"The loss of connection to our inner self, the people around us and especially with nature is a root problem of our time."
By Joanna and Wolfgang Hafenmeyer
Part of the Future Makers series
Translator, source of information, agent of change, Junko Edahiro of Tokyo, Japan, is a fountain of hope in critical times.
Junko Edahiro grew up in Tokyo, got married early and graduated from the University of Tokyo with a Master of Arts degree in educational psychology. Following that, she accompanied her husband to the US, and learned English well enough within two years that she was able to work as an interpreter and translator.
Inspired by Lester Brown, Environmentalist
On her return to Japan, Junko learned about the ideas of Lester Brown, one of the legends of the environmentalist movement. She got to know him personally when she became the interpreter of his presentations and conversations during his tour through Japan. His conversations often revolved around questions of how to create a system of worldwide sustainability, and were both an inspiration and a rich source of knowledge.
In the following years, Junko translated about 20 books into Japanese, including almost all of Lester Brown’s publications. Translating was, however, only the beginning of her journey.
Junko became a mother shortly after, and motherhood became the spur for her most successful book so far: Get Up at Two in the Morning and You Can Do It All! When she put her daughter to bed at eight in the evening, she started going to sleep with her. And since Junko only needs about six hours of sleep, she took advantage of the new rhythm and got up at two in the morning. After she realized how productive the time between two and nine in the morning was – undisturbed by phone calls and emails – she wrote the much-read book about it.
Spreading the Ecology Good News: Japan for Sustainability
Proud of her bestselling book and still highly interested in the ecological movement, Junko’s started an email newsletter in which she compiled the most interesting and important news on sustainability that she had read and heard about Japan.
Over the next few years, she gathered more than 8,000 subscribers from Japan and abroad. In 2002, Junko therefore decided to establish a permanent news platform under the name Japan for Sustainability.
The basis of my work is not that I am against something, but rather I am for something. I want to support constructive dialogue. That is why my cooperation with partners from various enterprises and also public administration is so successful.
In practice, this means she and her team report on the positive activities of Japanese companies, the Japanese state and individual citizens in the area of sustainability. There is no time for charges and accusations. In addition, her experience in Japan has shown that when people actively contribute their own information to the organization’s work, the more valuable, highly informative news they receive.
Slow Life, Candle Night and More
In 2003, Junko initiated the “Candle Night” together with the movement Slow Life. Since then, about five million Japanese citizens follow her call twice a year and congregate at night under the free sky, simply to spend a few quiet hours in the light of their candles.
Junko’s other initiatives include EcoNetworks, Change Agent and e’s, which stands for: ecology, empowerment, energy, enthusiasm and Edahiro. The latter organization sells eco-products and offers courses for Japanese women supporting them as they make changes in their careers and lifestyles.
EcoNetworks offers translations and consulting services for Japanese companies in the field of communication. The focus here lies on corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
Change Agent takes things a step further. The aim is to train agents of change at a higher level. With the help of insights from systems theory and systems modeling, people are supported to induce changes in Japan on a large scale. Participants learn about theories and methods and are integrated in suitable networks.
One of Junko’s newest initiatives is the Web platform, “Children for the Future.” With its help she wants to educate the upcoming generation with regard to sustainability.
Mother, Activist, Role Model for Women
With all her activities, Junko wants to create a more livable and sustainable world, as well as be a role model for other Japanese women who still hesitate to become active in an area of their choice because they are afraid of societal pressures and the disapproval of others. Junko wants to show them that they can develop freely, even if this implies not fulfilling all external expectations.
And, even though Junko’s children are too old now to go sleep with her, she still gets up at two o’clock in the morning:
In the coming years, there will be some overwhelming and dramatic developments in the world. In this negative atmosphere, people will give up and despair. But I believe in the power of positive information and I want to provide a fountain of hope.
About the Authors:
Joanna Stefanska Hafenmayer is the Managing Director of “MyImpact”, an organisation focusing on helping leaders to realize meaningful careers through coaching and seminars, as well as assessment tools and publications. An expert in the development of corporate responsible leadership programmes, Joanna is also a member of the Board of “Öbu” – the Swiss think-tank for business and sustainability – and leads the Responsible Corporate Leadership (RECOL) Forum, a group of innovative global enterprises in this area. Prior to 2012, she was a member of Microsoft Switzerland’s Executive Board as their Innovation & Sustainability Officer. Joanna was selected as a First Movers Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
Wolfgang Hafenmayer is the Managing Partner of LGT Venture Philanthropy, with a mission to improve the quality of life of less advantaged people. To realize this mission, Wolfgang built a team of 25 investment managers and philanthropy advisors on five continents to identify and support organizations with outstanding social and environmental impact currently improving the quality of life of 7.9 million less advantaged people. Wolfgang has been an Investment Manager with BonVenture, the first social venture fund in German-speaking Europe, and helped set up Forma Futura, a sustainable asset management company.