Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Return to the abandoned forest graves 放棄された森林墓に戻る – Abandoned Japan 日本の廃墟

Emily and me

This photo shows Emily and I relaxing today on a nearly abandoned farm road in the Japan Southern Alps. Such a beautiful day of hiking we had! The weather was very cool (23 degrees Celsius) with heavy clouds on the peaks dropping refreshing, brief showers of rain on our heads as we made our way without umbrellas through green forests echoing with the ghostly sound of high mountain cicada (these insects make a very different and much more soothing sound than the loud whir of the lowland cicadas). After trekking through a valley of abandoned tea farms we enjoyed lunch on a rocky island in the middle of a river which we had to cross barefoot through the frigid, crystal clear flow. After lunch we searched for river crabs before continuing to the other side for a nervous 20 minute bushwhack along a barely perceivable animal trail. This part of the adventure was through a dark and dense conifer forest where the very real danger of giant hornets kept us on our toes. Emily and I were ready to bolt for the river at the first sound of attack. Our goal was a small, abandoned family graveyard I had first found years ago and which appears to be associated with a nearby abandoned wasabi farm compound. I was having trouble finding the graves when Emily suddenly pointed the correct way while trying to show me an insect. I announced “there it is!” while looking in the distance and she replied “what are you looking at? The bug is here on this leaf.” Her finger was pointed directly at the graves which she couldn’t even see over a small ridge! We both scratched our heads a bit over that curious coincidence. After paying our respects at the grave site and searching a bit for the missing head of the Jizo saint statue which stands in attendance we then moved on for an unprecedented exploration of the abandoned farm compound. This particular farm is one I have deliberately avoided visiting for the last 10 years, due to some uncertain hesitancy which today largely departed while in the company of my girl. We stayed only briefly at the farmhouse which featured evidence of two enormous hornet nests under the eves. At one point we peeked through a crack in the heavy wood front door and discovered the home is fully furnished and even included black and white photos of deceased ancestors on the walls, possibly the people we visited in the forest graveyard. Emily helped with some of the video on this adventure and I look forward to sharing the experience later here and on the Walking in Japan YouTube channel. Now my girl is fast asleep in bed (at 5:25 PM) after a very fun and interesting day of trekking in the amazing Japan Southern Alps.

The photo below shows Emily and I preparing to walk through a nearly abandoned tea farming village. A generation ago there were more than a dozen families living in this beautiful and very remote valley though today there are just four old men and one old woman. Each year more homes are abandoned and during this walk I was saddened to learn that one of the happiest old women I’d ever known is now gone (her house is shuttered and the electricity is switched off). We also found that the village trout pond has been abandoned and is now bone dry. This endeavor was a fascinating one to me as the “pond” consisted of six concrete pools of various sizes which were fed with fresh water via a gravity system requiring no pumps or mechanical system of any sort. The improvised system provided 24 hour fresh, aerated water to the pools and improved the ambient atmosphere with the sound of an artificial waterfall. The pools were home to hundreds of delicious mountain trout which helped feed the villagers and augment their meager intact of protein. I was so sad to see the water intact switched off and the pools barren and dry. I fully expect this entire village to become deserted within the next decade and the lifestyle and culture of the humble Japanese farmer to fade to memory and beyond.

Emily and me

Here’s a shot of where we had our lunch.

Emily and me

The image below is where we crossed a small stream in order to make our way into the trackless woods beyond.

Emily and me

I should have the video for this adventure uploaded next week. In the meantime, I’ll share below a link to the video in which I first discovered the abandoned graves in the forest.

Welcome to the softypapa blog. My name is Kurt Bell and I am delighted that you have chosen to walk awhile 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!

The Path of WildnessThe Path of Wildness is easy to find
The course of a stream
Leaves blown in the wind
A beast’s track through the brush
And the direction of our first inclination

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


Follow me on Twitter:

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At the JVLOG forum (my username there is “LylesBrother”):

You can also reach me via email at the following address: softypapa@gmail.com



“Japanese Falls” image included in this video is by the artist Lane Brown. See more of Mr. Brown’s work at the following URL:

Channel Theme Music “Song For Kurt” used with permission by Nowherians. Discover more about the artist and their music at the URL below. Be sure to check out their “Rome Pays Off” recordings.

Channel homepage image “Leaf” by photographer Moyan Brenn.
See more of Mr. Brenn’s photos on Flickr at the link below.

Walking in Japan softypapa torii image


6 comments on “Return to the abandoned forest graves 放棄された森林墓に戻る – Abandoned Japan 日本の廃墟

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  5. Johanna
    July 28, 2013

    I think this video was wonderful, to me it looked like a perfect father/daughter-day, even if it was her punishment it looked like she did enjoy herself from time to time out in the woods with her papa. I also think its so wonderful to see that you pay such great respect for the abandoned places, this keeps the mystery around the certain place you visit alive and you keep your viewers minds wide open to think for ourselfs what happend there and who the people were who lived there behind the shut doors and windows.

    I enjoyed every step of the way!
    /Johanna from Sweden

    • softypapa
      July 31, 2013

      Thank you for the very nice comment, Johanna. 🙂

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