Adachihara Touru Sensei
Disclaimer and General Information: This page was prepared by me,
Alan Pagliere. The information herein is what I know from my talks with Adachihara-sensei,
his colleagues, friends, and from things I have read and seen about him. Given
that my Japanese is/was not the greatest in the world, there are likely to be
errors of fact here and there. For those, I apologize, and request that anyone
who knows something I don't about Adachihara-sensei and his history, contact
me. I will update the information here.
I hope that this will help others learn about this
unique man and his life. If anyone is interested in his projects and would
like to learn more or participate in them, I ask that they please contact
me and I will get them in contact with Sensei and his colleagues.
Recent full-length feature film based on one of Sensei's projects: Grass-Cutting
My personal history with Adachihara-sensei
The Rebirth of an Abandoned Village
Sometime in the 1970s, Adachihara-sensei along with some students of his and
others came upon the idea of reviving and abandoned village and turning
it into a working farm. From what I can gather, in Japan about the only
way to become a farmer is to be born into a farming family. The problem
with this is that, along with the general long-term trend toward land development,
as some people move away from farms, the number of farms in Japan is decreasing.
Someone who wants to become a farmer has no real way of doing
And so, the idea here was to find an old ababndoned village and get
a group of people together who wanted to farm to work the land there and
start up a working, self-sufficient farm. They succeeded in doing exactly
that. Since that time, other farms have been similarly brought back from
ADEA (Agricultural Development Engineering Association)
The fact that ADEA expands to a phrase that has a hint
of the "Japanese-English" about it should be forgiven. Its work has been remarkable.
In addition to the farms mentioned above, other projects have been established.
I was lucky enough to visit a working dairy processing plant near the outskirts
of Toyama during my visit in 1997. Every single person I met was enthusiastic,
hard-working and totally and realistically dedicated to the concept of
small scale working farms and distribution of their products. Needless
to say, all production is done in a natural manner with no pesticides,
hormones, etc. During that trip, my son Alex said the milk was the best he had
ever tasted. No small complement.
Kusakari juu-ji-gun (Grass-Cutting Crusade)
One summer day in 1974, while working on the first farm described above,
some of the students noticed a posted warning, stating that the reforested
area in the vicinity was to be sprayed by helicopter with an herbicide
to keep the grass down around the young trees. This of course would have
polluted the area downhill causing particular harm to the rice fields and farm
land belonging to some local farmers.
After attempts to get the lumber company and the government agencies
involved in the reforestation to reconsider the planned spraying proved
futile, an idea was born. What if enough individuals could be recruited
to cut the grass around the trees by hand? The trees would grow but without the
polluting runoff. The trees were on steep hills in an area that was not easy
to get to. The accommodations for anyone who was crazy enough to volunteer were
less than rustic.
The spraying was finally held up on the condition that enough people could be
recruited for the job. The story of how Sensei, his students, and colleagues
were able to get enough volunteers and actually succeed in doing this incredibly
arduous project completed is told in a film called Kusakari juu-ji-gun (in
English Saviors of the Forest or The Grass Cutting Crusade). The
synopsis of the film was translated by Simon Piggott, an Englishman now living
in Japan and a friend of Sensei's. His translation is available by clicking
Recent information has it that Simon Piggott is working on the translation
necessary for the subtitles to the film so that those outside of Japan
might benefit from seeing the film and learning the story.
My personal history with Adachihara-sensei
My first encounter
In 1981, I first met a man named Adachihara Touru. I was 26 at the time,
he was 50. He was the kindest person I had ever met. I was traveling by
train across the main island of Japan. I had left Tokyo a couple of days
earlier and had just spent the night in a lovely Japanese style hotel in
Ogizawa, near the Kurobe Dam in the Japan Alps. I was planning to travel
across to the Japan Sea side of the island, take in the Noto peninsula,
then see Kanazawa, Eiheiji Temple and arrive a few days later in Kyoto,
my ultimate destination. Near the city of Omachi, I had to change trains.
A man came up to me to ask if I needed help. Between my broken Japanese
and his broken English, I was able to communicate that I was on my way
to the Noto peninsula, perhaps stopping in the city of Toyama for the night.
He said that he was just returning home to Toyama himself and he could
ride with me and let me know which train to take, where to stop, etc. Fine.
During the train ride, we chatted, first in two languages, then in three.
He enjoyed speaking Spanish too, which he had learned during a past trip
to Spain. I told him about who I was and he told me about himself. He was
a professor of agricultural engineering at the Toyama Prefectural Technical
College. By the time we arrived in Toyama station, we had had a good time
and I was about to thank him and take my leave to find somewhere to spend
the night. He invited me to his home. I refused for two reasons. First,
I thought he might be the type of Japanese (there are fewer now than back
then) who enjoyed taking a gai-jin out for a drink just to show off the
human conversation piece to friends. Secondly, being a somewhat cynical
person, I couldn't imagine that anyone would do this without some ulterior
motive. I was soon to be proven wrong on both counts.
He insisted and after several more refusals and reiterations of the
invitation, I finally accepted. No sooner had the words escaped my mouth,
than he was on the phone to his wife to let his family know that he was
picking up food for dinner and that they would have a guest. We hopped
in his car at the station and about half an hour later arrived in his beautiful
home in Osawano, near Toyama.
His family, friends and colleagues were all wonderful, kind people.
They took in this gai-jin despite their lack of English and my very, very
limited Japanese. I was to find out later just how real these people were
as I spent several months traveling and living in Japan and as I met many
Japanese who for whatever reason were unable to deal with a foreigner as
a human being rather than some strange alien visitor.
(Luckily this attitude towards foreigners has changed since my days there).
I wound up staying, on his family's insistence, for about three days,
after which he handed me off to a couple of colleagues and friends who
took me around to other areas that were interesting to see: Takayama, Toyama,
Noto Peninsula, Kanazawa. When I asked why he was so kind to me, he said
that when he was younger, he had traveled around Canada and Spain and had
been helped by others. It was a kind of circle.
I kept in touch with him during the several months I lived and worked
in Kyoto and when things came up and I was to return to the US, I made
sure that my trip back took me through Toyama so that I could see Sensei
and all his wonderful friends again before leaving. Though years passed,
I have kept in touch via letters and gifts with Sensei. He would send me copies
of newspaper articles written about him and his projects, books that he
There is more that I could tell about how Sensei helped me out during
my time in Japan and later, but suffice it to say that he stayed with me
ever since my first meeting him. I have thought of him often over the years
and can easily say that I have met only a handful of people in my life
who can approach his kindness, concern for others and interest in things that
marry the ecological and economic. I have met many people who have worked
with him and they all marvel at his energy (now in his mid 70s, he
has always had more enthusiasm and energy than any ten 20-year olds I can
think of) and kindness. Years have a way of flying by and I truly wondered
if I would ever get a chance to see him again.
In June of 1997, I got that chance. My son and I took a trip to Japan. Two
weeks traveling around. We met friends and acquaintances of mine in Tokyo, stayed
at the same spot in the Alps I had stayed in 16 years earlier, and then boarded
a train to Toyama. He met us at the station with only a couple of gray hairs
and not one iota less of the Adachihara energy. He treated us to a lovely stay
at his home. Highlights of the stay included a great (for lack of a better term)
Japanese barbeque, tours of the college (where he is now a Professor Emeritus),
a lecture and showing of the full-length feature film about
him. All in all, complete and most generous hospitality. I had, over the
years, neraly forgotten that people like Sensei actually existed. I am grateful
that my son had a chance to meet him and that I had a chance to relearn what
I had almost forgotten.
I regret that I have never been able to repay Adachihara-sensei for
all his kindnesses. Someone once told me that there are certain favors
that you can't repay to person who did them for you. You have to do the
same for someone else. The circle.