“Tenku no mori”and“Wasure no Sato Gajyoen

Journey to a Japanese Hometown――Looking for Something lost

☆An arcadia for mankind, Kirishima

A mysterious sea of clouds in the Kirishima Mountain Range ■A mysterious sea of clouds in the Kirishima Mountain Range

Shrouded in mist, a beautiful green island floated alone in the sea. A white, pure, and majestic atmosphere pervaded over the earth, making it an ideal place for deities to descend to earth.

'Takachiho no mine', the second range of mountains in the Kirishima Range is the setting for the legend of Tenson korin. Folklore tells of the descent of the grandson of the sun goddess. The pure white Shirasu Plateau consists of volcanic lava which makes it a perfect area for Ninigi no mikoto, a deity in Japanese mythology. Over the years, the plateau enhanced the flavor of its sweet potatoes, from which sweet potato shochu (distilled liquor) was created. In addition, the plateau has been the birthplace of numerous great people. Kirishima is the setting for this essay, where mythology is still alive.

☆Real earthly paradise, Forest in the sky

20 minutes ride on the mountain road from Kirishimaonsen Station on the JR Hisatsu Line brings you to a real paradise on earth. A breathtaking hot spring resort, Tenku no mori, literally translated as Forest in the sky, consists of only five villas within an area of approximately 60 hectares. It’s a modern Arcadia which reminds us of the legend of Tenson korin.

“Kirishima mountain range, overlooked from the top of Tenku no mori, which is called an entrance to the macrocosm. ■“Kirishima mountain range, overlooked from the top of Tenku no mori, which is called an entrance to the macrocosm.

In remote countryside, commanding an unobstructed 360-degree panoramic view, people can feel the wind, listen to the bird song, enjoy the seasonal aromas, and admire the beauty of creation. Having their senses awakened in such beauty, people discover something new within themselves. After spending time in Tenku no mori, some travelers speak with great emotion about their sense of having rediscovered something which was left behind. “It is exactly what I was looking for.”

The master of Tenku no mori, Mr. Tateo Tajima■The master of Tenku no mori, Mr. Tateo Tajima

“When pursuing the meaning of happiness, I initially thought people need a specific place in order to feel happiness. It should be a place secluded from land, and close to the sky. When encountering nature, people may discover something important about their humanity.” Mr. Tateo Tajima, the master of Tenku no mori said (hereafter, “President Tajima”). He spent over 10 years cultivating the vast fields and hills, to arrange the forest, and to drill the hot spring, alone. This alone is worthy of our admiration. What drove Mr. Tajima to do so much?

"I was told from the survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that they lost important things which they had collected over several decades in just 20 seconds. What does happiness mean? What does the term of mankind mean?’ It was then that I recognized the disparity between wealth and happiness. Therefore, I made up my mind to create a place where people can feel happiness.”
This paradise on earth was established thanks to the vision of one man. What is it exactly that travelers can discover there?

Villa Sky ■Villa Sky
Villa Redden hill ■Villa Redden hill

☆Space Time Travel to a Japanese Hometown

An elegant guest room with a thatched roof ■An elegant guest room with a thatched roof

Another type of accommodation should be mentioned when introducing Tenku no mori. A hot spring ryoukan gracefully stands among other hot spring ryokans facing Amori-gawa River which flows through the central part of Kirishima City.A signboard stating “Preference to fowls, ahead” makes you smile. Slowly going down a slope, a nostalgic space appears as if you have strayed into a bygone world: a house with a thatched roof, the smell of smoke in a fireplace, and a cock crowing. Wasure no Sato Gajoen, literally translated as Forgotten Hometown, is the type of accommodation which can provide the sensuous pleasure of a Japanese hometown. Mr. Tajima opened it more than 30 years before the opening of Tenku no mori.

a pleasant crackling sound of charcoal burning in the fireplace ■a pleasant crackling sound of charcoal burning in the fireplace
Chickens freely run around the site. ■Chickens freely run around the site.
The preparation area (kitchen) maintains its old-style. ■The preparation area (kitchen) maintains its old-style.

At the beginning of the 1970s, in the midst of Japan’s rapid economic growth, some good and old traditions were destroyed at great speed, while new things were produced in abundance.At that time, a private house with a thatched roof in its present neighborhood was dismantled and reconstructed in Wasure no Sato, Gajoen. The retrograde accommodation was established to provide travelers with an experience of ordinary life in the remote countryside of Kagoshima, including traditional local and simple dishes served with bamboo tableware.Mr. Tajima said, “Tourism is an industry based on local culture. The management of hotels is equal to the management of the local community.” What does he really want to say? “Tourism is a means to experience the local life and culture deeply rooted in an area. Our mission is to let the traditional and local cultures be known to the world.” In this respect, Wasure no Sato, Gajoen could be called a show window of the local culture.

The preparation area (kitchen) maintains its old-style. The preparation area (kitchen) maintains its old-style.
The landlady, Ms. Tajima  
■The landlady, Ms. Tajima

“Putting aside your cares for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, please relax in this tranquil environment and think of those you hold dear. We really hope you are able to do this.” Ms. Etsuko Tajima, the landlady of Wasure no Sato, Gajoen (hereafter, Landlady Tajima) explained the origin of the name.

It is possible to enjoy the rice, cooked on an old-style Japanese kitchen range, with other dishes which are locally produced and made with great care, and then to soak in a hot spring under the thatched roof. Travelers can discover a new aspect of their personality by experiencing a traditional well-established way of daily life.

Soaking in a fresh hot spring, you can long for home. ■Soaking in a fresh hot spring, you can long for home.

“I would like to preserve something old and something good in Japan forever. Moreover, I want to let the world know, that the original landscape of Japan still remains here. Ms. Tajima talked of her future plans. Her words are so persuasive that Wasure no Sato, Gajoen was awarded and registered as the first member in Kyushu in January of 2015, of the RELAIS & CHATEAUX, which is an authoritative association of hotels and restaurants in France.

In Autumn, leaves turn red to decorate Wasure no Sato, Gajoen with their beauty. In Autumn, leaves turn red to decorate Wasure no Sato, Gajoen with their beauty. ■ In Autumn, leaves turn red to decorate Wasure no Sato, Gajoen with their beauty.

☆Tenku no mori built with great passion, care, and attention to detail

Let us go back to Tenku no mori. It has been introduced as a breathtaking luxurious hot spring resort in comparison with Wasure no Sato. A hot spring resort built with great passion, care, and attention to detail is a more appropriate way to describe the resort. Most of the guesthouses are built by hand. For example, the tables, chairs, and chandeliers are made with natural and unique lumber collected at the time of land clearing. In addition, more than 80% of the ingredients used in their cuisine are grown by Tenku no mori. More than 30 types of vegetables are cultivated in the kitchen-gardens around the site. All of the produce is organically grown.

Kitchen-gardens around the site. Kitchen-gardens around the site. ■Kitchen-gardens around the site.

In addition, between Tenku no mori and Wasure no Sato, there are several kinds of free range native chickens in an area known as Chicken Pasture. These chickens produce both meat and eggs for the guests to enjoy. Mr. Tajima said, “We feed chickens mainly rice and vegetables harvested in the kitchen-gardens. Then, the fertilizers are made from the mixture of chicken droppings and fallen leaves, [which nourish the vegetables].” Raising chickens also requires time and effort.

About 900 chickens are actively running around in the Chicken Pasture. About 900 chickens are actively running around in the Chicken Pasture. ■About 900 chickens are actively running around in the Chicken Pasture.
Fresh eggs are directly served on the table in Tenku no mori and Wasure no Sato, Gajoen. ■Fresh eggs are directly served on the table in Tenku no mori and Wasure no Sato, Gajoen.

Mr. Tajima spoke of another interesting aspect. ”Our pudding works as a ‘Litmus paper’. Namely, when any eggs taste bad, it is a natural way for us to know that there is trouble within the recycled food chain.” It is a very reasonable thinking way in accordance with the rules of the nature.

☆Something lost, what the travelers discovered in the paradise on earth

A sacred tree on the top ■A sacred tree on the top

When in the paradise on earth, people feel that all their senses are awakened. In front of a Castanopsis tree, which is worshipped as a sacred symbol, travelers can rediscover the sound of the wind, and enjoy the aroma of different seasons within the expanse of nature. The interiors made of wood provide the warmth of life. Freshly harvested vegetables are served with the taste of the land. When night falls, the star-filled sky feels so close [and you can see the light which has traveled for several billion light years].

“I’m sorry for annoying you.” “I appreciate you because you have made me what I am today.” Such sincere words from the bottom of the heart are spoken to one’s lifetime partner. The travelers can step into their new life after recognizing the real meaning of wealth and happiness at the place to feel happiness while discovering something which has been left behind and was almost lost during the journey.

President Tajima hopes that Tenku no mori can be a shop window for happiness. ■President Tajima hopes that Tenku no mori can be a shop window for happiness.

The cruise train, Seven Stars in Kyushu started running in 2013. Mr. and Mrs. Tajima felt admiration for the train which appeals to the world to see the beauty of Kyushu. Their support for this venture led them to partner with Seven Stars to offer hospitality to passengers on the train at Tenku no mori and Wasure no Sato, Gajoen. Seven Stars is the train which brings the travelers to A Country of Happiness, Mr. Tajima explained. ”Our facility is not completed yet. It will be further improved to draw closer to happiness. We ourselves should be a show window for happiness. A rocket is a must to travel into space, and a vessel is a must to sail across the sea. While collecting and carrying treasures within Kyushu, Seven Stars is the train headed to A Country of Happiness.

The beautiful scenery, hot springs, and warm hospitality cherished by the tenderness of the local people in Kyushu attracts guests from overseas. Kyushu Island has lots of treasures for which the world is seeking. This land of Happiness keeps on evolving.