Lifestyle & Human Interest

Two Women Turn Enchanting Forest Homes into Village To Care for the Elderly


This is a story about two friends who shared a vision. Nobuko Suma and Sachiko Fujioka met over a quarter of a century ago. For years, they worked in Tokyo, Japan, delivering meals they made to the housebound, as one of them was a social worker and the other a cook.

Ten years after they met, they found some land for sale 115 miles from Tokyo, in Shizuoka and fell in love. They both knew they were getting older and they wanted a place where they could build a retirement community as well as be comfortable themselves.

So, with the help of Nobuko’s architect son, “Jikka” was brought to life. It took a year, starting in 2014, and cost a total of $535,000. The resulting complex is not only functional, but it’s also beautiful, and the two friends have big plans for its future.

“When they approached me about this house and their concept, they told me this was going to be their final abode,” Nobuko’s son, Issei Suma, told CNN. “They were going to serve the community and live here for the rest of their lives.

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“They told me they did not want anything fancy — nothing embellished, (or) trying to be cool — but something that is down to earth.”

The final complex covers over 20,000 square feet, and some rooms in the structure boast ceilings that are 26 feet high.

The kitchen is large and easy to access, and there are plenty of other unique touches, including the jacuzzi that has a spiraling ramp.

“I came up with the spiral shape which enables you to use a wheelchair and go down it,” the architect explained. “At the same time, it’s a great pool for kids and it’s going to be a great jacuzzi for couples, too.”

“That’s my idea of universal design — it’s something that makes every generation happy.”

“I think it’s a trend (in Japan) for younger people to move outside of the city and have a happier life outside of the city,” Suma continued. “One thing I can imagine is that, after my mother, younger people can run the facility. If it’s good for older people it should be good for (others) too.”

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The location is picturesque and inviting, and the two women seem right at home in the complex they dreamed up. Its name means “parents home,” which couldn’t be more fitting.

“It’s warm, the air is fresh, the water is delicious and there are plenty of vegetables,” Nobuko said. “The land is old, but there are a lot of people who emigrated here so there are a lot of aspects about this place that charmed us.”

“Our intuition told us that ‘this is it,’ so we decided it had to be here.”

The two friends are still busy meal prepping and delivering food — but now, they cater to elderly individuals. The two are in their 60s and hope to open up the complex to more residents as time goes on.

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