長者ヶ岳 Choujaga FOREST
Of the eight surveys completed, Choujaga forest was mentioned as a favourite site by five people. There are a number of folk tales connected to the origin of this site. Some believe that the leader of the Heike Clan (also known as the Taira) sought refuge in the area after his defeat by the Minamoto (Genji) clan in 1185. This small forest is reputed to be the site of his estate. It also the only remnant of the primeval forests which covered the Akiyoshidai plateau prior to the advent of agricultural practices in Japan.
The road to Choujaga Forest is hidden behind the parking lot and leads under the main road. It took me some time to find it. The forest is encircled by a ring of low shubbery and most wayfarers walk around, avoiding the dim interior. The forest is populated by many mosquitoes and spiders, and seems to be the territory of a couple of crows. There are also small flocks of sparrows and nightingales.
I completed three drawings and a recording in a small clearing behind the main rock mound, however the weather became overcast and the atmosphere inside the forest became distinctly still and cold. The recording was made by laying microphones on either side of the zoom recorder and walking around it in a circle while making the ambulatory drawing. I will continue with this method to record my presence and process in this particular site.
Drawings completed on the first day are below. Being surrounded by trees and undergrowth allowed for experimentation with perspective and visual proximity. Directions of sounds were also difficult to discern as they reverberated within the forest. My drawing also received some dark green and blue dropping splatters from an unknown bird, which were actually quite beautiful.
Second day at Choujaga Forest. The sky was overcast but the birds were very active. I could recognise the calls of nightingales and crows, but there was a family of birds with very shrill shrieks that are not familiar to me. Those shrieks were a little unnerving, especially in the forest atmosphere. This forest feels sentient and I make sure to apologise for intruding and explain my activities, and to thank the forest when I leave. The cold change brought by the typhoon made the environment too cold for the mosquitoes, so today’s session was much more pleasant.
Several parties of people walked around the periphery on the outside, but a group of eight senior ladies wandered in and curiously enquired about my activities. These ladies had a field guide to the flora of Akiyoshidai and were on a hunt for the Seven Flowers of Autumn described by Yamanoue Okura. I was glad for their company for a short while and felt like a socially inept hermit hiding in the bushes, hoping for friends. On my walk through the plateau to Tsurugi Yama (Sword Mountain), I came across four of the Seven Flowers of Autumn.
This solo travel experience has made me realise that people are the key to the formation of places and the imprinting of place upon our psyche through verbal histories, social interactions and memories of shared experiences. It has been difficult forming a connection to each place on my own, using only photographs and sound recordings as emotional triggers for my reflections.
The entire day was dedicated to two drawing and recording sessions at Choujaga Forest. As the forest is 2.6kms north along the trail from the Akiyoshidai lookout, I have to take a taxi north to the forest and walk south along the trail to in order to return to the bus station where I park my bicycle. On October 11, I had done a morning session at Choujaga Forest, hiked southwards to Tsurugi Yama for an afternoon drawing session, and from there hiked back to the lookout. A day dedicated to Choujaga Forest allowed me to complete an afternoon session which would otherwise have not been possible.
It was an interesting experience attempting to maintain focus, and I found that the second session was more productive after the morning warm up. I reached a distinct end point in the drawings. I also managed to obtain a few recordings for the sound installation I will created for a drawing workshop at AIAV, as well as subjective recordings of my movements in the forest and on the trail.
It was a weekday, however, there were quite a few visitors to the forest and I had a few interested observers. There were also frequent cars passing by on the road and this made it difficult to record purely the bird sounds for the workshop. However, they form an important part of the sound marks of this place, as do the aeroplanes.
Drawing documentation session 1:
Drawing documentation session 2: