Japan's AS-ONE Community:
The Story of a 14-Year Community Creation Process
In 2001, some volunteers gathered in Suzuka, Japan, aiming to realize a happy society free from fighting and opposition, in harmony with nature. A borderless community named “AS-ONE COMMUNITY” has been created in an ordinary neighborhood of Suzuka, a typical middle-size city and also well known as a city of the Honda company. Hiroko Katayama, GEN ambassador reports.
The name ‘AS-ONE’ was taken from a line of John Lennon’s masterpiece Imagine, ‘and the world will be as one'. Nowadays, 38 core members, and more than 100 volunteers, work together for our mutual benefit. Each one lives in their favorite house in each one ́s favorite way of living, mainly in central Suzuka city, and it is difficult for other local citizens to tell our community members apart by their appearances. However, we have kept deepening and developing our social systems and activities as a model of sustainable community, as well as succeeding in avoiding being isolated from the wider society.
Our turning point was in 2004. Through many trials and errors, in both our community-businesses and social activities, in our first 5 years, we came to be aware of, and to realize that, neither our enthusiasm, nor our eagerness, our special abilities and talents, or our combined experiences, were enough in themselves to ensure the day to day smooth functioning of a healthy and thriving community.
On the contrary, our efforts had rather caused opposition and fighting among ourselves. Some of our members found that we had no differences from other conventional organizations. Members then reflected on our state of community and identified certain problems both of the communication and decision making processes.
In order to look for some essential solutions to these problems, some members have been entrusted with the investigation of humans, and their societies, through the case-studies of our living problems since 2004. That is how the Scienz Institute was established. Scienz is coined as scientific investigation from zero. The institute becomes a NPO organization independent from the community for keeping zero-position, its objectivity, and openness for the public.
In addition to this, the institute members did not directly teach their study-results to others. Instead, they collaborated to establish the Scienz school as a NPO organization in 2006, where anyone can pleasantly experience and learn the approaches; getting to know essential points of view as well as how to use them for practical solutions. Community members, and volunteers, spontaneously started joining the school.
Through such processes, their relationships have gradually become easier and warmer in a rational manner, as well as new trials of social systems being created from the developing relationships: like one big family. The methods, and manner, of decision making has totally changed to one of flexible self-reliance, based on mutual support, and free from a centralized structure.
Since 2006, our new community businesses have emerged, managed in a new manner. One of these businesses, a hand-made-lunch box company, has become very popular. Recently, more than 1000 boxes a day are delivered to people in Suzuka city, thereby increasing local consumption of local products from SUZUKA FARM Co. Ltd.: the community farming company established by the younger generations in 2009. Another community business is Suzuka Culture Station, a cultural enterprise with a private school, established in 2010.
In our social activities, the 'Farming Park Project' has been running successfully since 2010. Supported by local enterprises and associations in Suzuka city, some members work on abandoned land, developing it for local people to enjoy farming and harvesting. Another social activity is the reforestation of Satoyama woodland, which had been designated as the most important biodiversity project by the city government, but subsequently neglected.
Some members learned to build a charcoal oven in the traditional way from an aged local person. Unprocessed timbers for charcoal making have been brought not only from the neighborhood, but also other neglected woodlands in the whole of Suzuka city, since the city government announced the project.
Our activities have gradually become popular in Japan. Transition Town movements in Japan, and the city government in Korea have both asked us give presentations, and so study-tours are increasing, from not only Japan, but also foreign countries. They are eager to create a reliable, thriving community that can stand on their own feet.
Students, and other interested people, have come to attend the Scienz School to realize their dream, and some stay on to gain practical experience of AS-ONE’s urban-style and not-closed community management. Still others attend 'The Sustainable Society Building College', in collaboration with an outside organization, Japan Eco-village Promotion Project (JEPP), since May, 2014.
AS-ONE COMMUNITY is still small and maturing, but we can still work effectively as an experimental site for sustainable community building. Now is the time to go forward towards the mutual target. If we can collaborate with GENOA and GEN, we will be greatly honored, and willingly open our 14 years of experiences as guides for all to realize and create happy societies.