Treedom: The Road to Freedom
One Peace Books (2009)
Reviewed by Ali Neshati for Reader Views (6/09)
What an enjoyable little book! Equal parts memoir and inspirational literature, “Treedom: The Road to Freedom” is a collection of writings and photographs by Japanese master tree house builder Takashi Kobayashi that will transport you to a world of tranquility – if only for an hour or two.
Though his whimsical tree constructions figure prominently throughout the book’s pages, the enigmatic Kobayashi is the true star of this story. “Treedom: The Road to Freedom” provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man full of passion and childlike wonder. A self-described outsider from society, Kobayashi has questioned authority at every turn, yet his life’s work transcends all notions of power and privilege. “When you look down on the world from a higher place, things don’t seem so important anymore,” Kobayashi writes. “Nothing about our thoughts or actions is really that significant.”
Kobayashi shares not only his achievements, but also his various quirks and neuroses, making his account seem all the more genuine. His language is amusingly coarse at times, and I found Kobayashi’s respect for the natural world and his enthusiasm for tree houses to be quite infectious. Much like his tree houses, Kobayashi’s story contains no straight lines – the book’s narrative jumps forward and backward through time, twisting and turning in a most non-linear fashion. At times, I felt less like I was reading a book than I was a character inhabiting another person’s dream… heavy stuff!
The best word I can use to describe this book is “otherworldly.” Full of unique touches that fly against the norm, “Treedom: The Road to Freedom” is as rebellious and spirited as Kobayashi himself. Each section begins with a relevant excerpt from the poetry of legendary English poet, William Blake. The text is white, printed on black pages, with captions often superimposed over color photographs. English text on the left-hand pages is mirrored by Japanese text on the right-hand pages. Three multicolored fabric bookmarks are sewn right into the book’s spine. It is obvious that a lot of effort and creativity went into this book’s design.
While I found “Treedom: The Road to Freedom” to be a little on the brief side, the book also came with an excellent DVD documentary featuring interviews with Kobayashi and remarkable footage of tree house construction in the Japanese wilderness. Unfortunately, much of the documentary’s content duplicates material from the book, making the disc less of a supplement and more of a substitute.
The perfect coffee table read, “Treedom: The Road to Freedom” by Takashi Kobayashi is more than just a collection of words and photographs – it is an irresistible delight for the senses. Despite its brevity, I spent a couple hours lost in this book and Kobayashi’s world of natural beauty. Highly recommend.