Close Enough, Far Enough

Shiwa is geographically big, and it has nine districts, each with subdivisions. Some are flung far from the center of town, and people there live in relative isolation. Yamaya is one example. It’s a small community in the Kitakami Mountain Range, where the nature around the houses and shrines seems untouched.

The roads often seem built on cliffs with views of tall cypress trees standing over blue tin roofs. These roads can be convoluted as if  old village roads grew together and were eventually paved. Maps are provided on the road to help, but the one I saw had two places marked as “You are here.” The roads, terrain, and distance create a labyrinth that’s best overcome by familiarity.

Perhaps that’s why the people in Yamaya seem proud of their community. They work hard to keep old traditions and festivals alive. Every spring they invite people from neighboring communities to visit their “Mizubasho Festival,” and in fall to their “Yamaya Furusato Festival.” Certainly, they often hear, “What a beautiful place,” and “I had tough time finding you.”

Plus their isolation isn’t complete. The people work in Morioka, the nearest big city, or in the central part of town. Their children go to school there. Families shop there. The distance isn’t unassailable. The people are as much a part of town as others. They just happen to be located close enough to town to enjoy its comforts and far enough to enjoy nature.

近すぎず、遠すぎず

紫波は地理的に大きく、9つの地区から成り、それらがまた小区域に分かれている。町の中央部から遠く離れた地域もあり、そこの人々は比較的孤立した暮らしを送っている。山屋がその一例だ。北上高地の中の小さな地域で、民家や神社の周囲の自然は手付かずのようだ。

道は大抵崖の上にあり、青いトタン屋根の上にそびえる背の高いヒバが見える。これらの道は入り組んでいることがあり、まるで集約されて舗装道路となった古い集落の道のようだ。案内地図は道端にあるものの、僕が見た地図は「現在地」が二箇所に記されてあった。道や地形、そして距離が作り出す迷宮は、経験がなければ克服できない。

山屋の人々が自分達の地域に誇りを持っているのは、恐らくこのためだろう。彼らは古い伝統と祭りを維持しようと熱心に取り組んでいる。毎年春に、近隣地域の人々を「ミズバショウまつり」に、秋には「山屋ふるさと祭り」に招く。当然、よく聞かれるのは、「何て美しい所だろう。」や「見つけるのが大変だった。」だ。

その上、彼らは完全に孤立しているわけではない。人々は近隣の大きな街である盛岡、或いは町の中央部で働く。子供たちの学校もそれらの場所にあり、買い物もそこでする。距離は克服できないものではない。山屋の人々は他の地域の人々と同様、町の一員だ。ただ、期せずして、快適さを享受できるぐらい町に近く、自然を満喫できるぐらい離れているだけなのだ。

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