At the beginning of the New Year

Mrs. Yumiko Kaneko
Director General

Happy New Year!
I really appreciate for being given this opportunity to start this New Year with all of you.

We had an incredible amount of snow on the Japan Sea side and we learn that there are so many who are suffering the impact of abnormal weather around the world. Even as we meet today our country is suffering a severe cold spell, and I am wondering if there is any lesson we can draw out from this situation.
We had a number of milestone events last year. Our Japanese monthly Newsletter had reached its 300th issue was a noteworthy event and the 10th Commemorative International Forum on Lifelong Integrated Education was certainly a major event for all of us at the Center. The publication of the Bulgarian version of the Principles of Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education and also the first publication by the next generation were no less significant.
It seems to me that it was only after the 10th International Forum was successfully behind us that I fully realized the great import of it. After my return to Japan, there was no time for me to feel relieved as there were three lectures I had to deliver in November and December. Right after the last lecture I felt I was losing my voice, and I lost it completely the next week. Luckily for me I was still able to accompany my son to his baseball camp as planned at the year end. And at about 9 pm on the last day of the year I did not feel well and had to rest, forgoing the customary year-end and New Year rituals of our family. Then I suddenly woke up and hurried to the living room. It was just two minutes before midnight and I was able to exchange our customary greetings as we welcomed in the New Year. Rather strangely, I felt that somehow I had put down my bad physical conditions in 2010, and realized that the accumulation of ten forums had been weighing heavily on me.
Taking the year of 2010 as my educational material, what I realized was that it had been a year of trial to live the principles as best I could. In other words, it was an opportunity given to me, although rather harrowing challenge, to implement the Principles of Nomura lifelong integrated education which embodies "the unity between knowledge and practice." That is, making what one learns become flesh and blood of one's character, and learning from life.
What I felt at the end of the year was the proof that the process had weighed heavily on me. With this understanding I realized that I was reliving the history of the Center, and was reconciled confident of the fact that the whole experience was worth it.
This acceptance had helped me realize too that the 10th Commemorative International Forum meant on one hand the culmination of all nine forums and at the same time the beginning of the next stage.
To be honest, the comments received from the participants far exceeded my expectations, and I realized the humankind has already shared the vector to the current state of the world.
I felt this particularly when Ambassador Mr. Hisham Mohamed Mostafa Badr of Egypt told his comment on my keynote address. He said that it was good that I talked about how I practiced the Principles in my own life with my own words. He was referring to what I had said about how I had used my own sickness as an educational material in order to analyze my consciousness and value system in the context of the times and conduct self-development for the recovery of my own humanity. His words made me realize that thoughtful people around the world were looking beyond the Western thought and philosophy that had propelled scientific civilization and were looking to the Center for a clue for what needs to be done next.
Our founder had taught us through the Principles about "reality and an ideal." We may have understood these to represent contrasting concepts. Our founder, however, had constantly reminded us that they were both phenomena we experience as we live our life from the past to the present and into the future. That is to say, reality is the outcome of our experiences from the past to the present whereas an ideal is how we envisage the future from the present. Both reality and the ideal are our creation.
We tend to say there is nothing one can do because that's how things are in "reality," or that our "ideal" is just a dream and give up doing anything about it.
Our founder's life was dedicated to structuring the Principles, practicing and verifying them. She put together what seemed to most of us contrasting concepts, "homemakers" and "international conferences," and the last 30 years from the 1st to the 10th international forums were the assets we had created together. It was a history of bringing what seemed an ideal closer to reality.
Her single-minded wish, deep thought for the future of the children, had created what may be deemed as an ideal, a place for people to come together without titles to discuss heart to heart and think together about the world and its future on the common basis.
On the other hand, those of us who were born and grew up during the period of high economic growth of Japan in the early 1960's and were educated under a system modeled after Western values are now in pivotal positions of society. I believe we spent our childhood thinking that material riches would lead to a brighter future. We did not think that there was anything negative about high growth.
Perhaps it was not just our generation, but the one before us also was likely to have shared the same values; indeed the society as a whole did. As the saying goes, "The child is father of the man." What is experienced young has a long impact.
During our middle-school years, a "deviation score system" or "class curve" was introduced, giving us the idea that society esteemed and rewarded most those with high academic scores. The order of the day was that elites, meaning those with academic excellence, were beyond reproach. We learn that so-called elites of the generation after ours were on the whole delicate and spineless.
We Japanese have come through the period of modernization from the early 20th century to the high growth period in early 1960's. Today, other Asian countries are treading a similar path. Tension on the Korean peninsula has not abated since last year. They say the newly growing China and India are strengthening their military, promoting nationalism and asserting their sovereignty and territorial rights.
We feel concerned about this. But should we not remind ourselves that that is exactly how the rest of the world looked at Japan in the near past. As a nation that took the same path earlier we must give thought to what Japan can do right now. As the Asian region assumes a most important position in the world, what should Japan be and how should Japan behave?
On considering the meaning of the existing educational system that raised us a generation who is playing the leading roles of in the present society, I believe that it led us, as a result, to sever our connectedness with nature and with other human beings. In other words, we pursued all that is convenient, efficient and rational, all the things brought about by scientific civilization which on the other hand alienated us from nature and from each other and emphasized speed over human relations and efficiency over human life. The acceleration of scientific innovation is leaving human beings, who are but part of nature, behind and unable to keep up.
As we look at Japanese society, its governance and economic system, it behooves our generation who are in positions to lead to seriously question what values we are following and what important values we must follow.
In the ongoing process of globalization it is fair to think that most of the values brought on by scientific civilization that must be questioned and reviewed.
I said earlier that we Japanese of our generation have been brought up under an educational system modeled after the West but I read in the newspaper that we still have a character that makes us Japanese. Have you heard the phrase "cool Japan"? I knew that our pop culture has the attention of the world but I did not know the phrase itself.
"Cool" apparently means, that Japan's pop culture has style. Our manga, anime, games, music, films and fashion are at the center of the craze, and "manga" and "otaku" have now joined the global vocabulary. This is a reason for many foreign students to come to Japan wanting to study pop culture. The same article reported that a Chinese studying animation had this to say: "...without understanding the sensitivities of the Japanese or their lifestyles I cannot hope to improve my skills." This was uttered in relation to anime but the student said that it was essential to study in Japan to nurture the very essence with which to personify characters and tell stories, good techniques alone was not enough. The writer noted that apparently there were many who thought the same and regarded us Japanese as their textbooks.
Why is it that this cultural aspect is receiving the limelight in countries where the political system, religion, ethnicity and cultures are different? According to the newspaper article, Japanese culture born out of poverty has the power to grip the minds of ordinary people. Mounting waves of globalization today makes us question how we should live with nature and co-exist with heterogeneity. To overcome with a spirit of mutual support against this, the writer analyzed, is the essence of Japanese pop culture.
Our founder had constantly reminded us of this Japanese spirituality, which is now highlighted by pop culture, and which had been represented by our generation as the traditional culture: the Way of tea ceremony, Ikebana flower arrangement, calligraphy and the martial arts.
Pop culture sounds slightly alien but an article like this tells us that the young generation has perhaps unconsciously inherited our spirituality.
Adults in Japan have abandoned this spirituality in the current of history following defeat in the war. It appeared worthless to them. However, our founder reminded us constantly how valuable it was. As a result, all of us are here today. And Japanese spirituality is recognized around the world. But are we not unconscious of this? This was what I felt about the members of the Center on our return from the Forum.
As I touched on earlier, it seemed to me that those of us at the Forum, while the activities of the Center were recognized so much more than we ever expected, are unaware of the values and the spirit we have been trained to represent and unconscious of the atmosphere we created through them. I feel strongly that we must recognize this.
We fail to recognize its value because it is the same value that we ourselves have discarded in the pursuit of scientific rationalism. What a waste, how "mottainai" all this is!
Our geographical conditions remind us that we are living with nature as creatures that are part of it. This is our character and our temperament. But the existing rational educational policy had resulted in severing our relation with nature.
The law and order of nature incorporate what is irrational. But in the existing concept of education this is not condoned. This may be the reason why many of you have tried to resist the apparently irrational and impractical manner of conducting the activities at the Center. So you tried to question why you had to do things in such an irrational manner, or to decline or refuse flatly to accept the comments on you by your colleagues.
Nature's providence, however, is genuinely rational to the extent of including what is seemingly irrational aspects of human existence. This has been long forgotten exclusively in the search of rationality. So in the times of ours when we have sought perhaps solely what seemed rational has led us to be stuck in this dead end, if one tries to live according to the law and order of Nature, it seems most challenging troublesome, and above all irrational.
In the natural world, however, all things and matters are connected with one another and it is this connectivity that gives it stability.
When we find ourselves at the end of our tether many of us realize how precious it is to be connected, to have someone there to listen to us. Our founder never taught that one must do this or that. She told us that "As all the matters and things including human beings are intrinsically inter-connected in Nature, if you try to be involved in your conditions, harmonious relationship and stability come out."
In today's tendency to cultivate and encourage individualism, we have avoided this connectedness as cumbersome and constraining.
What we urgently need to do today is to go beyond analysis and explication to make knowledge real and personal; in other words, to see our life as an educating process of personal character-building, "educationalising life."
In fact, we are already doing this. What I ask you is to communicate this to the next generation. Since how we hope to live is, in a sense, going the opposite way to today's rationalism and the direction of education. It is an uphill battle. We must accept the struggle that comes with correcting the disharmony within us.
While our founder was with us we were perhaps unable to truly gauge what is meant by this process, but since we are now gradually beginning to understand this, we should spare no efforts to set as our agenda to live each day becoming a better person.
This year is the Year of the Rabbit. I learn that the rabbit year denotes renewing things in mutual collaboration with due respect and awe.
We at the Center with the legacy of 10 international forums as our own experience, let us make a fresh start and help each other become the persons we are all meant to be.

(D.G. Kaneko's greetings at the start of the New Year, January 8, 2011)
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