Slowing down for Sustainability, even in Japan

A recurring thought in my mind with regards to sustainability is the role of time. We are doing things faster and faster, absolutely accelerating our way to the end of society and the biosphere as we know it. Aided by fossil fuels and interaction technology (like the web, mobile phones), even those trying to create a sustainable future are working themselves to death (the Japanese even have a word for it – ‘karoshi’) in a frenzy of activity.

There is a book on the topic that I just read, contemplating the various ways in whihc time relates to sustainability. It’s called ‘About Time’ and is available from I don’t think it is the best written book, and think it had the potential to be more than it is…but it was just what I was after.

It’s SO EXCITING to here that many people have taken this a step further than writing a book about it, and actually committed to making ‘slowing down’ and ‘simplifying’ the driving force in their lifestyle choices. It’s a real tension in myself…knowing that taking time to reflect and enjoy other things is so important, but being so excited and enthusiastic about doing things. If you look at the links below, some of the Japanese organisations have sort of turned this around to emphasise the relationships that you can develop (with yourself, your commuity, or with nature) by slowing down, rather than the slowing down itself. Relationships instead of things. Beautiful. And it is starting to work for me : )

Below are a few links and descriptions from Japan that may help you explore this fascinating and, ultimately, deeply personal topic. It’s inspiring that not just individuals, but whole cities in Japan, and whole regions in Italy that have adopted various ways of slowing down.


There has been increasing reconsideration of present lifestyles in Japan, and a shift away from economic efficiency and towards a slower life and peace of mind. Slow society activities recognize the fundamental interconnections between things, which makes the roots of problems clearer. And slowly working to rebuild the connections that have been damaged e.g. focusing on re-building the links between children and nature through experiential learning (e.g. visiting wetlands), and having cooking competitions using local ingredients, then comparing the taste to those grown in other regions.

– The Japan Junior Chamber of Commerce, with 46 000 members who aim to link small local cycles and big global cycles achieve a balance in which people and people, humans and nature, present and future are organically connected in a time frame of natural cycles and through relationships without the mediation of goods or money.

– Iwate prefecture put the following message on the back of it’s business cards: “Do you feel restless when you’re not busy? Do you feel uneasy when you’re not working hard? You don’t have to live that way!”. This was part of a range of measures flowing on from their “Take-It-Easy Declaration” in 2001 to launch a movement away from the prevailing ethos of economic efficiency.

– Kakegawa is another example of one of 20 prefectures around the nation that have adopted slow life as their guiding principle.. declared itself a ‘slow life city. *In the late twentieth century, Japan valued and pursued the “fast, cheap, convenient, and efficient” life that brought us economic prosperity. However, it also caused problems such as dehumanization, social ills, and environmental pollution. We would like to move forward, with the slogan “Slow Life,” to achieve “slow, relaxed and comfortable” lifestyles, and shift from a society of mass production and mass consumption, to a society that is not hectic and does cherish our possessions and things of the heart.”

– The practice of the “Slow Life” involves the following eight themes:
SLOW PACE: We value the culture of walking, to be fit and to reduce traffic accidents.
SLOW WEAR: We respect and cherish our beautiful traditional costumes, including woven and dyed fabrics, Japanese kimonos and Japanese night robes (yukata).
SLOW FOOD: We enjoy Japanese food culture, such as Japanese dishes and tea ceremony, and safe local ingredients.
SLOW HOUSE: We respect houses built with wood, bamboo, and paper, lasting over one hundred or two hundred years, and are careful to make things durably, and ultimately, to conserve our environment.
SLOW INDUSTRY: We take care of our forests, through our agriculture and forestry, conduct sustainable farming with human labor, and ultimately spread urban farms and green tourism.
SLOW EDUCATION: We pay less attention to academic achievement, and create a society in which people can enjoy arts, hobbies, and sports throughout our lifetimes, and where all generations can communicate well with each other.
SLOW AGING: We aim to age with grace and be self-reliant throughout our lifetimes.
SLOW LIFE: Based on the philosophy of life stated above, we live our lives with nature and the seasons, saving our resources and energy.”

Other ones to check our are:

Slow Food especially the link in the bottom right to slow food for biodiversity!

Or, a very popular book ‘In Praise of Slowness : How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed ‘ by Carl Honore


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