Man Spends 24 Hours With an 88-Year-Old, the Last Man Living Alone in Hidden Forest Village

Man Spends 24 Hours With an 88-Year-Old, the Last Man Living Alone in Hidden Forest Village
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)
2/28/2023
Updated:
3/9/2023
0:00

A man who hiked for hours to spend a day with an elderly man, living alone in a remote Japanese mountain village, has shared his unique experience to keep the story of this long-deserted village alive.

Japan enthusiast Norm Nakamura, 38, is a video creator at Tokyo Lens, boat captain, and pilot in training who learned Japanese in college. He relocated from Canada to Tokyo to study the three-stringed Tsugaru-shamisen instrument under Japanese artists, the Yoshida Brothers. While researching abandoned villages in Japan, he came across the story of Kadonyu.

The Last Man

Kadonyu is a hidden village that is buried deep in the forested Ibigawa mountains of Japan’s Ibi District and is notoriously one of the most remote, hard-to-reach villages in the region. It was purchased for the building of a dam, along with seven others, decades ago and its inhabitants were paid to vacate but the village never flooded.
(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

“I heard a rumor that there’s just one man living there, but he’s very old and he’s the last man. I thought it’s the best chance to go and share his story,” Norm told The Epoch Times.

A former carpenter, the 88-year-old “last man,” who prefers to stay unnamed, was born in Kadonyu and had lived there for 50 years before the village was deserted. Upon returning, he built himself a simple yet beautiful wooden home, largely from found and donated materials, and has lived there ever since.

(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

Norm knew it was now or never to make his trip, but while dam officials allow the hermit to use their boats to access the hiking trail to reach his village, there is no access permitted to non-residents. If Norm was to stand any chance of visiting, he would have to negotiate the use of a boat and find a hiking guide—but the hermit could not be contacted directly.

“He doesn’t email or phone,” Norm said, “so I found a blog by another man who said that he’s his friend and that sometimes he travels through the mountains with a big backpack of food to visit him ... I contacted him, and he said he was part of a group that is trying to keep the history of the village [alive].”

Norm messaged the blog writer, a man in his seventies known as Ebi-san, for six months before gaining his trust. Eventually, Ebi-san conceded, “Okay, I trust you. Let’s go.”

(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

‘Truly Blessed’

Norm and Ebi-san then set out for Kadonyu village in June 2022.

The hike from the boat to the village comprised narrow ledges, wet rocks, and running water. “You have to go over basically two mountains to get there,” Norm said. “You could go through the valleys, but it would take much longer, like four or five hours ... this path is usually used by animals, so we had to watch out for bears and other wild animals.”

Upon reaching the village, Norm’s first impression was that it “wasn’t really a village anymore.” Instead, nature presided over the land, with just three of four houses beside the hermit’s along with some old, abandoned cars.

The friendly hermit was “very talkative,” Norm said and enjoyed sharing his memories of Kadonyu. “He shared all the stories from his childhood, stories about his sister, about his family, about what it’s like to grow up in the village,” said Norm, who filmed his amazing 24-hour experience and shared the video on YouTube.
(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

In his footage, the man describes his former life in the village, before the dam was constructed.

“We were mostly self-sufficient but it was a hard life,” he said. “We had to carry in things like salt, medical supplies, knives, etc. But this place was so hard to live in that when I finally reached marriageable age, nobody wanted to marry me because I lived here ... I couldn’t push such a hard lifestyle on them.”

He added that most of the people who originated from the village would leave to get jobs in a nearby town, however, he continued to stay in Kadonyu since he loved it.

“The air is fresh and delicious, there’s nature everywhere, and the water is free! I’m fortunate to be truly blessed that my parents raised me here,” the man said.

A Typical Day

A typical day for the last man in Kadonyu involves preparing food, personal care, walking, heating a bath, and sleeping. Since he is no longer allowed to remain in the village during winter–the isolation and local black bear population make it too dangerous–he brings food and supplies on the boat in the spring.

“Otherwise, there’s fish in the river and there are lots of fields around for him to pluck fresh herbs and vegetables from,” Norm told The Epoch Times. “Ebi-san would visit him usually about once a month, and would also bring a big backpack.”

(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)
(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

The hermit has a TV and DVD player on which to play movies and hangs a portable radio in the window to keep the bears away. Every morning, he throws firecrackers from his second-story window to discourage big wildlife from approaching the house. However, he saves scraps of food for a dog left behind by someone who vacated the village. The dog, which has been surviving alone in the wild, shows up outside the man’s house from time to time.

In the event of an injury, the “most likely scenario” is that the man would have to radio for help to the dam, which would send an emergency boat, Norm said. Yet it’s still 30 minutes by car to the hospital from the boat’s landing spot, and there are no airports nearby from which helicopters could fly.

Norm said: “I think whether you live in an abandoned village, or whether you live in New York City, there’s always going to be some danger. You just choose your type of danger.”

Keeping History Alive

Norm said his most memorable interaction with the hermit was when he was shown where his elementary school building used to be and hearing his tales of hiking with classmates during recess to play in the mountains. Since there was no middle school in Kadonyu village, they had to hike to another, four hours away through the mountains.
(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

“He would go back and forth eight hours each day just to go to school ... alone, as a young boy. Amazing story,” said Norm.

When Norm asked the man whether he ever felt lonely, the man replied that he was “always happy to be in the village,” but that knowing that his time in Kadonyu was drawing to a close made him sad.

Norm said, “This past season he said was likely his final season to visit the village, as he is getting too old to go back and forth. From next year, he might not be there anymore.”

On learning this, Norm just wanted to “allow his story to be told, and keep his history alive.”

(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/@TokyoLens">Tokyo Lens</a>)
(Courtesy of Tokyo Lens)

“There are many places, not just in Japan but around the world like this, where there was once a beautiful vibrant town or village,” Norm said. “There was history that was happening, and because the world keeps moving forward, some of these are disappearing.”

Dams are built for a purpose, he reasoned, and when they take over old villages, old lifestyles disappear. But there’s beauty to be found in impermanence.

“I think it’s sad, but I also think it’s sad in the same way that the cherry blossoms are,” Norm said. “It allows us to appreciate what we have because nothing is perfect. Everything is temporary.”

Watch the video:

https://youtu.be/z4Bze9T27kw
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