they sing it. Even if there weren’t very many people, it was great dancing in the darkness to the beat of the taiko drum and improvised song.

The night grew even darker, and everyone went home their separate ways. The songs and laughs of people were replaced by the cries of bugs, taking hold over the night air. My flashlight only lit up a small part of the darkness, but the night sky over the valley twinkled with countless stars. As I gazed at those stars and felt the cool night wind on my skin, I felt that it was a beautiful ending to such a hot and busy August. Even if there aren’t any rice paddies in Kawakami Village, I prayed for everyone to have a large harvest this year. Onions and potatoes are more than welcome.

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狩りと蜻蛉と滝 A Hunt, a Dragonfly, and a Waterfall

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

狩りと蜻蛉と滝

やまいき市の朝市から少し散歩してあきつの小野スポーツ公園に着く。朝市の常連さんの中には、毎週公園まで歩いて朝市に戻る人はいる。公園の野球場で消防団は毎年の出初式を開催する。テニスコートもパターゴルフもある。それぞれの奥の方に行ったら、穏やかな小川の上の小さな橋を渡り、苔の王国に着く。ベンチ、東屋、慰霊碑があり、蜻蛉(せいれい)の滝まで続く長い石階段もある。
蜻蛉(せいれい)の滝の名はその地の「蜻蛉(あきつ)野」という名から来た。飛鳥時代の百年前、吉野林業の初期の一千年前のころ、この地はそう名づけられたと記録されている。ある日、雄略天皇は行幸し、狩にいらっしゃった。その次の成り行きは蜻蛉(せいれい)の滝の隣の看板で下記の通りに記載してある:

蜻蛉の滝
蜻蛉(せいれい)とはトンボのことである。
二十一代雄略天皇がこの地に行幸の祭、狩人に命じて獣を馳り、自ら射とうとしたとき、突然大きな虻(あぶ)が飛んできて、天皇の臂(ひじ)に喰いついた。ところが、何処からともなく蜻蛉(とんぼ)が現われその虻を噛み殺したので、天皇が大いにほめたたえ、これより、この地を蜻蛉野(あきつの)と呼ぶことになった。
蜻蛉の名にちなんで、この滝を蜻蛉の滝と呼んでいる。
高さ約五十メートル。飛沫は太陽に映じて常に虹をつくっていることから、この付近は一名虹光(にじっこう)といわれている。
蜻蛉の滝は古く万葉集にも記載されており、松尾芭蕉、本居宣長など著名人が多く訪れている。

雄略天皇の歌は万葉集の冒頭の歌である。国道と朝市からの僅かな散歩の現在より、雄略天皇の当時はこの地が人里離れた所にちがいない。しかし、昔と同じく木の陰が涼しくて、雨で濡れた石が滑りやすいと想像する。この滝、それぞれの木、野球のグラウンド、消防団が1500年後でもまだ元気にしている風景も想像する。

For my English-only readers,
The Japanese language uses three kinds of characters, and one of them is a meaning-based (not phonetic) system borrowed from China called kanji. There are usually multiple ways to read or pronounce the same kanji, depending on context, environment, and other factors. Occasionally, the pronunciation of the kanji is irregular. In the story below, the kanji for “dragonfly” is pronounced three different ways: seirei, akitsu, and tonbo (this last one is the most common and modern, so I have translated it directly as dragonfly in this text).

 

A Hunt, a Dragonfly, and a Waterfall

Akitsuno Ono Sports Park is a short walk from our morning market. A walk there and back is part of the routine of some of our regular customers. Its baseball diamond hosts our Volunteer Fire Department Opening Ceremony every January. There are also tennis courts and a putter golf course. If you keep going all the way to the back, you will arrive at a small bridge over a tranquil river, leading to a kingdom of moss. There are benches, gazebos, a memorial, and a long series of stone steps leading to Seirei Falls.
The name of Seirei Falls is derived from the name of the area, Akitsuno, or dragonfly field. It is said that this area received its name in the mid 5th century AD, a hundred years before the Asuka Period and a thousand years before the beginnings of Yoshino Forestry. At the time, Emperor Yuryaku left the palace grounds and decided to go hunting one day. What happened that day is written on a plaque next to Seirei Falls.

Seirei Falls
Seirei is referring to “dragonfly”.
When the 21st emperor, Emperor Yuryaku, was out hunting, he ordered one of his hunters to chase some wild game for him to shoot. When the emperor went to shoot the game himself, a large horsefly suddenly flew over and bit down on his elbow. But then, a dragonfly appeared out of nowhere, biting and killing the horsefly. The emperor praised the dragonfly, and from then on, this land became known as Akitsuno (dragonfly field).
As with the land, this waterfall is called Seirei Falls.
It has a height of approximately 50 meters. Since its spray creates a rainbow, this area is called “rainbow light”.
Seirei Falls is referenced in the early writings of the Man’yoshu, and has been visited by Matsuo Basho, Motoori Norinaga, and other famous people.

Emperor Yuryaku’s poem is the first in the Man’yoshu (Collection of Myriad Leaves), an ancient collection of poetry written by Japanese emperors. In his day, this area must have been even more remote than it is today, now a mere walk from the national highway and our morning market. However, I imagine the shade of the trees is just as cool, the rocks wet from rain just as slippery as they were back then. I also imagine the waterfall, the trees, the baseball diamond, and the Volunteer Fire Department will still be going strong 1,500 years from now.

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農業をするこころ Farming Heart

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

   出口博一さんは川上村東川地区の「波津」に引っ越してきた時、地元の人にとても歓迎してもらったそう。「最初は『いけめん、いけめん』と言ってもらったのに、あっと言う間に、普通の田舎のおじさんになってしまった。」と奥さんは笑って言った。三年前に出口さんは「田舎でのんびりしながら農業したい」という夢を持って、大阪府茨木市から奥さんの実家である波津に帰った。現在、農業の仕事で忙しくて、あまりのんびりしていない。
   黄昏の気持ち良い風を楽しみながら、畑を次々に案内してもらった。出口さんの日焼けした顔の表情が明るい。まだまだイケメンだ。波津は日当たりが良くて、川上村の他の地区より少し暖かいため、野菜だけではなく、メロンやマスカットやリンゴのような果物も作っている。それぞれの作物をカバーして、農薬を使わずに虫から守る。現在様々な野菜を作っているが、これからは果物と茶畑をメインにしようと考えている。十五年ほど休んでいた茶畑を復活させて、今年からそのお茶を袋に詰めて、他の作物と並べてやまいき市や道の駅や匠の聚で販売している。昔は茶工房があって、茶摘みから製茶まで波津で行なっていたそうだ。「復活した波津茶を村の皆さんに飲んでいただきたい。」と出口さんは言っている。
   今年の七月から出口さんは農業を次の段階へ進め、子供を対象にした「お茶摘み体験」や「果物取り体験」を始める。普段農業と接していない子供たちはお茶摘みや果物取りの作業を体験し、収穫したものを持って帰る。畑の近辺は子供の笑い声で溢れて普段より明るくなる。他の遊び方と違うかもしれないが、この小さな作業も、川上村の思い出の一つとして子供たちに持って帰ってもらう。
   出口さんは畑を細かく、丁寧に管理している。トウモロコシやメロンなどが立派に育っている。彼は農業を趣味として始めたが、こんな作業に本当に向いていると思う。農業はまだ三年ほどしかやっていないが、これからも新しい野菜つくりへの挑戦を楽しみにしている。

   When Hirokazu Deguchi moved in the “Hazu” district of Kawakami Village’s Unogawa, he was well welcomed by the locals. “At first everyone said, “What a handsome guy!”, but before I knew it, he turned into just a regular country man.” With a dream of “taking it easy in the country and farming”, Mr. Deguchi moved from Ibaraki, Osaka to his wife’s original home in Hazu three years ago. These days, he is very busy with farm work, and doesn’t seem to be taking it easy.
   I was shown around crop after crop, enjoying the nice twilight wind. The expressions of Mr. Deguchi’s tanned face are warm. And yes, he is still a handsome guy. Since Hazu receives a lot of sunlight and is slightly warmer than other areas of Kawakami Village, Mr. Deguchi grows not only vegetables, but also fruit such as melons, muscats, and apples. He covers each of the crops to protect them from insects without using pesticides. He is currently growing a variety of vegetables, but looking ahead Mr. Deguchi is thinking about focusing on fruit and tea. He revived a tea crop that was dormant for fifteen years, and has started packaging and selling it with other vegetables at Yamaiki-ichi, the Michi-no-eki, and Takumi-no-mura. this year. A long time ago, there was a tea factory, and every step from picking the tea leaves to production was done in Hazu. Mr. Deguchi says, “I’d for everyone in the village to drink this Hazu tea from the revived crop.”
   This July, Mr. Deguchi will take his farming to the next level and start offering “tea picking experiences” and “fruit picking experiences” for children. Kids who typically don’t have chances to see farming will experience the work of picking tea leaves or fruit, and then take home whatever they have harvested. The areas around the crops will be filled with children’s laughter, and be a little brighter than usual. It might be different than how they usually play, but this small work will be one more memory for the children to take home with them.
   Mr. Deguchi manages his crops precisely and carefully. The corn, melons, etc. are growing magnificently. He started farming as a hobby, but I think he is really cut out for this kind of work. He’s only been farming for three years, but I look forward to the new vegetables he will challenge in the future.

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タケノコとヒデさん Bamboo Shoots and Mr. Hidé

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タケノコとヒデさん

朝日館の駐車場でヒデさんと待ち合わせ、道具を準備した。朝日館の柚子取りや茶摘みをするたびに、ヒデさんの指導を受けながらする。ヒデさんとの会話はテニスのように感じる時がある。サーブのような挨拶が来て、早く返さないと、会話が成り立たない。ある程度ついていかないと面白くない。比喩とダジャレを会話にどんどん交え、女将さんを笑わせるヒデさんは笑顔のままで僕の返事を待つ。笑うべき時に笑う、笑わせる返事を早く言うことは日本語能力試験の次の段階になっているかもしれない。
今日はヒデさんと初めてタケノコを掘りに行った。ツルハシと何枚もの袋を運びながら坂を登り、竹の森に入った。タケノコは地面から十分出ていないと掘る価値がないが、膝より高くなったら美味しくなくなる。その間のタケノコを狙いながら、森の斜面を登ったり下ったりして、タケノコをだんだん袋に詰めた。ツルハシを振るって、ひっくり上げる作業を繰り返した。タケノコの根っこより低く狙わないと、根っこが切られてもったいない。最初に目立ったタケノコを全部掘ってから、隠れたのや森の奥にあったのを探して掘りに行った。シャガの花があちこちで咲いている。一時間この作業をしてから、ヒデさんは僕にいつものリボビタンDを渡した。その小さな瓶から元気をもらい、最後の袋を最後まで詰め込み、森の外へ運んだ。ヒデさんのパートナーはすでに平らな地面に座り、タケノコを剥いていた。タケノコを包丁で縦に切り、皮を剥がす方法を教えてもらった。いったいどのへんを食べられるかと思ったほど、何層もの皮が永遠に続いたが、やっと肉が見えた。
朝日館の台所で女将さんは剥かれたタケノコを大きな竃で灰汁抜きをした。お湯で溢れる竃を見ながら、ヒデさんの懐かしい歌に耳を傾けた。昼から、みんなで女将さんのタケノコ料理をいただいた。タケノコを小さく切って、ご飯と混ぜた「タケノコご飯」と大きな三角に切った「タケノコのかつお煮」を中心に、しらす大根おろし、ゴマで和えたナスもいただいた。お腹がいっぱいになっても、ヒデさんは最後までラリーのような会話でみんなを笑わせた。

Bamboo Shoots and Mr. Hidé

  I met up with Mr. Hidé in the Asahikan parking lot and prepared the tools. Whenever we pick yuzu or gather tea for Asahikan, it’s always under the direction of Mr. Hidé. Conversations with Mr. Hidé sometimes feel like a tennis match. His greeting is like a serve, which if you don’t quickly return, won’t make a conversation. Making Okami-san laugh with quick metaphors and wordplay into the conversation, Mr. Hidé holds his smile as he awaits my reply. Laughing when you’re supposed to, coming back with something funny, perhaps that's the next level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
   Today, I went with Mr. Hidé to dig bamboo shoots for the first time. While carrying our pickaxes and sacks, we climbed the hill and entered the bamboo forest. The bamboo shoots aren’t worth digging if they’re not protruding enough out of the ground, and they don’t taste very good if they grow higher than your knee. Aiming for anything in between, we climbed up and down the slope of the forest and gradually filled the sacks with bamboo shoots. It was repetitive work of swinging the pickaxe, bringing it down, and lifting it back up. If we don’t aim for below the roots of the bamboo shoot, the roots end up getting chopped and wasted. After digging up all of the bamboo shoots that stood out, we searched and dug up those that were hidden or deeper into the forest. Iris japonicas were blooming here and there. After doing this work for an hour, Mr. Hidé handed me the usual Lipovitan D drink. We got some energy from those little bottles, filled the last of the sacks, and carried them out of the forest. Mr. Hidé’s partner was already sitting on some flat ground and peeling the bamboo shoots. She showed me how to slice the bamboo shoot long ways with a knife and peel the skin. I was wondering which part of it we can actually eat as I continued peeling off layer after layer, but eventually got to the meat.
   In the kitchen of Asahikan, Okami-san boiled the bamboo shoots with ash in a large pot to remove the bitterness. As I watched the pot nearly overflow with hot water, I listened to Mr. Hidé sing a classic song. Around noon, we all ate some of Okami-san’s bamboo shoot dishes. The meal was centered around “bamboo shoot rice”, small slices of bamboo shoots mixed into rice, and “stewed bamboo shoots” cut into large triangles and dressed with bonito flakes. We also had Shirasu mixed with grated Japanese radish and eggplant seasoned with sesame. Even with a full stomach, Mr. Hidé continued his conversation rallies, making everyone laugh.

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トーク・オン・ウッド:辻谷達雄 Talk On Wood: Tatsuo Tsujitani

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トーク・オン・ウッド:辻谷達雄

 中学校を卒業してから、辻谷達雄さん(八十五歳)は毎日日記を書いている。今まで書いた日記は大きなダンボール箱で重なっている。執筆する心をもっている辻谷さんは一年間をかけて、自分の人生を振り返る「山が学校だった」という本を書いて、平成十年に発行した。最近、僕はこの本を読みながら、辻谷さんの暖かい言葉を通して、昭和の川上村を垣間見る機会がある。もちろん泣くところもあり、笑うところもある。まだ本を読んでいる途中でも、できれば、辻谷さんの話を直接聞きたくなった。先日、川上村の柏木集落の一番上まで登り、辻谷さんを訪れた。
鉄網と丸太で作られた長いランプが少々曲がりながら道路から家まで続く。辻谷さんはこの家に生まれて育った。こちらから吉野川の対岸へ通学したり、隣の集落の森へ通勤したりした。
 世代交代を目撃した辻谷さんは山から原木を滑らせる「修羅」の組み立て、原木を吉野川で流す作業などを見ることができた。川で原木を流す方法が放棄される前に、辻谷さんは最後に一回少し乗れた。辻谷さんは製材、割り箸、鶏飼いをやってみたが、いつも山の仕事に戻った。何年間山の仕事をしてから、辻谷さんは「山」と「辻谷」の組み合わせで「ヤマツ産業」を有限会社として設立した。ヤマツ産業は融資を受けたり、チェインソーやヘリのようなテクノロジーを使ったり、「山の何でもをする!」と宣伝するテレビCMを作ったりした。吉野林業の歴史と前の世代のやり方を参考にしながら、その時まで川上村の林業会社がやっていなかったことを辻谷さんは積極的にやってみた
 辻谷さんの本を読みながら一番感動したのは結婚式の話であった。当時、大きな披露宴が流行っていたが、辻谷さんは自分で考えて、それをしないと決めた。身内の人と公民館で集まり、みんなの前で奥さんと必要な書類を著名した。こんな風にすることによって、彼らはお互いと約束をし、この約束が一番大事な人に目撃してもらった。周りから何が言われても、辻谷さんは自分にとっての正しいことをする勇気をもち、本当に素敵なことができたと著者は思う。
 「山が学校だった」を発行した平成十年に、辻谷さんは「たっちゃんクラブ」を始めた。山の知識を伝えながら、山を守る新たな産業を見出したいという目標で始めた。山菜を集める、山の観察、山の神の参拝などの体験教室を開催して、大阪や和歌山から川上村まで来る参加者が多い。毎月のイベントに申込者が多いため、参加を抽選で決めることになった。20年をかけて1万人を超えた参加者を山に連れて行ったあと、辻谷さんは事故や自分の年を心配するようになった。辻谷さんは今年たっちゃんクラブを「卒業する」と言って、満員のままで最後のイベントを開催した。しかし、これから二冊目の本を書く予定があり、一冊目と同じように川上村へ人をひっぱるのであろう。
話の後、辻谷さんと一緒に家の上の森をふらっと歩いた。子供の頃からこの森で遊んだりした辻谷さんは、当然あらゆる山菜と木のことを知っている。山の話が次から次へ流れながら、辻谷さんは僕より山を早く登った。「マムシに気をつけや」と言ってから、マムシを真似た植物を見せてくださった。そのあと、家で干したマムシも見せてくださった。
 子供の頃から山菜を集めて遊んだり、仕事で山を細かく管理したりした辻谷さんは、自分の人生の経験を結局たっちゃんクラブの体験教室にすることができた。木と同じく、辻谷さんは一生を山で過ごして、その歳月によって素敵なことができた。こういう「山に優しい観光」が未来の手がかりになるような気がする。森はもちろんそのままで美しいが、その美しさを上手に紹介できる人が本当に宝物である。僕は辻谷さんに山の何が好きなのかを訊いてみた。「私は生まれたのは山の中だから、生活そのものが自然の中で、普通、当たり前やろ。『何がええか悪いか』よう聞かれる。それが村外、町の人に決めてもらおう。私は分からん。」

Talk On Wood: Tatsuo Tsujitani

   Since graduating from junior high school, Tatsuo Tsujitani (85) writes in his diary everyday. All of the diaries he has written up to now are piled high in cardboard boxes. With a mind for writing, Mr. Tsujitani spent a year writing “The Mountain Was My School”, a book published in 1998 that looks back on his life. Recently I have been reading his book, with opportunities to catch glimpses of the Showa era Kawakami Village through Mr. Tsujitani’s warm words. Of course there are places to cry and places to laugh. Though I am still reading the book, if possible, I wanted to hear what Mr. Tsujitani had to say directly. So the other day, I climbed all the way to the top of the Kashiwagi ward of Kawakami Village and visited him.
   The long ramp made of steel net and logs bends slightly continues from the road up to his house. Mr. Tsujitani was born and raised in this house. It was from here that he would go to school on the opposite side of the Yoshino River, or go to work in the forests of a neighboring ward. Having witnessed a generational shift, Mr. Tsujitani was able to see the assembly of “shura”, which were used to slide logs down the mountain, as well as the work sending logs down the river. Before the system of sending logs down the river was abandoned, he was able to ride one at the end. Mr. Tsujitani even tried making lumber, chopsticks, and raising chickens, but he always went back to working in the forests. After working in the forests for many years, Mr. Tsujitani combined the words “mountain (yama)” and “Tsujitani”, and established his limited company, Yamatsu Industries. Yamatsu Industries took out loans, incorporated new technology like helicopters and chainsaws, and even created TV advertisements saying “We’ll take care of anything on the mountain!”. While referencing the history of Yoshino forestry as well as the previous generation’s methods, Mr. Tsujitani was proactive in trying things that the other forestry companies of Kawakami Village hadn’t done yet.
   While reading Mr. Tsujitani’s book, the thing that moved me most was his wedding. At the time, large receptions were popular, but Mr. Tsujitani thought on his own, and decided he wouldn’t do that. They gathered with close friends and family in the local community building, and he and his wife stamped the proper paperwork in front of everyone. In doing so, they made a promise with one another, and this promise was witnessed by those most important to them. No matter what people around him said, Mr. Tsujitani had the courage to do what was right for himself, and ended up creating something beautiful.
   In 1998, the same year he published “The Mountain Was My School”, Mr. Tsujitani started the “Tacchan Club”. While passing along knowledge of the forest, he began the club with the purpose of finding another industry that could protect the mountain. The club held experiences that included gathering wild vegetables, observing the forest, paying respects to the gods of the mountain, etc., and many participants came to Kawakami Village all the way from Osaka or Wakayama. Since there were so many applicants for the monthly events, they ended using a lottery to determine participants. After taking more than 10,000 people into the mountains over a course of 20 years, Mr. Tsujitani began worrying about both the possibility of accidents as well as his own age. Mr. Tsujitani said that this year he “graduated” from his Tacchan Club, and even the final event was held at full capacity. However, he plans to write a second book, which I expect will probably pull some people toward Kawakami Village just like his first one.
   After we finished talking, I walked with Mr. Tsujitani into the forest above his house. Having played in this forest since he was a child, Mr. Tsujitani of course knows everything about the wild vegetables and trees. He climbs up and down the mountain faster than me, as he tells me one thing after another about everything around us. “Watch out for the mamushi,” he says, and then shows me the mamushigusa, a plant which has leaves and a pattern imitating the viper. He later showed me a dried mamushi back at his house.
   Playing and gathering wild vegetables since he was a kid, taking detailed care of the mountain as part of his work, Mr. Tsujitani was eventually able to take his own life experiences and turn them into the hands-on experiences of the Tacchan Club. Just like the tree, he has spent his life on the mountain, and through time has created something beautiful. This “Mountain-friendly Tourism” seems like a clue for the future. Of course the forest is beautiful on its own, but a person who can skillfully introduce that beauty is also a treasure. I asked Mr. Tsujitani what he likes about the mountains. “Since I was born in the mountains, daily life itself is in nature, so it’s the norm, a given. I am asked pretty often, ‘What’s good, what’s bad’ about the mountains. I’ll let the people from outside our village, the townspeople decide that. I have no idea.”

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東熊野街道 Eastern Kumano Road

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東熊野街道

雪が一層地面に残るが、なかなか積もらない短期間である。たまに薄いかけらのような雪が空に現れ、「降っている」と言うより、「浮いている」の方に感じる。そういうものがなかなか積もらないが、僕らの足の踏み場に白い薄膜を残す。
今朝、川上村の南極にあるもっとも上流の集落、伯母谷、から3人で山を歩き始めた。「山」という単語は「登山」のイメージを残すかもしれないが、最初と最後の階段を別にして、今日のルートは本当に「歩く」コースであった。この道は京都と大阪を熊野三山へ導く熊野街道の一部、「東熊野街道」と呼ばれている。正式の東熊野街道は国道169号線であるが、平安時代から参詣に利用されたこの道を国道の先輩であるという。
僕らは枝を拾って投げながら、汗をかけずにしっかり歩き続けた。鹿の糞と足跡を見ても驚かなかったが、丸太を登った猿の足跡が雪に綺麗に残った。「簡単に歩けるのに、どうしてわざわざこの丸太を登っただろう」と3人で話し合った。しかし、結局、人間も同じようなことをするであろう。僕は油断せずに細い道、短い梯子橋をゆっくり歩いた。後の二人は足元の霜柱や苔を見つけて盛り上がった。
道は山の上へだんだん続き、僕らを神社へ導いた。お辞儀して鳥居を通ってから、僕らは山の上の長い参道を歩いた。背が高くて分厚い木が参道に沿って本殿まで続いたが、山の風がその木を通って僕の頬を容赦なく冷やした。風の音が大きくて、苔の名前を相手に3回言ってもらっても、なかなか聞き取れないほどであった。やっと本殿に着いたら、大きな枝が割れて屋根の上に休んでいた。風が前より弱くなり、日当たりも良くなった。
神社の隣の楓を通り、雪に落ちた紅葉を見つけた。下り道にも霜柱や苔があって、また二人をわいわいさせた。谷の下から山の上まで杉と檜の木が育ち、僕らは道に落ちた枝をたまに拾って投げた。大迫から柏木に近づきながら、地面が白から茶色に変わり、大峰山からの道と合流した。日当たりがよくてもまだ寒かった。杉も檜もない空き地でユズリハが群れて陽光を浴びていた。山道から神社を通り、最後に急な階段を下り、待望の温かい飲み物に近づいた。

Eastern Kumano Road

  It’s that short period when snow is just a thin layer on the ground, never quite building up. Every so often thin fragments of snow appear in the sky, feeling as if they are simply “floating” rather than “falling”. It’s that kind of snow that never quite builds up but leaves a thin, white film everywhere we step.
  This morning, the three of us started into the mountains from Obatani, the farthest upstream and southern tip of Kawakami Village. The word “mountain” might conjure up images of “mountain climbing”, but making an exception for the stairs at the beginning and end of our day, today’s route was really more of a walking course than anything. Known as the Eastern Kumano Road, this path is a part of the historical Kumano Road which leads travelers from Kyoto to Osaka and all the way the three major shrines in the mountains of Kumano. The official Eastern Kumano Road is Nat. Hwy 169, but this path is said to be its senior, having been used for pilgrimages since the Heian Period (794-1185 AD).
   We walked at a steady pace without breaking a sweat, picking up fallen branches and tossing them to the side. We weren’t surprised to see deer poop or tracks, but the footprints of a monkey who had climbed up a log were left beautifully in the snow. “The monkey could have easily walked up the hill, so why did it go through the trouble of climbing up the log?” the three of us discussed. However, eventually, perhaps some of us humans end up doing similar things. Careful not to be overconfident, I slowly walked along the narrow path and over the short ladder bridges. The other two would stop in wonder when they found frost columns and unique kinds of moss along the way.
  The path gradually continued up the mountain and lead us to a shrine. After bowing and passing through the gate, we walked the long approach to the shrine along the top of the mountain. Tall, thick trees lined the path all the way to the shrine, but the mountain winds passed through them relentlessly freezing our cheeks. It was loud, so much so that three times, I couldn’t hear the name of a kind of moss that one of the others tried to tell me. When we finally reached the shrine, a large branch had broken and was resting on its roof. The wind quieted down, and the area had a good amount of sunlight.
   We passed by a maple tree next to the shrine and found a red leaf that had fallen in the snow. The road heading down once again had many frost columns and varieties of moss, exciting the other two. Japanese cedars and cypresses grew from the bottom of the valley to the top of the mountain, and every now and then we’d pick up a fallen branch and toss it aside. As we neared Kashiwagi from Osako, the ground went from white to brown, and we merged with the path heading down from Mt. Omine. It was still cold, even if some sunlight got through. There was an open space without Japanese cedars or cypresses, in which a group of yuzuriha trees were taking in their share of sunshine. We passed through a shrine from the mountain path, finally climbed down the set of steep steps, and were a little closer to a long-awaited warm drink.

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