Vision

To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process.
僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン(Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。
化石燃料や原子力に頼らず、他国の資源を取らない、
自給自足な国へのトランジションを実現させてゆきたいです。

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

【YOUTUBE】Living the Gift Economy ギフトエコノミーを生きる



日本語の投稿はここ
*映像は字幕付き

I had the opportunity to visit Australia at the beginning of this year. I was on my way to Tahiti to teach on Peace Boat (NGO in Japan that does educational cruises and anti-nuclear and peace work). I did a few workshops in my usual donation-without-obligation style, and was rewarded with this lovely video.

Thanks so much to Cecilia Macaulay for organizing the workshops (I appreciated how much you stretched to be an organizer!), and Friendly Farms production for making this video. Hope to visit Australia again!!! Maybe at the end of 2018 or 2019.

Here is more on the gift economy and how I hold it  →  GIFTivim

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Peace and Permaculture Dojo update part 3: Earthen Wall workshop

Update on the Peace and Permaculture Dojo project Part 3

日本語は【TUP道場】土壁塗りワークショップのレポート(写真と動画)


This is the third piece on the Dojo project (see below for context and previous articles)

Peace and Permaculture Dojo in Japan part 1

Peace and Permaculture Dojo Tour and Culture (April 2017)


We’ve been working on designing and redesigning (its always dynamic) the human ecology of the Dojo project and Tokyo Urban Permaculture, so the physical progress has been limited as planned. The social permaculture aspect of this project is really quite fascinating, and that is my particular interest, but I won’t get into that right now.

We are now working on the earthen walls tsuchikabe. We’re also trying to figure out where to put showers and the grey water system, and I’m super slowly working on another compost toilet.

Below is a bilingual video of our first tsuchikabe workshop facilitated by Kyle who is super awesome and thorough. My explanation on the other hand is not perfect/accurate, but I think you’ll get the gist of it. My aim is to get 60% of what I say right!


For more pictures of the workshop and process see Tokyo Urban Permaculture



Also, below that is a wonderful write up by one of the participants Max Durayappah-Harrison, who is a PhD student in anthropology studying about Japanese agriculture. Copied from Isumi Life Style Laboratory

*****

Since late last year there has been much activity taking place in one particular corner of Chōjamachi, Isumi.

Renovations were begun on a kominka (a traditional-style, wooden-built Japanese home), with the plan to eventually make it the center of a retreat at which peace activists can explore permaculture and other practices aimed at achieving positive change in the world.
One of the core objectives of the project is the building of community through working with and for the benefit of others.

The process of repairing and reconstructing the Permaculture and Peace Dōjo (as the kominka is known) therefore incorporates events at which members of the general public are able to participate in the renovation, learn about the project and meet others.

In early May, I was lucky enough to be a part of the earthen plaster workshop held at the Dōjo. In this post, I’d like to explain just a little about what we got up to.

The day began at 10am under brilliant sunshine with participants making their way down the tree-lined path that leads to the secluded Dōjo, entering the building and seating themselves on the newly-laid wooden floor that provides an inviting meeting and greeting place.

The coordinators of the Permaculture and Peace Dōjo project, Kai and Nao, had invited Kyle Holzhueter, a ‘straw bale builder’ and earthen plasterer, to lead the day’s activities.

Kyle began things with a short lecture on the history and intricacies of plastering in Japan. This included an account of how many of the motivations for particular design choices in Japanese building are founded in the nation’s geology (the prevalence of earthquakes necessitating ease of repair, for example) and culture.

He also introduced us to some of the properties of the material that make it practical and efficient as a resource in construction. This was brought home to me particularly clearly when he revealed that the plaster we would be using had as a primary constituent the decades-old plaster that had been stripped from the very walls that surrounded us.


Kyle, delivering his lecture

Once the mini-lecture was concluded we then set to work on the various tasks necessary to prepare for the application of earthenware plaster. These included:

•Removing loose and damaged plaster from the walls. Dusty work!
•Breaking down the old plaster and mixing it with fresh soil sourced from nearby.
•Adding water and straw to the mixture in order to bring it to the correct consistency that would allow it to bind when applied to the wall.

While all of these tasks were in themselves interesting, perhaps the most fun was had in mixing together the various ingredients of the plaster.

In order to do this on a large scale, a tarp was laid out and four walls created so that we could step inside and stamp, walk and dance it smooth.

And it is no exaggeration to say that the plaster was danced smooth, as there was an impromptu Bon Odori performance that took place, complete with music!


Breaking down soil and recycled plaster for the mix

 
The mixing station/stage (sans dancers)

It was around midday when we all broke for lunch. As is normally the case at events held at the dōjo, in order to encourage sharing and foster a sense of comradery everyone brought with them one item of food to distribute amongst the whole group – potluck style.

This resulted in a great array of foodstuffs, many of which were handmade by those that brought them. From organic onigiri to homemade bread, and pickled vegetables to fruit salad, it was a veritable feast!

Lunch also gave everyone the opportunity to chat and get to know each other a little better, as well as grill Kyle further on the art of earthen plastering. I wouldn’t say I was uneager to get back to work but it was certainly difficult to pull myself up and away from the delicious food and banter.


Healthy food and hungry workers

Once the afternoon arrived, it was time to start applying the first base-coat of plaster to the walls. Carried out either by hand or with the aid of a trowel, Kyle showed us how to work the dark, coarse, muddy mixture against the bamboo slats that lend the walls structure.

This was perhaps the most satisfying and yet difficult part of the job, as for every handful of plaster I managed to attach to the wall, another handful seemed to fall to the floor.

It appears to me at least, that it is one of those tasks that can look incredibly easy but in fact requires hours of practice in order to get the angle of your hand or the trowel just right and the pressure against the slats correct.

Nevertheless, with a little instruction we managed to complete an amount we could all be proud of.


Kyle applying the plaster to the bamboo slats of the wall

So, with mucky hands and some tired muscles, I left the Permaculture and Peace Dōjo with a greater understanding of a little of the work that goes into renovating a kominka and the satisfaction that can be had in working with others outdoors.

I’m happy that living in Isumi will give me a chance to hopefully meet many of the friends I made that day again, while also seeing the dōjo project develop and grow over the coming months.
It’s incredible learning of the resources that surround us, and how sharing time and knowledge can build something amazing.



From this… …to this!
(Max)

Original article at Isumi Life Style Laboratory

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Peace and Permaculture Dojo Tour and Culture (April 2017)

Come join me on a tour of the sprouting Peace and Permaculture Dojo!

This is where we are at six months into the project (here is the first English article about the Dojo). I just got back from a three month Asia and Australia tour so my friends have been moving things along. We have had an amazing daiku (carpenter) who has been intensely building a relationship with the kominka (old Japanese house). The 100 year-old wooden house is tilted, so everything that he fixed is fixed to the angle of the tilt. WOW! The building rests on stones as a foundation, and after so many years, some of the stones have sank, and the wooden building has tilted.


What we are growing here is peace culture. Japan is rapidly shifting from a pacifist country toward a more robust aggressive military power. US pressure on Japan to increase military capacity has been increasing and the Japanese military industries have probably been lobbying pretty hard for revamping their industry. This is a historic shift since the Japanese Military Empire was A-bombed by the US Military Empire. Our hope is that, like Gandhi's ashrams, the Possibility Alliance in Missouri, Casa De Paz in California, Plum Village, and many other places to practice peace, this can be part of the global peace infrastructure during the Great Turning.

Even without that, we are facing consistent high rates of suicide, school/business bullying, sexual harassment, depression, apathy, depopulation of rural areas (ghost-towning of Japanese villages), exponential growth of national debt, an unprecedented nuclear meltdown and growing hibakusha population, super-aging society, and loss of traditional skills and wisdom to name some of the big ones. Not a very hopeful time to be born in Japan....or the world. So, we're here to change that. I mean come on, is this the best we can do after thousands of years of human evolution?!!

It's also important for us to remember and renew interest in Japanese wisdom and design. There is something quite strange about spreading permaculture in a country that has had thousands of years of practicing it. At the same time, I can get more young people excited about self-sufficient (village
-scale) ecological living if I call it permaculture than if I call it "traditional Japanese living." There are lots of other reasons for calling what we do permaculture, but I won't go into that for now. What I will say is that, we are developing a culture that is strongly influenced by the values and worldviews of the liberal West Coast (USA), and the beautiful relationship-based culture of rural Japan.

Below is a video of the traditional community dance ritual called bon odori practice session we did at the Dojo. A group from the "Bay Area of Japan" (shonan, Kanagawa prefecture) reclaimed this tradition, made original music and movements based on peace and ecology, and have been spreading it throughout Japan. The group is called imajin bonbu (Imagine Dance Group ← Imagine is from John Lennon). We just finished the floors of the Dojo, so as a celebration event, we had a bon odori practice session and the founding of a local bon odori dance group.

*the video is in Japanese but toward the middle you can watch people practice/dance. The dance is not a performance dance, so practicing and dancing is pretty much the same. Anyone can join and leave at any time, and some communities will continue dancing for days. I heard that people go into a trance.



Here are some pictures from the DOJO



bon odori 


potlucking


the sign was made by two girls and it says 平和 (peace)


 what era is this?!!
(the typhoon felled the Sugi tree)


the TUP cameragirls Jun Jun and Nana
Browns Field macrobiotic living center staff are in the back
We have an amazing crew of people renewing Japanese culture


VISITING / HELPING
We're still no ready to officially receive guests, but if you have time and skills that we need, and we happen to be able to respond to your email/message, then something could happen. All we have right now is a roof and floor, compost toilet is almost done, and a rocket stove. Unfortunately, we don't have enough committed people on the ground to receive guests at the moment, and nobody lives at the Dojo yet. I want to say YES to everyone but we don't have the capacity to comfortably host yet....and every once in a while things work out so its not a definite NO either. I guess its always a MAYBE.


The IDEAL characteristics of a volunteer at the moment are
  • can speak basic Japanese: most of my team and the locals can only speak Japanese
  • patient: our response time is slow, and we aren't always able to respond (feel free to remind us)
  • self-sufficient: can take initiative and do a project, we also can't feed people yet like a WWOOF host, and it's basically like camping.
  • friendly: as in likes people, because we have lots of people coming through!
  • low or no expectations: the key to happiness
  • can stay about a week: it takes energy and time to orient people so realistically, a week is about how much time it takes for someone to "help" us. If you can commit for months that would be amazing, and if you can commit for life.....now we're talking!

Next year (2018), we will hopefully have more structure (social and physical), and be able to host people! 

Love you all, may we all embody peace in every aspect of our lives

For most recent events and picture check out the Dojo FB page

Sunday, February 19, 2017

FEB 25 Zen Permaculture Workshop in Melbourne

From Melbourne Permabliz website

Togetherness Design: Zen Permaculture workshop with Kai Sawyer

Date(s) - February 25, 2017
Time - 11:00 am - 3:00 pm

What is it like to do meaningful work every day, without asking for money, floating through life on a bubble of love?

Now you can meet someone who’s been doing it since 2011, with beautiful results: The amazing Kai Sawyer is in town!

This is a Half-day presentation and active workshop gifted by Kai, with a shared lunch.

Kai is the founder of Tokyo Urban Permaculture, and is the inspiration behind its initiatives.
He runs workshops on the gift economy, systems thinking, deep mindfulness, NVC empathetic communication, and how to escape the salaryman trap.

Kai went to school at the illustrious Tokyo University. If you’re Japanese, you’ll know how impressive this is! That’s because studying there means you get to run Japan. Let’s hope he does!

The presentation will be on creating lively networks of support, rather than trying to do things alone. It’s also on Empathetic Communication. Just a slight shift of perception can dramatically transform our world, side-steping the communication malfunctions that are usual for we humans.

It’s at a private house, and places are limited. If you wish to attend, just fill in the form below and we’ll confirm your place and then reply with all the details.


What’s happening

11.30 – 12.30 We will gather together in a house in Fairfield (not far from a train station!) The first hour Kai will present on creating a social ecosystem that you love being in. He shares insights from his year of living in a food forest, his work with City Repair in Portland Oregon, and the ways of being encoded in Japanese traditional culture can make a more convivial, thoughtful life possible.

12.30 Lunch, Networking. Please bring a healthy dish to share!

1.30 – 3.00 Empathetic Communication Experience. Kai has done this workshop all over Japan, and says it just ‘tickles his soul’ every time he does it.

You know how when someone leaves dirty dishes around and you are upset? It’s not about dishes. What is it about? Sometimes we often don’t even know ourselves!

You can create around yourself a network of effective allies, to make your lovely visions a daily reality. WWOOf Volunteers, the share economy, are all there for you.

With the resources and nature (flawed and wonderful) that you already have, you can create a home and work environment that will take care of you, freeing you up to do good work for the world

Kai will also share some of his own projects to inspire your own: his year of living in the Eden-like food forest, sleeping in a fully-furnished bedroom without walls. Crowdsourcing a book, and recently being gifted enough to create the Permaculture Dojo: renovating a traditional farmhouse for co-working on thrilling projects, outside Tokyo, fueled by shared dinners and shared dreams.

Cost: Workshops are gifted, complelety free of obligation to give back, with no set donation amount. There is the option to gift Kai with whatever you would like him to have, to enable him to continue this work.
A message from Kai to Permies:
Gift Economy and donations write up
http://livingpermaculture.blogspot.com.au/p/gift.html *

*I would love for people to read this before they attend


Empathy space (aka NVC Needs Poker)
This is an activity to share our struggles and celebrations (to whatever depth we want to), and just receive empathy. It’s not about “fixing” or judging or analyzing or strategizing, and its all about just being with what is. We will gently go beyond the words, beyond the “problem”, and into the deeper needs or yearnings of each of us.

It is a simple design (easily replicable) to create the conditions necessary for us to give and receive empathy, and all the beauty that unfolds from there. One of the most effective approaches to transforming our conflicts, relationship challenges, and unwanted habits. Getting to the heart of whats important, in a short amount of time. No experience necessary, just your presence and willingness.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.”
-Rumi

Short and lovely video on Empathy by Berne Brown:


A note about social permaculture
NVC and mindfulness has taught me how to engage with conflicts peacefully and on a good day, joyfully. It has allowed me to shift my focus from “being nice” to being more real and authentic in a loving way. As my teacher Miki Kashtan says, maximum honesty with maximum care. And I’ve learned how much our worldview and language creates conflicts without even our awareness, and perpetuates the domination paradigm that we participate in unknowingly.
In my journey I have visited a few amazing permaculture sites and intentional communities where human relationships (conflicts) made it the main reason people left. Sometimes plants are easier to understand then humans! Very tragic.My main interest is how to cultivate a healthy human ecology, where everyone’s life (and needs) is considered equally important. I’ve been trying to understand the invisible structures that have a large impact on our collective behaviors, how to transform oppressive cultural systems (inside and outside of us), and how to regenerate our nature of compassion and generosity.
"I want permaculture to help all people thrive, not just the privileged but those who are deeply trapped in violent social structures (e.g. African Americans, refugees, children in Fukushima, etc). That is the design challenge!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

FEB 19 & 20 Sydney 【Zen Permaculture】 Workshop Details


*details on events in Seymore and Melbourne can be found here

Schedule on Sunday FEB 19 at Ceciia's:
11.15 for 11.30 start. 

11.30 - 12.30 We will gather in Cecilia's home-studio, Annandale. The first hour Kai will present on creating a social ecosystem that you love being in. 

12.30 Lunch, Networking. Bring a healthy dish to share. 

1.30 - 3.00 Empathetic and Juicy Communication.



Schedule on Monday FEB 20 at UTS Hatchery:
5.45 for 6.00 start

6.00 - 7.00 The first hour Kai will present on creating a social ecosystem that you love being in. 

7.00 - 8.00 Empathetic and Juicy Communication. 


Below is information from the FB event page


What is it like to do meaningful work every day, without charging money, yet getting the resources you need to do world-changing projects? 

It could be like floating on a bubble of love: Slighty scary, somewhat uncertain, and full of welcome surprises.

This week you get to meet somebody living this way. The amazing Kai Sawyer hasn't charged for his work since since 2011, with beautiful results. 

Kai is the founder of Tokyo Urban Permaculture.

He runs workshops internationally on the gift economy, deep mindfulness, empathetic communication, and how to escape the salaryman trap. 

Kai will share some of his own projects to inspire your own: his year of living in the Eden-like food forest, sleeping in a fully-furnished bedroom without walls. Crowdsourcing a book, and recently being gifted enough to create the Permaculture Dojo: renovating a traditional farmhouse, fueled by shared dinners and shared dreams.

Kai went to school at the illustrious Tokyo University. 
If you are Japanese, that fact will impress you. 
That's because studying there means you get to run Japan. 
Lets hope he does. 

Learn how to: 
- Create an 'Eco-system' of support around your projects.
- Remove the obstacles to being a great communicator
- Get a lightness about doing the big, beautiful things you thought were not possible.

There are two events:
Sunday 19th 
11.30am - 3.30pm
Cecilia's House Annandale
Bring a dish for a shared potluck lunch

Monday 20th 
6pm - 8.30pm
UTS 'The Hatchery' aka Innovation Lab 
622/632 Harris St, Ultimo 

Cost: Worshops are gifted, completely free of obligation to give back, with no set donation amount. 

Please read Kai's views on the Gift Economy here before attending

How to RSVP:
Book your free Eventbrite ticket and, text Cecilia at O412474282 or PM on Facebook *Essential*. You will be sent details of what to bring, where to go, etc. 

____________________________


Schedule on Sunday at Ceciia's:
11.15 for 11.30 start. 

11.30 - 12.30 We will gather in Cecilia's home-studio, Annandale. The first hour Kai will present on creating a social ecosystem that you love being in. 

12.30 Lunch, Networking. Bring a healthy dish to share. 

1.30 - 3.00 Empathetic and Juicy Communication. 

 

Schedule on Monday at UTS Hatchery:
5.45 for 6.00 start

6.00 - 7.00 The first hour Kai will present on creating a social ecosystem that you love being in. 

7.00 - 8.00 Empathetic and Juicy Communication. 

Kai says it just 'tickles his soul' every time he does this workshop.

FB event page

Saturday, February 11, 2017

FEB 2017 Workshops in Australia 今月オーストラリアでWS!!!




FEB 16 UPDATE -  Cecilia's FB page and Melbourne event has been updated!!!


THIS MONTH - I will be doing workshops in Australia

オーストラリアでワークショップ/プレゼンするよ〜
(英語で)

We are still finalizing the details but here is what I have so far

2/18 Day event with Cecilia Macaulay in Southern Highlands
(Cecilia Macaulay and Annabel Brown from Southern Highlands Steiner School is organizing this event)
Details will be posted on Cecilia's Facebook ← updated!

2/19 Day event with Cecilia Macaulay in Sydney
Details will be posted on Cecilia's Facebook ← updated!

2/20 Evening event with Cecilia Macaulay in Sydney 
Details will be posted on Cecilia's Facebook ← updated!


2/22 Evening event in Seymore on Permaculture based Social Change Projects around the world
(Richard Telford from Abdullah House is organizing it for me)

Facebook Event Info Here


2/25 Event in Melbourne topic and venue to be decided
(I think Richard Telford, and Adrian from Permablitz Melbourne is organizing this)

Facebook Event Info Here ← updated!
or on Melbourne Permabliz ← updated!

Thank you to everyone helping me!

**************

BELOW ARE THE TOPICS I NORMALLY OFFER IN JAPAN
(What I initially sent to Richard and Cecilia)

*I'm quite flexible so I can mix and match, redesign, cater, whatever seems most exciting for the space. I can make things shorter too, but I like to go deep and often that requires time. All I really need is people and place and the rest we can make with onsite resources!

My journey with permaculture and inspiring permaculture stories from the West Coast 2~3 hour presentation

This is my story of exploring the world of "peace" and "sustainability". From the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to living in the jungle of Costa Rica with no running water or electricity, to my visits to various amazing permaculture communities. My story focuses more on people and relationships (social permaculture), social change and empowerment, rather than food production. I end with how I am cultivating the cultural soil to plant radical practices of peace and ecology through my project called Tokyo Urban Permaculture.
The permaculture and social change projects I focus on are
Both show case not just food systems but thriving communities that are impacting the larger society. The Bullocks is a rural example where 12 interns are trained each year to learn any skill they want and experiment with designing culture/community. City Repair is an urban example of residents reclaiming public space and illegally taking over a intersection, creating a beautiful mandala painting, earthen benches, kids playhouse, free tea station, etc. Eventually the persuaded the city government that it was for the public good, and  their illegal action has been legalize (they call it legal innovation). Now the city actively promotes this behavior and City Repair has pioneered urban ecological design and community renewal.
Powerpoint Presentation with beautiful pictures

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) 2~3 hour workshop or whole day
This is an experiential workshop on how to interact with each other and yourself in a way that aims to nourishe everyone. How do we communicate in our full authenticity while holding others with loving care? How do we shift from a power-over paradigm to a power-with paradigm, where all life matters equally? Why do we get stuck in conflict, and how can we navigate beyond it? We will explore these questions through powerful interactive practices.
By changing our worldview and connecting with needs (rather than our judgements), we will be able to engage with conflict, whether in our family, work, or in social change work, comfortably and compassionately.

Below is an add for a whole day NVC and systems thinking workshop
http://livingpermaculture.blogspot.sg/2015/11/dec-4-2015-kai-sawyer-on-nonviolent.html

Zen and living mindfully
This is a workshop where we will experience mindfulness by just practicing what we do everyday with mindfulness. We will do mindful walking, mindful eating, mindful resting, mindful sharing, and most importantly mindful breathing. It will be a time to just be, experience the miracle of being alive, and be present with reality rather than our thoughts. Simple and effective practices that you can do anytime anywhere. Inspired by the teachings of zen master Thich Naht Hanh and the daily practice at Plum Village. Let us enjoy slowing down, being present, and feeling refreshed.

Adventures in the world of the Gift Economy 2 ~ 3 hour presentation/workshop
An overview of what the gift economy is, how it is at the foundation of how our world works. From understanding that our earth is a gift ecology, to various forms of gift economies that we are already participating in, we will explore the gift economy through exciting examples and inspiring stories (e.g. our birth, open source, Burning Man, Karma Kitchen, Vinoba Bhave). I will share how I started to consciously participate in the gift economy, shift my life from worrying about making money to living in service, and living in a world of pricelessness. There will be an experiential activity to have a taste of what it feels like to live the gift.

I have offered most of my workshops on a donation basis (no suggested price) since 2011, and live a most amazing life. I live on donations from thousands of people, and I live in a world of interdependence where trust and care flow naturally. I make less decisions based on fear and feel more free and alive. This is an invitation to live a more hopeful, more free, and more fulfilling life.

Systems Thinking through Games 1.5 ~ 2 hour workshop
This is a workshop based on the book The Systems Thinking Playbook by Sweeny and Meadows. We will all become a part of a system, experience what happens, observe and discuss how it relates to our world. Why is it so hard to make changes even if we know there is a problem? Where are the leverage points for change? By using games we can have fun, better understand how systems work, and see how we can make effective interventions.


I can talk about how I made the Urban Permaculture Guide book starting with no money and no desire to write it myself. Over 15 people, many professionals, willingly volunteered to make the book and through crowdfunding, we made an amazing glorified zine that is in its 4th printing. The bookmaking process itself was an experiment in social permaculture by using onsite resources and designing beneficial relationships. The book is a synthesis of cultural regeneration for a more sustainable Tokyo and Japan. More info here: Urban Permaculture Guidebook (crowdsourced crowdfunded zine)

Peace and Permaculture DOJO
The Urban Permaculture Guide was both an experiment in social permaculture and the gift economy, as well as developing the cultural soil for the Peace and Permaculture Dojo (PPD). The PPD is another experiment in dynamic social design, where my main role is to set favorable conditions for a human guild to thrive. We just finished crowdfunding about $63,000 USD to fix the old farmhouse. More info here: Peace and Permaculture DOJO

*************************************
MY BIO
*sorry I'm not so good with English bios, so feel free to edit

BIO for NELIS
Kai is a nonviolence activist or 共生革命家 in Japanese. Born in Tokyo, raised in rural Japan (Minami Uonuma), Hawaii, Osaka, California, and the jungle of Costa Rica. He considers the earth his home.

After the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA and subsequent US invasions, Kai began to engage with issues of war, structural violence, intergenerational justice, agroecology and sustainability, while attending the University of California Santa Cruz. He became the co-chair for the Education for Sustainable Living Program (ESLP), a radical educational experiment that collaborated with world-class sustainability leaders such as Vandana Shiva, Satish Kumar, and Frances Moore Lappe. ESLP facilitated institutional change through student empowerment and participatory action research.

He founded Tokyo Urban Permaculture as an experiment to fundamentally transform the culture and politics of Tokyo, after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011. He teaches permaculture, nonviolent communication, mindfulness, systems thinking, social change and about the gift economy (gift ecology) around the world. Currently, he is training youth activists in Japan on nonviolence, and is developing a “Peace and Permaculture Dojo” to train the next generation of change makers in Japan.

He is passionate about life, gardening, and alleviating suffering of all beings.



Monday, February 6, 2017

【ARTICLE】Natural Farming in Japan: Akame-shizenoh Juku

This is an article I wrote about the natural farming movement in Japan and Akame natural farming school. The article was for a crowdsourced book called Sustainable (R)evolution (click to check out this amazing project!). I also wrote articles on the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead, the City Repair movement in Portland, the ecofarm movement in Thailand, and on chinampas.

For more on natural farming (besides the well-known Fukuoka, Masanobu), you can search Kawaguchi Yoshikazu and akame (the topic of this article), and I highly recommend checking out the book (free online) Miracle Apples.


*This is the closest to our final draft, and the pictures are different from the book


Kawaguchi, Yoshikazu in his garden


The traditional method of drying rice and hand-powered threshing


Yoshikazu in his rice-field cutting weeds with his kama


Akame natural farming school


Cutting the above-soil parts of the weeds in preparation for planting


Planting negi (green onion) in the garden


Broadcasting directly into the weeds


The harvest hidden amongst the weeds





Akame-Shizenoh Juku
by Kai Sawyer and Mai Kobayashi

A farming method that did not involve any pesticides or fertilizer use was first advocated by Japanese philosopher, holistic health practitioner, and spiritual leader Mokichi Okada. In 1950 he called his practice the "shizen noh hou" or the natural farming method. A decade later, plant pathology scientist and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka also experimented with similar methods, but further extended natural farming methods to include no tilling and no weeding. In 1975, he published The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming. Fukuoka's impassioned advocacy of natural farming eventually made him a revolutionary figure in the global movement for sustainable agriculture. Passing away in 2008, Fukuoka did not live to see the revolution in consciousness he had hoped for, but the seeds of natural farming continue to thrive and evolve in Japan.

Today, a central hub for the natural farming movement is Akame-Shizenoh Juku (Akame-juku for short) , nestled near the border of Nara and Mie Prefecture. The site was originally an abandoned series of rice paddy and garden terraces surrounded by man-made forest. Seeing the need for a place where people could come to learn natural farming, Yoshikazu Kawaguchi, the respected practitioner and teacher of natural farming, reclaimed the terraces and started Akame-juku in 1991. The school is completely donation-based, each student paying what they can afford. Kawaguchi understood that most people attempting natural farming were at a major turning point in their lives and often had no money, whether they be conventional farmers trying to switch farming methods, white collar workers looking for a new way to live, or  students. He says that as a teacher, he wants to teach as many eager students as possible, and that he believes the quality of learning is richer when unobstructed by financial concerns.  Learning how to live life, which natural farming essential is, must be accessible to all people.

Yoshikazu also believes that freedom is essential for learning, so there are no obligatory group tasks, however, communal endeavors are a valuable opportunity to learn from one another.  Students are free to spend however much time they can afford in their rice paddies and gardens. Each new student is able to choose a plot among the fields and paddies that become available throughout the year enabling them to direclty put to practice what they learn. Every second weekend of every month (except January), Kawaguchi gathers all the staff members for a monthly gathering. Anybody can come to receive guidance by Kawaguchi and various staff members, cultivating their awareness and experiencing deep realizations about natural farming. The basic principles practiced at Akame-juku are, no tilling, no treating plants or insects as your enemies, and no using pesticides or fertilizers, including compost. Farming must be based on an understanding and respect for nature's dynamic balance that, if approached correctly, will work to nurture life as a whole.  These are guiding principles that are based on a holistic understanding of farming as a part of an ecological balance that we take part in cultivating. An example is Kawaguchi’s instruction for managing vigorous volunteer plants that are overwhelming seedlings: using a sickle as necessary, trim them at the base above their roots, so as not to disturb the soil structure.

The plants here are not treated as competitive weeds, but instead used as mulch and are not totally removed so as to leave food for insects. Food scraps from the harvest taken out of the fields may also be brought back to the fields. This is not fertilizer, but nutrients brought back as supplement simply to maintain the nutrient cycle. Students at Akame-juku experiment and learn how to nurture life through minimal interference in the natural cycle. Through this practice, they also nurture ecological balance, their own consciousness, and inner peace. 

As Akame-juku hosts over 250 students every year, several thousand people have worked on the land since the school opened. Today, dozens of natural farming schools inspired by Akame-juku can be found all over Japan. Kawaguchi says that his greatest joy is to see former students starting their own study-groups and learning centers around Japan.  

The path of natural farming is one of humility, deep observation, and constant flexibility. Kawaguchi says that he accepts that he cannot fully understand nature, but rather can only assist in nature’s cycles as best he can. Natural farmers realize the futility of imposing control over nature and the unsustainability of standard agriculture's attempts to artificially maximize yields and profits. Instead, through minimal interference in the natural cycle, natural farmers in Japan and elsewhere are showing the way to a healthy future for the earth and its inhabitants.





【ARTICLE】Thailand Ecofarm: Maab Euang Agri-Nature Learning Center

This is an article I wrote about Maab Euang eco-farm in Thailand. The article was for a crowdsourced book called Sustainable (R)evolution (click to check out this amazing project!). I also wrote articles on the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead, the City Repair movement in Portland, a brief overview of the natural farming movement in Japan, and on chinampas.

 *This is the closest to our final draft, I lost a picture of their really-floating garden.

A bit more info about them here on Earthlimited.



Maab Euang Agri-nature Foundation in Thailand 
by Kai Sawyer

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The Agri-Nature Learning Center at Maab Euang, called an “eco-farm” in Thailand, was started by Dr. Wiwat Salayakamtorm in order to develop practical solutions to environmental and socio-economic crises of modern times. It is located in Maab Euang village in Chonburi province and was founded in 2001 after Dr. Wiwat quit his job as a royal servant in order to put into practice the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy. He adopted 16 acres of his brother’s land and transformed the depleted hardpan earth into a productive edible forest garden including several rice paddies and aquaculture farms. He has studied permaculture and Fukuoka’s natural farming and it can be seen throughout the property.

The Sufficiency Economy philosophy stresses the importance of the middle path, and the need to balance forces of globalization with the needs of local resilience. Sufficiency means moderation and self-immunity for sufficient protection from internal and external shocks such as disease, economic instability, and natural disasters. It is an approach to cope with the rapidly changing natural and socio-cultural environments.

The motto of the eco-farm, “Learning by doing”, is put into practice through the nine learning stations, 1. Rice growing 2. Household product making 3. Biodiesel production 4. Charcoal making 5. Soil management 6. Forest gardening 7. Natural healthcare 8. Water management 9. Natural building. Workshops, internships, and visitations are donation-based as the King taught, “more you give the more you receive.”

During the 2011 floods that paralyzed the country the eco-farm served as a survival shelter. According to Dr. Wiwat, the eco-farm supported 500 internally displaced peoples for 2 months and sent rescue boats to help survivors. They had also trained people for major flooding two years prior to the 2011 floods. They continue to host survival camp for the general public. They also have constructed a floating garden made from empty plastic drums, bamboo, and a diverse variety of plants in preparation for future floods.

Today, over 80 Agri-Nature Learning Centers have been established throughout Thailand, and are hubs to teach sufficiency economy based living to farmers, government, businesses, and the general public. All centers also serve as survival shelters in case of crisis.


【ARTICLE】Chinampas: floating gardens

This is an article I wrote about chinampas, a mild fascination of mine. The article was for a crowdsourced book called Sustainable (R)evolution (click to check out this amazing project!). I also wrote articles on the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead, City Repair movement in Portland, the ecofarm movement in Thailand, and a brief overview of the natural farming movement in Japan. The article is just an overview based on my limited understanding so if you are into it, look deeper!


*I think this is the final draft, pictures are different from the book.


Model of what might chinampa agriculture might have looked like


Illustration to explain how chinampas were made


 Chinampa building at the Bullocks Permaculture Homestead (WA, USA)


Banana chinampas in Thailand

I also saw palm tree chinampas in Kerala, India but I lost the photo.




Chinampa
By Kai Sawyer

Chinampa agriculture has been described as ”a self-contained and self-sustaining system that has operated for centuries as one of the most intensive and productive ever devised by man” (Chapin, 1988, p.2). A chinampa is an agricultural field “island” constructed in shallow lake beds traditionally shaped in a long rectangle like a typical garden bed. Chinampas form a network of “floating” gardens on a body of fresh water (e.g. lake), and are often associated with the Aztecs, who developed an intensive agroecological system that can still be found in Xochimilco, Mexico.  Before the Aztecs, the lowland Mayans had been constructing chinampas, some of which were later occupied and further developed by the Aztecs. This unique Meso-American agricultural system exemplifies sustainable food production through its ability to maintain continuous long-term and year-round productivity utilizing local resources.

The term chinampa is thought to have come from Nauhatl words chinamitl and pan, meaning reed basket and upon. The Nauhatl words appropriately describe the key characteristics of chinampas, which were constructed by “piling bed-clay and mud from the lakes, aquatic plants, dry-crop silage, manure and silted muck upon one another in precise layers between paralleled reed fences anchored in the lake bottom” (Woodard, 2011). The construction process, as described by Prutzman (1998), begins with Chinamperos using a long pole to find an appropriate base. The dimensions of the chinampa are marked with reeds stuck into the ground. These reeds are then smothered with mud excavated from around the base, creating canals surrounding the chinampa for canoe access. Next, thick mats of water lily and tule reeds are layered to create a nutrient-rich compost pile. This is followed by another layer of mud mixed with soil from an old chinampa. The sides of these garden beds are secured with posts interwoven with reeds or branches. Finally, willow trees are planted around the edges to provide structural support and create a favorable microclimate. Water flows through the porous structure of these garden beds that are self-irrigated through capillary action.  

Soil fertility is renewed by scooping up material from the bottom of the lake and canals onto the chinampa. Aquatic plants are also cultivated in waterways as fertilizer, and are piled onto the chinampa along with the mud. Planted willows contribute to fertility as foliage falls on the garden beds, creating a nutrient-rich mulch. The leaves that fall into the water feed the aquatic life and the nutrients will return to the lake bottom, only to be scraped back onto the chinampa. The willow trees also produce a microclimate by functioning as a windbreak and creating an air pocket with higher temperatures and humidity, greatly reducing frost damage.

Another key feature of chinampas are seedling germination beds and nurseries established at the edges of the chinampa by forming low terraces. These terraces are perpetually moist and humid, layered with nutrient-rich mud scooped from the bottom of the canal or lake, an ideal environment for seedlings. A thick layer of mud is spread over a bed of waterweeds, then after drying is cut into small rectangular blocks. Small holes are made in each block and a seed or cutting is implanted, covered by human or livestock manure. Reeds and newspaper were used to protect the seedlings from the frost. Once ready for transplanting, cubes are cut and planted into the designated location (Coe, 1964). This is a great example of “relative location” as plants are propagated where they will be transplanted and harvested, with little energy wasted for transport.

Chinampas are an excellent example of various permaculture principles in play: the extensive utilization of onsite biological resources (aquatic plants, willow), complete nutrient cycles, maximization of edges (canals, seedling nursery), relative location (water source and garden bed, seedlings), elements having multiple functions (reeds, willow), efficient energy planning (irrigation through capillary action), etc. Chinampas are ecologically elegant and highly productive, especially when compared to fossil-fuel-intensive modern-day agriculture with heavy chemical inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) transported from faraway factories. There is much that we can learn today about sustainable food production from this ancient Meso-American agroecological system that is believed to have provided sustenance for over a million Aztecs.  

For a detailed discussion, see Spencer Woodard’s article, “Chinampa: Raised-bed hydrological agriculture.”

References (APA format)
Chapin, M. (1988), The seduction of models. Grassroots Development, 12 (1).
Coe, M. D. (1964). The chinampas of Mexico. Scientific American, 211, 90-98.
Prutzman, C. A. (1998). The chinampas of the valley of Mexico: HBO Studio Productions (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley).
Woodard, S. (2011). Chinampa: Raised-bed hydrological agriculture. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from
http://anthropogen.com/2011/04/24/chinampa-raised-bed-hydrological-agriculture/