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Date : October 17, 2008

Video Report:October 17-18, 2008【IWATE Press Tour (New with Old, a life in a mountain village)】

post date : 2013.08.24

~Big challenges and issues of small towns: "Co-existence with nature" beyond time and space, nurtured by the earth and people in Iwate~


■New with Old: life in a mountain village “Kuzumaki”(October 17-18, 2008)



■Mori-to-kaze-no-gakko (School of Forest and Wind)


Mr. Nobuo Yoshinari, President of the NPO Iwate Research Institution of Children and Environment


Located 700m above sea level, in a 11-household settlement, where people who live in the town center of Kuzumaki seldom came to visit, this is an eco-school using the building of a school which was closed down in 1996.
After that this place was totally abandoned.


The eco-school, Mori-to-kaze-no-gakko (School of Forest and Wind), marked the 8th year since its foundation and currently receives as many as 6,000 visitors a year.


We want to learn about “green energy” through our daily life.
We eat and digest food, then discharge it. Discharges return to nature. We want to show the cycle here.
That is why I chose to come to Kuzumaki.


-Old Kamisodegawa elementary school building
This school was closed down in 1996. It ended up with fewer than 10 children.
This is the signboard of the old school. That one is ours. However, we haven't taken it away as we love tradition and history.
For people in the village, it is still a school of theirs. 


-Eco House under construction
We use reeds which grow in the village and plaster them onto the wall with clay. There is only one old plasterer in the village now. He taught us the traditinal method of wall making. We learn the know-how from him and must hand it down. This is important.


-Mori-no-Kitchen, kitchen in the forest
With nature, near the forest, all of us : fathers, mothers, children, and babies, can enjoy cooking and eating here.


-Bath with a firewood boiler
The bath has a boiler outside and we use firewood as fuel. It takes 3 to 4 hours for this large bath to be ready.
Children can learn by experience to keep thier eyes on the fire in the boiler for 3 to 4 hours to make a bath with a temperature good enough for soaking.
These are the waste from the town.
We use the waste cans for heat insulation.


-Compost toilet
The Japanese used this method in the Edo period.
There is a plastic bucket under the toilet to receive discharges.
Liquid is removed from the bucket.
When the lequid part is taken away from the solid, it doesn’t smell.
After using the toilet we put a cup of sawdust over the discharges, and this removes the liquid part.
We can make compost in 2 years.
We also use it as fuel for the biogas system we have in our backyard.
Children can learn by experience that their discharges will turn into energy and fertilizer used in the fields.


-Kuzumaki in future
In Kuzumaki-machi, 5 elementary schools were closed down in the last 5 years.
Depopulation is one of the factors…and also the fiscal deficit of the central govenment.
Many people leave the rural areas for the cities which makes the cities more crowded.
Kuzumaki-machi is trying to be autonmous as well as independent under the banner of ‘green energy'.
It has been getting more attention since in the last five years.
However, the next step is for people in the town to take the lead.
Bottom-up power is necessary for Kuzumaki to become a true town of ‘green energy’. 



■Mori no Sobaya (Soba shop in the forest)


A soba shop was born in 1992 in the low-income Kokarigawa district, and one of the least developed in Kuzumaki-machi. It was opened by Kuzumaki-machi town officials, Mr. and Mrs. Kouke, with the hope of enlivening the local community.


At the soba shop, they made use of three existing resources: soba cultivation by utilizing intermountain natural conditions 500 meters above sea level; a watermill that has been working since the early 1900s; and the traditional method of hand-kneading taught by the grandmothers in the community.


Their soba has gained a high reputation, and their community with a population of 180 has become a place which welcomes as many as 10,000 visitors a year.


This change brought about positive economic effects that allowed each resident in the community to earn an average of 500,000 yen per year while making this community full of life.


-Watermill Mr. Takunori Kouke, soba shop owner
Buckwheat as it is harvested contains husks and dirt. These are removed using the machine over there, and the cleaned buckwheat is put into here.
It falls as it connects...., don't you think it works very well? Stone-ground powder is put through the sieve, and the screened powder comes down.
Mrs. Akiko Kouke, soba shop owner
We run the shop with the group of grandmothers in the community.
The two of us raised the funds and asked the grandmothers to give their technique of hand-kneading, and opened the shop all together.
The grandmothers are happy to continue working with the shop until they will die.
As long as they can work they will not be fired. There is no retirement in our shop. The grandmothers can enjoy their lives.


(grandmother)“We work as a group, so I can come to work here two or three times a week. My pleasure.”


(voice: Mr. Takunori Kouke, soba shop owner)
If we could sell 90-kg unprocessed buckwheat , we could earn 30,000 yen.
But if we grind it and screen it at the mill, and 90-kg buckwheat will be turned into 60-kg flour. When it is processed like this, it gains value.
Then we make soba noodles by hand-kneading and put them in a box. We sell the end products at 180,000 yen.
180,000 yen for a 10-are field. This figure is equivalent to the income for farmers who grow rice or apples.
I believe that we can make our living in a mountain village making use of the exisitng resources to create added value.

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