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Compass Point


We just finished what I see as a break-through weekend for One Life. We had a group of 16 young people from Tokyo here for two days to learn about and experience the village.

The group is called Compass Point and was organized by a couple of young people who found that when they got out of school and entered the work-force (mostly at "elite" companies) they were able to fill their desire for challenge and mental stimulation, but they were loosing the idealism, or maybe more the time for social activism, that that they once had. The group was organized to gather other young people like themselves together and keep the fire - the desire to *do* something - burning.

Several of the members had visited us over the winter (on different occasions) after seeing our presentation in Tokyo at a meeting for people interested in social ventures. When they started talking at one of their meetings, they found that several of them had the same idea - to bring Compass Point to Sakae Mura and to One Life Japan.


They were only here for two days, but I think they had a big impact - if only because of their thoughtful questions at the speaker panel we organized with four of the "movers and shakers" of the village. We were overwhelmed by the number of young locals that turned out to the BBQ we held in the local shrine. Not only overwhelmed by the turnout, but also by the ease which everyone mingled and the flow of ideas and impressions about life in the countrysie and in the city..


In addition to the BBQ of locally raised beef, pork, and vegetables, we had a menu of activities for their second day. I was pretty surprised that people were able to wake up at 5am ( I left the party at 1am and it was still in full swing! ) Somehow though, ten of them pulled themselves out of their futons at the local meeting hall which we had rented across the river from our house. We took a little walk to Mitsukuri, a nearby hamlet where our local dairy farmer works. Everyone (even two locals who had never visited the dairy farm) seemed to enjoy milking the cows by hand, tasting the fresh milk that was the fruit of their labor, and hearing about the issues facing rural villages and farmers in Japan these days. We received several comments about the eye-opening point made by the milk farmer the previous night at the BBQ - "Think about it, a bottle of water costs 150 yen, but the same amount of rice costs 20 yen." Of course, this struck home even more for those who got a real idea of the effort put into making rice by spending the rest of the morning pulling weeds in our neighbor's rice paddy.


Some of those who were not farming, spent the morning walking with one of the elders of village and listening to his stories about life then and now. The rest pissed and moaned as they rode up 800m to the man-made Lake Nonomi used to catch all that snow-melt and irrigate rice fields in the summer. They didn't complain as much on the 45 minute downhill ride with amazing views, however.


The reason I say this is a break-through moment for us, is that this is what we really want to do. While I love bike touring, and love showing people around this area, there is a different mindset between tourists who are here to have fun, and people who are here to learn or help the locals. While this time the Compass Point crew didn't have much time to "help" much in terms of hard labor, the fact that they showed interest and a willingness to help really had a big impact on the people of the village. What's more, we are now talking with them about future opportunities to have joint programs with them, focusing on high-school kids or a younger audience.

In a somewhat related story, last night Tomoe and I were speakers at a session put on by a University professor who lives here for a group of students from Hokkaido. We were asked to talk about the state of "Green Tourism", and our experiences as a private business trying to run such programs. First, Green Tourism does not necessarily mean "eco" in Japan. It usually refers to tourism where customers do some kind of farming or making local crafts or food. In my mind though, green should also mean green - as in "eco". This is an issue that we have been struggling with, and another reason why I am so happy after this weekends visit by Japanese young people. As we try to re-green ourselves now that we are pretty much settled, we want to cut the carbon footprint of our business as well - pretty hard when customers are flying here from all over the world...

Oh CRAP! I just looked at the clock" I have to go harvest some sunflowers or fix something on the house - I will have to write more about green tourism and One Life Japan next time...



I was happy to read this post and I really applaud your efforts.

My own research in Otaki, Nagano has led me to envision similar opportunities for exchange between local villages and the larger Japanese society.

I agree with you that "green" is often ill-conceived in Japan, but would suggest that "eco" is gaining a similar discursive status. However, semantics aside, I am very much in agreement with your thoughts on expanding and deepening "green tourism" to be something more meaningful for all involved.

I want to find ways to help more Japanese realized the stake that they all hold in the rural parts of their country. In line with this, I hope to stay attuned to your future activities. I would really like to see a wider network formed between rural communities as well--so that more power can be directed at accomplishing common goals.

Anyway, cheers again!!!



Sounds like it was a fun time. It's really awesome to read about your progress with your business and life in general. It looks like your already making a huge contribution to your local community.


Hi bastish,

I am interested in one of your photographs and sent an email to your flickr mail.

Please write me back as soon as possible at david.rotstein@stmartins.com so that I can give you further details.


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