Maruta Forest

Maruta no Mori: Minami Ashigara`s Annual Camp

by Kevin Burns

Minami Ashigara City, Kanagawa
When you don’t have work staring you in the face, the sound of a cicada rings out much more clearly inthe humid night air. Surrounded by a forest of cedars, and in front of a huge bonfire, I imagine my ancestors, be theyJapanese or European, African, or South American, all intermingling in communal reverie and bonding. With the flickering flames, we could be in Africa, watching the dancers sway too and fro, but weare five minutes from my home in Minami Ashigara. Men laugh, women blush, and children play in Muratano Mori. The cicadas sing their song. I enjoy listening.

I think I should volunteer more often, witnessing the effort put forth by the city volunteers who put on thisannual camping weekend. I admire their kindness as they teach my six year old how to make a bow. The volunteersare from the city halls and from various walks of life. The man who fixed the lights in our home greets me witha “Long time no see!” He jokes with me about me making Curry Rice. I don’t want my family to be rushed toa local hospital though, so I don’t cook. I do manage to put boiling water in my cup noodle without burningmy hand, and for that I am thankful.

In our rush to get to work, to get things done, we often forget who lives in our town. I suggest you join thenext annual camping trip, you may make some new friends. The river running through the park is cold andfresh. The sound is nice to sleep by. My children enjoy wading through it and their friends search for rivercrabs. My precocious two year old decides she will conquer the river too. I manage to avoid both of usbreaking our necks on the slippery stones for thirty minutes. Maybe the cicadas are watching over us.Or perhaps it’s the Murata no Mori Gods? Anyway, we escape unscathed and we walk back to the mainpart of the camp, to make more things out of bamboo. The bow had snapped so Jonah and my wife, gotanother try to perfect it. I don’t think he’ll go hunting, but I fear a sweat potato into my cheek may bein my future.

One woman and her eighty year old mother have been coming to these annual camps for seventeenyears. Maybe that says it all. Hope to see you next year!

This is the English version of the Minami Ashigara City Magazine article.

To apply for next year’s camp, contact the Minami Ashigara City Hall. Inquiries should be in Japanese.

Minami ashigara to Close Yet Another Cultural Asset

by Kevin Burns

Minami Ashigara City has been in trouble for a while now,
tax-wise.  The local pool in Iizawa stayed closed all summer
for the first time in a long while due to “not having enough
money to run it.”

For those who don`t know, it was run by students.  They
were the life guards.  It was a great asset to the town.
The students were presumably not paid a lot, yet we were not
able to have the services of the pool.

The latest news is that the Minami Ashigara Cultural Centre
(Bunka Kaikan) will close due to lack of funds.   Apparently
the city hall has tried to sell it!  As well, another rumour
is it may be destroyed.    What a shame!  It is a beautiful
building and a great place to enjoy music or any kind of

Fuji Film apparently due to losses is due for a tax refund
so Minami Ashigara has to pay that back.

Frankly, if I found my taxes so low, I would understand all of these
closures.  But I never feel that I am under-taxed in Japan.

I get so frustrated at times, I think of running for office.
It just seems to me that so much money is wasted on inane
project like cementing the Kari River.

I don`t think Greenpeace would approve.

Paving roads that don`t need paving while leaving
roads that need the stop lines repainted–unpainted and in
danger of causing an accident.

What is the difference between the success of a tiny town like
Kaisei with a population of under 20,000 and a larger city like
Minami Ashigara with a population of 44,000?  To me the answer
is good leadership.

The mayor of Kaisei is famous for being innovative and a good leader.
Minami Ashigara lacks that and we are in trouble because of it.

We need good leadership at city hall.  Please someone come forward and save us!


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