In 2011, Michiyo Furuhashi was elected to represent the Global Ecovillage Network of the region Oceania/Asia. The 48-old lives in the Ecovillage and Lightcenter Kohonana Family in Japan, and her main aim and philosophy is to connect sustainability and spirituality. A portrait by Leila Dregger
The participants of the GEN Europe conference won´t forget her so easily: Her voice – strong and bright like pure light – made the whole group sing together songs of love and peace. Michiyo is a beautiful singer, and she shares her gift openheartedly to raise a feeling of harmony in every group. Above singing and serving in her community Konohana Family in Japan, as President of GENOA she has inspired the Asian and Australian ecovillages to cooperate ever more closely together towards a sustainable future.
When Michiyo grew up in the 60s and 70s in a suburb of Tokyo, she was surrounded by greens and fresh air – a strong contrast to the city center. Walking on country roads on Sunday mornings with her father and her little sister, she developed early a sheer love of being in nature – a value that inspires her always in her later life.
The other strong path for her was to escape the conservative society in Japan. One year in Australia on a working holiday was not enough for the young and adventurous woman. Back in Japan, she had found herself working for a British company.
“One morning, after getting off a super-packed train, I arrived at my office, and wondered, ‘What would be the consequence of this current life?’ I came up three answers: 1. to get enough income for my life, 2. to make our company’s management happy, and 3. to make consumers able to use our products. All of sudden, I realized that I did not come down to earth to achieve such small things. My life is supposed to be in service to make this world a much better place! That was the call to my life.”
In an instant she decided to leave the company and her stable life, to emigrate to Canada and to find a job in the environmental field. It was 1994 when she arrived in Canada, and it was not easy for non-native English speakers to find a job. She returned to university to study environmental science. Shortly after her graduation she had to return home to look after her father, who had become very ill, and she stayed with him for 6 months until he died. What looked in the beginning as a hit by fate, instead turned out to lead her on a path to reconcile with her Japanese heritage. While she was looking after her father, she connected with a network of environmental educators of various ages in Tokyo.
“That group of people was wonderful and made me decide to stay in Japan. Before I had left for Canada, I hated Japan since its society seemed to be very conservative and superficial. But through them, I was introduced to the beauty of nature and philosophy of culture that before had seemed boring to me.”
Fate struck again in 2001, when Michiyo was given a leaflet of the Ecovillage Training (EVT) program at the Findhorn Foundation.
“Something just clicked in me. That was it! I joined the program, followed by the Restore the Earth conference. The program was extremely inspiring, and I was very excited to introduce this concept to Japan.”
Michiyo was highly inspired in particular by Hildur and Ross Jackson, the founders and longtime sponsors of GEN, and passionately shared her ideas with them. In 2006, Michiyo and Hildur introduced the newly issued EDE curriculum in Japan which became the Japan Ecovillage Promotion Project (JEPP).
“In fact, the Japanese culture is not so far away from community thinking. Many Japanese sense the invisible existence that includes energy of nature and human beings. When we feel that person’s energy, we can communicate without using words. Also, it is in our culture to be considerate for others.”
During her participation in the EVT program in Findhorn Foundation, she also learnt about the importance of solid spirituality in order to run a community. When she later visited the Konohana Family, she was very happy to meet a community that put spirituality as the first priority.
“This inspired me a lot, and people looked very happy and shiny. First I did not plan to be a member there, but after I left, I felt a strong longing towards the energy of the community. It was as if I met a right person in my life.”
The Konohana Family is an agriculture-based spiritual community at the foot of Mt. Fuji, founded in 1994. In 2007 Michiyo moved in: “The group established a community where people and all existence live together by supporting each other in order to create a sustainable world. Today, 80 non blood-related members live as one big family. I myself have never got married. I do not have biological children, but I consider myself as a mother of 26 children in my community.”
In the Konohana family, Michiyo is in charge of International public relations, sustainable education – including the organization and facilitation of EDE and other programs, public outreach by giving presentations or guided tours, and singing songs with the Konohana Band.
In order to inspire Japanese society to a more healthy lifestyle, the community gives seminars and facilitates EDE courses. At both national and international levels, we have many guests every year to experience this harmonious life. Beyond that, they also provide a high quality vegetarian lunch once a month to the neighborhood.
“Each participant who has been inspired by Konohana, influences his or her neighbours and friends,” Michiyo states. “Like this we can make a change of slow steps. Some of the local farmers have changed their farming style from conventional to the organic.”
This change is urgently needed in Japan. After Fukushima, the world is still in shock. Not only Japan, but worldwide we need visions and experiences for energy autonomy. How has Japanese society changed since the nuclear accident?
Michiyo: “More people have started to use natural energy such as solar power, and the government promotes and deregulates to install natural energy. The Transition Town movement is well accepted and has 38 regional networks. More people are interested in an alternative life style. But still I wish more people would awaken to the purpose of their lives and live in the law of nature and the universe.”
Her liaison with GEN happened very naturally. In 2006, Michiyo helped organize the International Ecovillage Conference in Tokyo, and later represented GENOA at a meeting in Thailand. From 2009, she had helped Penelope run the office as a vice-president. In 2011, Michiyo was elected as president of GENOA, and the GENOA office moved to Japan.
“For me, GEN is a platform to create a sustainable world by connecting light centers in the world. After three years it is getting like a big family, and I feel very close to the members in spite of physical distance.”
Since Michiyo´s involvement, the number of members in the region has increased as well as the opportunities to meet and exchange: “What makes me proud is that we are very supportive for each other. After the big typhoon in the Philippines, the GEN-Philippine representative established a project for the affected people. And many of us gave ideas and physical and mental support for the project. I am also proud for having such a good team of people. All are well grounded and connected to the energy of universe. My aim is to show the diverse types of Ecovillage and community of this region to the world, in order to encourage more people to join the sustainable way of living. My dream is that the light centers or Ecovillages in the world connect with each other as a global family, and that movement gives resonance to the wider area and, at the end, it will cover the whole earth with light.”
In the last months, Michiyo spent some weeks in China with the ecovillage ‘Second Home’. Now she intends to form a protection shield for the group: “Currently, Second Home is under harassment by unknown parties, and local government and police offices do not deal with it. I would like to get more international support for this situation. It is more difficult to hold such a community in a country like China. The petition is set with the following link. If you have not signed the petition, please join and spread this to your networks and friends.”
We are receiving permanently new messages of Second Home´s struggle to survive. Read the last message here: http://lifechanyuan.org/bbs/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=6660