Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The silence was palpable

Here's a journal entry from my trip to Japan in October.  It's not directly about the book, but anti-nuclear work is very central to many of the people's lives there.  If you want to help, consider attending a protest at the Japanese Consulate.  Here's one in San Francisco.

The silence was palpable: the kind of silence where there doesn’t seem to be any more to say.  The topic is Fukushima.

At a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, after lunch, the man at the table with the spectacles has been explaining to the group how even though many organizations and communities have agreed to accept refugees, very few individuals have volunteered to leave Fukushima. He used his hands to indicate how information was coming in from all directions, fingertips darting here and there in front of his face.  “And no one knows what to believe.  I myself have become confused.” We all waited for him to continue. 

“How much was released?  What level is safe?  But one thing is known: it is the children more than anyone who will sustain the most damage.  The adults, the teachers, the government, the electric company officials: all of them have been saying to the children that it is completely safe, even in Fukushima itself, and, you know children, they believe what they’re told.”

The sadness in my heart is hard and it hurts. What to do? What to do?

This temple, this very temple here in Kyoto is the place where, 3 years ago, I had the incredible transcendent experience—a spontaneous feeling of “enlightenment” or something like that. It lasted, perhaps, only 15 minutes or so.

Thus I have come back to this temple, and, it turns out, today is the 11th. And every month on the eleventh, this congregation gathers to offer the chanting of sutras for those who died on March 11, 2011, and for those who live on.

The Japanese government permitted the restarting of two reactors a few months ago, just upwind from Kyoto, less than a hundred miles away.  China was also mentioned by someone at the table.  They’re building reactors hand over fist.  Some vague reference was made to the government in China: you know how they are about protests and the sharing of information.  The entire vast country to the west of this place: the prevailing winds sweep right round the globe from exactly that direction…

Knowing: the knowing that was supposed to help us all.  To get information and to learn: it does exactly no good.

The man with the glasses, right near the end of the gathering said, “Each one of us has to study, to learn more, has to get more intelligent.”  Then, looking round the table, he said, “None of us here today, has that energy to produce children.”  (I am certainly the youngest person here with my 48 years.) “But those who can, they have to think it over, think hard, and seriously, whether they should.”

And that, that is when the silence began. 

1 comment:

  1. And this is the problem in Japan (I live in Nagoya)...most of the people seriously thinking about these issues are older people, and as wonderful as they are, there is not enough involvement from the younger generation. Although I guess this could be said about many places now...