Hello! Max here enjoying fresh and chemical-free vegetables straight from my own garden! And if you are wondering, Yes! This is me bragging!
Today I’m going to give you a look into one of the tours we are planning at work. This one follows the theme of forestry and the other day we did a test run for part of the tour which will include a light hike and let our future guests experience a vital part of the Japanese mountain life, namely the activities of a lumberjack.
And what was intended to be a test run without any actual guests suddenly got upgraded to a real trial tour thanks to a surprise encounter!
Let me introduce, from the left, Catty, Long Long and Alex! This nice family from Hong Kong who loves Japan and has even visited Minamioguni before coincidentally turned up at the tourist information center where I work right before the test run. They were looking for some kind of workshop or experience-based activity so we decided to invite them to join our little forest adventure!
Which they happily did without hesitation!
For starters, we headed into a forest located close to the famous hot spring area Kurokawa onsen. The forest is known by the name ‘Seiryu-no-mori’ which means, the forest of clear streams. There are three water sources located in the vicinity where fresh spring water gushes forth into beautiful clear mountain rivers that then intertwine to provide water for the longest river in south Japan, Chikugo river.
Large parts of Minamioguni’s forests are planted Cedar forests but in Seiryu-no-mori you can see the original flora with a variety of over 70 different species of broadleaf trees and other vascular plants. During October/September the wide variety of trees and leaf that transforms into a vivid mix of orange, red and yellow makes Seiryu-no-mori a popular spot to watch the autumn leaves. But our main destination this time is located slightly deeper into the mountain.
At the back of Seiryu-no-mori there is a cedar forest that is the property of Minamioguni town but for the last 30 or so years, there haven’t been enough resources to tend to it properly. The town has allowed us to use this forest to let visitors experience forestry and at the same time, little by little, help out with tending to the needs of the forest and in so supporting the town. Hopefully, this can become a cycle that both introduces people to the charm of the forest while slowly improving the state of this majestic mountain.
We are finally here and I should introduce our teachers. In the picture above explaining the secrets of the woods is the head of the forestry association in Minamioguni, Sato-san. Crouching to the left is Honda-san, the top of the department of forestry and agriculture at city hall. In other words, we had two true masters showing us the ropes.
And Sato-san was quick to show off his skills! Did you think I would leave you with nothing but a picture? No, no, no, this needs a video to convey the impact!
A quick count of the rings told us that the tree was 49 years old! You can also see that when the tree was about 13 years old, a thinning of the forest was made. This means that the forest is cleaned, unnecessary branches cut and trees felled in order to make the trees grow better and become healthier. This can be seen through the fact that the rings are a lot wider after 13 years. After this, there have been no more thinnings in the area resulting in the growth slowing down and the rings becoming thinner and thinner.
Sato-san and Honda-san soon got into starting to cut up pieces for the log bench that we intended to make. In the top left corner, you can see how Alex looks on longingly at the chainsaw yerning to try it out.
So, of course, we had to let him! This time Long long is the one looking dreamingly at the chainsaw but I think he needs to wait a few years before it’s his turn.
Felling trees is dangerous business and chainsaws are dangerous tools so don’t try this at home without an educated specialist at your side!
Finally, we used the logs to construct this simple but nice bench!
And some small stools for Long Long to get up as well!
Daddy loves posing with his new toy!
Our little homemade bench turned out to be quite the popular photo spot! Long Long looked a little sad, maybe because he didn’t get to try out the chainsaw so we improvised a slightly more fitting experience for him.
Sato-san cut the tree that Alex felled into smaller pieces…
And we used them and the stump from the first tree to practice wood-chopping!
Long Long turned out to be a true talent! Maybe we have a future lumberjack in the making?
Catty also showed off some impressive skills in the art of wood-chopping!
After having played for about an hour in the forest we started our walk back through the beautiful nature. Since we originally didn’t expect any guests at this time the forest was pretty overgrown but Honda-san and Sato-san ran ahead of us swinging chainsaws like madmen cutting a path for us through the thick vegetation.
Alex, Catty, and Long Long really seemed to enjoy this slightly different experience and had no problem hiking through the, at times, rough terrain. If anything they expressed that being able to enter a “true” forest like this was a rare and exciting experience for them since Hong Kong is very urban. That being said, they were happy to take a break and sit down for a moment on our way back.
And the best way to end the day? Cool down after 2,5 hours of intense forest adventures by jumping in and dipping your feet in any of the mountain rivers passing through Seiryu-no-mori. Oh, and if you are wondering, who is that random shirt-guy?? It’s my colleague Kodera-san who was nice enough to take all the pictures!
Big thanks to Long Long, Catty and Alex who were brave enough to follow along on what must have seemed like a rather sudden and unexpected proposal! Thanks to you guys the day were fantastic and I learned so much by acting as your guide and translator! I really hope to see the three of you soon again. Maybe in Hong Kong, maybe back here in Minamioguni!
See you soon!