Japan should look to satoyama and satoumi for inspiration – A new article on Our World 2.0

This morning Our World 2.0 posted an outstanding new article entitled, “Japan should look to satoyama and satoumi for inspiration“.

It is exciting and gratifying to see the concepts of satoyama and satoumi being highlighted for their potential to provide a sustainable, resilient, long-term basis for a rich and dynamic culture and thriving relationship with the natural world – not only for Japan’s rebuilding strategy but also for the world.

Japan is uniquely positioned to act as a “proof of concept” for other developed countries in finding ways to remember and draw into the present long forgotten ways of living in harmony with nature – and in the process reconnecting with those tangible and intangible qualities of interconnectedness that provide true meaning to our lives and nourish our parched spirits.

The spontaneous acts of compassion and service that arise in the immediate aftermath of great disruptions to our daily (and oft-separate) lives – from the simple act of opening one’s home to passersby walking home after the earthquake, to outpourings of love and concern from strangers across the world – are profound demonstrations that at our most human core, relationships of dependence and interdependence are natural and understood, particularly by the heart. And now increasingly by science. Across disciplines – from ecology to economics, quantum physics to the social sciences – diverse examples of connection and community are rapidly becoming recognized, and valued.

Until they were eclipsed by the rise of industry, Japan’s long traditions of satoyama and satoumi flourished as expressions of a spiritual ethic of interconnectedness that was intrinsic to the ancient worldview. Now, as our modern industrial “age of separation” cracks under the pressures of its own unavoidable contradictions, we are being pushed and pulled to find a new way of being in the world. Satoyama and satoumi are ancient in origin but their intrinsic wisdom is as vital and fresh as life itself, ever renewing and innovative, and totally adequate to the task of serving as the foundation for a promising way forward.

As this article says, the concepts of satoyama and satoumi are no panacea, but they do provide a set of eminently practical values and principles that are, ultimately, priceless for their universal promise and applicability.

May everyone inspired by this article go far in supporting and promulgating local and global expressions of satoyama and satoumi, both for Japan’s sake and the world’s.

One response to this post.

  1. Alan, thank you so much for reminding us that more heavenly ways of human togetherness are possible and for inspiring us to be looking for and supporting the satoyama and satoumi concepts globally.

    What quickly comes to mind are several wonderful initiatives:

    1) Eco-Villages
    I think that eco-villages represent some of the Satoyama/satoumi characteristics. They have been developing for decades as a different way of human co-habitation compared to cities, suburbia, or rural towns. Quite a lot has been written about them. I recently stumbled upon “Living Green, Communities that Sustain” by Jennifer Fosket and Laura Mamo.

    2) Refurbishing “Ghost Towns”
    Architectural and building firms have been refurbishing so-called ghost towns in some parts of the world including Mediterranean countries and even Japan, I hear – turning them into luxury hotels and spas and upscale stores. The 9th century Medieval village of Eze overlooking the brilliantly blue Mediterranean on the French Riviera is a lovely example.

    My dream would be to revitalize the ghost towns and turn them into small communities where families (perhaps even of several generations) would select a home as an alternative to city or suburban living. The self-employed as well as employees are more and more able to live remotely from customers or their corporate offices while remaining connected with them through teleconferencing and online collaborations (desktop sharing, etc.).

    The children would enjoy growing up in an exciting, safe, healthy, and fun environment. Some community members may get together and start planting fruit or olive trees, vegetables, or even wine. Others may see to it that the community become more and more energy independent by incorporating renewable energy sources. Yet others may be the artsy types and contribute that way: writing, painting, doing crafts, designing theater costumes and creating plays, or engaging in music performances. Yet others may want to explore their natural surroundings and go on hiking, camping, or canoe trips. The sky’s limit as far as adding the spirit of satoyama and satoumi.

    3) Introducing or incorporating “Nature” to urban living
    I know that in the Bay Area in other metropolitan areas a number of recent initiatives are aiming at bringing back “nature” to urban living. Although this might not adequately represent the satoyama and satoumi principles, I think it’s a nice step in the right direction.

    4) Sekem in Egypt and Findholm in Scotland
    Exceptional world renowned satoyama and satoumi-like communities are Sekem in Egypt and Findholm in Scotland, two outstanding endeavors that combine food self-sufficiency (and trade/export) and partial energy independence with the intent of maintaining a spiritual, balanced, peaceful, and harmonious foundation to living.


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