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初めの頃からよく訪れていた詩人の南 相吉とアレックス、村の子供たち(当時はたくさんの子供たちがいました)は、ある晩集まって家の名前を考えました。
相吉が 古い曲に歌詞を付けて「篪庵の歌」をつくると、当時の村の子供たちはよくその歌をうたいました。



Purchasing Chiiori

When Alex first entered Iya in the summer of 1971, many houses were already abandoned. In the fall of 1972 Alex began looking throughout the villages of East and West Iya and also villages in neighboring mountain ranges in Kochi and on the eastern side of Mt Tsurugi. After exploring over a hundred houses, Alex settled on Chiiori, in the hamlet of Tsurui.

In June 1973, Alex bought the house. At the time it had been abandoned for seventeen years. Originally it belonged to the Kita 喜多 family (who live today just below Chiiori) for many generations, before changing hands several times before Alex found it.


Right from the beginning the neighbors came over to help. Sometimes Alex would wake up to find that someone had brought cucumbers and left them on the verandah. In particular, the closest neighbor, Omo 尾茂 taught Alex much old Iya lore, and remains to this day a great friend and supporter.

Naming the House

Early guests from outside Iya included poet Minami Shokichi 南 相吉, and one night Shokichi, Alex, and the village children (there were many in those days) got together and came up with a name for the house. The name they decided on was Chiiori 篪庵, made up of Chi 篪 an archaic little-used character they found in the dictionary for “Flute”, and Iori 庵, meaning “Thatched Cottage”. Hence Chiiori, meaning “House of the Flute.” Shokichi wrote a poem about it to music from an old Quaker song, and the children used to sing it.

Since those early days, Alex has continued to be involved with Chiiori, including its complete re-thatching in 1988, and the founding of Chiiori Trust, of which he is the Director.


Alex wrote a memoir of his finding of Chiiori in the first two chapters of his book Utsukushiki Nihon no Zanzo 『美しき日本の残像』("Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan") published in Japanese in 1993, and in English in 1996 as Lost Japan.

In 2001, Alex published Dogs and Demons (Japanese edition 『犬と鬼』2002), which describes the collapse of Japan's rural areas due to depopulation, the loss of historic heritage in old cities, and the mechanism whereby Japan's countryside was damaged by a decades-long (and still on-going) massive public construction regime. Alex has called for the revival of rural areas through sustainable tourism and rediscovery of the value of the natural environment and organic agriculture.

alexphoto0.jpgAlex and friends, 1979
alexphoto1.jpgIya children with puppet costumes, 1976
alexphoto2.jpgSnow on piled thatch, 1985
alexphoto3.jpgOmo and Alex, 1978
alexphoto5.jpgSpiderweb at Chiiori, 1980