The two principal figures behind the creation of the Yufuin brand, Kentaro Nakaya (featured in last month’s issue) and Mizoguchi, are revered respectively as “God” and “Buddha.” If it had not been for the solicitude with which Mizoguchi gently continued to bring people together in the background while Nakaya led the way in creation, the various unique local initiatives would not have received understanding or support from those in the community.

 

While a high school student in Hita, he belonged to the Biology Club and got to know the mountains intimately, devoting himself to studies of the ecosystem. Perhaps as a result of being forced to spend eight years in treatment for tuberculosis from his late teens, he has an uncommon awareness of nature and life. Some years later, in 1970, after starting to manage a Japanese-style inn, he learned of plans to develop a nearby marsh into a golf course. Banding together with colleagues and in collaboration with local residents, he also gained support from a hundred well-known figures from outside the area. The opposition movement was successful, and the natural environment was preserved. Upon renovating his inn, he gave top priority to improving the soil and allowing copses of trees to grow. The rooms, each in a separate building dotted among the greenery in which insects chirp and birds warble, are loved not only by the literati but by celebrities from every sphere.

 

The original Yufuin town merged with Yunohira in 1955. In the “Great Heisei Consolidation” in the early 2000s, Mizoguchi sensed a danger that the town’s boundaries would become too vague, risking the loss of its original autonomy and culture. Together with Nakaya and others, he opposed the plans, but the merger to form Yufu City went ahead and autonomy of governance was lost. For Mizoguchi, who had prioritized community building by the private sector over and above the running of his inn, this was a real disappointment. From then on, the address on his business card has read simply “Yufuin hot spring resort, Kyushu.” The pride of this man who continues to pour all his efforts into his town’s future is firm and cannot be weakened or destroyed.

 

Kunpei Mizoguchi

Born in Kokonoe town, Oita Prefecture, in 1933. After working at Hita Municipal Museum, he joined the management of Tamanoyu Japanese-style inn in 1966. In 1998, he was awarded the Transportation Culture Prize by the then Ministry of Transport, along with Nakaya. He was selected as one of first members of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s “Tourism Charisma” in 2002. Cooperation: Shozo Ando; Tsutae Uramatsu, vice-chair of Oita Corporation Society of Ethics

After the publication of this article in Shinsei, the earthquakes with their epicenters in Kumamoto prefecture which took place from April 14 onwards damaged buildings and other structures in Yufuin. However, Tamanoyu, Kamenoi Bessou and the other inns and commercial facilities have now reopened. Please see the official websites of each inn and of the Yufuin Tourism Association for details.

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)