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

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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

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   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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丹生川上神社上社 Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha

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丹生川上神社上社

「馬を水のところまで連れて行っても、飲ませることができない。」ー英語のことわざ
   
   暗い雲が音を立てずに山の向こうから這ってきて紀伊半島の青空をゆっくり消す。稲妻の閃き、雷のこだま、容赦なく降る雨は人間を小さく感じさせる。この圧倒的な力を経験した昔の人々は、神話の世界を生きていたかもしれない。空を飛ぶ、炎を吐く、威力をもつ龍。神話と現実をつなげた昔の人々は龍を水の神にした、という話を望月宮司は説明してくださった。僕が丹生川上神社上社に初めて行った時、その話を聞かせていただいた。「これは私の考えですが。」と望月宮司さんは仰ったが、説得力があった。
  丹生川上神社上社は高龗大神(たかおかみのおおかみ)という水と雨を掌られる龍神をお祀りしている。この神社の名前を「上社(かみしゃ)」に省略する地元の人が多い。上社は国道169号線より少し高いところにある。晴れた日にここから吉野川の大滝ダム湖が見下ろせる。曇った日に周りの山が浮いている島のように見える。ここまで来るためにぐるっと回る道路を注意深く運転しないといけない。下から来る人は急な階段をゆっくり踏みながら上がらないといけない。それだけで今日が「旅」という感覚になる。
  675年に天武天皇の神宣により建立され、奉祀された「丹生川上神社」は、平安中期以降、朝廷における最高の社格となる「二十二社」の一つに数えられた。応仁の乱の後、社地が不詳になった。明治の政府は、1,300年の歴史をもっている丹生川上神社を官幣大社として等級し、上社(明治二十九年、川上村)、中社(大正十一年、東吉野村)、下社(明治四年、下市町)の三社が列せられた。丹生川上神社上社はその時から昭和34年の伊勢湾台風まで川上村の迫という地区にあったが、大滝ダムの建設に伴い、山の上の現在地に遷座された。しかし、迫地区にある元の境内を発掘したところ、その地区が奈良時代の後半から祭場として使われ、平安時代から社殿があったという遺跡があった。縄文時代まで遡る石棒も発掘され、「宮の平遺跡」と名付けられた。又、御神木の胎内から巌が出てきた。
現在、その巌が丹生川上神社上社の拝殿内にある。望月宮司さんはこの巌の御由緒と特別な力を説明してくださった。「この巌を手で撫でてから、体の痛いところに当てると治るかも。」と。僕は巌の黒くて滑らかな表面をゆっくり撫でた。手を離してから、少し戸惑ってつい自分の頭の後ろを掻いてしまった。
高龗大神は五本爪を持ち峰を這っていく、上昇していく最高の龍神さんである。丹生川上神社上社ではこの龍神さんを上社の本殿の 一番奥でお祀りしている。龍神さんの左右に扉があり、右には大山祇(オオヤマヅミ)という山の神を、左に大雷(ホノイカヅチノオオカミ)という雷の神をお祀りしている。「山、雷、龍神さん、うまく整ってお祀りされている。」と望月宮司は仰った。
  丹生川上神社上社は1,300年前から水と雨の大切さを表す伝統を守り続けている。昔、干ばつの時、黒い馬を奉り雨を降らせた。そして、長雨の時、白い馬を奉り雨を止めた。後に本物の馬を使わなくなったが、絵馬を奉納してこの伝統を継続してきた。水を飲んだり植物を食べたり木を生業にしたりしていた昔の人々は雨の有無で命をかけていた。雨の大切さと、この山々を覆う膨大な雲、空を照らす稲妻、圧倒的に降る暴風雨の強さを実感しながら、この伝統がいかに大切であったのかが想像できる。現在の生活がどのぐらい便利になっても、人は天災の猛威で自分の小ささを思い知らされる。これから何が起るか分からないが、僕は黒い馬と白い馬の両方を味方にして少し安心できる。
  小雨のぽつぽつ、大雨のざあざあ、地面を振動させる雷、嵐の後の沈黙。雨の多い地域に住んでいる僕は、夜、ベッドで横になると龍神さんの声が聞こえる。

Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” -English idiom
   
   Dark clouds crawl over the mountain without a sound, slowly erasing the clear. blue sky of the Kii Peninsula. The flash of lightning, echo of thunder, and merciless rain make us humans feel small. Experiencing this overwhelming power, people long ago might have been living in a world of mythology. A sky-flying, fire-breathing, powerful dragon. Rev. Mochizuki told me about his theory that perhaps people long ago connected the myth with reality, in turn making the dragon the god of water and rain. “This is just my theory.” he added, but it was very convincing.
   Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha enshrines Takaokamino Okami, the dragon god of water and rain. Many locals just call this shrine “Kamisha” for short. Kamisha is located just above Nat. Hwy 169. On clear days, you can look down onto the Yoshino River and Otaki Dam Lake from this shrine. On cloudy days, the surrounding mountains look like floating islands. To get here, you must carefully navigate the tight turns up the road. People coming from below need to step slowly as they climb the long, steep stairs. Just with that, today feels like a journey.
  First blessed and established in 675 AD by Emperor Tenmu, Niu Kawakami Shrine eventually came to be counted among the 21 highest-ranked shrines by the Imperial Court after the Heian Period (798-1192). Its location became uncertain following the Onin War. With its 1,300 years of history, the Meiji government classified Niu Kawakami Shrine as a kampei taisha (or major imperial shrine), and constructed three shrines: Kamisha (1896, Kawakami Village), Nakasha (1922, Higashi Yoshino Village), Shimosha (1871, Shimoichi Town). Kamisha remained in its initial location in the Kawakami Village district of Sako until the Isewan Typhoon (aka Typhoon Vera) in 1959, after which it was moved higher up the mountain due to construction of the Otaki Dam. However, when the original shrine grounds in Sako were excavated, evidence of ceremonial use from the late Nara Period (710-784) and shrine remains from the Heian Period were discovered. Stone pillars dating back to the Jomon Period (14,000-300 BCE) were also excavated, leading to this location being named Miya-no-Taira, or “Shrine Flat”. In addition, a large rock with discovered inside the trunk of a tree that was on the shrine grounds.
   Today, that large rock is on display in the hall of Kamisha. Rev. Mochizuki explained the history and the special power of the rock. “If you rub this large rock and touch your hand to a part of your body that hurts, it might be cured.” I rubbed the smooth, black surface of the rock. Puzzled when I took my hand off, I carelessly scratched the back of my head.
   Takaokamino Okami is the most powerful of dragon gods, using its five claws to scale to the top of the mountain. Kamisha enshrines this dragon god in the very back of the main hall. To its right, the god of the mountain, Oyamazumi, is enshrined. To its left, the god of thunder, Honoikazuchi Okami, is enshrined. “There is the mountain, thunder, and dragon god, all in place and enshrined.” said Rev. Mochizuki.
For the past 1,300 years, Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha has continued a tradition that expresses how vital water and rain are to this region. Long ago, during periods of drought, a black horse was offered to the dragon god to make it rain. In turn, during long periods of rain, a white horse was offered to the dragon god to make it stop. Later the shrine stopped using actual horses, but has continued this tradition by offering painted pictures of the horses. Drinking water, eating plants, and making a living from trees, people long ago literally had their lives on the line depending on whether it rained or not. Actually feeling this necessity of rain, the gigantic clouds that cover the mountains, the lightning that illuminates the sky, and the overwhelming power of a rainstorm, I can imagine how invaluable this tradition must have been for people long ago. No matter how convenient our current lifestyle become, the wrath of natural disasters remind us of how small we are. I am not sure what will happen in the future, but I can feel somewhat relieved to have both the black horse and white horse in my corner.
  A light speckle of rain, a heavy downpour, the thunder that shakes the earth, and the silence after the storm. Living in a region with so much rain, lying in bed at night, I can hear the voice of the dragon god.

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ディナー・フォア・トゥー Dinner For Two

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ディナー・フォア・ツー

   足を床に滑らせながら、冷蔵庫から吉野杉のまな板まで踊った。隣の部屋からレコードの音楽が流れ、味噌汁の支度に拍子を与えた。野菜を切りながら音楽を聞く。どう見ても、悪くない夏の夜だ。まな板を鍋の中へ傾けて、豆腐を滑らせた。
   味噌汁を待ちながら、包丁とまな板を洗った。流しの上の窓はもう山の陰で黒く染められた。小さな虫は中の灯へ誘導されて、窓の近くに飛び回っていた。僕が気づいた時、僕の指ほど大きなヤモリはガラスにくっつく足指で窓をゆっくり歩いていた。ヤモリさんは窓の真ん中に止まり、しばらく身じろぎもしなかった。「もう見なくてもいいかな」と思いきや、ヤモリさんは舌を何センチか飛ばして、虫を捕って飲み込んだ。窓の上へ数歩上がったヤモリさんは再び止まって、じっくり待っていた。僕はこの小さな生き物の行動に夢中になって、見るのをやめられなかった。
   そのうち、味噌汁ができた。僕は冷凍したご飯を電子レンジに入れて、隣の家にいただいた沢庵漬けを数枚切った。レコードをひっくり返し、音楽を聴きながら簡単な夕飯を一人で済ませた。台所の電気が点いた限り、ヤモリさんも夕飯を食べたいだけ食べられる。しかし、お皿を流しに持って行った時、ヤモリさんの姿がなかった。「もうごちそうさましたかな」と独り言を言って、吉野杉のまな板を吹いた。どう見ても、悪くない夏の夜だ。

Dinner For Two

   I slid my feet across the floor as I danced from the fridge to my Yoshino cedar cutting board. Music played from the record in the next room, adding a beat to the preparation of my miso soup. Listening to music as I chopped vegetables. However you look at it, it’s not that bad of a summer night. I tilted the cutting board toward the pot and slid the tofu.
   I washed the knife and cutting board while I waited for the miso soup. The window above my kitchen sink was dyed black by the shadow of the mountain. Small bugs attracted to the light from inside flew around the outside of the window. At some point, I noticed a gecko about the size of my finger slowly walking across the window, its toes sticking to the glass. The Gecko stopped in the middle of the window, and didn’t move for quite some time. Just when I thought, “That’s it, I don’t need to watch this anymore,” the Gecko shot out its tongue a couple of centimeters, catching and swallowing a bug. Moving a few steps up the window, the Gecko once again stopped and just waited. I became entranced by the movements of this small creature and couldn’t stop watching.
   The miso soup was ready in due time. I put some frozen rice in the microwave and cut a few slices of takuan pickles that my neighbor gave me. I flipped the record over and listened to music as I ate my simple dinner by myself. As long as the kitchen light was on, the Gecko could eat as much dinner as it wanted. However, when I took my dishes back to the sink, the Gecko was no where in sight. “I guess you’re all done, eh” I said to myself as I dried my Yoshino cedar cutting board. However you look at it, not that bad of a summer night.

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At the Morning Coffee Shop 朝の珈琲屋で

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朝の珈琲屋で

   川上村の柏郵便局より一息旧国道から坂を上ってみたら、「楠里水」を見つけられる。千二百年前、弘法大師は熊野へ行く途中に杖を使って「ここを掘りなさい」と指摘した時から、この湧き水が地元の生活を扶養している。大雨の時にどくどくと、干ばつの時に静かに流れる「楠里水」を大切にして、地元の人はこの清水の近くに小さな神社を建てた。今、この湧き水は山の下へ流れ、それぞれの家へ分水される。現在の国道までも流れ、この「弘法大師ゆかりの湧水」を汲みに行列する車が珍しくない。
   同じ国道沿いにある喫茶「秀」はこの清水を使って珈琲を淹れる。僕はお店に入った時、カウンターで座っていたおじさんが店の夫婦と話して笑っていた。僕はテーブルに座り、いつもの焼きそば定食を注文した。キッチンのシューシューは店内で流れていた昔の器楽曲と重なり合い、目に見えるものに明るいロマンを与えた。壁に無数に留めてあるある珈琲チケット。曇った窓越しの、外の冬。黒い珈琲の中に反映する店内照明。あっという間に、焼きそばが早速登場した。ご飯と味噌汁とたくあんも役者である。お冷はもちろん弘法大師ゆかりの湧き水である。年輪の細かい吉野杉割り箸を綺麗に割って、ビートを飛ばさずに食べた。厚い豚肉をしっかり齧り、鉄板に少し焦げ付いた、かりかりになった麺を最後の楽しみにした。
   店内の会話は最初から最後まで自然に流れていた。「秀」を経営している素敵な夫婦は常連さんと仲良く話したり、初対面の人を暖かく歓迎した。ヤクルトレディも休憩がてらみんなの会話に自然に入った。「秀」のお父さんは最後に残った僕に向かって、「いろんな人が来るから、面白いね!」と言って、お客様の見送りに出た。

 


At the Morning Coffee Shop

   If you climb just a breath up the hill from the former national highway and the Kashiwagi Post Office in Kawakami Village, you can find “kusurimizu”. For the last 1,200 years, since Kobo-Daishi (Kukai) stopped here on his way to Kumano and used his cane to say “Dig here.”, this mountain spring water has provided sustenance for the locals. Gushing when there’s a lot of rain, a quiet stream when there’s a drought, the locals prize this kusurimizu so much that they even built a small shrine for this pure water. Now, this mountain spring water flows down the hill and is divided among the houses. It flows all the way down to the current national highway, and it’s not rare for cars to line up waiting to scoop some of this “Kobo-Daishi Mountain Spring Water”.
   Right along that same national highway, the coffee shop Hide (hee-day) uses this pure water to make coffee. When I walked in, the man sitting at the counter was talking and laughing with the shop’s couple. I sat at a table and ordered the yakisoba meal as usual. The sizzle from the kitchen overlapped with the classic instrumental song playing in the shop, adding a bright romance to everything in sight. The innumerable coffee tickets pinned to the wall. The outside winter seen through a foggy window. The shop lighting reflected in my black coffee. Before I realized it, the yakisoba entered the scene. The rice, miso soup, and takuan pickles were also players. Of course, the water was Kobo-Daishi mountain spring water. I split my Yoshino cedar chopsticks and ate without skipping a beat. The thick pork, I gave a good chew, and the crispy noodles slightly burnt on the plate, I happily saved for last.
   The coffee shop conversation naturally flowed from start to finish. The beautiful couple who runs Hide spoke with the familiar regulars and gave the first-timers a warm welcome. Even the Yakult Lady took a break and naturally joined the conversation. When I was the last one left, the shop owner turned to me and said, “A lot of different people come here, it’s always interesting,” and went outside to see a customer off.

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たくあんで言うこと Things We Say with Takuan

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たくあんで言うこと

「にいちゃん、たくあんを食べるけ?」この聞き慣れた質問を聞き慣れた抑揚で訊かれるたびに、僕は自然に微笑む。最初、遠慮するのが逆に失礼だと思い、食べたいかどうかを考えずに、僕は素直な「はい。」で答えた。冷蔵庫の隙間にその真空パックやジップロックを詰め込んでしまい、たくあんをだんだん処分した。そのうち、それぞれの家の自家製たくあんを味わいながら、それぞれの味を理解して楽しむようになった。それで、その聞き慣れた質問を聞き慣れた抑揚で訊かれるたびに、笑顔を隠せなくなった。
去年の山幸彦祭で、上多古の方は大根を40本買ってくださった。いつも明るい方だから、僕は上多古への帰り道でその大根を喜んで配達した。夜の暗闇で大根で溢れた籠を2つ石階段の上まで運び、ガラガラする扉を開けて玄関に入り、籠を下ろした。一日の汗と疲れが僕の顔で見えたかどうか分からないが、「どうぞ座ってや。ちょっと味見して。」とおばちゃんに言われて、お言葉に甘えた。おばちゃんは台所でたくあんを用意していた時、おじちゃんは自分のグラスコップを持ちながら、僕にも一杯を持って来てくれた。
「はい、乾杯〜」とおじちゃんに進められ、コップを当て合った。一日の疲れが水で癒されると思ったが、そのコップに入っていたのは水ではなかった。ありがたいことに、おばちゃんの運んできたたくあんが絶妙で、その甘辛さが日本酒の味を少し安らいだ。僕はまた笑顔を隠せなかった。一息をとって、その瞬間の良さを味わった。僕はお皿を綺麗に、コップを空にしてお礼を言ったら、おばちゃんからたくあんの2パックをもらった。
そういう風に様々なたくあんが僕の冷蔵庫に入るようになった。みんなが作っている、みんなにもらっているという環境に住んでいる僕は、自分でたくあんを作ってみたくなるのが当然かもしれない。大根の多い時期、川上村の大根を10本ほど手に入れた。その10本を家の裏で干して、ホームセンターで必要な道具と素材を買った。普段より寒い冬の最中から大根を干して、凍ってしまったかもしれないが、それはしょうがない。柚子の皮と一緒に干してから、容器でぬかで漬けた。影のある涼しい(ちょっと忘れやすい)ところで保管して、出来上がるまで待った。
一ヶ月後、蓋を開けて、ぬかから大根を掘ってみた。大根にくっついたぬかや色とりどりのカビを洗い流した。早速味わってみたら。。。「うまい!」となかなか言えない味であった。炒め料理でなんとかして処分するしかないと思って、冷蔵庫に詰め込んだ。
次の日、家を出かけた時、隣のおばちゃんに出会って、たくあんの実験結果を報告した。「塩が足りんかったかも。重いものを乗せた?」
「はい、重みを乗せました。」
「もうちょっと長く漬ければ、美味しくなると思うけどな、もう無理かな?」
「はい、全部を出しました。」と僕は言った。
「もうええで。」とおばちゃんは笑ってくれた。
みんなが作っている、みんなにもらっているたくあん。この栄養のある、長持ちする、黄色く光っている漬物は地元の表現の一種のように感じる。言葉で言えないけど、たくあんで言えることもあるかもしれない。最初からもらってばかりいる僕は来年人にあげるレベルのたくあんを作れるように努める。


Things We Say with Takuan
 
   “Hey kid, you eat takuan?” Every time that familiar question is asked in that familiar intonation, I naturally smile. At first, I thought it’d be rude to reject the offer, and without thinking about whether or not I wanted to eat these yellow daikon pickles, I’d answer with a respectful “Yes.”.  I’d end up cramming the vacuum sealed packages or ziplock bags into the small spaces in my fridge, and gradually went through them. As I tasted the homemade takuan from all of the different houses, I could differentiate enjoy the individual flavors. That’s why I can’t hide my smile when I’m asked that familiar question in that familiar intonation.
   At last year’s Yamasachihiko Festival, a resident of Kodako bought 40 daikons. This person is always very friendly, and I was more than happy to deliver the daikon on my way home. In the dark of the night, I carried the two baskets overflowing with daikon up the stone steps, opened the opened the rattling door, entered the house and put down the baskets. I don’t know if the sweat and exhaust from the day was evident on my face, but the old woman said, “Go ahead and sit down. Just try a taste.”, and I obliged. As she was getting the takuan ready in the kitchen, the old man walked out carrying his own glass cup and handed another one to me.
   “Okay, cheers~,” he said, and we clinked our glasses. I thought some water would be nice after the long day, but it wasn’t water in that glass. Thankfully, the takuan that the old woman brought out was incredible, and its sweet and spicy flavors balanced out the Japanese sake. Once again, I couldn’t hide my smile. I took a breath to really enjoy that moment. I cleaned off my plate, emptied the glass, and when I said thank you, the old woman gave me a few packs of takuan to take home.
   That’s more or less how I came to cram varieties of takuan into my fridge. Living in an environment where everyone makes it and everyone gives some to me, it might be only natural that I wanted to try making some myself. At the height of daikon season, I got my hands on ten Kawakami Village daikon. I dried hung those ten out to dry behind my house, and bought the necessary items at the nearest hardware store. The daikons may have frozen after being hung out in the middle of this unusually cold winter, but that’s how it goes. After I dried them along with yuzu peels, I pickled them with bran in a container. I stored it in a cool, shadowy (and easily forgotten) place, and waited until they were ready.
   A month later, I opened the lid of the container and dug the daikon out of the bran. I washed off the bran and colorful mold that stuck to the daikon. Upon first taste…”delicious!” wasn’t quite the word I’d use to describe it. I figured the only way to handle this was to saute the takuan with something, and I crammed it into my fridge.
   When I left my house the next day, I ran into the woman next door and reported the results of my takuan experiment. “You might not have used enough salt. Did you put something heavy on top?”
“Yes, I put a weight on it.”
“If you pickle them a little longer they might taste better, is it too late?”
“Yes, I took them all out already.”
“Well hey, don’t worry about it,” she laughed.
Takuan, everyone makes it and everyone gives some to me. This nutritious, long-lasting, shiny yellow pickle feels like a kind of local expression. Perhaps there are some things that can’t be said with words, but can be said with takuan. As I have been on the receiving end from the start, I will try to make some takuan that is good enough to give out next year.

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神社で春が始まる Spring Starts at the Shrine

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神社で春が始まる

永遠に葛折りしそうな中奥川に沿って県道258号線を慎重に進んだ。車一台しか通れない幅について何も考えないふりをして、道の状況とどこまでバックすればいいかを覚えようとした。道が広くなり、待望の深呼吸ができた時、中奥の十二社神社に着いた。
瀬戸・枌尾・中奥のみなさんは十二社神社で春(四月)、夏(六月)、秋(十月)、冬(十二月)にお祭りをする。大きな木が本殿の上へ高くそびえる。その右に小さな神社と末社が並んでいる。僕は手水舎から上がり、仲間について行きながらその神社を順番に回り、参拝した。中奥川の流れの上に、大人の会話、子供の笑い、じゃりの足音が聞こえた。僕はいつもお世話になっている顔をたくさん見て、できるだけ挨拶したかった。やまいき市の生産者と常連さん、ヨーガの先生、話の面白いおじさんなどに普段と違う環境で会い、別の面が見えたような気がした。
お神酒とオードブルが出て、男性同士と女性同士の会話が続いた。落ち着かない子供達はじゃりの上を走り回り、さらに盛り上がった。お餅が一人一人に配られた時から、みなさんはだんだん本殿の前の陽光に集まった。僕は周辺からこれからの行事を見ることにした。白くて小さな餅が何個も上を飛び、境内の木の前に綺麗な曲線を描き、みなさんの方へ落ちた。「待ちに待った餅まきが始まった!」と言わんばかりに、みなさんは声をあげ、じゃりに落ちた餅を慌てて集めた。周辺までお餅がなかなか飛ばないと思いきや、一個がみなさんの頭を超え、近くに落ちそうであった。僕は一歩前へ少ししゃがんで、左手で受け取った。お祭りが午前中に終わり、お供え物が整理され、ドラム缶の火がだんだん消えた。十二社神社から車へ歩きながら、神社から中奥川までいく石階段があると初めて気づいた。
その夜、暖かく膨らんだお餅に醤油をかけて三個食べた。七時前から外の虫は鳴いて、次の朝まで続けそうであった。僕はテレビを点けずに、音楽を流さずに、その虫の声に耳をすませようとした。まだ暖かくて、暖房を点けるのを忘れた。今年の長くて寒い冬がバックミラーで綺麗に写っている。

Spring Starts at the Shrine

   I carefully went up Pref. Road 258, along the ever-snaking Nakaoku River. I pretended not to think about the road wide enough for just one car, and kept a mental note of the conditions of the road and where I could back up. When the road widened and I was able to take the long-awaited deep breath, I had arrived at Junisha Shrine.
   Every spring (April), summer (June), and autumn (October), the people of Seto, Sogio, and Nakaoku hold a festival at Junisha Shrine. Large trees tower high over the main shrine. Smaller shrine and sub-shrines are all lined up to the right. I walked up from the water basin and followed my buddy as we paid our respects to each shrine. I could hear adults’ conversations, children’s laughter, and footsteps on gravel over the flowing Nakaoku River. I saw a lot of faces I am indebted to, and wanted to say hello to as many people as possible. Seeing the growers and the regulars of Yamaiki-ichi, my yoga teacher, and the old man with good stories in a different environment than usual, I felt like I was able to see another side of them.
   The holy sake and her d’oeuvres came out, and the conversations men and the conversations of women continued. Restless children ran around on the gravel, getting more and more excited. Mochi was passed out to people individually, and everyone gradually gathered in the sunshine in front of the main shrine. I decided to watch the proceeding events from the perimeter. Numerous small, white mochi flew up in the air, making a beautiful arc in front of the trees on the shrine grounds, and dropped down toward everyone. As if to say, “The long awaited mochimaki has begun!”, everyone cried out and rushed to gather the mochi that had fallen onto the gravel. Just when I thought that the mochi weren’t quite making it to where I was on the perimeter, one flew above everyone’s heads, and looked like it would fall near me. I took a step forward, squatted down, and caught it in my left hand. The festival finished before noon, the offerings were gathered, and the fire in the drum can gradually faded out. As I walked to my car from Junisha Shrine, I noticed for the first time that a set of stone steps leads from the shrine down to the Nakaoku River.
   That night, I dressed the warm, expanded mochi in soy sauce and I ate three of them. The insects outside started buzzing before 7 p.m. and seemed like they could continue until morning. I didn’t turn on the television, didn’t play any music, and just tried to lay my ears to the voices of the bugs. It was still warm, and I forgot to turn on the heater. This year’s long, cold winter reflected beautifully in my rear-view mirror.

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トーク・オン・ウッド:白い犬~Anjing Putih~ Talk On Wood: Shiroi Inu~Anjing Putih~

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トーク・オン・ウッド:白い犬~Anjing Putih~

吉野杉で作られたりんごを初めて見た時、「これはいいね。」と思って、一個を軽く持ち上げた。しかし、よく見たら、吉野杉の細かくて均一な年輪がりんごの周辺へ仄かに曲がりながら永遠に続くと気づいた。僕はある迷路を陥り、手で回しながら見るのをやめられなかった。少し離れてみたら、綺麗な年輪が模様になっていると気づいた。四つの部材の細かい年輪を合わせることによって、木に新たな表現力を与えたような気がする。
そのりんごは「白い犬~Anjing Putih~」の山本直美さんの作品であった。川上村伯母谷の出身、山本さんは村を出て働いていたが、吉野杉の良さを形にしたいと村に帰って木工を始めた。山本さんはインドネジア語で「白い犬」という意味の「Anjing Putih」の可愛い響きに惹かれ、「いつか、何か」で使えるチャンスを見計らっていた。結局、自分の工房にぴったり合う名前になった。僕らが話していた間、その名前のインスピレーションになった紀州犬三代目のコーシローくんは起き上がり、みんなに挨拶しに来た。十五歳のコーシローくんは昔頻繁に逃亡したが、今日みんなに撫でられるように部屋をゆっくり回っている。「その犬の存在が私にとってとても癒される存在やから、私の作ったモノが、手にとって買ってくれはったお客様のお家でもそういう存在になってくれたらいいな」と山本さんは言った。
最初に「白い犬~Anjing Putih~」で家具を作っていたが、吉野杉の柔らかい、傷つきやすい特徴が細かい加工に向かなくて、気になっていたらしい。しかし、ある日、軽トラの荷台で山ほどになった角材を弟さんにもらい、山本さんは椅子を作り出した。椅子の脚を切り、その残った端材を貼り合わせて、初めてりんごの作品を作ってみた。現在、片手で軽く回せるほどのりんごと柿を作っていて、大好評である。一本の角材を四等分にし作ることによって、細かい目が丸い周辺で曲がっても結局綺麗に合い、それぞれの部分が同じ伸縮性をもつため、こういう癒される存在を長持ちさせることができる。最初に気になっていた吉野杉の柔らかさは滑らかな暖かみをもたらし、作品の強みになっている。身近にある吉野杉のりんごや柿を手で持てば持つほど、その柔らかい表面に艶を与える。表面の綺麗な年輪は切り方によって長い曲線になったり、とんがったりする。「まっすぐな木やから表現できる、吉野杉の良さと特徴をこれで分かってもらえるかなというのもある。」と山本さんは説明した。まっすぐな年輪は、百年にわたって人の手で育てられ、長い冬を百回生き残った木は独特の色彩と年輪をもつ。「やから、絶対同じのを作られへん。」と。年輪を数えて時間の流れを感じながら、一本の木の、一個の作品の、一つの表現に耳をすませる。
吉野杉のりんごと柿を多くの人に覚えてもらいながら、「白い犬~Anjing Putih~」は家具を作り続けている。りんごと柿と同じく、椅子や一輪挿しは木の自然な模様を活かして、空間に暖かみを与える。椅子の座面は積み木で満たされて、椅子にもおもちゃにもなれる。
2018年は戌年で、犬をなかなか飼えない僕はこういうものを身近にしたくなる。

Talk On Wood: Shiroi Inu~Anjing Putih~

   The first time I saw an apple made of Yoshino cedar, I thought, “Wow, this is cool,”as I lightly picked it up. However, when I took a closer look, I noticed that the thin, even rings of Yoshino cedar continued endlessly around the apple, slightly curving along the way. I fell into that maze, and couldn’t stop looking at it as I spun it around in my hand. When I moved away a little, I noticed that the beautiful rings formed a nice pattern. By joining the thin rings of four separate pieces, it felt like a new power of expression was given to this wood.
   That apple was a piece by Naomi Yamamoto of “Shiroi Inu ~Anjing Putih~”. Shiroi Inu means “white dog” in Japanese, and Anjing Putih means the same thing in Indonesian. Originally from the Obatani district of Kawakami Village, Yamamoto-san left the village to work, but decided to come back and start woodworking to create something that shows the strengths of Yoshino cedar. She liked the sound of the Indonesian words, Anjing Putih, and was waiting for the chance to use it in “something, sometime”. It eventually became the perfect name for her woodworking studio. The inspiration for that name, a third generation Kishu dog named Koshiro, woke up and came to greet us while we were talking. The fifteen-year-old Koshiro used to run and escape out of the house pretty often, but today he walks slowly around the room to get pet by everyone. “For me, the dog’s presence is a very healing presence,” Yamamoto-san explained, “so I hope the things I make can be like that in the homes of the people who pick up and buy one of my pieces.”
   Shiroi Inu ~Anjing Putih~ initially made furniture, but the soft, easily scratched wood wasn’t suitable for detailed woodworking, and that was frustrating. However, one day Yamamoto-san got a truck load of block wood from her brother and made a chair out of it. It was by cutting and fitting the left over pieces from the chair legs that she tried making her first Yoshino cedar apple. Now, she makes apples and persimmons that are light enough to spin around in one hand, and they are incredibly popular. By cutting a single block of wood into four equal pieces, the fine rings eventually re-connect perfectly, even after bending around the round perimeter. Since the four pieces are all from the same tree, the four pieces expand and shrink together, allowing its owner to hold on to this healing presence for a long time. The softness of Yoshino cedar that was initially frustrating now brings a smooth warmth and is the strength of the piece. The more a Yoshino cedar apple or persimmon is held and touched, a nice glossiness is added to that soft surface. The beautiful rings on the surface make long arcs or sharp points depending on how the wood is cut.  “I thought people would see this and understand that it’s because of the strengths and characteristics of Yoshino cedar that I can make these expressions.” Yamamoto-san explained. These straight rings were grown by peoples’ hands over the course of a hundred years, and every tree that has survived a hundred long winters has its own unique coloring and grain. “That’s why you can’t make the same exact one twice.” While counting the rings and feeling the passage of time,  I laid my ears to the single expression of this single piece from a single tree.
While Shiroi Inu ~Anjing Putih~ is now known by many people for making Yoshino cedar apples and persimmons, the woodworking studio continues to make furniture as well. Just like the apple and persimmon, the chairs and small flower vases make the most out of the natural patterns in the wood, adding a warmth to whatever space it is in. The seat of the chair is evenly filled with wooden playing blocks, so it can be either a chair or a toy.
2018 is the Year of the Dog, and as I can’t quite own a dog as a pet, I like to keep these kinds of things nearby.

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おぼつかない足取り Stumbling Steps

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おぼつかない足取り

川上村に住む上で、鹿に遇うのは当たり前のようである。朝早く上多古の大年神社で朝食を齧る鹿もいて、丹生川上神社上社の上からおおたき龍神湖を見下ろす鹿もいる。もちろん細い林道でも国道でも自由に横断して彼方へ飛んで行く鹿もいる。僕は夜、車で国道から上多古へ曲がるたびに、スピードを落として、あの暗闇から鹿が現れるように静かに願っている。鹿は現れても、二、三秒でどこかへ逃げてしまう。だが、一回の一頭が違った。
その夜、国道から曲がって鹿三頭に遭った。雄鹿一頭は道の左へ山の森に上って逃げた。別の雄鹿一頭は右へ上多古川へ下った。あとにされた子鹿は山への斜面をなかなか上れなく、川を守るガードレールも乗り越えなく、ヘッドライトの中で左右にうろうろしていた。道が細くて車が無事に通れなかったから、待つしかなかった。その僅かな30秒、僕らのそれぞれの現実が交差したような気がして、貴重な生き物を珍しく、ゆっくり見るチャンスであった。二十メートルを歩いてから、子鹿は山へ上れるところを見つけて、森林の暗闇へ消えた。
去年の十月下旬、アメリカに住んでいる日本語の先生は太平洋を渡り、教え子のところを回っている中に、わざわざ上多古に来て一泊を僕のうちで過ごした。朝「思い出したよ!」と先生の声が部屋から聞こえた。僕は先に目覚めて台所でお湯を沸かしていた。先生の声が睡眠の名残なく、明るくて台所までよく通った。「昨夜鹿の鳴き声を聞いて、あの歌を思い出した!」
「何の歌ですか」と僕は訊いた。
先生は声を一際低くして、抑揚にリズムを加えた:
「奥山に、紅葉踏みわけ、鳴く鹿の、声聞く時ぞ、秋は悲しき」と先生は唱えた。
猿丸大夫の小倉百人一首の和歌である。その日、山を歩きながら、時折鹿の鳴き声を聞きながら、この和歌を口ずさんだ。
鹿の当たり前の川上村では鹿の鳴き声が全然珍しくない。しかし、鹿の遭遇や鳴き声になれたと思いきや、生まれたばかりの子鹿や昔からの歌が現れて、僕の日常生活をより鮮やかに塗ってくれる。


Stumbling Steps

   Living in Kawakami Village, it’s only natural that you will see deer. There are deer who eat their breakfast early in the morning at Otoshi Shrine in Kodako, and there are deer who look down onto Otaki Dragon Lake from above Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha. Of course, there are also deer who cross small mountain roads or the national highway as they like, leaping off to somewhere. Every time I turn off the national highway into Kodako at night, I slow down a bit, quietly hoping a deer pops out from somewhere in that darkness. Even if one does appear, it’s usually gone in two or three seconds. However, once there was one deer that was different.
   I turned off the national highway that night and saw three deer. One buck ran to the left and climbed up the mountain into the forest. The other buck ran to the right down to the Kodako River.  Unable to climb up the slope to the mountain, nor hurdle over the guard rail protecting the river, the fawn that was left behind just wandered left and right in my headlights. The road was too narrow for my car to get by, so all I could do was wait. In that short 30 seconds, it felt like each of our realities had crossed, and I had that rare chance to take a good look at this precious creature. After walking about 20 meters, the fawn found a spot to climb up the mountain and disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
   In late October of last year, my Japanese teacher from America traveled across the Pacific, and while visiting many former students, spent a night at my place in Kodako. In the morning, I heard her voice from the other room say, “Omoidashitayo!”. She had recalled something. I was already awake, boiling hot water in the kitchen. Her voice was bright and without any remnant of sleep, making it all the way to the kitchen. “Last night I heard the deer cry, and I remembered that song!”
“What song?” I asked.
She lowered her voice a shade, and added a rhythm to her intonation:
“Deep in the mountains, stepping through scarlet leaves, a deer crying for its mate, when I hear this voice, I feel the sadness of autumn,” she recited.
It’s a waka poem by Sarumaru Daiou, selected to be in an anthology of 100 poems by 100 poets. That day we walked through the mountains, hearing a deer cry every now and then, and humming this poem along the way.
   As deer are pretty common in Kawakami Village, it’s not all that rare to hear deer cries. However, just when I think I’ve gotten used to running into deer or hearing their cries, a newborn fawn and an old song appear out of nowhere, painting my daily life a little more vivid.

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トーク・オン・ウッド:アップルジャック Talk On Wood: Apple Jack

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トーク・オン・ウッド: アップルジャック

「すべてのものには季節があり、(ターン、ターン、ターン)
すべてに時機がある。(ターン、ターン、ターン)
すべての目的にはときがあり、ときには意味がある。」
-「ターン!ターン!ターン!」ピート・シーガー

パイロットの夢を見て、小林さんは航空自衛隊に入隊したが、結局航空機の整備長として九年間従事した。実家の川上村に帰った時、ちょうど川上村の木工センターが人を募集していた。小林さんは木工について何も知らなかったが、自衛隊で機械をよく使っていたので、その経験が木工センターで役に立つことになる。小林さんは機械を使いながら、木を触りながら、木工の経験を積んで、二十五年間木工センターで勤務した。
7年前に小林さんは自分の工房を始めた。自分の工房を何と呼ぶかを考えた時に、小林さんは自衛隊での経験を思い出した。航空自衛隊では、3段階の防空状態が「アップルジャック(赤、防空警報)」、「レモンジュース(黄、警戒警報)」、「スノーマン(白、警報解除)」と設定されている。小林さんは「いつも自作状態でおらなあかんと思って、『アップル・ジャック』を付けたんやわ」と。最初から注文が来なくて、オルゴールの流す「カノン」によく癒された。
現在、そのオルゴールは木の音響箱の上に乗せられて、ショップ中に音楽を流す。ショップはお客様にもらったアート作品や航空自衛隊のモデルプレーンで飾っている。それらの下に工房アップル・ジャックの品揃えが静かに光っている。吉野ヒノキの器、黒檀の果物ナイフ、スネークウッドの箸、桜の木の箱などの商品は「木」というものの多様性を見せる。しかし、何よりも多いのは吉野杉の商品である。
工房の方で、キャッチャーのサインを読み取るピッチャーのような目つきで、小林さんはろくろに付いている吉野杉の茶碗を深く見つめる。ろくろを稼働して、回転している茶碗の中を刃物で調整する。この繰り返しで、小林さんは茶碗を形作り、他の工房より薄くて軽いの茶碗ができる。200グラムの茶碗を「超軽量」とした世界で、工房アップル・ジャックの40グラムの茶碗が「超超軽量」になる。展示会のお客様はこの茶碗を持ち上げたら、茶碗の軽さに騙されて、手からすっぽ抜けてしまうことがある。
杉は他の木より柔らかいため、木工に向いていないと思われる。しかし、あえて木工で使われたら、細かくて綺麗な年輪の色彩が生き生きする。他の木工家はこの木材を挑戦しても、工房アップル・ジャックほど薄く伐らない。それは小林さんにとってやりがいになる。工房アップル・ジャックは縁の角度を小さく調整するだけで、コースターや器を味のある上品なものにする。その特技がサンクゼール、奈良ホテル、日本全国の飲食店や商店に認められて、注文がきているらしい。しかし、工房が繁盛していても、小林さんは「工房アップル・ジャック」の名前を変えずに、緊張状態のしっかりした姿勢を保ちながら、商品を次々に作る。
吉野杉の繊細な年輪を数えてみたら、そのコップやお盆や茶碗の過去をなんだか感じ取れる。その木がいつ、どこ、誰に植えられて、育てられたかを考えさせる。工房アップル・ジャックの近くに、小林さんの先祖が植えた吉野杉がある。小林さんはその山の次の世代、と次の次の世代について話してくださった。
「その時代に合わせた植え方だったらええちゃう。杉檜の木は川上村の宝物だから、残さなあかんけど、まあ、一部は広葉樹でええと思う。広葉樹は山の上の方がええらしい。養分が上から流れてくるから、杉やヒノキに栄養が行き渡る。昔は上を残していた、松林とかで。土倉庄三郎さんの考えで『上を残す』と。」

Talk On Wood: Apple Jack

“To everything (Turn, turn, turn),
There is a season (Turn, turn, turn),
A time for every purpose under heaven.”
-“Turn! Turn! Turn!” Pete Seeger

   With dreams of being a pilot, Mr. Kobayashi entered the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, but ended up working in the aircraft maintenance department for nine years. When he came back to his home in Kawakami Village, the Village Woodworking Center was accepting applications for work. Mr. Kobayashi didn’t know anything about woodworking, but since he had worked with machines in the Self-Defense Force, that experience would come in handy at the Village Woodworking Center. He learned through experience using the machines and handling the wood, and worked for 25 years at the Village Woodworking Center.
   Seven years ago, Mr. Kobayashi started his own studio. When he was thinking about what to call his studio, he recalled his days in the Self-Defense Force. In the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, there are three levels of threat: “Apple Jack (red, air defense alarm)”, “Lemon Juice (yellow, warning alarm)”, and “Snowman (white, alarm cancelled)”. Mr. Kobayashi said, “I felt that I should always take care of my self, so I named my studio ‘Apple Jack’.” Orders didn’t come at first, but he was comforted by the melody of “Canon” played by a music box.
   Today, that music box sits on top of wooden acoustic box and fills the shop with music. The shop is decorated with artwork from customers and models of Japan Air Self-Defense Force planes. Below those, the products of Apple Jack quietly shine. Yoshino cypress dishes, ebony fruit knives, snakewood chopsticks, and cherry wood lunch boxes show the diversity of “wood”. However, there are more products made from Yoshino cedar than anything else.
   In this studio, with eyes like a pitcher reading signs from a catcher, Mr. Kobayashi looks deep into the Yoshino cedar bowl attached to the wood lathe. He powers on the lathe, and adjusts the inside of the spinning bowl with a blade. He repeats this to gradually shape and make a bowl that is thinner and lighter than others. In a world where a 200 gram bowl is considered to be “extremely light”, Apple Jack’s 40 gram is “extremely, extremely light”. Customers at exhibitions and shows often pick up the bowl, and tricked by its light weight, end up nearly throwing it up in the air.  
   Yoshino cedar is thought to be difficult for woodworking since it is softer than most other woods. However, when it is used in woodworking, the colors of its thin, beautiful grain come alive. Even if other craftsmen take on the challenge of using Yoshino cedar, they probably can’t cut it as thin as Apple Jack. That’s part of what motivates Mr. Kobayashi. Apple Jack will adjust the angle of an edge to change a coaster or a dish into something tasteful and elegant. That ability was recognized by San Cousier, Nara Hotel, and restaurants and shops all across Japan, with plenty of orders coming in. However, no matter how successful the shop is, Mr. Kobayashi is keeping the name “Apple Jack”, staying tense and ready, and creating one product after another.
   When I try counting the fine rings of Yoshino cedar, I can get a feel for the past of the cups, trays, and bowls. It makes me think about when, where, and by who the tree was planted and raised. There are some trees planted by Mr. Kobayashi’s ancestors near the Apple Jack studio. Mr. Kobayashi talked about the next generation of that mountain, as well as the one after that.
   “I think they should plant the trees in way that’s appropriate for that generation. Cedar and cypress trees are the treasures of Kawakami, so of course we need to keep them, but well, I think it’d be a good idea to plant some broadleaf trees. They say the top of the mountain should be broadleaf trees. The nutrients flow from the top down the mountain to the cedar and cypress. A long time ago, they used to keep the top of mountain for pine forests. It was Dogura Shozaburo’s way of thinking to ‘leave the top’ they say.”

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三百段 300 Steps

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三百段

   山の上までの三百段を登り、最後の階段を静かに踏みながら大年神社へ上がった。石垣の上の森には、雄鹿が3頭いて、何かを食べていた。みんなは朝ごはんをやめて、頭を上げて、じっと僕を見つめた。10秒ほどそのままでお互いを観察していた。どこかの杉の木が朝の風に吹かれて揺れながらキーキーと長く鳴った。たしか、それは「木の立つ」音であった。僕は片手でスマホをゆっくり取り出し、写真を撮ろうとしたが、もう遅かった。山を登っている小さな白い尻尾しか撮れなかった。
   まず、僕はお参りした。それから、その立派な枝角を考えながら、神社に落ちた枝や葉っぱを早速拾い始めた。そのうち、手が増え、ドラム缶の炎が高くなり、雑談とボロワーの音が「木の立つ」音を隠した。石の間の小さな葉っぱを取りながら、隣の人は「今日は今年の最後だから、綺麗にせなあかん。」と明るく言った。他の人は次の夜の初詣のために、電球を周辺に吊るし、鳥居に鈴と松竹梅をかけた。風雨にさらされた木の賽銭箱は湿気で膨張して、なかなか開けられなかった。いつしか2時間が過ぎ、最後にドラム缶の炎を囲みながらみんなで温かい番茶をいただいた。
  次の夜、懐中電灯で三百段を照らしながら、僕らは大年神社までゆっくり登った。神社の周辺に吊るした電気がすでに点いていて、海の重い暗闇に向かっている灯台のように感じた。谷の向こうの山は奥深い影になり、石炭色の空に負けなかった。神主さんは鯛、果物、野菜、米、塩、水のお供え物を用意した。「今日は温い、雨上がってよかった」と言い合いながら、ドラム缶を囲んで顔が炎で赤く照らされた。12時を回ってから、僕はお参りして、みなさんと一緒にお神酒をいただいた。その後、階段を上がった人は何人もいた。長く話せなかった、こういう場所でこういう時にみなさんに会えて嬉しかった。
ドラム缶の炎が小さくなり、寒くなる前に早速みんなで片付けた。周辺の電気を消し、懐中電灯を点け、凍結した階段を慎重に下った。山の暗闇のどこかから、昨日の雄ジカはこの風景を垣間見ることができただろう。


300 Steps

   I climbed the 300 steps to the top of the mountain, and stepped quietly up the last set of steps to Otoshi Shrine. There were three adult bucks in the forest above the stone wall, eating something. They all paused from their breakfast, brought their heads, and looked straight at me. We observed each other just like that for about ten seconds. A Japanese cedar tree somewhere was blown by the morning wind, slowly creaking as it swayed. I think they call that the sound of a “standing tree”. I slowly pulled out my smart phone with one hand and tried to take a photo, but it was too late. All I got were the small white tails running up the mountain.
   First things first, I paid my respects to the shrine. After that, I thought about those impressive antlers as I got to work picking up the branches and leaves from the shrine grounds. More hands arrived in due time, the fire in the rusted oil drum grew higher, and the sounds of conversation and leaf blowers hid that of the “standing tree”. As we picked the small leaves out of the rocks, the person next to me cheerfully said, “Today’s the last one for this year, so we need to make sure it’s clean.” In preparation for the first prayers the following evening, others strung up light bulbs around the perimeter, or attached a bell and a combination of pine, bamboo, and plum leaves to the gate. After being exposed to the elements, the wooden donation boxed had expanded due to moisture, and wasn’t able to be opened. Two hours passed before I knew it, and we all crowded around the drum can fire and drank warm tea when we were done.
   The next night, we illuminated the 300 steps with our flashlights as we slowly climbed up to Otoshi Shrine. The lights we had strung around the shrine were already on, and they felt like a lighthouse facing the heavy darkness of the sea. The mountain on the other side of the valley was now a deep shadow, and was no match for the coal-colored sky. The reverend prepared the bream, sake, fruit, vegetables, rice, salt, and water as offerings to the shrine. “It’s warm tonight, and it’s luckily it stopped raining,” we said to one another as we crowded around the drum, our faces reddened by the glow of the flame. Once it passed midnight, I paid my respects to the shrine and joined everyone in drinking the sake offered to the shrine. Quite a few people came up the stairs after that as well. We couldn’t talk very long, but I was happy to see everyone in such a place at such a time.
  The flame in the rusted oil drum grew smaller, and we cleaned everything up before it got too cold. We turned off the perimeter lights, turned on our flashlights, and carefully descended down the frozen steps. I wonder if yesterday’s bucks could catch a glimpse of this scene from somewhere in the darkness of the mountain.

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バーバー栗山 Barber Kuriyama

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バーバー栗山

   バーバー栗山の話は長くて、遠いところから始まる。戦争の前に理容をしていたお父さんはサイパン島のバンザイ岬をロープで下り、海を泳いで行くと肩が撃たれ、米国兵に捕虜された。船で米国サンフランシスコまで渡り、ゴールデン・ゲート・ブリッジをくぐってから、シカゴで綿摘みをした。結局ハワイに移り、理容師が他にいなかったため、お父さんはそちらで二年ほど理容をした。解放されたら、川上村迫地区に帰り、鋏と木製のスツールだけで自分の床屋を開けた。何十年「バーバー栗山」のお店を続け、30年前に大滝ダムの建設に伴い、迫地区が山の上へ移った時、お店も上に移った。
   現在、木製のツールではなく、本格的なバーバーチェアを使っているバーバー栗山は役場の手前に川上村の中心にある。お父さんからお店を継いだ栗山秀夫はその中心地を嬉しく思っている。「東川、柏木、入之波からはいろんな人が来るから、そんな話が聞ける。それは宝かな。」国道169号線を走りながら、お店の窓を通して、散髪しに来た常連さんやソファに座って話に来た村民さんがちらっと見える時が多い。みなさんは知り合いの健康、桜の調子、子供の学校や就職先を話す。僕はそれを聞いたら、アメリカの床屋と共通点がいっぱいあるような気がした。
   お店だけではなく、栗山さん自身も迫地区と川上村で中心的な役割を果たしている。15年前、当時の村長に川上村消防団の団長の指名をもらい、140名の団員と一緒に川上村村民の生命と財産を山火事、民家の火事、台風などの災害から守っている。「夜寝る時、『ああ、何もなかった』と、朝起きたら、『今日は1日を平和に過ごさせてくれ。』そればっかりを狙う」。去年、迫地区の区長になり、区民の元気な笑顔を狙って働いている。
しかし、「団長」や「区長」になっても、栗山さんは謙虚をもってみなさんと接している。「怒られるのは怒られる。やっぱり十人十色で、いろんな人はおりますや。」と栗山さんは明るく言った。「昔はどこの区長でも『区長〜!』としとったのに、今は「はい、はい!」。まあ、それは世の中の流れかな。消防でもそんな気持ちでずっと『いつもすみません、すみません』と頭を下げとる。下から出とったら、エリックくん、一番ええで。」
   バーバー栗山の壁に何枚のカレンダー、バス時刻表、演歌のポスターが貼ってある。地元の写真も何枚もある。栗山さんは大滝ダムの建設前の、元々の迫地区が写っている写真を見せてくださった。栗山さんは現在地を指してから、山火事がどこにあったか、丹生川上神社上社、役場、人の家などがどこにあったかを教えてくださった。一昨年川上村に来た僕は、人の話を聞いたり、写真を見たりして、大滝ダムの前の村を垣間見るしかない。
   話が終わったら、僕はバーバーチェアに座り、散髪していただいた。頭の上が薄くなっている僕は横を短く、上を大切にするようにお願いした。当然かもしれないが、散髪していただきながら、栗山さんと話し続けた。相変わらず、素敵なことを仰った。
「この商売していてね、ありがたいのはお金をいただく時、『ありがとう』と言ってお金をくださる。ぼくたちが『ありがとう』と言わなければいけないのに。親父はよく言っていた、『ありがとうと言ってお金をくれるような商売ないぞ。』」


Barber Kuriyama

   The story of Barber Kuriyama is long and begins in a far away place. Having studied to be a barber before being sent off to war, its founder was on the island of Saipan, and roped down Banzai Cliff to try to swim away in the ocean when he was shot in the shoulder and captured by US soldiers. They crossed the ocean on a boat to San Francisco, and after passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, he ended up picking cotton in Chicago. He was eventually transferred to Hawaii, where there were no other barbers, so he cut hair there for two years. After he was released, he returned home to the Sako district in Kawakami Village, and opened his own barber shop with just his scissors and a wooden stool. He continued running his shop for decades, and when the Sako district was relocated up the mountain due to the construction of the Otaki Dam thirty years ago, the shop moved up with it.
   Now, with a real barber chair instead of a wooden stool, Barber Kuriyama is located at the heart of Kawakami Village, just in front of the village office. Having inherited the shop from his father, Hideo Kuriyama is very happy about its central location. “People come here from all over the village, Unogawa, Kashiwagi, Shionoha, so I can hear everything they have to say. I think that’s the treasure.” Driving down Nat. Hwy 169, I often glance through the window and see the regulars getting haircuts or residents sitting and chatting on the sofas. People discuss the health of acquaintances, the status of cherry blossoms, or the next school or company of local children. When I heard that, I felt like it has a lot in common with barber shops in America.
   Not just the shop, but Mr. Kuriyama himself has a very central role in both Kawakami Village and the Sako district. Fifteen years ago, he was named by the mayor to be the Chief of the Kawakami Village Volunteer Fire Department, and along with 140 volunteer firefighters, is working to protect the lives and properties of Kawakami Village from forest fires, home fires, typhoons, and other disasters. “When I go to sleep at night, I say, ‘Ahh, nothing happened today.’, and when I wake up in the morning, I say, ‘Please let us get through this day in peace.’ That’s all I ask.” Last year, he also became the District Manager for the Sako district, and is working to see a healthy smile on the faces of his residents.
   However, even after becoming fire chief and district manager, he maintains his humility when interacting with people. “Some people do get angry with me. As expected, ten people will give you ten different opinions, there’s a good variety,” he says with a bright smile. “Back in the day, any district manager was highly regarded like ‘Oh, the district manager!’, but now I respond, ‘Yes sir, Yes ma’am’. Well, that’s just the way the world goes I guess. Even in the fire department, I am always bowing my head and saying, ‘Excuse me, sorry.’ You know, Eric, it’s best to make your way up from down below.”
   There are numerous calendars, a bus schedule, and an Enka poster on the walls of Barber Kuriyama. There are also many local photos. Mr. Kuriyama showed me a photo of the original Sako district before the construction of the Otaki Dam. He pointed to our current location, and told me where they had a forest fire, and where things like Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha, the village office, and people’s houses used to be. As I just came here two years ago, all I can do is hear people’s stories and see photos to catch a glimpse of what the village was like before the Otaki Dam.
   When we finished talking, I sat in the barber chair and received a hair cut. Since the top of my head is a little thin, I asked him to go short on the sides and be careful up top. It might go without saying, but we continued the chat as he cut my hair. As usual, he said something beautiful.
“The thing I’m most grateful about with this business is, even though I’m receiving the money, everyone says, ‘Thank you’ and pays me. But, since I’m the one getting paid, I’m the one who should have to say ‘Thank you’. My father always said that, ‘There aren’t any businesses where people both pay you and say thank you.’”

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