Category Archives for happiness

Meditation

Re-inventing Ourselves Silently

Nations do not change, only individuals.   We are all called to be artists, creators of change within ourselves and around us.  To create something entirely new, to go beyond our best as individuals, we need to draw on our inner capabilities.

One such path is through meditation.  Meditation is not something we do, it is a state we enter when our body, mind and spirit are ready.  Certain meditative techniques or practices help make meditative states be experienced sooner than others.  As such it can not be taught, but only experienced by those willing and open to experiment on themselves and disciplined enough to create the right body, mind and spirit.

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There are many paths that lead to “meditation,” chose one that fits you and begin today.

RAJA YOGA

Nirmal was trained in Raja yoga in Nepal as of age nine,  practiced Ayurveda as of eleven and is fluent in Japanese.  We recommend you meditating with him (on Tuesday at noon — check schedule in case it changed), or his private Ayurvedic Counseling or Pranyama class (Thursday nights) at Nirmal Yoga.  Contact Nirmal Gyawali Yoga Studio (Shirokanedai) info@nirmalyoga.com to create a new group of meditators or to practice one on one or for for individual ayurvedic counseling.  Nirmal also has a teacher training course.

ZEN

For those interested, we recommend Zen at Senkakuji Temple with Chudo Yamamoto (Japanese/English).  Many other temples in Japan have Za-zen, you need to call and find out when it is available to the public.  Most in Japanese!  Zen is a full life-style that includes the way you walk, sleep, eat, so if you think by sitting one or two hours a day will be enough for a full transformation, you need to re-think your whole lifestyle.

HATHA YOGA

YOGA TREE (Hiroo, Japan).  We recommend for hatha yoga Michael Glenn’s studio (English/Japanese) at Yoga Tree in Hiroo, Tokyo.  There is something about Michael’s intensity and focus that makes practicing there an incredible experience that harmonizes the body, mind and spirit.  The Japanese teachers are excellent too.

YOGA in SYNC (Outram Park, Singapore).   For those in Singapore, we recommend hatha yoga with Vikram at Yoga in Sync (hard to find a yogi who knows the body better).  For advanced students, health challenges and athletes, we recommend his private sessions.

NIKAM YOGA.  For cleansing techniques that prepare the body for meditation we recommend doing yoga with Nikam Yoga. Nikam Yoga includes pranyama and is free of charge, but only available in certain countries like India and Singapore where former students become teachers devoting their time and expertise freely.  It is a course, with each class building on the other and regular practice, so committed members only.

QIGONG

We recommend Qigong with Shu Seika (Chinese/Japanese) Friday mornings at 8am in Arisugawa park (near the statue on the side of Library) Hiroo.  Mr. Zhou or Shu Seika began his training at age 9 and has helped people with cancer and other illnesses in Japan for many years.  He has given workshops that rejuvenate health at the cellular level and treats individuals.  Speaks Japanese and Chinese fluently. Tel: 0363289606.

YOGA (From Comfort of your Home with most Effective Yogic Techniques)

For those who do not have an individual teacher, who wish to learn at their own pace or from the comfort of their own home, we recommend the effective techniques of Sadhguru, an Indian yogi.  The best place to begin is his online Isha Kriya or his on-line Inner Engineering Course (download his app).  Sadhguru gives more advanced trainings in countries where there are enough volunteers to assist follow up trainings.  The US, India, Singapore, Malaysia, UK are amongst a few.  Then perhaps to India!

For those with limited time but desiring effective techniques–this is it.  Naturally as this yogi is Indian, in the West one must be open to that which we do not know (not the best trait of the French nor the Japanese according to a Franco-Japanese!).

Sadhguru is a yogi full of joy, he is profound, his technique combines all forms of yoga even if he himself is probably a kriya yogi.   He has talked at the UN, taught the Kennedy brothers, spoken at MIT, Harvard, Yale, trained CEOs and does whatever is needed to bring a small element of spirituality to this world.  You may not understand everything he does (nor do I), but his techniques I have tested.  They work!

Download Sadhguru App (itunes Version) or search for the one adopted for your phone.  For simple 5 minute practices select Yoga on the app and press “Yoga Tools” Learn Now. Apps available on isha website.

For those who wish to do a short 15 minute meditation try  ishakriya meditation on the app.  Do it daily for 90 days or 2x a day for 48 days for maxium benefit without missing a day.  It works..

For those with health issues download the health meditation chit shakti meditation online or use the app.  There is also a meditation on love, success and peace.

TIBETAIN BUDDHISM

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM there is a Tibetain Buddhism center in Saint Gilles called Kagyu Samye Dzong, located at 33 rue Capouillet who follow the Karmapa line of Buddhism which is in line with the Dalai Lama.  I walked in one weekend to do my first seated 20 and 40 minute meditation with a formidable meditator and Lama named Yeshe who has meditated in seclusion for many years in the forest and also more than once for 25 or so days in a dark enclosed box (most humans go crazy after a few days).

I later returned once again to the center to learn briefly from and meet his elder brother who was a great lama and doctor, named Akong Rinpoche.   Both brothers started the first Tibetain monestery in Europe in Scotland.  Lama Rinchen Palmo, a French lama at the center also kindly helped me to contact a Zen master as I was leaving for Japan to work with the Japanese.  Ken Holmes and his wife Katia are a formidable team of scholars who I met there and give an 3 year on-line course on Tibetan Buddhism that is impossible to find elsewhere.  I could only complete two due to my schedule, but recommend it highly.

The Kagyu line also have a  monestery in the Catskills, New York which I discovered when a monk I met in the train back from NYC wished to bring me there!  Although a novice myself on Tibetain Buddhism, all the people I met at this center were inspiring.

SILENCE AND THE SISTERS OF BETHLEHEM

Christianity has its own set of practices that are meditative in nature and a tradition of silence.  The monastery of the sisters of Bethlehem in the Catskill Mountains (Livingston manor), two and a half hours from New York City,  is home to this silence, to great love and to the joy of solitude.  This is a sacred place and Sr. Amena, the head of the monastery, and the nuns who practice there have a beautiful presence which make each moment spent there sacred.

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I had the good fortune of going there once a year for the last few years and staying in a wood cabin for a few days of silence in the forest.  It was divine and the small chapel with the chants of the sisters early in the morning lift one’s prayers and meditation.

See if you can book a place Livingston Manor for a silent retreat, contribute for your stay a donation to the sisters (as they live on what they earn with their art) and return re-invigorated.  Each sister here is special, each one wants to remain nameless.   Each one feels like my sister.  Each one has prayed for our family countless times.

Silence is rare these days.  And yet, Jesus went into the desert to meditate.  There is in Christianity a tradition handed down by mystics and later by the Carmelite tradition exemplified by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and Thomas Merton amongst others for silence.  One of the techniques used, centering prayer, is much like the techniques I have found in the other traditions above.  It is contemplative prayer and it has been renewed with Father Thomas Keating’s work at St. Benedict’s Monastery.

BEGIN NOW

Learn to enter deeper states of relaxation, strengthen your meditation practice, experience the art of well-being or discover a new level of being far beyond a previous best, as you transform yourself and us with your creations and your life.

With gratitude and joy to all artists, all creators,
Nathalie Ishizuka

BeyondOurBest.com

A blog to go Beyond our Best in body, mind and spirit

http://www.beyondourbest.com

Letter to Japanese Friends on March 11th

Japanese Version of Letter Below (scroll down)
French Version of Letter Below (scroll down)

Emerging Above Natural and Man-Made Crisis

A letter to Japanese friends contains a poetic vision of how artists, citizens and decision makers could together define a new Japan.

Today is the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.  Let us move forward together. Fukushima could one day be a name associated not with disaster, but a springboard for national and international change.  Everything is still possible.

Please circulate this Letter to Japanese Friends, discuss it, click “like” to encourage Japan.  Join us to work with other artists and citizens who inspire.  Link to Beyond Our Best: Creators Uplifting Japan so we can work creatively together.

This letter has been published in 2012 both in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka Japan in 日本語臨床フォーラム, a web journal dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art.  It has also been since re-published in Belgium in 2013 in the philosophy and theology journal Acta Comparanda XXIV, FVG, Faculty for Comparative Study of Religions, pp. 137-138, 2610 Antwerpen Belgium.

For other venues interested in publishing it, please Contact Us.

 

—– English

A Letter to Japanese Friends

Leiko Ishizuka, MBA, MALD, Keio University exchange, a Franco-Japanese from New York

Paul Briot, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Professor at the Antwerp Faculty of Comparative Religion

This,

understanding, heart of sun,

when?

Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis.  It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change.  After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world.  Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild.  The question is: can a new Japan emerge?

Some Japanese realize that in the face of increasing natural and man-made disasters, the country has to equip itself with a new moral drive that enlightens and inspires.  To rebuild an old Japan in the current international context is not enough.  To write a glorious page of its history, Japan will need to emerge from this crisis far beyond its previous best.

Let us imagine how Japan can conceive and bring about a sublime nobility, a beauty capable of projecting its inhabitants beyond what they ever were, even at the height of their culture and past.

Japan needs This, a moral drive rich in comprehension and compassion.  The country requires an enlightened spirit of fraternity, open to all those in the world who in this period of adversity have shown their sympathy and respect for Japan’s courage, dignity and solidarity.

In order to mold a new heart for themselves, a heart of sun, one that ignites the sparks that live within them, the Japanese launch into the sky the arrows of their imagination.  In a country that experiences a tremendous range of human emotions and feelings, poets suggest a Japanese This, an element of value and meaning that resides in the very spirit of the Japanese people.

Painters, sculptors, architects and all artists envision faces that gradually rise towards This, a moral sun that is stronger and undoubtedly nobler than unbridled nature.

Intellectuals, historians, writers, journalists, major broadcasters evoke the past.  Throughout its history Japan has been influenced at times by China at times by the West.  But today those lands are also in search of meaning, of their own existential journey.  Fortunately, Japan itself can devise its own audacious future.

The spiritual, the wise and those who meditate propose their experience.  This will signify according to each individual: spiritual faith, moral force or beauty.  These three aspects are indeed compatible.  Imagining meanings, choosing one’s own specificity, committing oneself to the essential Adventure.

Individual citizens ask important questions of themselves and of their country.  They move, they engage, they act to rebuild Japan from within.

Finally an appeal is launched, a solemn appeal to those in charge, including leaders and decision-makers, to contribute to a new Japan.

The Japanese envisage the sun in full freedom, as their inspiration dictates.  They question it in all possible ways.  They imagine poetically its responses, its enigmas, its allusions.  Meaning starts to live, it deepens, it spreads freely.  Value blossoms, sparkles, becomes light, a measureless light that sublimates all things.

The Japanese are capable of This and the world context requires nothing less: comprehension, compassion, liberation, realization.

This,

understanding, heart of sun,

now.

 

—– Japanese

天災と人災を乗り越えて

日本の友人への手紙

Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka(ナタリー 玲子 石塚) パリHECでMBA、慶応大学に留学、「ベストを超えて:日本を元気にするクリエーター達」ディレクター

Paul Briot(ポール・ブリオ) 哲学博士、アントワープ比較宗教学講座教授

これこそが

悟り、太陽の心、

それはいつ?

個人と同様に、国家も、危機に直面すると重要な問いを発するものです。本当に困難な状況に陥ったときに初めて、根本的な変化へと踏み出そうとする勇 気が出 てきます。2011年3月の悲劇的な災害から、日本は尊厳と勇気を持って復興への道を歩みだし、世界を感動させました。第二次世界大戦から復興したときと 同じように、日本はまた復興と再建を成し遂げることでしょう。問題は、「日本は新しく生まれ変われるのだろうか?」ということです。

自然 と人為、二種類の災害の頻度がますます高まっている昨今、日本人の中にも、道を照らし、人々を勇気づけるような新しい精神力を身につける必要があることに 気付きはじめた人々がいます。現代の国際情勢においては、以前と同じ日本をもう一度再建するだけでは十分ではありません。日本がこの苦難の時を乗り越えた とき、これまでの日本をはるかに上回る素晴らしい国として生まれ変わった姿を示すことができれば、その歴史に輝かしい1ページを書き加えることができるで しょう。

想像してみてください。新しい日本が、文化的な栄華を極めた過去のいかなる時代をも超越した、これまでにない高みにまでその国民を引き上げることができるような、崇高で壮麗な美を生み出している姿を。

日本には、相互理解と思いやりに満ちた、この精神力が必要なのです。日本に必要なのは、光にあふれる博愛の精神です。この災禍のときにあって日本人が見せた勇気と尊厳と団結心に共感と敬意を示した世界中のすべての人々に対して心を開く、博愛の精神です。

日本の人々は、新しい心、すなわち内なる輝きに火をともす太陽の心をかたち作っていくために、想像力の矢を空高く放ちます。詩人たちは、数えきれな いほど さまざまな感情や思いを今まさに経験しているこの国において、日本人本来の精神性の中にもともと備わっているこの価値観、この意味を訴えかけます。

画家、彫刻家、建築家、その他すべての芸術家たちは、この精神的な太陽に向かって、少しずつ立ち上がっていく日本の人々の姿を描き出していきます。心の太陽は、歯止めのきかない奔放な自然よりも力強く、また間違いなく崇高なものです。

知識人、歴史家、作家、ジャーナリスト、ニュースキャスターなどは、過去の歴史を呼び起こさせます。日本はその歴史上、中国から、そしてまた西洋か らも影 響を受け続けてきました。しかし今日では、それらの国々もまた意味を求め、自らの存在を問い直す旅のなかにあります。幸いなことに日本は今、自分たちの未 来を自らの手で大胆につくり出していくことができるのです。

宗教家や賢人、瞑想家たちは、自らの経験を言葉にして伝えます。信仰、精神 力、そして美――これが日本人ひとりひとりにとって重要な意味を持ちます。これら3つは共存可能です。意味を想像すること、自分だけの特質を自ら選び取る こと、そして意義深い「冒険」へと踏み出していくこと。

日本人ひとりひとりが、自分自身について、そして日本という国について、重要な問いを投げかけます。ひとりひとりが、日本という国を内側から立て直すために立ち上がり、力を合わせ、行動するのです。

最後に、次の言葉を訴えかけたいと思います。指導者や政策決定者たちを含む、新しい日本の創造に貢献できる立場にいる人々に向けた、重みのある宣言として。

霊感の指し示すところにしたがって、日本人はその心の中に自由に太陽を描き出します。日本人は可能な限りのあらゆる方法で太陽に問いを投げかけま す。太陽 が返す答え、太陽がかける謎、太陽が暗示するものを、日本人は詩的に想像します。意味が命を得て、深まり、そして自由に広がっていきます。価値は花開き、 輝き、光となります。それは、すべての存在を至高の高みへと導く、計り知れない光です。

理解、思いやり、解放 ――日本人にはこれらを成し遂げる力があります。そして、世界の状況も今それを求めているのです。

これこそが

悟り、太陽の心、

今こそがその時

著者紹介

ポール・ブリオ

ポール・ブリオは哲学博士、アントワープ(ベルギー)の比較宗教学講座教授。危機の活用、誠実さ、芸術的創造、目標の明確化などをテーマとした詩的随想や記事、著書を発表。近著(Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?  2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers)では、すべてを超越し、人々を高みへと導く内なる芸術について論じている。

ナタリー 玲子 石塚

石 塚ナタリー玲子は慶応大学で日本語を学び、フレッチャー法律外交大学院でMALD(法律と外交に関する修士号、ハーバード大学との共同学位)を、パリの HECではMBAを取得。学位論文では1946年に制定された日本国憲法と国連平和維持活動について論じ、憲法起草者の一人から称賛の手紙が贈られた。危 機を国家や個人を変革するためのチャンスとして捉えることをテーマに執筆活動を行っており、「日本の友人への手紙」に、日本の昔話「鶴の恩返し」を重ね合 せた寓話「きずな(KIZUNA)」を発表している。

 

 

 

 

 —– French

LETTRE A DES AMIS JAPONAIS

Leiko Ishizuka, M.B.A. HEC, M.A.L.D. Fletcher School, a Franco-Japanese from New York

Paul Briot, Docteur en philosophie, Professeur à la Faculté des religions comparées d’Anvers

Ceci,

comprendre, cœur de soleil,

quand?

En 1945, les Japonais ont réparé les dommages de la guerre et développé une économie particulièrement brillante.  Après le drame de 2011, ils se redressent une fois encore avec une dignité et un courage qui touchent le monde entier.  Mais certains Japonais comprennent que, face à des désastres naturels et d’autres créés par l’homme, le pays doit se doter maintenant d’une force morale qui éclaire l’existence et l’inspire.  De cette crise actuelle le Japon peut écrire une page glorieuse de son histoire.

Imaginons comment le pays conçoit et réalise une noblesse, une beauté qui projette ses habitants au delà de ce qu’ils étaient avant cette épreuve terrible.

Il faut au Japon Ceci, une force morale riche de compréhension et de compassion.  Il faut au pays un esprit  éclairé, fraternel, ouvert à tous ses amis du monde qui, dans cette épreuve, ont manifesté au pays sympathie et respect pour son courage, sa dignité, l’aide que chacun a apportée aux autres.

Pour se forger un nouveau cœur, un cœur de soleil, pour faire jaillir ces étincelles qui déjà vivent en eux, les Japonais lancent vers les hauts les flèches de leur imagination. Dans ce pays qui a reconnu l’immense gamme des émotions et des sentiments humains, les poètes suggèrent ce quelque chose qui vaut, ce quelque chose lourd de sens qui réside dans l’esprit même du peuple.

Peintres, sculpteurs, architectes, tous les artistes imaginent des visages qui peu à peu s’élèvent vers Ceci, soleil moral plus fort en fin de compte, plus noble assurément que la nature déchaînée.

Compositeurs et chorégraphes évoquent une sagesse où volonté et courage s’unissent à l’amour.

Penseurs, historiens, écrivains, journalistes, grands diffuseurs évoquent le passé.  Au cours de son histoire, le Japon fut influencé tantôt par la Chine, tantôt par l’Occident.  Mais aujourd’hui ces lieux se trouvent eux aussi à la recherche d’un sens, d’une formule d’existence.  Par bonheur, le Japon lui-même peut concevoir des plans d’audace, un Ceci japonais.

Les spirituels, les sages, ceux qui méditent proposent leur expérience.  Ceci signifiera selon chacun destinée spirituelle, force morale ou encore beauté, ces trois aspects étant, bien entendu, compatibles.  Imaginer des sens, choisir un sens particulier, s’engager dans l’Aventure essentielle.

Enfin un appel est lancé, un appel solennel qui s’adresse aux responsables, aux dirigeants, aux décideurs pour apporter leur aide à un nouveau Japon.

Les Japonais considèrent le soleil librement, selon leur inspiration.  Ils le questionnent de toutes les manières. Ils imaginent poétiquement ses réponses, ses énigmes, ses allusions.  Du sens se met à vivre, il se creuse, s’étend librement.  La valeur s’épanouit, lance des feux, devient lumière, lumière immense qui sublime toutes choses.

 

Ceci,

comprendre, cœur de soleil,

maintenant.

Looking Back 2013 and Forward 2014

January 31, 2014

Dear Friends and Supporters of Beyond Our Best :  Creators Uplifting Japan

Happy New Year 2014 and thank you for your creativity, service, kindness and support to creators in Japan in 2013.

Nothing could be done without your friendship, ideas, input, introductions, creativity, generosity and great spirit.  As we are all creators, Beyond Our Best: Creators Uplifting Japan simply facilitates the work of many who inspire.

This year we worked on meaning: what it means for creators to uplift Japan.  As I tend to think in images and my Japanese is poor, this has been no easy task.

Dr. Paul BriotDr. Paul Briot, a Belgian philosopher Ph.D. and Professor of Comparative Religion, and I work together on using natural and man-made crisis for change.   Together we wrote a poetic Letter to Japanese Friends translated and published it thanks to Dr. Masayoshi Morioka in Japan in 2012 and later in a journal in Belgium in 2013.  A new translated version now exists thanks to Peter Macmillan.

KIZUNA FABLE :  Knowledge and Comprehension in 2014

kizunaTo help convey the Letter to Japanese Friends to the general public, I re-wrote and illustrated the letter in 2014 into the adapted fable The Japanese Crane Wife (鶴の恩返し). The fable was translated in Japanese just in time for it to be produced as a dance on January 6th 2014 by a talented Japanese Nihon Buyo artist in front of some of her peers.

IMG_0444 Wakayagi Masayasu Sensei, who performed the dance, is from one of the 5 most well known families of dance in Japan.

She believes others could interpret the story in opera, movie, manga, music or other forms of art and in the future aspires to create and perform the dance in Tohoku (the region devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear).

Should other artists wish to have a copy of KIZUNA and interpret the story in an original manner please contact us.

We welcome publishing contacts for the illustrated Japanese fable.

2014 and Beyond :  Lectures, Workshops and Guests

Due to high demand we welcome again in 2014 two inter-disciplinary guests who have helped artists and leaders in different disciplines balance high levels of self, intimacy and achievement: Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese Harvard-Keio trained psychiatrist, who developed a model of health, happiness and balance and Frederic Bosendorf, D.O., osteopath, physiotherapist and practitioner of Chinese medicine.  Let us know if you would like to book Dr. Yukio Ishizuka on a talk for happiness, health and creativity or for an appointment for Frederic.

Dr. Yukio Ishizuka Dates Japan:  April 22 – May 14th 2014

Frederic Bosendorf, D.O. Dates Japan: Early June

Many thanks to all of you and in particular to Dr. Paul Briot who inspired me to come to Japan to work with Japanese artists and who has been working with me throughout.

Let this be a year of greater knowledge, compassion, freedom and realization.

With much to learn from each of you,

Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka

2014: PROJECTS

Aside from working with individual artists on using knowledge or compassion in Tohoku and Japan at large, in 2014 some collective propositions include:

2014 and Beyond: Architects and Climate Change, Crisis and Innovation

In 2014 and beyond we wish to imagine together with interested Japanese architects and inter-disciplinary scientists and experts innovative new structures that better resist environmental challenges such as tsunamis, earthquakes, rising levels of the sea and climate change.  We will be organizing informal gatherings to jump start this program.  Please contact us to get involved.

2014 and Beyond: Japanese Youth, Artists & Social Movement

In 2014 and beyond we wish to develop a compassion application on the mobile to engage the Japanese youth and others to reduce suicides and show the power of compassion in Japan and abroad.  This would be building on the central message of KIZUNA, the bonds between people, to show how through simple actions we can create bonds of compassion in Japan and extend them in Asia without any political messages attached.

2014 and Beyond:  Innovative and Resourceful Children

There are 30,000 children in orphanages in Japan, most have at least one parent.  We hope to work with one orphanage, the Seibi Home and with innovative social workers develop and test pilot programs which can if successful be used in other orphanages and in education at large.  We are thinking of developing a series of three advanced workshops one after the other :  1) survival skills  2) emotional/life skills  3) crisis and creativity skills and welcome experts, sponsors and support .

What we realize of course depends on the talents, interests and opportunities of individuals in a position to initiate, support and create change.  

2013 THANKS

WE THANK many countless individuals in 2013 who are the important bonds amongst us who make things happen.

Our activities were numerous in 2013 including contacts with individuals who do great things for orphanages and prisoners, farmers throughout Japan and nuclear safety.  Throughout all of our activities we strove to re-imagine with experts in each sector, using crisis and setbacks to create together.

Each individual who is thanked is not responsible for the views of others nor does he or she agree on different societal challenges nor is necessarily part of any organization with a common purpose.  And yet, each mentioned stirred our imagination to greater knowledge or compassion.

We wish to thank countless artists, creative individuals and volunteers who have each inspired us,  including:

ARCHITECTS AND RELATED PROJECTS

toyoitoSpecial thanks to the architect Toyo Ito, who received the Pritzer Prize in architecture in 2013 and continues to use his understanding of “間” or space to conceive architecture as a skin — a space that opens a door for long forgotten relationships amongst people.

We thank the talented Mr. Kobayashi, his chief architect as well as Ms. Miki Uono who coordinated with countless mails meaningful exchanges. We thank too Ronald Choi, a remarkable investment banker from JP Morgan, who is raising funds for Toyo Ito’s Fukushima park for children as well as Hiroko Kano, Yoko Amau, and Shingo Oshima for their volunteer translations for our meetings.  We thank Naomi Pollock for her advice on architects in Japan.  We thank Roland Hagenberg for his inspirational presentation at the Austrian Embassy on a farm village in Europe revived by Japanese architects and hope the Japanese can do something similar in Tohoku.  We thank the professor and scientist Sahraoui Chaieb who we first met at MIT and helped us with holograms and implications for new structures in architecture.

JA-ZENCHU (Agricultural LOBBY)

We thank from JA-ZENCHU Kato Jun and Oota Yousuke for brainstorming on how to revive Japanese farming beyond a previous best and how artists may contribute to reviving spirits in Tohoku.  We look forward to future work together facilitating the work of architects and other artists in Japan to lift the spirits of farmers.  This could include imagining ways with architects to better protect coastal areas against tsunamis or rising water levels or helping to revive a village with architects and designers.

ARTISTS and TOHOKU

NaotoWe thank Naoto Nakagawa who completed his 1,000 portraits of hope sketches of people from Tohoku, bringing good luck and inspiration to all.  I thank Naoto for taking me to Fukushima with his friend Robin Rabin.

I learned much from the generosity of the people of Fukushima particularly Masako Koyano and Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi whose Taxi service drove us to Aizuwakamatsu and got us around Koriyama city as well as meeting children from the Okuma Kindergarten, teens from Japan’s number one youth badminton team (who once practiced near the Dai-itchi nuclear plant) and elders from the temporary housing unit.  We also thank Caroline Press for helping to make such beautiful work possible.

We thank too TIS for inspiring us with their work with Ishinomaki and Kesenuma and for their work with the Playground of Hope and It’s not Just Mudd.  We thank particularly Bita Alu and Tracey Odea.  We thank Gaetano Totaro and Michael Anop for what they have done for Tohoku.

We thank the Google team including Reirui Ri, Charlie Hale and William Echickson for all they have done for Tohoku and Marie Onga for brainstorming with us on further projects with artists.

NIHON BUYO and KIZUNA

We thank Wakayagi Sensei in Nihon Buyo for her support and interpretation of the fable KIZUNA in a dance in front of a few of her peers.  Many people were involved in this creation and its development was a great adventure that began with many friendships starting with Mrs. Reiko Nagura who introduced me to her talented teacher Wakayagi Sensei and offered me a Kimono and Obi.

dorothybouchierSaraHitchensMrs. Sara Hitchens, a talented counselor in health and psychology, helped in more ways than one including kindly introducing me to the poet and composer Lady Bouchier author of The Japanese Crane: Bird of Happiness and the poet and artist Peter Macmillan who was instrumental in helping the fable KIZUNA be translated in Japanese just in time for it to be produced as a dance on January 6th 2014.

We thank Lady Bouchier who solved a year long puzzle on Hokusai‘s Cranes which lead all the way to Kushiro in Hokkaido…and to the talented photographer of cranes Tsuneo Hayashida.

We thank warmly Kimete Basha for recent help with publishing contacts.

JOURNALISTS

kenzaburo and satoshi kamataWe thank Satoshi Kamata, a Japanese journalist who has written over 200 books for his courageous work in many fields including social causes and the Fukushima disaster.  I first met Mr. Kamata in Paris when he came with Kenzaburo Oe.

We thank too Mark Willacy’s (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation News) informative book FUKUSHIMA as it pointed out important human error.  We also thank many NHK journalists and others whom we met or corresponded with in 2013 who do great work on many societal issues including on the important work of artists, happiness and social change.  We leave out your names as you get enough press ;).

OPTIMAL WELL-BEING, HEALTH & CREATIVITY

We thank our two specialists who came from New York and Brussels who work with Japanese artists and others on health and happiness on going beyond our best, Dr. Yukio Ishizuka and Frederic Bosendorf.

Yukio IshizukaDr. Yukio Ishizuka a Japanese Harvard trained psychiatrist and Keio medical school graduate gave countless lectures including at the British Embassy, the EU embassy, Keio University, Lutheran University and individual groups such as that headed by my gifted friend Rosanna Kubotera, as well as Yoko Amau and Yasuko Amau who we all thank for countless introductions.

We thank Frederic Bosendorf who helped many individuals who had intense workloads and who do much for others.  We thank Ingrid Davis for providing Frederic Bosendorf with an osteopathic table and Mrs. Eri Ogawa for teaching both Frederic an I about Seitai.  We thank Colette Ishizuka who supported Dr. Ishizuka’s schedule and allowed me to work during the summer.

EMBASSIES

We thank former Ambassador and Mrs. Petree and Ambassador and Mrs. Terusuke Terada for helping our transition to Japan as well as Kenji Kuratomi of the Embassy of Japan in Belgium.

We thank the EU Embassy Ambassador and Mrs. Schweisgut, Rudie Filon on hosting a talk at the EU on Suicide Prevention Best Practices : EUROPE, JAPAN, US in 2013, as well as on Happiness and we congratulate the movie and work of Rene Duignan on Suicide Prevention in Japan, we thank the British Embassy for sponsoring a talk on Happiness including Ambassador and Mrs. Hitchens.

We thank Marie-Claire Joyce for her talent, creativity and friendship which lifts us.  We thank the Austrian Embassy particularly Ambassador and Mrs. Zimberg for work with the Seibi orphanage as well as inviting us to talks by artists.

We thank Embassies working to facilitate visits to foreign prisoners in Japan with the FCC under Frances Moyer’s beautiful efforts, Ambassadors who have offered to host art exhibits and Ambassadors who have aspirations to do work on climate change with artists.  We look forward to future work together as Japan works with many other countries for needed change.

ORPHANAGES

We thank the Seibi orphanage and its staff, particularly Kudo Yoshi.  We thank the Austrian Ambassador and his wife Rashmi Zimburg for bringing song to children for the Christmas holidays, Peter Storer from the Austrian Embassy for making the event possible, the talented designer and psychologist Andrea Strohmeier for her friendship and interesting insights on many topics.

We thank Stephanie Johnson head of FCC orphanages, Patrick Newell, head of Living Dreams an NPO that helps orphanages, Maki-Mori, an American trained Japanese social worker and Zoe Davis-Rizutto for her support.  We thank Shinobu Yoshida for his work on survival workshops that we are developing for orphanages.  We welcome and seek new social workers including those who can speak Japanese and thank Shikibu Oishi for contacts including with Maurice Rabb and his work with children in difficulty.  We thank Adele Marcis and FIFA’s donation for Jacky’s Japanese team soccer shirt : a wish made true for an orphan bound for the soccer field!

We thank from BST Brian Christian, Kirsten O’Connor and Ben Stainer for setting up a community service with the Seibi Home Orphanage.

PROFESSIONAL CREATIVE WRITERS, POETS, DESIGN

We thank our many professional writers who have worked for some of the best ad agencies or created their own and volunteered their time especially Michael Glen of CREATIVE (tokyometric@gmail.com) for his critical help defining the name of our organization, our core activities succinctly, translating those into Japanese, editing a proposal on a mobile application, editing a proposal on architects and climate change and creative insight on many matters.  Michael you are a great teacher, a formidable writer and generous friend.

We warmly thank Rosanna Kubodera and Yoshi Kubodera from CONNECT Inc. for helping us define our name in Japanese and for creative insights on our meishi.

We thank Emine Karali, a talented designer in Belgium for working late into the nights on the print design of the book KIZUNA.

We thank Nori Katano for his advice and knowledge of the internet, mobile and web.  We also thank Sarah Breen for her high tech advice and ideas.

We thank Peter Macmillan’s translation services who gave us a generous discount and provided us with his most talented translator so that the book KIZUNA could be danced by Wakayagi Sensei on January 6th 2014.  Peter’s excellent translation services also just did exceptional work on a Letter to Japanese Friends which we hope to publish at the same time as the book KIZUNA.

We highly recommend their services to others and thank them for their generous time, talent, ideas and support. 

VOLUNTEER TRANSLATORS

We thank all our volunteer translators especially Hiroko Kano and Makiko Sephardi who helped us on many of our undertakings including tight deadlines, phone calls and many aspects of our daily work.   Much of our work could not have been possible without them.  We admire all our expert as well as youth translators.   Special thanks to Yoko Amau, Hiroko Sasaki, Shingo Oshima, Satomi Kanaya, Akemi Shuto for volunteer translations in meetings with artists and people who inspire.

ACADEMICS

We thank Dr. Oliver Williamson from Berkeley, Dr. Joel Trachtman from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Dr. Ray Moore from Amherst College, Dr. Donald Robinson from Smith College, Dr. James Sutterlin, former Director of the Executive Office of the U.N. Secretary General, Dr. Mikako Le Lay, Senior Fellow at Industry Research on Environment and Energy at Ernst & Young Institute and Dr. Masayoshi Morioka from Kobe University.

BELGIUM, FRANCE, USA

We thank our initial team in Japan which included the help of Michiko Nakazawa, Hiroyuki Akahori, Dr. Mikako Le Lay, Caroline Giraud, the poet Isabelle Balot, Osaka Wataru, Shinji Ioka and Frederic Donck.  We are happy to welcome Hiroyuki and Mikako to Tokyo !   We thank Guillaume Brouard and Olivier Kahwati from France for their high tech wisdom.  We thank Barbara De Frondeville and Bertrand De Frondeville for their work on many projects, including climate change.

COUNTLESS OTHERS

We thank countless artists such as Keiko Courdy for inspiring us with her web documentary on Fukushima, the talented designer and artist Mai Miyake for her interesting work and expositions, Suiko Ohta for her demonstration of Sumie and many artist friends, including Mimi Oka, who introduced us to people in Japan and made our initial stay a happy one.  We thank Mr. and Mrs. Arikawa as well as Miyuki Arikawa.

We especially thank Mrs. Reiko Nagura who taught me much about traditional arts in Japan, intrigued me with in depth conversations on Jung and was one of the first to introduce us to artists including Wakayagi Sensei in Nihon Buyo and her cousin Yoko Ono amongst others. 

I thank my friend Carol Randell who drove my children to school and my friend Melanie Borisoff, my helper and friend Sally Reyes and especially my husband Bruno and children Dimitri and Leiko for their patience with a mother who often does too little and too much.

I am sure I have forgotten vital friends but as it is the last day I can send you a happy New Year card in January — you will forgive me and I will thank you in person.

I am grateful for such friends and moved at all you have done.  Much good has come from your work, generosity and creativity.

Kesennuma Making a Difference from Kid to Kid

Kesennuma, Changing Japan from Kid to Kid and Beyond (a visit on March 13, 2013)

kesennuma-before March 11 Kesennuma, located in the northeast of Miyagi Precture, Japan, was deeply affected  in Japan’s quake disaster.    This leading fishing town in Japan is of great beauty and its people of great strength.  Having said that,  the strong need help and two years after the disaster there is still much that can be done.

Kesennuma Hit Hard by Tsunami

kesennuma after march 11When we compare the images of before and after the disaster, the contrast helps us realize how difficult re-construction can be and how much help is still needed.

When faced with national crisis many of us feel useless.  Our first response is what can I do?   And yet, it is often the smallest acts, many of which seemingly go unnoticed, which make a fundamental difference.

Kesennuma boat chaosFor instance, Emi Satomi and a group of nursery teachers from Kesenumma whose jobs were eliminated by the catastrophe, weren’t sure what to do.  They made a makeshift day care center in a warehouse up on a hill.  Despite Emi’s fear to take on something she felt was beyond her, she forged ahead and named the new nursery Ohisama,  meaning “sun” (more on her by Japan Times).  And sun it brought.

Today, the Japanese have done a great job in cleaning up Kesennuma.  And yet, it is not clean streets alone that are sufficient in raising the human spirit.  It is people like Emi Satomi and small acts which change lives.  Acts that tell people we are with them.

TIS (Tokyo International School) Kids, Parents and Michael Anop’s Play Ground of Hope

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On March 13 2013, a group from TIS (Tokyo International School) of dedicated and inspiring parents — including Bita Alu and Tracey Odea — as well as the head of the school, Des Hurst, and the entrepreneur Michael Anop (founder of the Play Ground of Hope) went up to Kessennuma together with a mission.  The purpose of the visit: to send a message from the kids of TIS (Tokyo International school) to the kids of Ohisama that they are not forgotten.

fullplaygroundIn kids talk, this means it is time to play and to smile.  The kids at TIS saved their money and through their own fundraising as well as of their parents offered a playground of hope to a nursery school in Kesennuma.  The idea was to provide a  smile to kids up north and some relief  to the brave nursery teachers who through their giving and effort helped many families in difficulty.

These kids from TIS (Tokyo International School) are wiser than most of us.  They know that is only when smiles return that real reconstruction begins.  Let me share with you a few of those pictures as the moment was a happy one!

happy kid kesennuma playground of hopedownslidehappyredcap

The boy with the red cap kept hugging us.

I speak about the wisdom of children, but I also speak with some noted exceptions of great adults.  Michael Anop, who is himself a parent and knows well the benefit of outdoor play for kids has started a great project of hope for kids (and their parents) in Tohoku.  As the housing situation is difficult in the north with temporary housing now constructed, but with no room for kids to play — a solution had to be found.

kesennuma playground of hope peaceGiven that local authorities remain busy with the basics of housing and employment, it is private initiatives like the Playground of Hope that make the difference.  Michael, determined to help children and their parents in Tohoku, found a way to make playgrounds affordable.  He did something that even the local Japanese constructors thought impossible: build a sturdy affordable playground designed to last.

As he has worked on project after project in Tohoku, he has merited the confidence and trust of local authorities and even the makers of playgrounds are now approaching him with some admiration.  It is my hope that new playgrounds can be created for children who have no place to play.  For this to continue efforts in financing Playground of Hope are helpful by schools and individuals.

We also need the media in the north to make the project of hope visible so that new communities in need of playgrounds will initiate requests to Michael.

snack2snack1Here the kids are having a snack after playing in the playground.

They are waving to their new friends at TIS.  Bita Alu lugged up a large suitcase of presents for each one of them, to be given after the snack…

 

Financing Socially Aware Projects in Tohoku Creates Smiles

People such as Ronald Choi, a Korean investment banker for JP Morgan in Tokyo and also a parent at TIS, is now working to help finance the Playground of Hope and other projects.   He and others are aware that the real work in re-construction starts now.  That is : it is only after people have struggled to physically survive, that comes the more difficult task of re-building one’s life and creating daily meaning in difficult circumstances.

copy-nadiahpheaderRon Choi is raising additional money for the Playground of Hope and other projects up north with the organization NADIA.

I first met Mr. Choi on a bus on the way to Ishinomaki when TIS donated a large playground and many excited children and parents rode up together with Lorraine Izzard (the new head of TIS as of July 2013).  On the bus, I was struck by Mr. Choi’s great spirit, modesty and generosity.  Here was an investment banker who took his own vacation time (vacation is rare in investment banking) to physically do hard labor to help re-build homes up north.  I only met him for a few moments, but was moved by him and his giving family as well as the way he spoke to his own children and to others.

Helping Communities Now and Japanese Architects

what future KesennumaProjects such as Michael’s are important as they underline the necessity of people up north to re-create links and find a place to see old friends and build relationships.  This naturally happens around children.  Socially aware projects like Michael’s enable communities to unite and re-build from within.

As most housing units up north have been randomly assigned to people in temporary housing, people often do not know each other.   Until (and even after) permanent housing and new relationships are created, playgrounds and places where adults can come together are needed.

Another such notable project that merits attention due to its social awareness is by the reknown architect Toyo Ito.  He has designed a “house for all,” as shown in Keiko Courdy’s web documentary Yonaoshi.   Her stunning documentary talks about a New Japan emerging from the disaster, a Japan better than before.   Perhaps, when we look at this house, we begin to understand the spirit of this new Japan.

Toyo ItoIn the video interview of Toyo Ito, Keiko Courdy shows a  prototype of a house by Ito that builds on a new spirit of community.  The wooden house has a place to sit outside where people can naturally greet passing neighbors and a place to gather to cook together a simple meal inside or to have tea together.

Other Japanese architects too, like Shigeru Ban, have created new structures for people up north often without help from local governments nor outside funding nor support.   These architects remind us of our responsibility in crisis to think about the people within the houses, about their hearts, minds and desire to be together with loved ones.

The experience of these Japanese architects remind us of the courage necessary to break away from bureaucracy and let a new Japan emerge.  Some Japanese bureaucrats have been courageous to do so and have allowed talented Japanese architects to realize new structures.   However, more needs to be done to help Japanese architects build and innovate according to needs of people who have lost their homes and often all hope.

It could be our role to link Japanese architects, courageous mayors and bureaucrats who are willing to take a chance, bankers like Ronald Choi and daring social entrepreneurs like Michael Anop to help make the daily life of our citizens livable.

Building a New Japan : A Role for Artists

fukushima stationAs we returned home and passed through Fukushima, I looked out of my window and felt like we have only just begun.  That the real work starts now.

boatKesennuma upon our return shows considerable progress in cleaning up the streets.

The well known ship that was left stranded shows a stark contrast to the one in the earlier picture of this blog.  And yet, there was also a feeling of great sadness.  A feeling of isolation that is hard to describe as there was an emptiness about the streets.

tobuild

With unemployment in the Tohoku area important,  houses with a new community spirit and playgrounds brought by the private sector can do much to help reduce stress and growing domestic violence, drinking and suicide in Tohoku.

Playgrounds and community houses may seem like little acts of creation, but in the day to day life of stressed out parents who can easily tire, they bring back a moment of peace or even a smile.   That smile was best communicated to us by the children we met at Kesennuma.  When we first met them, they were all hard at work happily building something in the sand around the playground.

Kesennuma

When I asked them what they were building, I had expected a “castle,” or something of the sort, but instead heard “I am building a store, a house, a road and shops.”   And so they were.  I leave you, Japanese architects, bureaucrats and financial investors with their hopes and with the beautiful sunset I saw on the way back passing Fukushima.  I am sure you will not disappoint them.

sunset Fukushima

Saving 10,000 : Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

March 7, 2013

Thoughts on the movie Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

rene duignanLast night I was invited to a well attended Diet screening for Rene Duignan’s much talked about film (see Asahi Shimbun 1/22/2013, Yomiuri Shimbun 125/2013 amongst others).    The presentation, opened by MP Hosono, and closed by MP Renho, who is the former minister in charge of suicide prevention in Japan, had an important following.

View Movie Trailer Saving 10,000 Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

Over 100 Diet members were invited.  Murata Nobuyuki moderated the event and Professor Hidetoshi Nakamura, Deputy Director of EU Institute of Japan at Waseda University gave remarks.  Saito Yukio, Nakashita Daiki and Rene Duignan were on the panel.

Rene Duignan and Saving 10,000

Rene Duignan Saving 10 000Rene Duignan, who works for the European Union Delegation in Tokyo, is by training an economist.

A man of great spirit and focus, he spent many late nights and countless weekends over the three last years wanting to make a difference about one issue:  suicide in Japan.   Interviewing countless experts he made a film which examines why so many Japanese people take their own lives in Japan.   The result is tremendous.

Saving 10,000:  Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

The film is released today free on the internet in order to reach the greatest number.  Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan, is going to make an impact.  It will make you think about what you can do to save a life.

Statistics on Japan’s Suicide Rate

suicide statistics japanThe movie raises many questions about why Japan’s suicide rate is so high despite a declining population.  A few figures stuck out: the suicide rate in Japan is 2x that of the United States,  in the last 10 or so years 300,000 people committed suicide in Japan — a figure about equal to the population of Iceland.

Most notably, of the 30,000 who take their lives each year from suicide, 10,000 have been in a mental hospital and  1/3 are over 60.  Having said this, to suggest that the thought of suicide only crosses the mind of the weak or aging in Japan would be wrong.  Another study shows that 40% of University Students in Japan have considered suicide.

I will allow you to view the film or see the reviews.  I will just make a comment on a possible answer to suicide.

The Best Suicide Prevention: Stronger Intimate Relationships and Existential Meaning

For me the opposite of death is life.  This means that the best suicide prevention is to help people live healthier happier lives full of meaning.

Life Track Three SpheresMeaning can come on individual level with close relationships, with a sense of self and of achievement.

It can also come on the existential level, with a sense of life purpose or meaning that has a spiritual element be it a strong morale, an appreciation of beauty or the capacity to use our life to help others.

On an existential level this can be experienced as beauty, as oneness with nature,  or for some the experience of being one with the universe or with God.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

On the individual level, given the Japanese statistics, Japanese psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can play a role by helping the Japanese balance their inner lives, despite outward difficulties which in our world today only seem to be growing.

Yukio IshizukaFor this reason, Rene will also be giving up a follow-up event of the EU’s screening of his film on March 27th 2013 at the EU Delegation to Japan with Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese Harvard trained psychiatrist who founded the Japan International Medical Student Association (JIMSA) with the support of Dr. Taro Takemi—the long-standing President of the Japanese Medical Association and a well-respected physician and nuclear physicist.

Using Crisis to Make A Breakthrough in Life

Yukio Ishizuka 5 Alternatives at threshold of stress

Dr. Yukio Ishizuka will talk about how a failed suicide attempt can be an opportunity to breakthrough beyond a previous best level in one’s sense of self, intimacy and achievements.

The talk will address our threshold for individual stress, the subjective factor, suffering and happiness.  Rene and other experts will be on a panel.

Suicide a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

As Rene points out in his film, just one of us can do a lot.  The patrol man Shige-san who along with his volunteers has sucessfully stopped 297 from jumping off Tojimbo Cliff, has had an impact.  Most notably of those 297 who were determined to take their lives at that moment, only 4 later committed suicide.  That means, that 293 of the 297 found it possible to overcome the terrible circumstance that once made life seem impossible.

Societal Factors that Play a Role Should be Addressed

But as Durkheim, the French sociologist, pointed out the causes of suicide can be found in social factors and not just individual personalities.  When a society faces disintegration in the family structure, in politics and religion (or meaning), then suicide increases.  That may be true not just of Japan, but of the world.  However, there are national specificities in life insurance packages, in gambling, alcohol, mental health, bullying and how we view death and suffering through our culture, literature and history that also play a role.  In this aspect, the film examines some important issues.

Japanese Artists Have a Positive Role to Play

As far as Japanese artists goes, there is also much that can be done.  Henry Scott Stokes, a personal friend of Yukio Mishima — the Japanese renown author who took his life in gruesome circumstances– has much to say on the matter.  The death of Mishima is a great loss to the world.

In the film Saving 10,000 lives Mr. Stokes states, “The suicide tendency among Japanese authors has been extremely high.  And if you just list them going through the decades there are many who took their lives and the pattern is totally out of shape with the rest of the world.  There is no where else where the suicide of novelists is so prevalent.”

Henry Scott Stokes and Mishima

Stokes and Mishima

Henry Scott Stokes regrets dearly Mishima’s decision and states, “Those of us who knew he had suicidal tendencies should have stepped forward, should have found a way to enable him to continue to live.”

Because artists are often sensitive to the beauty of life, they also feel deeply the pain.  The challenge for Japanese artists in the future may be to help the Japanese experience the fullness of life without the fascination for death.

While life and death are inseparable, all of us can overcome.  We can express the ugliness of despair and the beauty of finding one’s own way.  Through art, including literature, Japanese artists can inspire the Japanese to new heights, to the experience of greater beauty and meaning– to a dignity that will move us all.

There is a spiritual value in art that touches our core and in this Japanese artists have a profound opportunity to touch far more than 10,000.

Art will always express what words cannot.

Crisis and Opportunity for Fundamental Change

overcoming crisis Yukio Ishizuka

Lifetrack Therapy: Using Setbacks to Breakthrough and Experience Happiness

Fundamental Individual & National Change in Crisis

As difficult as crisis can be, it may be an ideal opportunity for fundamental change in the individual as stated by Dr. Yukio Ishizuka and seen in the graph above or (as Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian philosopher and writer) has pointed out  poignently — in a nation.

In a letter addressed to Japanese friends published in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka, dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art, Dr. Paul Briot and I write:

“Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis.  It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change.  After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world.  Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild.  The question is: can a new Japan emerge?”

It is often only when we have reached our worst, that we can ask fundamental questions and create something new beyond a previous best.  After March 11, 2011 the time may have come.

Japan Can Use Crisis to Breakthrough

Japan can do much to reduce the suicide rate and help create a society of meaning.  We all have a role to play in this.  It starts by taking time to notice how we impact others and how we can help those in difficulty.   We can start by making changes first in ourselves and then in the world around us.

On a national level, it also takes bonds, but of a more profound and fundamental nature.  By calming our emotion, by using our reason and focusing on knowledge and compassion, we can begin to make important changes in our country and in this world.

Please contribute to the campaign and pass on the link to those who can make a difference.  That is: all of us!

Some Useful Links:

Film Trailer Saving 10,000: winning a War on Suicide in Japan http://www.saving10000.com/

View the Full Film Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

Hotline in Japan on Suicide: Tell Suicide Prevention

For more on Health, Happiness and Optimal Adjustment
www.PositiveMentalHealthFoundation.com

For more on Stress, Overcoming Fear, Stress Types, Stress Techniques, and Five Alternatives at the Threshold of Stress

The Art of Joy

A Franco-Japanese at Home in Tokyo

I am now living in Minatoku, Tokyo, Japan since August 2012 and there is too much to tell.   I have not even informed my friends abroad (nor many in Japan) of an address in Tokyo for the next four years nor of my presence, let alone had time to write or formally study Japanese.  I hope you will forgive me.

Perhaps all this to say that I am deeply moved and grateful to be here.

Forgive me for this absence.  It has taken me time to get settled and I have much to learn.

I  begin again on the spirit or soul of the Japanese with Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture (Tohoku).   I write about artists who through their work bring joy.  They are many.

Ishinomaki, Tohoku

The town was devastated by the tsunami on March 11th. NHK has mentioned that the water overcame 46 percent of the city’s land which is not difficult to imagine when one watches this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBtRIRiTJqA .

An article in the Huffington Post co-authored by Tokyo based Robert Michael Poole states that more than 3,000 residents died and about that many remain missing as of a year ago.

Not so Far Up North

We went up to Ishinomaki with my six-year-old daughter and many families from her school, TIS (Tokyo International School) as they had donated a Playground of Hope for the residents in a housing project.  We took the Shinkansen past Fukushima (the stop at Fukushima seemed a bit odd – a deserted feel) and continued up north to Sendai.  From there we took a 1 ½ hour bus ride.

TIS and the Playground of Hope

Thanks to a year of fundraising by TIS (Tokyo International School) students, teachers and parents, Bita Alu, a parent and friend, had selected the NGO It’s Not Just Mud and been in contact with Michael Anop and Jamie El-Banna.   The NGO is involved in several projects including building playgrounds, which bring a dash of color to temporary housing residences.   The NGO is efficient, and no frills attached.

When Temporary is Childhood

Jamie El-Banna, Bita Alu, Yamakami Katuyoshi

Jamie from It’s Not Just Mud explained to me that it was difficult for the parents in this temporary residence as there were no places for children to play and often local or national organizations have not responded thinking it not a necessity to build a playground as the housing is temporary.

And yet, temporary housing here is estimated to be five years—a good part of youth for a child.

A Playground for Kids or Adults?

Jamie pointed out to me an old man with his grandson who had watched the playground being built since the beginning of the week.  “He’s been here since the beginning,” Jamie says smiling.  “I keep telling the man, ‘It’s for the kids!’ but he always returns!”

Black and White with a Touch of Yellow

When we got off the bus, the cold wind (strong enough to blow off a door of a car if left open according to one resident) added to a feeling that there was no natural warmth here.   The trees which all had been destroyed by the tsunami created no front against the most chilling wind.

So when we approached the playground (and could only hear the cries and laughter of children) playing, the contrast with the scenery struck.  The black and white photo suddenly had a small dab of yellow.

Language Barriers

My daughter was a bit shy at first.  She clung to me and even the clown, Supa Gajin, had a little difficulty initially warming her up (although after he had great success).   And just as I was wondering what to do, a Japanese man from the town with the most expressive eyes came forward with his little dog, and suddenly the scenery had changed for her.  The little dog, this Japanese man, and my daughter became friends.   After a short while, my daughter played with the children in the playground.

I stood by and envied how children do not need to speak the same language.

A Place to Play

One resident told me that the children all went to different schools, and that to get to their schools they take different buses.  So the children, despite they live in the same housing unit, never play together.   Now they have a place to play and can make new friends.  Now the parents can sleep a bit better at night in rooms too small for play.

A Place for Everyone

Another old woman told me she felt useless.  That she could no longer clean clothes nor read given her age.  I told her I felt lucky when I was with older people.  There is a wisdom in age, that is more meaningful than any task we can accomplish.

Depression

A young man in his early twenties seemed lost and disoriented with nothing to do.  I saw he had lost all his teeth and wondered how that happened.  I went up to him and we spoke a bit.  I gave him some models I brought.   Something to occupy, one was of a Japanese temple — and that was the one he wanted.   Perhaps he was telling me discreetly that we have succeeded in building houses, but forgotten the human spirit.

Just Like Us

There was a very nice father smiling with his child.    A man with deep eyes, smart, and a feeling of warmth about him.  He was watching the clown Supra Gajin with his child in his lap.  He was just like us.  But his wife was not with him and he lived here.

A Smile One Can Not Forget

Katuyoshi Yamakami

There was a man who I did not speak to, but whose smile lit up the whole playground and miles around.  I am told his name is Yamakami Katuyoshi, and he is the head of the housing association we visited.

He works freely and given his work is a full time job I wondered how he managed to feed himself or his family.  Yamakumi’s smile was infectious, it never came off his face, not once.

Men with a spirit like this can change Japan.

When A Smile Lasts

There was a man, a clown, who I met, an artist by the name of Gaetano Totaro, who is known as SupaGaijin the smile ambassador.   I had heard of him before from my son’s school BST (through Helen O’Brien who runs BTT Bridge to Tohoku) and has done wonders with children.

BTT has supported the smile ambassador’s work in Tohoku by helping him pay expenses (he gives his own time freely).  Unlike many others who first came to this region, Gaetano returned over and over building a relationship with children – a lasting smile.

A Clown who Doesn’t Clown Around

This clown who was trained at Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College had a way of bridging barriers amongst children.  By using familiar objects such as an umbrella, which could be found even in temporary housing, he encouraged children to use their imagination and to begin a road to recovery.

Kids watching Gaetano Totaro Supagaijin Ishinomaki

I thought, I want to do something with this clown, this artist of great imagination.

When we departed, my daughter had made a new Japanese friend — a girl with the greatest smile.   The two girls didn’t want to separate.  As soon as my daughter got in the bus, she opened the window.  The Japanese girl ran to the bus and through that small window, the two girls held hands.   Surely, they were not saying goodbye.

There is nothing Fun about surviving and yet Joy

I am told that there is a difference in Japan between “tanoshimu” and “yorokobu.”  The laughter–a deep kind– that lasts—is of the latter. It is caused not by fleeting entertainment, but by the deep smile of a Mr. Yamakami and by true friendship offered to us so freely by the Japanese we met in Ishinomaki.  We have much to learn from you.

Thank you.  We will return.

 

 

 

 

A VIDEO OF OUR VISIT ISHINOMAKI

 

 

Letter to the Japanese

The World’s Most Valuable Asset in a Time of Crisis

Letter to Japanese Friends

Dr. Paul Briot and I (Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka) believe that to rebuild Japan will require a magnificent and strong morale made of comprehension, of compassion, beauty and all the pacific values of the great Japanese culture.  In that respect, Japanese artists, writers, thinkers and the youth have an essential task to realize.

It is with great modesty that Paul and I wish to address in the months to come a letter to our Japanese friends and in so doing share our own optimism for Japan.  We believe that Japan thanks to this crisis will rise again.  Not uniquely in an economic or political sense, but in a morale, aesthetic, existential or spiritual sense.

Should the Japanese collectively, and individually, emerge from this crisis with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation, and realization they could initiate changes in society far beyond a previous balance.

If successful, the Japanese could go as far as stiring the imagination of other nations on how to face and successfully overcome natural and man-made crisis, each freely with respect to their own culture, specificity and individual differences.

Brief Background Description of Authors of the Letter:

Paul Briot

Paul Briot, Ph.d in Philosophy, Professor at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, Antwerp (F.V.G.), Belgium.  Author of poetic essays, articles and books on the subject of the utilization of crisis, sincerity, artistic creation, and the clarity of objectives.  Recent books include Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?  (The Radiant…An Art towards the Infinite?) 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers.  La Structuration de l’existence, (The Structure of Existence) Charleroi, Editions du Centre universitaires (Cunic), 1989.

Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka

Nathalie Ishizuka studied Japanese at Keio University, M.A.L.D. Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (administered in cooperation with Harvard), M.B.A. from HEC, Paris.  Her 240 page summa cum laude thesis on Article 9 of the 1946 Japanese Constitution and UN peacekeeping received written praise from Colonel Charles Kades, one of the Constitution’s founding fathers.  Ishizuka currently writes on the use of crisis as an opportunity to build individual and national health for the Positive Mental Health Foundation. She is also the author of this blog inviting Japanese artists and citizens to imagine a new Japan.

 

Japanese Art & Artists

Japanese Art & Artists: What will the works of Japanese Artists Invite us to Dream About?

 

beyondourbest

Can Japan Go Beyond a Previous Best?  (Artist, Nathalie Ishizuka)

If certain artistic masterpieces can be understood from the aspect of wisdom, what do the works of Japanese artists invite us to dream about?   How did the Japan tsunami, the Japan earthquake, and the Japan nuclear meltdown change Japan?  Are we about to discover something more important than technology and economic efficiency as the central motor of our civilization?  This section of the site will analyze or comment on the works of artists who inspire.

 

 

Use Crisis

February 16, 2012

Crisis Both Danger and Opportunity

Crisis can move artists and individuals in a positive direction.  In the future, we wish to post here interviews with key individuals in Japanese art, culture, and society who wish to discuss a positive vision for Japan and incite both the old and young to act with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation or realization.

Yukio Ishizuka 5 Alternatives at threshold of stress

We will also post articles for individual Japanese citizens to use the crisis as a means for greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization.  These articles will include a psychology of health, balance and  building meaning in our everyday lives despite difficulty.