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The Easy Life in Kamusari (2021) is set in the remote mountain village of Kamusari, Japan.

Yuki Hirano loves the big city of Yokohama. But his parents have other plans for his career. They enrol him, against his will, in a forestry course in a remote mountain village where there is no phone or internet connectivity, no shops, and no friends. Just easy-going mountain people, mostly over 60 years of age, and lots and lots of trees.

Written in the first person, Yuki documents his first year in Kamusari in the Green Employment government scheme. All he hears at night is the murmur of the river and sees only blackness. Working there, planting and harvesting trees, on a mountain so steep it felt like ‘climbing the face of a cliff.’ It was back-breaking work. Even saving the sapling cedar trees wasn’t easy. 

In the village where everyone knew everybody, no one ever thought of making introductions. Yuki feels like an outcast. Then, in spring, the cedars and cypresses ‘menaced’ him with an ‘encircling net of pollen.’ There is so much pollen ‘it falls like rain.’ He was under the constant threat of insects, leeches, and all forms of wildlife, earthquakes, forest fires, rain, and snow. Just relax, the mountain people say, but that’s easy for them to say, thinks Yuki. 

Slowly, Yuki learns about nature and trees – their majestic qualities and amazing secrets – and the legends and ancient traditions of the mountains and their people. Even counting on an abacus. The views, the landscape, the flora and fauna, and the solemnity of the sacred space take a hold of him. 

This is a beautiful story about the interaction of people with nature, and the magic of the trees, where this was not merely a job for the people of the mountain, but a way of life. As Yuki learns about the arboreal realm, he learns about himself.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

MARTINA NICOLLS – MartinaNicollsWebsite

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