Joining Hand-in-hand in Communities, Let Us Create a Better Society — Spreading Cooperation to Defend People’s Life and Health

— Symposium “For Regeneration of Health, Food,
Housing and Environment of our Communities” in Nagano —

Today’s challenge for us is to achieve rehabilitation from the great earthquake and breaking free of nuclear power generations. And we are also facing such problems, including the consumption tax increase, accelerated effort to join the TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) and aggravated social security system, all to undermine the lives of the people
On October 7, in order to mobilize a broad-based unity among citizens and organizations to defend life and health of people, Min-Iren organized a symposium, “For Regeneration of Health, Food, Housing and Environment of our Communities” in Nagano.
Drawing much attention from people outside Min-Iren network, the symposium was a big success, with more than 500 participants filling the JA Acty Hall.
Six panelists made presentations on the opposition to the TPP, the regeneration of local agriculture, renewable energy development, and local efforts for autonomy of citizens, health care and nursing care (See following pages for details).
Many people held positive impressions on the symposium and stated, “It’s wonderful to learn about efforts for promoting agriculture and renewable energy sources” and “It was very much worth traveling a long distance to take part in this event.”

“It’s a good program”: Support spread broadly
Nagano Prefectural Min-Iren, as the host organization, prepared for the symposium by soliciting support from a broad range of organizations, which had not have any past relations with Min-Iren. Invitations were sent out to 500 different organizations and organizers visited 60 of them. As a result, 38 organizations and individuals endorsed the event, including Saku Sogo Hospital (Saku City), Nagano Red Cross Hospital (Nagano City), Nagano Nursing Association and Nagano Federation of Consumers Cooperatives.
“The symposium was really a long-waited and welcomed event,” said Secretary General Iwasu Yasuhiro of Nagano Prefectural Min-Iren.
October in Nagano where many farmers live falls on the harvesting season. Some people were worried about the turnout in the peak farming period. But many of the organizations they visited responded positively, saying, “It’s a wonderful event” and “We would love to cooperate with you.”
The organizers also visited the Global Warming Countermeasures Section of the Environmental Department as well as the Health and Welfare Department of Nagano Prefectural Government. This visit led to the meeting with Ms. Kato Sayuri, Vice Governor of Nagano. She said, “It’s a very good program with a broad range of personalities on the panel” and decided to give the prefectural government’s sponsorship to the event.

No barriers in cooperation to defend life
The organizers made a lot of effort of encouraging the people, who had had no interface with Min-Iren before to be the panelists in the symposium. Some candidates, after declining to accept the request, introduced other personalities on their behalf, which helped expand the connections further. Looking back, Ms. Iwasu said, “I keenly felt that there is no barrier to separate us in working together to defend people’s life.”
Japan Agricultural Cooperatives-Nagano, which offered the venue for the symposium, also “gave us an enormous help,” Mr. Iwasu said. Expressing his support to the undertaking, President Otsuki Norio of JA Nagano sent a message to the symposium, saying, “Participation in the TPP would invite the abolition or revision of a variety of restrictions necessary to protect our lives, and would bring a huge negative impact on our local communities. I sand absolutely opposed to it.”

Playing the role of a “bridge” everywhere in Japan
In the closing address of the symposium, Vice President Ishikawa Toru of National Min-Iren concluded the event as in the following: “Who will decide on the future of this community, or this country? It’s not someone unknown. It’s no one but we ourselves. By strengthening our joint efforts in a myriad of imaginative ways all over the country, let us promote building of our communities where everyone can live in peace without any anxiety. This can only be possible through the accumulation of small actions for a better society by each of us living in the community, working hand in hand and sharing our wisdom.”
Min-Iren is calling for organizing similar symposiums in many more places across the country. Now is the time for us to play our full role as a “bridge” to connect people for working together to defend life.

(Article by Miyatake Maki; Photo by Sakai Takeshi)

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With Our Own Efforts, We Will Create Communities Where People Can Continue to Live

Six panelists spoke in the symposium. They have been involved in a variety of activities in Nagano, trying to bring changes for a better society from their own communities. Following is the gist of their presentations.

Takahashi Hikoyoshi (Former Mayor of Sakae Village)
Building the community based on the autonomy of people

Mr. Takahashi reported on his experience as the village mayor for 20 years over 5 terms. He encouraged “active autonomy of people” based on his belief, “The village people are the reservoir of wisdom and technology for living, which they have traditionally built and cherished for a long time.”
He said, “The life of the village is possible only by basing itself on the society supported by the autonomy of the people. Our society should be a place where citizens themselves will exercise their sovereign power.”

Kuboki Kyosuke (Associate Professor of Nagano University)
Activities of Josho Network for life and employment against poverty

Mr. Kuboki spoke about the activities carried out by the anti-poverty network in Josho district, centering on Ueda City. “Poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor are growing rapidly. I feel strongly that more and more people fall in the cycle of poverty. The access to health care and education should have been equally guaranteed to everyone, but in reality, inequality is growing in these fields. We must secure the right to life and human rights through local communities and human relationships.”
He also referred to the cooperation from Ueda City, which came to offer public buildings as shelters for the homeless. “We must create a cycle of changing the ‘mutual help’ into ‘public help’. Until then, we will continue to build communities that will respect human rights and reject the prevalence of poverty” he said.

Ichikawa Hidehiko (Honorary Director, Kakeyu Hospital)
My life as a medical doctor and the TPP

Dr. Ichikawa reported on the ongoing grave situation in the prefecture, where depopulation, aging and the trend towards nuclear families are in progress simultaneously. He witnessed an aged patient say when being discharged from the hospital, “No one in my family will be happy even if I return home” and another inpatient calling repeatedly home to say, “Please come and see me.” From these experiences he has learned that the elderly people are left in “solitude” and “alienation.”
Regarding the TPP, he asserted, “It is an ultimate free trade agreement of the USA, by the USA, for the USA.” He predicted that if Japan joined the TPP, “Medical services will become open for private practices and Japan’s agriculture will suffer a catastrophic blow.” He said, “I stand firmly opposed to the TPP, which would destroy peoples’ lives and lead them to misery.” And he appealed, “Le us call on all the people to work together to stop Japan’s participation in the TPP. Let us unite our hearts and strength to create a powerful movement.”

Kohara Tsunetoshi (Representative Director, Kitanohara Farming Corporation)
Supporting the community by restoring agriculture

Mr. Kohara reported about his efforts to protect the farmland and maintain and develop the ability of the community to sustain farming in Kitanohara district, Komagane City.
Kitanohara Farming Corporation has 78 members. In the past, some non-farmer families in their neighborhood used to complain about the smell of farmyard manure or the noise of grass mowers in early morning. “In order to sustain farming in the community, it is necessary to gain the understanding of the people in the same community,” he thought, and has tried to gain people’s support to the community farming by holding the “Kids Farm” project, where local farmers interact with children through growing vegetables together. Going through the changes in the government’s agricultural policy, he stated, “It is getting more and more difficult for us to continue farming. And we are facing a big problem of securing successors.”

Yomogida Yuichi (Ohisama Shimpo Energy Company)
Recycling-based society by creating and saving energy

Mr. Yomogida presented the business of “Ohisama Shimpo (sunshine and progress) Energy Company” based in Iida City to promote energy generation on the principle of “Producing locally and consuming locally”. He has helped install solar panels in private nursery schools and public facilities in the city, which also was used for children’s education on environmental issues. As the first-ever attempt in Japan, he set up the “Minami Shinshu Ohisama Fund” by the investment from citizens who wished to “contribute to solving global warming by promoting renewable energy.” His company is now working on the project of installing solar panels for homes at a fixed monthly fee for 9 years, as people often feel the initial investment cost too high for a home-based solar energy generation. He said, “Let us create a sustainable future by changing the flow of money using our community resource of renewable energy.”

Kumagai Yoshitaka (President, Nagano Prefectural Min-Iren)
Protecting life and health of people by networking among local people for supporting medical and nursing services

Mr. Kumagai reported on the present health care and nursing situation in Nagano, which is far from meeting people’s needs. Ever since the public nursing-care insurance system was launched, the number of general hospital beds in Iida district has decreased by 172 and the number of doctors continued to go down, while those on the waiting list for the special nursing homes for the elderly keep increasing year by year.
He emphasized the importance of local people’s network by “strengthening unity of local people and helping each other.” And he called for putting an end to nuclear power generation that would destroy people’s health.


Pre-Symposium Event: Commemorative Lecture by Mayor Tanaka of Kiso Town
On October 6, on the eve of the symposium, Mayor Tanaka Katsumi of Kiso Town, Nagano, gave a commemorative lecture. His speech, “Community building in Shinshu-Kiso full of local people’s wisdom and ideas” drew 128 people in attendance. Since assuming office in 1998, Mayor Tanaka has listened to the needs of the townspeople and tried to involve them in the community building. And he set up farmers’ direct-sale markets and ran a loop-line bus system in the town available for citizens at a low-fare.