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[greenyes] OFF TOPIC - Slow Life Movement - Japan


fyi

June 30, 2004


It Didn't Succeed, So Iwate Prefecture Decided to Give Up
Unprosperous Japanese State, Egged On by Its Governor, Goes Slow and Likes
It

By SEBASTIAN MOFFETT
June 30, 2004

MORIOKA, Japan -- Nothing was going right for the residents of northern
Iwate prefecture. Try as they might, the people of Iwate seemed stuck in a
poor backwater, with factories closing, shaky state finances and few
prospects.
So, three years ago, Gov. Hiroya Masuda sent out a bold new message: Just
give up.
"We don't make an effort in Iwate," Mr. Masuda declared in a nationwide ad
campaign that has run annually since 2001. Iwate should build traditional
wooden houses rather than modern buildings, he said. Instead of striving
like the big cities for economic growth, people should take pride in their
forests.
"In Tokyo, people are chased by speed, and life consists of working, eating
and sleeping," says the 52-year-old Mr. Masuda, who has local government
employees print the we-don't make-an-effort slogan on their business cards.
"Here, I want people to go home early in the evening, take a walk with their
family, and talk to the neighbors."
The wacky ads have been a hit. They boosted Mr. Masuda's standing in Iwate,
helping him get elected for a third time last year, with 88% of votes cast.
They also struck a chord with Japanese nationwide.

Opposing effort in Japan is as bizarre as disparaging freedom in America.
But since their economy slowed in the 1990s, many Japanese have started to
question whether their hard work was really worth it.
In the past, even average Japanese workers who devoted their lives to a
corporation could prosper. "If you graduated from college and worked
solidly, you would reach an annual salary of ¥10 million," about $90,000,
says economist Takuro Morinaga, author of a shelf of downshifting
bestsellers with titles such as "It's Cool to Be Poor." But now that not
everyone gets rich, "They think, why should they work themselves to death
for their company?" he says.
The same logic applies to regional economies. Poorer areas used to believe
they could catch up with Tokyo living standards, and the central government
helped with generous handouts. But this aid has been slashed, and while the
urban economies are taking off again, many provinces remain stalled. Iwate
people earn less than 60% of what people in Tokyo do, and the prefecture has
debts of about $9,000 per citizen.
Far from being derided, the four annual ad campaigns attracted a total of
23,816 overwhelmingly favorable e-mails -- mainly from women tired of trying
to cope with the strain of work and family. "Iwate is great for daring to
renounce effort," wrote one 42-year-old woman. "This really takes a weight
off my shoulders."
Actually, the most enthusiastic anti-effort people are former city-dwellers
who have rushed to Iwate to lead the slow life -- people like the governor
himself who used to work for the national government in Tokyo.
"...




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