Mountains Villages Fields (by Ai Takahashi)
An hour’s drive from Matsuyama City takes us to Kumakogen-cho (the town of Kuma highlands), located at the foot of Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest mountain in the Western Japan. In the heart of mountains about 800 meters high, the town is covered with snow in winter, which is rare in Shikoku. Situated on the road between Tosa and Matsuyama, the town used to be a hub of flourishing forestry. However, Japanese timber price fell sharply, and the town went through the “Merger of Heisei,” – the municipal mergers and dissolutions that took place five years ago. The town lost many jobs, and a lot of people left Kuma, their native land.
There are two kinds of landscape. One is the landscape composed solely by nature. The other bears the trace of human activities. It is this landscape with human activities that characterizes the mountains of Kuma. People planted trees and always lived with the mountains. A Native American saying goes, “landscapes are events.” These “events” we perceive by our senses, not by words.
There are people who live their life with joy, even under the harsh nature and difficult financial conditions – people stay living there no matter what. These people I respect. People are born in this land and buried in the same land, which strikes me as a very simple yet happy life. No advertisements need to highlight this land as a tourist destination. The shooting stars and fireflies always fill the land with light. Many times, this flow of light caught me with its beauty, which might be just a usual scene to the people in the land.
Even in the time of turbulent changes, there are certain things which never change, flowing quietly yet ceaselessly, like a vein of underground water. As long as there are people – five or even one person – who live in the village, I would like to visit their land and listen to the breath of their lives. It is in this place that a basic Japanese culture is deeply rooted. It is an indispensable warm feeling that we have when assured we have a home to return to – for autumn festivals or New Year’s Day. Hoping this warmth be forever, I wish to photograph various parts of Japan.