Three women using herbs (P8-9)

The greatest attraction of walking around in this area is the richness of nature.

The vigorously growing vegetation lend their power from the generous amount of sun, water and soil in this region. The area certainly has a lot of appeal.

I interviewed three women, who are working with plants in the Yatsugatake and Southern Alps area, about the charm of the area.


Mayuko Fujii

(Dying artist)

You will be able to see the colors clearly when you are familiar with the darkness. At the time when there were still no human artifacts around, people would think, “What a beautiful color that flower has. What a beautiful fruit. I would somehow like to preserve that color.” Nowadays it is easy to take a photo, but at that time they had to pick the flower or fruit and try to rub it on their skin or clothes—it is said that this was the beginning of dyeing.

Moved by the colors of nature I had this strong desire to want to preserve those colors. The way to do this was through natural dyeing, which let me to the Yatsugatake area.
I have been living here for about four years now, and feel that I am regaining this spirit again.

The reason for this is that the average daylight here is short and the nights really dark. Being aware of the dark will make you more attuned to the natural colors during daylight.

Then, there is one more point and that is the severeness of winter.
During the harshness and stillness of winter, plants are dormant. Then, in spring, when they start budding again the colors are eye-catching.

Besides my dyeing work, it is important for me to preserve my ability to see the natural colors properly. It is therefore important to rest the eyes well. This is here at Yatsugatake easy to do. It is my job to harvest dyes according to the season and to reproduce the correct colors from the living plants for the customers.

Therefore, I prepared to move to the Southern Alps to finally realize my long-held wish to live in the forest. I draw the water I use myself, and I am always full of expectation on how the colors turn out when I am dyeing.


Mayuko Fujii

(Dyeing artist)
she studies dyeing under Yoko and Fukumi Shimura in their Kyoto atelier. After she became independent she settled in Kamakura. Later she moved to Yatsugatake where she uses natural dyes to dye silk thread mainly used for “kimono”.


Tamami Suzuki

(Flower grower and seller)

I feel so much happiness when the flowers start budding in spring that I can not stop working.

When I was born, the country was still economically rich and everything was in abundance.
On the other hand, many environmental issues were reported on the news.

I grew up in the middle of it, and when I was still in high school, I started to think about how I wanted to make something “that returns to the earth”. After graduation, I traveled around the world on a peace boat.

With all those impressions of different countries, I started to wonder about the true meaning of richness. What was my mission work in life?

After I came back to Japan, I stayed on many farms while thinking about what I should do.
At some point I had an epiphany: I wanted to sell flowers grown from seed. Coincidentally, there was already someone who was doing just that. In this very place in Japan, Yatsugatake.

In open-field cultivation, we try to make maximum use of the riches of the environment. We make fertilizer by recycling abundant organic material that comes out of the area, and we sell the flowers with a minimum use of pesticides. The flowers are as strong and vital as you probably never have seen elsewhere.

Initially, I came here as a part-time worker, since then I became one with nature (laughing).
Flower growers are busy the year round. But when I see the seeds sprout in Spring, I feel so happy, I can not stop working. Weeding in a squatting position is tough, but the seedlings will tell you that “The airflow has become much better”, it is gratifying.

Harvest is in summer. Every day we work on the field with a heartfelt desire to want to deliver to the people, picking the flowers at the best timing. It always fills me with delight to see how the seeds grow into beautiful flowers.

In autumn, when the drying is finished and the first frost covers the fields, I always get a feeling of, “this is the end of the season”.

This is the life I was looking for.


Tamami Suzuki

Selling field grown flowers
The name of the shop is, “Flowers for Lena”
You could say that “They are selling flowers for the price even children can afford”
She works together with her husband and shopkeeper, Toru.

Yufu hatano (Kigi)

(Herbal expert)

Incorporate the herb that grow all around you into your life.

There are herbs that have different aliases, such as the Katabami or “Kagamigusa” (Mirror weed (jp))(Ampelopsis or pepper-vine or porcelain berry). In the old days it was a women’s job to polish the copper mirrors of the Shintai (object of worship) in shinto shrines. They used the katabami plant for this, hence its (nick) name. Actually, does the knowledge that “katabami” connects women with the gods not suddenly make it feel closer at home? In my course, I will explain not only about the medicinal effect of a herb but also about the stories related to it.

I came to Yatsugatake seven years ago. The first four years I managed the herbal plants at the Shimik Yatsugatake medicinal botanical garden. There I had an important encounter.

People may suffer some health problems that seem to be impossible to cure, right?
Even if we are not able to solve the cause of the problem, I realized that we can change the way we think about it and condition our mind. I can cure some conditions through the use of plants. Regardless of its appearance or medicinal effect, each plant has a certain power or “ki”

With that, when I examine the names and characteristics of plants, and their relation to humans, it smoothly gets stuck in my head, although I always forget the names of people. (laughing). During the winter two years ago, I realized that keeping all this knowledge to myself was not enough and that I wanted to share it with others. Inspired by this sudden uncanny urge I started this work.

From the reactions I get from those who participate in my lectures, I realized that incorporating medicinal herbs found around us at the right time and place will give a person a great sense of security. I also realized that by expressing myself in words, the feeling of connection between the plants and myself becomes stronger.


Yufu hatano (Kigi)

(Herb expert)
Through workshops, Medicinal herbs specialist Kigi shares her knowledge about how to distinguish and observe herbs, their medicinal application, and use in cosmetics.