Category Archives for japan


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.


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) 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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


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.  


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:


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.


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.


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.


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 ;).


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.


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.


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.


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 ( 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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.

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

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

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