A friend who I have known for 20 years and who is a semi-professional opera singer, piano and singing teacher, invited me over to her house to meet her neighbor, a 73 year-old Japanese man who lived on what I guess you could consider to be a small farm. His large property was located off a major train line in Tokyo and surrounded by houses and concrete, yet here is this small “farm” in the middle of buildings, dense housing and asphalt streets. After our initial introduction, I made it a point to visit often. He always liked my visits and I sort of enjoyed listening to his stories of his youth growing up in Tokyo on his small family farm. The property had been in his family for three hundred years from what he shared with me, and he raised mostly vegetables. On my last visit, he gave me a large bag full of vegetables he grew that summer: carrots; egg plants; green peppers; broccoli; cabbage. He was always very gracious with me and enjoyed my visits where we would sit out on his back porch drinking ice coffee on hot humid summer afternoons listening to those damn cicadas screaming in the background while talking.
Overlooking his property was an enormous tree that sent its shadow in every direction including over his house and a large area of his property during the summer. We would sit out on his porch with the tree located to our right just outside the front door of his house a few meters away. I guessed it would have taken six maybe seven people holding hands with outstretched arms to make it around the circumference of this enormous tree. I am not certain but I think the tree was one of those magnificent cedar trees known throughout Japan that grow to enormous sizes. Only this cedar tree was almost perfectly symmetrical growing straight up with a huge girth at its base. I have never see a tree that big in Tokyo. I guess the tree to have been maybe 90 feet high with perfectly symmetrical branches. It was stunning and could only imagine the enormity of the root structure that would be necessary to hold a tree up that size.
While talking on one of my visits, I made the comment suggesting please don’t ever think about cutting down that tree. It was just too magnificent and the size of the tree would make cutting it down a tragedy. He assured me at the time, that he never considered cutting the tree down being on his family property for 300 years. Turns out his ancestors were an influential family over the years in Tokyo. His wife had died several years before I met him and he lived with his son, an ex-police officer who had to quit police work because of debilitating depression. His son ended up committing suicide while I knew his father. The family circumstances were rather sad and I was surprised he confided in me telling me all this about his family history. I met his son several times who committed suicide, and just like the Japanese they hide their feelings even to the point of suicide.
Some months had gone by without going over to his house in Tokyo, when I received a telephone call from my friend who introduced me to this Japanese man. I thought she wanted to invite me over for a visit with him, but instead by the tone of her voice, something appeared to be wrong. She told me that the 73 year-old farmer who was in perfect health had died the previous Saturday. Apparently, he had gone to visit his sister and when he started going down the stairs from the second floor of his sister’s home, he slipped falling down the stairs breaking his neck which apparently instantly killed him. I could not believe this happened to this healthy man who farmed his property and was in such good health. Then she began telling me what had led up to his accident in which he died on a Saturday morning.
The previous Thursday, that enormous tree sitting on his property standing there for 300 years that could be seen for hundreds of meters from any direction walking through the neighborhood was cut down. When she told me that I was stunned. I could not believe that huge tree was cut down in a day. Think nature doesn’t demand a price for such carnage? I don’t. The reason explained to me as to why the tree was cut down was because the city hall where he lived were demanding their taxes be paid on the property. It would have been a very large amount of money knowing how predatory the tax system in Japan is on land ownership. In order to pay the property taxes, the Japanese man who lived on the property his entire life and who was the caretaker of that magnificent cedar tree, had it cut down and sold off to pay the land tax.
That tree paid him a visit the next Saturday afternoon before he took that first step down the stairs slipping to his death. Another good example of nature’s forces manifesting hostility towards industry and empire and the detritus of the money age. The tree cast a vote of “no confidence” in man for cutting that beautiful tree down to pay off the f–king taxes. The system cares for nothing but money and ever more quantities of it to pay off man-created systems while magnificent trees like this get butchered. For a country and people who are known for their “worship of nature” and bonsai, I say that’s essentially a lot of superficial cultural nonsense. Do the Japanese have a monopoly on nature worship and appreciation?