Ako International Co., Ltd., led by Aaron Nicholas Sutton and located in Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, is conducting a crowdfunding campaign to save the Akou tree and create a “global guesthouse for a wonderful nature experience and English learning.” In addition, they aim to revitalize the community and promote wellness for all. This time, we would like to introduce Nicholas’s story, which takes on the challenge of restoring a traditional Japanese old house.
The Akou tree in Ohama, Goto City, has been a symbolic presence that has watched over the settlement for many years. However, the owner left the island due to depopulation, and the tree was scheduled to be cut down. Nicholas happened to be passing by and spontaneously said, “Please don’t cut down this tree. I’ll buy it!” despite not having much money. He felt a strong intuition that the tree should not be cut down. He also had a hunch that restoring the dilapidated old house on the property together with the Akou tree could help revitalize the settlement and bring renewed vigor to visitors.
Nicholas felt a mysterious connection to the Akou tree when he moved to Goto Island. Despite being a symbolic presence that had watched over the region for a long time, it was in danger of being cut down due to depopulation. He felt he had to protect the tree for the sake of the community and the island. Therefore, he bought the tree and the old house on the property. He is now working on protecting the Akou tree while simultaneously restoring the old house and creating “AKO HOUSE,” a guesthouse where people can experience nature and learn English.
Beautiful seas and nature surround the Goto Islands, and plenty of delicious foods exist. In such an environment, you can enjoy learning native English from children to older people, without studying abroad, through a particular “island study abroad” that combines nature, English, and fun.
Through the guidance of professional guides, you can experience various marine activities such as SUP and kayaking. Native English conversation lessons are also provided by experienced professionals in a fun and exciting way, so even beginners can feel at ease. Everyone is welcome, even if they are not interested in English but want to have fun.
This project began with a fateful encounter with “Akou no Daiki” (the Great Tree of Akou). Although it is a personal matter, it is the beginning of a story that will someday bring happiness to many people, so please allow me to explain the background a little more.
The Great Tree of Akou is a two-minute walk from my home on the Goto Islands, next to a stone path. It is estimated to be 250 years old, and its vast trunk and many branches are magnificent, as are the new roots that extend from the components to the ground. It is truly a tree that exudes the power of life. I also feel it is a protective tree in this area and a mystical power spot.
On December 18, 2020, I walked home from my English conversation school during lunch break. As I passed the Great Tree of Akou, I heard the sound of construction. I saw a machine cutting off a large branch of the majestic Akou tree one by one. I was shocked by this sight. I hurriedly spoke to the demolition worker and learned that the landowner had requested that the Great Tree of Akou be cut down to the root and turned into an empty lot.
Unable to sit still, I blurted out, “Please wait to cut down the tree!” and immediately spoke to an old lady who lived next to the Great Tree of Akou. She told me, “It is a tree that we climbed and played on since we were children, and it has protected our homes from typhoons that come every year.” So this tree has been protecting the village for a long time.
Since the old lady knew the landowner, we were able to contact him. The owner had already moved to Aichi Prefecture and said, “I have been away from Goto for over ten years, and I have no plans to return. Therefore, I cannot manage the house, the land, or the Great Tree of Akou. I have already contracted with the demolition company, and it is already too late.”
However, I couldn’t give up, and the next day, I spoke to the president of the demolition company. He was a very kind person who understood the value of the Great Tree of Akou. He said, “I also think that the value of this tree is wonderful. Are you going to cut it down? But if we don’t cut it down, we won’t be able to manage it, and it will cause trouble for the people around here.” After discussing this with him, I decided to try to save the tree by buying the land.
We plan to restore an old traditional Japanese house and turn it into a guesthouse called “AKO HOUSE.” Our goal is to create a community where travelers worldwide and locals can gather under the symbol tree, the Akou tree, on our property. We aim to foster a global perspective while embracing the island’s beautiful nature and using English to communicate. By combining traditional Japanese architecture with modern trends, we hope to break down barriers between generations, cultures, and people of different backgrounds and create a space where everyone can enjoy communication and connection.
We dream of turning this space into an international hub that cultivates a love for nature, an interest in different cultures, and a global perspective. We were drawn to the land of Goto and stumbled upon the Akou tree, which sparked our desire to preserve and protect it. We believe that our project can become a dream come true for both locals and people from all over the world.
As you may know, restoring an old traditional Japanese house requires significant funding. The estimated cost for the project is around 25 million yen, and we have already received 12 million yen in subsidies from the city, but this is still not enough. We have already done as much as possible by getting help from family members, neighbors, and volunteers to minimize costs, but we still face a significant shortfall.
We seek your support through this crowdfunding campaign to bring this dream to life. If you share our vision and would like to help, we would be grateful for any support you can provide. We also appreciate any help in spreading the word about our project.
We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign.
Reference: Crowdfunding by Aaron Nicholas