Light the way to their father’s grave
From the center of Tokyo to Nanzawa Misaiyama, take the Chuo Line from JR Shinjuku Station, change to the Ome Line and Itsukaichi Line, walk 40 minutes from Musashi Station Itkaichi, and take a 75-minute train ride to the terminal Itkaichi Line station.
The trail uphill winds through a field of beautiful hydrangeas and runs down the trail down a steep hill bordered by a creek. During the peak hydrangea season from mid-June to early July, more than 10,000 visitors come to see them.
The owner of Nanze Weizhai Mountain is Nanze Zhongyi, affectionately known as “Zhongyi Zen”, a remarkable 92-year-old man who, as the 17th-generation head of the local Nanze family, has overseen the project. Over the span of 50 years, he alone transformed what was once a cedar forest into a lush hydrangea bush. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. What prompted Chung One to take this first step?
“My ancestors’ graves are in the mountains. I just thought, if just we could take a flowery path when we visit the family cemetery.
Born in 1930, Chung Yi is the second child of six boys and three girls. His father ran a sawmill. During the post-war reconstruction period, Chung Yi founded his Nanze Logging Company at the age of 27.
“In this region, Obon is celebrated in July, and it is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the homes of the living. This is when the hydrangea bloomed, I took some seedlings from two hydrangea bushes in the garden and planted them. on the mountain road.
Newly planted hydrangeas bloom beautifully. It was June 1970, and I was 40 years old.
Learn about hydrangea
Zhongyi started growing hydrangeas in his home garden.
“No one taught me, I learned directly from flowers.
After 10 years of trial and error, Chūichi was able to extend his hydrangea path to the family cemetery.
By this time, his magnificent creations were already known, and more and more people came to enjoy the flowers on the mountain trails.
“You know, when people tell you how beautiful your flowers are, you just want to grow more flowers.”
The hydrangea trail continues to grow, reaching the summit and beyond, including trails to Mount Kimpiro and Saito Onsen, and along the slopes in between.
To get enough sunlight for his hydrangea, Chunichi had to cut down cedar forests and climb trees to trim branches. He did it all by himself while running the lumber business, without asking for help from his wife, Miki, who died six years ago.
“You can’t ask people to do things that don’t make money. I get up at four in the morning and go to work in the mountains and then go to my office. Back then, the company was only closed on the first and third Sundays. This month. I worked all day on those days. Working in the mountains, I was so dirty I had to change my clothes three or four times. I donated the dirty clothes to the woman to wash. It made her angry, but they told me that when I was away, she spoke proudly about our Giselle Hill.”
Purple fairy leads the way
For the first thirty years, Zhongyi took care of Misaishan alone. About 10 years ago, when he was about 80 years old, his younger brother Chang Sheng, who was 8 years younger and retired, began to help him.
Another weigh-in was Shosaku Miyazaki, a retired elementary academy teacher from central Tokyo who moved to the area to live in a house his father bought. Miyazaki appealed to local residents and his alumni and set up a support group called Hana no Kai (Flower Association), which currently acts as a liaison with the local government.
Another person who was touched by Chuichi’s devotion was Tomonaga Akimitsu, who sculpted the landmark forest spirit, the Purple Forest Fairy, on the mountain road from Musashi Itsukaichi Station to Nanzawa Ajisai.
The famous sculptor Tomonaga created these puppets in Purinpurin Monogatari, which aired on NHK from 1979 to 1982. He moved to the area about 35 years ago and built a studio and a house near Mount Ajisai. It has since created its own museum on a 150-year-old farm, which opened in 2002 as the Fukasawa Miniature Museum.
“I met Chuichi when I was thinking of digging a pond to grow koi. He has his own koi pond and gave me a lot of advice.”
When he decided to pitch a sign for visitors to Mizhaisan, Chuichi cut down some of his own trees and gave them to Tomoyaga to carve.
Despite his growing following, Chuichi remains a mainstay of Ajisai Hill’s plans.
However, just before his ninetieth birthday, he began to think, “I have to find someone to replace me while I’m still healthy.”
Subsequently, two young entrepreneurs from Akiruno spoke, expressing their willingness to follow in his footsteps.
Born in 1990, Takamizu Ken and Minamishima Yuki were teammates on their college baseball team. In 2016, the two teamed up to form Do-mo Inc., a company that develops and sells local Itkaichi products, as part of an urban renewal project. Amacha is one of their specialty products.
“Amacha is a mutant of the mountain hydrangea. So we thought it would thrive on Mount Ajisai. We asked Chungichi if he could grow this plant on his mountaintop,” Gao Shui said.
The two are deeply moved by their encounter with Chunichi and his life.
“Mt. Ajisai is a local treasure and an important tourist resource for Akiruno City. We don’t know anything about hydrangeas, but we asked if we could get involved in some way. We want your leadership.
So Gao Shui and Nan Dao are Chuichi’s apprentices.
Zhongyi has been open to the public free of charge for 30 years. At the age of 70, he placed a box in Yamaguchi and asked for voluntary donations of 300 yen per person. However, he paid for most of the project himself. Takamizu and his team stepped in during the hydrangea season and set up a welcome desk, which costs 500 yen for admission and 500 yen for parking. His next step is to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
Hanasakaji, the old man who made flowers bloom
Maintaining Misaisan as Chuichi’s successor is no easy task.
“The hardest job is pruning. It’s really hard to decide which branches to cut and which to keep,” said Minamishima, who has a busy schedule as he also runs the company’s cafeteria and camping outside Musashi Itsukaichi station land.
Seeing the desperate efforts of his successor, Zhongyi was a little angry.
“How did it take so long to figure out which branches to cut and which to keep? There’s always something to do in the mountains. Plants grow fast. Flowers and weather won’t wait for you!”
The two young people silently listened to Chung Yi’s complaints.
“Professional gardeners can certainly do better if it’s just taking care of hydrangeas. But it’s not enough to keep the spirit of Zhongyi starting this project going. We don’t know anything about hydrangeas, but of course, we do better than anyone. Be more determined.” In terms of cherishing your affection and making sure this place is passed on to future generations intact,” says South Island.
Next to him, Chung-Yi smiles like a grandfather taking care of his grandson.
“I’ll keep climbing the mountain to teach you as long as my body allows. But only Buddha knows how long I can do it. Well, I’ll leave it to those two. You’ll have to figure it out yourself.