In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I was living in the town of Fujino-Machi (aka Wysteria Fields), Kanagawa-Ken in Japan. The village was my first true home, and I absolutely loved living there.
I was involved in many grass roots initiatives, and since I worked for a Japanese company that did overseas development I had a keen interest in sustainable development (SD) initiatives. As I was doing research for a seminar I was to give to agricultural consulting firm managers, I discovered permaculture, a wholistic SD design system developed by Bill Mollison.
The firm I was working for also thought this was something worth pursuing and paid for half my expenses to go to Hawaii in 1992 for a 10 day Permaculture Design workshop taught by Lea Harrisson and Max Lindegger. I received my Permaculture Consultant’s Design Certificate at that fantactic workshop in the most amazing setting - Wood Valley Tibetan Buddhist Temple that grew organic coffee on its grounds. The Temple, grounds and retreat centre were coordinated by a wild Jamaican American, Randy, with long dread locks who claims he was the person who taught Latin American women to crochet all those rainbow coloured hats we see everywhere in markets today.
Japan already had Masanobu Fukuoaka, the author of the One Straw Revolution and the expert in a farming system where you let nature do the work. In other words, a system of farming that is not labour intensive but results in high yields of organic produce grown in a biologically diverse setting. Permaculture is but an extension of what Fukuoka San was well known for, and also, included many of the elements of traditional organic Japanese farming practices that had been largely forgotten and/or replaced by chemically intensive production farming.
Upon my return, I immediately founded a Japan Permaculture Network and was invited to speak all over the country. People were very receptive to the ideas and wanted to join. It was almost as if I was just providing a little nudge to wake up what was just below the surface of people’s consciousness at the time. The environmental movement in Japan was growing and becoming very popular even in the main stream.
Like wildfire, permaculture was being widely discussed and people wanted to learn more. Keinichi Nakamura was a Fujino public official who loved his town and wanted it to be famous for being an art village and for being innovatively green. Reiko his wife ran the local agricultural product store. Both are from well respected Fujino-Machi families who had lived there for generations. Ken immediately thought that Fujino was the ideal place for a Permaculture village. I had also developed a large network of friends and activists in Japan over the years, making the mobilization of interested people quite easy.
During that time the Introduction to Permaculture book was translated into Japanese by Dr. Tsuneo Taguchi, and I was listed as the main Japan Contact. I also sold hundreds of the books from my 10 mat apartment in the middle of the mountains. I would stack them up onto my son’s stroller and walk up the path to the post office and send them all over the place. A new directory of Green Initiaves was also published that included a page on the Permaculture Network I had founded. Other publications in newsletters and in a well known natural living magazine followed.
We got to work. I invited Lea Harrison to come and give a permaculture workshop in Fujino-Machi in 1994. My friend Shishino San helped me get the word out and I teamed up with Kiyokazu Shidara to translate material. But wouldn’t you know it! Weeks before Lea was to arrive, I had to leave Japan very suddenly and unexpectedly. Shidara San, Shishino San and the Nakamuras finished what I had started.
Bref, I gave away my complete network of contacts to my local friends (Scan, Shidara, Ken), with all the last few details regarding logistics, the full plan & finances and of course the dream, vision and inspiration. Lea Harrison came to Japan with out me and gave such an excellent workshop that she was re-invited to come back. Today my home town of Fujino, is also the home of the Permaculture Centre of Japan (PCCJ).
I share all this as it seems that records of how it all began got lost and forgotten, and as promised I went through my crawl space this afternoon and found what I had. Anya Light and Scan Shishino urged me to do this as they remember all the work I put into getting the ball rolling and they were worried that people were forgetting who sewed & watered & nurtured the first seeds!
The sketch of me above was done by a journalist for a nature magazine.
I like the innocense of it, and the fact that he drew me into a dream and vision that has come true. One which i have ironically not yet seen!