And I thought South Africa
worked me hard!
As soon as I landed in Fukuoka
(Kyushu Island, Western Japan), I was warmly welcomed by Miguel Yasuyuki
Hirota (author of Alternative Economy ... http://www3.plala.or.jp/mig/econ-uk.html),
and immediately began to experience the generosity and hospitality
that Japan is noted for all over the world.
And there were those little
things that kept popping up, just so that I didn't forget where I
was. Like the taxi doors which would open and close automatically.
And the train seats which would swivel around to suit the direction
you wanted to view. And the heated toilet seats (it was winter) which
had so many controls in the 'arm rests' that it made you think you
were in an airplane cockpit. Unfortunately all labels were in Japanese.
And it took ages just to work out what you had to press for 'flush'.
But let me get down to my
LETS speaking agenda. I had arranged to stay in Japan for 9 days,
and my schedule was pretty full. Then as the days came around, more
meetings were slotted in, as more interest came in with regard to
So here's the end result
DAY 1 - Tuesday, November
FUKUOKA - I met with Sachico Kido, who's studying Community Currencies
at Fukuoka University, for her masters course. Basically a Q&A session
in a coffee shop.
DAY 2 - Wednesday, November
FUKUOKA - I was invited to have a traditional Japanese lunch with
Yukata Idemitsu, Chairman of IDEX (one of Kyushu Island's top 10 companies),
and Motoki Yamazaki, Chief Executive of the Finance Dept, City of
Fukuoka. We were joined by 5 other interested parties, who were all
keen to see how to introduce a Community Currency into the city of
Fukuoka. Another Q&A session.
FUKUOKA - I met with Miguel's
LETS group, Yoka Yoka. Ochishi Midori, who owns the premises, was
very hospitable, and took us for a quick tour around the city. She
is also a member of Yoka Yoka and has set up the shop (mostly recycled
goods) for sales in cash or community currency. This was my first
opportunity to give my full 'LETS Favours' presentation to a substantial
group of LETS members. Tono Shuichi, founder and president of Yoka
Yoka sent me an email of appreciation later that night!
DAY 3 - Thursday, November
NAKATSU - Travelled alone to Nakatsu where I was met by Iwata-san
(my new host and interpreter). On arrival, we went straight to the
LETS office of Fuku (pronounced foo-koo and meaning happiness or benefit).
Even though I only spoke to a core group of 3 LETS members, Takita
Kazuhide, owner of the shop premises, became so motivated that he
translated my presentation into Japanese so he could forward it to
all of his LETS members. I was later treated to lunch by some of the
members � which was paid in part community currency!
BEPPU - Iwata-san wanted
me to also meet with a student at APU (Asia Pacific University - which
teaches classes in English). This student had chosen to compare LETS
Systems with Community Currencies for his university studies. They
must work those students even harder than me. I only had a minute
with him, and then he was gone.
DAY 4 - Friday, November
OITA - This was Iwata-san's hometown. And I met with Takuzo Ohsugi,
a researcher for Institute For Hypernetwork Society, at 11am. He was
interested in two projects. Firstly, for his work, he wanted to see
how he could set up a communications system to enable LETS groups
on Kyushu Island, to interact and inter-trade. Then, for his own personal
interest, he wanted to set up his own LETS group. Our meeting only
went for an hour, but he was so impressed with the information I had
to share, that he stayed with us for the rest of the day!
YUFUIN - Yufuin is a small
town of 12,000 pop'n, and became famous when a TV crew chose to include
them on a documentary featuring LETS groups and Community Currencies
in Japan. And the program made a celebrity out of Urata-san, co-founder
and co-ordinator of Yufu, and a humble bottle shop owner. It was interesting
to see their leaning towards community currencies rather than LETS.
This enabled them to recruit several businesses in the town which
accepted 5-30% of their purchases in community currencies. A significant
amount of time was spent on discussing ways to provide food to LETS
BEPPU - Tatsuo Kurita, is
a prominent businessman in Beppu. But apart from his many business
interests, he's interested in protecting the popular hot spring wells
(2,085 in total!) which are a major tourist attraction for the area.
His interest is to start his own LETS group in the city, using his
Takegawara Club membership (300+) as an initial prospect list. After
my presentation, a collection was taken up from the audience to help
cover my travel expenses. This is the first time I've been paid cash
for a speaking engagement! After the meeting we were treated to another
Japanese meal. Gee these guys know how to entertain their guests!
DAY 5 - Saturday, November
Spent most of the day on a train bound for my next destination.
DAY 6 - Sunday, November
KAGOSHIMA - My hosts, Eiichiro and Akika, had brought me down to speak
at the Kagoshima Harvest Festival. This is a yearly event attracting
thousands of people. "You'll have 10 minutes to speak," I was told
the night before. This was a lot different to the 2+ hours presentations
I was used to giving. But I realised it was just a short talk introducing
the LETS concept to the locals. So at 11.50am, I got up on the main
stage with my interpreter, and spoke to 2,000 people! I'd love to
say that they were all paying attention, but that would be a little
white lie. However, we did get some interest, and 6 new members joined
the other 20 members of Kagoshima LETS.
DAY 7 - Monday, December
KAGOSHIMA - On my way to catch the train out of Kagoshima, I was asked
to meet a couple of people from the another LETS group. They had 100
members last year and were using 'egg' as their currency. Next year
they want to launch the 'green egg', but they need a co-ordinator
for their LETS group and can't get the cash for it. "Cash?" I exclaimed.
"You don't need cash to pay LETS staff. That's what LETS points are
for!" This was quite a revelation for them.
OHMATA - I was very impressed
with the premises of Coal LETS. They had handicrafts (made by handicapped
people) for sale in the front section, then the rear section was shared
comfortably by the admin. Section, computer tutorial desk and a restaurant
in the rear section (currently only coffees avail. for points). Hirata
Shoko, Coal LETS co-ordinator, was frustrated by the fact that they
weren't doing enough trading. She was almost embarrassed when I gave
her a couple of suggestions involving Trading Days.
DAY 8 - Tuesday, December
Took a daytrip on my own to Nagasaki. Unbelievable experience!
HAGOSAKI - Late that night
I met with Prof. Shigeru Imasatu for dinner at his restaurant. Next
year he'll be running for Governor, but currently he was responsible
for introducing 45 community projects in Hagosaki, and wanted to introduce
a LETS group into the area as well. Due to my late arrival, this meeting
went until almost midnight!
DAY 9 - Wednesday, December
Flew out of Fukuoka on my way back to Melbourne via Shanghai and Hong
Kong. But I missed both of my connecting flights! But that's another
Alternative Economy � (by
Miguel Yasuyuki Hirota)
Another study on the alternative
economy, proposed by Silvio Gesell, so that we can get rid of both
communism and capitalism. Including local money movements in Japan,
RGT in Argentina and Community Currencies Interactive. web: http://www3.plala.or.jp/mig/econ-uk.html