The front of our home faces East and especially as during the winter when the sun doesn't get very high, we were finding it very cold inside the house.
To the left of our entrance drive there's a 250 square metre piece of land (As part of a much larger plot) which isn't our's - but had been all but forgotten by it's owners who live in Tokyo. Japanese Cedar were growing tall and thin with some of these trees looking quite unhealthy too.
From the beginning we'd heard local rumours that the land next door to our's was mafia owned, but I figured that to contact the owners and offer to look after their land wouldn't be met with disdain or bring trouble. So after summoning a little courage my wife & I found the registered owner's contact number, called and made an arrangement to meet them.
A few weeks later a sweet old couple turned up.... I smiled to myself. These weren't YAKUZA!!!
We sat in our lounge having coffee & light refreshments and the conversation turned to the local rumour. They laughed and explained that although they're the legal owners, about 20 years ago a local relative had wanted to borrow some money and asked them to put their land up as collateral. They did so and the relative had been conned by someone in the Japanese mafia and lost all the money, so in the end the loan had gone unpaid & the property into legal limbo. Just one of the many strange deals that turn sour and render a property useless and abandoned. In any case, we could see we were under no threat of having Yakuza troubles, which was a welcome development of the truth. We've also learnt that local rumours can be a little unreliable...
The owners walked with us to inspect their land and after gaining an understanding of the problems that were being caused by their trees, offered to pay to have them taken down provided the cost was reasonable. They also gave us permission to look after their land & use it for whatever we'd like!
So we contacted the tree surgeons we'd used before and negotiated a good deal. About 18 trees would be taken down - for the sum of only 120,000 Yen for our neighbour's trees with another 15,000 Yen payable by us for a couple of large trees of our own - which we also wanted taken down. The fees were low as they'd get to take some of the wood from the land which wasn't ours - and wouldn't need to do any further clearing of wood (Nor chopping for firewood), which is of course the hardest work of all!
The costs were agreed and in the meantime, Jun dug up & moved Azalea bushes from the front of our house..
...to make a hedge around the perimeter of their land.
The tree surgeons came a few weeks into March & started with the trees furthest from the main area where they were to come down.
It's always fascinating to watch how these jobs are done. I actually have the equipment to do most of the work - just not the skills, knowledge or confidence to bring down huge trees! These guys have decades of experience and so are confident & relaxed, despite the hugh crashes they cause as trees are seemingly effortlessly brought crashing to the ground.
It's not always apparent how large trees are till they have crashed down!
Some of the wood from the neighbour's land was taken away.
Clearing up is the hardest work of all. We burnt a lot of canopy for days after felling these trees. I sometimes wish I had a shredder, but they're hard to come by in Japan.
Behind the boss of the tree surgeons, are about 5 Cedar canopies which we had to clear. Cutting these up with a chainsaw and removing was harder than it looks!
Fortunately the weather was cool and hard work wasn't too sweaty as it is now - in summer months. We had two fires going, to burn the canopy brush. This picture shows the much clearer path for winter light. Our plan was to leave deciduous hardwood trees (keiyaki, mostly).
Here a smaller Japanese Cedar (Sugi) is cut before being loaded onto a truck. Where we are is famous for it's Sugi (Used for building materials).
This is what they left us with to clear up.
After a few day's hard work, it looked much better. Ready for planting saplings of various trees we hope will grow in partial shade.
Chopping up a gareden full of logs, to store as firewood took Jun almost two weeks to get through, but we now have around 4 year's worth of wood to burn in our stove during winters ahead!
Over the long term I'd like to use up most of the Japanese Cedar surrounding the garden so there is more light during winter months, but also to allow the beautiful keiyaki & other hardwoods t be visible & grow to make space for more decorative flowering & fruit trees. This will happen during the years ahead...