Place for Soil Revitalizing and Gardening

Another activity of the NPO is to revitalize the soil and grow flowers: they care for flower beds on the pavement along the streets in public places, and a pocket park at one corner of the Kasuga Intersection (Fig. 3.9). They take care of the flower beds once a week all year around, revitalizing soil with compost from under the bridge, planting out seedlings, raising plants, and clearing plant debris after the growing season (Matsumoto interviewed 2011).

Support Daily Activity Networking

Centered on their goal of the NPO, Bunkyo Ward, private companies, schools, Kougen-ji and local communities are in the network (Fig. 3.10).

The Chief of NPO recently expressed her satisfaction with NPO activities: she personally works with good companies, maintaining her health by riding a bicycle instead of driving, associates with committed citizens, enjoys composting (an activity that helps her feel close to organic networks), and receives much positive feedback as a result of the lectures she presents all over Japan (Matsumoto interviewed 2011; Matsumoto 2008).


Place for Soil Revitalizing and Gardening

1.4 Conclusion

In this study, we have reviewed two major concepts underlying the North American writer E. Callenbach’s thoughts expressed in his novel Ecotopia to discover ways to achieve a sustainable society in a specific urban region of Tokyo.

First, we examined two key concepts of Ecotopia, “stable state” and “home place.” The concept of “stable state” embodies the ecological condition of sustain­ability, whereas “home place” means Ecotopia, the fictional country, and represents a place where people support one another and practice a sustainable lifestyle. Thus, we define Ecotopia by reviewing Callenbach’s work and the work of two Japanese books written about the book Ecotopia by Naito and Mori: “Ecotopia is a place where human beings try to live harmoniously within an ecosystem.”

In the latter half of this study, we examined citizen activities in the central part of Tokyo to see if there was a possibility of living with a sense of “home place” in large cities. We studied the case of the Movement for the Preservation of Motomachi Park (Fig. 3.11) in the Bunkyo Ward. The Ward’s City Planning Division almost replaced Motomachi Park, overlooking the values that citizens considered important, yet the park was saved for the following reasons:

1. Motomachi Park and the closed Motomachi Elementary School represented historical, cultural, and ecological values. The park and school building consti­tuted valuable “commons” for citizens involved in the preservation movement and who shared a “sense of place” in the park.

Place for Soil Revitalizing and Gardening

Fig. 3.11 Motomachi Park. (Photograph by M. Kato 2011)

2. Motomachi Park was saved by many stakeholders, many different groups of people united to achieve a common goal: to accomplish this, Bunkyo Ward made the final decision to withdraw the proposal; the City Planning Council deliberated fully before coming to their conclusion; experts in many fields clearly emphasized the value and necessity of preserving the park; and citizen groups with different interests united to accomplish a common goal.

3. The Motomachi Park Preservation Movement was supported by multiple layers of citizen activity networks: movements, events, and daily activities. Each network had a unique goal and formation. People became acquainted through participation in daily activities and events. Participants became part of a network and bonded that network to other networks, which gradually formed multiple layers of networks with intertwined structures, energizing and strengthening communities.

The saving of Motomachi Park demonstrates that a citizen movement, organized on an as-needed basis when problems arise (such as the 2011 Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster), can strongly bring its influence from outside to bear on the decision-making process of a public agency. The saving of Motomachi Park may be a small, local issue, but it is one that has a significant meaning for our society. Yet the preservation of the Park is a rare case in Japan, and as Callenbach suggests (Callenbach 2008), we should take it as the appearance of “green cracks” in the congested urban environment. An important challenge to urban ecology could start with such small green cracks.

To conclude, we would like to consider whether it is possible for Ecotopian principles to emerge in large cities. An Ecotopian living style is possible if people try to live harmoniously and sustainably within their existing ecosystem. To do so, people need to experience an awareness of themselves as part of a local organic community. In an urbanized area, people need to find their “home place” by exploring the local ecology, geography, history, culture and community. Nothing sensational, but it must have been what Callenbach hoped to show through the explorations of Weston, his journalist from industrial society, who came home to Ecotopia.

Updated: October 3, 2015 — 3:08 am