New Year Message

Mrs. Yumiko Kaneko
Director General

I wish you, your family and all our friends a hopeful and happy Year of the Dragon.
I have to say that after what happened last year it is not business as usual as we greet each other once more at the turn of the year. To be honest, given the situation in Japan today, it is hard for me even to say "Happy New Year." This is the very first time I have felt this way, because of the terrible events of March 11, of course, and the ensuing disasters that still have not been put to rest. Especially in Fukushima, there are so many people who continue to suffer as a result of the nuclear power plant accident. How long will it take for us to be able to return to a state of normality we cannot say? This is the depressing reality that envelopes Japan today.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that followed are said to be of a magnitude that occurs once in a thousand years. It is also referred to as the worst national crisis since the end of World War II.
I was shocked to watch the horror unfold on our TV screens but I was totally at a loss for words when I went to Miyagi in April and Fukushima in May and saw for myself the unimaginable scenes of devastation. It was as if I could see before my own eyes the huge tsunami enveloping the people, young and old with their families and everything they possessed. And there was the invisible killer too spreading from the nuclear power plant accident that threatens us still.
These developments force us to rethink the century we are living in. The twentieth century was one of revolutions and wars. It was also the century that saw astonishing scientific development. The industrial revolution that developed in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought about great changes in industry that in turn affected the social structure wherever it took hold. The scientific "progress" that followed made possible the colossal scale and brutality of the two world wars that scarred the first half of the twentieth century.
During the second half of the century, particularly after the nineteen-sixties, science found its way into our daily lives. When Japan's first nuclear power plant as the essence of science went into operation in 1963, it made a remarkable development in our lives with comfort and convenience. Unlike the terrible atomic bombs dropped in 1945 that spared no one, we accepted the "peaceful use of nuclear power" with its promise of absolute safety.
In 2011, nearly fifty years later, we have found how hollow that promise was.
As you no doubt know, Japan is an earthquake-prone country, but did you know that we experience ten to fifteen per cent of all the earthquakes around the world? In fact, twenty per cent of those above magnitude 6 take place in Japan, making it a super-earthquake country.
There are some 400 nuclear power plants in existence. The U.S. has the most with 104, followed by France with fifty-nine. Japan is the third with fifty-four. We still experience continuous quakes and aftershocks in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, and scientists suggest the probability of another of equal force.
All of us who live here in Japan under these circumstances must, I believe, think how we want to live, in what direction we should take as responsible citizens. Since this is a matter of our own survival, we must not depend on others. Each one of us has to make our own decisions.
At our end-of-year meeting I shared with you the TV program showing scenes taken before and after the disasters in the afflicted areas. Those who were affected live under very different circumstances than before March 11 and the events that followed. The change is apparent in their human relations as well as in their material lives, and even with nature. Everything has changed for them-and they are our fellow citizens of Japan.
I fear that we have taken for granted what our founder Mrs. Yoshiko Nomura taught us. We may think we are aware of the truth, but have we not taken it for granted that we can continue living our lives as in the past?
She taught us that we human beings are a part of nature, living in association with other human beings, the material world and the natural environment. We are ourselves proof that we are living, yet at the same time we must not forget that this is made possible by something transcendental. All things that exist must follow the strict order and laws of the natural world, always changing, growing and evolving. Nothing remains fixed for a moment, nothing is isolated, neither in space nor in time; all things are related and are changed, each by everything else.
If all matter in the natural world is constantly evolving and changing, then it is only natural that the planet is never still, and that earthquakes and tsunamis are caused by movements of the ever-changing nature. It was such a tsunami that swallowed part of the world we built.
As we grow old, every material thing ages, and so do nuclear power plants built with human skill as a consequence and symbol of high economic growth. This is nature's way. All things that have form will age and decay.
Just imagine if what happened in East Japan were to take place in your area. It is not hard to imagine how our television sets, refrigerators and cars would be broken and useless. Old things are destined to break, however, we have been too careless to expect our highways and high-rise buildings to age also and be prone to accident, haven't we?
During the fast-growing economic boom, high-rise buildings were constructed side by side like trees in the forest. Did it occur to us that they might collapse after fifty years? We must ask ourselves if we are driven into the worst when some among us insist on returning to the pre-March 11 days.
I am not saying I would want to reverse the clock of scientific civilization. However, I believe that those of us living today have given too much value to results-oriented approach. We must realize that this has come at the price of forgetting invisible but more important values, and give this serious thought. As Japanese living today we must accept this challenge if only to honor the sacrifices made by our neighbors in East Japan.
On what should we be placing our values? Let's face it, if we are honest we have placed them on efficiency and visible results. Since the disastrous event in March, however, we are reminded of the importance of "kizuna"-the invisible bonds that tie us.
What values do we want to cultivate in an individual? Whatever period we live, it is us human beings who define the period. That brings us back to the importance of education. We have lacked important values in our education. Our founder warned us of this fifty years ago when we were busy building visible material goods. I am reliving those important words she constantly reminded us of, and rethinking the value of them.
We have placed too much importance on acquiring knowledge and technical skills. It is an education that depends on manuals failing to nurture in people the ability to make hard decisions on essential issues.
As I get to know young people in my daily life (of course, not only the young) and as the bitter truth about the nuclear power plants accident emerges bit by bit, I find that education fails to put importance on how we feel, how we judge and make actions accordingly.
Nuclear power plants were glamorized as a wonderful source of energy, the flower of science. We, human beings, developed such highly sophisticated technology. The accident has taught us that unless we educate human beings who can fully master the technology that we have created technological development will only breed greater perils. Rightly, our founder said that the education of human beings transcends all other issues.
We must regain the intrinsic value of education and return to the values that were cast away as unimportant with the emphasis on efficiency and results. In the Nomura Principles, our founder talks about "chujyo": Essence of Japanese virtue can be expressed simply as "chujyo," written with two Chinese ideograms. Apparently, this was in Edo era part of our every day vocabulary. "Chu" can be understood to mean sincerity, seriousness and integrity, and "jyo" caring and forgiving. These traits were so much a part of our day-to-day life that they did not need to use the word itself. They were the very heart of the Japanese identity. "Chujyo" itself, so deeply embedded in the Japanese character, has steered the county away from error in the fifty post war years.
I am appalled to learn of the recent dishonest changing of labels and standards that compromise the integrity of food and buildings, and the use of the Internet to deceive the public with false data to boost sales. It is too regrettable to see these crimes which were rare if not unheard of in the past, as the consequences of our discarding those embedded spirits.
It was the generation who grew up before the War who supported the high growth economy of the sixties. Though they lived by these values even at a time when material goods were sparse, and I cannot help but wonder if they were even aware that the old values they lived by were quickly losing their essential meaning.
Being brought up by that generation, we certainly sensed in them the values they held as important. But I think our generation tended to reject them, feeling that they were not as important as keeping up with the times.
Tomorrow it will fall to our children's generation to build the future without knowing the true values at the heart of our culture. We must ask ourselves what we owe them. What we must hand over to them.
Japan is the only country to experience the horror of the atomic bombs. And we are now gravely injured by the accidents at the nuclear power plants that are symbols of the twentieth century scientific achievement.
Why is this so?
Our country is blessed by nature. Our founder told us, "The culture and national character of a country are the consequence of climate, weather, temperature, humidity and geography. While not rich in mineral resources we are surrounded on all sides by the abundant sea, and blessed with a beautiful climate, temperate weather, an abundance of sunlight, rain clouds and mists, as well as the subtle changes of the four seasons. The Japanese identity, our culture and our history are the culmination of these influences since ancient times."
The founder went on to say that it is important as members of the international community to have our individual identity as well as to preserve that of our nation. Culture and thought, deeply rooted in a nation's geographical climate and soil, must be culmination of those factors which are conducive to make them take root in people's minds and hearts. And I believe that people's background and human empathy also cultivate one's thoughts.
The spirit nurtured by the Japanese climate is at the heart of our national virtues. If we should lose that spirit we may also end up losing the very soil that gave us birth and made us what we are.
As important it is for us to regain that spirit among ourselves, she taught us, Japanese should become global so that we may share it with people of all nations.
As I have said, we cannot turn the clock of scientific civilization back, but since we have created things that are beyond what we can reasonably manage we must do whatever it takes to find solutions. It is our responsibility to the future. I want to say that it is of foremost importance that we sincerely undertake this challenge.
Just as we can now see how important invisible kizuna-human relations-are, other things of importance are often not visible too. Our hearts must find them.
People today tend to see as truths the facts we are able to see, but all things are made up of visible and invisible parts. It is therefore important for us now to take into account the invisible spirit beyond what we can see and has form. Our first priority must be on education that awakens us to essential values invisible to the human eye, an education that regains the spirit of sincerity and integrity that are among the values we know as virtues.
Last year, feeling I must convey your goodwill personally, I visited eleven places in the disaster areas with the donations you gave out of empathy with the victims. I intend to continue to do this in the coming year.
During these trips I made it a point to meet mayors and heads of education committees in every place to present our small offerings directly as a token of our collective goodwill. Without exception, they thanked us and said they treasured the sense of connectedness with us. I was moved by their responses, for connectedness is invisible but they felt it in their hearts.
Throughout the scientific civilization of the twentieth century, we made it a practice to value things that were visible, and we continued to exploit nature's gifts as if they were inexhaustible treasures, when they were in fact finite. I can almost hear the earth screaming. In Japan and all around the world we see economic breakdown. There can be no return to the complacency of the days before the terrible blow of March 11, if only because of the threat of economic bankruptcy.
Since we have been taught the value of things that are invisible we must build on that realization and expand the circle of those who share the same awareness. Let us share our belief that happiness is the fruit of achieving balance between mind, body and environment with those who think that happiness only comes with economic abundance. The way to happiness is to know when we have enough. We must share this insight and cultivate it wherever it can take root. I believe this is the mission we have all been assigned.
We have been fortunate to learn from our founder that there are more important things than can be measured in economic terms. Each of us is a living proof of the wisdom of this in the world we live in. Let us start this year with that realization.
We learn that there will be many elections this year and the possibility of new leaders. It is likely that we will see changes occurring and that there will be new buds sprouting. The question is in which direction these new buds will grow. We pray that they will recognize and respond to the truly important issues. As every one of us tries to grow as a human being who treasures what is precious as it is, I am sure we can direct the world in the right direction. As adherents of the principles of lifelong integrated education we should be aware of the responsibilities we carry.
We Japanese have seen with our own eyes the outcome of unrestrained scientific development through our experience of the atomic bombs and the nuclear power plant accident. We were once people who felt comfortable that we were living with nature and as part of it.
Let us regain the spirit that can help lead the times in which we live, and have a profound understanding that we are not alone but that our lives are part of nature. Let us share the deep meaning of this message with as many people as possible, and go forward ruminating on what we have been taught over fifty years.
I look forward to continuing to learn with you throughout this year.
Thank you very much.

(D.G. Kaneko's greetings at the start of the New Year, January 10, 2012)
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education
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