October 31, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.14 (October 2003)

"Do you feel restless when you're not busy? Do you feel uneasy when you're not working hard? You don't have to live that way!" This is the unexpected message on the back of business cards of employees at the Iwate Prefectural Office.

Iwate Prefecture issued a "Take-It-Easy Declaration" in 2001 to launch a movement away from the prevailing ethos of economic efficiency. Iwate's case is explained below.

"Let's make our life in the new century more human, more natural, and more simple"-these ideas indicate Iwate's ideal, epitomized by its "take-it-easy" slogan. For example, Iwate's approach to buildings is to conserve traditional wooden houses that stand in harmony with nature, rather than to cut forests to make way for state-of-the-art buildings. Such a sense of harmonious coexistence between nature and humans is highly valued in Iwate's take-it-easy movement.

In Japan, the words "gambaru" (meaning 'I'll work hard') and "gambare" (meaning 'You work hard') are often used in daily life. Surprisingly, Iwate has chosen a negative form, "gambaranai" (meaning 'take-it-easy'), for the Declaration. "The expression 'working hard' has been a symbol of the high economic growth period in Japan," said Governor Hiroya Masuda of Iwate Prefecture. "Iwate's Take-It-Easy Declaration might appear to encourage laziness, but in fact it does not. Rather, it symbolizes our intention to live a more natural life."

Iwate tried to reach a larger audience by placing national newspaper advertisements for its "Take-It-Easy Declaration." The slogan, encouraging an intentional shift away from contemporary values emphasizing economic efficiency, has been well received by people across the nation.

Not only Iwate but also other local governments are campaigning for a more relaxed and comfortable lifestyle instead of the current lifestyle characterized by efficiency and speed. In the last couple of years, increasing numbers of municipalities have joined this movement, for example, by adopting "Slow Life" as their slogan and by assigning a "Slow Life Month" for special events to raise residents' awareness of slower lifestyles.
Kakegawa Declares Itself a "Slow Life City"(Japanese)

A remarkable effort by one of the pioneer municipalities, Kakegawa City in Shizuoka Prefecture, has been described in a previous JFS article.
Kakegawa Declares Itself a "Slow Life City"

Kakegawa City, which adopted the nation's first "City Declaration of Lifelong Learning" in 1979, has been actively promoting the development of human and community resources through lifelong learning. The city's twenty-year experience with this endeavor has culminated in the creation of a new vision fittingly called "Slow Life." Mayor Junichi Shinmura was reelected after advocating Slow Life in his campaign during the most recent municipal elections. Let's look at the city's declaration, which was adopted in 2002.

"Slow Life Declaration in Kakegawa"(excerpt)
"In the late twentieth century, Japan valued and pursued the "fast, cheap, convenient, and efficient" life that brought us economic prosperity. However, it also caused problems such as dehumanization, social ills, and environmental pollution. We would like to move forward, with the slogan "Slow Life," to achieve "slow, relaxed and comfortable" lifestyles, and shift from a society of mass production and mass consumption, to a society that is not hectic and does cherish our possessions and things of the heart."

"Humans live about 700,800 hours (assuming an average life expectancy of 80 years), of which we spend about 70,000 hours working (assuming we work for 40 years). The remaining 630,000 hours are spent on other activities, such as eating, studying, and leisure, including 230,000 hours sleeping. Until now, people often focused their lives on these 70,000 hours of labor, devoting their lives to their companies. However, with the "slow life" principles, we would now like to pay more attention to the 630,000 hours outside of work to achieve true happiness and peace of mind."

"The practice of the "Slow Life" involves the following eight themes:
SLOW PACE: We value the culture of walking, to be fit and to reduce traffic accidents.
SLOW WEAR: We respect and cherish our beautiful traditional costumes, including woven and dyed fabrics, Japanese kimonos and Japanese night robes (yukata).
SLOW FOOD: We enjoy Japanese food culture, such as Japanese dishes and tea ceremony, and safe local ingredients.
SLOW HOUSE: We respect houses built with wood, bamboo, and paper, lasting over one hundred or two hundred years, and are careful to make things durably, and ultimately, to conserve our environment.
SLOW INDUSTRY: We take care of our forests, through our agriculture and forestry, conduct sustainable farming with human labor, and ultimately spread urban farms and green tourism.
SLOW EDUCATION: We pay less attention to academic achievement, and create a society in which people can enjoy arts, hobbies, and sports throughout our lifetimes, and where all generations can communicate well with each other.
SLOW AGING: We aim to age with grace and be self-reliant throughout our lifetimes.
SLOW LIFE: Based on the philosophy of life stated above, we live our lives with nature and the seasons, saving our resources and energy."

A "Slow Life" Summit was held on August 24, 2003 in Gifu City with the participation of 20 municipalities from around the country that have embraced "Slow Life" as their slogan. They have adopted a "Gifu Declaration on Creating a Slow Life Community" for designing a community where citizens can enjoy life to the fullest.

At the summit, innovative efforts of the slow life movement were presented, and participants enjoyed discussing their local foods over a box lunch made from Gifu's traditional ingredients. The summit venues will rotate annually, and Kanazawa City will be the host in 2004.

The Italian-born slow food movement has spread into Japan, which is now suffering from the aftereffects of rapid economic expansion and the current economic recession. Japanese people have begun questioning themselves about what matters most to them. More and more are now realizing that they prefer a slow, happy life to a life based on competition, economic efficiency and speed, and this realization is energizing Japan's slow life movement. Japan's Environment Ministry mentioned the term "slow life" for the first time in the 2003 edition of its Environmental White Paper a sign that the movement is spreading.

This trend is a step toward creating a sustainable society, shifting away from the era of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal. Some readers may find it hard to believe that such a movement is happening in what has become seen as Corporate Japan. Look forward to the future development of the "Slow Life" and "Take-It-Easy" movements in Japan!