By Raku Takatsuka
The old wooden house is on the edge of Ono village, surrounded by cedars and next to a bamboo-covered mountain. Masami Ikegami, a 40 years old woman, has named the home Awana. She has created a home for everyone, for anyone, here near the beautiful Niyodo river.
“If you have lost yourself and need a comfortable place, you can come here whenever you want,” she says to every visitor with a cheerful natural voice. “If you need coffee or tea, I’ll tell you the place, so please remember it and come freely.”
“I have never met anyone with heavier problems than me, but people often feel enormous distress,” she said.
Every person has times when they fall. At that time, if they can continue their efforts to overcome their suffering or if they will escape are depends on each person.
“By finding differences in the ways of thinking between us, I think I can offer some different prospect for them and help to make better their choices,” she said forcefully.
“She is the strongest witch or god in the world,” Taihei her a six-year-old son said, his smile was shining.
It is mostly impossible to imagine that she had struggled with a severe family problem. She looks like an active, energetic woman. However, Masami and her younger sister, ware neglected children. She needed to work a part-time job, since when she was a high school student to earn expenses to live include house rent.
“When I was 19 years old, one day I have come back home at 11 p.m. after work. Then the apartment had been seized although I had saved money into a bank to pay the house rent. “
Her parents had used up all of the funds and then left her with an enormous dept. Despite such a hard situation, she did not give up and grew up healthy.
“Every region has people who have some troubles and are isolated from their society the same as I was.”
Awana’s concept is “A hidden home of the witch chasing a dream.” She hopes to create her own warm home and open it as the hidden home everyone can visit when each people need to take a rest. She chaises her dream to fill happiness around her in Awana.
“First, I have to create a nice family for my sons and me, next we support the other people and hand our happiness. Especially woman and children fall into isolation easily, and they need supports,” she said.
Exactly in Japan, Social isolation, and the situation of surrounding families are getting worse, and the needs are increasing. Currently, the Japanese government stimulates the social problems of woman. Nevertheless, women occupy a managerial position rate is still 9 %. An annual income gap between man and woman is average, approximately 2,300,000 yen. In the case women divorce or quit their job with marriage or pregnant, suddenly their status becomes unstable.
Furthermore, currently, one-seventh of children are in relative poverty. Relative poverty is the percentage of people who are below half of the median income, which shows the income gap. These children cannot enjoy ordinary life like the people around them because of poverty. Such environments give enormous psychological damages to children.
Social isolation is also a huge problem.
“Elderly people who live around here don’t gather except for a few special events,” she said.
Today, more than 5,928,000 senior citizens live alone, and the number has been increasing all over Japan. It also has been becoming a problem to die alone and unnoticed by anyone.
“I welcome people who want to figure out themselves. People who are shut-in, tired, and lonely can come here freely to rest and prepare or fight against society and yourselves.” She said with smiles.
She is also a survivor, but she still makes effort to overcome her troubled time. For example, she needs an appointment when someone visits her house. She is frightened by strangers to visit her suddenly because she couldn’t trust people for a long time. However, she is fighting and using all her power to make people who are struggling happy in Awana.