Resilient Japan #57: New Stories for a New Japan

Just Back from Japan…

I’m back in Spokane, my final trip to Japan this year complete.  Much to share!

There are ongoing challenges in the disaster area.  Outside Fukushima, there’s tremendous pressure to return to the old normal — in spite of the fact that the old  normal was not working out very well.  Inside Fukushima, there is no old normal to return to — but the way forward is very unclear.  Throughout the region there is a stuckness.  Preparation for the Olympics in 2020 are already raising the costs of building materials and taking skilled construction workers away from building replacement housing and other structures.  Too often, relationships between different people that had improved during the aftermath of the disaster have returned to old animosities and distrust.

A friend of mine talks about a four step model:

  • Crises
  • Stabalizing
  • Creating the New
  • Resilience

Unfortunately if the third steps becomes recreating the old, then the cycle moves towards waiting for the next crises rather than moving towards resilience.  That’s were we are now.

This past weekend the government of Prime Minister Abe was retained power.  But the mood was different than a couple of years ago when he first came into office.  Then there was general enthusiasm for his “Japan is Back” slogan — let’s return to the 90s and be a global economic power.  Now, most people don’t seem to connect with that rhetoric — but no one is offering a new story, a new vision for the future.

So much remains to be done. We’re barely at the starting line.

I had the deep pleasure of hosting New Stories’s first Learning Journey to Japan.  We spent five days in the disaster area to learn from people there about how they were recreating community. And we spent five days in Kyoto exploring the spiritual and cultural roots that have nourished the response in the disaster area.  As we prepared to embark on the learning journey, I had some last minute doubts:  am I making all this up?  Is there really something to learn here?  Is this Japanese response to disaster unique?  The journey erased my doubt.  There is much for all of us to learn here.  Stay tuned.  New Stories will offer a second journey in November, 2015. Here are a few pictures form the first journey

On March 11th, the fourth anniversary of the disasters, Eiji Press will release my new book.  It will be in Japanese — so I can’t read it, which is a little odd!  The working title is New Stories for a New Japan:  Calling Communities Back to Life.  My hope is that the book will opened up some other opportunities for service as well as an opportunity to remind people throughout Japan about both the mess and the potential in the disaster area.

My work has shifted.  I am spending less time in Japan and more time bringing what we’ve been learning there back into North America.  In Japan I continue to host community dialog and Future Sessions in the disaster area and elsewhere.  A small group of us are also brining more of Joanna Macy’s “Work The Reconnects” and “Active Hope” into the disaster area as well as elsewhere.  I’m also spending my time helping people learn about new ways to work in community and using my perspective as an outsider to connect people with each other inside of Japan.

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