A life of courage, joy and independence.
The building in this photo belongs to a man who never speaks. He’s one of the last residents in a very remote Japanese village where few either visit or leave. Everything I know about this village I learned from an old woman who lives alone a bit further up the valley. She told me she was brought her as a young bride from another village on the other side of the mountain. She spent her entire adult life here, raising children and keeping house for her tea farming husband. The husband died years ago and her children all now live with their families in the city. She lives alone in an enormous black farmhouse and keeps herself occupied with the care of her small kitchen garden. She only leaves for doctor visits which are few and far between due to the fact that she has no car and buses do not come this far into the mountains (no bus could maneuver the road to this village). She buys food from the grocery truck which comes twice each week when the road isn’t washed out, covered in landslide or buried in snow. She told me that her family visits her several times a year, typically on the Japanese day of the dead (Obon) and at new year. She explained that the thing she misses most is the sound of children of which the village has none. At last count I think there are just five or six people left in this village, all of whom are in their late seventies or early eighties. The man who never speaks no longer resides in the main section of his large farmhouse and has instead moved into a small shed next door which I expect is easier for him to heat and maintain. I sometimes see a dim light in the shed when I return through the village at dusk. I know that one day that light will be gone and the house will be claimed by the forest like so many others. In the meantime he keeps a nice pond of mountain trout which I think he eats and shares with his neighbors. I always greet him in Japanese when I encounter him outdoors though in ten years he hasn’t answered a word to me and I doubt he ever will. I expect I’ll leave Japan before this village dies. The road here is very difficult to maintain and I wonder if it too will be closed and abandoned when there is no one and no reason for anyone to come. The saddest part of this story is that this slow dying of population and lifestyle is happening not just here but everywhere in the mountains where I explore. The traditional lifestyle of rural Japan is nearly gone, and once it has passed it will never come back.
Welcome to the Abandoned Japan blog. My name is Kurt Bell and I am delighted that you have taken some time to share a little of Japan with me. I’m available on Facebook and Google+ if you have questions or just want to chat and say hi. I can also be found at the JVLOG forum with other Japan-related content creators. All links are listed below. I look forward to meeting you on-line. Have a great day!
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The Path of Wildness is an answer and response to a prescribed way of life which may leave some individuals with a sense that their living is little more than a series of pre-determined, step-like episodes between birth and death. The stages of living between these events: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood and senior are themselves natural and in accord with the needs of the species and most individuals. Many find their satisfaction in living this course and to these individuals I have little or nothing to say. Others though long for something more; something innate, genetic and seemingly calling. Adventure and change can give a degree of satisfaction and relief yet even these may seem too tame. To those who feel drawn to something beyond the entertainment and stimulation of senses I offer a walk along The Path of Wildness. Don’t bother penciling the event in your schedule, preparing a pack with goodies and supplies or even inviting a friend along, for this experience is along the course of your first inclination and you must surely always go alone.
The Path of Wildness Resources