Climate change in rural Japan

Eriko Makimura is a Japanese pianist and performer, based in Kobe, Japan. Eriko is a part of the NXT Community and has contributed to The NXT magazine with this short description about one of her favourite places in Japan; the village of Sasama. The Sasama village has a proud tradition of tea production, an international ceramics festival and due to climate change the harvest is now arriving earlier every year. Eriko’s atmospheric description is a part of our series of short local perspectives on the impacts of climate change around the world and a look into what touches our friend, Eriko’s, heart.

What we see – Local people and climate change

By Eriko Makimura

Sasama is a tiny village with a population of around 400 people.

Japanese haiku poet Santoka Taneda composed: 

– Going deeper 
And still deeper
The green mountains. –

The salient features of this scenic mountain village are filled with the peaceful atmosphere created by the clean river, tea fields and extremely friendly people.

Various seasonal attractions are represented; the joy cherry blossom in spring, playing in the river in summer, the autumn’s leaves and charcoal fire in winter.

The region around Sasama is also known for its richly flavored Kawane tea crops and savory shiitake mushrooms.

Interacting with heartwarming local people always makes us think how grateful we could be in this Nirvana.

This village’s last remaining primary school was forced to close due to a major decline in birth rate, and an aging population, prompting Japanese ceramic artist Shozo Michikawa to come up with the idea of holding an “International Ceramic Art Festival in Sasama” in 2011. The festival takes place every second year, and many people have since visited the village.

The school was re-opened as a place to hold workshops for children and young students. It now goes by the name of “Sasama civic center” and functions as a unique accommodation for visitors. The village is gradually becoming reenergized, flourishing again.

For this year’s fifth annual festival, the organizers have invited 67 ceramic artists from 21 countries.

The village of Sasama features an abundance of the five classical elements, metal,wood, water, fire and earth, and provides a perfect setting in which to knead clay with the purest water and to fire pottery in a kiln heated by charcoal.  

During the festival, I met a married couple walking hand in hand with their small children. They said: “We were fascinated by locals and their lives while visiting here several times. We decided to buy an old house (Japanese kominka) here, and we have been renovating it.” The parents seemed confident of a bright future for their children.

Due to acute climate change, the seasons of the first cherry blossoms and the tea harvest now begin earlier. But people haven’t changed their life and continue to take care of the forest and cultivate the rich tea fields.

Their owner, who was born and raised in Sasama, said smiling, “Our aim is not for so-called touristic revitalization, but we all hope to be able to take good care of this peaceful and beautiful village for as long as we can.”

The tea fields depicted here sparkle and shimmer all year long. 

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