This week is my last full week as staff member of the Asian Rural Institute. On February 28th, I will take an airplane to Yamaguchi Prefecture and move to Kudamatsu City in Southwest Japan, where my partner Ayumi is waiting for me. We will start a new life together, focusing our energies on making and teaching art. We have been planning this for more than a year. While I am very sad to leave ARI, I am looking forward to taking our relationship to the next stage and to be able to work on my dream. Oh, and of course, if possible I want to continue Foodlife Work at my new home.

It has almost been three years since I moved from Tôkyô to Nasushiobara City, to live and work at ARI. I can’t find the appropriate words to describe the tremendous growth I underwent during this time as staff and community member of ARI, and how much I appreciate all the wonderful people who accepted me. This is truly one of the most inspiring places on Earth.

I arrived here on a cold day on March 26, 2011. It was two weeks after the catastrophic events of 3/11, the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake Disaster. I remember the violent aftershocks continuing for months on end and the fear of facing radioactivity from the destroyed Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (65 miles away). I remember how we supported each other, working like horses to cope with the situation. Slowly, we rebuilt, and reclaimed our hope. I will never forget the joyful moment of last year September, when we celebrated ARI’s fortieth anniversary with fifty extraordinary graduates on our beautiful new campus, an exciting moment that would have been impossible to imagine right after the disaster. When I see ARI today I see the miracle of God’s guidance, and believe firmly that he has guided me as well. Being part of this place makes me deeply thankful, proud and happy.

ARI 2013
Rice Harvest with members of the ARI commune and graduates. I’m in the center of the picture!

Now the time has come for me to close this chapter in my life and start writing on the next. But I’m not burning bridges behind me. Some of my graphic design and video work for ARI will continue. And not only do I carry many new friendships with me but the mission of ARI, and I will try to fulfill it in my own way.

Life is unpredictable, like an earthquake. I never plan beyond three years ahead. I follow where God sends me to. Starting a new life in Kudamatsu will be demanding. I know nothing about that place yet. But it’s a great chance to do what I actually want to do, living in accord with my values. I will use everything I’ve learned to create a meaningful life, serve others through art and finally return the riches I have received from you all.