A life of courage, joy and independence.
This is a village which I have been watching fade for many years. It has always been a quiet place since I first discovered it in 1996. I’ve met several residents who are all very old, very kind and exceedingly welcoming to anyone who chooses to visit. One old man once ordered me into the back of his little pickup truck for a wild ride through the mountains so that he could take me home to meet his wife and have tea in their beautiful farm house. He gave me a natural stone Daruma statue (photos below) which sits now on my desk. The community boasts a very small onsen hot spring resort at the far end of town though business seems quite bad and I expect the facility will close within the next few years. Over time I imagine the entire village will sadly fade away. The village is called “Kuchisakamoto” and can be seen on Google maps at these coordinates: 35.182753,138.273575
Out past a certain point the villages in these mountains are all dying, and there are a few villages I am certain will become ghost towns within the next decade. Faced with this reality I’ve heard some pretty extreme cases where the remaining villagers band together to try and sell their property in order to escape before they are too old and frail. In one newsworthy case a waste disposal company bought an entire village in order to convert the valley into a landfill. The payment to the residents was lifetime care in a old age home. This might seem extreme yet I have met some oldsters who are seemingly stranded nearly all alone in the deep mountains. Unable to drive and with limited funds they live a pretty desperate life. The beauty and serenity of these beautiful mountains is understandably lost to those who face growing frailty and weakness of body and mind. With no impetus for the young people to return the fate of these communities and the humble yet proud lifestyle of their residents seems destined to pass away before the end of our lifetime.
Here are a couple of photos of the stone Daruma figure the old farmer gave me next to a papier-mache version:
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