SCI Japan, 1960-1964
When at Chuo University studying Law, a friend introduced me to SCI workcamp activities. I had no idea how this encounter would change my future life completely.
In the early 1960’s, all universities in Japan were heavily involved in a Mass Movement against the Japan-US Security Treaty. In Tokyo especially, demonstrations were organised by Student Unions almost everyday outside the Parliament Building.
I was interested to find out if I could do anything more meaningful than joining the marches on the streets. I started to doubt if we could make any difference by just demonstrating. Was any revolution or reform achieved in this way?
Studying at Chuo University began to look rather empty and unrealistic.
Then I had my first chance to attend an SCI work camp which was held in Niijima Island in Tokyo Bay. This experience did give me a deep impression as an experiment in human understanding on a small scale. This was it I thought, – I should be seeking more.
After that I did not look back. Nothing could stop me from attending all workcamp activities, short term and weekends. Going to workcamps became my priority rather than attending lectures! During this time, I had opportunities to travel extensively in Japan and also South Korea for its International Summer Work Camp held near the border with North Korea.
I also started to organize workcamps under the guidance of Sato-san and Phyllis-san. Both of them were living examples of how international understanding could be achieved through SCI movement. They did give encouragement and leadership whenever necessary.
SCI India, 1964-1965 for 10 months.
I took a French Cargo/Passenger boat – MM Line from Yokohama to Bombay – which took 3 weeks stopping at major ports such as Hong Kong, Saigon, Manila, Bangkok, Singapore, Colombo. At that time this was the cheapest method for volunteers to travel to Asia and Europe. Very slow but also an interesting way of travelling through the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean.
From Bombay to New Delhi I took a long train journey. I could see vast spaces and the people of the Indian Sub-Continent and this was such a good introduction to this fascinating country with so much history, many languages, races and religions.
My first assignment in India was Kasauli, Punjab where the SCI Asian Secretariat along with SCI Indian Branch had a long term project for Tibetan refugee children. This Nursery had been going for several years already and was well settled into the community of Kasauli. While I was working there, SCI India organised a Leadership Training Camp at a – nearby village and I was pleased to attend and meet other SCI India senior members and American and European long term volunteers.
The next long term project I was sent to was Hatibari Leprosy Colony located in the deep jungle in Orissa. Here I shared living and working with a Canadian agriculturist and a British nurse. This project was sometimes rather controversial as volunteers were left alone in this remote location working for leprosy patients without much support from the outside world and SCI India members. Still it had a certain character and meaningfulness just by sharing work and living with patients. Their daily lives were not at all different from the non-leprosy general population. Their happiness and sadness I did understand during my stay there.
From Hatibari to West Bengal was my next assignment. In a small village away from Calcutta SCI organised a short term workcamp to build a Community Centre. Several volunteers from Europe and the USA were there with me. It was so humid and hot and difficult to sleep as my bed was infested with bed bugs. In desperation I somehow drank unboiled water which, a few weeks later, caused complete hospitalization for 2 weeks in Ranchi, Bihar where I had moved to attend the next workcamp organised by Belgian Brothers and SCI group in Ranchi. This was a very big camp and I was keen to stay but had to be taken back to Ranchi University Hospital where the Belgian Brothers were based. My sickness was diagnosed as typhoid which meant I had to stay in bed resting completely until I recovered. My great relief was that I was not suffering from malaria which would have had a long term effect for life. While I was lying in bed, I dreamt of dying so many times. When I came through the worst time I felt I had become quite a different person. I thought I was now nearer to India, its people and their whole living.
My last workcamp was held by SCI Bombay group in Maharashtra. We were staying in the Sarvodaya Ashram in the village and building/improving the minor road into this village from the main road. This was very much a whole village affair and everyday there was a very big crowd of people along with SCI volunteers who initiated daily work.
National Secretary of SCI Japan, 1965-1969
As I came back from India after serving as an all round Long-Term Volunteer, I was just in time to attend the Annual General Meeting of SCI Japan. I was appointed to be National Secretary at this meeting and my busy life as the only full-timer started.
Straight back from India, I was very enthusiastic to organise all sorts of activities for SCI in Japan. As I started to live in the office as well, I was spending all my time organising weekend/short term/long term workcamps/projects as well as volunteer exchange programs. Some other members also started to live with me and consequently SCI Office became a communal living space not only for Japanese members but also foreign volunteers and visitors. Many people came and went but always our focus was to continue SCI activities along with local groups and international contact with IS, AS, ES and National Branches and like-minded organisations. International exchange of volunteers was also kept up with increasing numbers.
During these years the Asian Secretariat held by Sato-san and Phyllissan was also very active and Asian Secretaries Meetings were held twice a year either in India, Sri Lanka or Malaysia. On the way back from one of these Asian Meetings when I dropped in to the Asian Secretariat in Singapore, I had a chance to see Ann Smith who had just completed her long term service ( 15 months ) as an English Teacher in Bangkok and was on the way back to England via Japan and USSR. We did get on the same MM boat sailing to Japan. She did go back to England after staying for three months attending workcamps in Japan and South Korea and also helping in Shinsei Gakuen in Hiroshima (a Children’s Home which had a very close relationship with SCI Japan Hiroshima Group). She came back to Japan in December 1968 to marry me.
Kimpu Long term Project (Asian Regional Training Centre) 1969-1978
As SCI Japan had started this long -term project in 1965 with the first residential organizers Hiroshi and Tazuko Kashima, SCI’s relationship with Kimpu Community was well established and regular activities at Kimpu Farm had been on-going and getting to the next level development stage. As a newly married couple, we took this challenge and moved into SCI House in May 1969.
As this project was based in a cooperative dairy farm, I had to get involved in daily working on the farm. This meant that I had to join in the farm work representing our family as well as running the SCI Training Centre for volunteers coming in to work on the farm at any time and supporting volunteers going to be sent out to other countries as MTVs or LTVs.
Although the location of the Centre was very remote high up in the mountains (at 1500m above sea level, Kimpu was the highest farm in Japan), and the nearest village was about 8km away, we had a continuous flow of people coming and going all the time. Spring to autumn (April to October), were very comfortable with clean air and spring water but winter was very severely cold as the temperature in mid-winter sometimes dropped down to – 20 degree C.
As we were living in such a simple old farm house, there was no difference in the temperature inside and outside of the house. But we came to love this lifestyle and we managed to have 4 sons during 9 years of living at this place.
Our life there was very basic and primitive but our spirit was held high with the support of the 4 Kimpu families and all SCI members in Japan. During the course of 9 years of activities, we managed to receive over 5,000 people with more than 35 nationalities. We organised workcamps, seminars,training for Japanese and non-Japanese volunteers as well as keeping in touch with the Kimpu Community, Makioka Town and Yamanashi Prefectural Government representatives. We hoped that at least one other SCI family would join us on a long-term basis but did not succeed in this plan.
There was a branch primary school in the community which had 1 teacher and a few children attending. When our eldest son reached 6 years old, he started to go to this smallest school in Japan and his only classmate was a 9 years old girl from another family.
As a family with 4 young children under 10, we had to face the reality of our future life. The children, like the others in the community, would have had to leave Kimpu to be boarded out in order to attend senior school but unlike the 4 other Kimpu families we had no relatives living in that region. Apart from not wishing to send our children far away we had no personal funds to maintain them. Each Kimpu family received the same allowance for one man’s work in the dairy farm but while the other two-generational families had some private income from vegetables and rural bed and breakfast business we were fully occupied at home with the SCI project. We also had to think about Ann’s father who was getting old and living alone in England. Another reason for leaving this dearly cherished project was that we heard that the Prefectural Government had decided to build a dam whose waters would eventually cover the lower half of the valley including the SCI House and the Community Centre which we used for volunteer accommodation.
When we decided to leave this project in 1978 after 9 years, we worried that it was possible that SCI Japan might lose a significant part of its activities. Fortunately, Kitahara-san who had been a frequent volunteer with us for many years, decided to move to the project on a full-time basis. In May 1978 we moved to Wickford, Essex, England after travelling overland through the USSR, Poland and Germany.
Our long journey with SCI on a full-time basis had just finished but another interesting chapter of life was beginning to appear. I was 39, Ann 38, Tsutomu 8½, Sean 6½, Saburo 5½, and Hitoshi 4 years. We welcomed the arrival of our 5th son Simon in May 1979.
Apart from maintaining our links with SCI Japan, we have been active in the peace movement especially the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, since coming to England.