Shimokawa, a Town of the Forest

A walk through the forest under the light of the full moon

The winter full moon shines over larch groves and snow-covered fields

Words by Ishida Mie
Photographs by Tsuyuguchi Keiji
Translation by Xene Inc.

The silence of the forest

March 12th, 2017. 13.49 days since the new moon. We took part in the Moon Walk, organized by "NPO Mori no Seikatsu" (which translates to "Forest Lifestyle"). This snowshoeing event is held on full moon winter nights, and goes through the forest at a relaxed pace. As the deciduous trees are completely bare of leaves, visibility is excellent. The air is perfectly clear, providing exceptionally beautiful views of the starry skies. This is truly the best season for a walk in the woods. We departed for the forest at 7:00 pm.

The only sound is of our footfalls on the snow. When we come to a stop, we are enveloped in silence. The moon shone big and bright beyond the curtain of magnificently straight larches. This magical sight was positively breathtaking.

Drawn into a world of shadow, snow, and trees

Adjacent to the forest, we took tea at a small campfire

Carrying on the legacy of the forest

The forest had changed since evening, and was overflowing with discoveries under the midday sun. Our guide, Tominaga Hiromitsu, was the same as the evening before. He is from Kyushu, born in Miyazaki, and has participated in NGOs which carry out environmental activities since his university days. About five years ago, he became aware of “Mori no Seikatsu”, and came to Shimokawa.

He places great importance on explaining the interplay between the workings of the forest and the workings of humanity. He says he wants to tell the tale of how people have made their livelihoods in the forest since generations ago.

Out of all the work in the woods, the act of cutting down a tree which has matured over 50 or 60 years is no more than the last in a long line of work. It is the forest that clearly shows us the magnitude of the legacy of effort passed down from previous generations, the significance of this moment, and the fact that this moment is but a point on our path towards the future.

Tominaga Hiromitsu

Come April, Mr. Tominaga has decided to resign from Mori no Seikatsu, and start his own independent business as “Makiya Tominaga” (which translates to “Firewood Dealer Tominaga”). Wood-burning stoves have been commonplace in Shimokawa since long ago, and he begun this job hoping to aid elderly residents who now have trouble splitting their own firewood. While also continuing to work as a guide, he plans to produce and deliver firewood. By gaining practical experience at timberland worksites, he further aims to supply his own resources.

In the words of guide Tominaga Hiromitsu, “Shimokawa is a place where simple lifestyles are possible”

Lines of orderly larches in an artificial forest. A logging road is visible in the center.

A natural forest, with a variety of mixed tree species.

Town of Shimokawa, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido

Located in northern Hokkaido, this town is home to approximately 3,361 people (as of March 31st 2017). Utilizing abundant woodland resources, the town is making efforts to establish a low carbon footprint society.

NPO Mori no Seikatsu
With a mission to “take advantage of the woodlands to provide people with lifestyles rich in spirit, and contribute to the development of regional sustainability”, this NPO’s wide range of activities include forest experience programs and regional development projects which utilize forests.
477 Minami-machi Shimokawa, Hokkaido, Japan
Tel.: 01655-4-2606

Makiya Tominaga
This firewood dealer sells split firewood, short-cut round logs, and birch bark kindling for wood-burning stoves. They deliver within a 40 km radius of the town of Shimokawa.
958 Kaminayoro Shimokawa, Hokkaido, Japan
E-mail: order.makiya● ※Replace ● with @

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