Dreamy ocean views and deep green mountains. The town of Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture offers the best of both worlds. On an early summer day in the dazzling fresh greenery, editor of PAPERSKY Lucas caught up with artist Chalkboy in the hills of Hayama.
Host / Toru Yamaguchi ( Hayama Resident / Owner of BESS home)
Guest / Chalkboy（artist, illustrator and Hayama Resident）
Traveler / Lucas B.B.（PAPERSKY Editor）
1. The BESS house that led me here.
Yamaguchi explains that he and his wife used to live together in a residential area in Yokohama. Having decided to relinquish the crowded city life, he began to look for a place to settle down and ended up in the mountains of Hayama. After settling in, they completely switched up their work lives by starting their own brand, “HAYAMA LOG CABIN COFFEE,” roasting and selling coffee beans. These days, he enjoys plenty of time in the solitude of the mountains, devoted to coffee beans.
Lucas: “I always associated Hayama with the ocean, but here up in the hills. Why did you decide on this location?“
Yamaguchi: “Well I was looking for a place near the sea, but anywhere with an actual view of the sea was a bit pricey and I didn’t want to be paying it off forever. I carried on looking for a place near the sea but there are surprisingly few properties available with a good view. Once I started to think about the area a bit more, I realized that the mountains are actually really nice in Hayama.”
Lucas: “I can see why you like the mountains here. This BESS house blends in perfectly with its surroundings.”
Yamaguchi: ”I’d seen adverts for BESS in magazines, but I never actually thought I would live in one. But when I did decide to live in the mountains my mind turned to log houses, and then of course BESS, ha ha.”
Lucas: “I see.”
Yamaguchi: “Another reason was my car. I love my Jeep and am always tinkering with it. The house needed to go well with my jeep, and BESS houses are perfect in that sense. I always keep it parked out front so I can gaze at it from inside. “
Lucas: “So how exactly did you end up in the coffee business?”
Yamaguchi: “I think it was about a year and a half after moving here that I decided on coffee. I was actually never a fan of it personally, and preferred green tea or just plain hot water. But of course green tea and hot water aren’t really what you drink in a log house.“
Lucas: “So the house got you into coffee as well.“
Yamaguchi: “I was convinced that if I really put my mind to it, I could make the perfect cup of coffee. But it was pretty revolting, ha ha. That’s where it started. I wracked my brains over why there is so much bad coffee being served everywhere, why is everyone so content with such low quality.“
Chalkboy: “Was that a quest for the flavor? A lot of it is presumably down to the roasting, no?”
Yamaguchi: “That’s right. In my case, somewhere between deep and subtle. I had a friend who ran a café in a BESS house and his coffee was so tasty. I started to ponder why one coffee can taste so good while another doesn’t, and someone suggested I should get my friend to roast it for me. That way you can adjust it exactly to your liking. So that is how I started roasting coffee, and when I put it up on social media people started asking to buy it, so I thought why not? To cut a long story short, that’s how I got here. “
Chalkboy: “Is the flavor linked to the house? Or not at all? “
Yamaguchi: “Well, it’s fair to say that this house completely made me who I am today. I see things very differently now. I was also very much influenced by the special atmosphere of these mountains that aren’t even well-known in Hayama. “
2. What’s the meaning of money?
Yamaguchi explains how his house and its environment have changed the sense of values that have carried him through life so far. Over a tasty cup of coffee, the trio find themselves discussing the subject of nature and “money”.
Yamaguchi: “I used to think that I had to earn money to cover all the fun things I wanted to do and nice things I wanted to have. But then I found myself in a dilemma that earning money means being busy, and thus losing time to have fun. But since living in this house I have so much time where I’m not doing anything, which feels like a real luxury to me. Of course we need to earn money, but I seriously questioned the merit of having your nose to the grindstone all your life and losing your fun time.”
Lucas: “Can’t argue with that”.
Yamaguchi: “I like cars, so if I’m living in the city, I’d want a Mercedes or a BMW. And I’d like to wear nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. Out here though, I noticed I’d lost all interest in flashy cars or fancy clothes. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.”
Lucas: “Were you always conscious of how other people saw you?”
Yamaguchi: “Might have been. Because it was only when I started living out in the mountains that I realized that up till that point I had always been conscious of how others see me.”
Chalkboy: “Hearing this conversation makes me wonder what I really want. I’m not the type to worry about what others think. Now I am really into drumming and so I start to think about how if I had another 5 million yen, I could build a soundproof room in my new house. But is that really what I want? I’m constantly wondering what the value of money is, and if I really start to think about it, it all starts to unravel. There are times when I feel so content when I’m doing absolutely nothing and realize how precious it is. In that case, why chase money?”
Lucas: ”Too true. For me, work must be something that I enjoy, ha ha. I’ve managed to make what I love into a job and I’m always enjoying what I do so I don’t really find myself wishing I had more money. Of course it takes a certain amount to publish a book but as long as I can ensure that amount, I tend to use all of it – so I can put together fantastic books which hopefully provides inspiration to plenty of people.“
Chalkboy: “I paint and draw for a living. If you take away work, money, and everything else, painting is probably just a pleasant experience. Kids get completely immersed in it, just painting for the love of it. . So like Lucas it doesn’t feel like a bind to me. In fact I’ve re-defined the value of money in my own way. It’s paper and metal above all, and a 1000-yen note is a metaphor for 1000 yen of value. And the notes themselves don’t really have any inherent meaning.”
Lucas: “I get what you mean.”
Yamaguchi: “Me too.”
Chalkboy: “I experimented with giving paintings to people who wanted them without using money as an intermediary. Like bartering or swapping based on value. In fact I regularly get deliveries of coffee beans, vegetables, and rice that I have bartered artwork for. I give someone a painting, and they send me stuff of an equivalent value. I must say I love the two-way respect and trust that exchange and barter provide These experiences made me feel that I had put a good distance between myself and money, and in certain situations, began to feel that money was no longer necessary. I hope it pays off, and if not, maybe there’s another way.“
Yamaguchi: “It’s certainly food for thought. Would be good if everything was like that.“
3. A house where you can feel content just whiling away the hours
At this point the much-awaited snacks come out. Lucas loves sweets and has brought with him a box of hand-baked puddings from Marlow, a Hayama specialty. Of course, served with a cup of Yamaguchi-san’s coffee. As soft sunlight streams in through the windows, the blissful moments continue. Teatime in the middle of a weekday, surrounded by the great outdoors.
Lucas: “This is the snack you want when in Hayama.”
Chalkboy: “When you live here you tend not to eat it much, so it’s nice to be reminded of how tasty it is!”
Yamaguchi: “mm mm”
Yamaguchi: “When I quit the rat race and started roasting coffee, at first, I felt like I always had to be doing something. I was at odds internally having moved out to this secluded place to make better use of my time yet ended up feeling anxious if my hands were idle. But thankfully it wasn’t long till I found myself in a new groove.”
Lucas: “I think that the society we live in ends up making us feel that way. Like you always have to be busy with something, to constantly be up against it. But in fact people would rather be communing with nature or taking it easy at home if they’ve got time on their hands. I guess when you start living in less crowded places, you start to notice these things that are actually quite obvious.“
Yamaguchi: “Well, I guess that means this house is a comfortable place to be.“
Chalkboy: “I had a job drawing illustrations for a magazine related to energy-efficient housing, and I knew I had to read up on the subject, so I looked into construction methods and heat penetration rates and learned a lot. What you realize is that the comfort in a house is totally related to the specifications. Of course the design is important, but if the specs are off in any way, then you won’t end up with a living space that feels fantastic.”
Yamaguchi: “You know what, that is what it might mean to properly settle down. But what brings me joy daily are the views right in front of me inside the house – both the interior, and how it looks from the outside. As well as the sight of my jeep next to the house.”
Lucas: “While we’ve been chatting away, I haven’t heard any noise outside.“
Yamaguchi: “Yes, sometimes a car won’t go past for hours on end.“
Lucas: “I’m sure it would be different if you were right by the sea.“
Yamaguchi: “Absolutely. My wife works at a company during the week, so I’m all on my own throughout the day. And it wasn’t until I made the move that I realized just how much I enjoy spending time by myself.“
Chalkboy: “Lucas, might be time we made a move.“
Lucas: “Yes. But look, there’s still some puddings left. Anyone for another?”
Yamaguchi: “Don’t mind if I do.“