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Iwate Interview 02

Field notes from a mountain hut

Being cradled in nature shines a lot on what really matters



The eastern foot of Mt. Hayachine, the loftiest peak in the Kitakami Mountains. Taimagra was a settlement established here after the war. The peculiar place name means “road leading deep into the forest” in the Ainu language, and as the name suggests, is a land of deep forests, beautiful mountain streams, and boundless nature. Guest house “Field Note’‘ is a small mountain lodge that hosts travelers here in Taimagura. Proprietor Mitsuyuki Okuhata visited this place over 30 years ago and fell in love at first sight. He has since lived alongside mother nature as the owner of the lodge and as the head of a family of five.

Water purified by the greenery and soil of the forest supports life in Taimagura.

“When the water is clogged, we fix it; we observe the state of the forest, and then harvest and cook the crops. I do the same things every day, but I simply couldn’t be happier.”

There are only four houses in the area, including this one. Guests, whether they like it or not, are enveloped by the vast nature of the Kitakami Mountains, getting their sustenance from the forests, fields, and clear streams. This provides a welcome reminder of what is truly necessary for human life.

“There are times when the weather is unpredictable and we can’t harvest anything. But nuts, for example, can be stored for up to two years. If something doesn’t work, something else will come along. There’s nothing but nature here, but that’s how life has been sustained up till now.”

Early in the morning, I went out to the garden to find his eldest son Ohki-san, chopping logs. Meanwhile, Mitsuyuki-san was checking the crops at the vegetable plot while another son Mori-san fetched water.  His wife Yoko-san and the third son Susumu were busy putting breakfast together. After breakfast, each family member continues to rush around fulfilling their respective roles. It goes on like this from morning to night. Mitsuyuki suddenly weighs in:  

”To get by in the mountains, we have to make miso, make snowshoes, chop our own firewood, and protect our crops from deer and wild boar… You have to think of ways to interact with nature, make do with what you’ve got, and get things done by yourself. You simply can’t get that experience in the city. I think living in nature is a real eye-opener for people. I hope that those who come to stay with our family will be able to get a glimpse of what nature has to offer”.

There are no soft and fluffy beds, nor luxurious attractions. But the sense of awareness and tranquility that comes from living in the bosom of mother nature is something that is hard to find anywhere else. Just how many skills and smarts for getting by in life do I really lack? I might need another vacation to think it over.

text | Miguel Utsunomiya Photography | Shuhei Tonami