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Bow Yamada ( Interview part 3)

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Part2

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.

by legacyofcayce | 2013-10-16 14:38 | Interview

Bow Yamada ( Interview part 2)

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Part1

NM: How long did you walk for?

BY: For a year.

NM: This may sound rude, but how did you pay for food and hotels during that period?

BY: All with my money. I wasn't collecting any donations so paid all with my own money.

NM: You weren't paid for your work at Kobe Genki-mura, were you?

BY: We had a maximum of 9 staff in Genki-mura, and everyone received at least 180,000 yen (1,800 USD) a month. I didn't receive anything while I was walking. But I had a tent and a sleeping bag with me, so I didn't need to pay for a rent or a car. Occasionally I treated myself with red rice from a supermarket, but that's all. I never stayed in a hotel during the walk.

NM: You walked silently with the ember through Japan for a year without being complimented nor thanked by anyone else. Didin't you ever think to yourself "Why am I walking on my own?" or "What is this foolish thing I am doing?" during that time?

BY: People told me about the foolishness they felt about this project.

I actually still don't like Sendai, Miyagi, and it's because there was a person from the news department of the NHK Sendai station who found out about what I was doing. He kept calling me and saying that he wanted to be involved. I asked him to contact my office in Kobe, but he was terribly persistent. Then eventually he called the chief of a village of Hoshino-mura and asked if they knew about me walking with the ember.

I was just walking alone toward Hokkaido so I didn't contact Hoshino-mura. I just didn't think I had to. But He thought that I was doing this walk for myself to become famous. He made his judgement on my action by his own value system. He called every point where I was planning to visit and tried to crush this project. He went ahead and said "This man is a fake. Hoshino-mura didn't approve his action, and firstly the ember is not of the atom-bomb site".

When I was back in Aomori after I visited the Hokkaido government office, I was using a bicycle. This man came to me in a car when I was pushing the bike. He was furious. He asked me "Do you know why I'm doing this?". I listened to his explanation and I finally understood that what I was doing meant nothing to the ordinary people.

After that, I stopped putting up my plans on my web site and I just walked steadily focusing only on bringing the ember back to Hiroshima.

NM: I think people who are greedy or want to become famous would do something more efficient, rather than walking alone for a year…
How did you react when you were attacked for things you didn't think or when they said bad things about you?


BY: It depended on how big were the influences .

With that person from the NHK Sendai station, he was judging on the size of one's business title. There was a strange unknown man walking. That was all it took for him to start attacking me. And all the people from Tohoku area ended up believing what he said. I could have gone to the NHK Sendai station to blow up at him. But justifying myself won't take the ember back to Hiroshima. I felt that I would complete my task only by returning the ember to Hiroshima.

There are three major festivals using fire in Kyoto such as Daimonji-yaki, and they held these three fire festivals with the ember that I brought on the new year's eve of that year. It was historically unusual to hold them on a day other than August 6th. The ember is still at the entrance of the Kyoto city hall and it's supposed to stay there for another 100 years.

So there're many joyful outcomes too. Thus it's better not to think about things like what the person from NHK Sendai station did. If I did, I have to go into his head. Into a head which is different from mine. And doing this is meaningless. There were many ridicules, slanders and prejudices from people but I just stopped going into their heads. I didn't avoid "dealing with them". And then, I just walked silently.


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I'd like to tell you what happened to the ember I took to Hiroshima. On the last full-moon night of the year 2000, the people of Hiroshima gathered and held "toro nagashi" using the ember rather than the atom-bomb memorial day. Since the turning of 21st century, they've been going to Hoshino-mura to get the ember for toro nagashi every year.


NM: Does that mean they aren't keeping the ember you brought to Hiroshima?

BY: The only place keeping the ember is the Kyoto city hall. I didn't bring the ember for them to keep it, and I thought it's wonderful that the people of Hiroshima can go to Hoshino-mura to get the ember. I have asked several times to the former mayor Akiba to keep the ember at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, but they didn't take me seriously. I guess they can't help it. They must follow the precedent and the common sense, and they have so much pride. So there's no room for me to come in.

NM: Can you tell us about the oil spill in Fukui next?

BY: Right now, I'm trying to write a memoir about what happened then.

It's a very long story. I think I found out about the accident from watching the NHK news. It was just after the new year, and it said that the Russian tanker was wrecked by the rough waves off Yamaguchi or Shimane. I can't remember the details but it was reported that the ship will drift ashore on Mikuni, Fukui. So I headed there.

When I got there, the Nakhodka was about 3 km off the shore. There were helicopters above and two cruisers on each side of it. As I watched, I could sense that the tanker was coming towards the shore. I could tell because the wind was blowing the spilled "Number 3 fuel oil" as a spray. The wind was so strong that I was covered with black oil after standing on the shore for 10 minutes. So I felt that the tanker was coming towards the shore. The houses near the shore were turning black with the oil.

I was standing in a small field by the shore and watching about 3 km out to sea. Then, I saw an old lady next to me who looked like she was crying. I asked her where the town hall was, then she said to me that "You don't have to go to the town hall because the mayor of the town is right there". She introduced me to the man who had been watching the sea 30 meters away from us.

I explained to him that I had just arrived to help the situation, and wanted to use a part of that shore for a while in order to build a prefab house as a temporary office. I said "I think that there will be many volunteers arriving from tomorrow. When they turn up, we have to control them otherwise there will be some trouble with the locals". The mayor agreed to let me use the land immediately and promised me that they'd help if I needed anything.

I called The Nippon Foundation right after that. There is a guy named Kurosawa in The Nippon Foundation and as far as I know he supported Genki-mura more than anyone when the earthquake struck in Kobe. So soon after I got the agreement with the mayor, I called him and asked him to build three prefab houses. I asked him to make the two of the houses joined, to provide six telephone lines and to deliver the equipment such as a photocopier etc., by the following day.

I knew that he was capable of accomplishing these tasks, he is similar to me. He told me that he knew he would take part in this crisis when he saw the first news. And he felt that I would be involved in this too. He has this kind of ability. There are such people in this field, but he is the only one I can rely on. As I expected, he prepared everything for us by the next day so we could start working.

When I was introduced to the mayor, I also met the chief of a ward and I asked him to find out if there were any local groups such as Lions Clubs, Rotary Club or Junior Chamber International Japan having a meeting in town that day. Then they found out that JCI-Japan was having a meeting at the biggest hotel in Mikuni, so they took me there. We went to the hotel on top of the hill, but I was covered with black oil so we had to ask them to put plastic sheets for me to walk in.

At the meeting, people from the town hall were asking JCI-Japan who were willing to take an action. They explained to JCI-Japan that they needed to create a system and they were dealing with the government. When they were deciding on these things, I came in and said "There is going to be an office tomorrow".

I said "I could organize everything by myself if I wanted to. I can coordinate a group of 50 quite easily. But I'd rather work with local people and want you to learn how to deal with volunteers and how to control them, how to work with local administration…" Then they showed their interests and from the next day, local business owners and their sons were fully involved at the office. When I needed a white board and a 2-ton truck, they took care of them immediately. So the project started to develop like this.

After this point is what I want to write a memoir about. So the first day was over. Then a person from the Ministry of Defense joined us. He was there to investigate positioning of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, and he was wearing a tie to hide that he was from JSDF. He saw me working and he came in as a helper for the office work.

After a while he said to me "I'm actually from JSDF. I can help you doing anything". So I asked him to be in charge of the interior of the office.

Then he placed the area map on a table and covered it with a clear plastic sheet so that the number of volunteers working in the area on that day could be written directly on the map. It must be like being on the battlefield for them. He taught me a lot of know-hows. And like this, there were many leaders who came to work from all over the country. I was shouting something like "Wow, the system is completed! I'm going to call this the Mikuni system!".

At the last meeting of that day, we were going to decide on who should be the representative, or the accounting clerk officially. Then they asked me to speak first, so I said "Thank you so much for your help. I resign as the representative now", and so I quit on the first day.

NM: At that time, it became famous that you and other people from all over the country scooped out the floating oil. I heard that it was inspired because you started to ladle out the oil into a bucket. When did you do the "one ladle"?

BY: That was the day before the prefab offices were built. It had already started then.

NM: How long did you stay in Mikuni?

BY: For 5 months. But it was the only meeting I attended within the organization. I didn't feel we needed to have meetings, and unworthy meetings aren't for me. In that 5 months, I did many kinds of things like taking a baby dolphin of the local Echizen Aquarium to an aquarium in Kobe.

NM: So you didn't stay with the volunteer organization you started?

BY: That's for people who want to be with groups. That's for the people who feel safe when they're with groups. There're things which are suitable, and not suitable for one person. I'm not the kind of person who feels safe being with others. I knew that there were things that needed me. So I was the representative for the first day, but I passed it to the representative of the local JCI-Japan.

NM: There's a video clip of you working in Mikuni uploaded on YouTube. When was that taken?



BY: I think that's the second day. Because it was the day I got on the helicopter. The Nippon Foundation prepared the helicopter which was ready to take off anytime. That's not possible among civilians! And according to the information (we collected in the air), we controlled each department. I was working freelance, not as the representative.

The news caster Tetsuya Chikushi commented "Mr. Yamada said the government will follow them", and the person who was explaining what was going on in that news clip was from JCI-Japan in Kyoto, not Mikuni. That was about when they were creating a new department. When the model is created, it's just needs to be developed by people who are available.

NM: So it was unusual for you to be involved with Kobe Genki-mura for 7 and a half years.

BY: I kept wanting to quit though.

NM: I personally like the story of climbing the 100 famous Japanese mountains among all the things you did. Can you tell us why you started it? I heard that it was because by adding the hight of all the 100 mountains makes the distance of reaching the ozone layer, so you "climbed and apologized to earth and came down" repeatedly.

BY: Adding the 100 famous Japanese mountains didn't reach 32 km, so I added 8 holy mountains I knew and called it "108 prayers". I started when I was doing Kobe Genki-mura. I wrote a book and I received some money. I was surprised because I never thought I would receive money from writing a book. I think it was about 4 million yen. I gave 1 million to my family, 1 million to Genki-mura, and I was telling everybody that I'm going to spend the rest on whatever I want. Then grannies in Kobe started to tell me, "Climb mountains while you're young!".

I wasn't interested in climbing mountains until then. But I decided to climb the 100 famous Japanese mountains starting from the least snowy ones so I researched. I wanted to apologize to earth as a representative of humans while I climb the mountains. I wanted to give an apology to the ozone layer. I started in February of that year to around September 20th, but I stopped after climbing 88 mountains in the end.

Recently I saw the ex-staff A and I expressed my anger at him. It was because at that time there was an earthquake in Taiwan. I had climbed 88 mountains and the principal axis of those remaining were the the Northern Alps. I was going to climb up from sea level to Oyashirazu-Koshirazu cliffs by the Sea of Japan, then earn heights by traversing the Northern Alps. I was all prepared and just about to leave to Toyama when A called me and said "Bau-san, the earthquake struck in Taiwan. I want to go there". So I asked him "What are you going to do about the office?", he said "Bau-san, this is not the time for you to be climbing for recreation".

I think he misunderstood what I was doing. For publicly I announced that the reason I was climbing was because I love the mountains. I tried to stop him but he said "Well, I quit Genki-mura today" and took off to Taiwan. So I had to stop climbing. That's why it terminated after 88 mountains.

NM: Even though you had to stop midway, I don't think it's possible to climb 88 mountains within some months with ordinary strength. How did you do it?


BY: I went to the beginning of a route and purchased only food and went to sleep. When I woke up, I climbed. And I repeated this. If I had the same strength now and if you asked me if I want to do that project again, I'd never want to do it. There's no longer a meaning for it to be done. I feel that it was only me who was thinking about earth and the ozone layer, and wanting to apologize to earth at that time. I think that was enough.


To part3

by legacyofcayce | 2013-10-16 14:31 | Interview

Bow Yamada ( Interview part 1)

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Bau Yamada was born in Osaka in 1951. After leaving high school, he moved to the United States and became a local tour conductor. He discovered canoeing in Canada and became the first person to introduce canoeing to Japanese people after he came back.

Around 1990, he quit his job and started to visit more than 1,300 local governments by himself in order to appeal recovering chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) for prevention of depleting the ozone layer.

In January 1995, he went to Kobe soon after the Great Hanshin earthquake struck, then he became a representative of a NGO "Kobe Genki-mura" (assisted volunteer workers for supporting local people and restoring Kobe city) for 7 and a half years.

When the Nakhodka (Russian tanker) oil spill occurred in the Sea of Japan, he started to ladle by himself since the oil reached rocky shore and no machine could be used. This inspired other volunteers to take action on saving the sea with human power.

After the September 11 attacks, he raised contributions of tens of millions of yen as a coordinator of the Global Peace Campaign, in order to place peace ads to avoid war in major newspapers in the United States.

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Naoko Mitsuda: I'm always amazed by your way of thinking.
Please tell us why you have such a grand vision and what is your driving force for carrying out your projects?


Bau Yamada: If I think I have to reason and sum up my actions to answer your question. Well, I can think of too many occasions. Can you ask me more specifically?

NM: For example, with ordinary projects, we usually prepare by spending a long time planning and collecting people and money. On the other hand, disasters like earthquakes and oil spills happen out of the blue, on a large scale.

The great Hanshin earthquake gave a shock to all of the Japanese. I've heard that just before it happened, you were thinking of going back to canoeing work since your project of recovering CFCs brought satisfying results. Still, you went to Kobe straight away and started to work.

And before that, you started the activity of protecting the ozone layer because a person who you met through canoeing work told you that CFCs are causing the ozone depletion and asked you to help stopping it. You quit canoeing work right after you were asked, and started to visit local governments throughout the country by yourself to ask them to work on recovering CFCs for protecting the ozone layer.

Normally, like if it was me, I'd end up choosing to do nothing after I stand still thinking of what I'd have to do about my job and my circumstances. I'd think of an excuse that even if I didn't do it, someone would…

So I'd like to know how you could make immediate actions when disasters happened. Also, you always sought and found new ways of doing it by yourself. Please tell us why you have so much energy and leadership.


BY: In my case, I never plan for things for long term. I always decide just before it starts. But when I think "Ok, I'll do this!", it immediately takes shape and I know what I'll need for the project. Then, a long term project begins. Even a three-day project, it's long term to me. But I decide in a second. The moment I see or hear the happenings, I decide everything that I need to do.

NM: Haven't you ever acted according to a plan for your future in 5 or 10 years later?


BY: No, never! First of all, the earth isn't created that way and neither earth nor humans work in such long term plans. It's obvious that not everyone plans for such long term.

NM: When managing a company, it's always said to plan for 10 years, or 5 years.

BY: That is weird. When you work for a large company, you work for 30 years until retirement. You have a quota, need to increase sales, become a manager, etc. But to me, this kind of predictable life has no meaning. Let alone a life being controlled by a boss, like being told to go work in Hamamatsu from next week, has no meaning to me. So I have no plans for 3 years, or 5 years later.

NM: Have you never planned in your past, even in childhood? Didn't you ever think of going to a certain place for canoeing in a year or 3 years later?

BY: No, never. How come you think in such way? What can you do with such thoughts on such basis? Why do you need to plan when the earth isn't working in such a system? The large companies use such a method because it's easier to hire people, but I would never work for such companies. I know that we have different views.

NM: You were working in Canada as a travel agent when you were young. Weren't you working for a company then?

BY: I went to the west coast of Canada only because I wanted to be able to speak English. At that time, financially wealthy people started to travel individually, so major travel agents needed to provide not only package tours but also original made-to-order tours in order to meet the demand. So the major travel agents asked me to plan the optional tours as I liked.

I didn't have any plans day by day, and it wan't the kind of job that I had to be somewhere or do something according to a plan. I was not a tour guide, I was a planner of optional tours.

For planning, you have to have marketing sense to find out what people want, and good sense of perspective. It can be said about all the projects I've been involved in. Getting back to the subject I was talking about earlier, I never plan ahead like going somewhere in a year time, even with my private traveling. I don't even own a diary. So on the contrary, I respect people who can work for the same company for 30 years. I can never do that and I don't have such a quality within me.

NM: Do you ever think that it would natural and easier if you could live according to schedule like everyone else?

BY: I think your question includes the wrong context. It sounds grammatically correct, but it's based on a strange concept. When you say "it would be natural", you are suggesting that "it's wrong" to be the way I am.

I was talking with someone yesterday about the fact that I didn't attend the coming-of-age ceremony. I can't bare sitting in a hall with 100 or 200 people listening to the speeches of politicians for a few hours. I'd much rather go for a walk.

NM: When we look at your achievements, they all involve negotiating with public offices.
How could someone like you, who doesn't like the coming-of-age ceremonies, bring negotiations to conclusions with public officials with different ways of lifestyles and views?


BY: I know exactly how people who would say "it would be natural" think. Yet we can talk with respect to each other even when we think "what you're doing is full of mistakes".

NM: When you start an action, you don't think like "Let's just try to do the best with these 3 people here". When you worked for Kobe Genki-mura, you created a huge project involving so many people in no time. How come you don't have any limitations in your ideas and actions?

BY: I think it's because I don't decide on how big they should be.
I kept them open to whoever and whatever. There was no criteria on personalities or past experiences, anyone was welcome. Even gangs or yakuza. In Kobe, the local yakuza helped us too.

NM: You worked for Kobe Genki-mura for 7 and a half years, but you didn't decide to do it for 7 years when you started, right?

BY: I wasn't going to do it for so long. I actually wanted to leave after the first 2 weeks. When I left my house in Saitama, I told my family "I'll be back in 2 weeks". But there were more and more reasons for me to stay… Mainly because there weren't enough people.

NM: You mean there wasn't a person who was capable of putting the group together.

BY: "Putting together" is a slightly incorrect term for this, there was no one who could "control" the group. "Putting together" means to unify people, but my work was to control people.

NM: Was it like "a commander"?

BY: "A commander" also unifies people by telling them what to do, so controlling is the most appropriate word to describe what I did.
I had to welcome anyone who turned up and assign work. So there was no one who could control the work place and people other than myself.

NM: Kobe Genki-mura might have disintegrated in midair if you had said "I'm leaving!".

BY: In fact, it almost did a few times when I tried to leave.

NM: What was the reason for closing down Genki-mura?

BY: So I'd been wanting to quit since the second week after I started. There were many projects I wanted to do within that 7 and a half years, from time to time.

And one of the projects I did was "Kokoro-no Bunto (sharing the ember of the heart)".
It was about walking Japan with the ember from the atom-bombed site in Hiroshima to share it with the people on my way. I also had a project called "108 prayers" which was about climbing the 100 famous Japanese mountains and 8 holy mountains to pray. To do these projects, I deliberately left Kobe Genki-mura so that they could run without me.
More things happened during that time. It was the second year when I went to Fukui after the oil spill in the Sea of Japan happened.

NM: Well, I'd like to ask you about "Kokoro-no Bunto" first. What on earth made you think to walk through Japan with the ember of the atom-bomb in Hiroshima? If it was about taking the ember to Hiroshima, you could directly walk to Hiroshima after you received the ember, couldn't you?

BY: I think the reason "why I walked" is similar to the reason "why I have a grand vision", which you asked me at first. The theme of my life is seeking the value of my existence. I'm always thinking about "what is the originality of myself, which can only be done by myself?".

When something happens, the others might do in one way. But I'm doing in my way. And one of my ways was "walking". "Ladling" at the oil spill in Fukui was another original action of mine.

When you start doing things which can only be done by yourself, I think you can send out small messages. Then people realize that "There're things can only be done by ourselves!" and they come to you.

NM: When I heard that you walked to share the ember of the atom-bomb throughout Japan, I thought how romantic a person you are.

BY: This is a long story… I think it was exactly 4 years after the Great Hanshin earthquake struck. Around the same time it happened on January 17th, I sat on the spot where I pitched my tent as soon as I entered Kobe. There I announced to everyone that "I really want to leave Kobe now". But they were persuading me to stay for a little longer. Though I decided to leave.

It's very important for us to make decisions. Soon after I made my decision, the word "Hiroshima" came into my mind. I didn't know what it meant, but I felt like there will be something if I went to Hiroshima. So I went back to the office and waited for the phone to ring.

The first person who called was Tetora Nagasaki. He is a scenario writer. I asked him "Tetora, you have something on your mind that you should tell me about something, don't you?" He said "Let me just talk about business first", and after he finished talking about business he said "I don't really understand what you were talking about". So I repeated to him that "You have something on your mind lately, don't you?" Then he said, "Well then, I recently saw the ember of atom-bombed of Hiroshima in Matsumoto, Nagano".

After I heard about this ember, everything went smoothly. I arranged the day to visit Matsumoto to receive the ember and asked media reporters to come there.

But I didn't really know what I should do with the ember then. At the interview with the media, I made a statement that "Since this is the last year of the 20th century (year 2000), I'd like the people who receive the ember to use it for some kinds of events at the end of this year". Then I started to walk.

If you were familiar with that area, you'd know that there is the mountain pass of Shiojiri on the way to Kofu from Matsumoto. I walked all the way to the mountain pass and when I reached the Suwa Grand Shrine, the ember was dying out. So I went away from the wind, into the side of the shrine. I was carrying the ember in a narrow paper lantern, then I heard a voice saying "I want to go home" from the bottom of the lantern.

When I heard it, I couldn't help crying. I was so upset because the ember was saying it wanted to go back on the day after it had departed. I arranged the media to report. The buddhist monks held a ceremony and about 50 friends of mine came from all over the country for this walk. I thought if I have to return I must at least enjoy the hot spring of the lake Suwa. So I started to walk again and then I started to understand the meaning of it.

I knew a monk in Hiroshima who was always helping me, so I called him and said "I found an ember of the atom-bomb of Hiroshima in Matsumoto, Nagano. Yesterday, I was told that this ember came from Hoshino-mura (outland) in Fukuoka, not Hiroshima. But now, the ember is saying that it wants to go home. I'm thinking that maybe it wants to go back to Hiroshima. Can you check if there's an ember in Hiroshima?"

As I assumed, there wasn't any ember in Hiroshima. However, this was after I made the announcement to walk to Hokkaido with the ember, so I was compelled to walk to the Hokkaido government office in Sapporo. Then I walked back to Yamaguchi. I occasionally used bicycles, but I walked mostly to Yamaguchi sharing the ember with people who requested.




To Part2

Japanese version

by legacyofcayce | 2013-10-16 14:23 | Interview