One shiny Sunday morning at a market in Tosayamada,Katsutoshi Tsuzuki, 66 year-old-man is selling his bread to the local people as he always has. The market is held from about 8:00a.m to 15:00p.m and customers usually come to buy some vegetables in the morning and some young couples come in the afternoon. Nowadays, it’s rare to see young people going to a Sunday market to buy local food. A customer at the market says, “I’ve been coming to this market for years to buy his bread”. Some of them are really good friends of us since we moved to Kochi. Katsutoshi says that, “moving to Kochi was such a wonderful change in our life and we’re so glad that kids can grow up in such an environment”. By the time he started to keep the bakery with his family, the family had already settled down their life in Kochi.
However, when his family and he moved to Kochi 26 years ago, it was not as easy as they thought to have this alternative life in Kochi.
Inside the small town of Kahoku, there are some interesting people who used be big city folks but they decided to live in Kahoku. Kahoku is known for Anpanman Museam and the town is surrounded by nature so that it makes people feel very relaxed all the time. But why Kahoku? What about other towns in Kochi?
There is one little cafe called “Ocho” in Kahoku-town. The owners used to live in Mexico for 3 years and after coming back from Mexico, they had this one idea of having a baby in countryside where people are relaxed and the place has a good environment to raise a child. Their cafe is located at east side of the town and if you look at the building, it looks like a typical old Japanese house so the customers often can’t find it. It’s quite interesting to know that every family has their own unique reasons or ideas for deciding to settle down in Kochi.
Back in 1984, our family was probably one of the first families to decide to moved to Kochi from a big city and it was very rare to see such a family at that time. The most difficult part about living in countryside was to socialize with local people. The problem was that the area we wanted to settle down was a very small village where it was isolated from the other towns so that local people had almost no connection with the society and people had never accepted other people from different community.
Katsutoshi says, “an alternative life is an solution to everyone that it’s the human nature to be in part of the nature to have the appreciation to everything that you do in your daily life”. He also thinks that he was convinced by the nature the importance of how you make a life while you live and life is one long journey that leads to the idea of how human-being should exist in this world.
“Being in nature was just something we had never experienced and it was so different from what I had in Chiba”. Michiko Tsuzuki, came to Kochi with Katsutoshi when she was 20 years old and she says that it was a huge decision to come to Kochi at her young age.
An alternative lifestyle is a lifestyle generally perceived to be outside the cultural norm. Traditionally not all minority life styles are held to be “alternative”, the term tends to imply newer forms of lifestyle, based on freedom. It is the way someone lives their live when this is not the usual way that other people live.
Each year on October 1, the officials conduct a census, and the data shows that since its peek of 882,683 people in 1955, gradually, the population has decreased. In the year of 2004, there were about 800,000 people in Kochi.
Nowadays, many young couples tend to come to Kochi to have this alternative life here and I’ve been wondering how people get attracted to this place. Finding a good place to live is not easy, but people often say “Kochi is probably one of the best places in Japan to find a place that has a good environment for kids and even for their parents”. Because my parents were one of the first families who came to Kochi, I have this interest that leads me to one question that why so many people keep coming to Kochi.
Ui Takahashi, who used to live in Tokyo for over 10 years decided to come to Kochi when his wife and he discovered that they were having a baby. “The place we used to live was one of most dangerous places in Tokyo and we did not want to raise up our baby in such a place.” So they came up with one idea and it was to move back to Ui’s hometown in Kochi. He says that, “ raising our child in such an environment is wonderful because kids can go playing anywhere they want”.
I’ve seen many couples who came to my hometown to raise up their kids and as far as I know, they are more than 10 families in the town who are from different prefectures and everyone is having a good social life here also, having good relationships with local people. If you see one area of Kochi, there are many people who have settled down their life here and when we see the bigger picture, you can imagine there are quite a lot of people who has now become “tosajin”.
When people think of living in countryside, they will probably imagine how beautiful it is to be in the nature and grow some crops there, raising kids in a perfect environment. The beauty of having such an environment makes our life go on naturally. You can also have a good social life with local people. However, there are some disadvantages of living in countryside. For instance, you need to be able to drive a car otherwise, you can’t get to the town and the roads are narrow so that you have to have driving skills. Moreover, they might not have some of the public facilities such as banks, hospitals and grocery stores.
The jobs-to-applicants ratio in Kochi is really low comparing to big cities. When you want to get a job in Kochi, they might think that being a farmer is the best way to scrape a living. However, even for people who have been farmers, it’s still hard to make money for living.
“Being a farmer is as tough as to become a salesman in a big city”, said 33 year-old-man who is from Saitama. The reason for coming to Kochi was that he believes that living in countryside makes him feel released from things that always scar him. In fact, he has already contacted Katsutoshi to find a place to live there. People like them, they often contact with each other and sometimes they support each other to get used to the environment. Because they know how hard it is to become a farmer, they like to support their friends to have a relaxed life in Kochi as soon as they can.
People who have succeeded in finding a job, some people start running restaurants where they use only local food to attract the customers. It is wonderful thing that many young generations come to Kochi especially in the small area of Kochi, where there are only elders living in a small village. Also, it is a great opportunity to share different meanings in life from different perspectives.
26 years ago, it was so hard to socialize with local people because it was an unusual thing to see such people who used to live in an urban area, but now people are more open to others who come from different areas and different cultures.
As I see what they decided to do 26 years ago, it was very different from what other people would do. Being different from others by making their own choice is hard, but you’ll get a wonderful feeling that you’ve never felt and got.
At the end of the day at the Sunday market, Katsutoshi always retraces all his memories in Kochi that it reminds him of when he made this choice to come to Kochi to enjoy his one long journey.
Mayura – I learned a little bit more about your family by reading this. It’s nice when you can put a face to a name mentioned in the article (Ui-san and your Mom, but not your father…yet). I’d say that based on my two blueberry picking visits, that Ui made the right choice when Sui-chan was born.
Great article Mayura! It brought back memories of when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to
lead a more alternative life in the mountains of Hayama. It’s a great way of life if it can be achieved, but as you noted in your article there are good and bad points about it. Very interesting.
Unlike Darren I don’t know so much about your background and your parent’s unique decision to move to Kochi. I found your article fascinating to read as when I was young I was very interested in an ‘alternate lifestyle.’ That changed when I started getting my first paychecks and realized that country life was not for me.
Mayura, your article made me recall Agnita who was one of the singers in ABBA back in the 1970s – she escaped from the stress of being a world famous entertainer and started a new life on one of those small islands in the Baltic Sea off the south east coast of Sweden. Maybe when you go to Sweden you can go and check out that area and its alternative lifestyles. Of course other famous people who lived there in an alternative way are Moomin and Snufkin!!!
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