Bethel's House

Arrived in Hokkaido on April 16. Bethel’s House http://bethel-net.jp/, a community including adults with special needs, is renovating a café with natural building materials including straw bale and earthen plasters. Oiwa-sensei is the architect and I’ve been asked to lead construction of the straw bale portion. Kids mixing earthen plaster. Bethel’s House is located in Urakawa, 2.5 hours from the Sapporo airport. Shimono-san, a member of the community picked me up at the airport. Shimono experiences paranoia, etc. We had a great conversation on the way to Urakawa. So nice to spend time with people who don’t pretend that they’re perfect. Really reminds me of Kimberton Hills. On April 19 visited a timber-frame and thatch structure built by the Ainu Association of Hokkaido. The Ainu are indigenous to Japan. Kyle with master plasterer Mr. Noda on left and Mr. Jinouchi's son.Completed the bale raising and brown coat on April 22 and returned to Fujisawa City on the 23. Window of truthShimono drove me to the airport and we again had a great conversation. Shimono experiences paranoia such as thinking that he’s being observed when using the restroom, or being followed by police, etc. He also experiences television news as if it relates directly to himself. For example, after 9/11 he received baptism because he felt that he was somehow responsible for the terrorist attack. The beautiful thing is that Shimono can tell me about his experiences and laugh about them. He’s been a real teacher.

April 24, 25, and 26 was the third International Ecovillage Conference in Tokyo http://begoodcafe.com/main/ecvc2009. I’m told that it was the largest ecovillage conference in the world with nearly 1000 people in attendance. International guests included Ross and Hildur Jackson, founders of the contemporary ecovillage movement, Vinya Ariyaratne of the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka, and Kyoungsoo Lim, Chief Executive of E-Jang, a social enterprise involved with ecovillages in Korea. I was a volunteer staff member responsible for the care of Ross and Hildur Jackson. On the 26, I presented with Shinichi Tsuji, Yoshioka, and Mukaiyachi. Shinichi Tsuji is founder of the Sloth Club http://www.blogger.com/www.sloth.gr.jp in Japan and professor at Meiji College. Yoshioka is owner of Café Slow and working to establish a network of “slow” cafes in Japan dedicated to local and slow foods and fair trade and organic goods. Mukaiyachi is founder of Bethel’s House and professor at Hokkaido Medical University. The presentation was one hour and explored the incorporation of people with special needs in intentional communities. Yoshioka presented briefly on Elmore, a large community in Holland including people with special needs, I presented briefly on Kimberton Hills, Mukaiyachi briefly on Bethel’s House, and Tsuji lead a discussion. On April 27, Ross Jackson and Kyoungsoo Lim presented at Nihon University. After the presentation, we drove to Konohana Family in Shizuoka Prefecture. Konohana is a land-based intentional community of about 50 people ranging in all ages, and growing 250 different crops including 11 varieties of rice. On April 30 I returned to Urakawa, Hokkaido to continue construction on Bura Bura Café, the straw bale café managed by Bethel’s House. Bura bura suru means to hang out.The construction process is being recording in a blog written by Megumi, a member of the community. Please have a look at the months of April and May: http://mcmedian-urakawa.blogspot.com/.

On May 3 I returned to Fujisawa from Hokkaido, and the next day, May 4, I departed for Mie Prefecture. Hideto Oshima, a straw bale architect and builder, is building a straw bale home in Mie Prefecture for a client. I installed 12 temperature and relative humidity sensors, 9 within the north straw bale wall, one within the foundation, one sensor monitors the room, and one sensor monitors the outside environment. The primary purpose of the experiment is to compare two slightly different foundation systems. Both Oshima and Oiwa-sensei use a “U” shaped foundation with an air passage under the straw bale wall vented to the outside. Oshima separates the air passage from the straw bale wall with a layer of earthen plaster while in Oiwa-sensei’s design the first course of straw bales are in direct contact with the air passage below.

Finally back in Fujisawa. In addition to research, managing the student permaculture garden. Spring crops look real good! Research studio raises ukokke, a breed of chicken renown in Japan for its small, expensive eggs traditionally used in Chinese medicine. With chickens, who needs a tv?