Prince Munenaga (1311-1385)
He is one of Oshika's most famous villagers. As a prelude to an account of the life of the imperial prince, Buddfhist priest, poet and military general, here are three of his tanka poems.
Whatever may happen, if a virtuous lord rules, amid even chaos, who will be confused?
A reference to his father Godaigo, emperor of the Southern Court, and to the benefits of imperial rule on the stability of the country. It was written during an age in which samurai landlords were competing for power all over Japan. In most places, it was the samurai bosses that ruled.
With the people accustomed to hearing only deceitful words, sincerity has disappeared from our world.
Sound familiar? As they say, plus ça change, c'est plus que la même chose. Nothing really changes.
Like my years, the moon is on its way down, and will set behind the mountain, while for me there is no hiding-place.
This was the most difficult one to translate. I hope that its meaning is clear. In view of the setting it was probably written during one of the fugitive prince's many long sojourns at his base deep in these mountains.
Walter Weston (1860-1940)
This is an account by the British missionary-turned-mountaineer of a visit that he made to Oshika in 1892. There is a reference to Weston in the memories of I.S. immediately following.
By six o'clock we came to a halt at Ichiba (20 miles from Takato), where scattered cottages are dotted about the sides of the picturesque ravine, through which the Kashio-gawa flows. Crossing the long bridge that spans the stream, we put up at a modest inn called Dai-maruya ("the house of the great circle"). As usual, the pack-horse was well in the rear, but as it was still quite early, I preferred to wait for my own provisions, which the baggage contained, and meanwhile accepted an invitation to "deign to enter the honourable hot water." To one unaccustomed to Japanese country ways the position would have had its drawbacks. The oval bath-tub stood in a conspicuous place outside the front verandah, and in full view of the villagers as they passed up and down the narrow stony path. Possibly, as I have often seen else where, it was so arranged in order to allow the occupant to see and chat with his friends as they ambled to and fro. .
Many and long were the hours that dragged on as I afterwards waited, Micawber-like, for "something to turn up" in the shape of my baggage and the food it held. It was all in vain, though, and, after once declining the proffered dinner of native food, I had to eat humble-pie and recall the rejected meal. Only a little rice, however, was left, as the rest had been devoured in the kitchen. When midnight arrived. I was compelled to turn in, or rather simply to turn over on the futon on which for the past five hours I had been reclining in fruitless expectation. Misery is commonly supposed to acquaint a man with strange bedfellows, but those who shared my couch that night were all too familiar to be agreeable. I was faint enough for want of sustenance myself, but the fleas had certainly no cause for complaint.
The sun was already well up in the sky on the morrow when the truant pack-horse and his laggard leader appeared. On demanding the reason for the 14 hours' delay, I was told the horse had suddenly "become weak by the way." The excuse could deceive no one, for on going out and unloading the animal I found that the rascal had piled up a large burden belonging to some one else he had met en route, and he expected to get payment from this person in addition to the liberal price I had already promised to give.
Opposite our inn a narrow ravine on the left bank of the stream is the site of some salt springs, which rise up in wells a hundred feet or so in depth. The water is pumped up on to the top of layers of bamboo leaves and stems, which form a sort of sieve, through which it trickles into a pan below. It then goes through a process of boiling and subsequent evaporation. Beyond Ichiba our torrent joined the Koshibu-gawa at right angles, just where that stream takes an abrupt turn westwards to join the Tenryū, near lida. Grand bluffs rise straight from the water's edge at the bend, and higher up the Koshibu valley the brown cottages of the hamlet of Ōkawara nestle cosily amidst well-cultivated fields. On the hill-side above, a picturesque temple peeps out from its security under the protection of a grove of splendid cryptomeria. In spite of the remote situation of the village, its inhabitants are evidently thoroughly go-ahead folk. A primitive belfry stands in the middle of the fields to summon the peasants together whenever common consultation is desirable. It consists of a flat board of very hard wood, in shape like the ordinary notice-boards of the country, suspended between a couple of tall posts. When thwacked with a stout truncheon that hangs by the side, the board gives out a note that resounds far and wide up the valley and in the hills. In contrast with this relic of bygone days, now rarely seen but in the most primitive spots, stands the village school, recently erected in "foreign style," with glass windows and whitewashed walls. Kindness itself was the treatment accorded on seeking out the little, so-called "inn" of Imai Takijirõ, and so zealously did he and his whole family run about and otherwise exert themselves on my behalf, that I fared better here than anywhere else on my tour. A desk and a table were, spontaneously, sent for to the school. The policeman in charge of the district, who had come with us from Ichiba, set out to search for someone who could pilot me up Akaiishi. Soon he returned with the very man I needed. This was a hunter who a year ago had succeeded in reaching the summit with a War Office surveyor, and who now was ready to guide me also. A. walk of six miles up a wild gorge that leads out of the prosperous valley took us to a yuba, or bath-house, standing on a steep slope above the bed of the torrent, known as Koshibu-no-yu. Rustics resort hither for the sake of the sulphur springs, which are conducted into two large tanks standing on a platform in front of the rough châlet which does duty for an inn. In one tank the water is heated to nearly 120° Fahr., in the other to about 65°. From hot to cold is, therefore, but a step, an advantage not to be neglected.
The fortunes of this out-of-the-world establishment are presided over by a grey old patriarch of three score and thirteen. How politely he received me, full of apologies for the dirt and discomfort he said I should find so trying ! With modest pride he presented me with a packet of yubana ("hot-water flowers "), the solidified deposit of the solfatara, which he assured me would make me a grand bath when I got back home beyond reach of the real thing. The way he skipped about was astonishing for one of his years, and no effort did he spare to make me comfortable. To my subsequent regret, he turned out, unknown to me, a party to whom he had given the best room (such as it was), and begged me to only grant him one favour in return for his humble efforts ---that I would allow him to see me eat in " foreign style." Never shall I forget the wonderment with which he watched me performing on a tin of curried fowl, supplemented with rice and jam, helped down with cocoa. As he sat down deprecatingly on the top step of the rough stairs, he might have been a visitor at the - Zoo" watching the wild beasts feeding. Yet never, in or out of Japan, have I met a truer gentleman than this poor "untutored rustic," who had spent all his days in one of the remotest valleys in the Empire.
On the following day I left at 6 a.m., in lovely weather, for my climb. From the bathhouse a faint track descended the steep side of the ravine, and then lost itself in the bed of the stream. For the next 2 hours the perpendicular cliffs on either hand forced us to keep to the torrent bed entirely. On the right bank a fine cascade, called nana kama ("the seven cauldrons "), falls in a succession of leaps into the main stream, which a score of times we had to cross and recross by flying leaps from rock to rock, or by wading through the cold rushing water. Occasionally it filled its channel deeply from side to side, and then we had glorious scrambles over the face of the cliff that overhung clear green pools. The coolies, unfortunately, disliked this method of advance, and on the descent avoided such places wherever they could. At length the ravine forked into two branches. One gradually fades in the wooded slopes in front, and the other opens out into a still grander defile running far into the western base of Akaiishi on the left, and forms the source of the Koshibugawa. The meeting of the waters is called Hirokawara.
(extract from MOUNTAINEERING AND EXPLORATION IN THE JAPANESE ALPS by Walter Weston, published by John Murray, 1896)
The following is a work in progress.
Back in the late 1990s I had the idea of collecting oral histories from elderly villagers. My aim, I guess, was one day to edit them into an ethnography of the village. Over the next few years I visited numerous people and taped their stories. These I then translated into English, and my wife typed them up onto my MS-DOS computer.
Since then a few of them have become material for magazine articles, but most of them have remained unused. Each time I got a new computer I was careful to transfer the scripts. Today they are all on my Google drive.
So, now that I have some spare time, I want to do something with them. But what? I'm trying to find a format that will preserve their accuracy, while making the stories more accessible and more interesting to a general reader, as well as being enjoyable for me to do.
Anyway, I'm going to start by putting the original files online. As they were saved in various primitive versions of text format, the spacing and other stuff is weird. I'm not worrying too much about this at the moment, but at some point, as the editing proceeds, I would obviously like to get them into Word. But is this possible? If you know how, please drop me a line!
You can contact me regarding this, or with any other comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I. S. (born 1923) ♀ Shimo-Ichiba (Okawara)
Except for three years when I was away at upper school in Iida I have lived in this house all my life.
In those days, when returning home at holidays, one had to walk. Before the Gando road was built, the old way passed up the Hojo Hill (Hōjōzaka), through the hamlet of Ikuta and down the mountain, eventually finishing up near the Yamabuki Station. The school which I went to was Fuetsu, where, at that time, most of the study for girls was home-making skills - sewing and that sort of thing.
This house is my mother's family house. She married a man from Gamagori in Aichi. He was a carpenter who came to build the primary school. Building schools was his speciality. He moved up the Tenryu Valley building schools. Oshika was his sixth. Kawaji, Tatsue, Tatsuoka, Ichida, Ojima... He was twenty-five when he married my mother, and was the head carpenter. He lived here for a number of years, but after a while - there were three children then - he was called back to Gamagori to succeed to his own family's house. I went along - it was before I entered primary school, but came back to Oshika after six months, because there was no child to succeed this house. I think originally this house was a smithery, but towards the end of the 19th century it became an inn.
My grandmother was working at the inn when Walter Weston, the English mountaineer, visited the village. The head of the house at that time was Imai Takijirō. He was a farmer and also the first one to use the house as an inn. My grandmother Kome-san came to Oshika from Takagi. She lived to the age of ninety-four, and it was from her that I heard about this foreigner who visited Oshika. This is what happened. First, there was no bed in the house, so they piled a lot of mattresses up to make one. Then, when the bath was ready, he asked for a hishaku (cooking ladle). Nobody knew why, but they brought one anyway. The bath house was by the road and some folk peeped inside. He was using the ladle to pour water over his back! The visit of this rare foreigner caused a real stir. In the end, there was a crowd watching him! Weston mentions this in his book. Then the village policeman, whose name was Hasegawa, arranged for a guide, and a desk and chair were brought from the school. After climbing the mountain, Weston stayed here again. When Weston left, Kome-san gave him some potatoes. He was very pleased and presented her with one ryō, which in those days was a lot of money. Kome-san said that she saved the money and used it to buy my mother's wedding obi.
My mother died three years ago aged ninety-four, which was the same age as my grandmother. She told me lots of stories. Here are some of them.
THE STOLEN FISH OF IKAWA (Ikawa no sakana-tori) People say that this actually happened, although I don't know when... On the other side of Mt. Akaishi there is a river called the Ikawa - I think that it rises in the mountains and runs into the Oikawa river. Well, this river was said to be full of fish. One day three men from the Wazo hamlet decided to go to there to do some fishing. It's a long journey, but they got there in the end. However, someone was already there fishing in the river. He was a Shizuoka man and his fishing basket was full. Well, the three Wazo men got together and decided that as they would steal his fish. So they attacked him, tied him up with a rope and bound him to a nearby tree. That evening they ate the fish which they had stolen. One year later the three men decided to go fishing in Ikawa river again. They went to the same place. But when they got there they found that the man they had attacked the year before was a skeleton hanging by a rope from the tree where they had tied him. This made them feel horrible. One of the men threw a stone at the skeleton, which broke into pieces and fell to the ground. Then they hurried back to Wazo. But after that the families of the three men were visited by illness, death and all sorts of misfortune. People began to say that the men were under a curse as a result of some wrongdoing. In those days there were take-no-gyōja - mountain ascetics who had gained supernatural powers as a result of their practices deep in the mountains. The most famous of these ascetics lived were from Ontake. The three men decided to ask a mountain ascetic from Ontake to pray that their misfortunes end. But when the priest began his prayers, the fisherman whom the men had killed appeared. He told the priest about the incident. He said that the worst part was not the hunger or thirst, but the fact that while he was helpless to drive away the wasps, bees and other insects which crawled over his flesh and began to eat him alive. This was most painful. Afterwards when the priest related the ghost's story, the three men admitted what had happened. The priest ordered them to make offerings to the soul of their victim and pray for him. As a result, after some time had passed their misfortunes ceased. I remember that when I told this story to the schoolchildren, they all listened very carefully.
LADY KII (Kii no kisaki) In Kamasawa by a plantation of mulberry trees there is a stone. It was said that if one walked around it seven times and a half a lady in a white kimono with long black hair would appear. The stone marked the grave of a consort of Prince Munenaga, who used Kamasawa as one of his bases for over 30 years. While her grave remained untended her spirit could not rest. However, after a priest came and said sutras and prayed for her soul the lady no longer appeared. In Oshika there is a hamlet called Onnataka ('Women Exalted'). When Weston passed through this hamlet he remarked on its name and said perhaps the place was a pioneer in the introduction of sexual equality and other new ideas. But, as I have heard, the reason for the name is different. During the Nanboku War, Prince Munenaga travelled along Akiba-ji with a lord of Suwa. He passed through Onnataka, and stopped at his usual lodging - probably the headman's house (Kondo-san). There a farmer's daughter caught his attention, and he took the girl as one of his wives. The fact that a commoner was chosen as a consort of an imperial prince made people say that, in that hamlet, the women were more exalted than the men. That is what I heard from the grandfather of the present Kondo-san (Yukihisa, who I think lives in Kami-Ina). Another interesting thing is that in the headman's house there is a room with what known as 'dog-hole' (inu- kuguri). In olden times a feudal lord or other eminent person would not talk directly to his subjects. Sitting in a place of honour on a dais at the end of the room (tokomae), he would address his remarks through an intermediary. Now, in the house of the headman in Onnataka there is a window to the side of the tokomae, where people meeting the lord would kneel. This was called 'dog-hole' - in other words, in the eyes of a feudal lord, common people were no better than dogs. Anyway, it is thought that Lady Kii, whose grave is in Kamasawa originally came from Onnataka. And there is another interesting thing - a son of Prince Munenaga who is buried in Namiai - Yukiyoshi - is said to be a child born of Lady Kii.
THE BEREAVED CRANE This is a story which my grandmother told me. Long ago, at the time of New Year, a pair of cranes would come to the river at Okawara. In Japan cranes are birds of good luck, so people were glad to see them. Cranes coming to a tiny village in the middle of the mountains were a rare sight. However, among the ancestors of this house was a man who liked shooting. One New Year when the two cranes once again appeared, he went to the river with his gun. The people who saw him tried to stop him. They said that nothing good would come of killing a crane at the New Year. But he ignored them and shot the cock bird. The bird died, but the other one few off. Pleased with himself, the man with the gun brought the dead bird home. However, mysteriously the bird's head was gone. Still, they ate the bird as a New Year treat. It tasted good. The next New Year, the remaining hen bird returned. The man with the gun went to the river and this time he shot the hen bird. But when he went to get the bird's body he found that under the bird's wing was the head of the cock bird. A year had passed, so the head was tattered. The hen bird had been holding it to her breast all that time. As before, they ate the bird's body. After that all sorts of bad things happened to the members of this house. As was the custom, a mountain ascetic was asked to pray in order to find out the reason for this. Needless to say, he discovered that the misfortunes were punishment for killing the cranes. The hen bird had been so sad that she had carried the cock bird's head around with her. Though both birds were dead, the grudge borne against the man in our house who had killed them remained. This is what the ascetic told us. How should we avoid further punished?. His answer was that no remember of our house should ever carry a gun. The other thing was that we must always keep a picture or an ornament of a crane somewhere in the house. Those two things became a tradition handed down in this family, and we have always observed them. My husband came into this house from a family in Kami- Ichiba - a house called Hamada. He never owned a gun, but sometimes, when we had a dog he borrowed a friend's gun and went into the mountains to shoot pheasants. However, when my grandmother saw this she told him that about the tradition of this house. So he never took up hunting seriously.
MOHEI AND TENGU This story is from Kamasawa. At the bottom of the hamlet there used to be a shrine. It had a fine kabuki stage. It's gone now. Whether it was destroyed by a flood, or whether its upkeep become burdensome for a small hamlet I don't know. Anyway, sometime long ago, a man called Mohei came to work in one of the houses in Kamasawa. Exactly when I don't know, and where he came from I don't know either. The mystery began when someone noticed that every night Mohei sneaked out of the house where he was staying. Where did he go? He seemed to go to the Sanshōbō Shrine. But why? That nobody knew. So people became curious, and one night they followed him. What they saw was this: Mohei was on the steps of the shrine, moving up and down, darting in and out, shouting - as if he was involved in a combat with someone. Only, there seemed to be no opponent. However, as they watched, this much was plain - that he was learning swordsmanship from someone. Far from satisfying their curiosity this only increased it. So, the next day, someone asked Mohei what he was doing. He said, 'I am learning the secrets of swordsmanship from Karasu Tengu.' One of the deities enshrined at the Sanshōbō Shrine is Karasu Tengu the crow goblin. A mask of the goblin was kept in the shrine. (Now it's kept in the upper shrine.) Not long after Mohei left Kamasawa. He followed the Koshibu river down to Yamabuki where it joins the Tenryu river. But then it started to rain - it poured. Poor Mohei was soaked through. When the rain stopped Mohei lit a fire by the river and took off his clothes to dry them. At that moment three samurai in the service of the lord of Yamabuki came by. One of them had just got a new sword, and he wanted to see how well it would cut. Seeing the naked Mohei, the man thought that he was a beggar. What better than a beggar to try his sword out on without any fear of punishment. So the samurai struck at Mohei with his sword. However, Mohei easily dodged this and the next blows which were aimed at him. Now the other two samurai joined in the attack. But Mohei was stronger than all three. When the samurai realized the skill of their opponent, they fled back to the castle of their lord and told him of the highly skilled swordsman who was living by the river as a beggar. The lord of Yamabuki immediately engaged Mohei in his own service. And it is said that Mohei rose to a high position in the ranks of the samurai of the lord of Yamabuki. I heard this story from Segi-san of Wazo. He's dead now, but he was known as someone with unusual powers - a mountain priest of the Ontake sect (take-no-gyōja)). People would consult him if they had problems for he had the abilities to subdue troublesome spirits. There used to be people like him in every village - persons who had refined their powers by going on fasts and performing austerities in the mountains. Here's another story he told me.
THE PICTURE HORSE In the temple at Wazo there is a picture frame. Long ago this frame contained a picture painted by Kano Sadanobu of the famous Kano school. At that time painters used to travel the country. People would ask them to paint pictures as votive offerings to local gods or buddhas. It's still a popular custom to present one's prayer at a shrine or temple as a prayer on a piece of painted wood. Traditionally these pictures are of horses (ema). Anyway, there was this famous picture of a horse in the temple at Wazo. The temple was in the middle of wheat and barley fields. But the painting was so realistic that sometimes the horse would escape from the picture and eat the barley being cultivated in the fields around the temple. Everyone agreed that this was a nuisance. But nobody knew how or why the horse was able to escape. So they sought advice from a mountain priest - this was a long time ago, so I don't think that it was Segi-san. What the man said was this - that the horse had nothing to eat. That was why it left its picture every night to eat in the barley field. Hearing this, the villagers got someone to paint some grass in the picture. And they tied a rope round the temple hall, so that the horse could not get out. After a while, they opened the temple again. In the place where the picture had been there was only a frame. The grass in the picture had gone and the horse was no longer there. There are lots of stories like this - someone paints a mouse, and it scampers off!
Many stories come from Wazo hamlet. It has a long history and because of its flat land and sunny aspect people living there have thrived. Wazo folk have the reputation of excluding others. Wazo is a bit of a closed society. They never used to allow the settling up of branch houses (bunke, bekke). There was a set number of households which could not be exceeded. Too much splitting up would dilute the wealth - land, timber and so on. However, there are branch houses . For example, Miyazaki family, Michiko-sensei's house is a branch house, I think. When one looks at Wazo's history - Kosaka Takamune, Prince Munenaga, Fukutoku-ji and so on - one has to respect Wazo's standing.
There are some interesting families in Kamasawa. For example, the Matsuura family are said to come from the Matsuuratō, a pirate band which operated in the Inland Sea. That hamlet also has to reputation of producing brainy people. Of course, they are all old now. But I'm sure someone from Kamasawa became a director of the Kodansha publishing house.
The number of households in Ichiba has not changed that much since my childhood - except there are more houses along the side of the main road now. When I was a child more people lived on the lower slopes of the mountain. In the Taisho era Kuhara Fusanosuke, a member of the zaibatsu set up a timber business in Aoki. I think he used the trees for pulp. We used to say 'Kuhara-ppe' like we say 'so da-ppe' or 'aa da-ppe' or 'nan da-ppe?'. With the coming of Kuhara the number of school children increased. I think that the Kuhara site even had a policeman stationed there, and there were drinking bars. The road to Kuhara passed along the river bed and there was a line for trolley cars to transport the logs to Katagiri in Matsukawa. In my childhood, the Ichiba shops were from Koshibu Bridge - Kanita, Kurata, Mino-ya, then there was a tofu shop. Then down the hill, Ikedaya, and diagonally from that a fish shop called Sugiyama. Marugo was there too. When there was a festival other small stalls would be set up along the street. Matsuyama-san used to make tofu and have a small rice-polishing mill. Ōmae-san was a geta maker. He made wooden clogs (kiri-geta). There were also a number of places which offered transportation of goods by horses. And there were quite a few bars, and even geisha were available - well, not real geisha, but serving ladies called shakufu. There wereprobably five or six drinking places. It was impossible to go off for a night's drinking in Iida, so there was a natural demand for such places in the village. I know of a number of people who had to sell off land to pay debts incurred at the Okawara bars.
Now let's talk about kabuki. But I'm not a specialist, so I'll just tell you about are a few episodes that I remember from the prewar days. One of Oshika's main kabuki stages is located in the Taiseki Shrine, just above this house. Children on the way home from the primary school would often stop and play in the shrine grounds. In those days the stage wasn't boarded up, but left open. The younger children (that is, the primary school kids - at that time compulsory education was eight years: six years shōgakkō and two years kōtōshōgakkō ) would throw off their satchels under the cherry trees and get up onto the stage and pretend to be kabuki performers. One of them would be sitting on the raised platform at the back of the stage, one would be at the front of the stage. Although, of course, they didn't have any costumes, they would improvise makeup by using the half-burnt wood or charcoal (keshizumi) lying in the shrine's big open hearth for black facial markings, and juice from fallen cherries for the red markings. On the shrine stage the c~ildren would act out their favourite parts. If they were there for too long one of the older people from here would shout 'Hey, it's getting dark. Time to go home!' For some of the kids it was a thirty-minute or even one=hour journey home. Everyone had to walk. Sometimes, a boy would forget his satchel. The next morning when he came to get it, it would have been soaked from the overnight rain. Also, the older children had younger brothers and sisters to look after and other jobs to do at home, so their parents would be waiting. Of course, there were popular roles, as well as ones which nobody wanted to play. And the children would only act out the interesting, exciting bits of a play like tobi-roppō (exiting the stage in six long strides). Using a stick for a sword, someone would be the villain Tonbee. The children especially liked any roles where there were opportunities for striking poses. Then there were the clowns (odoke-yaku), especially the one in 'Terakoya'. These plays are quite heavy in morality, but there are a few funny interludes. The children loved these, and memorized the rhythm of the text, which is often in simple triple time - for example 'Tōsan, nandai?' The body moves naturally with the rhythm of the words. This is one of the attractions of kabuki.
Those kids are now veteran actors, or teachers, or they work behind the scenes - people like Ozawa-san, Kinoshita-san... Still, compared to not so long ago the numbers have dropped. They could have put on a play with people from the Shimizu hamlet alone. All the Shimizu kids could do kabuki, but many of those children have now left the village, gone to live in Tokyo or other cities. Recently I met someone from Shimizu who lives in Yokohama. Of course, as a child he had done kabuki and he remembered one of the speeches. It was quite moving to hear him.
Kabuki played a big part in the lives of the villagers. If an opportunity arose they would quote from texts, and if three or four of them were sitting around the hearth drinking, then the talk would turn to kabuki. Nowadays, it would be karaoke or something controversial like politics, which soon leads to heated words and arguments. But then it was kabuki. Someone would get up and begin one of the famous speeches. There wasn't anyone who didn't know a speech from one of the famous ballad-dramas. When several people were drinking together, you might get an impromptu performance of a whole scene - including a dance or two!
All the villagers knew kabuki, even those people who had nothing to do with the plays. On the day of a festival, people would gather in the shrine compound with their straw mats to sit on, their boxed lunches and sake. They would sit in groups drinking, while the kabuki went on. Some of them would have their backs to the stage and although they might not seem to be watching they knew exactly what was going on. So when the action reached a climax, they would shout out encouragement like 'Shikkari yare!' (Go to it!) and 'Butai wo shotte ike!' (It's all up to you!), still not bothering to turn around. And if one of the actors made a mistake, of course, they knew, and would immediately shout something like 'Machigatte iruzo!' (That's wrong!). And everyone would laugh. I remember one time when one of the young inexperienced actors got flustered because he had forgotten his lines. Someone in the audience shouted out 'Tonde ike!' (Jump and get on with it!), meaning jump the lines and go on to what you know. Well, at that time the actor was standing on a raised part of the stage. Misunderstanding the meaning of the advice, he jumped down on to the lower front stage, and then exclaimed 'Tonde mo ien!' (I've jumped but I still can't remember!)
In the war there was no kabuki because most of the young people were away. But in ordinary times there was usually a kabuki performance in the autumn to give thanks for the harvest. On big occasions there would be a combined performance with plays from other hamlets, dance and so forth - for example at the accession of the Showa Emperor (gotaiten). On that occasion the kabuki went on for two days.
The Taiseki Shrine is run by five hamlets (goburaku) - Shimo-Ichiba, Kami-Ichiba, Sawado, Shimo-Aoki and Shimizu. In the postwar days when the young people's groups were flourishing, the 'five-hamlet young men's associations' put on kabuki. This year (1998) is the Onbashira Festival. The five hamlets are in charge of putting on this festival. Kami- Aoki used to be a member of the five, but decided to go its own way, leaving just Shimo-Aoki. Bunman had its own stage. Although the shrine compound is very small, at one time there was kabuki there.
Kabuki was close to the hearts of many villagers. It was quite a while ago, but I remember one of my relatives who really loved kabuki. He would gather around the open hearth with his friends and they would perform speeches from the plays. This would go on late into the night. Not so many women did kabuki. On the festival days they were busy making the boxed lunches. Although in families with a kabuki tradition the girls might do a bit. O-kimi was a favorite role among the girls. Since many of the actors were inexperienced, there were all sorts of mistakes. I remember someone coming on stage with his wig on backwards, and there was a man playing a samurai who couldn't get his sword back in his scabbard. Then there was the actor in 'Benkei Jōshi' who was wearing an old-fashioned pair of hakama for horse riding (umanori- bakama) and came on stage with both feet in one leg of the trousers! It was very amusing. Of course, this doesn't happen nowadays. But, I think that the mistakes added to the flavor.
The hamlets of Sawai, Irizawai and Nashihara are rich in kabuki actors. They also have their own revolving stage. Kinoshita Taketo is a good actor with a fine voice. The famous kabuki actor Kataoka Nizaemon has visited Oshika twice. When he came the actors were very keen to make a good impression. I remember on one of the occasions Murata Hideo went on stage with a cigarette in his mouth. He'd been having a smoke before waiting to go on and was so occupied that he forgot to take it out! The people in the audience were thinking 'What's he doing?' But Hideo hadn't noticed, and it was only when he had to speak that he realized. He quickly took the cigarette and threw it away! Of course, Nizaemon-san didn't say anything about it afterwards. The Oshika actors aren't professionals, so it didn't matter so much. Still, fancy going on stage smoking a cigarette!
In April there is the Onbashira Festival, so they'll probably be a kabuki performance with actors who don't usually appear in the official village performances. The stages in Oshika are revolving. The ground is dug out under the stage (like a Jomon-period prehistoric house) so people can go below to push the stage round. The part under the stage is known as naraku (Hell). Kabuki stages also have a trapdoor (seriage, seridashi) through which actors appear on stage at climatic moments in the play. In Oshika kabuki, sets are changed by revolving the stage. This is done by a group of people underneath, who are waiting for the signal to push the stage round manually. When they've gone far enough someone on the stage knocks as a sign to stop. But I remember one occasion when the men pushing underneath were either drunk or talking too loudly to hear the signal. So they went on pushing. The actor, who was striking a heroic pose in front of a pine tree (I think that play was 'Kumagai Jinya') found himself disappearing into the backstage again, and the players from the previous scene who thought that they had finished found themselves back in front of the audience!
Although there are said to be around twenty pieces in Oshika's kabuki repertoire, one used to find the same four or five plays being performed - 'Terakoya', 'Adachigahara San-danme', 'Kamakura Sandaiki', 'Kumagai Jinya', 'Rokusenryō', 'Yaguchi no Watashi'. Everyone knew these plays. But each year the actors would change. The neighbour's eldest son would be playing Kumagai, one of our kids would be playing another part, and so on. Next year, who would it be? The plays were the same, but the actors were always different. That's what made it most enjoyable. But since the Oshika Kabuki Preservation Society was established it's always the same people playing the same roles. So, although lots of tourists come to watch, these days, there are few village people in the audience.
In the old days, not so many Okawara folk went to go to see Kashio kabuki. We'd hear that there was a performance, but it was only usually our local kabuki in the Taiseki Shrine that I went to see. Of course, nowadays there is no difference between Okawara and Kashio kabuki. It all belongs to the Preservation Society, and the players don't vary much, although sometimes they do let a young person perform a big part for the sake of his or her training. They want to put on the best performance for the tourists, but at the same time they have to think of the future. I can't remember much about postwar Culture Festival (bunkasai). Matsushima-san's dances were geisha dances - woman's dances. There are women's dances and men's dances. The kabuki dances I've been talking about are mainly men's dances. Women's dances are all gentle movements. It's true that Matsushima-san was good at geisha dances. On the other hand, he probably visited geisha houses quite a lot too.
At certain times in history - I don't know exactly when - the government prohibited kabuki. But, Oshika folk carried on in secret. On nights when they performed kabuki someone would take a bottle of sake to the policeman and get him drunk. When he woke up the next morning everything would be over. During the war the men were taken as soldiers, so there was a shortage of actors. Then when they all returned, kabuki started up again, but then when the young people began leaving it declined.
K. M. (born 1922) ♂ Kami-Aoki
I was born 18th June 1922 in Nakazawa in the hamlet of Kami-Aoki. My family were tenant farmers. We also kept silkworms, but as a result of the depression of the early 1930s the price of silk dropped and we lost most of our income. After that we made charcoal, but couldn't make much of a living out of that, so in end result of all this was that my father decided to settle in Manchuria. He went first in 1939. I tried to follow as a member of the Young Pioneers (giyūgun), but failed the medical. So I had to wait until he'd set up house, and then apply to go as a relative. That was in 1941. Including my family and relatives, there were about ten of us there altogether. I spent a year and a few months farming, but then in spring 1943 I was conscripted into the army. After training I served in China, and was then sent to Okinawa. I was in Taiwan when the war ended.
I returned to Japan in spring 1946, and in August joined the project to open up Kitanobara for farming and settlement. None of my father and other relatives in Manchuria survived. They were either killed, starved or died from disease. One managed to return to Japan, but she died of tuberculosis the next year. Kitanobara was one of four or five postwar settlement projects in Oshika. The other places were Minayama, Mukaiyama and Kurokawa. The people who came to Kitanobara were soldiers returning from the war like me, or second and third sons who didn't have any land. When we first came here the area was pine forest. I was in the first group with Kuriyama-san's father. Kanzaki Toraichi came in the second group. The soil was very poor. It was like a desert. Mukaiyama was better. Still, at one time there twelve houses in Kitanobara. That was far too many. But, then gradually people began leaving. Now there are four farms left.
The early years were very difficult. First we sowed buckwheat. The seeds germinated and the flowers came out, but there was no crop. The problem was that the soil lacked phosphate. We came to the conclusion that we needed to graze animals and let their dung fertilize the soil. We started with rabbits, goats, and then sheep and pigs. There were hardly any profits, but we kept going. Most of the people in Kitanobara were single men, so they could manage without much money. That was the difference between us and the people in Minayama. They had families, and needed an income. In the end, they all left and got jobs in the town.
I didn't get married until 1953 when I was over thirty. In those days, I worked as a labourer on the roads or as a forester, but one could never be sure when one was going to be paid. So I started looking around for a profitable method of farming. We tried all sorts of crops - soy beans, adzuki beans, wheat, barley and so on. I even went to Anan to learn about peach-growing, but that didn't work. The peaches got eaten by bears! It was about five or six years before we could grow cereals. Our potatoes may have been small, but they were delicious! We got the best yields with wheat and barley. We also dug paddy fields for rice, bringing the water about eight kilometres from a pond below Mt. Tsugamura.
But at the beginning of the 1960s I decided to go into dairy farming. With a family I needed a steady income. At the start I was milking the cows by hand four times a day! And when that was finished I had to load the milk churn onto my back to take it down to the main road to be collected. Then I'd pick up a couple of 40 kg. bags of cow feed to bring home. I even carried the newborn calves down on my back. Finally when six of the twelve farms here had gone into dairy, we got together and tried to work out a better way of doing things. The first thing we did was to erect a cableway to transport the milk down to the main road. That was an improvement, but it was hardly perfect. The loads would catch on the supports and get stuck or travel too fast and get thrown off at the bottom. What a lark! So we gave that up after less than and year. That's when the Agricultural Cooperative finally agreed to come and collect the milk. That was in the mid-1960s. There'd been a road of sorts since 1961, but it was often in a bad state - either too muddy or frozen over. I remember one cold December morning taking a trailer of milk down pulled by a rotivator (kōunki). Well, one of the corners was frozen over, and the trailer slid round and toppled over, together with all the milk. After that the Agricultural Cooperative came to collect the milk. But it wasn't until 1976 that a real support system was set up to help dairy farmers construct facilities and buy equipment was set up. I joined together with people like Motegi and Hirase.
Around 1978, the village cleared 36 hectares of land in Oike and some of us rented it out to make hay. I remember that there was some opposition to Okawara folk using Kashio land. But that's Okawara and Kashio for you. Some people forget that we're one village. Anyway, that lasted for ten years, but then we returned the land. It was difficult farming without fertilizer. That was one of the conditions due to problems with people in Nakamine, the hamlet below. Oike is a long way away. It takes around fifty minutes to get from here to there. Now we grow our feed on the old paddies that were constructed to increase rice production in the postwar years. The farms up here each have around two hectares of land. To go back to my roots in Kami-Aoki. We were tenant farmers of the Matsuzawa family.
The present head is Matsuzawa Kyūzo. His great-grandfather Katsuichi, who died around 1935, was our landlord. In return for renting out rice paddies to us he would take half our rice crop. He would take his share before we harvested ours - sometimes without even telling us! We also rented mountain fields from him, and had to pay him in beans, buckwheat and so on. If the harvest was too small for us to pay our due, the amount would be noted down to be made up the next year, and so it went on. Tenants were always in arrears. The poorer you were the harder life was. It was all work with no enjoyment. Even the food was miserable. The biggest landlord in Kami-Aoki was Matsuzawa. In Hikinota it was Matsushita-ke and here in Kitanobara it was Matsushita Yoshitoshi of Wazo and Takegami, and also Hirashima. Matsushita Takao's family also owned some land here. They were part of the Matsushita clan.
I'm the third generation of this family to live in Oshika. I think that my grandfather was an employee of the Matsuzawa family. He came to Oshika as a boy and was raised by the Matsuzawa family. He was also connected with Kima Tetsuo's family, from which he took his surname. For a while my father worked for Kuhara, but the company closed down when I was in my fourth year at primary school. The kids from Kami-Aoki walked five or six miles to the primary school in Okawara, but in Shingasawa they had their own branch school (bunkyōjō).
In winter one of the paddy fields near the Yakushido would be flooded as a skating rink. In the prewar days we made charcoal on the slopes of Mt. Seida on Mt. Onishi. As the wood became more scarce we had to go higher. At one time it took us an hour's walk to get there. We'd go everyday and bring down twenty or thirty-kilogram loads of charcoal on the way back. Other people from Kami-Aoki such as Matsuzawa Masato and Kitagaki Shōji used to make their charcoal in the forests on the slopes of Mt. Hachimanji over the river from Kamasawa. They had a hut there where they stayed. I think that they probably carried their charcoal along the river.
Most of the houses in Kami-Aoki kept horses or cattle. If you had enough money you bought the horse, but if not you rented it from a horse dealer (bakurō). There were several such dealers in Oshika - for example, Katagiri Waku, who died last year. Then, there was Takemura Kenpei. He went to live in Nakagawa and must be around a hundred years of age now. In Shingasawa there was Takamoto. (Note: I can't understand exactly what he says, though I gather that the bakuro were always on the make).
I've never done kabuki, but in Kami-Aoki we used to put on a play at the spring festival. There was a simple stage at the shrine, not an elaborate revolving one like they have in Wazo or Ichiba. I was a member of the Young Men's Association for a few years before going to Manchuria. I remember we once had a vote to choose the most beautiful girl in the hamlet!
After the war everyone in Kitanobara was too busy do kabuki or plays. But we did go to watch the kabuki and to the free film shows. My father enjoyed kabuki. I remember there used to be a book of kabuki texts in our house. We've never had the time or money to build a shrine in Kitanobara, and we don't join other hamlets for festivals. But we do get together for a drink together at cherry blossom time and in the autumn. Neither do we have a household god (obosuna-sama). But we do have a small Shinto altar (kamidana), where we put up paper talismans (ofuda) we get from the large shrines. For funerals, we used to be members of Kōshōji, the Buddhist temple. But we got fed up of the priests always asking for contributions. So we changed to Shinto. There used to be a grave at the old house, but we got a Buddhist priest to close that, and we made a new grave here. That contains one of our children who died and also has the names of the members of the family who died in Manchuria.
Kitanobara is one of Oshika's new settlements. The only reason that we succeeded whereas the folk in Minayama failed is that in Kitanobara we were single men, but in Minayama they were families. They needed money and had to go out of the village to get work. It was just the time when Japan's economy was beginning to boom. So in the end they never came back. They all left the village. Kurokawa was a new settlement in name only - I don't think that anyone every went to live there. Mukaiyama was the same.
There was also a plan to construct paddy fields along the Shiogawa river. Suganuma Ikao was in charge. At that time the head of the settlement association was Imai Binzō, who was a member of the prefectural assembly and eventually became deputy chairman. In the office there were Kitahara Masao, Komase Kazuaki and Kuroiwa Shōji. (The sense of the following is, I think, that they tried to construct paddy fields as part of the national government's zōtan program, but these weren't successful, so they planted soy beans and processed then into dried tofu at a factory in Ochiai.) This was around 1950 and 1951. But by 1953 the settlement association? was three and a half million yen in debt and it was disbanded. At that time there was a fuss because much of the money was not accounted for.
(Note on early days: I think, for the first 5 or 6 years they grew beans and cereals, potatoes, vegetables using human waste, silkworm waste, etc as fertilizer. He also used to carry to 40-kg bags of artificial fertilizer up from Okawara at one time. Then they decided they needed animals. So they kept sheep, rabbits etc. for several years. Also grew peppermint. I tried everything. Anything to make a little money! Then decided to go into dairy.) Our family's relation to Yokomae Masuko is that my wife's elder brother Kinshi was Masuko's husband. They were both brought up in the Komase family of Nakao. Also, my wife's aunt? came from the Inba family of Kamasawa.
K. N. (born 1928) ♂ Nakamine
My interest in kabuki began when I was in the fifth year at the village primary school. It was the result of an accident. A friend and I were playing on a crop-drying frame which stood in a field near my house. In those days the frames were enormous - wheat, barley, rice, beans... Everything was hung on them to dry. I was sitting on the top bar, and my friend was on a lower one. Anyway, suddenly he jumped down, jerking the frame and throwing me off. The fall broke my left arm. Well, there weren't any cars then, but my father carried me to Ojima on his back and from there we took a train to the doctor in Iida. As it was such a long way from Oshika I stayed in Iida for two weeks so that I could see the doctor everyday. At that time Iida was a real centre for the performing arts. There was always something going at one of the theatres, and I went almost every day. That was when I first saw kabuki and began getting interested.
After that, when I was seventeen or eighteen, I became a member of the Young Peoples' Festival Association. We had to put on two performances each year, and we would each be given a part - there was no choice. So I started, and found it was great fun. My father told me that I was hopeless. But after a while I improved a little. As I'm a small person, most of the time I was playing women's parts. Well, time went on, and people began saying that I had talent. So from then until 1952, when I got a job in the village office, I spent most of my time travelling around Oshika doing kabuki.
One place in particular which I remember was Okeya. The hamlet was submerged when the Koshibu Dam was built and the villagers were forced to move out. But there was a splendid shrine there - the Shirasu Shrine - with a kabuki stage. There must have been around thirty families in the hamlet, and there were some really fine actors. People who liked kabuki would go there to practise and often ended up staying the night.
Apart from kabuki, my life has been a series of misfortunes. My mother died when I was five after a childbirth, so I was brought up by my grandmother. Those were the war years. Later, my own wife died young too. The first kabuki teacher I had was an old man who died after a few years when there was still a lot for me to learn. In 1945, the year Japan was defeated, I remember going to Komagane. My father was an adopted son, and Komagane was his birthplace. I'd worked hard in the rice fields and my father told me to go and enjoy myself in the town. So off I went. Komagane was a town of about 30,000 people, and there were lots of shops, restaurants and even a few geisha houses there . Having got off the train, I went into a small restaurant. While there I noticed several kabuki texts sitting on one of the shelves. I'd really like to have those books, I thought to myself. Then the woman who owned the restaurant came out. 'And what can I do for you then, sonny boy?' she said, addressing me as if I were a schoolboy. I replied that I would like to buy the books. 'What do you want them for?' the woman asked in surprise. I said that they were kabuki texts and that I wanted to read them. 'Are you sure you'll be able to?' I said that with a bit of study I was sure that I could. This made her laugh. It must have seemed amusing that a 16-year-old boy wanted to study old kabuki texts when Japan had just lost the war and everyone was wondering how to survive. 'Well, sonny boy, what will you give me for them?' she said. The way that she kept calling me 'sonny boy' made me think that she was making fun of me. But I really wanted the books, so I said 'What will you let me have them for?' She thought for a moment, and then said, 'Buy me some rice paper for the paper doors.' Remember that this was just after the end of the war. Nobody had any money, and things were very scarce. Not knowing where I could lay hands on rice paper I asked my relatives, and they told me somewhere. Thanks to them, I was able to get enough paper for ten doors. When I took the paper to her she handed over ten of the old books, saying 'It'll be quite something if you can ever learn to read these, sonny boy.' Then, just as I was leaving, she said, 'Would you like to see something even more interesting than those books? 'What?' 'Wait a minute.' When she returned from the back room she had a samisen. She said, 'If you'd like, you can have this too.' Of course when I saw the samisen, I wanted it more than anything else. So I plucked up courage to ask. 'How much do you want for it?' 'One and a half,' she said, using an expression commonly used for buying and selling geisha. What she meant was 1,500 yen. But I didn't know that. So she had to explain, and this made her laugh even more. 'What a strange one you are!' At that time 1,500 yen was a lot of money. So I asked: If I couldn't get cash, would rice do? How much rice would she want? At that time rice was expensive. There was a big black market. Anyway, the woman said that I could have the samisen if I brought her 1.5 to (1 to = 15 kg) of rice.
Back in Oshika I talked to my parents. My father asked me what I wanted the rice for. When I said that I wanted it to be a samisen, he said 'You must be mad. We've just lost the war, we don't know whether we're all going to be killed, and you want to buy a samisen! Isn't there something wrong with you?' Still, I wanted that samisen. But I needed someone's goodwill in order to buy it. So I helped out around the house for a couple of weeks, and my stepmother gave me some rice of her own, which a neighbour had been keeping for her. She gave me all of that, which was one to. I took the rice to the woman and said that this was all I could get for the present. I'd pay her the rest later. Could I have the samisen? She laughed and said 'All right.' So that was the beginning of my career in kabuki! And I'm still using that samisen even now.
Just before that my grandmother had bought a samisen from a geisha at a restaurant in Okawara called Taishin. I think that she'd been able to pay for it by keeping rabbits. I'd been able to see how the samisen was played by watching her. Then two or three years later I bought the samisen in Komagane. But I really had to work to collect the remaining rice to pay the woman. I got some of it from relatives, but still didn't have enough. In the end, I took her some barley instead, which she agreed to. Still, I had to carry it to Komagane - there weren't any cars in those days.
When I was a youngster all the kabuki teachers lived in Kashio. When anyone in Okawara wanted to put on a kabuki performance they had to get the help of a teacher from Kashio. I was brought up with the kabuki of Nashiwara. I never knew Kobayashi Yoshihachi, who lived in Nakao, but I think that he had a big influence on the growth of kabuki in this village. He was a single man and at one time had been in a travelling kabuki troupe. In Oshika he would go to people's houses to give performances (zashiki jōrūri). He moved around the village from hamlet to hamlet. My first teacher was Kojima Seiichirō of Nakamine. But he died two or three years after I became his student. After that, I learnt from Kojima Yorito of Kitairi. There was also Furuyashiki Yoritaka of Nakamine, but his forte was as a member of the kabuki band which plays off-stage (geza ongaku), rather than as jōrūri reciter, but he could do that too. Then there was Kojima Yoshie, who lived just below the Ichiba Shrine in Shiogawa. In his youth he'd spent several years out of the village after running off to join a travelling kabuki troupe. In the end his brother brought him home. I don't know where he found him. Back in Oshika, Yoshie earned his living dealing in timber. Once I worked for him. Yoshie's features were perfect for kabuki, and he was a wonderful performer. But, as a teacher he was awfully strict, and always getting angry. He would demonstrate a dance movement just once, and then say, 'Now you try!' I would make some pathetic attempt, not knowing what I was doing. 'Whoever taught you that!' he would shout. 'Do it again!' Each time he'd get angrier, and I'd feel smaller. 'Could you show me again, sir?' I would plead. 'How many times do I have to do this?' he'd reply. 'You want to learn kabuki? Then, steal it!' Later, when drinking together, he was warm and friendly. But, when it came to kabuki you had to be prepared for a hard time! Yoshie's house became a gathering place for people from all over the village. Ozawa Susumu, Maezawa Osamu and other kabuki veterans of the present day all learnt from Yoshie. I would say that Kojima Yoshie was the best performer in the village, but Kojima Yorito was also a good teacher and a very accomplished reciter with a fine voice, who was in demand outside the village. Furuyashiki Yoritaka was taught by Kobayashi Yoshihachi. I think that Yoshihachi was also the teacher of Kojima Seiichirō. There was also another samisen player in the village whom I remember, named Kato. He lived behind what's now the Kashio Community Center. He was a doctor, but came to the village through some connection with the silk thread factory which used to be here. He was also a puppeteer and taught the samisen. I heard that he left his puppets with a relative in Oshika, but that later they were taken to Tokyo. So, although there once was a puppet tradition in this village, now it's gone.
In Oshika there was no age limit for the kabuki. The actors ranged from from teenagers to seventy or eighty year olds. What they had in common was that they loved kabuki. On the other hand, there were those that hated it. In Kashio most of the kabuki performances took place at the spring and autumn festivals. Of course, there were other occasions - when a soldier went to the war, there would often be a kabuki play to send him off. He knew that he must be ready to die, so the idea was to give him the best role in one last performance. Ozawa, Maezawa and others were all soldiers. If the war had gone on for another year or two, so would I have been.
In my memory, of all the Oshika hamlets, Okeya was the place where kabuki was most popular. Okeya folk would use any excuse to put on a show. They loved their kabuki. At one time, it was near to impossible to put on a show anywhere in Oshika without the help of Okeya. Although all the houses have gone, one can still picture the village from the shape of the land. From Okeya, one climbed the Hojozaka hill to Ikuta. This was the main route to Iida before the Gando road or Koshibu valley road were built. Hojozaka is said to be a village where defeated Heike warriors took refuge. Haruhiko Kindaichi, who is an authority on the Japanese language, has visited the area two or three times.
Kitagawa is another hamlet which disappeared. I did kabuki there several times. They would put up a temporary stage (kake-butai) near the cableway, which was at the centre of the hamlet. It wasn't an old settlement, but at one time there were around sixty houses there.
During the agricultural off-season from January to March my friends and I would practise kabuki almost everyday. People used to say that kabuki was a poor man's hobby. That's because it brought in no money at all. And it was also said that nobody was more pitiful than a kabuki teacher, who had to rely on the small gratuities people gave him for his livelihood.
Everything considered, Nashiwara was probably the centre of kabuki in Oshika. It has a very old shrine, but that does not necessarily mean that Oshika's kabuki originated there. In Nakamine, where I was born and have lived all my life, there is a temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon, where there used to be a stage. The hamlets of Nashiwara and Nakamine put on plays separately. So did Sawai, where there was also a stage. It was located near the house of Honda Akira. The shrine for Nashiwara, Nakamine and Sawai used to be called the Nashiwara Shrine. It changed its name to Ashihara later. My first teacher Kojima Seiichirō would spend most of the winter months from January to the beginning of the farming season in March travelling in Kamiina performing in private houses (zashiki kabuki). I can remember that when I was young my grandmother had someone come to perform at the house. She was too old to go to the shrine to see kabuki, and she wanted to hear a samisen. During the winter I would practise kabuki almost everyday. We would get together in the silkworm shed (sanshitsu) of a friend's house (at that time of the year it wasn't being used). In the winter it became our playhouse. We'd often be there all day (we'd take a boxed rice lunch).
Looking back, I'm surprised that our parents didn't say anything. You couldn't do that these days. But, then, no one seemed to think it strange - it was one of our customs. Having said that, things were probably different in Okawara, where people are more out-going and interested in new things. Even today kabuki plays a big part in the life of the Nashiwara hamlet. Everyone is involved. The folk of Nashiwara could put on a kabuki play by themselves. I don't just mean the actors to play the parts, but they still have the tradition. At a show in Nashiwara, the etiquette and the feeling is just like the old days. When I say Nashiwara, I mean the kabuki centring around the Ashihara Shrine - Nakamine, Nashiwara, Sawai and Irizawai. But, there are very few people who do kabuki in Nakamine now. The old Nashiwara Shrine was at the centre of a big parish which at one time included even Kitagawa and Kitairi. At the festivals there would be so many people that the party would go on all through the night. But, it was such a distance to have to travel that later on Kitairi folk set up a branch shrine just above their school. I think that it still probably exists. Nyuya and Minayama were originally part of Nashiwara - at least Nyuya was. Some but not all of the folk in Minayama used to come to the Nashiwara Shrine festivals. The bottom two houses - Koike and Kitazawa - were part of Nashiwara.
In the old days everyone used to walk. Kabuki took place in the evening, so we'd walk to the venue during the day. To get from Nakamine to the Taiseki Shrine in Okawara I'd go through the mountains at Nyuya.
The house in Nakamine where I was born and raised is now empty. It's about 200 metres down the road from where I live now. We moved to our present house eighteen years ago. The old house was slowly slipping down the mountain. There was no way of stopping it. The house is still standing, but the sliding doors don't open and some of the beams have snapped. But the roof is made of iron, so the inside of the house is still dry. With an old wooden roof, the house would have rotted away by now. The last house in Nakamine on the way to the middle school is Miyashita. On the road to Kitagawa the last house is Kojima Taiyō, but there are more houses above that - Kojima Takeshi, Shimodaira Sadaaki and then two more Kojimas. At one time there were forty two households in Nakamine. Now there are seventeen or eighteen houses.
The rice paddies in this village are by the Surugi Farm and by the newly-built tank for the hydro-power station on the way to Nashiwara. There are about five hectares in all. The water for this fields was brought all the way from a place called Tatsuiwa, which is deep in the mountains from Iri-zawai. That's about sixteen kilometres. There were always problems - leakages, landslides, flooding... In the end, we gave up. We were spending more time looking after the water than looking after our fields! At the moment, only Furushima Kanji grows rice and he gets water from the new village-assisted Surugi Farm. How lucky he is! This was like getting something for nothing (Aita kuchi ni bota- mochi).
When I was farming we used to get our hay for nothing from the village lands. The place for Nakamine folk to get their hay was Oike, near the place where the paragliders now take off.
In my view Oshika kabuki is around three hundred years old, although the written documentation only goes as far back as the 1760.
A number of marriages took place between Nakamine folk and people from Ichinose in Hase.
M. K. (born 1925) ♂ Ochiai
When I was a child there were around forty seven families living in Ochiai. In our neighborhood group (kumi) alone there were over twenty children. There used to be seven neighborhood groups. Now there are five. The population of Ochiai has dropped steadily since the 1961 disaster. Now there are twenty one households left here, but most of these are single people or couples.
The old Akiba road passed in front of our shop, and between the road and the river there were paddy fields. But, the fields were destroyed by the 1961 floods, and they became building land. My father had a timber business. He bought up forests and then employed labourers to cut the wood. This would be processed into planks and later sold. But the war put an end to his business, so he went into agriculture. He used to farm a big area of rice paddies near the long tunnel by Koshibu dam. He built himself a house there too. But, we couldn't make a living by this alone, so I worked as a construction labourer or as a forester. My father was always self-employed. He didn't like being told what to do by others.
My grandfather came to Oshika from Seki in Gifu. He set up our main house, which is known as Minoya. Later my father established this branch house in Ochiai. At that time - around eighty years ago - there were only two or three other houses here, all of which have gone now. Many of the men who came with their families to live in Ochiai had skills. They worked as foresters or builders. Some of them came here on a job and settled down. Others were younger brothers who left the main house and set up their own branch houses. But there's such little land here that only one or two families - Yoshinoya and Ohara cultivated their own fields. Yoshinoya is a branch house of the Mase family of Okeya.
When I was a child the river was our playground. That has all changed. Kids aren't allowed near the river now. Ochiai folk attended festivals at the Shirasawa Shrine in Okeya. After the 1961 disaster, there was talk of bringing the shrine god to Ochiai, but that would have required too much time and money, so in the end we resigned from the Shirasawa Shrine Association. The matsuri in Ochiai is held in honour of the gods Kodama and Konpira, which were enshrined a while back by a few families that kept silkworms. Our festival days are 10th April and 10th October. On those days we gather at the community center and have a drink together. The gods are enshrined in a small park near the hamlet.
Ochiai doesn't have a kabuki stage, though a few people who lived here did appear in the kabuki plays at the Taiseki Shrine in Ichiba. Nagao-san's father liked kabuki, but I've never appeared in a kabuki play, and my father didn't either. For the members of my family life was mostly work. They didn't go in for much amusement. Most Ochiai men worked for others, but a few, like my father and Abe-san, had their own businesses. Abe was a timber dealer too. Kojima Yoshie in Shiokawa and Shimomoto in Okawara did the same sort of jobs. I was involved in the timber business for a while. I would buy up a number of trees and cut them and bring down myself or get someone to do it for me. Sometimes a child would drag down a log on the way to school. In those days everyone worked, even the kids.
My main impression of the differences between the various parts of Oshika is that Okawara folk were on the whole more colourful. This was true of their clothes, character and their habits. In contrast, Kashio was quieter. But this difference had little effect on my trade. Even today one can see the difference between Okawara and Kashio in the young people.
In this house we don't have an iwaiden (family god, often an illustrious ancestor). But, we used to perform the uchi-matsuri, though we haven't for the last two or three years. In Ochiai there are probably five or six houses that still do it. There used to be a man in Bunman called Matsuo who did the uchi-matsuri ceremony. I don't remember his name, but he had quite an impressive air about him. On the way back from school in the winter we would sometimes stop off at his house to warm ourselves by the fire. He would grind some buckwheat for us to eat. The place where he lived was named after Mt. Akaishi. He would climb the mountain to perform some of the ceremonies. I remember that he had two successors - Segi in Wazo and Kosugiyama in Shiokawa. I remember Matsuo performing ceremonies with fire and with a sword. He could grasp the blade of a sword without it cutting him. I suppose that the god he was invoking in his prayers had entered into him. But, at the time I was only a child, so I didn't have any notion of what was happening. Matsuo lived with his wife. They didn't have any children of their own, so they adopted a child, who later lived in a house next to Arakawa-so in Kamasawa. (Arakawa-so was first managed by Nakamura, the husband of the woman who ran Mitchan restaurant). But none of the Segi or Kosugiyama families perform religious ceremonies any more.
My family belongs to the Buddhist temple of Kōshōji. That's because it's situated near our main house Minoya. Matsuyama the petrol station is also a branch family of Minoya. All of us are in business.
Sumi Endo, who runs Marugo in Ichiba, is a second-generation incomer. His father set it up. Were there five of them at the beginning? It sounds so by their name. Omae is also second-generation. They originally sold wooden clogs. Kurata is probably about the third generation. His father expanded the premises. His grandfather belonged to the Tenri sect.
Although the hamlet of Ochiai did not begin to grow until the beginning of the 20th century, it is close to the center of the village. The village office was nearby, and so was the silk thread factory where everyone brought their silk cocoons to be processed. Many of the Oshika women worked at the silk thread factory. At one time there were probably between a hundred and a hundred and fifty women working there.
I don't think that there's any difference in outlook in Oshika between those farming and those in business. At least I've never been aware of any difference. I don't think that Oshika people make any distinction either. The big landowners in Oshika were Umanojo in Okawara, Nashiwara in Nashiwara, Miyashita in Sawai and Furushima in Nakamine. They had lots of land, so they rented it out and received rice and other crops in return. The Umanojo house used to make and sell sake with all the rice which it got. The Kashimoto house (Ōshima) is another landowner. There is a story in the 'Seven Wonders of Kashio' about the Oike pond in Sawai. When villagers needed tableware for marriages, funerals and other formal occasions they went to Oike and said what they wanted. A princess would appear and give them the dishes and other things. Later the villagers would return them. But the Kashimoto family kept one set of dishes for themselves. After that the pond the princess refused to lend any more people dishes. The dishes which the Kashimoto family kept are now in the Enseiin temple in Kashio. I've been shown the dishes. I can only describe them as weird. They have a spooky feeling about them. Years ago I saw them at the Kashimoto house when I went there on business. But, soon after that the family donated them to the temple.
K. Y. (born 1926) ♂ Shimo-Aoki
In 1925 as the Taisho era was coming to an end Japan entered a period of transition. By the time I began primary school in 1933 lots of things had changed - it was the age of militarism. The China Incident and the Manchuria Incident had happened a year or two earlier.
There were seven households in the community where I was born. During the next few years four of these families went to live in Manchuria. There was also a group from Kami-Aoki - Kima-san was among them. As far as I know Kima-san and his wife were the only ones to return, so perhaps the others all died.
How did my interest in Manchuria begin? In 1930 or 31 the boy next door - he was three years older than me - went off to Manchuria with his parents. It sounded such an adventure that I asked them to take me! But they told me I had to wait until I graduated from middle school. Then if I applied, perhaps I could go along. I felt very envious as I watched my neighbours going off to Manchuria. By the time I was in the fifth or sixth year of primary school my idea of going to Manchuria was even stronger. The teacher would talk about it; there were posters calling for more settlers and articles in Ie no Hikari magazines. I didn't have any particular plan - about becoming a farmer, or anything like that - I just wanted to go to this big, new country called Manchuria. So I finished primary school and began middle school (kōtō-shōgakkō), which lasted for two years. By this time education was totally militaristic. In place of baseball and basketball we did bayonet practice, fencing and other martial arts. Then in our second and last year when we had to decide about employment, there wasn't much choice. The teacher would tell the physically strong boys to go into the army and the others to get a job in a munitions factory. Those of us who didn't want to work in such a factory were told, 'Go to Manchuria.' The exception to the rule was if you were an eldest son - then you would be told to stay at home and look after the family. Luckily, I was the second son, so I thought that here was my chance. In November 1940 I was notified that there was going to be a week's colonization training course (takushoku kunren) at the agricultural high school in Iida. The teacher filled out all the forms for me, and all I had to do was to take along a mattress to sleep on. There was a group of us from Oshika. Two dropped out, probably because the training was so hard - Ōta-kun of Wazo and Takamoto-kun. The ones who finished the training course were me, Uchikura-kun (Yoichiro's younger brother) and Kamamura- kun (Tomio-san's younger brother) and Maeshima-san (of Ichiba). Then from Kashio there was Matsuo-san, the younger brother of the former village mayor, who was taken prisoner, sent to Siberia and died there. But the four of us from Okawara all returned alive.
We left for Manchuria in June 1941. There were nearly 700 of us from all over Nagano Prefecture. When we got to Manchuria we were sent to settlers' training centres (kaitaku kunrensho). There we did three years training and then one year with the land development association. On completion we were given a piece of land. But this was 1945. When the Soviet Union entered the war on 9th August, we all had to escape as best we could. I got back quickly, but many of the others were taken prisoner and did not return until two or three years later.
The families that emigrated to Manchuria from Shimo-Aoki were all branch houses (bekke), so they didn't have much land. In Manchuria each settler was given 20 hectares. Still, some people who went there came back when things didn't work out. I remember that Morishita-san from Aoki came back from Manchuria because there was one to take over his farm.
In the old days a family would only have two or three children. The other children would be culled at birth. The government only started encouraging large families from around the 1920s. My father's family was unusually large. There were six brothers and sisters. Being a main house (honke) the family had a fair amount of land. Still, my father, who was the youngest, went on a training course in Ina and became an electrician. He set up the electricity lines from Ikuta to Oshika. His house became known by the yagō Denki-ya (Electrician). At that time, four children would be a large family. Ordinary families would have been two or three children. Culling unwanted babies at birth was common. Childbirth would be carried out in each area by a local woman (toriage-baasan). Only one child would stay to head the family. The female would be married off or sent into service, while the males would go off to the nearby town to get training in a craft.
After the war I was among the first of the many soldiers and settlers who returned to Oshika from overseas. At that time there was plenty of work, making charcoal or cutting wood from the mountain forests - there was an enormous demand from all over the country for both fuel and building materials. People also worked in projects run by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had an office in Bunman and was in charge of constructing the dams built in Aoki, Kamasawa and other places. When the Ministry of Home Affairs was abolished this work was taken over by the Construction Ministry. Others left the village. Kamamura-kun, who had gone to Manchuria with me, got work at a steel mill in Yokohama in 1949 or 1950. By this time there was a Employment Security Office that acted as a job agency. The arrangements varied from family to family. Sometimes an elder brother who wanted to get a job outside the village would ask a younger brother to become the family head in his place. Sometimes the younger brother would leave. In my case my elder brother, who was a trained forester, was transferred to Namiai. Since I expected that one day my elder brother would return I applied for land first in a Hokkaido settlement scheme, and then in another planned settlement on the slopes of Mt. Fuji - I even attended a training school there. But fate brought me back to Oshika. When my father suffered a stroke while working in his rice fields and died five hours later (he was 58), I was asked to come back.
By the mid-1950s Japan had recovered from the difficult postwar years. There was plenty of food to go round, and people were beginning new occupations like dairy farming, or increasing the scope of traditional occupations like silkworm cultivation. But there was quite a lot of mobility, and the population was declining. Many young people who had seen the sacrifices which their parents had made to put them through secondary school felt that it was a waste of their education to come back and work as a forester or a labourer. So when they graduated from upper secondary school they didn't return to the village, but went straight into a job in the town. It was not until the late 1950s that things in the village began to stabilize, but then the 1961 disaster wrecked this. True, the reconstruction work created lots of jobs, but when this ended most of the skilled workers and the labourers who had become used to earning high wages left the village.
Next came the period of rapid economic growth around the time of the Tokyo Olympics. This caused another big decline in the village's population. Now let me say something about the Okawara Middle School, which was built in the postwar years and which I was involved in. The construction was in response to the introduction of the new compulsory education system of six years primary and three years middle school. In Kashio they were building a similar middle school, so the rivalry between Okawara and Kashio provided another reason for the project. The village carpenters got together and decided that one foreman would be in charge of the construction. (Earlier when the village office had been built a number of carpenters had taken it in turn to act as foreman, but this system hadn't worked.) Then they appealed for all the people in Okawara with any carpentry experience to provide labour. As a result, construction representatives (kenchiku-iin) came from each hamlet. A village-owned forest on Mt. Seida was sold to a sawmill in Ichida. The mill cut and processed the wood and let us have the timber needed to build the school. For the main beams, individuals were asked to provide the timber from their own forests.
The village office began creating forestry plantations on its land from around the early 1950s. Saplings were first planted in places where the forest had been thinned by charcoal-making. This led to the setting up of the Forestry Association. The village would contract the work out to the Association, which would get its members or others to do it. Actually I was involved in one of the first plantations in the mountains near Yudachigami just above the Torigaike camp site. I worked with Maezawa Akemi (who is a relative) and Kojima Chūji. Every morning we walked up there carrying the saplings on our back - it took around two hours - and then back in the evening. It was tough work! That was in 1950 or 1951. These activities led to the forming of full-time plantation groups employed by the village. The one in Okawara was headed by Maeshima Yukio and there was also a group working in Kashio. Until the time of the disaster, they created plantations all over the village lands at quite a rate. These groups were separate from the Forestry Association. Village forestry activities were conducted by the Forestry Department (Eirinkyoku, not to be confused with the National Forestry Office, Eirinsho). In Aoki the Forestry Department created a plantation of larch, but it wasn't a success. The planting of that forest was contracted to a group led by Makishima-san (the boss of the Makishima Construction Company, who died last year). Of all the larch forests planted by the village, very few are in good condition. Larch trees were planted because they grow quickly and because it was thought that the wood could be sold as building materials. Also the village lands are high up in the mountains, which is not suitable for species like sugi and hinoki.
The 1961 disaster was a big turning point in the village's history. Due to the disaster, many people who had thought about moving away finally left. The hamlets of Okeya and Kitagawa completely disappeared. Those who stayed were fully engaged in the task of rebuilding the village. And there was also an enormous increase in the number of people working in the village office on the many rebuilding projects.
Aoki is one of the better-off hamlets in Oshika. During the 1950s it had the biggest rice yield in the village, Some rice producers in Shimo-Aoki put two tonnes of rice onto the market. Also in Shimo-Aoki one's rice paddies and fields were close by, so one didn't have to travel far to tend to them as some villagers did. Aoki was also the first hamlet in Oshika to have its own community centre. This was built by the Kuhara timber company. Also, back in prewar times the Young Men's Association in Aoki was the only one to hold an annual sumo competition. My father was a referee. Archery was another popular sport.
There weren't so many marriages between Okawara and Kashio people. But, my father was an electrician and knew lots of Kashio folk. True, there was a rivalry between Okawara and Kashio and people would say things like 'Don't be beaten by that Kashio lot!', but I was never really aware of any difference between the two. Kashio folk seemed to be better at organizing themselves. They were more successful than Okawara about collecting votes to get their candidates elected on the village council. 'Got done by Kashio again!' someone would say when their man beat ours. Still, I don't see much difference between us.
The road to the old Hojo-zaka goes over the small bridge just after the Forestry Association's work site. It goes up the hill near the red bridge, which is not far from the old Okeya Shrine. I've never travelled along the old road to Notanohira in Toyooka village, but when I was young we used to climb Mt. Onishi to see the steam engine running along the valley or the fireworks at the Osahime Shrine in Iida. To be in time to see the fireworks we would start climbing at three or four in the afternoon.
There used to be a doctor in Okawara called Yoshikawa who lived just below the old elementary school. He was taken ill suddenly - I think that it was tetanus - and died on the way to Iida. He wasn't so old. His son moved out of the village and went to live in Hida. My father was an electrician, but almost all the households in Aoki made their living by farming, though there were one or two households which got an income from transporting goods into the town by horse. The shops in Okawara all stocked a general range of wares - tobacco, alcohol, medicine and so on. After the 1961 disaster a number of construction companies were set up - Taikyō, Matsuo, Shimada, Takahashi... Yoshino-san came along much later. Makishima-san's organization began as a sort of cooperative. Some time in the late 1950s when the village got a lot of money from the timber which it felled to make a pasture on the slopes of Mt. Kurokawa, it gave 7,000 yen to each household in the village. This money was paid as an investment into a number of different funds. Kashio folk paid their money into the Kashio Agricultural Cooperative and so on. Makishima-san and a number of other people who wanted to go into the construction business used their money as investments to set up a construction company.
During the late 1960s, there was a certain amount of economic activity - the Koshibu Dam was built in 1966, and with it the road was improved. The Tokyo Olympics increased the trend among young people to want to live in the city. People say that kabuki continued all through the war years, but after the war, the tradition in Oshika could have easily died out. Perhaps this wasn't so in Kashio, where there were a lot of young and enthusiastic actors returning from military service, but in Okawara very few people wanted to be involved. I remember in 1946 or 47, the Young People's Association of the 'five hamlets' was asked to do a kabuki play at the autumn festival. We wouldn't have minded doing a modern play like 'Chichi kaeru', but nobody wanted to do kabuki. Still, because the request had been made by an elder we felt an obligation to do the kabuki. Anyway, we got together a cast and, after a day's work, we would meet in the hall of the Koshoji temple to practise two or three times a week. Unfortunately, none of the senior members, who already knew their parts and whom we were relying on to help us, bothered to come along. So all we could do was to read the script. This went a for around a month. Then finally two or three days before the performance the senior members appeared. What a panic! Anyway, we managed to put the play - the members from Shimo-Aoki did one scene all by themselves. Still, at the last minute our lead player pulled out, due to some problem with his difficult old grandfather, and we had to find a replacement.
My grandfather taught kabuki, although he wasn't one of the main instructors. (His name was Matsukawa and he died of typhoid). Sometimes he went to teach the folk in Kamasawa and Wazo. He taught at the Sanshobo Shrine in Kamasawa, though nobody would remember him now. He was probably a little before Kobayashi of Nakao. I gave his old texts to Katagiri-san of the Kabuki Preservation Society.
Hirashima-san held a lot of land between here and Shingasawa and had a number of tenants. Yonezawa-san came from Nakagawa as a tenant farmer. There were various restrictions on tenants. If you were a tenant, you could put up an earthen-walled storehouse, but not give the walls a white plaster finish. And regarding headware, tenants were expected to wear a simple linen cloth knotted around their head. Our house owned the land we farmed. We had enough land for ourselves, but not so much that we could rent it out. This house is a main house (honke). Actually Takegami-san is a branch (bekke) of this house, though when it was created I don't know. Kinoshita Kōji of Shimizu is also related to this house. His father was the eldest brother, and so should have inherited the house, but his wife did not get on well with her mother-in-law. As a result they moved out to live in a small house they had built nearby. But, perhaps the husband and wife did not get on well, because later the man volunteered for the army, and he died when the ship carrying him to the front was sunk. After that his wife left the house or was told to leave and took Kōji to live with her family (the Kamijima house of Kami-Ichiba). But later, they moved to Kōji's present house in Shimizu and they kept the name Kinoshita. Still, Kōji succeeded to his father's land after his father's younger brother moved out to live in Kamisato.
Matsukawa Yasuo is the son of my mother's elder brother. She came from Bunman. That family lost most of its members during an outbreak of typhus in 1928. The patients were put into isolation in a hut just above the old road by the present Oshika Saiseki gravel plant. My mother went to nurse her relatives. The old folk all died. The disease was brought into the village by a woman who went on a trip to Kyoto. When she came back and died of some stomach complaint, people didn't realize that it was typhus, so they held the normal wake and funeral. A lot of the relatives who attended contracted the disease. My mother took my elder brother to the funeral and he caught the disease, but he survived. It's strange - I was only three at the time but I can remember it very clearly. The railway carrying timber for the Kuhara company passed in front of the garden of our old house. Someone had stretched rope all around the limits of our garden. As we weren't allowed out, our next door neighbour, who returned to Oshika after living in Manchuria, had to bring us our water. I could see my friends and I wanted to go out and play, but couldn't go past the rope. I remember watching the children on their way to school, holding their noses as they dashed past our house. There's another thing I remember. Kinoshita Kōji's father - actually he was my cousin - was a bit of a character. In the evenings, I would hear a noise in the mulberry field above and he would bring little presents wrapped up in newspaper - a balloon or a whistle. Looking back, I really feel grateful to him for that. He waited until dark so that he would not be seen coming through the rope into the forbidden area. The isolation hut wasn't used much after that. People with tuberculosis would usually be kept at home in an isolated room.
K. C. (born 1930) ♂ Shimo-Aoki
In prewar times there were a lot more people living in the
village. Here in the Wago community there were around
twenty or thirty kids. We used to go around in gangs and
each gang had its boss, but today's enemy was tomorrow's
friend, and there was none of the nasty bullying which you
hear about these days.
We spent a lot of time by the river. It was full of
fish, especially yamame (a kind of trout). Further
upstream, about eight kilometres from here there were iwana
(char). But one had to go deep into the mountains to see
deer. It's only during the last ten years that they've
started coming causing problems by coming into the village
Nowadays parents don't allow their children to play by
the river and other dangerous places. In my childhood there
was nothing like this. People had a more relaxed attitude.
Today it's all 'Study, study, study'.
I entered primary school in 1937, the year when Japan
went to war against China. I left school in 1945, which was
the year that the Pacific War ended. During that time I
suppose that I got about six years of education - the last
two years of middle school were mostly work and military
training - but that was enough for me to get a job in which
I could make a living. I don't think that schooling is as
important as people imagine.
One game which we often played at was 'soldiers'. A
gang of us would build a stockade from sheaves of straw.
Then there would be a council of war. 'Let's attack __'s
gang in __ hamlet,' someone would say, and off we'd go. We
made spring guns to shoot stones, and bamboo machine guns
which made a rattattattat like the real thing. We also had
bamboo cannons which we fired by mixing carbide and water to
make acetylene gas.
The community in which I and my wife is called Wago.
It's part of the Shimo-Aoki hamlet, which also includes
Dogaito, Nakagawara and Karasawa. Karasawa is the most
recent settlement - back in 1961 there was only one house
In my childhood there were over fifty households in the
Shimo-Aoki hamlet. Now there are around thirty four or
five. There were thirteen households in Wago. It used to
be a flourishing community.
Most of the Wago families have been here for centuries.
The Kuhara timber plant up river from here didn't affect us
at all. Most of the Kuhara people who stayed in Oshika
after the operation shut down settled in Ichiba. Nogi-san's
family was one of them, but I can't think of any others. The
Kuhara operation had folded up by the time that I was born.
The timber plant was located just below Makishima-san's house.
It was powered by water. When I was a child there was still
an enormous pile of sawdust there by the river. It was
there until the 1961 disaster.
In the old days life was hard, but I've never heard
stories of anyone in Oshika dying of starvation. Although
we were self-sufficient, we were part of a landlord-tenant
system. The rich people bought land and rented it out to
tenant farmers, who paid by handing over half or sixty per
cent of the annual harvest. In America they had slavery.
Here it wasn't as bad as that. Still, the feudal system
lasted through the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries and first half
of this century.
During that time, tenant farmers like us really had a
difficult time. Losing the war wasn't such a bad thing. The
land reform allowed tenants to become independent farmers.
If we'd won the war, things would have been even harder.
Almost all the people in Wago were tenants. The landlords
were Takegami, Matsushita (Matsushita-ke), Maeshima (which
was the biggest), and then there was also Hirashima (just
above the Yakushido temple).
I suppose my family farmed about 5 tan of rice fields -
go-tan-byakusho (5-tan farmers) were the norm. (Note: 1 tan
= 300 tsubo = 992 sq. metres.) We rented all of it. Also,
we had fields up in the mountains, but most of these were
planted with mulberry trees for the silkworms. In the
fields around the house we grew wheat, barley and beans. We
also did some slash-and-burn farming. That was at the end
of the war up in the mountains about 1-hour's walk from
Murata-san's house. And I've also made charcoal in the
forest on Mt. Seida. But we didn't do as much slash-and-
burn farming and charcoal-burning as a the remoter hamlets
like Kamasawa and Irizawai.
Only about three houses in Shimo-Aoki kept horses, among them
Kamiya and Kinoshita. Horses were used to prepare the rice
paddies (those that didn't have a horse, borrowed one). But
there was a lot of manual work. For fertilizer we used
dried grass, which we stamped into the mud with our bare
feet. People were often getting injured. However, tetanus
was rare, though I did hear of someone in Wazo who died of
Horses were still being used after the war, but Oshika
was always one of the first places to introduce new
technology. This goes back to the early Taisho period, when
the Kuhara company introduced various things from Tokyo into
the village. Horses were replaced by rotivators, and
mechanical rice-planters replaced planting by hand.
Sometime after the war I remember going down to Toyohashi,
near Nagoya, and being amazed that the farmers there were
still using oxen to prepare their fields and marking out
their rows for planting with a straw rope.
Oshika people were also very showy dressers. Kamasawa
folk were among the first to wear Western suits, and the
first to go to university - the person I'm thinking of came
from the Matsuura family. But it was difficult for the
Kamasawa kids attending the village school - they had a long
way to walk and would not get home until after dark.
In those days it wasn't so easy to get out of Oshika.
One had to get up Hojo Hill. From Wago we didn't pass
through Ochiai, because the valley was very narrow and the
road often under water. We went over the mountains near Mt.
Onishi. That was a very old road, probably first used by
kijishi (itinerant woodworkers) around the 8th century. It
finished up in Notanohira, which was in the domain of small
feudal lords such as the Chiku and Tomono. Kijishi would
move from place to place with their families. I knew of an
old kijishi named Ogura who later went to Matsukawa, and
I've heard that there were also kijishi in Shingasawa. But
most of them were in Kitairi in Kashio.
The Sakura Sogoro Shrine is in Wago just above
Yoshikawa's sawmill. The shrine's festival used to be quite
lively - big flags were put out and we would take food and
drink up to the shrine. There were even stalls selling toys
and things. Nowadays the festival day is still kept by
hanging out new shimenawa (sacred straw festoons stuck with
white paper). But that's about all. Eventually the
festival will probably die out.
The main shrine in Aoki amalgamated with Taiseki Shrine
in Shimo-Ichiba, so we hold our annual shrine festival there
now. The old shrine was located just below here - in
fact, our yagō (house name) is Wakamiya.
The other festival in Aoki is at the Yakushido, a Buddhist
In my school days we wore straw sandals even in the
winter. We didn't have rubber boots.
As kids, we weren't given so much work to do on the
farm. The most common job was looking after younger
brothers and sisters.
From the time I left school up to the time when I
joined the Agricultural Cooperative I did various jobs.
During the winter I sometimes burnt charcoal. The last
charcoal of the winter was left in the kiln all through the
summer, and taken out before the first firing of the autumn.
If this isn't done the kiln would collapse. I
also worked as a labourer - for example, building
the banks between the rice fields. In those days we used
a mokko (straw basket hung on a pole) for carrying the
I also worked in the mountain forests as a yamashi.
The farming was done by my father who was still young. I
would only help out at busy times, like the rice planting
My youth coincided with the postwar years. Nowadays,
everyone has a car, but then the war had just finished and
the young men who had been away were all coming back. In
those days the Young Men's Association (seinendan) was
very active. As there wasn't television we spent a lot of
the time discussing things and would talk late into the name
about ideological topics like democracy. People who had
been to the war would talk about their experiences. Being
free of militarism, things felt so much easier. It was as
if a weight had been taken off our shoulders. To tell you
the truth, when I was in my first year at middle school I
got in trouble with the teacher for saying I was against the
war. After the defeat of Italy and Germany, one could
easily see the way things were going. I remember talking to
my friends on the way home from school. 'Looks like we're
going to lose the war. What will happen then?' Everyone at
school was saying the same thing. Pity the poor teacher!
We were quite a bunch - Ōshima Goichi, Maezawa Haruo, Nakagawa
Susumu,Kose, Arashi, Hirata... I guess we were quite beyond
the teacher's control. I remember once when we
were cleaning upstairs, we poured two or three buckets of
dirty water through the floorboards into the staff room
below. But the teachers didn't say anything - even now I
don't know why. Probably because, even if they got angry,
we took no notice of them!
Nakamura-sensei hardly ever taught in Oshika. The
local teachers were someone called Yoshida and one from
Shimizu called Kozawa.
As I said before, we didn't learn much in middle school
(kōtō-shōgakkō). In one year our teacher changed six or
seven times. There were all types - those with experience
and those without. There was a woman from the Women's
Association. The young male teachers would soon be
conscripted and sent off to the war. We also had a really
old teacher from Takagi who had been all over the place - he
died soon after - but be must have been amazed by what he
found in here Oshika. He called up 'hooligans' (yotakko)
and said that he'd never known such a place - pupils saying
they were against the war, tipping dirty water through the
floorboards into the staff room, lifting up the women
After the war the population of the village increased.
In the late 1950s farming was flourishing and the future
seemed bright. The big turning point was the 1961 disaster.
After that a lot of people left the village.
In my time few people went on to upper school - in our
class there were only two or three. Things changed after
the war. A lot of Oshika kids went to the Shimo-Ina
Agricultural Upper School. There even used to be a branch
of that school here in Oshika. Students attended classes in
the evenings at the old primary school, which now the
Agricultural Cooperative uses. Matsushita-sensei used to teach
mathematics there after his retirement. Pupils from the
Oshika branch school had to spend their last year before
graduation at the main school in Iida. Maeshima Yukio, I
remember, graduated that way.
At any rate, many people of my age had their education
disrupted by the war. During our two years at middle school
we were taught next to nothing. I suppose the ones that
paid attention to their studies left the village and got
successful in Tokyo or wherever.
For a few years directly after the war there was a
'young people's school' (seinen-gakkō) with classes during
the day. But this closed when the evening upper schools
were started in Okawara and Kashio.
After the war the socialists had strong support all
over Nagano. Imai-san became mayor of Oshika. At first he
was a Communist, but later he switched over to the Liberal
Democratic Party. Hayashi Hyakurō of Okaya was a
nationally famous Communist politician. My cousin Maezawa
Akemi, who runs the pickling plant, was a keen Communist,
but he changed to the Liberal Democratic Party, only to
return to the Communist Party again later. Politics! What
When I was a child my mother used to tell me bedtime
stories - not local tales, but tales from history, like
Sakura Sogoro, Sasaki Takatsuna...
There used to be a kabuki stage in the grounds of the
Yakushido temple. When the Kuhara company built a new road
the stage was demolished and a meeting hall put up in its
I acted in kabuki as a member the Young People's
Association between 1951 and 1953. We played on the stages
in the Taiseki Shrine and Wazo, and did a performance in
Komagane. At that time there were two kabuki groups in
Oshika. I belonged to the group headed by Kojima Yorito.
The other group was led by Furuyashiki of Nashiwara. The
group was called Shiogaya, and based near the barber's shop
in Shiokawa. Kojima Yoshie was the leading actor. The
members of this group were kabuki fanatics who would leave
their jobs to go off somewhere to perform. Their style of
acting was bold and exaggerated. In comparison Yorito-san's
style was somehow more polished. Okawara kabuki was mostly
Kojima Yorito's style.
Before the war there were other teachers - Nakagawa
Susumu's father and the grandfather of Tada Kōji of Akaishi-
so. But, after the war the two schools which I just
mentioned were the main ones. Then when people started
leaving the village after the 1961 disaster Katagiri-san got
the two groups together to form the present day Oshika
Kabuki Preservation Society. I would have joined, but I had
just set up my company Okawara Kōgyō, and was very busy with
In my younger days I did a lot of kabuki. I played
Matsuo in 'Terakoya', Jūjirō in 'Taikōki' and Ontaishō in
'Sodehagi'. We used to practise in the main hall of the
Koshoji temple. The father of the present priest loved
kabuki. Later we also practised in the Kami-Ichiba
Community Centre. We performed at the autumn festival at
the Taiseki Shrine, and sometimes even at the spring
festival. The spring festival was on 16th April.
In Oshika, the various hamlets all have their festivals
on different days - Okeya used to be the earliest, then
Ochiai, Bunman, Ichiba, and so on. That's because there was
only one Shinto priest (from Kashio), although in Kamasawa
there was Matsuura-san, a local person who could perform
ceremonies. Before Shimodaira, the priest's name was
There was no Shinto priest in Okawara, but there was an
'Ontake' (mountain ascetic). The Ontake performed the
annual ceremonies in people's homes (iematsuri). This was
usually Segi-san of Wazo. Since he died we have had someone
come from Takagi to do the ceremony. In Shimo-Aoki there
used to be an old man called Koyama, and there was also a
man called Matsuo who lived in a house below the Matsudaira
Shrine in Bunman. Also, sometimes itinerant Ontake priests
would come to your house offering their services.
The Akiba Shrine is said to have been founded by Karasu
Tengu. Although I've never been there, every year two
people from Shimo-Aoki used to get together with
representatives from other hamlets in the village to
distribute ofuda (cards giving protection from evil
spirits). There was an Akiba-sama society (kō) and there
might have been a few people who belonged to a Konpira society too.
The reason people joined these fraternities was because of the fear of
fire. A fire would destroy everything. Nowadays, with fire
insurance, it is quite profitable for your house to burn
down (Laughs). But, in the old days, if your house burnt
down, that was the end. Still, all these gods were
imaginary, then didn't have any real power.
Floods were another great fear, but there was not much
you could do about that. In 1945 the paddy fields by the
river below here were all washed away. That was on 3rd or
4th October. I remember desperately trying to harvest the
rice in the waterlogged fields. At first it had not seemed
that dangerous, but the swollen river had brought down a lot
of soil, and that had raised the level of the water.
The 1961 disaster was something completely different.
My mother said she had never seen anything like it. (At the
time I was working at the Agricultural Cooperative and was a
member of the Fire Brigade). The stone embankments (Shingen
teibō)that people had built up over the years to protect
their rice fields were all destroyed. These embankments
were constructed of large stones held together by wire which
it had taken the strength of between 8 and 16 men to lift
and put into place. So they were pretty tough.
After they were destroyed in the disaster the river
scenery of Oshika changed. That wasn't the only thing. The
Aoki river used to be full of kajika fish (bull head).
These fish bury themselves in the sand. But when the
disaster changed the nature of the river they disappeared.
You can still find a few in the Shiokawa river in Kashio
S. T. (born 1914) ♂ Kitairi 1
I was born, brought up and lived in the Koshio community in Kitairi 1. There were seven families there, all of whom farmed their own land.
In those days Japan was an agricultural economy. We grew rice in the fields near the river and barley, wheat and other crops on the slopes of the mountains. We raised silkworms for cash, and in winter we made charcoal. The community had a small waterwheel powered by the stream, and there we would grind our wheat into flour to make noodles. We grew most of the food we ate, made our own miso and soy sauce and only bought oil, tea and a few other things.
In winter we also used to hunt wild boar, rabbits and pheasants. I've never hunted deer or monkeys. There'd be a group of about seven or eight hunters, and when we killed an animal we'd share out the meat between us. It gave our diet a bit of protein. In those days meat wasn't available in the village shops. During the war we sent rabbit and raccoon skins to make winter clothing for the soldiers in Manchuria.
In those days there were few problems with animals causing damage to crops even though the fields reached up high into the mountains (tagayashite ten ni itaru). When did the problems begin? I remember that from around 1975 wild boar caused havoc in our rice fields at harvest time. One of the reasons I left Oshika and came to live in the town was the disappointment of losing crops which I had put so much effort into raising. In the old days the emphasis wasn't on planting sugi and larch for timber, but rather on maintaining the oak forests where the trees could be cut to make charcoal. These mixed deciduous forests produced wild grapes, acorns and other food for the animals. The situation changed after the war due to the national government's five-year and ten- year plans to encourage forestry. That's the reason the animals started appearing in the fields. If there was sufficient food in the forests, animals wouldn't come down the mountain into the village, where they are likely to be shot at.
In February just at this time of the year we would be making charcoal - sometimes on our own lands, sometimes on the higher village-owned forests. All over the mountains you would see trails of smoke coming up from the kilns. That's another scene which has gone.
Most of the families living in Kitairi 1 owned their own lands. At the end of the war there were around thirty households there. Apart from the people living in the main street of the village where the shops were, most Kashio folk made charcoal, especially those living in Kitagawa, the furthest hamlet upstream along the Kashio river. With this charcoal-making, the cableway to Komagane, and the forestry work (Eirinsho) Kitagawa used to be a thriving community. Every year we would go to a festival there held at a temple dedicated to a Kannon bodhisattva patronized by silkworm farmers. The temple was destroyed in the 1961 disaster. I think that the festival day was 3rd May. We would go along to get a flag, which would be returned at the beginning of the next year for a new one. This flag was said to ensure a good harvest of silk thread. It was a lively festival - the Kitagawa folk were known for their ostentatious ways - which attracted people from all over Kashio. As there weren't cars or bikes everyone walked. The girls would be dressed in kimono and perhaps be carrying sunshades. It was a charming sight (fūzei ga atta). Nowadays, all that one sees along that road are cars. On a normal day carriers and their horses would pass along the road, a horse pulling a cart, or a man leading one or two horses.
Compared to other Oshika communities, Koshio was an easy place to live. The water supply for our paddy fields was close to the house. And we lived in the top house, so we could flood our fields before our neighbours. During a year when the rainfall was scarce this sometimes caused a bit of friction, but nothing too bad. For hay, we could cut the grass from our own lands. Still, it was quite a job. I remember getting up before sunrise to put in a full day's work. This would be in October after the rice harvest. Work, and more work. There was always work to do. This is what life consisted of.
I didn't know exactly how many generations of my family had lived in the Koshio house until I transfered the family grave here in 1981 (that was two years after we moved to Iijima). I discovered that I was the eighth generation. But whether the Shimojima family came to Oshika before that I don't know. Someone did tell me that the family's history went back earlier. There used to be a temple called Hōkyūji in Koshio. But, when its thatched roof caught fire and burnt down, most of the hamlet's records were lost.
Our main matsuri was in spring. We got together with Kitairi 2 and held our festival in the grounds of the branch school. Sometimes we'd put up a stage to perform kabuki. I appeared in plays from when I was seventeen to around the age of thirty - often in the part of the handsome young hero. The kabuki teacher Kojima Yorito was our nextdoor neighbour. He was around ten years older than me. He's dead now, and his son lives in Nagoya. Both Yorito and Furuyashiki were good teachers. In contrast, Kojima Yoshie was strict. I think that Katagiri Noboru learnt mainly from Furuyashiki Yoritaka, but he also studied with Yorito too. Noboru was originally married to my younger sister. They had two children, but after my sister died he remarried. So Noboru is my brother-in-law. Yorito started off as an actor, but later became a reciter, and choreographed the plays. As an actor, I think that he probably studied with Yoshie. Yorito was very practical person, clever with his hands. Like everyone in Koshio, he farmed, raised silkworms and made charcoal. On the other hand, Yoshie was a timber merchant. He brought and sold wood, and had people working for him.
In those days, there was no kabuki organization. Things would start moving about a week or ten days before a matsuri. Someone would say, 'How about doing a play?' And if all agreed, then we got going. We didn't rehearse during the winter months or anything like that. The shrine in Kitairi was a branch of the Nashiwara Shrine. We worshipped the same Shinto god. The annual festivals were held separately, but we always participated in the Onbashira Matsuri every seven years. That was always a big event with festival floats and young men playing drums and flutes and girls dancing. The procession would go from Nakamine to the Nashiwara Shrine. In my memory the only times when Kitairi put on special kabuki performances were the coronation of the Showa emperor (gotaiten) and the introduction of the new constitution in 1947. At the time of the coronation we did kabuki for five days running - one day in Nashiwara, two days at the Ichiba Shrine in Kashio, and then we were asked to go to Kitagawa for another performance. Finally, someone said that if we're going all over the place doing kabuki, we ought to do a performance in Kitairi. And so we did one there too.
I began writing haiku at the suggestion of Kondo Kazuo, the father of Kondo Wataru of Oguri. He taught me, and after a while I became addicted. I still compose even now. What is the aim of my poems? Simply to express the relationship between nature and everyday human life. Matsushita Torami, the father of Matsushita Koto, was a fine haiku poem. He was also appointed mayor of Seinaiji. My mother and grandmother were originally from Shitoku in Nakagawa. Although I never walked it, there used to be a road from Kitairi to Nakagawa via Takizawa. I remember my mother telling me that when she was a young girl in Shitoku she once saw prisoners chained together working in the mountains near there. A representative of the shogun was stationed in Iijima, and he could sentence criminals to short sentences for minor infringements.
Quite a few marriages took place between couples from Shitoku ad Kashio. Katagiri Noboru's grandmother came from Shitoku. She was a sister of my mother. Also, a sister of my grandfather married into a famiy in Hase. In Japanese the words mashin or mamono refer to a rather frightening spirit or god (kowai kamisama). When I was a child I was sometimes sent on errands to the neighbouring hamlet of Ginaiji, where there were a liquor shop, tobacco shop and a general store. For a child it was rather frightening to go along that dark narrow road, where people told you to beware of the evil spirits. The Kashio stories I remember are about the water goblin (kappa) of Oike, who lent people dishes for special occasions, and the hunter who came across seven deer in the forest and shot one, but then discovered that there were still seven. Of course, one can't believe that such things ever happened.
Japan's defeat in World War II was a big shock. Until 1945 the country believed that it could win the war. The military government didn't allow anyone to mention the word 'defeat'. So it was a big shock. From the end of the war until the 1961 disaster was sixteen years - not so long, but during that time we went from severe food shortage to a time when people were beginning to feel materially well off. During the war and directly after we hardly ever had new clothes. Everything we wore was patched. But by the late 1950s we were at last beginning to feel that we were living like ordinary humans again. Then came the 1961 disaster. That was another big blow. Many people were killed and fields were washed away or buried. After the disaster, no one knew what to do. In Koshio, no houses were destroyed, but some people lost their paddy fields near the river.
The main stream running through Koshio is called Koshio-zawa. Event though only one family remains, the people of Koshio still have water rights (suiriken). Recently, I was asked by the village office if the stream could be used for the village supply in Kitairi. Of course, I had no objection. After the disaster I lived in Oshika until 1979. That is twenty years ago, but I still feel nostalgic about it - not so much Okawara, but Kashio in particular. For a time I worked for the Kashio community center (kominkan), so I got to know almost everyone in the area. Even when I go now people will say hello to me and we'll have a chat. So I still have a very warm feeling about Oshika people. If it was possible I'd like to go back to Oshika regularly, but I'm over eighty five and I can't get there without relying on my son or someone to take me.
Our old house still stands, but it's been empty for all these years, and is in no state to live in. It's probably a home for flying squirrels and other creatures. Last night my son said something jokingly. He's an electrician, and the economic situation in Japan is poor. He said, 'Shall we go back to live in Oshika? We could make charcoal for a living.' I thought for a moment. 'We'd have to do up the house, and what a bother it would be cooking meals in the old kitchen. In the end, we wouldn't have any time to make charcoal. No, it would be impossible.' I laughed. But, then I thought, my son feels nostalgic like me.
Although I have erected a new grave here in Iijima, the old grave of any ancestors is still in Koshio, so if I go to Oshika, I always visit it. In the old days, people were buried, so their bones are still there. All that I have here is a bit of the earth which I took when we held a small ceremony with the Shinto priest Shimodaira Isamu.) I left the old gravestone there, and erected a small fence, so that anyone who passed would respect the spot. My daughter Yumiko, who still lives in Oshika, cleans the grave every year. But when I die my remains will go into the new grave here. I will be the first one. Apart from Yumiko, one of my younger sisters still lives in Oshika. She is married to Yanagishima Sadao, whose son Sadayasu works in the village office.
(Note: For the last ten minutes we talked about the new appointments in the village office. He couldn't believe that his nephew Sadayasu was a department head. We talked about Suganuma Ikao's appointment as mayor, which he said would never have happened without the scandal surrounding the previous mayor Arai. Then we talked about the coming council election. he wanted to know if I had heard any rumours about who was standing down, or about new candidates.)
K. H. (born 1913) ♂ Nakao
I was born at the beginning of the Taisho era. In this period farmers ate mixed grains like awa and hie (types of millet). For cash income people worked on the river transporting timber. The way they did it was like this: felled trees were brought down to the river, and a dam was made upstream. The dam was then broken and the on-rush of water sent the wood down the river.
Other people worked cutting down trees in the mountains, particularly in the Aoki Valley, along the Median Tectonic fault line. In the Aoki Valley the land is fertile and the forest is rich. During the Tokugawa era local taxes were paid in timber instead of rice. Kamasawa was famed for its fine soy beans. The beans grown in Kamasawa had thin skins and larger content. They were highly sought after by buyers.
The most famous of the Oshika fruits is the wild peach (yasei momo, ohatsu momo). This fruit originally came from southern China. People say that it was first brought to Japan in the 14th century. At that time Prince Munenaga used Oshika as a base, and it seems that he and his troops brought these peaches to the village. The seeds which they left began to grow wild in the mountains. That's why we have peach trees in the mountains even now. There's an interesting story here. Not long ago a professor from an agricultural research centre in Tsukuba was researching ways of creating a peach hybrid resistant to disease. He collected wild peach seeds from all over the country - Wakayama, Okayama (home of the famous Momotaro legend), and so on, and from Oshika. After planting them and observing the trees for over 10 years he concluded that the Oshika seed was the best. And so he used it as a graft to create a strong and healthier type of peach tree. The Oshika seeds were also sent to Iwate, where local officials wanting to make up for their unsuccessful Olympic bid decided to plant peach trees all over the region, creating a Tōgenkyō (peach blossom Shangri-la). I've written about all these experiences in these books of essays.
We always mixed barley with our rice - at least half and half, sometimes more. The barley was called shiro-mugi. It grew to about 1 metre high, but the problem was that it easily lodged. This was highly unsatisfactory, but it was the only variety which we had. Later, we got hold of better varieties of barley and wheat that which didn't lodge. Barley was a winter crop grown back to back with soy beans. It was only some years after the war that we were regularly able to eat rice without barley mixed in. During the war, the men were taken as soldiers, and a burden of farm work fell on the women and children, who not only had to produce their own food, but were also expected to provide a certain amount for people living in the towns and cities. As the food situation became more desperate, people were ordered by the authorities to decrease silk cocoon production and to produce more food.
Directly after the war the food situation was difficult. The soil had been exhausted and there was little fertilizer. Seeing the problem, the U.S. Army helped out. We can't complain because Japan had done many bad things - though at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial there was one lawyer - an Indian named Krishnan - who spoke up for Japan, and said that we had only been involved in a war of defence. During and after the war it was the city people who could not produce their own food that were worst off. Despite the various quota restrictions the farmers could generally get enough to eat. But it was during those hard ten postwar years that Japan's later prosperity was built.
To give you an idea of a typical farmer's day in prewar Nakao, we would get up before first light, have a quick snack and then do some work before breakfast. After breakfast there was more work until lunchtime, but we would stop at around ten o'clock for a snack. After lunch we rested until one, but then it was back to the fields or mountains, and we would have another snack - a bowl of mixed rice or something - at three. This snack was called ocha-no-ko. Then more work until the evening. Once dinner was over there would be more work indoors - perhaps the men making straw rope, while the women did sewing. And often we would have something else to eat before going to bed. So it was a life of work, eating and sleep! Perhaps we ate so much because the mixed grains were relatively low in calories. In those days we economized on electricity by using very low wattage bulbs. So the inside of the house was very dimly lit.
As regards footwear, in the cold weather the children (and adults) wore rubber boots. I remember getting my first pair of rubber boots in the second or third year of primary school. But the main footwear was straw sandals and wooden clogs. We wore straw sandals for working in the fields. Wooden clogs were made by a craftsman. I have never made a pair of clogs, but I used to make my own straw sandals, sometimes ten pairs in one day. After beating the straw to soften it, the strands are twisted to make rope. The sandals are crafted out of this rope. In spring and summer we worked until late outdoors, so straw rope and sandal making were jobs for the autumn and winter. Straw sandals soon wore out, so one always needed new ones. Coats called mino were also made from straw. There were two types - one for protection from the sun and the other for protection from the rain. But these were difficult to make - only a few people could do it. We used to buy ours from people who came around selling them. We also bought kasa (hats). Kiso no hinoki-gasa was another type, which was larger.
In those times there was a landowner-tenant system (jinushi kosakunin seido). After paying the landlord, a tenant had only half of his crop left. Then there were other expenditures for agricultural tools and such like. This landowning system was reformed after the war by the occupation forces. Land not being farmed directly by its owner was bought up by the government and sold very cheaply to the tenants. The families hardest hit were those like the Maeshima house, which were in business as sake brewers and doing very little farming. Although we were landowners, we directly farmed a lot of our own land, so our loss wasn't so great. If you want to know exactly how much land changed hands after the war, I think that the figures are all in the official village history. At the time of the prewar landowning system there were twenty- seven or eight households in Nakao (now there are fourteen) - probably about half of these were tenant farmers. We leased land to seven or eight families. From our house here at the top of Nakao hamlet we could walk down to Ichiba without ever leaving our own land.
Compared to a hamlet like Wazo, where people had to walk long distances to Kuronta, Aoki and other places to farm their land, the situation is Nakao was easier. Lands here were less scattered. If you look at the village history you will see that, at one time there were twenty households in Nakao and twenty in Wazo. After that, Wazo grew much faster than Nakao - so people had to go further afield in search of land. In terms of land shape, Wazo is a much better place for a settlement compared to Nakao. It's naturally flat, while Nakao is built on a ridge. So the first people who came to Nakao would have had to remove the rocks and flatten the land for places to build their houses. The merit of Nakao is not the shape of the land, but its sunny position and fertility. To get grass for animal feed and bedding we set aside certain areas as sōsaichi (hay meadows). The best places are gentle slopes with good sunlight - here grass grows quickly and abundantly. Fields where the slope is too steep are not good. After the cutting the grass we carried it home on the back of a horse. Compared to hamlets like Wazo and Nashihara our hay meadows were closer to home. Nashihara folk crossed the valley to Minayama to grow rice and cut hay (Minayama gets its name because, looking from Nashihara, it is to the south). But most of Nakao's hay meadows were on the mountain above the hamlet.
Nott so many Nakao households kept cattle - out of the twenty-seven there were probably only ten. In other words, people could get by financially without keeping cattle. Nakao's hay meadows were generally privately owned. We could usually get by with hay from our own lands, although I do remember someone who went short getting in trouble for taking hay from a meadow used by Kashio folk. This house owns around fifteen hectares of mountain land, which was quite enough for our needs. But perhaps other people with less land had problems collecting enough hay.
Compared to Wazo and Kamasawa, few people in Nakao made charcoal. During the war, I remember that there was a charcoal quota which we had to meet - charcoal was used in aircraft fuel. But, Nakao didn't have the forest resources for charcoal. At one time Oshika charcoal was famous, but Nakao folk never produced much. Silk cocoons were a big source of cash income. Some houses even constructed special buildings for keeping silkworms (sanshitsu). The silk was made into thread and exported to America to make women's silk stockings. Other cash income came from seasonal labouring jobs, such as forestry. Then there was farm work. For example, we would have people came to work on our farm at busy times. I can clearly remember folk from Shimizu coming here to work. They would bring their own boxed lunches, but we would provide a mid-afternoon snack. I say 'snack', but some people ate so much that they didn't need any dinner! The folk who came to help out were women and men who were not strong enough to be working in the mountains. They did jobs like sowing, harvesting rice and so on.
As farms go, this house is lucky. It's situated in a sunny aspect with plenty of fertile land around, so it's productivity is high. Other farms are less fortunate. As the years go by one sees the gap between the fortunate and less fortunate farms widen. People who can't make ends meet from their farm have to go out to work. (Note: now employment is the norm. Formerly it was something which the poorer houses were forced into.) But, Nakao is one of the fortunate hamlets in this village. Lower down there's a part called Hinatamura - 'sunny village'. The position of one's house is very important. A well-positioned house in a sunny place needs less fuel. The people living there are bright and cheerful. It's different from a house located in the shade of the mountain. In Oshika, there are various houses - some lived in for a long time, others only a short time. Usually, this is because of their position. The terms ittochi (1st class land) and nitochi (2nd class land) were used in setting tax land rates.
In the old times there were three professions every community needed - blacksmith, oil shop and dyer. In Nakao there was a blacksmith, though how long the household been smithing I don't know. In Sawado there were an oil shop and dyer. In Kashio too there was a dyer. In Ochiai, where the village office stands, there was a factory manufacturing thread from silkworm cocoons. The village office used to stand just above the factory. There was the main primary school in Shimo-Ichiba, and branch schools in Kamasawa, Shingasawa and Okeya. In Ichiba there were shops, the shrine and a doctor's - Yoshikawa Oisha. There was also a doctor in Kashio (Kitazawa), but he was unlicensed.
Nakao stands on Nakao ridge between Kashio and Okawara. So we had dealings with both parts of Oshika, and also Nakao folk married into families on both sides. People called this the Nakao Pass (Nakao-tōge). The main Akiba road (Akiba-ji) passed along here. This is a high point in the road. There's a shrine here. Akiba-ji is said to be the longest national road (kokudō) in Japan. It begins at Chino and goes to Iwata. Although it's classified as a national road, in some places it isn't every metalled.
There are a number of differences between Okawara and Kashio folk. In Kashio there's not one member of the Communist Party, but Okawara is full of them! Okawara and Kashio have different histories. Okawara had the Kuhara timber business in Aoki and Kohikage copper mine in Kamasawa. These businesses made Okawara more urban in outlook. There was even a geisha house in Bunman. Compared to this Kashio was really quiet. The Okawara Young Men's Association (seinen kaigi) used to have a library at the community centre in Kami-Ichiba. It was full of Communist literature. They would get Communist teachers from Tokyo to lecture to them. Communism flourished in Okawara. It was said that in Shimo-Ina the strongest Communist areas were Oshika and Takagi. They had some very bright people. One of them - Imai Binzō - became mayor of Oshika.
In the Nakao shrine there used to be a kabuki stage where we put on plays. There was also a kabuki teacher called Kobayashi, who travelled around the different hamlets giving people instruction (he would stay for a time in each hamlet). He doesn't appear in the kabuki book - perhaps that's because he's too old. He was teaching in the Meiji and Taisho eras, and probably died before the beginning of Showa. He had no wife and no children and he wasn't a landowner - still, he lived in a fine house. I suppose that he lived for his art. In my view at least, he was one of reason that we have a kabuki tradition in this village today. The sight of him walking along the road carrying a bundle of books with his samisen slung over his back is still fresh in my mind. The three pillars of the kabuki in Kashio were Kojima Yoshie, Matsuo Kōichi and Kojima Yorito. My mother was related to the Matsuo family of Nishi. Kōichi's speciality as an actor was female roles.
The names of districts (koaza) within Nakao are: Honmura, which is here, Hinatamura, which is lower down. The land above is called Minesaka - there were three houses there, but now they are all empty. Then there is Kaminotachikubo (Kandachikubo for short). Another interesting place name is Teranotaira (lit. 'temple flat'). It is said that when Prince Munenaga came to Oshika from Kyoto 650 years ago he built his temple there. Later, it was moved to Goshodaira and finally to the site of Kōshōji. Teranotani stands beside the upper road. Actually Munenaga belonged to the Shingon (Tendai?) sect of Buddhism, but Koshoji is Sōtō Zen. The parent temple (honji) of Kōshōji is by the Oi river in Kawane?, It's called Chimanji. It is said that a priest from that temple founded Koshoji. But, when I visited Chimanji, the priest said that the link with Kōshōji was due to the neko danka ('cat parishioner'). (click https://chimanji.jp/history.php for the story in Japanese)
Incidentally, there is fine old hall by the side of the Maeshima house that some people say that is the original site of the temple. The priest of Koshoji wouldn't be pleased to hear this comment!
Back in the early 1930s, a man from Chiba turned up in a large foreign car and said that he was a descendant of the lord of Hotta Castle!
There are various things in Oshika which remain a mysteries. For example, why does salt water spring from the middle of the mountains in Kashio? Nobody knows.
Then there's another thing. One hears stories of evil spirits (mamonono kami, mashin) coming in the middle of the night to take people to heaven. In the hamlet of Shiokawa, there have been at least 7 or 8 people who have committed suicide by hanging. That's just in Shiokawa. It hasn't happened anywhere else - only in Shiokawa. This house, that house, women as well as men, and for no apparent reason. The people who did it weren't in trouble, hadn't been involved in family arguments... One of my friends was a soldier who came back from the war. His wife would say 'Don't leave a rope lying around!' But in the end he hung himself too. He wasn't in any trouble and he was a hard worker. There was a man from Wazo who came from there as an adopted son into the Shiozawa house. He was a chief of the fire brigade in Kashio. But he hung himself from a tree on the river bed of the Shiokawa river. Almost everyone knows about the suicides of Shiokawa, but nobody talks it. It's a tragic business. Does it have something to do with the salt spring? Is there some sort of evil spirit which appears there?
Kashio is a much quieter place than Okawara. It may sound a strange expression to use, but Okawara is 'louder'. The clothes are louder, and so are the ideas. As I said Okawara is full of Communists, but there aren't any in Shiokawa. Suganuma Ikao used to be a Communist, but then his parents were Ikuta people. So Ikao is not of pure Kashio stock. There are Suganumas all over this area - there are Suganumas in Matsukawa - in Ōjima. I have heard that many of them are descendants of the Suganuma family of Kawai.
M. Y. (1916) ♂ Wazo
I wasn't born in this house or in this village. My grandmother originally came from this house. Later, when there was no male heir I was asked to marry the only daughter. At first I said that I didn't want to live in the middle of the mountains but eventually I had no choice. I married in 1937 or 1938 when the war against China had already begun, but before the Pacific War broke out.
I spent my working life as a teacher and this was not originally my choice either - I wanted to travel abroad on merchant ships, but my father told me to become a teacher, like him, and I suppose that this pleased my mother, because if I was a teacher it meant that I didn't have to go off to the war. I began teaching in 1935 when I was twenty, and retired at the age of sixty. During that time I served in schools all over Nagano Prefecture as an instructor of elementary school children, middle school children and teacher trainees, and finally as a headmaster. Apart from two years at the middle school here and three years when I was head of an elementary school in the next village I lived away from home. My father or my wife looked after this house in Wazo in my absence.
To say a little about my father, he was a person who had more of a talent for spending money than making it. He was always go off to enjoy himself with geisha in the nearby city of Iida. He was a landlord - that is, he received his income from rents paid on land. Even after the 'land liberalization' which followed World War II, we retained a lot of forestry land, and still do. At one time we held almost all of the forests along the valley from Kamasawa. The fact that some of that land is now in the hands of other owners is because my father sold it and used the money to go off to Iida. He enjoyed himself (laughs). At the time this style of life was common among the sons of landowners. I tend to think that we're lucky to have the amount of land left that we do (laughs).
While I was teacher at Okawara Middle School in Oshika, the present education head of the village N was among my pupils. After the war I also spent a number of years supervising the methods of teachers and local educational administrators and even served for a while on the textbook screening committee. So I've done a variety of jobs in the educational field all over Nagano Prefecture.
Living in different places means that I have experienced various regional differences. For example, in Shinonoi the food served at celebrations - weddings and so on - is noodles, not rice. This is because there is lot of wheat grown in the nearby Kawanakajima area, and so people must be encouraged to consume it. Oyaki are another delicacy of the area - buns made from wheat flour filled with pickled green leaves instead of sweet bean paste. You try serving this sort of plain food at a celebration here in southern Shinshu! People would laugh, or call you stingy! In Kawanakajima wheat is grown as a second crop in rice paddies.
The independent character of Oshika people comes from the village's former status as tenryō - land directly under the control of the shogun. Now, take the village of Takagi, where I was born, this was run by a small samurai clan called Chiku - my original family were retainers of this lord. Oshika people were proud of the fact that they not responsible to a local feudal lord, but to the regional representative of the shogun, who resided in Iida. But, then, there was no one in Oshika with samurai status, that is, no one here had the right to wear a sword. Now, the house in Takagi into which I was born had a sword, and so in theory we could have used it without going to jail. Here in Oshika, people had no right of action, so we get hyakusho-ikki (farmers' rebellions).
The representative of the shogun would come from Iida to receive the yearly dues of the villagers. At that time he would stay in this house. There is a special entrance for him, and a special room with thin walls and a secret corridor for quick escape if he were suddenly attacked.
Ideas regarding education throughout Shinshu were fairly uniform. There weren't any big differences between the attitudes of teachers here compared to those in other parts of the prefecture. After Japan's defeat in World War II, we realized that the educational system had to be completely changed. I was among the people from Shinshu who were sent to Tokyo to receive training from the Ministry of Education in order to instruct the local teachers in the new methods. Although I did say that attitudes to education were more or less the same throughout the prefecture, there were teachers who were highly critical to the Ministry of Education. They would say things like, 'Don't listen to those Ministry of Education bureaucrats. It was they that got us into the mess in the first place.' This was a reaction which one found all over the country. The members of Nikkyōsō (Japan Teachers' Union?) were our strongest critics. It was a difficult position to be in. Although we were trying to introduce democratic reforms, we were accused of being feudalistic. Their criticisms could be quite scathing.
I can't recall of any such teachers in Oshika, but I can recall a mayor, who was a bit of a radical. His name was Imai Binzo. Before this time the mayor of the village had always been selected from among the big landowners. Imai was the first mayor who wasn't a big landowner. Actually, he worked for the farming cooperative. He had a wife (she died recently) who had no official position, but really put on airs. I remember having a big row with her. That was when I came to Okawara Middle School as deputy headmaster. At that time the primary school and the middle school shared the same building. But, the primary school always seemed to get the best of things. For example, when the primary school latrines were full, middle school pupils were always sent to empty them. But, I opposed that. If the primary school children could not empty their own toilets, then the village should pay someone to do it. I didn't mind the middle school pupils voluntarily helping out at certain times, but I opposed them being ordered to do it. The middle school pupils were expected not only to fetch the wood for the stoves to heat the primary school in winter, but also to cut it. Again, I said that I didn't think this was their job. It was the responsibility of the village office to provide the wood. I wouldn't have been able to say this before the war, but with Japan's defeat things became more democratic.
The Okawara Middle School was built from the timber of trees planted on Mt. Seida by the Young Men's Association (Seinendan). It was constructed by the villagers themselves. In contrast, the timber for Kashio Middle School was bought from an outside contractor, and constructed using either the village budget or private contributions (I don't now which). Perhaps the Oshika mayor of that time was a Kashio man. Such things have been known to happen.
The copper mine in valley below Mt. Ogouchi was owned and managed by my family. However, the copper seam was of limited quantity, so before long the operation became uneconomic. It was quite a job to get the copper out, and to transport it (eventually it went to Osaka), but the local labourers managed it. These kind of experiences gave Okawara people a tenacity, which perhaps Kashio people didn't have.
When I was sixty I retired from the teaching profession and have lived in this house ever since. During my short spell as teacher in Oshika (Nakamura-san was deputy head at the primary school at the time) I did succeed in getting the middle school pupils released from their tasks at the primary school. As I said before, they had been made to do things which were really the responsibility of the village office. It was negligence on the part of the mayor to allow such a state of affairs. The national laws concerning education were quite specific about a child's rights. I remember having a row with the mayor's wife when she brought a mattress made by the village Women's Association. It had been made by sewing together rabbit skins and was stuffed with raw cotton. She said rather condescendingly 'You'll be needing mattress for the teacher on night duty. We've made this for you.' I said, 'Take it back.' I wasn't going to accept charity, but that led to an argument.
I have always believed that the basic conditions for the education of children in a village should be the same as those of children in a town. Otherwise village children will be at a disadvantage when it comes to higher education. The financial resources at the command of town people are usually greater than those of village people but the important thing is for children to respect their parents and for parents to care for their children. They have to work together. A group of twenty kids going to Iida to shoplift is disgraceful - that's what happened recently. When something like this happens it's the responsibility of the school and the parents.
Recently I went to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to receive an award. The Emperor appeared before us and said, 'Due to your great care and attention, the children of Japan have grown into splendid citizens. Thank you so much.' Here I was being thanked by the Emperor when all that I had done was my job. Then he stepped down from his dais, and walked among us. And, then for some reason, I don't know why, he stopped in front of me and said in a small voice 'Thank you.' I felt like crying.
Though I became heir to one of the biggest landowning houses in the village, I have never really had any of the landowner's privileges and responsibilities. That all finished with the end of the war and the abolition of the old hierachical system. The only bunke (branch families which retain ties to the head family) which remain for this house are Minami-san and the Matsushita house in Aoki.
No two people are alike in character, and we all relate to each another in different ways. Despite all the differences, but I don't think that there is anyone who is really bad at heart.
All the children of this house have moved out of
Oshika, there is only me left. My adoptive father's
brothers all left the village. The second brother was a high-ranking bureaucrat in Manchuria - he
married into a family in Toyooka. The next brother went to
Tokyo and there became vice-president of the magazine Chuo
Koron - he's dead now. Then the younger brother joined the
Navy and during the war was involved in the plan to transfer
Japan's military headquarters to Beijing. He was always
travelling between Japan and China, and died of a local
disease (Note: someone else in the village told me that this
brother committed suicide after accused of being a spy).
The children of these brothers are all alive. They call me
uncle, but, of course, I'm not - I'm really their cousin.
Recently when I went to Tokyo I had a reunion with them -
there were about ten of us. We had a great time. Of
course, most of them spent the war years in this house, so
they know the village. They might even regard it as their
home, though I doubt if any of them will ever come back -
their lives are now based elsewhere. One of my cousins
brought me this piece of calligraphy which my father kept by
his bedside ruing his final illness. I think someone famous
wrote it, but I don't know who. I think it says 寂, but I
can't even be sure of that. Anyway, they said that it
belonged in this house, so they gave it to me.
M. K. (born 1915) ♀ Kami-Aoki
I was the eldest child (sōryō) of the family. Although my father's house is in Kami-Aoki, I was born in Wazo. I came here when I was a month old after my first visit to the shrine (miya-mairi). It was the custom for a woman to return to her native family for her first birth. The other children would be born at the home of her husband. My mother was from the Matsushita family of Wazo, so she returned there. But, the Wazo house is not the Matsushita honke (main house), although Yoshitoshi says that it is. My ancestors belonged to the Matsudaira house of Okazaki (note: the clan of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.) Our name changed at the time of Meiji Restoration, and there have been five generations of Matsushita since then. But before that the name was Matsudaira. Yoshitoshi says that the Wazo Matsushita are the main family and that we are a branch family but he doesn't know what he is talking about. The two families are only related by the marriages which have taken place between us. This Matsushita and the Matsushita of Wazo are two of the biggest landowners in the village. My family is also related to Matsushita Takao's family in Kamasawa. But it's not a branch house. This family has only one branch house - Minami-san. The Uma-no-jō house is related to this family. For two generations, daughters of the Uma-no-jo house married into this family. But that's the only relationship. Their ancestors originally came from somewhere in Shizuoka. The Wazo Matsushita are said to be related to the family of the warlord Kōsaka Takamune, who came to Oshika with Prince Munenaga. So, we all came into the village by different routes. Three years ago, I received an invitation to attend a ceremony to mark the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Matsudaira house. I wasn't able to go, but they sent me a list of all the people who had attended.
How did the family come to settle in Oshika? The forests here belonged to the shogun, and the first member of the family came as an official to supervise the collection of the timber tax. He brought seven men with him and they first settled in Okeya. From there, he saw this flat piece of land, and decided to build a house here. The year before last was the 510th anniversary of his death. According to the name on the grave he is known as Matsudaira Iga-no-kami. All the land around here belonged to this family. The Buddhist temple and the Shinto shrine were ours too, but we donated them to the hamlet. The popular name (yago) of this house was Hikinota, and that became the name of this community. The Wazo Matsushita house is known as Takenoshita and the Kamasawa Matsushita as Okata. The Matsudaira family owned all the land from the present Koshibu bridge up to here. My ancestors were in charge of collecting and sending cut wood (kureki) to the shogun in Edo.
One episode I remember being told about was the dispute over ceremonial dress (kamishimo kenka). This happened around the middle of the 19th century before the Meiji Restoration. The people who worked for this family collecting the timber to take to Edo wanted to wear ceremonial samurai costume when they went to the city. But the rule was that only men of a certain rank could do so. Anyway, the matter came up before the shogun's people in Edo, who said it was all right for them to wear samurai clothes with two swords and tie their hair in a top knot if they wanted to. But only a week later came a national edict prohibiting the samurai code of dress. So in the end they had to cut their top knot and couldn't wear the formal samurai clothes after all! Of course, the people in Edo had known about the edict, so that's why they gave permission in the first place.
Anyway, the new code called for everyone to have a family name. Before that they had only been allowed to a simple given name. The name of this family was Matsudaira, but none of the other families had formal names. So the head of this house said that he'd give each family a name, and told everyone to gather here. The family living to the north was called Kitagaki, the one above near the shrine was made Miyazaki, the one to the south Minami. Then there was Sakaki, Kanmae, Kanzaki and so on. So we decided what their names would be, because they had been the followers of this family for centuries. One thing that I am grateful for is that I have never heard any talk of my ancestors mistreating their tenants or taking large portions of their crop for rent. In fact, my ancestors would give people food if they had none.
My father was appointed by the government to be the mayor of Seinaiji, a village south of Iida. Here served there for two terms. This was from around 1939. As a result of my father, Seinaiji prospered. Among its villagers there were a government minister called Kawashima Shōjirō and the president of the Shintōhō film company Ōkura Mitsugu. Actually my father was training to be a doctor. He studied at the Nippon Medical School, but had to leave after two years because of tuberculosis. Still, when he came back to the village he did a bit of doctoring. But, I heard that if he went to visit a patient whose house was dirty inside, he would walk into the house with his shoes on. I suppose he'd been a spoilt child, and wasn't good at understanding people's feelings. So he soon gave up medicine. But the doctors in Iida used to talk of him with respect. They said that he was good at diagnosis. We still have a doctor in the family. My younger sister married Ikeda Seikō, who opened his own hospital in Tokyo. He also took the photographs for the Oshika kabuki book.
I married my husband Torao in 1939, and in 1941 he was drafted into the army and sent to Manchuria. He didn't return to Japan until December 1947. I'd heard nothing from him, so didn't know if he was dead or alive, but, then one day I got a telegram saying that he was arriving in Maizuru. It was like a dream. He'd been a prisoner of war in Siberia. He'd been taken prisoner by the Russians and when they asked him what his job was, he said that he was a director of Japan National Railways. (Before the war he had worked for the railway in Iida. We had lived in Iida together.) So they sent him to Siberia. He was too honest. He should have said that he was from a farming family. During the war I lived in Iida, and this house in Oshika was empty. But, our tenants looked after our land while we were away. As a result of the postwar land liberation policy, tenants were allowed to buy the lands which they were cultivating. When my husband got back he called all the tenants together and said that they could have as much of the land as they wanted - not just the rice paddies, but also the mountain fields and the forests. People said that our tenants received the best treatment in the whole of Nagano. In return, our former tenants have treated us well. For a comparison, look at the Matsushita of Wazo. Their tenants took so much land that Yoshitoshi doesn't even have a place to park his car! That kind of thing didn't happen to us. All the land around this house still belongs to us. In the old days we helped people when they needed things, and so when we were away they kept this land for us, and they even looked after the house. They used to take it in turns to come in and clean up. Before the war we used to keep silkworms and we also made tiles. There is good clay around here, so we hired someone from Matsumoto to build a kiln for firing tiles. When my father was mayor of Seinaiji, my mother stayed here in Kami-Aoki. our tenants would come in to help with all the jobs.
People in this hamlet relied on silkworms and the Kuhara sawmill for their livelihood. (Note: Kami-Aoki consists of Hikinota, Nakagumi and Nakasawa. Midojima lives in Nakagumi and Matsuzawa in Nakasawa. 'Nakasawa' is pronounced the same as 'Kamasawa'. Nakabora is in Shimo- Aoki.) The ancestors of Matsuzawa Masato's family were originally followers of this house. They became independent because we let them have land. What now belongs to the National Forestry Agency used to be the shogun's lands, and my family was in charge of them. So we let people in this hamlet and in the Shingasawa hamlet buy their own land. There used to be fifty or sixty houses in the Shingasawa hamlet. Many of the people there came with (worked at?) Kuhara. There was also a community called Ankō above Momo-no-taira. Kuhara moved out of Oshika around 1918, but a lot of the workers stayed. Kuhara had a big factory down by the river and there were lines of houses where the workers lived.
The old matsuri were lively. There was kabuki and dancing. In those days everyone knew how to do kabuki. But I wasn't allowed to appear in the kabuki plays. My mother was strict that way. She used to say that she wouldn't have people laughing at a daughter of the Matsushita family. When I was young I was the head of the Young Women's Association (joshi seinenkai). But then in 1939 I got married and went with my husband in live in Iida, where he was a director of the railway. In 1941 he was called up into the army. I stayed in Iida during the war. I was ill for most of the time. My mother died when I was fifteen, and after that I had to be like a mother to my younger brothers and sisters. My grandmother was still alive, but she lived in Ichiba. She used to teach sewing. She died the year before I got married.
The old story I most remember is Yakan korobashi. Mothers would tell their children that if they stayed out too late in the evening, they would meet the ghost who lived in the bamboo grove. Karan koron karan koron. That was the noise it made - like a kettle when it's knocked over. Because of Yakan korobashi we didn't stay out late at night. But, I wonder why a ghost would make a noise like a kettle? (Laughs)
There isn't a Buddhist temple in Kami-Aoki, but there is a small shrine, and I heard that a Buddhist priest did used to live in a house next to it. He died before I was born. There is a Shinto shrine here, but we don't have a priest. A priest from the Matsuura house in Kamasawa would come to perform the services for us. He would walk here. Everyone walked. This family used to be a member of the Kōshōji Buddhist temple, but after the dispute over the right to wear samurai clothes (kamishimo kenka) we changed to Shinto. The attitude of my ancestors was 'We don't want to be with you lot even after we're dead.' So now our funerals are Shinto-style. But, recently, I heard from the priest of Kōshōji that there were three mortuary tablets from this family in the temple. He said that he'd clean them and place them in the new mortuary hall - in the best place. I asked him how much it would cost, and he said 30,000 yen, so I gave him that much. Some time before the spring equinox I'll have to go to the temple to pay my respects. I'll take another 10,000 or 20,000 yen and get the priest to offer a prayer. The priest said that he'd return the tablets if I really wanted them back, but he talked about as if they were temple treasures. He'd never seen such fine tablets, not even in Iida.
Every year I have an Ontake priest come to the old house to perform a ceremony (uchi-matsuri). That reminds me. I must get this year's ceremony done before the spring equinox. Nowadays the man comes from Kamisato. Back in the old days we had someone come from Kamasawa to do the ceremony, but it wasn't Matsuura. In Shingasawa there was a priest called Yonezawa who offered prayers for people. All the houses used to do the ceremony, but now many people don't bother. Last year I didn't do the ceremony because I was ill and busy moving house, so this year I must do it. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I don't feel at ease until I've had someone in to do the ceremony. It's the same with the offerings for the household gods. The festival for Ebisu and Daikoku is on 3rd January. Sasaki Takeshi in Sawado always makes the straw carp for me. He gets up at two in the morning to make them, and always brings me my carp by ten in the morning. The old straw carp is burnt on the bonfire (dondo-yaki) on 14th January. My husband was go-between in the marriage of Takeshi's elder sister Saeko and Nakata Takafumi. We were go-between for fourteen couples. I call them my 'children'. Still, it keeps me busy. (Nanzaka) Yūichi's first grandson was born. As it was a boy, I've got to buy him a carp banner for the Boys' Festival. These duties go on right until the grandchild's generation. That's the way things are in Shimoina. In Tokyo, a go-between's duties only last about five years, I've heard.
Since I'm an old woman living alone people send me all sorts of things. And I get lots of visitors. In Kashio, I have relatives in the Miyashita family, which is the biggest landowner in Sawai. But, now that family has moved away. And we're also related to the Nashiwara family, of the old landlords of Nashiwara.
I. K. (born 1937) ♀ Kitairi 1
I was born in Irizawai and attended the local branch school until I was nine. Then I went to the main school in the centre of Kashio. Most children living in remote parts of the village spent the first three years of primary education in a branch school. The exception was Kitagawa, which was a long way out. The children there attended the branch school for the whole six years.
In those days most families had five or six children. Even in a small hamlet there were so many children that we were never bored. For example, in summer we used to dam the river to make our own swimming pool. Also, we used to eat lots of wild food - berries, wild pears and things like that. We didn't have candy, but people planted fruit trees like gumi for the kids. During the war the food was very plain. I remember after the war that I would walk for miles down to the village shop just to buy a lollipop. Although we were often hungry, I have the feeling that life was abundant. Does that sound strange? We used our wits. And we used our bodies. Play was always physically active - not like today's computer games. The other thing is that it was the job of the older children to look after the younger ones. When I think back to my childhood, I always seemed to be carrying a baby on my back.
I was the second child of the family. (My elder brother is the Shinto priest.) There were three children below me. My younger sister Toshiko married into the Furushima house, and runs the guest house Kaneyasu. She also teaches Japanese dance. My two younger brothers live out of the village - one is an osteopath in Nagoya, and the other runs a company in Suzaka.
When I was at the middle school, there were about sixty children in each year. I often used to walk home with a boy named Miyashita Kennosuke (he became an obstetrician and no longer lives in the village). In those days there were extra lessons for those going on to upper school and sometimes I didn't get home until 9 or 10 p.m. When I had to walk alone I was very frightened and would carry a stick. The road I took passed by Tanaka-san's house, went through Nakamine and the along the road above the house where Kiyokawa-san used to live.
In those days there wasn't that much time for playing. In addition to looking after the smaller kids, there were other jobs like cooking, stamping down the wheat and barley in the winter fields (mugi-fumi), and so on. Getting food for the silkworms was another big job. At certain times of the year we were very busy - for example, when we planted the rice seedlings. But in our house the children only helped out with the work on school holidays. We weren't given jobs after we got back from school during the week. The best time for playing was on the way home. We were always hungry, so the word would go around that there were ripe cucumber or tomatoes in so-and-so's field. And there was one a garden with a delicious plum tree. The house stood below and the old man who lived there couldn't walk, but would sit inside with the doors open, looking out. Despite him being there, we developed a strategy to steal the plums. First, some younger kids would walk past talking in loud voices. This was to catch his attention and put him off guard. Then some of the older boys would throw stones to knock the plums off the trees. The job of the girls was to crawl along the ground stuffing the plums into our pockets. I know that I shouldn't boast about it, but can you blame us? We were all so hungry.
Another fruit we used to eat was persimmons. After picking them we would cut them open and leave them to dry on a rock in some secluded place. When they has lost their astringency and were edible, we would go back and enjoy them. I'd forgotten the things we used to get up to, but now it's all coming back to me. It was what I call 'kids' wisdom'. The worst times were when it snowed. All the other children in the hamlet used to stay at home. But my father was strict that way - he said that even when the snow was deep I had to go to school. I can well remember crying my way to school on those days. My elder brother wasn't any help - more often than not he went on ahead by himself. The members of my family weren't hereditary Shinto priests. My brother got the job because the village didn't have a priest. At first he didn't want to do it, but our father said that he ought to. Anyway, the village paid for his training.
I was one of the few girls in the village to go to the upper school in Iida. In a class of sixty there were probably only two or three of us. But it wasn't much different for the boys. Few parents could afford it. In those days leaving home was quite a big thing. The Miyashita house was the biggest landowner in Sawai and Irizawai, but it wasn't that wealthy compared to other landowning families. Actually, when a beggar came into the hamlet people would usually send him to our house. Why did they do this? Perhaps it was because of my mother's character. She didn't discriminate between people. A beggar who came to our house would be given a meal and a bed like any guest. I remember once being scolded by my mother for making up a bed for one such traveller with just one mattress, when a guest would always be given two.
Looking back, I think that seeing how my mother treated others has had a direct effect on my own attitude. By the time of my childhood there were no longer kijishi (itinerant woodworkers with special privileges), but there were quite a few yamashi (woodsmen) living here and there. In particular, I remember the charcoal-makers around Kanbazawa, where the trail to Shiomi starts. Some of them would move on and others would stay. Kurokawa-san, whose daughter Setsuko works at the Sakuraya shop, was a woodsman who came from there. There were also charcoal-makers in the forests above Irizawai. They didn't own the land, so how they got the right to work it I don't know.
During the war I remember being taught at school how to use a bamboo spear in self-defence. Also, every morning we would have to bow deeply in the direction of imperial shrine (hoanden) in the school grounds. It stood on the location of the present music room. But Oshika being such a remote place, it was difficult to enforce militarism into education. That was probably why the 'blue-eyed doll' survived the war without being destroyed. The people of the village wanted to protect her. Perhaps it was the same for Prince Munenaga too. Kōsaka Takamune would never have been able to safeguard the prince for all those years without the cooperation of the villagers. And, come to think of it, that may be the reason why kabuki survived despite all the efforts of the central government to ban it. I know that there's a lot of back- biting which goes on in the village, but there's a natural solidarity which develops between people living in a remote place. It's the same with the newcomers - people grumble about them, but no-one says that they're not part of the village. I think that it's easier to be accepted in Oshika than in other places. I would say that the village is progressive place.
In contrast, rural areas of northern Japan - for example, Aomori - are still quite conservative. Generally speaking, western Japan is a progressive region. Women in Oshika aren't expected to be passive followers of the men, as they are in the more conservative areas of the country. The campaigns of the two women elected to the village council at the last election were run by men. It was the votes of the Shiokawa area of Kashio and the Nishi and Kawai hamlets which got those two women elected. Kashio folk are good at organizing the votes for their candidates. In Okawara people have a more individualistic outlook. In Wazo, everyone thinks 'I'm the greatest'. But, Kamasawa folk are more moderate and have a stronger togetherness. One of the aims of the program to get city folk to come and stay in private homes is to give the villagers broader outlooks. We don't want to be the proverbial frog in the well who knows nothing of the ocean.
I was a classmate of the present mayor of the village. He was born the youngest child in a family of girls - he has four or five elder sisters. Also, we're related - one of his elder sisters married one of my uncles. We were very friendly as kids and we're still good mates.
Going back to the difference between Okawara and Kashio. The character of Okawara was influenced by the five or six hundred workers who came to the village with the Kuhara company. They were not the sort of people to hoard their money. They would sooner go out and spend it. This feeling remains in Okawara. When my daughter set up her restaurant bar and guest house she picked Okawara because she thought she could get more customers there. If you were to give Okawara a symbol it would be 動 (activity), whereas Kashio would be 静 (stillness). Everyone acknowledges that the two halves of the village have different characters. It's said that Okawara is incapable of producing a village mayor. Even in the village office a majority of the top positions are occupied by people from Kashio.
As regards the power of individual families, no one family really stands out. There are the Suganuma and the Katagiri, but they haven't created power bases as families. What is conspicuous, though, is the concentration of intermarriage. In Nashiwara, for instance, everyone seems to be related. There have been lots of marriages between cousins, and so on. Actually, my husband is my cousin. Of course, this is a feature of life in all remote communities. In the old days marriage was not a matter of like or dislike. It was a question of whether or not a man would have you. You see, in those days there were few employment opportunities for women. Getting married was like getting a job. One got on with it. There was no such thing as divorce. Marriage was for life and so you had to make it work. When I was a child I remember hearing from my grandmother about so-and-so's wedding - about the bride in her white ceremonial hood trying to get a peep to see who her husband was. But, nowadays women's jobs have given them independence. This has given them the power to choose. So they don't have to endure unreasonable situations. This is a big difference.
There used to be a small silk-reeling factory in Ochiai, but the biggest employer was the Kuhara company, which was part of what is now the Nissan company. The director of the timbermill was a Nissan employee. Actually, the son of the old director - a man called Osuga - visited me last year. He lives in Ibaraki and is quite well-known as a counsellor. He's in his eighties now, but he went to primary school in Oshika.
When I was younger I was head of the village nursery school. In the afternoon before the children had a nap I would tell them one of the old stories of the village. Before long I had told them all the stories I knew, but they kept asking for more, so I began collecting stories from the old folk. We formed a folk story society, and Nakamura-san agreed to be the head. I remember Tada Mitsugu of Wazo knew a lot of stories. He's dead now, as are many of them. Later, we brought out a small book. There were several versions of some stories. Someone would finish telling a story, and someone else would say, 'Well, I heard it this way.' The version of 'The Crying Pine' in the book just happens to concern the baby of Prince Munenaga, but there are other stories about ordinary babies, and not just crying trees, but also crying stones, and so on. As I listened to these stories I came to understand that they were in fact deeply representative of the prayers and wishes of the people who told them. For example, the giant kettle which rolls down the hill in Wazo on a moonlit night is something that parents used in order to get their kids to come home before dark. It was the old people's way of saying what the public address system now tells them. And the tale of the girl who gives birth to a snake, is a warning to young girls about the dangers of lingering in lonely places.
In Shiokawa there used to be a man who people consulted if they felt ill or had troubles. His name was Kosugiyama Masatarō. He also performed house ceremonies (iematsuri). He's dead now but his son still lives there. I remember that my father consulted him once. When my mother had a bad stomachache. He came to our house and said that one of the trees near the house was 'unnatural', that it was inhibiting the natural flow. According to him the problem was a pine tree by the fence which was forcing its way into the garden. Another thing that people went to see him about was getting rid of intestinal worms (kaichū).
(Husband) People living here in Kitairi 1 (the branch school marks the dividing line between Kitairi 1 and 2) didn't have to go far to do their work. Most people's fields are close to their house. The nearby mountains on both sides of the river were where we used for to make charcoal. That is village land, so we had to get permission. The mountain across the river is called Takamori-yama on the map, but we've never called it that. To us it was always known as Nishi-yama ('west mountain'). None of the other mountains had names - except for the high ones like Kurokawa. In my memory there wasn't a shōya (headman with extensive lands) in Kitairi 1. There certainly was one in Kitairi 2. In Onnataka Kondo-san was the boss (oyakata). All the inhabitants of that hamlet were his tenants. Most of were called Miyashita. But Ginaiji was different. In Kitairi 1, most folk could get by with their own lands, plus income from silkworms and charcoal-making. But in those days one didn't need much money. People didn't have other jobs - forestry, construction work and so on - like they do now.
I was born in 1931. The people in Okawara the same age as me are Nakagawa Susumu, Ozawa Kanji, Ōshima Goichi, Imai Atsuru, and here in Kashio, Kinoshita Taketo. I attended the branch school in Kitairi for the first four years, then two years in the elementary school in Kashio. Then I did six years of middle and upper school in Iida. There used to be a road going from Hitokuchi in Kitairi 2 to Nakagawa, though I never used it. Then there was a road from near Jigoku Valley in Kitagawa to Komagane. At one time there were fifty-two households living in Kitagawa. It was a busy little place. There was a cableway with trolleys which brought in goods from Komagane. Then these goods were transported by horse to the shops in Kashio. I remember a man called Tsutsui would come past the house with his horses. He used to wear hardly anything. But Kitagawa was a difficult place to live. They grew no rice and didn't have a lot of silkworms. The main job was making charcoal. Many of the people living there had just drifted in. There weren't so many old houses. Now nobody lives there. A relative of the Tsutsui carrier who moved to Komagane brought up a lot of the land and comes regularly to tend the forests. He's a real worker. Ogura and Ōkura were common names in Kitagawa. Those names are associated with kijishi.
In my younger days Okawara seemed like another village. I hardly ever went there and knew next to nothing about it. Visiting relatives was the only reason for people from here to go to Okawara. The first time that I can remember doing anything jointly with someone in Okawara was when I was head of the Kashio PTA. Matsuo Yukihisa was head of the Okawara PTA and it was just before the two schools amalgamated. I didn't know Komagane either (in those days we called it Akaho). There wasn't any road to speak of - just a small track. Our main town was Iida. I've only ever appeared in a kabuki play once. That was as a member of the young men's festival association (omatsuri seinen). I don't like kabuki but I had no choice. Everyone had to do kabuki at least once in their lives. We did the play on the stage in Kitairi by the school. That stage was destroyed in the 1961 disaster. Our teacher was Kojima Yorito, Renko-san's dad. He was a friend of my dad, but he was such a strict teacher that it was a bit nerve- racking. The play we did was 'Yuigahama' - a wonderful piece. We sent out invitations to people all over Kashio and to some places in Okawara. I remember that Maruhachi the clothes shop supported us. The performance was on 3rd May. We did performances every year up to the 1961 disaster. For the last performance before the disaster we'd employed a craftsman from Iida to make new karakami screens. We should have put them away upstairs in the storehouse, but as they were left downstairs they were completely ruined by the flood. That was the end of kabuki in Kitairi. We also did modern plays. I preferred these to kabuki. I remember doing 'Chichi kaeru'. The performances lasted half a day, and would also include kabuki, dance and other entertainments too. There wasn't a dance teacher. We'd get an elder sister or brother to teach us.
There were three kabuki teachers in Kashio. The other two were Kojima Yoshie, who was another frightening person, and Furuyashiki Yoritaka, who was more gentle. The present style of Oshika kabuki is that of Katagiri Noboru. He first learnt kabuki from his grandfather. His mother's maiden name was Kojima. She came from a house at the near end of Nakamine. Noboru says that he 'stole' his kabuki techniques from this man. It was that plus his own efforts. The three teachers were each active in different areas of Kashio. Yorito in Kitairi and Kitagawa, Furuyashiki in Tōbu (Nashiwara and Nakamine) and Yoshie in Ichiba (his house was Shiogawa-ya behind Kojima the barber's shop). The 1961 disaster, when the landslide on Mt. Onishi killed dozens of people, put Oshika in the national spotlight. But actually, before the landslide happened it was Kashio which has suffered most of the damage. Kitagawa was particularly bad. The first three people died there. The next place was the stream running from Nishi into Shiogawa by Maruyama Minoru's house. That broke its banks. We thought all the damage was in Kashio, but then on the 29th, when the weather finally improved, the mountain in Okawara collapsed.
Would there be more people living in Oshika now if the disaster hadn't happened? In the long run I don't think that it made so much difference. One can't make a living from charcoal or forestry any more, and there's only a little farm land here. Most of the people who have left since the disaster made successes of their lives. Look at Takayasu. We're the only house remaining around here. But the other five families that left have all done well. Gradually they moved out and now live in places like Komagane, Ina and Matsukawa. In the case of hamlets like Kitagawa and Onnataka there was an organized move. The people there were given a financial grant to move out.
In the old days every household had a horse. But then the horses were replaced by oxen, which turned out to be much slower. Animals were essential for preparing the paddies until mechanical rotivators came into use. Most folk in Kitairi cut the hay they needed for their cattle from their own land. So they didn't have to get involved in the rivalry which occurred in other hamlets when communal grasslands owned by the village office were opened on 1st October. The forests from Nakamine and Sawai up to Oike all used to be grass.
(I.K.) My impression of Kitairi is that people help each other out and get on well together. No one seeks personal importance. They're a little different from people in Irizawai, where individual personalities are stronger. Okawara and Kashio have always found it difficult to agree. The amalgamation of the schools was a problem. As things turned out the first to amalgamate were the nursery schools, followed by the elementary schools and last of all the middle schools. By rights it should have been the other way round.
M. R. (born 1923) ♂ Kamasawa
About 30 minutes climb up the mountain from Kamasawa brings you to the water channel which was used to supply Kamasawa's rice paddies. Above that is another channel which farmers from Wazo used. Then above that there was a road which was used by Wazo villagers. That is the present Higashiyama road. It connected with Koshiji, which stretched to the Shiokawa Hut, and from there it went up over Sasayama to Yamanashi. This road, which was called Kōshū Kaidō, was opened up by the ancestors of the house in which Funazawa Shōzō used to live in Sawado. The road was used to bring dried fish and goods from Yamanashi into Oshika. The people who opened the road were two or three generations back from the Sawado-san who was the first head of the Okawara Agricultural Cooperative.
Up in the area above the water channel near Shozawa farmers from Wazo had their fields for hay and they also grew potatoes and other vegetables there. We in Kamasawa had our hay fields below. Basically both areas were originally common land, but due to disagreements it was decided that the inhabitants of Wazo could use the upper area, if they left the lower area to us.
Originally the road between Kamasawa and Wazo was maintained by both hamlets, but as a result of the disagreement over communal land, the Wazo folk stopped using the road, and they refused to maintain it further than the S-bend at the entry to Wazo, where the tall cherry tree used to stand. So after that we had to maintain that long stretch of road, cut the grass, keep it free of snow and all that.
Previously, farmers from Wazo cultivated fields and burnt charcoal in the area around Goshodaira, but after the disagreement over communal rights, they stopped doing this and left the area to us. This whole incident happened many years ago, long before the War, but it resulted in a bad relationship between the two hamlets which lasted for a long time.
Then in 1920, electricity came to Kamasawa. In order to bring the electricity lines into the hamlet trees were cut from the mountain overlooking Kashio above Torigaike (this is above the present camp site - there used to be a pond there) and these trees were dragged all they way to Sawado, and erected along the road between Sawado and Kamasawa. At that time the inhabitants of Wazo said that they wouldn't use the electricity from the power lines which we were erecting (the source of the electricity was a private company in Ina) - instead they would set up their own hydro-generating equipment at the stream near the Shinano Shrine. They said that they didn't want to be involved in our scheme. As a result, Kamasawa folks set up the electricity poles all the way from Sawado to Kamasawa. But, then not so long afterwards, without a bye or leave we discovered that Wazo had hooked themselves on to the power lines that we had set up! This, of course, added to the bad relationship between the two hamlets.
Despite being neighbours very few marriages took place between Kamasawa and Wazo people. If you look at the present inhabitants of Kamasawa there are very few who have relatives in Wazo. There's only Hara-san (his wife came from Wazo and his daughter married into a Wazo family, Arashi). One other Wazo marriage took place in the Inba family (the house is empty now, but it stands alongside Uchida's) - his wife was originally from the Kojima family of Wazo. So there was often bother between Wazo and Kamasawa, and this was still going on when I came to live here just after the War. I think that one of Nakamura-sensei's children was bullied by kids from Wazo especially badly.
As I said, the common land used by Kamasawa folk wasaround Goshodaira. Then there was Nozokiyama - here the areas owned by individuals were almost all cultivated as fields for growing grains and other food and hay. The hay was for animal feed and for laying down in barns for the animals to sleep on. There was a saying 'Yaseuma sentoya' - in other words even a thin horse required 1000 sheaves of hay to see it through the winter. One toya was made by tying together 3 hand-sized bandles of grass to make a sheaf. Grass for hay was collected between the end of June and mid-October. It was left stacked in the fields and brought in before the first snow in December. Stacked on large frames positioned around the house, the sheaves also had the function of being windbreaks.
Anyway, we needed a lot of hay to see us through the winter, so the grasslands set aside for this purpose were quite extensive. In contrast to the land under individual ownership, the village-owned land was mainly used for cutting wood for charcoal. Of course, people had always burnt charcoal in Oshika, but it was after the War that the demand really grew. At that time, all households in Kamasawa except one produced charcoal for sale. Also, farmers from Aoki burnt charcoal on the slopes of Hachimanji, the mountain across from the Koshibu river (the peak in front of Mae-Chausu). Between Mae-Chausu and Oku-Chausu there is a large stream called Kamizawa.
Going further into the mountains, there is a stream called Kurobaisawa. The stream on the opposite side is called Akabaisawa. Then going further into the mountains from Nozokiyama, the next mountain is called Hayadake. Most of the charcoal burning was done on Nozokiyama, but between Nozokiyama and Hayadake there was a saddle where nets were hung to catch birds - migrating birds - for food. This happened before the War, after the War the practise was banned.
Going back to charcoal burning. This really began in earnest around 1950. Kamasawa people burnt charcoal on Nozokiyama, while Kami-Aoki and Kitanobara people burnt charcoal on Hachimanji. Kami-Aoki and Kitanobara folk knew the area behind Hachimanji very well. There were rice paddies all the way from Koshibu Bridge up to Kitanobara, and those paddies were supplied with water from the Tsugamura wetland, where a pond had been dug. So for the people of Kami-Aoki the area around Hachimanji was not only a place for charcoal burning, but a source of water for their rice paddies. For the first 4 or 5 years, Kamasawa folk would carry the charcoal on their backs to a storehouse located at the present agricultural cooperative in Ichiba. Children going to school would always carry some charcoal or some other produce for sale. Later, a storehouse was erected in Sawado for the people from Wazo, Sawado and Kamasawa to bring their charcoal to. But then when the Sawado folk stopped making charcoal (they had no more forests), the storehouse was moved to the house of the charcoal examiner in Wazo. The charcoal examiner was the father of the lower Nakagawa household. His name was Shichirō. Then when the road to Kamasawa was built, the next storehouse was put up at Hotoke-ishi. So that's where we took our charcoal, together with the Wazo people who burnt charcoal near Kamasawa.
In order to build the Tsugamura Dam the Construction Ministry extended the road. What is now Arakawa-so was originally the site of an office building used by the Construction Ministry. When that office was closed, the big storehouse thathad stood at Sawado was taken apart and brought to the site. So that was the next site where the charcoal burnt around here was stored. We would hold it back or release it depending on the market price. Usually we sold it to a wholesaler in Kami-Ina. When we stopped producing charcoal for sale, we earned our money working as labourers on dam construction and other civil engineering projects or by producing wood for baseball bats - timber like tara, shioji, aodako, mizubusa). As I said, Kamasawa people burnt their charcoal on Nozokiyama and Goshodaira, they didn't often cross the Koshibu river. They only really began to cross the river after the War when some of them planted saplings for timber on the mountains which they owned. The only people in Kamasawa who owned mountain land on the other side of the Koshibu river were Shimosawa and Kamamura.
It was the land between Goshodaira and Terasawa that we in Kamasawa used mostly for hay. Incidentally, the reason for the name Terasawa ('temple stream') came from 3 temples which once existed there - shimoyashiki, nakayashiki and kamiyashiki. They dated from the time of Prince Munenaga, who belonged to the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The piled stone bases on which each had been built lasted until recently. They were all washed away in the heavy rains of 1961. I was working there before that on a village scheme to plant mountain land for commercial timber - the village was desperate to improve its finances - and the sturdy stone bases were there then. The stones they used were not stones which they had picked up in the mountains, but stones which had been properly cut to shape. How they got then there I don't know. The bottom two buildings were on this side of the stream, the upper one was in a small depression away from the stream. The open land between Goshodaira and Terasawa where we cut hay was planted for timber about 30 or 40 years ago, and is now forest.
In the mountains directly up the mountain from the hamlet there were fields for vegetables and grains, as well as rice paddies. To keep the water for the paddies warm, it was agreed that you did not plant trees on your land. The land above the top water channel was used by the folks from Wazo as fields for potatoes and grains. The land the other side of Shozawa was their area for cutting grass for hay.
Now, when we come to the land between Kamasawa and Hotoke-ishi, the fields below the road were sown with grains or were planted with mulberry trees for silkworms (mulberry trees were planted on the poorer land). The land above the road between Aisawa and Kamasawa was occupied by grain or vegetable fields, although on the Aisawa side there were stretches of bamboo forest.
Beyond Hotoke-ishi, the land above the road was village forest, where you were not allowd to cut the trees. Below the road, between Hotoke-ishi and the gully where the big rockslide occurred recently the forest was Kamasawa's 'shrine forest' (jinja-rin). The land the other side of that is privately owned - I think that it belongs to someone in Sawado or Wazo. The land below that (the land along the river?) belongs to Takahashi Ryūbun. He broke up rocks for use as garden ornaments. After breaking up the rocks he left them in the river for several years to improve their shape, and later took them out and sold them.
Now, the land below the road from Hinata-yasumi to Kannon number 16 belows to Kanbayashi (Maeshima Yukio), then there's Miyazaki's land, near Akaishi-so, where he still has some rice paddies. It's true that Matsushita Yoshitoshi's family owned a lot of the mountain land going up the Ogōuchi valley from Kamasawa. Further up, the mountain was originally owned by an Okawara village association. When Okawara and Kashio amalgamated to form Oshika, Matsushita Takao's ancestors bought the land. It now belongs to Matsushita Sakuo (Sakuo being a branch house of Takao).
On the other side of the Ogōuchizawa river most of the land belongs to Matsushita Yoshitoshi or Maeshima (Umanojo). However, Matsushita Yoshitoshi's father sold bits of land on both sides of the river, so the ownership situation is now quite complicated. He was quite a character - he would use the money to patronize geisha in Iida. But some of the people who paid him for the land never received the registration documents. That happened to this house, although for all intents and purposes we're the owners. Still we don't possess any official documents. We were formerly a branch family of Matsushita Yoshitoshi's house, so we said that it did not matter.
Kogireyama is an example of a mountain near here that has been divided into little bits. Actually, in former times Wazo folks farmed fields around Kogireyama (fields below the road going to Goshodaira). The old road through Kamasawa passed above the present entry to the village, then came down by the present meeting hall, past my house, then up by Kitazawa and up over Shozawa to Kogireyama. We would lend things to Wazo people who passed by - a straw cape, if it was raining.
The mountain above the road by Kogireyama belonged to Tada (Miyanokoshi), Matsushita Yoshitoshi and others. But around Kogireyama, the division of land was very unclear. The mountain is full of little inlets. How can you tell where one piece of property begins and ends? When eventually they came to make a written record of land ownership, it was an impossible task. People had been satisfied to conduct land deals on a visual basis, using landmarks like rocks, trees and such things. Naturally there were disagreements. So everyone was trying to bribe the official in charge! Eventually, maps were drawn up which included the note: These documents are the official basis for solving all arguments involving division of land. Kamasawa, like other hamlets received copies. I've seen them. I think that they are kept in Yokomae Yoshio's house.
It was Yokomae's great-grandfather who told me all about the land arrangements here. The other reason I know about the land ownership situation in these mountains is because from 1949 I worked for the Forestry Union (Shinrin Kumiai) as a part-time employee . I helped in the 1st Postwar Plan and walked these mountains as a guide. Then later around the time of the disaster in 1961 or perhaps even before that, the village became short of cash and sold off chunks of the village-owned forest to timber and pulp companies. This was in the 1960s. Perhaps they had conscience pangs as a result of cutting down so much natural forest, but anywayset up a forestry groups (zōrinhan) to make the areas into plantations for the future resources of the village (kihon zaisan). Until very recently this group existed to look after the village-owned plantations (Tomiichirō was a labourer in the group). The forestry group was under the control of the Sangyō-ka of the Village Office. (Note: Eirin-sho is the national forestry organization. The Shinrin-Kumiai is another different body, and that too has its own zōrinhan ).
As you can imagine from what I've said, the mountain lands were in continual use - the grass was cut for hay, and trees for charcoal. So there was a natural cycle of growth and harvest. As there were fewer trees the sunlight penetrated the forest, stimulating the growth of mushrooms and other edible fungi. Now it's different. In summer the trees form a canopy preventing the earth from ever feeling the warmth of the sunlight - so that makes it difficult for mushrooms to grow. The mountain directly up from this hamlet consisted of rice paddies and other fields. Above the paddies there was also a communal area where we could thin the forest for firewood - here the trees were small and there were sunny spots all over the forest. So when we went up to tend our rice paddies, in the autumn, we often collected mushrooms. They were so plentiful we would bring a basketful home. But now you really have to search to find any. It's the same with ferns and other edible wild plants. No one used to worry about people coming on to their land to pick them, as they do now. There was enough for everyone. But, now after thirty years of neglect the forest has reverted to a wild state.
The hunters in Kamasawa were Kamamura, Yokomae Yoshio (there were three generations of hunters in this family), Ōkubo (the old man's speciality was catching small animals with traps - raccoons, stoats, martens - for their furs), Inba, Miyashita (the house next to you - he was a specialist hunter), Uchikura (where you live - he was a specialist hunter too), and I hunted. When I say specialist hunter, I mean we spent a lot of time in the winter hunting. Of course, we made charcoal too. But, if we went up to our kilns one morning and found animal tracks we would go and get our guns and hunt the animal. Also, we would go hunting at night-time - flying squirrels and that sort of thing. There used to be flying squirrels in the woods around here, but one does not see any now. I remember when they cut the forest around Sanshōbō, there were flying squirrels trying to escape in all directions.
There used to be lots of deer up in the mountain forests around Torikurayama. It was deciduous forest with many large old trees, providing lots of food for the animals. Now it is spruce plantation, so there's nothing there for the animals to eat. That's why they come down to the village to try to find food. Up the Ogōuchi valley near Kohikagezawa there was a copper mine owned by Matsushita Yoshitoshi. The deposits were discoverd by an ancestor of Shimosawa Jihei, but as he didn't know anything about registering his right someone more into the legal side of things beat him to it. (Note: Hara-san says that Shimosawa received payment for his discovery.) Of the Kamasawa folk, the families who were involved in the copper mine were Hara, Uchikura and Matsushita Sakuo. People from those houses worked at the mine. Because it was impossible to transport the copper in its raw state, they had to separate the ore on the site. So they built a furnace to refine the ore and fanned the flame with enormous bellows made from horse skin. The furnace was fueled by charcoal, so that led to a good demand for local charcoal - mainly from Goshodaira. At that time the land on the other side of Terasawa was cleared by slash-and-burn for food production and charcoal. The plant produced a lot of pollution. Due to the release of sulphurous acid gas the surrounding trees all died. And there were also problems downstream when the poisonous effluent got into the paddy fields in Ichiba. (Note: Hara- san, who was born in 1905, never worked in the copper mine. He says that by then the seam was exhausted).
There are various stone monuments over the mountains - yama no kami (gods of the mountain), Kodama-sama (silkworm spirit/god of sericulture) and so on. Kodama-sama is not just a protective spirit of those keeping silkworms, but a general guardian god of agriculture. Kodama-sama is often found in the highest fields overlooking a village, while yama no kami can be found at the entrance to the mountains. Someone going into the mountains would pay their respect at a small stone shrine of the god.
The main road from Kamasawa to Kashio was over the mountains by the Koshiji pass. Now the area has been planted with larch and the road has been disused for many decades but once when I was making charcoal with Yokomae Kinshi (he's dead now) we went up there just for fun - to see what it was like. I also climbed to the Sanpuku Pass. The old road went from Goshodaira, across Terasawa, up Hatchō-zaka and then climbed towards Toyoguchiyama. Once some of us were asked by the village office to cut the mountain trail to the Sanpuku Pass. It took us about three days. At that time there were fewer trees, the forest was lighter and there was more grass. Actually there were three paths going across Terasawa towards Sanpuku - upper, middle and lower - there was a bridge across the stream for the lower path, but the rest we could wade across. Then we climbed a mountain called Doronbo (how it got that name I don't know) and came to the upper part of Hatchō-zaka. Above that we put a wooden bridge across a difficult rocky piece and then climbed to reach what is now the end of the Torikura road.
I also acted as a porter carrying food and equipment along the Koshibu Valley up to the Hirokawara Hut when repair work was being carried out on the river. What are the scenic places along the valley? Well, the best is the Takayama Waterfall, though it's not as high as it used to be. Along the Ogōuchi Valley there's Minokuchi, where there is a series a small waterfalls and natural rock basins and spectacular falls at the Toyoguchizawa. Further upstream there is the Nunobiki-no-taki（is this another name for Amagoi-no-taki?), but I think that the waterfall at Toyoguchizawa is better. Actually you can clearly see the Nunobiki falls from a flat area of land a little further on from the present car park under Toyoguchiyama. I think that the village office wants to extend the road to that flat area, but as it is in a National Forest (kokuyūrin) it is difficult to get permission. Previously, there was a member of the National Diet whose ambitious idea was to construct a Torikura Super Rindo up to the Sanpuku Pass and then along the ridge to Mt. Akaishi and across into Shizuoka.
As I said I did various jobs in projects along the Koshibu Valley - I once carried some very heavy survey equipment to the top of Mt. Akaishi, I also helped construct the Nanakama Dam, which needed very deep foundations - that was difficult. We worked in all conditions - bitter cold, rain (it was a narrow valley and so the rain always seemed to be blowing horizontally). On one occasion I didn't get home until two in the morning. That was when the concrete blocks were late being made and we had to put them into place.
When we were making charcoal we were busy. We were up so early and home so late that sometime we never even got to see our children. When we were working on dam construction we were working side by side with machines, so we were even busier.
N.H. (born 1908) ♂ Kamasawa
Japan changed from the old lunar calendar to the new solar (Gregorian) calendar in 1872. So from this time Oshika was using the new calendar for all public matters. But the new calendar didn't really suit the traditional way of doing thing - the round of agricultural activities or the seasonal festivals - so in Kamasawa we were still using the lunar calendar as late as the mid-1920s. By the old calendar, everything is just over a month later. So the New Year comes in early February. In late December and early January the weather is still fine, so there is the feeling that it is wasteful not to be outside doing something.
In Kamasawa, farming was the main occupation, but it was impossible to make a living by farming alone. So when the farming season finished at the end of autumn, people transferred to other activities. What did they do? Well, first, they cut timber from the forest and brought it down to the river for transportation. In winter the level of the river is at its lowest so this is the best time for floating logs down. It becomes very difficult after a heavy rainfall. The other main occupation was charcoal burning. In the old days there was an enormous demand for charcoal. Selling charcoal was an important source of income for us. During the charcoal-burning season the scenery would change. There would be thin trails of smoke coming from all over the mountain forests across the valley, where the men were burning their kilns. From their homes the men could judge by the colour of the smoke if all was going well. If it seemed that the fire might go out or that the charcoal was ready to be removed they would hurry back to their kilns.
People also tried to have a craft skill - for example bucket-making, roofing, carpentry and so on. This skill became their winter occupation. For women, the main winter occupation was sewing. This was a skill which all women acquired before marriage. Farming was, of course, a job which men and women did together. So was the annual cleaning of the house which took place as a preparation for the New Year. This was done sometime between the 20th and 28th of December. When this was finished, preparations for the New Year would begin in earnest - the making of rice cakes, the putting up of pine and bamboo decorations. In the old days, we used a young pine sapling and were careful that the number of branches was auspicious - 3, 5 or 7. Due to the wartime frugality measures this custom was ended, and people came to make do with just a branch.
There were all sorts of New Year rituals, many of which we no longer observe today. At every seasonal change or when beginning something new Japanese people like to make a dedication to the appropriate deity. So at New Year each house set up a shrine for the Year God in a position facing the most appropriate direction. Also, on 1st January, all the members of the community would worship at the community shrine which is dedicated to the god Usa-Hachiman. There they would greet each other and exchange mutual affirmations of goodwill during the coming year. At the New Year, there would also be household ceremonies for various other gods: Ebisu and Daikoku, who are two of the so-called 'seven gods of luck', and Amaterasu the goddess of the sun from which the imperial family is said to have descended. Another important event of the New Year was the meeting of the Young People's Club on 2nd January. In this case, 'young' meant all males between the ages of 15 and 30. The community depended on them as its driving force - important jobs such as management of the mountain forests and fire-fighting activities were left in the hands of the young men. So their New Year meeting was an occasion for them to get into mental shape for another busy year, and they marked it with some pretty heavy drinking! New Year decorations would be taken down on the morning of 7th January. But, then preparations for koshōgatsu ('little new year') would soon begin. Since the pine, bamboo and straw decorations were sacred, the purest, most appropriate way of disposal was by burning. So they would be built into a bonfire (called 'a shrine') and here too there would be a god, the god of fertility, represented as a carved wooden phallus, symbolizing prayers for a good harvest and for protection against disease and disaster during the coming year.
In the old days, there were all sorts of other events. For example, a giant straw sandal would be woven and hung by the main entrance to the hamlet. There would be straw sandals hanging all along the path from our hamlet down into the main village. This happened until around the late 1920s. Nowadays such a ceremony would be regarded as an important folk tradition, but not so back in the old times. Outsiders were beginning to come into Oshika to climb the mountains. As children we would meet the mountaineers on the path and they might ask us about the sandals. After we had done our best to explain, they would say something like, 'These folk still believe in old wives' tales!' So after a while, we decided to abandon such practices, not wanting to become the targets of such comments. Even those rituals which remained lost credence, and although the form may have remained, the spirit was gone. Recently, there has been an attempt to revive old rituals. Nowadays, down in the Bunman hamlet in the centre of the village they have a splendidly decorated bonfire, and fireworks, which is something which we never had back in the old days.
Originally, the high mountains were regarded as holy places from which humans should stay away. When I was a child, outsiders would come to climb the mountains, but even then some of this feeling remained among the older people. 'Someone's gone up the mountain. There'll be rough weather tonight,' they would say. Of course, many of the villagers went hunting in winter, but they would never go up the high mountains.
On the question of whether these traditional Shinto rituals and beliefs can be called religious, I tend to interpret them more as symbols associated with attracting good luck and the avoidance of evil. In comparison, we have Buddhism, which does contain a deep religious philosophy of salvation, but as far as I can remember there was no attempt to explain the tenets of that faith. From around the 17th century Buddhism in Japan became corrupt. This was a direct result of the Tokugawa government's use of Buddhist temples as administrative organs of control. People had to register births and deaths at temples, get travel permits from them and so on. The priests made a very good living from their position of authority and neglected their duty of expounding the dharma law. Japanese folk rituals are mostly influenced by the beliefs of Shinto, which, as I said, are concerned mainly with concepts of purification and defilement - in practical terms, with life and death.
Now to return to the events of the calendar year, the first spring ceremony is the Dolls' Festival on 3rd March. This involves setting out an arrangement of dolls and making kusa-mochi (rice cakes flavoured with mugwort). Under the old lunar calendar this would have taken place in mid-April, after the advent of spring. As it is, it now occurs at the end of winter, which feels all wrong. And, of course, at that time there are no mugwort shoots to flavour the rice cakes. The individual hamlets which make up the village of Oshika celebrate their spring festivals at their local shrines. Previously the day was fixed, but nowadays, most people are at work and so the festival takes place on a convenient Sunday. On such a day the Shinto priest is very busy, travelling all over the village to officiate at different shrines. Kamasawa is a rare community which still holds the spring festival on 18th April, regardless of whether it is a holiday or weekday.
The revaluation of folk rituals has led to the restoration of old ceremonies in same parts of the village. I'm in favour of this, not in a religious sense, but as a recognition of our cultural inheritance. I'd like them to retain the form of the ceremonies as accurately as possible - this is the meaning of cultural transmission. These ceremonies are like antique objects - if you try to refine them, they lose their value.
The Shimotsuki Festival which takes places in Kami-mura, over the mountain from Oshika is a good example of a traditional ceremony which has been handed down successfully to the present day. There they've managed to maintain both the form and the spirit of the ritual. When they put on a god's mask they become a god. I think it's the same with kabuki - a good actor becomes the part he or she is playing. During the Shimotsuki Festival, they splash their hands into a cauldron of boiling water as a gesture of purification. To do that requires a measure of spiritual composure. There are still masks in some of the shrines in Oshika, but the sort of dances and ceremonies which can be seen at the Shimotsuki Festival were abandoned here during the second half of the 19th century.
The reason they were abandoned in Oshika is this. Originally, ceremonies at a Shinto shrine centered on the negi, which is the name given to the person in each hamlet who would traditionally perform the sacred ceremonies. Unlike the present-day priests, these negi also used a drum in their prayers. However, when the new Meiji administration took over from the Tokugawa shogunate in the second half of the 19th century, it decreed that non-qualified Shinto priests could not conduct ceremonies. So, it was the national policy to remove power from the customary negi and to give this authority to qualified Shinto priests, who of course were under the control of the national government. Another point to bear in mind is that the family which had hereditarily provided Okawara (Note: Oshika was originally two villages, Okawara and Kashio which came together to form Oshika) with its leaders was a keen supporter of Kokugaku ('national learning'), the new academic system which was utilized by the new Meiji government to give itself cultural as well as political authority. This family used its influence to strip the negi of their powers, and many of the old ceremonies were abandoned in Oshika, but in neighbouring Kami-mura have continued to this day.
Within Oshika itself, Kashio has maintained its traditional folk ceremonies much more carefully than Okawara. You can see this today. Even with the same ceremonies, there is quite a difference between the way things are conducted in Okawara and Kashio. Characteristically, Okawara people are more interested in innovation. This difference in temperament is something which has developed over the centuries. It extends not only to matters of custom, but also to political affairs.
Okawara people are more likely to confront authority. In Aoki, there is a shrine dedicated to Sakura Sōgorō. This was the direct result of an incident that happened in the past and is known as the 'Okawara disturbance.' Sakura Sōgorō was enshrined as a god to provide them with inspiration in their protest against the hereditary nature of the Okawara village headman. The 118 people who participated in the disturbance had a genuine grievance and they called upon the spirit of Sōgorō to lead them in their just cause.
Another big factor in the decline of customary ceremonies was the change in life styles which occurred during the early decades of the 20th century. Individuals began to think in a more scientific way and no longer felt it necessary to pray for the intervention of the Buddhas or the Shinto gods. Of course, the introduction of the scientific approach was a part of national educational policy. A teacher was expected to faithfully follow the guidelines of national policy. He did not have that much scope to propagate his own views - although there was a period in the history of Nagano Prefecture when it was widely thought that the responsibility for the content of educational instruction should lie with the teacher and not the national government. This was in the early 1920s, when the proponents of 'Taisho democracy' advocated among other things 'educational freedom'. In Nagano Prefecture, an incident occurred over the issue of moral training which made national headlines.
Going on to Japan's defeat in World War II and to the subsequent U.S. occupation, one major effect of U.S. policy was the change in the status and composition of Shinto. With the position of Shinto subject to minute regulation, it became impossible for village authorities to provide any assistance to hamlet shrines. The casual links which had existed between shrine and village office completely disappeared, and the burden of shrine maintenance was now solely the task of the parishioners.
The subsequent period of rapid economic growth further estranged people from their customs and traditions. People's attention was now firmly focused on the 'miracles' of technological innovation and the seducing atmosphere of consumerism. They lost interest in the traditions of village life, and as a result the celebration of various annual festivals was simplified or discontinued. Take, for example, koshogatsu in early January. I remember this as a really enjoyable festival, with all sorts of things happening. We used to make decorations on which were written our prayers for a good rice harvest or a good harvest of millet in the coming year. Then there was the hatsu-uma ('first horse') festival, in which the horse became the object of worship. I also remember enjoying the preparations for the 'tango no sekku (Boys' Festival). In those days people did not have expensive samurai dolls. But we were very busy helping put up carp streamers at houses all over the hamlet. When we had finished the flowing streamers were a beautiful sight.
Nowadays, people are trying to revive some of the old festivals. I think that it is worthwhile even if we restore only the form. This is happening not only in Oshika, but all over the Shimoina area.
* The festival of the winter solstice was not celebrated communally, but individual households did observe it by eating pumpkin. For that reason every household tried to keep a pumpkin harvested in late summer until that date. Of course, when pumpkin became freely available in the shops people stopped bothering.
* Kamakuwa-sama ('god of agricultural tools') -- This was observed widely in Kamasawa. It was one of the events of koshōgatsu. Sickles, hoes and other tools were 'purified' by washing and brought into the house, and an offering of wine made. Basically, koshōgatsu was a farming festival.
* Kodama-sama ('god of sericulture') was another big event of koshōgatsu. Small rice dumplings representing silkworm cocoons were stuck onto branches of hemlock spruce cut from the forest. Just as nowadays people celebrate Christmas by decorating a tree, so we too made a beautifully decorations. As children, we enjoyed koshōgatsu much more than honshōgatsu (the main New Year festival). Going back to Kodama-sama, you must remember that the household finances depended on the success of the year's silkworms, so people put a lot of effort into the festival by making a splendid decoration.
* Hatsu-uma -- First day of the horse. Sometimes this fell within the period of koshōgatsu', ometimes it did not.
* Gion-sama -- This was observed by some people in Kamasawa, who observed the festival in a simple way by lighting a candle and offering a prayer.
* 210th Day of the Year (Hyakusho no yakunichi lit. 'farmers' unlucky day') -- This day was in a period when bad weather might destroy a crop, so one marked the day with Buddhist prayers for the avoidance of such damage. People sat in a circle and passed around a large rosary. Also, a sickle would be tied to the top of a tall tree near the temple to 'cut' the wind. It was a symbolic act to prevent bad weather at a crucial time in the farming year.
* Shūkaku-sai' (Harvest Festival) -- Sometimes the contributions of individual households to finance the hamlet and its festivals were calculated on the basis of each household's silkworm harvest. I remember this happening two or three times.
* Kō (mutual associations) -- Financial support associations like mujin existed in Kamasawa. Other kō consisted of groups of people worshipping the gods of specific shrine, e.g. Ise, Togakushi, Mitsumine, Suwa, Akiba, etc.
* Gyōja/shugendō -- Another kō was started in the Taisho period by a man named Mineshita of Aoki, whose family had trained in ascetic mountain practices. This was at a time when mountaineering became popular. 'Gyōja' or 'shugendō' aimed to strengthen their powers with ascetic practices in the mountains. People enlisted the help of such figures to protect their house or cure them of illness. The feeling that spirits reside in the high mountains comes from the cult of shugendō. By going to the high mountains, one partakes of their spiritual power. The belief that there is secret power in the mountains made them awesome in the eyes of ordinary people. The cult of the 'mountain god' (yama no kami) is strong in this area. When one climbs the mountain for the first time each year, one always makes an offering to the mountain god. In some places the mountain god becomes the god of the rice field in the spring and then returns to the mountains in the autumn, but I don't think that customs exists in Oshika. They are separate.
K. I. (born 1910) ♀ Shiokawa
My grandfather was a doctor living in Ikuta. He
married an Oshika woman and they came to live in a house
above the Ichiba Shrine. As the roads were not
good he visited his patients by horse. When he was called
out in the middle of the night someone would come to guide
him. He would be paid later - for example, when the income
from the silkworms (kaikoagari) came in. He would get a
man or my mother to go round collecting the money. People
here were relatively poor. My grandfather died when I was
in the third year at primary school. His eldest son succeeded
him, and moved into this house, Kagetsukan. But it was
difficult to make a living simply by being a doctor, so we
sold toys and for a time made tofu. Making tofu was a hard
job - the beans had to be manually crushed in a stone
mortar, not by an electric machine as today. When I was nineteen
I was adopted by this man (who was my uncle) and his
wife after their eldest daughter died. My father by birth
was a part-time farmer and also worked at the village
Actually my grandfather was not born in Ikuta. His
grandfather was a samurai with the Mito clan, which allied
itself with the Tokugawa shogunate in the mid 19th-century
struggle between the emperor and the shogun. It seems that
after being defeated in a battle his force scattered and he
came to Iida and settled there. My great-grandfather was
born there, and there's an interesting story about him.
Apparently he was asked to write the characters for a
festive flag hoisted at matsuri of the Atago Shrine. But,
because every time the banner was used it rained it became
known as the Atago nurebata. Although I haven't seen
it, they say that the banner is still kept at the shrine.
Anyway, my great-grandfather made a living from medicine and
other odd jobs, but his son, my grandfather apparently had
quite a hard childhood. Still, by studying he too became a
doctor and after arriving in Ikuta was offered marriage with
a daughter of the Kojima family of Kashio, a fairly good
house next to the Ichiba Shrine (the house is now empty).
My grandfather and his wife had a lot of children. One of
the daughters married the priest of Kōshōji, the temple in
Okawara. So the present priest is my cousin.
At its height Shiokawa probably had around 50 houses.
The boundaries of Shiokawa are the river and a small stream
further on from the Agricultural Cooperative shop. Going up
the valley Shiokawa extends as far as Shio-no-yu and the
other hot spring hotels.
Nyūya is part of the Nashiwara hamlet. It's a
small settlement and most of the families there have the
The largest shop in Shiokawa was called Kagaiya. Next
to Kagaiya lived a family called Ogura who ran a small silk-
making factory. The Agricultural Cooperative (Nōgyō Kyōdō
Kumiai) was known simply as Nōgyō Kumiai. At that time
there was a large silk factory in Ochiai, which was run by
the Agricultural Cooperative. By the time that the silk
factory began in Ochiai, the Oguras' private factory had
folded up - the family left the village and went to Tokyo,
but one of the daughters came back - that is Saito Wakako-
Renko-san's family next door also ran a sake shop, and
there was also giya, a large shop over the bridge. The
present shop is a branch house of that family.
About 30 of the 50 houses in Shiokawa made their living
from agriculture and forestry - growing wheat on the sloped
fields and rice on the flat.
Before the Agricultural Cooperative was established
merchants would come to buy raw silk, wheat and other
produce. And, of course, timber. My husband was born in
Kami-Aoki. His grandfather was a big landowner and well-
known for building his own house. My husband's elder
brother is Matsuzawa Yoshikazu.
Going back to my adopted father, in addition to being a
doctor, shopkeeper, tofu and senbei maker, he also acted as
an intermediary in the timber business. The timber cut from
the imperial forests (goryorin) was brought to my father's
place by horse. He acted as a wholesaler. Here the wood
was tied up, addressed, taken to Kitagawa and transported by
cableway (sakudō) to customers in Komagane. This was
perhaps his biggest job.
In former times the headmen for the village of Kashio
probably came from the Ōshima family. They have a big house
and own lots of land. However, I did hear that for a time -
perhaps there were deaths or some other misfortune - the
house was looked after by a tenant.
The Ōshima house stands in a part of the village known
as Hikage ('shadow'). Three houses stand in the shadow of
the mountain - Oshima, Inada and Sawaguchi Toraichi.
Although I suppose the Oshima family were originally
the shōya, in my memory they were
never called anything other than Oshima-san. It's the same
with the other distinguished houses (meika) - Nashiwara,
Miyashita, Kondo - they were always known by their name, not
by any particular title.
When the cableway at Kitagawa was built in early in the
1910s it brought Komagane and Takato closer to Shiokawa.
But, people went to Iida more than Komagane. The route to
Iida was up Hojo-zaka, passing through to Ikuta.
(Note: Gando was opened in 1937.) We crossed the
river at a suspension bridge this side of Shinano Kenzai.
To Iida it was more than half-a-day's walk. I remember my
mother telling me that one morning she argued with my father
while they were making senbei, and ran away. Even though she
was carrying her young daughter she was in Iida before dark.
She must have walked very fast! This all happened before I
was I was adopted.
Originally the family into which my grandfather married
built a house in Okawara. But, later, another
doctor called Yoshikawa started a practise, so the
family came to live in Kashio, first at Ikenohata (Ikebata)
near the stream in Nishi and later at Kagetsukan. The house
which stood here before was always getting flooded - the
river embankments were not so strong in those days. When
the people moved out to live just above where Kondo-sensei's
house is, my father bought the land and built this house.
The reason why it is half Western-style is because the
carpenter who constructed it went to Tokyo to help after the
Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. He was a skilled and
imaginative man and while there he saw some Western-style
buildings in Yokohama. They must have made a big impression
on him, because when my father said he wanted to build a
house the carpenter asked if he could do one in Western
style. Since he didn't possess any training in Western
building techniques, he had to rely on memory and
imagination. I've seen a photograph of the house which
stood before - it was a plain one-storey building standing
in a field of mulberry trees.
There used to be a photographer in Kashio - he lived
just above the house into which I was born. He was a bit of
a dandy. His house was in Shiobara at the entry to
Nakamine. The place is empty now. It stands across the
road from the Miyashita house (the wife is a welfare
helper). The name of the carpenter who built this house was
Ito Hisato, I think. The name of the
photographer was Shimodaira Kazushige - it wasn't a hobby
but a business.
My kabuki teacher's name was Kojima Yoshie and his
house was just below Ichiba Shrine - at present no-one lives
there. The house has a tiled roof and is called Shiogawaya.
It was probably the house of the headman (shōya),
though after the war one didn't use such terms. My
grandfather married a girl from the family. It was a well-
off, family and Yoshie was the eldest son. As he didn't
have to work for a living, he travelled a lot and indulged
his hobbies, one of which was kabuki. He was a fine
performer - the best in the village. He married a woman
from Nishi - Shita no Kojima - on the other side of the
river by the suspension bridge on the way to the middle
school. He was a wonderful dancer and the best joruri
performer I've heard. Katagiri-san often came to see him
and sometimes stayed at the house. I think that he was also
related by blood. Yoshie-san was one of the teachers of
Noboru-chan, but Noboru also learnt by his own efforts and from
other teachers and by travel and observation. He was
friendly with a woman teacher in Iida. But his own father
wasn't a kabuki teacher.
Yoshie-san died about 20 years ago - in his old age he
lived with a son in Nagoya. Among the other teachers were
Kojima Seiichirō of Nakamine. Also, Renko-san's father
Kojima Yorito of Kitairi was a joruri player.
Yoshie-san and Noboru-chan travelled a lot outside
Oshika, but the Kojimas of Nakamine were farmers. Probably,
their family comprised a line of jōruri players. The
descendant of Seiichi-san used to work in the village office
and was head of Kominkan (Takeshi-san). Also, I think that
the grandfather of Furuyashiki-san was a jōruri chanter. Or
was it his father?
The reason that kabuki was so popular in Oshika was
that there was no other entertainment. People here were
passionate kabuki fans. There's an interesting story. At
the beginning of this century kabuki was banned by decree
(gohatto). However, Kashio people continued to perform
kabuki in secret. They would place lookouts on the mountain
passes, and if the police came along that person would
become the scapegoat by causing a rumpus and getting himself
arrested. My natural father, who lived in the top house of
Shiogawa, was once arrested like that, so I heard.
There was no cooperation between kabuki players in
Kashio and Okawara - far from it! Actually there a strong
sense of rivalry. I don't know so much about kabuki in
Okawara, but there was a jōruri player called Yoneyama-san.
He was related to my husband.
To go back to Yoshie-san, he was a very strict teacher.
He could be rather frightening. He would correct you only
once. If you made the same mistake twice he would simply
glare, but say nothing.
My interest in kabuki stretches a long way back. When
I was a child a troupe of travelling players came to give a
performance at Ichiba Shrine. Among them was a beautiful
woman actress. My mother took me to see the play, but when
we got home later I was still excited. I was probably about
eight at the time. But I remember saying to my mother that I
wanted to join the troupe and become a kabuki player. This
made my mother very angry - she said that if that was what I
wanted I could collect my belongings and go. And then she
pushed me out of the house. As a result of this experience
I didn't ever dare to talk about kabuki to my mother again.
Still, I did go to see performances of the village kabuki,
and used to follow my father when he went backstage.
It wasn't until after I was married that I actually
performed. While I was working in the Food Agency (Shokuryō
Kōdan). I heard that one of the plays in the kabuki
programme for the next day was going to be cut because they
didn't have a woman to play the leading part. The role was
Okaru in a scene from'Chūshingura.
It was one of my favourite pieces. When I heard, I got
permission to leave the office early, and rushed home. I
explained the situation to my adopted mother and said that I
wanted to take on the part. Her reaction was 'If you want
to, then go ahead!' and she added 'I'll go and see the
teacher.' So she went off up to Yoshie-san's house, and the
next minute she was coming down the step with Yoshie-san.
And he was carrying his samisen. Anyway, after Yoshie-san
taught me the movements, my father said, 'Come on, I'll help
you. It's a big part and we don't have much time.' I
wasn't confident that I could learn the lines. All I knew
was that I really wanted to do it. So my father gave me the
cues while I tried to learn the lines. My mother, who was
working in the next room could hear us, so I felt rather
uneasy, but at the same time very grateful. She was quite a
stern woman and wasn't always so understanding.
The next day was the day of the performance. I played
Okaru opposite Yoshie's Heimon (O-karu's elder brother).
The piece is from 'Chushingura' but stands on its own. The
dialogue between Heimon and O-karu forms the main part of
the play. Somehow I managed it. Afterwards everyone
praised me - not so much the quality of the performance, but
the enthusiasm I put into it. However, my mother by birth
was angry. In fact, she apologized for my selfish behavior
and scolded me. Still my adopted mother supported me. That
was the beginning of my kabuki career. I still feel
grateful to my adoptive parents for their help, and, of
course, to my husband - he has always let me do as I like.
In those days kabuki was not performed regularly like
now. Actually, performances were fairly scarce - less than
one a year. There would be a special occasion and we would
be asked to do a play. So we would get together, allocate
the parts and begin rehearsals. We always rehearsed very
Kabuki groups were based around shrines - Ichiba,
Nashiwara, etc. Kabuki would be performed, for example, at
the accession of the emperor, or a military victory abroad
(though kabuki was banned for the duration of the Pacific
War) or the promulgation of the new constitution. The On-
bashira Festival was another chance.
In contrast, an archery contest was held at the annual
festival. Though I don't remember it being held after the
War - perhaps it was banned as a martial art. I think that
Yoneyama-san of Bunman was a good archer. Many members of
the Yoneyama family were active. The present Yoneyama-san's
father was the Bunman kabuki teacher.
There was also a tea ceremony group which began
when the Community Centre (Kominkan) hired a teacher. The
teacher was the daughter of a friend of Ito-sensei, who was
head of the Community Centre. She came from Takato and was
in her 60s. She visited us every month for two days (stayed
overnight) to teach us. This continued for two years and
after that we had learnt enough to carry on by ourselves. I
have also heard that groups of women who gathered together
to do sewing together during the farmers' rest season also
practised the tea ceremony. I think they probably used the
sewing room at the Kashio Primary School. There wasn't a
community centre in those days.
Many Oshika people were proficient in various arts. A
lot of promising people were killed in the war.
M. Y. (born 1932) ♂ Wazo
The area above Akasu-san, where Kanda-san and
Minedaira-san live is called Minegai. Tenjiku is the name,
not of an area, but of a house - the one next to Yokomaku.
The area above that is now planted for timber (hinoki), but
much of it was rice paddy. Terraced rice fields stretched
to Yanagibara, below the Torikura road. They were the
highest paddy fields in Wazo - the altitude is perhaps 1200
metres, which is about the same level as the Funagata
rice fields in Irizawai. Rice was grown there until around
1960 - the beginning of the gentan (government policy to
reduce production of excess rice). The fields were probably
originally constructed and first cultivated in around the
second decade of this century. Judging from the name I
suppose that there were originally a lot of willow trees
there. The fields are located just above the spring from
which Sawado gets its water. The top fields belong to
Kobayashi Kanichi family. The stream passing close by is
Wazo folk own most of the land up to the Torikura road.
The land at the top was mostly grassland.
Grass was formerly the main means of fertilizing rice
fields. These grasslands were all privately owned. People
also needed grass for feeding and bedding horses. They got
this from their private lands and from communal lands at
Kuronta. The grasslands at Kuronta were available for use
from 1st October. On that day everyone who wanted to cut
grass there went to stake their claim to a piece of land.
First come first served. These communal lands were under
the jurisdiction of the village office.
In the case of this family, we farmed the fields around
this house, and also mountain land which we rented from
Minezawa-san. Also, we had rice paddies in Kitanobara (in Wazo,
not Aoki), and fields where we grew mulberry leaves for silkworms. Then,
for grass, we used our own land located on the road to
Kamasawa (near what is now Akaishisō) and also Kuronta. We
got wood from forests which we owned near Akaishisō.
Most of the houses in Wazo are like us - that is, they
don't own large tracts of mountain land, but are have bits
here and bits there.
In prewar Wazo there were probably about four large
landowners. Tada-san (Akaishisō) is one of the
oldest families. Then there was Matsushita-sensei and the
Matsushita house by the dead pine tree - that's empty now,
the family moved to Chino. In Oshika, there are six big
Matsushita houses (Matsushita rokken). Matsushita Takao-san
is one of them.
However, in the case of my family, we originally lived
in Bunman, and came up to here from there. After the war we
were able to expand our land area by buying up the land
which we had been using.
I haven't heard the term shōya (headman) used in Wazo.
Where I have heard the term used is for the Maeshimas, for
Aoki's Matsushita-ke, in Kashio for Oshima, in Nakamine for
Furushima, in Kitairi for Kondo and, in Nashiwara for
Nashiwara-san. If we did use the word in Wazo, it
would be for the two Matsushitas.
In the old days, families in Oshika were bound far more
by honke (main house) and bunke (branch house) ties.
Strangely, however, the Maeshima house does not seem to have
any real branch families. Although we have the same
surname, we're not related to them. In this house, I'm 12th
generation. Records of my family go back to 1673.
Exactly when the first families came to Wazo is not so
clear, but at the latest it was the Nanchō period (period of
the Southern Dynasty). As I said, the first people here
were the Tadas and Matsushitas.
We owned our rice fields in Kitanobara from before the
war. I remember going up there in the wartime to work with a
horse to do shirokaki (plough the flooded fields to prepare
for transplanting the seedlings). At that time no one was
living in Kitanobara, but lots of people from Wazo went up
there to farm - of course, we had to go on foot. The horse
would carry the heavy loads. I am not sure when the rice
fields in Kitanobara were first constructed, probably at the
beginning of Taisho (1912-1926) when there was a big drive
to expand farming land. At least, the fields had all been
constructed by the earliest time in my memory.
Although I have no precise information, my impression
is that most people in Wazo owned their own land, or rather
farmed a combination of their own land and rented land.
Perhaps no more than half were (in prewar times), strictly
speaking, tenant farmers. But then, at the end of the war
this all changed - tenants were allowed to buy the land they
had been farming. By the 1960s some of them had become
landowners themselves and were renting out land. So the
situation had reversed!
There were also other big changes. By 1965 Japan had
made the complete move from rural-based to city-based
society. You may be surprised to know that in earlier
times, Oshika people were said to be more in touch with the
times than people living in Iida. As far as fashions went,
Oshika was ahead of Iida. Also, the village reputedly had
the strongest drinkers in the whole Shimoina region. During
the 1950s, when its population reached 5,200, Oshika was a
But, life in the 1950s was demanding. Here's one
example. Around 1951/2, the hamlet of Wazo installed its
own water system without any help from the village office.
Before that we depended on wells for the water supply.
Putting in a water supply for the whole hamlet was an
enormous project. Of course, if you lived in the town,
water was supplied by the public authority. Still, in
regard to food, we were better off than the those towns. In
the difficult postwar years we had self-sufficiency in
staples like rice, soy beans and adzuki beans, and we made
our own alcohol with potatoes.
Our cash crops were silk thread and konnyaku. In the
early postwar years charcoal earned cash, but that probably
peaked around 1955. Then there were dairy cows. We
began keeping dairy cows in 1962. Up to then, we had earned
cash from silkworms.
Another form of cash income was forestry. In the
postwar period the demand for timber was enormous,
especially from around 1955. So this became a major source
of income for public finances in the village. At this time
I was put in charge of a group of workers working in the
mountain forests - particularly in the Kuronta area. Then
after the 1961 disaster I was asked to help out in the
village office, and I entered employment there.
At around this time people who had lived by farming
were realizing that they could get a better income by going
into full-time employment. So the whole economic framework
was changing. Agriculture gradually declined. And this has
continued up to the present day. We kept dairy cows until
To go back and talk about my forestry job. The village
office split Oshika into four areas and created a number of
work groups (zōrin-han). My area was from the Mukaiyama
Pasture to Kuronta. We planted trees, looked after the
saplings in the early stages of growth and supervised
felling of standing timber. This work was directly
controlled by the village office. Later, when the timber
business declined the tasks were entrusted to the Forestry
Cooperative (Shinrin Kumiai). The workers in each group
were, of course local people. I had mainly workers from
Shimizu and Wazo. In the Aoki group it would have been Aoki
people, and so on. In view of the remote locations, there
were huts (zōrin-goya) in the mountains where workers could
spend the night. These huts were often old kusakari-goya,
which had been used by people cutting hay for horses. The
greatest number of people I had in my group was 26. We
didn't work in the winter - a newly-enacted employment
insurance law gave us income for the winter months. The
workers in these groups were generally young people whose
parents would be looking after the family farm.
The konnyaku cash crop was biggest in Kashio,
especially Nakamine and Nishi, where the conditions were
ideal. In Okawara, Nakao produced the best konnyaku. The
Agricultural Cooperative acted as middleman in shipping this
In the 1950s few people were working in salaried jobs.
Before the 1961 disaster, there were only about twenty people
employed in the village office. This doubled after the
disaster. Now, including the staff of the clinic and the
work centre, the number is probably around seventy. But of these
over forty are employed by the prefecture.
So the 1961 disaster was quite a turning point, not
only for the expansion of the village office, but also for
the emergence and development of the village's construction
companies. At present there are four construction companies -
that is, after Sugita went bankrupt. There were other
companies, Takahashi Ryūbun-san ran one. He has been involved in
various projects - Shimada Construction Company, Ota
Construction Company. He got himself enough work. But in
the end he failed because he had no management skills.
In the old days the jūmin-ka and sōmu-ka were together.
So were sangyō-ka and kensetsu-ka, which was known as nōsei-
ka. Although the village office was smaller, the clinic was
better staffed. There were three doctors and facilities for
patients to be admitted and treated.
It was also about this time that the quarrying for
stone and gravel began. This industry quickly developed
after an ordinance prohibiting quarrying in the Tenryū river
Other employment available was the Agricultural
Cooperative, but that did not take on so many employees.
The Cooperative looked after things like grains, soy beans,
konnyaku, silk cocoons and so on. However, cows and milk
came under the South Nagano Dairy Union (Nanshin Rakunō
Kumiai). So the Cooperative did not have that much to do.
Previously the Cooperative was involved in charcoal
- a supervisor was attached to the Cooperative.
There has only ever been one shop in Wazo. Ota Shōten
came later. Before that there was a shop across the road
from Ota called Shimosawa. Kamasawa folk came to do their
When the Kohikage copper mine was operating, this house
provided it with miso. This was when I was a small child.
We didn't deliver to the mine - someone from there would
come here to collect it. Also, there were a few people from
Wazo who worked at the mine.
There were lots of small waterwheels all over Wazo -
some privately owned, some communally. We had one - it was
used for milling wheat. At Waratataki just above Minezawa-
san's place there was a waterwheel for pounding straw to
soften it to make straw sandals and other daily articles.
This was for communal use, so if you went there and someone
was using it you waited and chatted until it was your turn.
As far as I remember nobody made their own cooking oil
in Wazo. However, in my house we made shimidōfu (freeze-
dried tofu). People would bring their soy beans
to us and we would grind them (chinbiki) and make them into
dried tofu, which the people would eat themselves or give to
friends as presents. A number of houses were involved in
chinbiki. A lot of our beans came from Bunman, and people
brought beans to us from Kamasawa too. We ground
the beans in a stone mortar. When I was 11 or 12 years old I used
to help out. It was a job for the winter. People paid us in cash, not goods.
Then there were specialist tofu shops in Ichiba,
Ochiai and so on. The shop in Ichiba also pressed rapeseed
There was no specialist blacksmith in Wazo but
Minezawa-san's father fixed horseshoes. There was also a
house which fixed horseshoes in Kami-Ichiba. But, for
farming tools and other things we used the Yamaguchi
blacksmith's shop opposite Marugo in Ichiba. He was the
specialist blacksmith in the area.
There were few specialist occupations in Wazo. It was
first and foremost a farming village. Although the ground
was stony, the aspect was good, and it was fairly flat.
Most houses had enough land to get by. So agriculture was
the main job here. As far as selling farm produce went,
silk cocoons, konnyaku and soy beans were the main cash
crops. The quality of Oshika's soy beans was notably high.
Although we are neighbouring villages we did not have
that much contact with the Kamasawa hamlet. During the war
I was a high school student, and we took part in voluntary
work with Kamasawa. Also, there was the Young People's
Association (seinendan), which especially after the War was
very active. The young people's groups from the various
hamlets would often take part in events in Ōkawara. For
example, there was the annual Culture Festival (bunkasai),
now its called the Industry and Culture Festival (sangyō
bunkasai). The young people's groups in each hamlet would
stage plays and entertainment. We also put on plays at the
shrine festival. The Nonomiya shrine used to possess some
fine kabuki costumes. There was also a festive float which
would be pulled around as we performed the lion dance
(shishimai). In my memory the years of greatest activity
were between 1952 and 1955. Those young men who had
returned after defeat in the war - first sons, second sons
and third sons - were at the peak of their powers. But
after 1955, they began drifting off into the cities, working
in factories or entering companies. Of course, the teachers
(for kabuki and dance) remained, but the trend was going the
other way. From this time the part which the part which the
traditional festivals played in village life began to
The names of the kabuki teachers in Wazo were Tada
Iwatarō and Nakagawa Shūichirō. Kabuki was a regular feature of the
shrine festival in Wazo. Not just kabuki, but also dance
and modern plays. I took part in a modern play by Kikuchi
Kan called 'Chichi Kaeru'. We directed it ourselves. The
hamlet's representative of the Community Centre (kominkan)
was in charge.
There was no kabuki during the war, but after the war
there were kabuki performances in Wazo every year. The
young people would gather a month before the shrine festival
and begin rehearsals. And there would be lots of drinking
of doboroku (homemade wine).
As I said, kabuki in Wazo petered out in the late
1950s, but after that the young people still put on dance
and other plays. The focus shifted to the annual Culture
Festival, which was held in the gymnasium of the elementary
school. There wasn't any kabuki then. The programme was dance and plays.
The dance teacher was Matsushima Ken. His style of dance
did not come from kabuki, but it was a style which he had
created himself without the help of a teacher. Katagiri-san
was the same. Although he learnt the basics of kabuki dance
from a teacher, he has developed a style of his own over a
When I look back, I feel nostalgic. People got
together to do things. Life was not easy, but we did not
need money in order to enjoy ourselves. And we seemed to
have more time. At least, this was true once the harvest
had been got in. I remember learning my text for the play
during the evenings. We rehearsed hard for a month. You
couldn't get young people to do that these days. In those
days the great number of people in Oshika gave the village a
feeling of variety which you don't get now. Nowadays, at
the kabuki and dance performances, it's always the same
faces. Then, there were always different faces.
K.T. (born 1931) ♂ Irizawai
Sawai and Irizawai may appear to be one community on the
map, but in reality they are two separate hamlets. In
Sawai, a landowner named Miyashita held most of the power,
but Irizawai was independent of him. One can best see the
situation by looking at the temples. In Sawai the main
temple was Kōrinji. Actually, it was originally located in
Nashiwara, but as the result of a disagreement between
landlords Miyashita moved the temple to Sawai. When this
happened the people of Irizawai decided not to have anything more to do with
the temple. In other words, they asserted their
independence. This happened around 300 years ago. The fact
that the people of Irizawai were independent farmers and not
tenants can be seen from the posthumous names on graves.
Most of the names end with zenjōmon. This is not the sort
of name given to a lowly tenant farmer's family, who would
normally receive the name zenji or zennyo - the lowest
rank. The next rank is shamon followed by zenjōmon,
anshu, shinji and koji.
By the proliferation of the title zenjomon we can see
that the people were independent farmers. People here also
had larger land holdings - around 1 cho for each household.
Traditionally there have been around 17 houses in Irizawai.
This was the situation during the Meiji period - my father
was born in 1889. This had dropped to 15 by 1940, but with
the end of the war the number rose to 18 - soldiers returned
home, forests were cut and new land put into cultivation.
However, after the 1961 disaster the population suddenly
During my generation, many old place names have been
forgotten. When land goes out of use people soon forget the
old names. So, now Higashiyama ('east mountain') refers to
a large area which was formerly divided into many
subsections. It's the same with Kuribora ('chestnut cave').
The area around Oike is now all known as Jokiri ('upper
mist'). The area formerly called Hebigasa ('snake hat'),
which is a name I would like to keep, has been lumped into
Oike. This area included fields for summer cultivation
(irisaku). People lived here during the summer - not in
huts, but in fairly good houses, some of which had stone
bases. Later, when the land became hay meadows for horses
and cows, people spent less time there, and didn't maintain
the houses. When the houses collapsed, they built small
huts - but still there was a well and a toilet and flowers
planted in the gardens - irises, chrysanthemums, which they
could enjoy when they came haymaking in summer and early
autumn. The area was farmed mostly by Irizawai folk,
although Sawai people did sometimes rent the land for use.
The land for summer cultivation was above Funagata. The old
road (horses used it, so it was at least one metre
width) followed the present road to the innermost part of
Funagata. After that on can still see parts of it in the forest plantations.
Funagata was first cultivated before the Meiji
Restoration, originally as rice paddy, but later planted
with mulberry trees. The leaves were carried down to the
village for the silkworms. Other crops such as spring
wheat, buckwheat and millet were grown.
The oldest rice paddy in the Funagata area was
developed after the great Tenmei famine in the late 18th century. It was
tiny (30 tsubo), but in the first year they harvested around 1 hyō (60 kilos). What a surprise to be able to grow rice at such a high altitude! It's probably the
highest rice paddy in Japan! So, after that success, they began constructing
paddies in earnest - removing the stones and rocks from the earth,
levelling the fields, building ridges between the fields.
When I was young I remember that we used to have an old
triangular shaped wooden wheelbarrow. My grandfather told
me that it had been used to cart earth and stones when the
early paddies were being made. This saved labour
compared to the former method, in which two people carried the earth in a straw
basket suspended from poles. My ancestors also
created a latticed bamboo frame for separating stones from
earth. This frame was stood up vertically and soil and
stones shovelled down from the top. We had the blacksmith
make a big shovel (jūnō) for the job. The soil
fell through, while the stones slid down the bamboo slats.
These stones were used to fill in the gaps between the rocks
in the stone walls. This is another example of a way people
using their ingenuity to make devices for specific
tasks. The latticed frame was bound with wisteria vines -
having removed the bark, the vines would be moderately
pounded, soaked in the river and the draff removed. Then
they would be twined into cord.
The paddies at Funagata were completed by the year
1895. The last paddy to be constructed in this area was
1941 - and that belonged to the Shimodaira family. There were also
paddies at Doronta, fed by water from Iriyamazawa. Their
area was nearly 7 tan in area, and they were lower in altitude, so
the rice yields were good. But now those fields have been
planted with trees for timber.
If you live in Irizawai you can eat rice, people used
to say. Irizawai was one of the first mountain hamlets in
Oshika to grow rice. At that time rice was only usually
eaten on special occasions - celebrations, festivals, New
Year and so on.
When people saw that rice could be grown in Irizawai,
they followed suit. That's how the paddies on Minayama were
first developed. The area was geographically blessed and
produced good rice. Next was Nakamine - but to get water
for their paddies the inhabitants had to dig a 4,800 meters
water channel to Iriyamazawa. They needed water for a wide
area of paddy fields - around 3 chō.
The pipe, which was made of pottery, is not in used
now. There were always problems with leakage. At the
beginning of the season it took a week for the water to get
from the stream to the fields. Leaks would be plugged using
red clay. In comparison, Irizawai paddies got their water
in 3 hours. However, although Nakamine folks had difficulty
flooding their fields, the fact that there was lots of sunshine meant that the
rice was abundant and tasty. The fields were lower, and by
the time that the water did get to them it was warm. In
Funagata, the best yield that we could hope for was 3 hyō
from 1 tan. Cultivation was difficult and always uncertain.
So, in addition to the rice, there were fields near the hamlet where wheat, soy beans and
millet were grown. In Funagata, apart from rice, the other main crop was
Most of the fields we owned were around this house or
in Funagata. Including the paddies, we were probably
cultivating around 20 chō. This was quite a big area, but
the fields were steep, so you couldn't farm very
intensively. After a while Funagata was planted with
mulberry trees, and millet and buckwheat in the spaces
between the trees.
We also practised slash-and-burn methods of cultivation
in the mountains - mainly in Higashiyama. We rarely
ventured as far as Iriyama. This used to be state forest
(kokuyūrin), but now it belongs to the village (sonyūrin).
Hay was gathered at various places - from both private
land and communal land - for example Higashiyama and the
lower slopes of Sasayama. Folk from Nakamine, Nashiwara,
Irizawai and Sawai all came to get hay for their animals on the grasslands going
up from Oike. People would also do slash-and-burn
and charcoal-burning there. It was a well-used
mountain. People would often be involved in more than one
occupation - for example, after harvesting the grass for hay
and cutting the trees for charcoal they would cultivate
buckwheat on the land. On the opening day of the hay-cutting season
(yama-no-kuchiake), people would be up early, so
as to be first to the best places. The timber for making charcoal came from village land.
The charcoal-burning season was December to March. We would
assess how much timber we needed beforehand and upon payment
of a certain fee receive cutting rights from the village.
We produced charcoal until around 1958. During the
postwar period, lots of new technologies were introduced, so
methods changed. For example, the introduction of the
chainsaw and aerial lines for transporting timber were big
changes. However, the widespread use of gas cookers spelt
the end for charcoal. The demand for it naturally died out.
In this house we started using gas for cooking from around
1963 - before that we cooked on a wood stove or open
charcoal fire (irori). We had gas before some folks in the
town. It's strange logic, but you often find that people
living in the remotest places are among the first attracted
to new technology.
There used to be a road going through the state forest
over the mountains into Hase to Koseto on the Mibu river.
At Koseto there was a hut, which forestry officials
sometimes used. You should remember that these mountains
were originally under the direct control of the Tokugawa
shogunate (tenryō). From Meiji they became Imperial land
(goryōrin ), then state (kokuyūrin) and lastly village
(sonyūrin). The change from state to village ownership was
made in order to bring the lands together. This was around
1952/53. The formerly separated state forests were
collected en masse and are now located at Kamasawa, Aoki and
In my memory the only people who used the track between
Irizawai and Koseto were forestry officials. In earlier
times it would have been in general use by foresters and
others (yamashi, kijishi). But, I do remember as a child
crossing the mountain in order to go fishing for iwana in
the Mibu river at a pool called Mikobuchi. It took about
2.5 hours from this house. But, as far as I remember there
was little contact between Oshika and Hase villagers.
As for the track known as Koshu Kaido that crossed the
mountains near the Sanpuku Pass, it was a long road! It
took two nights to the old Ikawa-mura.
People in Irizawai were able to satisfy most
needs within Kashio. Occasionally we went to Okawara - for
example, buy sake at Umanojo. Going further afield, we
had contact with Kami-Ina, via the Bungui Pass to Takato and
Komagane. The old road to the Bungui Pass no longer exists.
One of the roads went over Kurokawa Pass and on to Onnataka.
People from Kamasawa also travelled to Irizawai over Koshiji
and Iriyama Koshiji. The road over Iriyama was widened for
pulling logs using wooden sledges known as kinma. It went on to
Obannoiwaya and crossed what's now the Kitagawa Pasture
on the way to the Bungui Pass. This upper road was used by forest
workers and also ninja secretly transmitting information
about battles. The Oshika-Hase area was inhabited by the
forces of Prince Munenaga, so his men would have used these
There was less contact with Iida than Kami-Ina. The
road to Iida went up Hojozaka. There was a road on the
opposite bank from Shinano Kenzai. It was the site of a hamlet
established by Hojo supporters fleeing after defeat by the
Ashikaga clan in the first half of the 14th century.
The whole area including Okeya was badly
damaged in the flood of 1943. The Okeya paddy fields were
destroyed. I remember going there the year after (when I was
in my first year at middle school). We had to lead army
goats from one of the highland pastures down through the
village. At Okeya the road had been completely destroyed by
the flood water. It was frightening. The road up Hojozaka
joined the present road at the Ikuta Pass.
The road from Irizawai to Okawara crossed Minayama.
People would use that road to buy sake from Maeshima.
Charcoal was transported from here to Kami-Ina by
horse. Also, special food for weddings, funerals and such
events came from Kami-Ina. There was a wholesaler at
Nakazawa, which is now a shop called Yorozuya. For a
wedding the food would be ordered and delivered, but for a
funeral we just had to go and get what was in stock.
Of course, there was far less contact between Kashio
and Okawara than there is now. The schools were separate.
The main contact would be to buy things that weren't sold
here and to visit relatives. But I wasn't aware of any
characteristic differences between Kashio and Okawara
people, although there were big differences between people
in Oshika and somewhere like Matsukawa. Most Kashio people
had relatives in Okawara. I had a relatives in Kamasawa,
Aoki and Nakao. In Kamasawa, this family was related to
the Funazawa, Kamijima and Uchikura families. The
last time I can remember visiting Kamasawa for a family
ceremony was to go to a funeral at the Kamijima house
in Goshodaira. I think that the man who lived
there was called Yuzuru.
The main landowners in Okawara were Maeshima,
Matsushita of Wazo, Matsushita-ke and Takegami of Aoki. In
Kashio the biggest landowner was Oshima-san. Then there was
Kondo-san of Kitairi. In this area the biggest landowners
are Nashiwara-san and Miyashita-san - Miyashita Michio of
Sawai. The Miyashitas don't live here anymore. Miyashita
Kennosuke, the son, works as a doctor in Tokyo. His mother
lived alone, but died two years ago. He owned lots of
mountain land, but sold it off to buyers from Hokkaido and
Chiba. An outrageous thing to do. Most of the mountain
land across the Shiokawa river belonged to the Miyashita
family. There were some magnificent pine forests, but at
the end of the war they were sold the land to the state for
cultivation as farming land.
As I said, Nashiwara-san is the biggest landowner in
the hamlet of Nashiwara, and in Nakamine there is Okubo-san.
Furushima was at important house in Nakamine, but lost
influence as a result of internal troubles. The honke (main
house) is Furushima Chihiro, which is the big house next
door to his present house. Furushima Kanji's is the branch
Kashio people tend to have strong family ties -
families such as Suganuma, Matsuzawa, Kojima and Katagiri.
Until quite recently they made decisions as family units.
In Nakamine, the Katagiri family still holds a family
festival. The Kojimas did too until recently - Kojima
Takeshi, Yoshio, Masadai.
Here in Irizawai, each household functions as an
independent unit. The oldest households (in Irizawai and
Sawai) are Shimizu, Fujisawa and the lower Kinoshita. This
house is a relatively new one. But it's not directly
related to the Kinoshitas of Sawai or Nashiwara, although
the family crest is the same.
Miyashita Kikō is a branch house of the Miyashita
family of Sawai. Shimodaira is a branch house of the
Nashiwara family. Another Miyashita branch family was
Genjiro. But, he moved to Suwa in 1941 and died there.
Although most of the people in Irizawai were landed
farmers there were a few tenant farmers, though they were
slightly different from what we normally think of as
At around the time of the Meiji Restoration the
powerful houses gained great areas of land - particularly
mountain land. This was because officials registering the
ownership of land accepted bribes from powerful families in
regard to areas where ownership was vague or disputed. This
probably happened more in Okawara. In Kashio there were not
so many cases. But there was a big dispute (sanron) between
farmers and the government, when lands which the farmers had
been using passed into state ownership (kanyūchi). The case
was brought to court in Matsumoto and lasted for ten years.
Eventually the two sides came to an agreement, and although
the villagers lost, the settlement provided for a fairly
wide area of private land (minyūchi).
Detailed maps showing land ownership seem to have been
drawn up in the late 19th century. My grandfather was born
in 1889 and his elder brother, my great uncle, said that
when he was 13 he held the rope for government surveyors
drawing up official maps of the village. Those maps are at
present kept in the village office.
Around this hamlet there are 7 commemorative batō-kannon stones
dating back to 1832-34. It was a time when horse diseases were prevalent and
many horses died. This type of stone was erected as an offering to
the soul of a horse and as an invocation for the
eradication of disease. A number - at least five of them
remain - on a curve by the side of the road just past
Funagata, at Umadome in Iriyama on the way to Oban-iwaya, at
Torizurume above here, and above Okubo-san's house. There
was one below Oike, but that was knocked out of place by a
digger when they were levelling the ground. I have heard
that there is another in Nakamine, but I haven't seen it.
The places where these stones stand all have some sort of
significance - for example, Umadome (horses could be taken
no further after that point because the mountain becomes too
rocky), or at Funagata, the place where horses were treated
by bloodletting (chitori).
The path across the mountains to Koseto still exists.
I would like the village to maintain these old roads. There
is also Iriyama - the last time we cut the undergrowth there
was seven years ago. I took a group of hikers from Iida
there last year and the bamboo grass made it well near
impossible to get to the top. So I'd like to make the area
around Oike more accessible - the scenery is beautiful and there is also great historical significance.
K.S. (born 1923) ♂ Shiokawa
I was born on New Year's Day 1923 - an auspicious day. My grandfather was a doctor. I graduated from school in 1937 during an economically depressed period when it was impossible for my parents to pay for me to go to medical school. Instead, I was apprenticed to a pharmacist. Then in 1944 I was conscripted into the army as a civilian employee and sent to China to work in a munitions factory. Later in 1944 I entered military service in a communications corps and was discharged in October 1945.
After returning to Oshika I worked as a farmer, I was also active in the young people's association and helped in the forestry cooperative. Then from 1953 I was employed by the village community centre. On New Year's Eve of that year while on patrol with the village fire-fighting force I fell from a watchtower and damaged my spinal cord. I survived, but was permanently disabled. After spending three months in hospital I returned my job at the community centre and worked there until 1964. After that I was the producer in the village broadcasting system until 1969 when I became chief administrator of the village hospital. Then up to my retirement in 1980 I held a number of positions in the village office: from 1971 chief clerk for welfare, from 1973 chief clerk for taxes, from 1975 head of the residents' department and from 1977 head of the general affairs' department. In the local election of 1982 I was elected to the village council and in 1984 appointed vice-chairman. I retired from that position in 1987. Those are the positions I held.
Now let me tell you about some of the things I did. During my time at the community centre I worked to encourage various cultural activities. I started young women's study groups in each hamlet, was involved in the preservation of the village's kabuki, and arranged for the showing of films. But the most notable project in which I was involved was the opening of the village nursery school. At that time pre-school children were more or less neglected. Although, strictly speaking, it was not part of my job in the community centre, I believed I had to try to do something. After all, small children have basic rights as human beings. So, despite severe criticism, I used my position, to push for the opening of the nursery school.
The other thing which I did was to make the community centre's newsletter a regular publication. My policy was based on the principles: don't be afraid of violence, don't submit to authoritarianism, publish articles that will contribute to justice and liberty. As the newsletter is supported by village funds, there are problems if one opposes the mayor's policy. Twice, when I was editor, the newsletter was banned and the copies were burnt on the river bank by the village office. I think that occurred when Midojima-san was the mayor.
Also, when I was in the charge of the village broadcasting system i was featured once on national radio and once on national television. They called me 'the one-man broadcasting station.' During that time i did a program called Maiku-san Konnichiwa (Hello, Mr. Microphone) in which I visited homes in the village and interviewed the people. I did over two hundred editions of that program.
My time at the village hospital coincided with a big scandal - one in which the village lost 170 million yen. It was a time when there was a big demand for building materials and many of the villages owned forests that could be cut for timber. Many timber dealers made their fortunes. The village mayor was deceived by a dealer who said he'd pay when the money from the next forest came in, but it never did. Now that the village was so heavily in debt, the continuation of the village hospital seemed difficult. We had to pay at least two doctors, a pharmacist and so on. Their wages alone came to quite a bit. So I recommended changing the status of the hospital into a clinic.
Then, when I was chief tax clerk I succeeded in collecting tax arrears, and the village received an award from the prefecture for having no outstanding tax arrears.
As chief of the residents' section I established the occupational centre and drew up plans to put the village water supply under a single system. When head of the general affairs section I carried out a review and strengthening of the village laws (mura no jorei) with the aid of the prefectural authorities.
I wrote about all these things and put the account in the time capsule that was sealed in 1989, and is due to be opened in thirty years' time.
Now that I am retired I enjoy composing haiku.
I have been very active during my life. I was brought up in the Great Depression, when there was great hardship in many rural areas. When I was young I had the feeling that it was only action that was going to get us out of the difficulties. I was educated during a militaristic era, and was a model soldier. In those days I didn't have any cultural aspirations. All I thought was that if I survived, when I got out of the army, I'd try to do something useful with my life.
When I came back to Oshika there was a food shortage, so I became a farmer. Then, while I was searching for what to do, I was lucky enough to get a job in the village office. I don't know what government administrators think of themselves nowadays, but I regarded myself as a public servant, whose job was to draw up effective programs to help the village's development. I was not content just to follow the orders of my superiors, but tried to propose ideas that would lead to practical improvements.
My ancestry goes back to Heike retainers of the Emperor Kanmu. Later, we lived in Soma in Ibaraki. The family's name was Nabikawa, but then it changed to Kondo. For many generations our occupation was that of doctor to the feudal lord of Mito. But when this came to an end one of the sons received an offer from a doctor in Iida who needed an adopted son to become head of the family. Later the man was involved in the civil war at the time of the Meiji Restoration. He joined forces from Mito opposing the imperial faction. At first they had some success, but later they were defeated in Fukui. He lost his property and was probably executed or died. It appears that my grandfather was his son. My grandfather's mother had also been from a family of doctors who served the aristocracy in Matsumoto. However, because her husband had been involved on the side of the rebels she hid herself in Matsumoto, and it was there that my grandfather probably trained as a doctor. It was decided that he would revive the old family name of Kondo. And he set up in practice in Ikuta. He came to Kashio, where there was no doctor, at the request of a group of six people led by Furushima of Nakamine.
Now why did he change his name from Kondo to Kitazawa? In 1871 a law had been passed which fixed the system of household registration. Okawara and Kashio were amalgamated and, beginning with the first house at the Okeya bridge, all the homes in Okawara and Kashio received a number. Without such one of these numbers a person could not set up an independent household. A family named Kitazawa had died out, so there was a number that was not being used, so my grandfather purchased that number from surviving relatives and with it the name. So we became Kitazawa. And I'm the third generation with that name.
My grandfather lived to the age of eighty, so I remember him. Because of him the family was respected, although I never thought of myself as anything special. I also remember that he liked kabuki, and would sponsor performances at the Ichiba Shrine.
Many members of our family have lived long lives. One of my aunts lived until ninety-nine and another until ninety-eight.
The house of my birth is actually above here. The house I am living in now belonged to one of my aunts. Because I was disabled I could not look after the farm of my father's house, so I handed that over to my younger brother. I am one of eight children. Kagetsu-kan, where my sister Imako lives was the home of my father's elder brother. Tsuyoshi, who didn't want to take over the family headship, and so moved there. Whereas my grandfather was a herbal doctor (kanpoi), Tsuyoshi was a qualified practitioner of an electrical healing treatment. It was rather like acupuncture, but used electrical instruments. Because the house was in a good location he also opened a small shop. It was just at a time when the Kashio hot spring was attracting visitors. Together with Hirase Bitaro, he developed the local tourist industry. This was just before the war. The Shiokawa folk made some postcards of the area and published a booklet called The Seven Wonders of Kashio. Tsuyoshi also made some salt biscuits.
Before Kuhara came there were more people living in Kashio than in Okawara. But the thousand or so people who came with Kuhara changed things. New hamlets like Momonotaira were established, and that is when Shimizu became independent too. Shimizu was originally a satellite of Shimo-Ichiba 2. But at that time the population of Shimo-Ichiba suddenly expanded. These hamlets are much younger than somewhere like Wazo or Kamasawa, which are where the founders (ganso) of Oshika probably lived.
What was Kashio like in prewar times? Generally, it is said that Kashio is rich in legends, while Okawara is rich in history. That's the way that the two halves of the village are contrasted. In general Kashio folk are more peaceful. Another thing which can be said about Kashio is that vertical relationships of authority were better developed. This probably originates in the seven-household units that were used to collect annual tribute under the lords of Tōyama (遠山土佐守Toyama Tosa no kami). See https://tohyamago.com/view/tohyamashi/ The same system applied for collecting tribute for the Tokugawa shogunate. In Kashio the landowner-tenant relationship was strong and lasted for a long time. You can see its influence right up to the postwar land reform.
(Talks about landowners)
The Kōgenji temple which existed at Kitagawa is said to have been at old as Wazo's Fukutokuji. Apparantly it was a subsidiary temple of the large Myōshinji temple in Kyoto. However, there is no record of people actually living there until the mid-19th century, when itinerant woodworkers and farmers from the neighboring village of Minakata settled there, and later a cable station to carry goods from Akaho was built there. It was a prosperous era for Kitagawa with lots of households engaged in rearing silkworms. They also used slash-and-burn techniques, and the records show that at one time there were numerous forest fires. At the same time the belief in the Koyoke Kannon was very popular with silkworm farmers.
The biggest landowner in Shiokawa is the Oshima family. Although powerful they have suffered from both fire and flood damage. But they are not the oldest house in Kashio. That is probably Nashiwara, followed by Kondo Onnataka), Furushima (Nakamine) and Miyashita (Sawai), then Oshima. In the 15th century it is possible that the house of the Oshima family was originally at Nakayama at the top of the Nishi hamlet. Later they moved down to the piece of flat land at Kojima and then to the present location. They still own land at Nakayama.
It is said that there was often friction between the landlords and it is said that when they gave their tenants surnames at the beginning of the Meiji period, the Oshima famjily gave their tenants surnames like Miyashita and Kondo to spite their rivals, Miyashita gave his tenants the name Oshima. In Nakamine, Kojima is a branch house of Furushima.
Shiokawa did not really develop until Meiji times and the salt hot spring tourism was even later - probably the 1910s and 1920s. The cable at Kitagawa was also another factor in Shiokawa's prosperity.
(Brings out report by Shimoina Kyoikukai, pub. 1938)
Before Meiji times there were only seven houses in Ichiba in Kashio. During the Meiji period there were another ten houses and during the Taisho era an additional nine. The area was called Ichiba because an annual horse market was held in the grounds of the shrine right up to the middle of World War II. Of the twenty-six houses, nine were farmers, thirteen involved in business, two carpenters, one policeman and one carrier (umakata).
Ichiba in Okawara had a much greater population. In 1891 there were seventeen households. By 1915 there were forty-four (before the Kuhara company came there was a timber merchant called Hattori). Then between 1916 and 1929 there were seventy-seven households.
After I came back from the war I worked as a farmer in the home of my birth. The main job was silkworms. I also worked as a yamashi, cutting and bringing down timber from the mountains and also acted as a middle man (nakagainin). For the men who came back from the war there were no other jobs. But it was a busy time. There was a big demand for timber in the cities and sometimes I also worked there as a carpenter's assistant. The atmosphere in the postwar years was bright. It was not an easy time. People knew that they had to pull together and get on with the job of reconstruction. But there was a new constitution and a new educational system which was like a ray of light.
What was the atmosphere like in the prewar and war years? There was the feeling that Japan had to expand, that Manchuria was the country's lifeline. So I went to Manchuria with the feeling that it was for the benefit of me, my family and the country. I think that many people probably felt the same way.
Kashio was more patriotic than Okawara, where the Communist Party was active from quite early on. Before Kuhara there were two generations of a timber merchant named Hattori. At that time lots of outsiders came into Okawara to work. So the area lost its old conservatism around then. People with an individualistic outlook came in and their viewpoint was often anti-government.
The problems which occurred between Okawara and Kashio are exemplified by the fact that the first time they amalgamated they soon split up. Of course, years later they got back together again.
An interesting episode occurred then. In Kashio people have taken great care of their mountain forests. You can see this by the sanron controversy over the public and private ownership of the forests that went on for decades.
So Kashio's natural attitude was to maintain their forests. In contrast, the attitude of Okawara was that if we are going to join with Kashio we may as well sell off the village forests for timber and split the proceeds between everyone on the ratio of how much tax each household was paying. This short-sighted attitude is typical of Okawara. I think that the timber was sold to someone called Kuroda and he sold it to Kuhara.
The focus of the sanron controversy was over the location of the boundaries between common lands and privately held lands. The landowners, their tenants and the independent farms were involved in fierce disputes. People don't speak about it openly, but it gave rise to some very strong feelings.
If one looks at the course of the old Akiba road, which passed from Kitairi to Nakamine, then Nyuya and Nakao, one can see that Shiokawa developed much later than the surrounding hamlets. Kurobe's discovery and development of the salt hot spring and salt refining operation was much later.
As I said before, the Kitagawa cable was a big element in the development of Kashio's Ichiba. Before that the only route into Oshika was over the Hojo Pass.
Horses were the chief animals kept by farmers. They were used for preparing the rice paddy for transplanting and for transporting loads. There were not so many cows, though there was a pasture where cows could be let out to graze. Goats came later, probably just before the war.
The main village products were silkworms, soy beans, adzuki beans, wheat, millets and charcoal. Oshika's soy beans in particular were of high quality. Miso makers from Iida would come to the village to buy them.
Kabuki performances were mainly put on by the young people's association, but as it was so expensive to stage a kabuki show - this was the age before the kabuki preservation society, so we had to hire our own costumes - that it was more popular to do dance and modern plays. Often the plays were written by the groups themselves. Just after the war yakuza dances, like Kunisada Chuji, and madorosumono based on popular songs about lost love were more common. Like karaoke, they were easy to stage.
The Kashio young people's association was divided into three branches: Branch 1, which was the area around Ichiba Shrine, Branch 2, which was around the Ashiwara Shrine (it used to be called Nashiwara Shrine), and Branch 3 in the north - Kitagawa and Kitairi. These divisions were based on membership of shrine associations (ujiko) going right back into the past. The Ichiba branch consisted of Shiokawa, Shiobara, Oguri, Nishi and Kawai. The Ashiwara branch (Tobu) of Nakamine, Nashiwara and Sawai. And Hokubu was Kitairi 1 and 2 and Kitagawa, which just after the war was divided into Kitagawa Upper (kami) and Lower (shimo).
The instruments in the shrine bands were the same for both Ichiba Shrine and Taiseki Shrine, but in the Nashiwara Shrine they were different.
As far as I can remember, the administrative districts in Okawara were Okeya and Nakayama, Aoki (Shingasawa, Momonotaira, Kami-Aoki, Shimo-Aoki), then there was Kamasawa and Wazo, which were separate. I don't know if Sawado was separate, but when it came to putting on plays, the hamlet would join with Kami-Ichiba, Shimo-Ichiba and Bunman, Nakao probably joined later.
The coming of Hattori and Kuhara introduced new attitudes into Okawara. It probably made the communities more individualistic. The Oshika dialect is much more noticeable in Kashio than Okawara. I can recognize a Kashio dialect, but not an Okawara one. That doesn't mean there is not one. But I would say that the Kashio dialect is purer.
Kabuki styles in Oshika varied based on the shrine to which you were affiliated. In my father's time each shrine had its teachers - Ichiba, Taiseki, Nonomiya and so on. and each teacher would have a speciality. People would say "If we do 'Taikoki' let's get A-san to teach us, or for 'Terakoya' let's get B-san and so on.
When I was working at the Kashio branch of the community centre, Taniai-san was in a similar position in Okawara. Although it was the same organization, I remember that the activities and attitudes were quite different in the two areas. In Kashio I worked very hard to support kabuki, but the Okawara branch did not involve itself in kabuki. At that time Okawara plays were put on by a group of enthusiasts.
The teacher for Okawara and Kashio Ichiba was Kojima Yoshie, but Ashiwara Shrine had its own style (the teacher was Furuyashiki Yoritaka). Then, there was Kitairi, where Kojima Yoshie also taught, but that area went independent under its own teacher Kojima Yorito. The survival of these three teachers shows the strength of the grassroots support for kabuki.
In 1957 the community centre invited all three teachers to appear together at the annual festival. I still have the program for that. And it was the community centre which ensured that Katagiri Noboru trained as the new tayu. He liked kabuki and he was good.
At that time there were five or six kabuki troupes in the Ina valley, but Oshika showed itself to be the best at the joint performances, which were regularly held under the sponsorship of a local newspaper. Kojima Yoshie was in charge of such performances, and we at the community centre supported him. Other areas taking part were Shimojo, Igara and Tenryusha. Shimojo is the only place in Shimo-Ina where kabuki still survives.
In rural kabuki the tayu is the most important figure. He must be able to perform gidayu- bushi, which is a style of recitation suited to solo performances in people's houses (zashiki-gei), and (joruri), which is a style suited to accompaniment of theatrical plays (butai-gei). (Note: this distinction between gidayu-bushi and joruri is not as clear as he makes out. I thought that gidayu-bushi were just ballads, rather like arias in an opera.) Some famous gidayu-bushi in pieces done by Oshika kabuki are the kurikushi-mawashi in the kubi-jikken scene of Terakoya. The first part of Adachigahara Sandan is also gidayu-bushi. Here the ballad sung by the tayu is at the centre of the performance. In joruri, the tayu is providing music to make the actors dance. The samisen is also tuned differently in each case.
However, joruri and gidayu have become so mixed up, that probably only a professional can tell which is which. When the famous kabuki actor Kataoka Nizaemon came to Oshika he remarked that Katagiri-san's recitation contained some 'interesting little bits' (omoshiroi fushimawashi). He was referring to the gidayu-bushi. The influence of gidayu-bushi spread when gramophone records first came out.
Kojima Yoshie was a trained joruri tayu. His father was a very eloquent and cultured man who represented the plaintiffs in the property disputes of the late 19th century (sanron jiken). Katagiri Noboru's father was also a plaintiff. Apparently they were subject to great pressure, and at times even their lives were in danger, like Sakura Sogoro.
But Kojima-san wasn't satisfied simply being the tayu. He could dance and act as well. So often he would get Furuyashiki-san to be the tayu, while he acted. Katagiri Noboru was a member of Furuyashiki Yoritaka's group and got his basic training there, but it was Kojima who gave him that professional polish. And it was the community centre that sponsored Katagiri's first performance as tayu.
When the three veteran tayu died, Katagiri was the only one left.
Putting on a kabuki play was an expensive business. Even if you could get away without paying the tayu and actors, hiring the costumes and bringing them from Iida was costly (though Nakamine had its own costumes). Before the kabuki preservation society was founded, most plays were sponsored by the parishioners of a certain shrine who would promise to donate a certain amount (hana).
But also, sometimes, shopkeepers and other businessmen who liked kabuki would put up the money (kanjin-moto). If they made a profit there were drinks all round, but if things ended up in the red they would bear the loss.
Thinking back to my youth, as a member of the young men's festival association everyone had to do kabuki. You were given a part whether you liked it or not. That's how most people started. But, later, in late 1950s it changed to those who wanted to do it. This was probably inevitable. Putting on a production was difficult, learning the dance steps took time, and so did learning one's lines. Perhaps it was all worth it if you got praised. But what if you didn't? So in the end it was only the talented ones who were left.
Kojima Yoshie's dance movements were different from those of the kabuki at Ashiwara Shrine. How much is the present-day Oshika kabuki based on his influence? I don't know. Probably quite a lot. But it was Kojima Yorito who mixed gidayu-bushi into joruri.
Actually, I received a gidayu samisen from Kojima Yorito, an instrument with a broad neck and ivory plectrum. I was too old to learn it, so I lent it to my father. When he died I didn't need it, and the kabuki preservation society had already been set up, so I thought that I'd let him take it. So I put it into his coffin. Now I rather regret it. It was a precious instrument and nowadays would be worth millions of yen.
Kobayashi Yoshihachi is famous in the history of Oshika kabuki, but I don't think that he had any influence in Kashio. Also, the kabuki at Shirasawa Shrine in Okeya was famous, but it was always Kojima Yoshie who taught them there. Yoshie learnt kabuki as a youngster in Kashio, but then went off to join a professional troupe. He returned when he had to take over the family business. I don't know who there was before him, but one hears names like Kondo and Matsuo.
Oshika kabuki has its own unique vocabulary. For example,
shiba-bonbo Kabuki-crazy boy
bo-kudashi purgative for a stiff back
M. S. (born 1919) ♂ Kitairi 2
I was born into a house of tenant farmers in Onnataka. My ancestors had a hard life serving the local landlord. I don't know how many generations of my family lived in Onnataka. It's impossible to tell from the graves, which were only marked by stones picked up from the dried riverbed. The older members of the family used to say that we originally came from Hase. I joined a history study group to try to find out. The inhabitants of the Ura hamlet in Hase are descendant of Taira Kiyomori.
There may have been as many as twenty houses in Onnataka once, but as far as I remember there were between twelve and sixteen. Most of these houses paid annual rent to Kondo the landlord. Only two branch houses did not have to pay rent. The amount varied from house to house. I think that the highest rent was sixty yen a year. Ours was about forty yen for one tan of rice paddies and seven tan of fields on which we grew mulberry leaves. We also owned two tan of paddies ourselves. My father was one of the people who had to collect the rents to hand over to the landlord. He had to go round collecting rents four times a year. Only a few people had an income from rice. Most of us farmed mountain fields, and we also paid some of the rent in labour. It was difficult to get together the rent each year.
I don't know exactly how the system of landlords and tenants came about. But, when you look around Oshika, the hamlets which suffered most all seem to be right away from the centre of the village. Kitairi 2, Nashiwara, Irizawai, Kami-Aoki - the tenants in all these places had a hard time. Occasionally among the landlords there was a fine person - like Maeshima of Umanojo.
The first income of the year came in June from the silkworms. Then there was August around the time of the Bon Festival and September around the time of the equinox. But, things did no always go so smoothly.
I feel embarrassed now when I think about the problems we had to get the money to pay the rent. But in those days, you couldn't buy 1 shō of rice (1.8 litres) with the money for a day's work. Also, prices for raw silk dropped heavily in the early 1930s. Since we relied on the silkworm income it made things very difficult.
The people living in Kitagawa weren't farmers. They made charcoal and worked in the mountains, and the folk in Kitairi 1 mostly owned their own land. In Ginaiji there were a few tenant farmers, but under their landlord things were easier. In Kitairi 2 we always had problems paying the rent. My family was responsible for collecting the rents of our two neighbours. When we didn't have the money we would try to borrow it from a mutual aid fund. During the difficult times we always tried to help each other out. Even now we often meet. The old inhabitants of Onnataka living in this area have a group called Arataka-kai which meets every year. Kondo-san, our old landlord, is a member. He still has a bit of a superior air, but his attitude is much better than in the past. It's hard for him to treat us a equals, but by the next generation I think that even that will happen.
Although Kondo-san's house didn't have any maids or servants, children of eleven or twelve who had graduated from primary school would go there to help out with the work. Whether they were paid anything I don't know. At busy times the adults would be asked to help out too. We were under no legal obligation to do it, but our position was weak, so we would go along. We always took care to stay in his good books. Of course, Kondo was a farmer like us, and worked at the same tasks.
Kondo-san used to say that his family came from the leading clan in Takato and that it had founded the hamlet of Onnataka, but i don't think anyone really knows, especially since the fire at the big temple in Kitairi 1 destroyed all the records. There is a little temple (odō) dedicated to Yakushi in Kitairi , but I don't know if it ever had a priest. After the temple in Kitairi was burnt down, everyone in Onnataka switched to Shinto for their funerals. (But since moving to Ina we've got back to Buddhist funerals.) The Shinto priest who used to come to perform the rituals was Matsuura-san of Kamasawa. Going further back, people here also used to consult the Ontake priest when they had suffered unexpected misfortunes. Also, if a person was poor he might use the Ontake priest for a funeral instead of the Shinto. The Ontake priest also did the annual house cremony (iematsuri). There was one such priest called Itaro who lived in Kitagawa.
We would gather in the odō for the spring and autumn festivals, and I also remember a nenbutsu festival, which lasted for a week. We observed this up to the 1961 disaster. On the final day of the festival, the women would make rice balls. It took place in the first half of February.
In the old days the rice was harvested in November. June was the busy time for the silkworms. Wheat and barley were harvested in July and August, and around the Bon Festival we began raising silkworms for the second time. We were busy with this in September. When this was finished we had to cut grass for the winter hay, plant the winter barley and wheat, harvest the beans. Then came the rice harvest, and after that we went into the mountains to make charcoal. The autumn festival was no so much a harvest festival as prayers for good weather and good health.
(Note: main gods in Onnataka are Kodama-sama, Yakushi-sama and Yama-no-kami. Kodama-sama is worshipped at the big May festival in Kitagawa, while Yakushi-sama is worshipped at the smaller festival in October. Yama-no-kami is M's family god iwaiden-sama.)
For us the big festival of the year was the Kodama-sama festival at Kitagawa. But a bigger festival was the Onbashira Festival held every seven years at the Nashiwara Shrine. The people of Kitairi 1 and 2 would take part in that.
The Kitagawa folk had a different life-style to us in Kitairi. They were paid regular wages. They were more showy and free with their money than we could be.
Almost everyone appeared in kabuki. We performed on the stage in Takayasu, and in Ginaiji and on the stage they put up in front of the Kodama-sama in Kitagawa. There were plays and dances and other entertainments. When the Pacific War came, I was a soldier for five years and eight months.
I left Onnataka in 1972. Why? The biggest reason was the 1961 disaster. It's true that there was a reconstruction program which put things to rights again. But even so, people began leaving. First to go were those with money. I brooded over what to do - after all, I'd lived here all my life. But then my wife's father said that there was some land for sale here. I talked it over with my family and they all agreed, and so we moved.
I had relatives in Shitoku, but the most common marriages in Onnataka were to people from Hase and Nakazawa. In the same way, Okawara folk aften wed people from Kami-mura and Ikuta.
The road to Shitoku begins from the bridge by Matsuo Tatsumi's house. But it wasn't used much other than by people who had relatives in both hamlets.
When we needed to see a doctor we went to a man in Nakazawa or to Dr. Yoshikawa in Okawara. Okawara is closer than Nakazawa so we went there more often. Also, my mother came from the Takeda house of Nakao, so I would go to visit my relatives.
K. Y. (born 1911) ♂ Kamasawa
Five generations of my family have lived in this house and I am the sixth. There is no head house (honke). This house has always been the top house of the Kamasawa hamlet. The bottom house was Oshima, which burnt down about twenty years ago. I have relatives all over this village. My first wife came from the Kanmae family in Wazo. I was educated at the branch school here in Kamasawa. There were probably about fifteen of us. We studied for the first four years here and then went to the main school in the centre of the village. Our teacher was a man from Minami-Saku called Yokomori Chuzo. He was a fine teacher of the abacus. When we went to the main school, our abacus skills were much better than the kids there. He was the teacher in Kamasawa for many years. Long after he left we tried to make contact by writing a letter to his family home. But we had no reply. We wanted to find out where his grave was, so we could visit it. When I was a child the Sanshobo Shrine still existed. The festival day was in summer - 20th August. The main image of the shrine was a fine figure. When the shrine was pulled down the image was brought up to the Usa-Hachiman Shrine, but later it was stolen. There was also a fine standing figure of Kobo Daishi, and that was stolen too. This happened at the same time and was probably the same person. We've got a good idea who did it. I can remember two occasions when we performed kabuki on the Sanshobo Shrine stage. In 'Adachigahara Sandanme' I played Muneto, Nakamura-san was Sadato, Hara-san was Sodehagi and Goshima Isamu-san was Hachiman Taro. We also did 'Ichinotani'. Funazawa Kazuo-san appeared in the head examining scene (kubi-jikken). Kumagai was played by Matsuura Yatsuo-san, the grandfather of Yutaka-san. We had our own costumes. Now they are kept in the attic of the upper shrine. When I was young nobody used the Koshiji road to Kashio, but I do remember walking over Minayama to Kinoshita Taketo-san's house in Irizawai. Our two families are related. It was a long way! In the old days, Oshika was quite a flourishing place. In the generation before me there was the copper mine. They dug holes into the mountain to mine the ore, which was also refined there. Things were lively then. There was even a policeman stationed at the mine and a branch school for the children. Oshika is an out-of-the-way place, but there was a lot going on then. The mine was in operation through the Meiji era, but by the time of my birth it had already closed down. There was a pollution problem and it was no longer economic. When the ownership passed to someone in Tokyo there was talk of mining gems. But this came to nothing. The people who worked in the mine were mainly outsiders. There were also itinerant woodworkers (kijishi) living in the mountains forests. They made a living by splitting timber for boards. The areas where they lived were by the Shozawa stream. They stayed here for a few years and then moved on. There were two houses by Shozawa and two more by Terasawa. There was also another below Oshima Miyota-san's place. But, these woodworkers didn't have much to do with the people in this hamlet, apart from buying vegetables and other things from here. Not so many people in Kamasawa kept horses. Yokomae-san was one of those who did. Horses were used for transporting goods and for preparing rice paddies for planting (shirokaki). By the time I was born the paddy fields in Kamasawa had all been created. The Meiji era was the time when most of that was done. My father and grandfather's generations dug the fields out of the mountainside. It must have been hard work. Most of the Kamasawa folk owned their own paddy fields. Segi-san of Wazo was a priest of the Ontake sect. He was different from a Shinto priest. He would visit Kamasawa in order to perform ceremonies in people's homes in January and at other times. For example, if you were going to make a stone wall you would get him to come and do a purification ceremony (shiobarai). In other words, he would seek the permission of the god for whatever was going to be done. Someone wanting to become an Ontake priest would go into the mountains to pray and to perform ascetic practices, while eating roasted buckwheat and other simple food. Nowadays, there are no real Ontake ascetics anymore. Segi-san was a disciple of an Ontake priest called Matsuo Inosuke who lived and had a small shrine below the Matsudaira Shrine in Bunman. This priest had amazing powers. He could tell fortunes and if you were ill you could go to him and he would say a prayer and give you some medicine. My family went to the Ontake priest for various help. He was very busy with requests from all sorts of people, each of whom would make small offering - whatever they could afford. There are no people like him anymore. He probably died in the late 1920s. When I was a child he was fairly old - and had along white beard. Oinari-sama is another type of belief, but it's quite different from Ontake. Each hamlet, each family has its favourite gods. Personally, I found the Oinari shrine in Okawara a bit of a spooky place. In Kamasawa the temple and branch school were in the same building. The temple in Kamasawa was a different sect of Buddhism from the Koshoji temple. The altar for the temple is now kept in the Hachiman shrine. The house where I live stands on its own, but there used to be a house known as 'Shinbee's residence' (Shinbee no yashiki) in the next field. It was built by someone called Shinbee who came to work in the mountains and went away after living here for a few years. Grandpa Miyashita would come to the house to look at the moon. There was a platform where you could sit. It was a perfect site for viewing the moon, especially the autumn moon. There weren't that many ways of enjoying oneself in those days but that was one of them. We spent most of our lives working. There were hardly any pleasures - just the annual festivals. Apart from that it was all work. Kashio people are mellow. Compared to them, Okawara folk are more excitable. When the Kuhara company was operating in Aoki, Okawara was a bustling place. There used to be a trolley car railway to carry the timber going all the way down the valley. The guard would blow a horn to warn people. The trucks would set off in the morning and return in the afternoon. Quite a lot of people who came to the village with Kuhara stayed on even after the company left. Most of them settled in Shimo-Ichiba. The family at the Marugo shop were among them. Many of the people who came with Kuhara were from Aomori. They brought their families. When the children from the Kuhara settlement came to school they would get rides on the trolley cars with the dogs. It was the dogs' job to pull the trolley cars back, so the children would get a ride back home too.
A.T. (born 1916) ♀ Wazo
I was born into the S. house of Wazo. My grandfather's elder brother was an Ontake priest.
At that time the family was known as Ido. This was before
the time of the Meiji Restoration when people were first allowed
to take surnames. He built himself a hut by the
gingko tree near the temple in Wazo and began worshipping
the buddha Yakushi ('medicine master'). When people came he
would pray for them. Also, every morning, he would wash a
rice offering for Yakushi in the stream at Nakasuji where
the water is very pure. At that time the stream was called by a different name, but it became known as Yakusawa ('Yakushi's
stream'). People with eye diseases would seek my great
uncle's help. Those who were cured would collect a number
of pine cones equivalent to their age and join them with
thread, which they would hang outside the temple. Both
sides of the temple were covered with these offerings.
People who had some money to spare would get Kamamura-san's grandfather to paint a picture - a cock for a man, a hen
for a woman and a chick for a child - and donate it to the
temple. It became full of these pictures.
People who were ill would come to my great uncle. In
those days there was no hospital. He would pray with a
stone in his hand to tell him how serious a person's illness
was. It was just an ordinary stone. If the illness was bad
he could hardly lift his hand. But, if it was only a light
illness he could raise his hand with ease.
After he died my great uncle was given a
posthumous rank by the Yakushi temple. A stone
buddha was made in his honour and my father carried it up on
his back to a rock called Gyojagoe high up on Mt. Akaishi.
It's not an easy place to find, but my father had no
trouble. He said that the god guided him.
My great uncle is now an 'iwaiden' (family god worshipped in seasonal ceremonies) of this house.
After his death, my father became an Ontake priest.
He was also a believer in Yakushi, but he worshipped mainly
at the Ontake Shrine in Kiso. I remember him travelling all over
the village with the implements he used stuffed into a
rucksack. My father's name was S.T. He died at the
age of 92, but just before that he helped cure a son of his
cousin in Nashiwara - a boy with heart disease who had spent
several years in hospital. And as a result when the boy
grew up he became an Ontake priest. His name is K. T. When his own son fell ill with leukemia, which doctors said was incurable, T.
came everyday to the Akaishi Kosha in Bunman to worship the gods Nenriki Fudo and Suiriki Fudo enshrined there. After four years the boy recovered and now works for a national railway company. T. still lives in Nashiwara, and every year he comes to perform a ceremony for our house ('ie-matsuri'). Nowadays only a few households do the ceremony,
and most of them ask priests from Iida to do it.
How did my great uncle become an Ontake priest? First,
he built a small hut by the Yakushi temple, where he used to
sleep and worship. The Ontake sect has its own way of
praying. My great uncle's teacher was a man called M. I. who built the Akaishi Kosha in it was destroyed in the 1961 disaster. Folk would congregate there for a special ceremony on the 28th day of each month.
Also, on 28th April every year M. would stand at
Koenba - the curve on the road from Kamasawa where you can
first see Wazo - and blow a couch shell to call people.
Then they would walk to Kusugayoke along a mountain path
above the present road. Along the way there was a small
waterfall and a stone image nearby. The place is between
Kamasawa and Yuore, the stream near the old spa. It
was where one of M.'s grand-daughters committed
suicide. The woman was born and brought up in Kamasawa -
her house was near the Arakawa hot spring - and worshipped
at the Akaishi Kosha. She married into a family of Ontake
believers, but her mother-in-law was a difficult person.
She ran away and when they searched, they found her car on
the curve below Kusugayoke. From there they followed the
path going down to the river, where they found her dead.
K. T. said that the place had an eerie feeling,
so he had an inscribed stone put up to placate the woman's
My father would use the Yakushido (Fukutokuji) for
praying. In those days it was open all the time. After it
was rebuilt the temple was locked up and only opened on
festival days. Yakushi-sama's festival is on
7th and 8th January. The Wazo hamlet is split into five
groups. Each year one of the groups is in charge of
preparing for the festival. During the day of 7th they open
the temple and bring out the flags. The priest from Koshoji
would come in the evening to offers prayers. When he had
finished, the villagers would stay in the temple until late
in the night. The only light was the candles offered to
Yakushi-sama. Folk would keep warm by the heat of a
charcoal brazier. Still, it was cold. As a child
I remember having fun and keeping warm by snuggling up with
the other children in the corner of the temple. Adults would warm their hands at the brazier and heat water for tea. The group in charge of preparations would have made large offertory cakes out of rice flour. At six o'clock the next morning the priest from would come again and offer prayers. Then the
offertory rice cakes would be given to each family.
Nowadays the priest doesn't come anymore.
At around eight o'clock everyone in Wazo would visit
the temple. Hardly any of the young ones come now. The
temple was full of people. They would each bring prepared
food in lacquer boxes, and this would be shared and eaten
together with the sacred wine which had been offered at the
altar. Then, we'd draw lots to select two people to go to the Akiba temple in Shizuoka to obtain amulets for everyone. Nobody goes to the main Akiba Shrine to buy amulets
these days. But in my father's day it was quite a trip.
The men who went would often make a trip to Tokyo on the way
Nonomiya shrine is connected with a story my father told me. One day a line of mice appeared from somewher. Where were they going? People followed the mice to the site of the shrine.
That was the beginning of Nonomiya. The main sacred symbol in Nonomiya is a mirror.
In the old days one often heard about people being
'punished' (bachi) or 'cursed' (tatari) for doing bad
things. But no one worries about such things these days.
People are too busy to care.
Everyone knows the story of the Ikawa fishermen. I
heard it from my mother and father. It concerns someone in
this hamlet. Two men went to Ikawa to fish - it might have
been one. Anyway, when they got there, there was a local
fisherman. They stole the fish from him and tied him up
with straw rope. When they went back the next year, the
man's bones were still tied with the rope. Someone threw a
stone and the skeleton disintegrated. Whether they
actually killed the man, I don't know, but the curse is
still said to remain on that family. To placate the spirit
of the dead man they have enshrined him in their home as
Ikawa reijin ('spirit of Ikawa'). When I was a child my
father took me to a stone dedicated to the Ikawa reijin. This was on 21st April. Do you know that place? It's just above Wazo's Koenba, overlooking the rice fields on the road from Kamasawa. In the Koen there used to be a small shelter by the water channel. Everyone knows the story of Ikawa.
Here's another story I know. It's about the temple in Wazo.
In the old days the fields around the temple were all
sown with barley. One autumn someone saw a beggar-priest at
the temple. He sat on the verandah outside painting a
picture and was there for two days. Then he went away.
Everyone forgot about it until the next spring, when
something happened. One morning someone complained that a
horse had got into the fields around the temple at night and
eaten the barley. Whose horse was it? That night everyone
made sure that their horses were shut up. But the next
morning it was the same. Whose animal was responsible?. It
was a complete mystery. Then someone remembered the beggar-priest who had painted the picture. So they opened the
temple and looked inside. There was a votive picture of a
horse, and there were pieces of barley stalk stuck to it.
It looked as if the horse in the picture had done it. Some
folk said that the picture ought to be burned. But others
said that would be a shame. It might be the work of a
famous artist like Hidari Jingoro. In the end, it was
decided not to burn the painting, but, instead, to get the
Ontake priest to get the god's permission to shut up the
painting so that the horse couldn't get out. So that it was
happened, and after that everything was all right. That's a
story which I heard from my grandfather.
All the votive pictures are still in the temple, I
think. After the temple was rebuilt they were put up in the
attic. Now the temple is locked up, but it used to be left
open. When I was a child we used to play there.
My sister now lives in the S. house. My younger
brother died in the war, and so a son was adopted into the
family and married my younger sister. Their children live
in Iida. Like most young people they moved out. The family
doesn't perform Ontake rites anymore. They belong to Soka
The gods up there on the shelf protecting this house
are Ebisu, Daikoku and Kojin. And there's Fudo of Mt. Takao
in Tokyo, which a distant relative sent as a talisman
against fire. The name of the family god (iwaiden)
enshrined on the altar in the inner room is Kyuko-reijin.
It's the spirit of the Yakushi priest, my great uncle, whom I talked about.
My father is enshrined at Kusugayoke on the other side
Kamasawa, so I make an annual visit. I used to walk there
but now K. T. takes me. There used to be a big
shibuki tree there. One festival day I remember
my great uncle bringing back the bark of the tree as a
medicine for backache. He brought back a lot of it. If you
dry it and use it to brew tea it really works. You can use
the same piece of bark several times. We gave it to lots of
people with leg aches and backaches. In the end it was all
used up. But, when I went back there to get some more, the
tree was gone. It had been cut down to widen the road. It
was lucky that my father told me what the leaves of the tree
looked like. I found a shibuki tree in one of our forests.
Nowadays it's become a rare tree. Last year, when K. T. was complaining of bad backache, I cut a branch off
the tree and gave it to him and told him how to take it.
Later he told me that it cured his backache. I feel
grateful to the god of our house for leaving us knowledge
like this. Medicinal plants make the best medicines.
My mother had a fine character. I can't ever remember
her getting angry with the children. She used to say 'A
child won't listen to angry words.' If we did something
wrong she wouldn't scold us in front of others, but wait
until we were alone and tell us then. Doing it that way
sinks in, she would say. Not once can I remember her
getting angry with me. My mother was born in the M.
family. They live just above the K. family. And, no
matter what anyone said to her she would never get angry. I never saw my father or mother
get angry. Because of that I never got angry with any of my
own children. If you try to make a child listen to you by
getting angry or hitting him it has the opposite effect.
When I was young I used to be a crybaby. If I had to
miss school to help out with the silkworms or some other
work on the farm I would cry. I didn't want to get behind
with lessons. Nowadays children bring their school work
home. But then you only studied at school. My school
education lasted six years. That was 'jinjo shogakko' (ordinary elementary school). Children whose parents had enough money would get sent to middle school ('koto-ka'). But there were only a few every year.
I was born on 20th May 1916 in the year of the dragon,
on the day of the dragon at the hour of the dragon. That's
the worst possible time to be born. I remember thinking
that if I was such a bad person then I ought to try to
reform myself while I was young. Perhaps it would help if I
got a job somewhere. So I entered the Oshika silk thread
factory in Ochiai. When that amalgamated with the company
in Tenryu in 1936 and the factory folded I went into
domestic service in Iida. That lasted for two years. The
work was so hard that I got ill.
People say that it's good to experience life outside
the village. Whether that's true or not I don't know. But,
there's no mistaking the hard time that i had in Iida. The
head of the family whose house I went was originally from
the M. house in Wazo. They say 'A stranger's rice contains bone' (Tanin no gohan wa hone ari). Well, experiencing the hardness of life outside certainly makes you appreciate home. I used to get up at four in the morning and work until midnight or one a.m. -
cleaning, cooking, looking after the children, serving the
Sometimes even now when I go to Iida I occasionally see
people I got to know then.
After coming back to the village from Iida it took me a
month to recover my health.
We used to make charcoal in Kuronta above Kamijima
Yuzuru's house. It was a walk of forty minutes from here.
This was mainly a winter job, but we also made charcoal for
a week at the end of August after the Bon festival when
there wasn't anything to do in the fields. We made charcoal
for Shuko-sama (the autumn Kodama-sama) and for use at home. Both men and women made charcoal. Women shared all the hard work. I remember carrying sixteen kan of wheat or rice on my back to the agricultural cooperative in Ichiba (1 kan =
3.75 kg.). That's 60 kilograms, and I made three journeys
in a day. I was young then, so it didn't seem such hard
Sewing was a job for the winter evenings, or days when
we couldn't go into the mountains to make charcoal. We'd
work at our sewing with chapped red hands. In those days we
didn't have ready-made clothes. We'd buy a roll of material
to make our own.
In the fields the men and the women worked together.
There weren't separate jobs like today, though occasionally
the men would go off to work in the mountains. Sometimes
they would go to Mt. Tsugamura to bring down logs for
firewood for the silk thread factory in Ochiai. After
bringing the logs to the river, there were skilled workers
who would float them down.
Looking after the young children was a job for
grandmother and the older brothers and sisters. The wives
would all be out of the house early in the morning with
their boxed lunches and not return until late in the
afternoon. This was the daily routine.
The paddy fields at the bottom of Wazo by the Koshibu
river were made in the early 1930s. Everyone in the hamlet
took part in the work, and later received a portion of the
land. Wazo folk don't own any of paddy fields in
Shimagawara. Our fields are near Yakusawa and in Kitanobara . I was in my teens when they dug the
Kitanobara paddies. The soil was full of stones. My father
ended up having to bring his own earth. At the beginning of
spring every year he and a friend would carry the soil from
Kuronta which had been washed down along the water channel.
In Wazo there are eleven traditional landowning
families. These eleven families all cultivated
their own lands. The other families were tenant farmers.
That was how things were. But
the postwar reform made things more democratic. All the
former tenant farmers now own their lands, and financially
many are better off their old landlords.
The war? It began with the Manchuria Incident, the war
against China and then the Pacific War. The most difficult
time was the food shortages after the war. People from
Ichiba would come and ask us to let them have rice or sweet
potatoes or barley. It was pitiful to see. These folk who
had only their rice ration would mix beans, sweet potatoes
or radish with their rice. After the war everything was
rationed. The rations would be delivered to Nikenya - the
two houses on the road to Ojima. Each group would send a
representative to bring the stuff back to Oshika, where it
would be divided up. Things didn't always go smoothly.
Sometimes people filched the rice beforehand, and so on.
Young men started going off to the war from the time of
the Manchuria Incident. They could volunteer for the army
when they were eighteen. The war years seemed to begin then
and go on until the end of the Pacific War. When a young
man left to become a soldier he would worship at the hamlet
shrine. Everyone would gather there to see him off.
Sometimes they would put on a play. My younger brother went
off to the war on 6th January 1942. A few years before he
had appeared in 'Rokusenryo' - that was the last time he did
kabuki. After leaving home on 6th January, he joined his
regiment on 10th January and left for the battlefield on
15th January. That was the last time we saw him. He died
on 14th September.
The postwar years were a big change, but so too was the
1961 disaster. There used to be 20 cho (1 cho = approx. 1
hectare) of paddy fields in Shimagawara. There's nothing
like that now. After the disaster there were 14 cho, but
now there's much less in cultivation now. Lots of people
owned paddy fields in Shimagawara even Wazo and Kamasawa?
folk. The fields were constructed long ago. I think that
there is a stone by the cherry tree at the front of the
Ikeda shop commemorating the first fields to be dug.
There used to be an Ontake priest in Kitagawa, who
worshipped at a shrine dedicated to Nenriki Fudo. He was an
ancestor of M. I., who taught my father. He used
to say 'When I die I'm going to fly to Mt. Nishi Komagatake.
Watch!' But no-one in the village believed him. Well,
according to my father, one day the man suddenly
collapsed and died while on a visit to his nextdoor
neighbour. Anyway, a funeral was held and he was buried.
But, the next day, when some people went to visit his grave
there was only a hole. So they thought 'He really has flown
to Nishi Komagatake!'
On our own lands we used to begin harvesting the grass
for hay on around 25th September. But 1st October was the
beginning of the official season ('yama no kuchiake') on the
village-owned lands. We'd set off at eleven o'clock the
night before with lanterns. When we got to Kuronta we'd
hang the lanterns on a tree and begin cutting. Wazo folk are real workers. We'd be cutting all night and most of the next day. But by about two o'clock most people
had had enough and would set off for home.