Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring

In the Land of Trees 1

They headed to the Land of Trees in Ryoko's car. They drove for 20 minutes from the center of the town through the forest. The Land of Trees was a factory that manufactured wooden furniture. The compound consisted of a workshop, an exhibition hall, cafe and windmill. A small river with a waterwheel ran through the compound. The roof was fitted with solar panels for power generation.

They entered the exhibition hall. Tsubasa's grandmother exclaimed. "This is the same furniture that I am using in my hotel room!" Ryoko said, "Furniture is made here and delivered to visitors' rooms after final adjustments based on personal data. The standardized parts are mass-produced, and variable parts such as table legs and tansu bases are made to order. Thus, they are adaptable to the needs and wishes of many people. Because lumber and bamboo are biodegradable materials, most parts of the furniture produced by the workshop are recyclable." One of the artisans from the workshop approached Ryoko and spoke with her about a piece of furniture that he was currently working on. Tsubasa realized that this was the method by which the data he had sent had been used to fashion his grandparents' bed.
There was a small footpath in the forest which led to a renovated school that served as a boarding house. The air was rich with aromatic oils. Tsubasa felt refreshed by the scent.
The family followed Ryoko down the footpath toward a small log house. "Is Kanalu-san there?" A trustworthy-looking man in his 30s emerged. He had gentle eyes. He reminded Tsubasa of the forest wood cutter in the picture book A Man Planted A Tree. "I am Kanalu Aso. That's 'Kanalu' as in 'canal.' Pleased to meet you." Tsubasa's father responded, "How do you do. I am Keigo Uemura. This is Megumi, my wife. Your name is unusual."
"My father worked for a trading company. My parents lived near the Panama Canal when I was born, so they named me Kanalu." What a fascinating story, Tsubasa thought. He had a feeling he had heard the name before.IMAGE:illustration

Kanalu invited them to his simple wooden room, which contained sleek and beautiful IT equipment complementing the wooden desk and racks. The wiring in the room was neat and unobtrusive, not carelessly exposed as it was in Tsubasa's spiritless laboratory. Tsubasa walked up to a PC and said "This is really beautiful." "I built it myself. I made the chassis and bought some parts on the Internet. I wanted to build it with wood, but I chose carbonized kenaf and bamboo instead, for greater strength."

"I have heard that RUICA was developed here," said Tsubasa. Kanalu smiled. What a lovely smile he had, thought Tsubasa. "Yes, I developed the initial concept of the system. And now it has grown to include many applications for people's needs, the town intranet, and an improved user interface developed with the collaboration of the townspeople."
"Even I can use it. I am grateful for RUICA," Tsubasa's grandmother said and showed her RUICA to Kanalu. She had stored her images of the town in her private folder, "My Favorites." There were several pictures including a jizo, an old-fashioned bakery, and some good-looking young men. These last provoked a laugh.

"Did people of the town participate in the development of the system?" asked Tsubasa. In the laboratory of his university's engineering department, and in many corporations, it was common to solicit the input of end users only in the early stages of design and development. He wondered aloud if, like Linux, the town's system was being continually modified with the participation of its end users, the residents.

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