SAPPORO Magazine – Issue 01-3: A Conversation with Adachi and Jinnouchi

Sep 28, 2020

SAPPORO Magazine – Issue 01-3: A Conversation with Adachi and Jinnouchi

Mountain Is

Lured by the yama (the mountains), Shigeaki Adachi and Takeshi Jinnouchi, two freelance kikori (lumberjacks) make yama their field of work.

The pair are now based in the mountains of Sapporo, working relentlessly to build roads. These roads both connect and create a border between the mountains and the people.

Adachi and Jinnouchi’s gazes drift towards the mountains as we discuss their roads

Text by Michiko Kurushima (translated by Susie Krieble, Kana Koike, and Ari Murata)
Photo by Ikuya Sasaki

003 Cross Talk

What are the mountains?

Early in the morning, they head up the mountain, and by afternoon, retire home. We spoke with Takeshi Jinnouchi and Shigeaki Adachi about their work, themselves, and nature, as they finished up their work day. The two often pair up on a project-by-project basis as freelance kikori (lumberjacks). Most recently, they collaborated to create a road in the Sapporo Minami High School Forest.

Q: How would you describe one another?

A senpai (mentor) and a colleague/work partner. Even though we aren’t related, with him I feel a sense of family. And maybe I also see him as a bit of a rival.

Ten years ago, Adachi was a young man whose independence I wanted to support through the forestry NPO I established. Now, he is my partner who is always by my side who inspires me and complements wherever I am lacking. He’s the kind of person who I could count on to pass on the know-how and knowledge to members of the next generation after I die, to continue shaping an ideal forestry sector.

Q: Why did you choose work together, as freelancers?

The basic idea is that we can create more attractive jobs for ourselves as a unit. Being freelance, it is thrilling to know that everything can change in an instant; I prefer to move freely according to the situation rather than to have a pre-determined outcome.

There are many different sites that need work and at some sites, it’s more efficient for us to work as a team, but at other sites, it makes more sense to have just one of us working there. I think the advantage of being freelance is the freedom to choose the projects that we want to take part in, and that we can turn down projects we are not interested in. Especially those that won’t lead to the creation of a good forest. I want to steer change in the right direction, even if it takes time.

Q: How does the spread of COVID-19 affect you in your work? 

To be honest, it’s just too big to understand. You can start worrying and do everything you can to avoid it, but it would be endless; or you could accept its existence and deal with it as natural disaster. The world of nature is understood to be a world where problems that may occur over an unimaginably long timespan will each be solved organically, in harmony with nature. The existence of the earth itself is a natural phenomenon, and as long as human beings continue to be born into this world, radioactivity and human-derived environmental destruction will continue, and things like COVID-19 will in turn impact humans. These are all natural phenomena—even seemingly unrelated random things like smartphone updates could be considered as such I think. 

However, from the perspective of someone living in a modern society, I think this is also a test. Perhaps it is a chance to seriously reflect on how we can better act for ourselves and for others; think about how we can survive in good health as a community. Of course, my sincere condolences go out to victims and their families, it must be so horrible. Some things can’t be helped though I guess, so maybe this is a timely reminder of all that.

I don’t feel many of the impacts from a work viewpoint. The co-existence of people and viruses has been around since ancient times. That’s the essence of it. In my personal life though, if I had family deaths from it, it would be awful of course. It really does bring to the forefront many problems of society.

Q: What are the mountains to you?

A work site.

The mountains are the mountains aren’t they? I can’t really explain it. If you’ve lived in the mountains you would understand why it can’t be defined so easily.

A naturally evolving relationship

When building the road was over for the day, Adachi mentioned a thought to Jinnouchi, “I think it would have been nice if the curve was more like this.” Jinnouchi, who nodded in agreement, has been a great supporter of Adachi’s independent pursuits, and acts as his senpai. Jinnouchi is the director of the NPO which owns the forest where they are working. He is then, so to speak, also the employer.

“But the master of the site is Adachi,” says Jinnouchi, “I can never reach the level of skill he has at building roads. I’m still fumbling around. Because until now my only forestry experience as been as one of the workers.”

Adachi not only has experience with on-site work, but also back office tasks like subsidy applications and setting up projects, Jinnouchi emphasises. He is a talented individual who has acquired the necessary know-how to conduct a small team in the practice of forestry. He also has a wealth of experience in building roads. Until now, the duties for building the school forest had been split between Adachi using the digger and Jinnouchi in charge of mowing bamboo grass and cutting down trees.

“This time, we have made a change. I asked Adachi if I could build the road,” says Jinnouchi.

The reason driving the change was to make way for new developments and insert fresh ideas into the process. The roads were built, and trees were thinned, and it was left at that. But now, they felt a need to convey the essence and appeal of the mountains and forestry to others. As such, the men have started workshops guiding people who are interested through the forests, and ramped up efforts to encourage public participation in the work they do. 

“I think it will make a good model case for the rest of the industry. There is an obvious reason why certain trees are left untouched and why that road was built that way in such a large space,” says Adachi, who adds that sometimes he takes a day off from the physical work to discuss this concept and his other ideas. 

“I have a lot to talk about, but there are so many details. Both of us are both headed in the same direction and our vision of what we could do was the same from the outset,” Adachi reflects.

The age difference between the pair is over 15 years, but in relation to forest development—which may take decades or even centuries—the generation gap is nothing.

“Sometimes Adachi gets angry at me and bursts out, ‘If we don’t do it this way, the work can’t proceed’, and I always just reply with ‘Oh, sorry.’ Efficiency is just not in my vocabulary,” admits Jinnouchi. On the other hand, Adachi wanders around the forest barefoot, a veritable wild child. Yet when he speaks about building roads, his intimate knowledge flows out like an eloquent speech from a philosopher. It may be because they are opposites of each other like the sun and the moon that they can combine forces to create such powerful work in nature.

Left: Shigeaki Adachi

Born in Sapporo in 1982. While studying at university, he worked as a photographer, and in 2009, he moved to Takinoecho. There, he began training in forestry at a company that was involved in forest research and other forest work. In 2012, he started his own company called outwoods. Outwoods undertakes various outdoors pursuits, from forestry work in the mountains to selling firewood and nurturing the satoyama, the collective nature surrounding rural communities in Japan, especially that which is maintained by humans. In winter of 2016, he returned to his hometown of Sapporo and is now working as a lumberjack. Most recently, he has participated in an exhibition on the theme of ‘The Mountains’ at the KADO gallery in THE KNOT SAPPORO. 

outwoods Facebook

Right: Takeshi Jinnouchi

Born in Sapporo in 1966. Graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts. Worked in a design firm before moving to the Shimokawacho Forestry Cooperative in 1993. Having always had a passion for music, he released a CD album called “Kitanokuni E Yukou” in 1999.

In 2000, he begun to focus on an essential oils business as part of the Forestry Cooperative. In 2006, he founded the NPO Morinet Hokkaido in Asahikawa, and in 2015, he supervised forestry and the creation of free forest spaces as a freelancer. In 2019, he began work with Kikori Builders.

Takeshi Jinnouchi website