New Year Message

Mrs. Yumiko Kaneko
Director General

A very happy New Year to you.
This year began with lovely balmy days, which before long turned chilly and remains cold to this day. I must say it is not just the weather but political situation also gives us chill as we look ahead. There was a change of government in December 2012. Barely a year had passed when we saw things happen that we would never have dreamed of. I have been so concerned about it and kept thinking out how we can best face up to these changed realities this year.
In December 2013 we saw the passage of The Special Secrecy Law. The government was quick to revise the Three Principles on Arms Exports and hastily sent 10,000 bullets to the UN Peace Keeping Operations in South Sudan. It pressured Okinawa governor to agree to reclaim Henoko as an alternative base for the US Marines after vacating from the Futenma base now located in the heart of the city. And as if these were not all, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine as the year closed inviting harsh reactions not just from our Asian neighbors but from the US as well.
On January 6, 2014, on the first business day following the traditional New Year holidays, the government declared it was working seriously on revising the Constitution. We then learned that radiation-contaminated waters from the nuclear power plants have kept leaking and the government's new energy policy goes forward in order to resume operations at nuclear power plants. And TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnerships) negotiations were resumed. Come April consumption tax will go up affecting everyone. These are mountains of problems we face today.
There are many voices that this year will be crucial in determining the course of Japan. In particular, the revision of the Constitution is a serious question that can change our history as well as the structure of our nation.
The present government talks of "proactive contribution to peace." These words alone sound good. The government also pronounces the need for true reform to meet the future we want. Now where would the reform take us? Checking the contents of the proposed reform, I am alarmed that this might mean opening the road to war for peace.
Certainly the times are changing, changing a great deal and fast. I agree that the change from the 20th to 21st century is a major one and that we are challenged to change our own attitudes and mindset.
This year, 2014, is the 69th year from the end of World War II. When the Cold War that ensued between the US and USSR came to an end in 1989 we all expected that our world would be more peaceful but that was not to be. Instead, what followed were deadly conflicts and civil wars and as if they were not enough, we now have to cope with the so-called war against terrorism in the 21st century.
History suggests that terrorism is a product of our scientific civilization. The 9.11 terrorist attacks in 2001 dealt a major blow to the world, but think about it, it would not have happened without the innovations of science. One could also say that it was borne out of the super-power conflicts between the US and USSR. It can also be said that terrorism is a result of military interventions into the internal disputes by the two super-powers.
For example, the US went to war with Iraq on the assumption that the latter possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). We now know that no WMDs were found. Wars were started presumably on the pretext of preserving peace and encouraging prosperity. The war, I believe, was started assuming that peace would prevail if only WMDs were removed. The war at least was not started to bring about unhappiness of the people. What was begun with the hope of bringing peace resulted in terrible tragedies, not just in failing to find WMDs. I believe that these happenings spawn terrorism. We must learn from the experiences of the past.
If Japan had decided at that time to change our Constitution and opened a way for use of force and engaging in collective security, we too would have become a target of terrorists. Involvement in any war will surely result in enmity and revolts.
Japan has been able to enjoy peace due largely to putting down arms and deciding not to fight wars.
We must humbly realize that as ordinary citizens there are matters concerned with national politics which are not clear to us. That does not mean however that we close our eyes and minds to matters that make us afraid and uncertain. We have to be involved because those things are about our country and are about the world to which our country belongs. In countries and regions where disputes result in combats, they may lead to terrorism and other challenges. Why are we Japanese spared? We must give it our serious thoughts.
When I ponder over these things, I recall the teachings of our founder. She told us that the insular geography of our country enabled it to develop its own unique history. By contrast, continental countries divided by national borders often ended up fighting their neighbors across shared borders resulting in histories of conflicts and tensions. We must be aware of this geographical and historical difference and see clearly what Japan can do to contribute to the world.
We cannot, as I said, keep our old mindset in the 21st century. Ours is a world full of challenges including abnormal weather and atrocious cases in the individual human relationship making us feel discouraged. We must keep our eyes open and be aware of all the things that happen around us, for that we are not in the state of using force does not mean that we have peace. What should we do then, and how should we live in such times?
We definitely live in a space age. But I am afraid that whole world especially our Asian countries seem to be caught up in narrow nationalism.
Those of us who are in our 40s and 50s belong to the generation expected to take leadership. We should remind ourselves of the kind of education we received at our schools. By that I mean the values we were encouraged to seek were to compete to achieve high grades and to develop skills to contribute to economic development. Such a society tends to marginalize people who fail to contribute to national economy. Senior citizens are also marginalized as they have little to contribute while families lose sight of the important roles to bring up children they are expected to play as basic units of our society. Our generation appears not to realize that we too will eventually join the elderly population.
Rene Descartes known for his mind-body dualism is said to be one of the major contributors to scientific revolution. It teaches to separate mind from body, and analyze, clarify and develop the material world, which today provides us with convenient modern lives.
Fifty or more years ago our founder was convinced that an alternative way of thinking could help us find a way out of our present situation heading towards a cul-de-sac living beyond the capacities of the natural world. She taught us the original spirit of Japan, the spirit that enabled us to keep peace for a long time.
Last year, the Ise Shrine celebrated its traditional ceremony, Shikinen Sengu. It is the transfer of a deity, ivolving the reconstruction of the shrine as well as the renewal of the sacred apparel and the treasures. In the same year, the Izumo Shrine completed its transferring deities to restored shrine. It was an unprecedented event that both shrines carried out the ceremony of transfer in the same year. What then were these two shrines? During the times of Ancient periods of Koji-ki and Nihon Shoki, two Shinto divinities were enshrined, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu in Ise Shrine while the Izumo Taisha (Shrine) enshrines the divinity of Okuninushi no Mikoto who was forced to hand over his country to the grandson of Amaterasu.
In other words, the people of that time enshrined both divinities, the then head of state and that of the defeated prince. It is interesting to note that Izumo Shrine is by far the more grandiose compared to the Ise Shrine. It is told that this was intended to still strong enmity and bitterness by honoring the defeated prince that then turns into protective deity. This respect for the defeated is seen in the spirit of the Japanese chivalry, the bushido. We observe that in Japanese martial arts, no athlete does a victory pose, and both the winner and the loser bows to the other with respect. This spirit is part of Japanese lives and culture.
Our founder was convinced that it was time for Japan to actively contribute to the peace of the world, as our gratitude for having learned much from the West since the latter part of the 19th century, the Meiji era. She taught us to rediscover the indigenous spirits we have as Japanese and to do our part in building peace.
After the collapse of the Cold War we did not see the end of conflicts, instead today it elicited terrorism. It is the notion of zero-sum game that result in bearing another grudge bitterness and therefore no end to it. As long as we humans around the world are wedded to this concept of "win or lose," we will never have the peace. At a time when our very existence is threatened by cruel incidents and horrific weather conditions, there is only one way out. That is to rid of the logic of "win" or "lose" and bring to the core of education, nurturing minds that can think from the position of others.
How do we do this? I think it is to rediscover an education based on the original spirit of Japan. Isn't this what Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education is teaching us?
All of us, including my country, the world and myself when we try to look back the issues in the past, we come to find that we have to take responsibilities. Japan enjoyed high economic growth from the 60s but today must face the challenges of coping with aging, aging of infrastructure, high-rise buildings, and rapid speedways, railroads we simply cannot walk away from these realities. This applies to nuclear power plants that began their operations in the 60s. The myth of safety that covered them is not broken even with such serious accidents. What is beyond my comprehensions is that they could have the sense to sell those nuclear power plants to other countries while the recovery from this accident does not seem to have any end.
Japan, which is the only country that experienced the horrors of the atom bombs embarked on the so-called peaceful use of the atomic power. But we find we cannot handle or control the power.
It is my earnest wish, given the many existing nuclear power stations in the world today, that Japan would squarely tackle this issue and take an initiative regarding the future energy need of the humankind. I believe it is extremely important to have this perspective. That's unrealistic, some people may say, but the reality is that we simply cannot control nuclear power plants. We must take that reality to our hearts.
I am afraid we are living in a world that our founder had foreseen and apprehended back in the 60's.
Our founder left us Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education as principles that would enable all of us to live together. Every one of us present here today have benefitted from her teachings. I know that the personal happiness we enjoy have not come easily.
We spent some time a while ago sharing our wishes for the New Year. We were inspired by some of the things that were shared with profound truths. One person said that as long as she blamed others for the undesirable situation, she agonized herself. She continued saying that when she saw in her causes that lead to bad situations and saw her own stubbornness that prevented her from opening her heart and causes disharmony, "The more I learn about myself, I realize how much people around me have forgiven and supported me... I realized that these reckoning with self made the world around me broader and broader." I believe that what she said was a shared experience of all of us.
When we change our perspectives of our way to live, our lives can drastically change. We try not to blame others for everything putting ourselves aside. As human beings we do not live in a vacuum, therefore, it is only natural to see faults in others. We are, however, learning to delve into ourselves more deeply in order to know how we relate to the cause of happenings. And this I believe is what Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education is teaching us.
I believe it is imperative that we should concern ourselves with our communities, the world and the times in which we live and learn to comprehend the lack of harmony at home, between husbands and wives, parents and children and among colleagues as the convergence of disharmony at the macro level. By recognizing that relations between husbands and wives and parents and children are the basic relations in our communities, we can start changing our attitudes at home at first, instead of blaming others for our own unhappiness. We can look deeply into our subconscious for causes that do not make us happy. Graduate yourself from the lack of ability to see things from the point of view of others, leave behind your greed. Know yourself -- someone who is all about you and begin to care for others who are close to you. In developing yourself in such ways you will begin to see warm family, and warm individuals. It is not easy of course. There will be quarrels and as a result we hurt others, and ourselves but when you begin to see your true self, you find that others are forgiving and that you receive so much support from them. This realization makes us feel grateful.
Start talking with each other. There is no other way to understand others and have them understand you. We must attempt to have this no matter how difficult the issues are, at the individual and national levels. Without our commitment to open a dialogue there will not be an understanding and harmony. The more concerns we have of our country and the world, we must begin where we are to check ourselves.
I believe what our founder meant by Japan's future challenge is to have a global perspective. An insular geographical condition as well as speaking the same language among a single race did not demand much verbal explanation. This long history has been engraved in our DNA so that we falsely believe we can easily understand without talking to each other. Precisely for this reason we need to try harder to engage in dialogue. When the language of communication is the same we tend to deceive ourselves that we share similar thoughts. We must make efforts to see clearly the differences that exist. This I believe is a major challenge for us Japanese.
Further, given the dramatic development of scientific civilization and very different social backgrounds between the three generations, my parents, my cohorts and my children we should be aware that we may be using the same words but actually mean totally different concepts.
Global perspective does not mean being able to talk English and travel and live abroad. It is all about accepting each other, not just accepting the others but to talk things out to understand the others. I believe it is this sort of attitude, which is important. It may not be easy but we must set this issue as our challenge in life.
It is important to be interested in what happens in the country and speak your mind about it. At the same time we should also be thinking of the role we citizens alone can play. Our founder showed us the way. If each of us decides to play a uniting role we will develop true democracy. What is needed is to know who we are, and to be responsibly engaged in things we see around us. This I believe is our learning material for this year.
Let us all look forward to take part in the third Gunma Regional Conference on Lifelong Integrated Education next month and the 11th International Forum on Lifelong Integrated Education in November here in Japan fully prepared to contribute to the collective wisdom as our founder had intended.
We must treasure our country and our planet earth. If we take interest in the times we live today, we will understand that our lives are endangered. Can we still give priority to economic values even with that knowledge? I believe not. Our lives must take precedence over economic values. Let us throughout this year give serious thoughts to know what is most important to us and to do what must be done in our respective places to prevent the situation from turning critical. We can then share with pride how we are changing our attitudes and our sense of values.
Thank you.
(D.G. Kaneko's greetings at the gathering on January 8, 2014)
Nomura Center for Lifelong Integrated Education
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