Today I spent the afternoon and evening at Kurkku’s compound, meeting amazing people, and doing a performance and booksigning in their bookstore. When Koki Aso and I arrived, the bookstore had stacked Japanese Living on the Earth books, all three of my CDs and organic cotton Living on the Earth t-shirts on a table out front, and the staff members were decked out in Living on the Earth t-shirts, too.
I was interviewed by Wakana Mori and Keiko Kamijo, sprightly staff members of Ecocolo, a magazine for eco-babes under forty. They said, “Our readers live in cities. What can they do if they can’t be permaculture farmers in the country?” I pointed out what I learned from permaculture teacher Toby Hemenway: City dwellers create a much smaller ecological footprint than country dwellers. They use less petroleum to commute and to have goods delivered to them. They live in smaller spaces and therefore use less energy to heat and cool. They are also more likely to live close to people of like mind.
But, what, they wanted to know, did I specifically recommend to their readers. I said, “There are three things. First, take care of yourself with organic natural foods, exercise, natural products, sustainable living, creative pursuits, and whatever helps you find serenity. You will need all the strength you can muster to deal with what is ahead in your life. Secondly, you vote with your money every time you spend, so patronize earth- and labor-friendly businesses and avoid the others. Thirdly, get involved in saving the environment and the social fabric around you. Do whatever you can. I think that political action is simply resistance to the super wealthy who are trying to take control of the resources that rightfully belong to all people. The advantage of the people is that we are numerous. If you can organize people, do it. If what you can do is more direct service to the people or the environment, do that. One person can make a huge difference in this world.” I told them about Jaime Lerner’s visionary green city planning in Curitiba.
Clothing designer Aya Noguchi loves Living on the Earth and wants to create an organic cotton fabric printed with illustrations from the book, and make clothes inspired by the patterns in the book. Of course I say yes. I’m looking forward to wearing her creations when I perform!
I did wear Simple Shoes when I performed tonight. They make very comfortable and sustainable shoes with soles of recycled materials and uppers made of hemp. I now happily own a pair of their hiking boots, their clogs and their thongs, which I’d been admiring at Whole Foods for quite some time before coming to Japan.
Soshisha Ltd. began publishing Living on the Earth in 1972. The Soshisha staff brought me two copies, hot off the press, of the brand new 17th printing of the book. Yoko Suzuki, of their sales department, told me after my show, they have sold over 37,000 copies to date, a respectable number for Japan, and will continue to publish it for as long as they remain in business. Who tells an author that? Nobody.
I am super pleased to see again Mr. Masao Kase, the former chairman of the company, now retired, thirty-two years after the book tour Soshisha arranged for me that was my first trip to Japan. Mr. Kase died not long after that meeting – I was very moved that he took the time to see me again after my long absence from Japan.
The Kurkku staff and I together planned a menu for my show and booksigning event: brown rice mochi with sweet or savory toppings, plus ginger tea. Their gourmet kitchen has outdone itself, creating bite-sized handmade mochi with pumpkin paste and a black sesame/miso paste for toppings, and a multi-spice, sweet ginger tea. That’s Chef Hisae Daikokuya placing pastes on the mochi, and cafe service staff member Jun Nagamori behind her.
Jun elegantly plated the mochi and ginger tea on small wooden trays.
I sang nine original songs and told stories from my life, particularly those related to the creation of Living on the Earth. Tomomi translated for the audience. After the show we had a question and answer period. One woman asked me, “When do you experience oneness with the Universe?” I said, “Right now I’m feeling at one with the Universe, because I am loving all of you and you are loving me. God is love, and when we love, God is flowing through us.”
The Kurkku staff estimated 90 people in the audience. Standing room only! Some of the people look rather dubious about my having photographed them, but after the show, many brought me books and CDs to sign, told me how important my book had been in their lives, and some brought me art objects and CDs they had made. I would have happily spent the rest of the evening in conversation with any one of them. I was having a peak experience.
After the show, I briefly met record producer Takeshi Kobayashi, the visionary and benefactor of Kurkku and Artist Power Bank, a handsome and soft-spoken man. I am grateful that he and his staff made this day possible for me. It was a dream come true.