Read the full thesis – We Are The World: Environmental sustainability in a spiritual eco-community in Japan
Fresh from Tokyo, still slightly awed with the cacophony of impressions, sounds, lights, sights, smells, tastes and surprises that make Japan’s capitol city unlike anything in the world, I arrived in Fujinomiya at the beginning of January to stay in Konohana, a spiritual eco-village that is only a twenty minute car ride from Fujinomiya. It is located on the slopes of a mountain that runs into a valley in which a small village is established. With Mt. Fuji dominating the skyline instead of the skyscrapers of Tokyo, I felt like my fieldwork was truly about to start. At that point, I had not yet realized that the few days I spent in Tokyo would ultimately prove to have their own value in my fieldwork as well. While I would never be able to grasp exactly what the members felt when they talked about their lives before Konohana, when some lived in Tokyo or other large cities, it was easier for me to imagine the scenes they talked about. As well as the anonymity that comes with being part of a city home to over 13 million citizens (Tokyo Metropolitan Government n.d.).
I travelled across the world to visit Konohana because I wanted to learn about environmental sustainability in a social setting. And so, for three months, I lived in Konohana. Upon my arrival I initially thought ‘what a strange place I have come to’ and wondered how I would be able to get accustomed to it. I soon found out this feeling was actually the source of a running joke within the community itself. As it turned out, almost everyone had found it a strange place when they first came. This is because life in Konohana is different from life in general society, from the way people shared their space and time to the daily community meetings members attended. Still, the members themselves considered their way of life to be a model for the future. As Isadon once said, ‘in order to be pioneer, you have to be crazy’. And thus, I set out to explore that ‘craziness’ and write about it.
I discovered long-term sustainability and community can be two mutually reinforcing concepts; it is through community building that people can create long-lasting alternative discourses to general society. The findings in my thesis also emphasise the importance of a more holistic approach to environmental sustainability.