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by Harumi Okochi.
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November, 2006

Maple leaves save the earth.

A garden of 200 years from now
Hello, friends. It is my great pleasure to introduce a person who is growing maple trees on a mountain side of Hirano District of Kyuragi Town to make a
beautiful art-forest that will be finished 200 years later. He is Masaaki Tsuruda, 71 years old.
What drives him to do this?
What is he aiming at?

My husband has visited him some times. I myself have not. These two or three years my broken leg has been too weak to go up the hill. But maybe next year, I hope I can visit him.

He was introduced in our friend Mr. Kikuo Tomita's web-page. I asked Kikuo to let me use his data and photos when I write my November essay.
Kikuo's page is here, and it is written only in Japanese.

I hope you will enjoy beautiful maple leaves in the autumn of Japan.

Rivers have lost their function since the banks were covered with concrete.
Earth has lost her fertility since she was oxidized by chemicals.
Forests have lost their healing power since cedars only were planted.
We, villagers, unite our strength to paint our own art on Mt. Sarai as a canvas, with trees, rocks and water, to save the Mother Earth, and also to enable ourselves survive.
The aim we set is 200 years ahead, and now we plant Maples as our lifetime mission.
                                                                  Hirano Maple Planting Group

Masaaki Tsuruda was born in 1935 and grew up in Hizen Town near Karatsu City. Hizen Town was too small for this ambitious young man, and he left it to start a company of garden architecture in 1959 in Karatsu. His talent as an artist made him win many prizes as a garden designer. His buisiness was also a big success. His high time continued for about 20 years.

But in 1980, his second son died after two months' suffering from high fever. Doctors could not find what was wrong. There was nothing for the parents to do to help their beloved son except watching and praying.

"For a parent, nothing is more cruel than losing a child. I would have done anything to save him, but we could not save his life."

Masaaki's grief was deep. The third son was also deeply shocked, and he refused to go to school. Masaaki's family was destroyed. In his agony, Masaaki could no more continue a life to pursue profit.

In his hard days Masaaki thought what he could do to save themselves and to help other people.

"To plant. This is the only thing I can. Trees give us oxygen. It will save the earth, so I will plant."

He gave his company to his eldest son, and retired at only 45. He and his wife bought a land on Mt. Sarai in Kyuragi Town near Karatsu. This was a wasted land, almost bare and rocky. Using all his fortune, he started to plant maple trees on this mountain.

"I am painting a picture on this mountain" he says. "With trees, rocks, water and soils." "It will take 200 years to complete this picture, but if I begin it now, some people will continue."

Mt. Sarai is about 800 meters high, and on the south slope of this mountain, about 500 meters high, his 13ha garden is. He planted shoots of maple trees, and now, 26 years later, the mountain is amazingly beautiful with fresh green in spring, and gorgeous red and gold in autumn. More than 10 thousand trees Masaaki has grown here.
Among the trees, rocks and small water falls, streams, ponds, bridges..... and birds!

Also his house. This house, Masaaki built with timbers of a destructed old house.

"This is not just a place where you see beautiful maple trees. This is a place where a person who has something difficult can face himself and retrieve himself."

"100 years, or 200 years later, this place will be an important place for Japanese people. So I would like everyone to help me plant now."

People around this land joined him one after another. Now, their group is developing into a "school" , where people talk about nature. They also began planting trees themselves in the near bye lands.
They call this land "Art forest". And the house is "A house to play with winds"

Masaaki says, "If we litter cans now, our children must pick them in the future. This we should not do. If we do not reform our way of living now, we will make our children pay for it."

This autumn, maple leaves are beautiful again.
On Mt Sarai, winds are always singing. The song of the wind is a song to heal human aches.

Well, if you like this story, I hope you will plant some trees somewhere. If you are a father or a mother who lost your child, please plant a tree. It will grow as your child would have grown, and someday it will be your shelter as your child would have become.

Goodbye, and see you next month.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of

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