In 2000 Hilton Hotels bought the side of a mountain by the coast in Itoshima, intending to build a resort there. Unfortunately for them this was prime oyster territory and the local fishermen kicked up such a stink about the threat of pollution that the scheme foundered. My friend Minohara-San bought the 70 hectares for a song. When he heard that I was looking for land to build a house and garden he very kindly offered me a plot right on top of the mountain, and this gave rise to the idea of creating a ‘Slow Life’ village where city dwellers could come and find out about the ways of the countryside. But he had placed the land in the hands of an educational charity who wouldn’t allow any buildings, whatever the environmental credentials, so the scheme fell by the by.
‘Mount Minohara’, as we had learnt to call it, was so perfect that I had to find something nearby, and last autumn I met an elderly couple who had built a new house 18 years ago, within sight of our mountain, in the village of Shima Sakurai, but who now wanted to return to the city. They were surrounded by forest and agricultural land, some of it in the building zone. They agreed to sell to me, and put me in touch with five of their farming neighbours, with the result that I ended up buying 9 separate plots, totalling 10,000 square metres, all adjoining, from 6 sets of people. This was the birth of Slow Life Japan, whose story is being chronicled here.
The photo was taken from Mount Minohara, and the arrow points to Shima Sakurai village.