BeGood Cafe-Archive » “Going Green” in Japan

“Going Green” in Japan


By Giovanni Ciarlo, Diana Leafe Christian

The 2007 International Ecovillage Conference was held in Tokyo, Japan, November 23-24, 2007 with a packed crowd of Japanese environmental activists, progressive university professors, enthusiastic students, and the “green press” in Japan. The second such event held in Tokyo, the conference was hosted by BeGood Cafe and the Permaculture Center of Japan, two nonprofits dedicated to promoting ecological sustainability throughout the country.

Ecovillage Conference 2007
The conference was kicked off by Koji Itonaga, Professor of Biosource Sciences at Nihon University and conference co-host, who urged Japan, among other tasks, to protect and revitalize its remaining 135,000 villages through permaculture design and ecovillage projects, ecologically sustainable housing, bioregionalism, and eco-tourism. Yasuhiro Endo, Professor at Aichi Sangyo University, called for more collective housing projects in Japanese cities, showcasing the very successful “U-Court” collective housing project in Kyoto, to much laughter and applause. Ms. Ikuko Koyabe, Professor at Japan Women’s University and author of Let’s Live in a Collective House, presented case studies of collective houses in Sweden, Denmark, and the US, and how this has been translated to collective housing in Japan, especially in the Kankanmori collective housing project in Tokyo. Other Japanese presenters described collective housing communities in Tokyo, ecovillages in Denmark, a Japanese aid project providing wind generators to communities in East Africa, sustainable forestry and building with wood products to create better home environments and revive the economy of Japan’s mountain villages, and plans to revitalize Japanese villages in the Goshima Islands and Hokkaido Date city, respectively.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007
Overseas guests presented as well. Diana Leafe Christian, author of Finding Community and Creating a Life Together, former editor of Communities magazine, and editor of the new online ecovillage newsletter, Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities, introduced the ecovillage concept with examples worldwide. In a second presentation she focused specifically on the ecologically and financially sustainable aspects of three projects: Earthaven in North Carolina (where she lives), Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, and Kommune Niederkaufungen in Germany.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007
Environmental scholar Penny Velasco, director of the GEN-Oceania/Asia in the Philippines, directing manager of Earth Day in the Philippines, and author of Are You the Forest King?, described how a new ecovillage project, Pintig Cabio in Manila, is being cofounded by three nonprofits: Happy Earth, which produces environmental education materials; The Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning (CELL), a Creation Spirituality-oriented environmental education center; and the Cabiokid Foundation, a fully developed permaculture demonstration site immediately adjacent to the ecovillage site. Giovanni Ciarlo, cofounder of Huehuecoyotl
Ecovillage in Mexico, representative from Mexico to the Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA), and member of the Board of Directors of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), gave a presentation about ecovillage projects in Latin America, including
Huehuecoyotl and Las Cañadas in Mexico, Sasardí Nature Reserve in Colombia, IPEC and ABRA 144 in Brazil. Giovanni also played guitar and sang, getting the crowd clapping and singing along to songs, including his original songs, in Spanish. Kyle Holtzetar, an American Ph.D. student at Nihon University, described the ecologically sustainable aspects of Camphill Kimberton Hills community in the U.S.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007 - Helena Norberg-Hodge
The ecovillage conference was also blessed by an unexpected visit by renowned sustainability activist Helena Norberg-Hodge. Founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, co-founder of the International Forum on Globalization, director of the Ladakh Project, author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh,
recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, and longtime GEN activist, Helena, in Japan on other business, stopped by the ecovillage conference to help encourage ecovillage activism in Japan. She also described her new video project about measuring a country’s progress in terms of its happiness levels.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007
Professor Yasuhiro Endoh of Aichi Sangyo University in Nagano showed slides of U- Court, a successful 22-year-old collective housing development in Kyoto. The project, completed in 1985, consists of 48 units in three buildings, each three to five stories tall. The buildings are arranged around a south-facing U-shaped courtyard containing tall trees and a patio. U-Court doesn’t have a common kitchen or dining room, but in many ways it resembled cohousing. It boasts a shared meeting hall, stairwell entries that face into the courtyard, shared ivy-covered balconies running like outdoor hallways along the courtyard sides of the buildings, and hidden parking in one corner of the property.

Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2007
At the end of each day the presenters took part in a panel discussion moderated by Koji Itonaga, Professor in the College of Bioresource Science at Nihon University.

The conference was widely reported on through print media by Bio-City magazine editor Hiroki Sugita as well as by Yukihiro Noda of the The conference was widely reported on through print media by Bio-City magazine editor Hiroki Sugita as well as by Yukihiro Noda of the television program “Green-Power TV,” who will post a video of interviews and conference highlights in January at

Official conference sponsors included Bio City magazine, several Japanese sustainability-oriented corporations, and the Japanese Ministries of the Environment and of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. Emcees were Jun Shikata of BeGood Cafe and Koji Itonaga.

The first International Ecovillage Conference in Japan was held in October, 2006 in Tokyo. Overseas guests were Lois Arkin of Los Angeles Eco-Village and West US representative to ENA, Liz Walker of EcoVillage at Ithaca in New York state and co-creator of GEN’s EDE program, Max Lindegger of Crystal Waters in Australia and director of GEN-Oceania/Asia, and Marti Mueller of Auroville community in India.


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