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Mt. Hotaka towers over northern Gunma prefecture.
The village of Kawaba at the base of Mt. Hotaka is a place where rivers meet, as the characters in its name suggest.
Rice, apples and konnyaku jelly made from devil’s tongue rhizome are its main local products. Everyday, farmers go out into the fields and labor in silence over their work throughout the changing of the seasons.
The village has nothing in particular to attract visitors. But there is scenery, like something from a picture scroll, that enfolds to all who go there. This is the furusato, the spiritual home of the Japanese, which for two thousand years has been the setting for their daily life.
Several times a year, The snow-laden clouds usually blocked by Mt Hotaka Clear the peak and blanket the whole village with snow.
Children absorbed in play forget about the cold, Families in farm households pass the winter evenings Sitting around the sunken hearth, Carefully looking after their tools.
Fleecy white clouds float in the crisp blue sky The village resounds with the twitter of birds Bud-lined branches cast a light tint over the forest Lovely flowers in the gardens race each other into bloom Farm households become frantically busy Digging up fields and irrigating rice paddies For this time is the beginning of a new year
Beneath a scorching sun Children make merry playing in the river Large dark leaves cover the trees Rice points straight up towards the sky A boiling mass of cumulonimbus clouds appears Light flashes and a dry rumble splits the sky
Apple trees and grape vines laden with fruit Neatly harvested rice Dries in the sun Vividly tinted mountains encircle the village How many millions of leaves will eventually fall from these boughs Crisp, clean air reveals the twinkling of stars The workings of the furusato, are that of the universe
Furusato are found in every region of the Japanese archipelago. But in Fukushima and elsewhere, many wonderful furusato have been lost to us because of the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This was truly a man-made disaster, a mistake that is cause for endless regret.