Living is Easy in a Mature Provincial City

The Search for My Second Home Begins

I had long worked as a company employee in Tokyo, and as my retirement approached, I began picturing in my mind a second life in a provincial city. For almost 40 years, my life was a routine of going back and forth between the office and home. I used to be so into music back when I was a student, but I hadn't enjoyed any music in such a long time. In short, work was my life. Then suddenly retirement was just around the corner, and I quickly had to envision my second life. I knew it would be important to become part of the local community, but in Tokyo, I didn't have any connection with it. So the search for my second home began, and now, I am about to settle down in Hachinohe. Let me take a look back at the past few months leading up to that decision.

While I was working in Tokyo, I had often come to Hachinohe to work on a new project. At first most of my visits were day trips, but as overnight stays increased I was able to feel the city's atmosphere closely, and I became more and more attached to this mature city of great depth. The kindness of its people and a sense of community, which was rare in Tokyo; its rich nature with the sea and the land; a food culture that takes pride in local products; and most of all, its enthusiasm for music---these were the traits that attracted me to Hachinohe.

Living in the City and Becoming a Student at the "Mountain School"

MOUNTAIN FUN SCHOOL

Before becoming a permanent resident of the city, I first tried a limited-time residence from July and took the Soba Making Course at the "Mountain School," an exchange facility overlooking Lake Aoba in the Nango area in the southern part of the city. Indeed, a retiree learning to make soba has long become a cliché, but I found the Soba Making Course at the Mountain School especially rewarding because upon completion we could graduate as "soba makers." We had 5 hands-on lessons, which began with sowing soba or buckwheat in late July and finished with grinding in early November, with a local soba master as our instructor. It was fun because we could actually practice making soba at every lesson.

Then I participated in the Walking Tour sponsored by the city, because I figured the best way to learn about the charm of the city was to ask the locals.

  SOBA MAKING The soba-making class at the Mountain School is taught by a local elderly woman.
     

Though Hachinohe is an old castle town, there was a large fire in 1924, causing the city to be rebuilt anew except for a few historical structures and some old town names. Nonetheless, the merchant town spirit has lived on since the Edo period. Though many provincial cities are plagued with the problem of struggling central shopping districts, Hachinohe makes full use of its culture and local resources nurtured in its long history, with the private sector and the administration working together to create an appealing city. Core projects include the development of the Hon-Hachinohe Station Street, and opening of the general information center "Machi no Eki Hachinohe" and the Hachinohe Portal Museum "Hacchi," a center for creative exchange where people from in and outside the city gather for a variety of purposes, such as art, culture, craft, tourism, and child-rearing support. In addition there are numerous events throughout the year, such as fairs of the shopping districts, "pedestrians' paradise," tour of the city, stamp rally, and art projects, all enthusiastically reported in the local paper.

The creativity of a city is not about making something from scratch, but making use of local resources accumulated from the past, and causing a chain reaction between diverse fields such as art, culture, education, and businesses to bring out the city's hidden potential.

 

HACCHIExterior of the Hachinohe Portal Museum "Hacchi"