Global Kamiyama. To be honest, when I first heard that, I thought it was a little over the top, but what I found there was a cozy human story which is ready to be told to the world.I've been studying at the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management for a year now. The theme of my research is regional development. I was born and raised in Tokushima, and I figured if I don't know my own hometown I don't know anything, so I started looking for stories about Tokushima online one day. It was here I discovered "Global Kamiyama". While many rural areas all over Japan complain of declining populations and living conditions, here is a case of regional government and real self-governance by residents making a self-sustaining region. I found out that the "Clean Up!" Adopt-a-Highway signs that can be seen all over West Japan originated in Kamiyama, and with the intention of finding ways to expand this system to a wider application of government services, I took my first trip to Kamiyama.
As soon as I arrived, I met with Chairman Ominami and was the recipient of his passionate talk. Including lunch, he talked for over seven hours. Naturally, it was just the two of us. The content of his talk was more overwhelming than I imagined it would be. I had planned on finding out more about the NPO activities, but his talk just expanded from there. The regular citizens, acting as a nonprofit, are working to improve their region, and to improve themselves. The Adopt-a-Highway project was just the start. From there, it spread to using art as a way to revitalize the town. Every year, they receive applications from overseas and select artists to invite to their town. I felt that I had found something new here; the very opposite of a typical government plan which is spoon-fed to constituents. This is people helping each other to be active in their society, and helping each other to grow. At first glance, Kamiyama is just another mountain town, but all the public buildings have free wireless internet, and if you step into the woods, you'll find art installations in amongst the trees, blending with the natural environment. This place is just too cool…
I also got to sample a different way of life. The hotel was full and I couldn't get a reservation, so the chairman introduced me to a couple living in the mountains who let me stay in their home. A hand-made log house built on a south-facing slope. A wood-fired bath and a loft room. Dinner had my mouth watering with handmade gyoza. In the city, you sometimes see shops in the middle of the concrete cityscape proclaiming that they are LOHAS, but this was true living with nature. Gratitude for being alive. In other words, just "being" is a challenge. This couple, who plan to open a new place for folks to gather – the "CHAN café" – in the near future, showed me such warm hospitality.
Now, whether those stories are true or not I'm can't be the one to say, but it's certain that people have lived in Kamiyama in their own fashion since ancient times and they will continue to do so. This town, where people live in "easygoing cooperation" has caused me to dream that maybe, one day I too could come here with my wife and triplets, and live the way a human being should.
"Living and flourishing with mind and body as one."
Matsushita Konosuke, founder of the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management said this. People need both material prosperity and spiritual wealth in order to prosper.
I began to feel that I must do something to help this Global Kamiyama to become a model, a pioneer town to bring to the world. To the multitudinous gods of Kamiyama, thank you for these four days.
Art in KamiyamaArticles by Art in Kamiyama
- No comments.