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Japanese Ecovillage Conference, 2009

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”Japan has the fastest-growing national ecovillage movement anywhere!”

By Hildur Jackson

(Nov/Dec 2009)

Author Hildur Jackson (left), BeGood Cafe Director Jun Shikita, and Ross Jackson. Photo: BeGood Cafe
In April, 2009, my husband Ross Jackson and I flew from Denmark to be guest speakers at the 3rd Annual Japanese Ecovillage Conference held April 24-26 in Tokyo. Sponsored by the Japanese nonprofit ecological organization BeGood Café, directed by Jun Shikita, the conference was a huge success. Co-organized by Permaculture Center of Japan, its sponsors and supporters include Japan Ecovillage Promotion Project, GEN, UNHABITAT, UNITAR, and the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. It took place at Tokyo Women’s Plaza at the United Nations University. With keynote presentations and breakout workshops, there were 50 presentations in all.

The conference also exceedingly well covered by Japanese media. Ross and I were interviewed by Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi, the largest and fourth-largest daily newspapers in Japan, respetively; two Japanese magazines; and an interview program now on YouTube, for example.

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne (left) and Kyoungsoo Lim, with translators. Photo: BeGood Cafe
Ross’s presentation, “Economics in an Ecovillage Future”, criticized the current economic/political system, which he believes is leading the world towards a collapse he calls “the bursting of the Growth Bubble.” He foresees a subsequent period of renewal based on an emerging holistic paradigm that will reject free market principles once and for all in favor of a life-based world.

My presentation was about the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) program of Gaia Education, an educational project of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), which Ross and I helped found in the 1990s. I focused on the history of the EDE program, how it is organized, what we actually teach, and its two versions. The first version is the EDE, a 4-week program which has now been offered 40 times on 6 continents; the second is GEDS (Gaia Education Design for Sustainability), an 8-month Internet program based at the University of Catalan in Barcelona, which is in its pilot year testing the program in Spanish and English. Findhorn member and Director of the EDE May East had been scheduled to give this presentation, but unfortunately May became ill just before the conference and could not attend, so I gave it instead. (I was scheduled to speak on “Integrated Ecovillage Design," another topic important to me.)

Lagoswatta, the first ecovillage in Sri Lanka. Photo: Sarvodaya Shramadana
Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana the largest people's self-help organization in Sri Lanka, talked about Buddhist philosophy and community action in the Sarvodaya movement, which now has 15,000 villages in its network. He described the first ecovillage project in Sri Lanka, Lagoswatta Ecovillage, which was begun by Sarvodaya and a coalition of overseas aid organizations to create new homes for people made homeless by the tsunami in 2004. Lagoswatta Ecovillage, completed in 2006, consists of 57 small, passive solar-cooled, earth-brick homes with solar panels electricity, a community center, and rainwater catchment tanks. The project is so successful in Sri Lanka that residents of many traditional villages and architects are taking notice.

Dr. Kyoungsoo Lim, founder and chief executive of the E-jang company in South Korea, told us how his company, with support of the South Korean government, has helped about 100 traditional villages in Korea learn more about sustainable development. “We aim to carry out grassroots leadership education, encourage rural-city cooperation and bring about community regeneration,” he said. In 2006 E-jang set up “Ecovillage Design Projects,” a new company to create ecovillages in South Korea. Its first, San-neo-ul, completed in the spring of 2009, has townhouse-style clustered earth-brick houses with solar power for electricity and the traditional Korean undul system for central heating, and which can also be used for cooking. News of the success of San-neo-ul has spread across South Korea with increasing attention from media and developers.

San-neo-ul, the first ecovillage in Korea. Photo: E-jang.
“Ecovillagers . . . want to put into practice real change and a new logic; the idea that humans are but one part of the Earth’s ecosystem, and that we can live in harmony with other animals and the Earth sustainably,” said Koji Itonaga, professor of Engineering and Architecture in the College of Bioresource Sciences at Nihon University and Director of the Permaculture Center of Japan. Professor Itonaga, who has been involved with permaculture and ecovillages for 15 years, has visited ecovillages in Denmark as well as Findhorn in Scotland.

Japanese life coach and career coach Hidetake Enomoto, an ecovillage activist in Japan and former resident of Findhorn Ecovillage, spoke about Transition Town Fujino — which may be the 100th transition town in the world — and the new Transition Town movement in Japan.

Participants seemed to really enjoy the conference. Photo: Photo: BeGood Cafe
Danish ambassador to Japan, Bent Lindblad, who has lived 30 years in Japan, emphasized the link between ecovillages and climate change.

I attended the breakout session on Kobunaki Ecovillage led by Wataru Iida, as Ross and I visited the Kobunaki project five years ago when the developer first acquired the land near Kyoto. Now it has 85 residents out of planned 300. Unfortunately Kobunaki has had unexpected problems with local authorities, who did not want trees planted and insisted on straight asphalt roads.

Ross Jackson (left), Professor Itonaga (standing), Dr. Kyoungsoo Lim and Ms. Boyoung Sohn from E-jang, and translators at Professor Itonaga's office in Nihon University. Photo: Hildur Jackson
In another breakout workshop, Isadon (Isami Furuta), founder of Konohana Family Farm, an ecovillage near Mt. Fuji, co-presented with Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne on ”Awareness and Community."

After the conference Ross and I, Dr. Kyoungsoo Lim, Ms. Boyoung Sohn, who also from E-jang and is the Korean representative to GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network-Oceania Asia), visited Professor Koji Itonaga at Nihon University in Kanagawa Prefecture. There we had a tour of the Center for Natural Environment Sciences (CNES), a green building and Permaculture research and demonstration site he started there.

Thanks to the successful ecovillage conferences sponsored by BeGood Café, Professor Itonaga’s work at Nihon University, and projects such as Konohana Family Farm and Kobunaki Ecovillage — I believe Japan has the fastest-growing national ecovillage movement anywhere!

Hildur Jackson and her husband Ross Jackson are co-founders of Gaia Trust in Denmark, Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), and the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) program. Hildur is co-editor of the book, Ecovillage Living, and of the forthcoming book Ecovillage Living II.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2010

BeGood Café and Permaculture Center of Japan will host the 4th Annual Ecovillage Conference Tokyo on May 28-30, 2010. Guest speakers will include Tomiaki Tamura from the Arcosanti ecocity project in the US, Bindu Mohanty from Auroville in India, Michel Corbett from Village Homes in the US, and Penelope Reyes, Director of GEN-OA (Global Ecovillage Network – Oceania/Asia) and cofounder of Pintig Ecovillage in The Philippines.


Related articles:

Also in this issue:

Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US