NatureInterface Co.,Ltd. FAX:+81-3-5222-3581
NatureInterface > No.05 > P029-033 [Japanese]

Interview: To Be Truly Innovative - KEN TAKEUCHI, the Former Mayor of Kamakura City -- Ken Takeuchi

To Be Truly Innovative

An interview with KEN TAKEUCHI, former Mayor of Kamakura City

§ §∑

On the Goals of Kamakura as an Environmental Municipality

Itao: I have read the transcript of your lecture at Nice, France in 1997. I was very much convinced by your arguments. You mentioned that Western rationalism has increased the destruction of the environment, and stated that we now need to consider Eastern thought, which has 1) promoted 2) allowed 3) focused on coexistence with nature since ancient times. You proposed the creation of an "environmental municipality" as your basic policy as a natural extension of these ideas, and you have made great efforts to improve the environment.

Takeuchi: The idea of an "environmental municipality" occurred to me because of my search to determine whether it is possible to accomplish global reform from a purely political standpoint in order to establish a newer a. Politics is just one part of the necessary mechanism and it is the citizens themselves who create the power to achieve reform. If the citizens aren't conscious of the future, we will never be able to harness their power to cope with a new era. I have promoted the concept of an " environmental municipality" because I thought we should concentrate the power of the citizens, and communes that are connected directly to the regions in question should practice and spread these new ideas. As a parenthetical note, I define an "environmental municipality" as a regional government that takes environmental care into consideration in every part of its policies. The crux here is "in every part," which indicates concern for the environment in all policies. We have dealt with environmental policies in cooperation with the residents.

Itao: Which of these policies were especially innovative?

Takeuchi: One particularly innovative policy was the establishment of an NPO NOTE. YOU MAY WISH TO WRITE OUT THE FULL TERM THAT NPO STANDS FOR HERE, SINCE THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU USE THE TERM, FOLLOWED BY NPO IN PARENTHESES center in the city hall lot. This is the first NPO center founded by a municipality and managed by the citizens. Civic movements is originally active CHANGE. 1) Civic movements are especially active 2) Civic involvement is especially high in Kamakura City, and many groups use this center. These days, the number of communes which are trying to establish earth-friendly towns is increasing, and we are expanding our activities as an environmental municipality in networks not only within Japan but also abroad.

Itao: As a citizen of Kamakura City, I would like to express my gratitude for your efforts. I think Kamakura is a remarkable town which successfully combines both urban and rural elements.

Takeuchi: Yes, Kamakura is a special town among cities in the metropolitan area. Kamakura has a long history and an original climate and landscape, which shape the identity of the town and of which the residents are very proud. More than 100 years have passed since writers started to have villas in this town. People with at a fairly high level of income have gathered here, attracted by the tradition and fine atmosphere of Kamakura. I think the administration and the citizens must work to protect the landscape of Kamakura.

Itao: I heard that Kamakura would be designated as a world heritage city.

Takeuchi: Yes, we are conducting academic research now. What is especially valuable are the remains of a fortress from the Middle Ages which incorporates natural cliffs. Another important thing CHANGE? legacy? is the Great Buddha of Kamakura, which is said to be the oldest bronze statue in the world. The foundry of the Great Buddha is being cleared little by little.

Thoughts on the Multiple Terrorist Attack on the U.S.

Itao: Today, I'd like to hear stories from your childhood that illustrate the background of your concept of an " environmental municipality."

Takeuchi: Yes, but I'd like to discuss another thing first today: the multiple terrorist attack on the U.S. the day before yesterday. I' d like to offer my condolences to the victims. (Note: this interview was conducted on September 13, 2001.)

Although I think such a tragedy should never occur, I can' t help thinking that what happened this time was the ultimatum of the civilization that humanity has promoted in the 20th century. The fact that such a catastrophe occurred in the first year of the 21st century is emblematic. Of course, we should not allow terrorism; however, this problem will be never solved by superficial acts such as retaliation. I think our future is somber unless countries all over the world agree in deciding how to create the world of the 21st century and in accepting others' ways of thinking.

After the Cold War ended in the latter part of the 20th century, unilateral control by the U.S. has been promote d in both armaments and in the economy. However, the sense of security collapsed after the terrorist attack. This must be a shocking incident for the U.S., who had thought that great unilateral armaments can maintain world peace.

Itao: I agree. Though of course we hate terrorism, a significant factor in the causes of the terrorist attack may have been the fact that Western countries have long promoted globalization, or the fact that the world has regarded the American way of thinking as representative of what the whole world thinks. If we admit only one set of values and refuse diversity, many contradictions arise. The same thing can be said in the field of technology.

Takeuchi: After the Wright brothers invented the air plane in 1903, the style of wars changed drastically. Until that time, wars had been conducted between people who could see each other. As shown in the TV drama "Hojo Tokimune" on NHK, a shogun story of the 13th century, when people fought, t hey started the battle after naming themselves to their enemies. However, the style of wars has changed to bombing from aircraft in the 20th century. The first bombing attack from aircraft was the Chungking Bombardment by the Japanese army. Later, this style was utilized in the strike on Guernica, which was depicted by Picasso. Then, Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced atomic bombs. Clearly, the world has suffered greatly because of wars in the 20th century. Well, did the world become peaceful and secure in the 21st century? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Surprisingly, the terrorists who attacked the U.S. didn't even use a gun. Instead, they used airplanes, which were their enemy's economic tool and the symbol of a global economy. This is dreadful. What will happen if a hijacked airplane crashes into a nuclear power plant? We can easily imagine that the end of the world will come. People all over the world saw the horrible reality by relay broadcast. This attack greatly changed our concept of war by showing that even without weapons, terrorists can strike their enemies devastatingly by utilizing artifacts of the enemies' own economic activities.

From another point of view, we can say that the terrorist attack this time was a severe condemnation and warning to Western civilization, which has conquered nature and believes that humans can do anything. As Muslims believe in Allah and Eastern people have their own sense of values, each nation has its own way of thinking. Nevertheless, the world has tried to unite itself with the American criteria, which has turned out to be impossible.

I think an ideal society has to admit diversity and coexist with nature, in contradiction to the Western way of thinking, which is to conquer nature.

Itao: A very interesting opinion. Thoughts such as yours create the basis of the concept of an "environmental municipality."

Playing in a Natural Environment and Communication between Different Cultures are Important

Itao: When did you start to have the idea of respecting nature and admitting diversity?

Takeuchi: I grew up in Kamakura and I think my childhood, when I often played outside in the natural environment, has had a great effect on my viewpoint. Nature was my teacher. For example, you'll understand what happens to a river after a rainfall if you see the river every day. But people today come to the river only on summer days and that' s why some people are swept away and die in rivers after a rainfall. It' s a pity for children today that they have lost a teacher when they lost contact with nature, a contact which used to be quite common.

Children today have also lost their brothers and sisters in their own fam ilies. There are many things that children learn by playing or competing with their brothers and sisters. However, even though the number of nuclear families is growing, the number of only children is also rising and the fact that single mothers bring up children causes increasing problems. This is a very big hurdle in society today.

Itao: The root of various difficulties in Japan today is found in such realities.

Takeuchi: Another thing that affected me and contributed to my character are my experiences in the expedition club when I was a student at Waseda University. At that time, only two universities in Japan, Kyoto and Waseda, had expedition clubs. The expedition club of Kyoto University promoted academic research such as folkl oristic studies in Karakorum and studies of chimpanzees in Africa led by Kinji Imanishi. The expedition club of Waseda University, on the other hand, just focused on travel: we crossed Eurasia in a land cruiser borrowed from a company and t raveled through South America. We thought it would be useless to be a rival of Kyoto University, so we just traveled anywhere. Nevertheless, my experiences with the expedition club were meaningful. It is valuable to come into contact with the lifestyles of people all over the world and to experience different cultures. I think it is very important to go out and see other cultures while you are young.

Itao: So you have obtained a delicate sense of balance through growing up in a natural environment and perceiving different cultures.

Takeuchi: People all over the world have their own lifestyles within the climate and the natural environment of the region, as I saw in Latin America and Africa. It is wrong to imagine that you can conquer these cultures with Western civilization.

Reconsidering the Conventional Paradigm and Contemplating True Richness

Itao: No matter how science and technology may develop, human spirit never changes. The terrorist attack on September 11 represents the separation of the human heart from technology in today's society.

Takeuchi: It is a matter of balance. European or American conglomerates intervened in a society in which economy coexisted with nature to sell convenience products and exchange cars or refrigerators for natural resources such as forests. They started to lose the balance with nature, and though they obtained convenience products, they lost their forests and lives. They then realized that they had stooped to being mere subcontractors or helpers of conglomerates. They wonder which is happier.

Itao: Even though people have been liberated from physical labor and have come to enjoy comfortable and convenient lives, society today is not happy at all. This is like a narcotic.

Takeuchi: Exactly. For example, plastic products are convenient. They are light and water-resistant, and they prevent bacteria. However, now they are said to be the cause of environmental pollution that spreads endocrine-disrupting chemicals. We must rethink what kind of problems lurk in the comfortable and convenient lives that Western civilization has brought.

Itao: It is true that the natural environment has been severely devastated in this century. If we look back over the last several millenniums or even over the history of the human species, the speed of environmental destruction in this century is tremendous. Considering this, we need to change conventional attitudes that emphasize the economy. For my own part, as a technician, I propose the application of modern technologies to agriculture.

Takeuchi: I also think that we need to value industries that respect the regions' climates, such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The current situation in Japan is strange in that the self-sufficiency rate of foods is below 50%. I don' t precisely understand the concept of economic growth. I believe it is wrong to think that the GDP is the overwhelming value, and I agree with the idea of work sharing. I believe that those who live a life with a certain spiritual focus can have richer lives; as a Japanese proverb says, " Plow the field on fine days and read books on wet days." From this viewpoint, the "freeter," lifestyle, which is chosen by many young people today, is not so bad. They earn the money they need to do what they want, and they do what they like the rest of the time. It's good. (Note: "freeter" is Japanese coinage which is a combination of "free" and "Arbeiter," indicating those who are neither registered in schools nor have a regular job, and earn money doing only part-time jobs.)

Itao: Nevertheless, there are some freeters who are just afraid of being included in the social system. In any case, it' s true that the existence of freeters shakes the conventional sense of values in which entering a good company and succeeding are thought to be ideal.

Takeuchi: On the whole, the conventional value of earning as much money as one can should be reconsidered. Unless we all care about the environment, we can never protect it. For example, if someone purchases a car because he thinks, " Even if this car is small and cheap or not very convenient, it's fine if the energy consumption is less," it will help to stop global warming.

I believe it is municipalities that can lead the way. Moreover, the municipalities which have great influence are not those of big cities but those of middle-sized cities with a population of less than 200 thousand. If we look at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), to which 600 municipalities all over the world including Kamakura City belong, we can see that those who exercise leadership are middle-sized cities such as Freiburg and Heidelberg in Germany or Davis, California. For example, Heidelberg has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 30% CHANGE. IF YOU MEAN REDUCIN G THE EMISSIONS OF CARBON DIOXIDE SUCH THAT 70% OF THE PRESENT EMISSIONS ARE ELIMINATED, WRITE of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 30% of the current rate; IF YOU MEAN THAT 30% WILL BE ELIMINATED, WRITE of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30%, and the power generated by solar energy actually exceeds that from oil or coal. This clearly shows that the best way to solve environmental issues is to start at the regional level.

Itao: Administrative law has its limit, doesn't it?

Takeuchi: Making precise rules makes things worse, in fact. Remember that we used to dispose of garbage by burying it in home gardens. We used burnable garbage to light a fire to boil water in the bathtub and its ashes became fertilizer for garden plants. However, emitting smoke from houses became inhibited CHANGE. IF YOU MEAN THAT PEOPLE BURNED THINGS LESS, WRITE However, burning at private homes decreased; IF YOU MEAN THAT AN ANTI-BURNING LAW WAS ENACTED, WRITE However, burning at private homes was prohibited, partly because the number of detached houses decreased, and the garbage collection system was established, a system which increased the burden on the environment.

Itao: Environmental issues are closely related to urbanization. In the countryside, we simply bury garbage to dispose of it. However, unfortunately, modern technological development is aimed at urbanization. For example, people spend a lot of time and energy studying how to make a small house appear large.

Takeuchi: I think technological development is very necessary indeed, but we must not forget the principle of such development by pursuing convenience above all else. Following this concept, I promote OM solar system houses. (Note: a n OM solar system house is a house which generates the thermal energy necessary for living by solar energy. The term "OM" comes from the inventor of this system, Prof. Akio Okumura). These houses utilize wind and solar energy, and we notice that this is essentially a house that adopts traditional wisdom. Of course, heat-collecting panels are on the roof and the heat is stored under the floor using a motor. These houses make good use of science and technology in this sense. I think science and technology should be used to a great degree as long as we don't forget the principle of caring for the environment.

Itao: You mean that technology is just a tool and we shouldn't make it an end in itself. Our magazine Nature Interface exists to examine the ways in which technology can harmonize with life. You have convinced me that I can contribute to this harmonization at Kamakura. I would appreciate your future 1) collaboration and help 2) help and suggestions. Thank you very much.

(At Kamakura, September 13, 2001)

NatureInterface Co.,Ltd. FAX:+81-3-5222-3581
HTML by i16 2020/02/24