Fujino Town in Sagamihara City in Japan’s northwestern Kanagawa Prefecture is a peaceful place with a population of about 10,000 people. Located in a valley and surrounded by abundant nature with mountains and lakes, though it is only one hour away from central Tokyo, it is known as an artists’ haven, promoting and displaying art works around town.
Fujino (officially renamed Midori Ward in 2010) is also home to a Transition Town initiative. As we have explained before on Our World 2.0, the Transition Town Movement is an international network of grassroots groups that form to apply the theory of permaculture to community revitalization. The concept of permaculture, which originated in Australia, is a practical approach to designing a lifestyle that will create sustainable human environments. The word “permaculture” comes from the combination of “permanent” and “agriculture”, later expanded to signify “culture”.
Working to build resilience in the face of climate change and peak oil, the Transition approach can be particularly instructive in demonstrating how to accomplish this shift using bottom-up rather than top-down methods (the top-down approach has been characteristic of most Japanese eco-towns). The Transition Movement promotes action at the local level and encourages communities to draw on their own creativity, building on existing regional resources.
The world’s first Transition Town was initiated in the fall of 2005 by permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins in Totnes, a small town in England. Supporters promoted the movement across England and all over the world. Currently, there are around 450 official Transition Initiatives and another almost 600 communities preparing to become official, according to the Transition Network.
Going local in Fujino
Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.
Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies