My native home situated in the Hamlet Kurotasuke, village of Hada, Iwate Prefecture, Northeastern Japan. The little hamlet of about 35 family houses nestling among low wooded hill part of Kitakami mountains, running north from Sendai bay along Pacific Ocean. At present, Hamlet Kurotasuke became part of city Mizusawa, across river Meta Kami.
Our house is located about center of the hamlet, with our building stand between, little river, Otashiro in north side and low wooded hill south side-front.
Surrounded by front yard of vegetable and flower garden, the back rice nursery bed, grain field, and about 3 persimmon tree, 2 peach trees, and other trees.
We used climb up these trees and picked the fruits, the peaches not bug (wormy), sometime persimmon was bitter kind (astringent), need to soak in the warm salt water 2-3 night before eat, but we enjoyed lots. Flower garden not very wide, but bunch of the tree peony and 2,3 the prunes bushes were very beautiful, we used plant flower seed easy growing kind with some soy beans the kind big, sweet, good for eat as vegetables after boiled.
Our hamlet, where our ancestor and our family lived many hundred years, nestled among foot hill of the Ketakami range, which running along with Pacific Ocean from bay of Matsushima to north near Sendai. The little valley, Kurotasuke, with about 35 family living peacefully there.
In low land, river and irrigable in middle part of valley, raise the rice and all high land not irrigable grow all kind of grain and vegetable and some plants for the oil and clothing material to be self supporting (sesame and other and the hemps for clothing). The land area very small could not live by farming only, so most had 2nd business or occupation to pay tax, bill, and other cash money. Some made tofu, fresh and freeze in winter from own soybeans. Some made a dry noodle with own and bought wheat. Some cut trees from own forest to make lumber. Some, like our family, manufactured Japanese paper from skin of the shrub Koze, or kozo, plant for various use.
Our house about 80 feet by 40 feet, build with heavy timber and thatched about 2 feet thick, the grass used are tall, hard, dry grass called “kayu” miseanthus, by little repair once while, the roof good for about 25 years.
hen time came round reroof again shoe hamlet gathered, to gather, bringing the material, work all together, about 2-3 days until to finish. When the job done, have a ceremony some elder sit on top of the roof, sing a solemn ancient song and throw down, scatter the kochi (round rice cake) for the children.
Inside of the house, the kitchen located end of earthen open floor, with water barrel or vase sink. Fine place surrounded by floor which people can sit around in winter time to get warm with or without footwear. To cook there in adjustable hooks hanging down from above to hang the boiling pan, etc… In past there are places for all kind of pickles, sauce, miso, soy. Other rooms used as bedroom, living room, stone room, one of the room is sacred Shinto and Buddha shelves for family worshiping.
Country very rainy and wet, and so much of the rice paddy breed swarm of fly and mosquitoes, but to let the breeze come in open all the door and the paper sliding door. In the night hang mosquito net, sleeping inside of it. Our well was east end of our yard, open well, have to get water with water bucked tied (wooden) to long bamboo pole to carry to house with 2 wooden pole carried by a carrying stick (on the) shoulder. It hard work, but there is no other way.
The farming was our main business, but the farm not big enough, so have to take second occupation, Japanese paper making. The farm grew most of our food, the rice, barley, wheat, and other grains, the soybeans and other (pulise?), the sesame and other oil producing plants and the hemp for wear summer clothing. Also all kind of vegetables for the home use to be self-supporting. The fields very small in pieces and mostly in sharp slope. Some terraced - can not use the horse or oxen drawn tools, have to work mostly by hand, maul power with very simple primitive tools, so hard and slow.
Main material of manufacturing Japanese paper are the fiber of young kozo trees (mulberry family) skin or bark. The farmers grew the kozo tree edge of field or field of too sharp slope not to fit to grow other cultivated crop. The time of my infancy most of paper used was Japanese paper. To get these fiber, steam young sprout, cut to 3 feet, bunched up, put it on the big net with water, cover with big wooden barrel, put on or remove by means of a block and tackle. Steam until the skin came off easily from (turg?) and soak in the water to strip skin off. To make paper scrape the coarse outside skin off by a hand scraper. White fiber boiled with hardwood ash or soda till get soft, and beat it with a bat or heavy hard wood board till get soft all fiber broken up. Put these fiber in big shallow tub and mix with white clay and some sticky juice of the shrub’s inner skin. Put these ingredient to wooden vessel and mixed with water, stirring by a paddle and (throaly?). And skim these (requed?) with a strainer made with a finely split bamboo, shake very gently until water drain off, leaving thin film, and put these film to a wooden board. To separate each film put a little thin grass on edge of film, and work done. Put these film on drying board, press lightly to board about 2 feet wide and ten feet long, and take out to sun to dry. Stand the board to a rock, the wind and the sun dry up to be the paper. For rough paper (like toilet paper use) use old paper as ingredient.
words by Zenkichi Kikuchi, 1880 - 1965
read in 日本語