Yama ni sumu nari: Sanson seikatsufu [To Dwell among Mountains:
An Account of Life in a Mountain Hamlet]. Ue Toshikatsu. Shinjuku
Shobo, 2001. 193×131mm. 226pp. ￥2,000. ISBN 4-88008-235-X.
This is basically a collection of essays the author (b. 1937)
wrote in his spare time while pursuing a career in forestry,
and published in 1983. For the recent edition he added an "epilogue"
reporting on events since that time.
The book describes a mountain hamlet in Wakayama prefecture
of fifteen dwellings and thirty inhabitants. With residents moving
away and those who remain steadily growing older, the labor force
needed to cultivate the fields and rice paddies is dwindling;
the hamlet will eventually vanish. Life in the village is rather
lonely, but the author relates lively stories of a childhood
playing in the valley stream, of the sumo tournaments held at
the local shrine, and the drinking parties of his youth.There
were happy moments with his aging mother gathering edible wild-plants,
and some stimulation in the establishment of new farms to augment
the self-sufficiency of the depopulated village. Numerous anecdotes
evoke village festivals, the quirks of his neighbors, and other
cameos of local life.
Today, twenty years later, the author lives in a nearby village
several hundred meters from the old dwellings. Long since retired
from forestry, the author, now in his sixties, concentrates on
his writing. His unaffected, matter-of-fact style, as appealing
today as twenty years ago, vividly evokes the man who resolved
to "dwell among mountains."
This is reading worth savoring.