About a 30-minute drive from downtown Yaotsu it is a slightly elevated area called the Fukuchi area. Now, there is only one village left in the Fukuchi area.
Irodori Village was made by the local people as a place to gather and bring back things that have been forgotten by this generation.
As the Fukuchi area is especially separated from central Yaotsu, it has been quite depopulated. The village was first made, “To formulate positive ‘irodori’ wisdom as a place where people can gather with no worries or obligations and experience how life was long ago.”
It is mainly run by the council of about 10 people, including the village mayor Toshikazu Sasaki and the council meets once every month. They get together to share ideas of how to get people together and sustain their activities. Mr.Sasaki spoke passionately about children especially. “We especially want to teach children, who spend all their time playing games on smartphones, what it feels like to build something by themselves. I’m sure they will learn something from experiencing inconvenience.”
The Fukuchi area is surrounded by buckwheat fields. One of the core activities you can experience in Irodori Village is making buckwheat soba noodles. The flowers of most buckwheat plants are white but in the Fukuchi area the flowers are red and called ‘Takane Ruby’. The Fukuchi Soba Festival is held at the end of summer, when the fields are covered in red by the blooming flowers. The main building where the village council is held, serves as the home base during the festival. They make their own soba noodles from the buckwheat they’ve grown and eat it. You can use that buckwheat to make cookies, bread, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Two members of the ‘Local Community Vitalization Aids’ have been instrumental in building up Irodori Village. Today, we spoke with Kazuhisa Kuroyanagi. Mr.Kuroyanagi was born on Ishigaki Island (Okinawa) and is now 20 years old. After graduating high school, while he was accepted in an university in the Kanto area, he decided to take training in the agricultural field for self-discovery, instead of going to college. He says that his experience growing bitter gourd and carrots during his agricultural training on Ishigaki Island made him who he is now. This is his third year working as a Local Community Vitalization Aid. But there’s more to Mr.Kuroyanagi’s story. “Even after three years, I want to change Irodori Village into something.”
There is a mountain that stands 905 meters above sea level in the Fukuchi area called Kengyo Mountain. This spring a path leading from Irodori Village up to the top of Kengyo Mountain will be cleared. At an elevation of 260 meters and distance of 1.2km, it’s perfect for a light hike.
How about walking through the rich nature of Fukuchi and forgetting the business of daily life. Maybe you’ll find something you were looking for.
If you open your mind and heart then those around you may have something to teach you. It could be the warmth of a stranger or wisdom for living the life. Both adults and children have something to learn by acting together and sharing time as a group instead of being an individual.
Irodori Village is there to make these ideas a reality.