NM: You mentioned about the ozone layer, so the order will be reversed but can you tell us about how you toured all over Japan for recovering CFCs before Kobe Genki-mura?
BY: The first person who talked about the problems with CFCs among Japanese intellects was professor Fumi Ishii from Takasaki City University of Economics. I was canoeing for work then. I was canoeing with professor Ishii down the river. She told me about the problem with CFCs by a fire at night. She said, "Bau-san, you're the only person who could do this!", her words hit my weak points.
At that time, I was living an easy life and I was thinking that I could live that way till I die. When I was canoeing, everyone was happy with anything I did. People who started to canoe in the Kanto area were the intellects like university teachers and companies' managements.
It was funny because those highly educated people followed someone like me with no education. When I called "Turn left", they innocently turned left. I guess the canoeing changed their sense of value, so that everyone was happy with it. In such circumstances, I heard what professor Ishii told me.
The next day, I told my family that I was going to quit canoeing.
NM: So you decided that in an instant?
BY: Yes, I decided that night. By the open fire. I was drinking bourbon then, but I said "Professor Ishii, I quit bourbon as well". Then it started.
In those days the word "environment" wasn't used yet. It was "pollution". I started to suggest to people to use the word "environment" instead of "pollution" at the same time. We discussed with university teachers and government officials who had authorities on budget control about why Japan could not reach the international standard with the awareness of environmental issues. In the end, I realized that nobody acted individually. All of them were doing things because the others were doing it.
Then I came up with the triangle structure. In order to make the government move, we need to move the politician who has power over the government. When the politician moves, the government creates a budget. And the politician is afraid of the civil activist the most. So when you could develop this triangle in the area, they'd create a system within a day.
This worked the most smoothly in Amagasaki, Hyogo and Ikeda-cho, Tokushima. I visited these places for one day and talked in order with those three people of the triangle elements, and afterward they started to work by themselves. I thought this way can be used in all over the country, so I visited Hokkaido to Okinawa.
NM: You did it by yourself driving a van, right?
BY: I took only a canoe in the car… but I hardly had any spare time to use it.
NM: Again, I can't help asking about the fund. What did you do for the cost of that action then? I heard that you went around Japan for about 3 years.
BY: I used the money which I saved from canoeing. But I spent all of that money eventually. I went home thinking it's over, then my son who was about 5th grade got mad at me and said "Dad, sell this house. Which is more important, the house or the earth?".
So I said "Then I have to sell this house, what else can I do?". My wife was against me, but I sold the house in Tokorozawa, Saitama for twenty-some million yen. I paid back the loan and gave a half of the remaining money to my family. And I put the rest in the car and went back on the road confidently.
There's a famous Japanese activist who's still working on the environmental issues. He talks about issues but has never made any actions. He has given lectures based on the data I provided. When I heard his lecture 7 years later, he was lecturing and still using the same data. He was proud of giving lectures everyday though…
And after all, he never came to Kobe when the earthquake struck. I was giving lectures as much as he was then, but I cancelled all of them and everyone understood. But he was saying "I have to give lectures"… Well, it can be said that giving lectures was his role, but after all he couldn't construct any system. I was hoping that he'd make an action of his own.
I have many friends who are musicians, such as pianists and violinists. I'm always asking to them "How come you play music written by others hundreds of times?" During the period of Genki-mura, I was doing everything original. It was like playing music written by myself. And playing each music very carefully.
I'm not the kind of person who loves and sings a song which was sung by someone else or written by someone else, carefully hundreds of times. I can't operate that way. Have you ever written an original song which you cherish as much as the song you love? I mean, you should do the same thing with your life. I had been doing that within the 7 and a half years at Kobe Genki-mura. Being "original" is the most important element for me.
It would be fun working for a company made by someone else. It'd be fun drinking around Shinbashi (where business people hang). But in that 7 and a half years in Kobe, I created a small but original company, and thought and produced new systems. That's all.
NM: When you look back on the past, is there a period which you find it to be the peak of your life?
BY: I think the peak of my life will come right before death. I can't say I've experienced it. I'm that greedy. The immune system of my body is much lower and I can't do things like before. But I feel that something big will happen just before death, like shooting a rocket.
Naoko, I don't know if you've heard that I started my new project "Write your personal history, autobiography". I saw a couple of young people in their 30s called Take and Kiyo yesterday. I've been passing my projects which I've worked on to young people in their 30s, and these two went to see a monk of Soto school of Zen in Minami-Soma, Fukushima. It started from Fukushima since this monk offered to write their supporting members' personal histories.
NM: So is this "personal history, autobiography" your new project?
BY: Yes, it has started already. I'd like to change the culture of the cemeteries.
NM: What do you mean by that?
BY: For example, you were born in Hiroshima, so if your friend in Hiroshima took you to a cemetery and told you "This is so and so's cemetery", you wouldn't know how the person lived, what they thought or what they did. You wouldn't find anything. A cemetery remains, but nobody knows the person's grand children or great grand children. So I thought writing about their personal history would be as significant as having their own cemetery. I've started this movement. I believe this would eventually change even the priests.
If a hundred people in Minami-Soma, Fukushima agreed to write their personal histories, we'd know the background of the era and the village. I'd ask them to write things like "I was against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO, the operator of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant), but my son started to work for them…", these kind of things. And I'm going to look for people who would write throughout Japan starting in Fukushima. I think this is my lifework. So you too, Naoko. Please write it.
NM: My life of 50 years isn't that interesting, so I'll try to make it more interesting!
BY: Please write it before you die.
NM: So you're writing your autobiography now, and was there a turning point in your life?
BY: I found it the other day. This may sound in a roundabout way, but I was trying to see how far I can go back in my memory. And I could remember things about when I was 3 years old. I'm calling this story "The quilt of Mt. Fuji".
When I was 3, the quilt over my father lying down in bed was like the Mt. Fuji. I loved climbing that mountain to the top and sliding down to his belly. Well, I thought I loved doing it. Then I wondered why I loved doing it and repeated again and again.
Then it came to me that my father was laughing. I realized that I was doing it to make him laugh, even though it was hard for me to climb up and tumble down. The turning point for me was seeing my father's smile. Wanting to please someone, and when I did I received the smile right in front of me. And it was the moment I realized I like doing that. My father didn't compliment me for doing it, he just smiled.
The reason why his lying body was making a mountain shape, was because his leg was bent since he was born. I didn't know that at all, or rather I didn't notice. He was actually dragging his leg when he walked, but it never came to me that his leg was bent. So there was no discrimination. When I traced my memory and found my father's smile, with his bent leg, that was my turning point.
It was the same when I worked in Kobe. I did it only because people were pleased, it wasn't to become famous.
NM: OK, I'm going to ask you some short questions.
Is there a vital element for you to make a project succeed?
BY: Originality. That's all. In other words, you can leave what others are already doing. For example, if I heard that Mr.Toll went to the Tohoku area to clear the debris, I wouldn't go to help. And they know that too. All the people I deal with have this kind of understanding about each other. But most of the people in the world don't. It's very important.
NM: What are the things you consider to be important when you train the younger generation?
BY: Pulling myself out quickly.
NM: What are the things you care about when you communicate with others?
BY: This may sound radical, but not showing what I'm capable of. Try not to overwhelm others. Because I've mostly done things that others can't or don't.
NM: If I was dealing with you, I'd probably think that you would work things out if I asked.
BY: Being thought of in such way is fine, but many people conclude that "He's eccentric" or "He's odd". So I try not to talk about those things. I guess people compare my mind to theirs. I think many people consider whether they have the same capabilities, or they're better or worse. It's important for me to make others not compare. So it's like being more foolish than others.
NM: You have met and collaborated with far more people than most would in one life time. There must have been more problems since you've dealt with more people. Is there a key to dealing with others?
BY: Getting out of such concerns about dealing with others. I said the same thing earlier that it is about "not going into other people's mind". I think you're wanting to know about how to enter other people's minds, but I never go into other people's minds. Because there're too many people with cramped minds for me. And I don't think you can execute what I'm saying. Can you live without entering other people's minds? Can you not see people who are troublesome or people you don't like?
NM: I guess I'm also dealing with only the people who I like. I'm always saying that I'm content with having one friend.
BY: I see. The majority of people in the world can't say so. I guess these people support some like you. But it's important to get out of such concerns. Instead, just do as much as you can with people you get on with. It's not necessary to include people who you don't get on with into the meeting even at the office. You should just stand and talk with people you get on with and make decisions and proceed with them. This is the best way.
NM: I have an impression of you following your instinct. Do you?
BY: I think I told you at the canoe tour in Hokkaido about my friend Tana. I think I was the only one who witnessed Tana die.
NM: Wait a minute, was Tana the guardian spirit which is guiding you?
BY: Tana used to live in Tokyo. There's a big sports shop called Ishii in Shin-Okubo. When I delivered canoes there, I met Tana who was there as a customer. I think he was 3 or 4 years younger than me. He taught me a lot about mountains. He died in an accident when we climbed a mountain together. And Tana gives me clues, with very simple words like "Hiroshima". This is what I believe.
NM: So is it like Tana is guiding you?
BY: I have no doubts. It's not like hearing his voice or seeing letters. But I know. When Hiroshima came to me, it wasn't in kanji (Chinese characters) nor hiragana (Japanese alphabet) but it felt like it was in katakana (Japanese alphabet for foreign words). I can just about feel it slightly.
NM: Is the sensation more like receiving rather than being inspired?
BY: It feels like grabbing from this side.
NM: Did you not have this sensation before Tana died? Then it may be different from the instinct.
BY: Yes, I think so.
NM: You are now working on this project of asking people to write their autobiographies. Do you have any other projects you are trying to do?
BY: I'm trying to do this project called "March 10" in Minami-Soma, Fukushima. I'm thinking of asking people in Fukushima to write about their life up until March 11, 2011. I'm hoping to make a movie based on some of their stories. I assigned Take to be "the head of the production office of March 10".
I think a good picture will be produced if we can find good scriptwriters and producers. It won't be anti-nuke, more like telling stories of how people ate their last supper along with portraying their quiet household… If we get a hundred people to write, it can be a history of Fukushima. Right now, what is going to remain is the historical views of the politicians and the mass media. We must try to leave the views of citizens otherwise it'll disappear.
And I'm also trying to write my autobiography. I want to leave a note about what I have done. I'm thinking of writing about Tana as a novel.
NM: Do you have any concerns when you look at Japan these days?
BY: The closest thing I can think of is that people should stop watching TV as soon as possible. I mean about the habit of turning TV on. Radio is better.
And I want the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to work on the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. It is too risky to decommission using the subcontractors of TEPCO spending the government money while they pretend it's the private money. I believe that we don't need the SDF but right now we have the threat against the continued existence of our nation, so I think it's necessary for SDF to work and perhaps we could ask them to work in turns monthly.
NM: Bau-san, you now have the physical condition of needing a dialysis because of your hard work. I feel bad to ask you about your health but in which project did you get sick?
BY: I started to feel something strange when the Great Hanshin earthquake struck. There was a large clinic in Rokko, Kobe and one of their nurses often ate breakfast at our soup kitchen. So I asked her to tell their doctor that I want to have a checkup. They came in a bus-style mobile clinic to Genki-mura so that we could have a checkup with residents.
Then I found out that I was diabetic. It was caused by stress. There were many reasons like the fact that I was unable to sleep and having to think about what to do next. To put it simply, it was because I had to control thousands of people all the time.
NM: After September 11th, you were taking a movie about September 11th around the country for independent screenings driving a light truck by yourself and sleeping on the seat at night. Were you already sick then?
BY: Yes. Because there were so many people but nobody wanted to do it. There was no way to lie down because I was driving a light truck. When I was at Kobe Genki-mura, the head doctor of that clinic in Rokko offered me to rest in the clinic at night. But I didn't have time for it.
NM: I heard that you found cancer once but you healed naturally, didn't you?
BY: It is not healed completely, but not in progress either. I feel that I'm ok to die any time but I still want to work on my personal history so I'm on dialysis.
NM: There is so much more that we need you to tell us and guide us on. So please stay with us for a little longer. Thank you.
Open Japan: The foundation which was founded by people who worked with Bau Yamada at Kobe Genki-mura. They are currently based in Ishinomaki, Miyagi and working on reconstruction of Tohoku area.