Establishing a Long-lasting Bond with “ICU’s Whirlwind” ー An interview with the members of Nodamura ni ICU Senpu wo Fukiokosu Kai

In our 27th interview, we met the two members of the Nodamura ni ICU Senpu wo Fukiokosu Kai (Organization to Create a Whirlwind at ICU in Noda Village, shortened to Nodasen). Having deep connections to the Noda Village, a village located on the northeastern coast of Iwate Prefecture, the two members shared the basics of Nodasen and the discoveries through their Nodasen activities, such as the odds of using the term “rural revitalization.” We can consistently feel their passion for the Noda Village through their words. 

Please read the article to find out more! 

Q1. First of all, what kind of place is the Noda Village? 

Doi Noda Village is located on the northern coast of Iwate Prefecture, with a population of about 4000 people. The village is famous for the Araumi scallop, a Manganese ore called Marin Rose, the Noda Salt, which is made with a traditional technique, and wild grapes.

Furuya The Noda Village was also severely affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The tsunami swept most coastal regions, and many villagers lost their family members. In the village, there are also signs that show how tall the tsunami hit. 

Now that 11 years have passed after the earthquake, Noda Village is in a continuing revival. People no longer live in temporary emergency shelters, and commerce has been restarted and active. The physical reconstruction is complete.

However, as we talked with various people in the Noda Village, we recognized that the village is currently reconsidering what kind of village they want to build. Although much of Noda Village’s “identity” was swept away, there were several people in the village who were thinking about how to build the next Noda Village.  

After the earthquake, many volunteers visited a once closed-off Noda Village. Since then, people, including the village mayor, have recognized the fun and the worth of having “outsiders” be involved. Because our activities with the Noda Village started in this rebuilding phase, many people in Noda Village are supportive of us. 

The Noda Village is a place with many energized people. It is a place with very inspiring people with the mindset of “Let’s create something positive from what has disappeared. Let’s make our village by ourselves.” 

Q2. What kind of activities do you do as Nodasen? 

Furuya Our activities may be defined as “Rural development” or “Rural revitalization.” However, we do not want to use these terms as much. As a so-called “other” who just started to get involved in the village, we are looking for ways to apply values to the village with the “people themselves” while establishing a bond. 

For this reason, we do not have a strict agenda for our activities. I wish to create a room so we can be free to do anything if we enjoy it and if it achieves our vision and mission.

Vision: Build a permanent two-way relationship between ICU and the people of Noda Village

Mission: Deliver the virtue of Noda Village to as many people as possible while establishing a comfortable relationship in which we can deeply understand each other. Face with love and passion.

This year, we created a guidebook that we, as “outsiders,” can only create to rediscover and redefine the charms of the Noda Village. 

In making this guidebook, we conducted a study camp at Noda Village. Through our interviews with the people of Noda Village and the local festival that only locals can usually participate in, we have put together a guidebook based on what we’ve felt from the passionate people at Noda Village. 

We’ve focused on how we can see the village from the inside, so this guidebook differs from regular travel guidebooks that focus on the village from the outside. By illustrating the people of the Noda Village, we want people to be interested in the village and know about the village aside from sightseeing purposes. 

Our activities are to establish and continue our bonds with the Noda Village. To deliver the Noda Village to many people, we will continue to plan events that connect ICU students to people in the village. 

Q3. Why do you not want to use “Rural development” or “Rural revitalization”? 

Furuya Words like “Rural development” or “Rural revitalization” have a sense of making something negative into positive.  

However, by visiting the Noda Village and interacting with the inspiring and energetic people in the village, we started to question the standpoint of how rural areas are inferior places to be reconstructed. I believe that telling people that we, the people living in the city, are the ones changing the negatives of the village into positives is ignoring what the village already has. This perspective is lacking with respect to the beautiful aspect the village already has. Rather, we, as Nodasen feel very thankful to the people in the Noda Village for allowing and accepting us to get involved in the village. I want to create a non-hierarchical relationship with the village and create values together with them.

As part of our Nodasen project, we have what is called Reflection after our camp in the Noda Village to share what the members have felt through the camp. We also talked a lot about how the term “rural development” is not suitable for Nodasen in the Reflection. 

The founding member of Nodasen, Risa Furuya

Doi To be honest, I used the word “rural development” without questioning its meaning until I heard Furuya’s opinion on it. However, as I interact with people in the Noda Village through activities such as our study camps, I started to feel that what we want to do is not “rural development” but rather to connect and continue the bonds with the people in the village.

Furuya I feel that our activities as Nodasen are similar in some ways to Development Studies, which is my area of study. There is a premise that developed countries should interfere with developing countries to change something negative into positive. The class I took in the spring term, Norms of Development, also discussed the necessity of looking at what exists, not at what does not exist. One of the best things about initiating Nodasen is that I can put into practice the theories I am learning at ICU in Development Studies. 

Q4. How did you feel when you started this activity?

Furuya Our connection with Noda Village started when I applied to fieldwork designed by Professor Ken Arimoto, who was my professor last year, hosted at Noda Village. I participated in it because I was curious to see the current conditions of an earthquake afflicted area and hear the stories from the people. Nonetheless, I was utterly fascinated by the people, natural scenery, and food of Noda Village. Hironai-san, a staff member from the town hall, guided Noda Village, and we left Noda Village after conversing, “Visit us again” and “I will!.”

Incidentally, Hironai-san is still our biggest and closest supporter; Hironai-san even came to this year’s ICU Festival!

Regarding the date we initiated Nodasen, I immediately contacted students who were in the fieldwork at Noda Village the moment when I wanted to do it, and started our project on February 18th, 2022. 

What actually pushed us to start Nodasen was when I was scrolling through the ICU portal and found the JICUF (Japan ICU Foundation) Scholarship application. Every time I saw the application open for the JICUF Scholarship, I was constantly thinking about wanting to utilize the scholarship when I became passionate about beginning a project. 

Then, I recalled my last conversation at the Noda Village: “Visit us again” and “I will!”. This is easy to say, but creating lasting connections is very difficult. Calling back what Professor Arimoto told me that we are the media of this connection, I was determined to allocate the rest of my university life to this, Nodasen.

Q5. When do you find your project worthwhile?

Furuya I find this project worthwhile when the people of Noda Village accept us as a team. We hope to build a trusting relationship where we can relaxingly talk about anything. 

I am also satisfied when my friends in ICU get to know about Nodasen and become interested in it.

Moreover, I feel extremely delighted when the members of Nodasen tell me that they are glad to be part of Nodasen, feel comfortable with this community, and give new ideas. Since the students are involved in the project without payment, it should be something that they truly enjoy and are inspired by.

Nodamura ni ICU Senpu wo Fukiokosu Kai at the ICU Festival

Q6. What did you learn from this, and is there anything you would like to share to ICU students?

Furuya “What value can you generate by being involved?” This is a question I would like to pose to ICU students who are interested in contributing to society. We are persistently pondering this question. 

I also hope ICU students passionate about a particular topic will take action, no matter how small or big the project is.

Taking action is not that difficult. In fact, the chance of receiving resources to initiate a project is relatively high since not many ICU students take action. We consulted with Professor Arimoto on how to recruit new members. Also, just by browsing the internet, there are abundant online textbooks and free programs.

Over the past 6 months, I realized that there are aspects that you could not find just by critically analyzing it. This realization can be made even in small-scale projects like ours.

It seems that ICU is full of “analysts” with various backgrounds who excel at critically approaching topics. However, I believe that stepping outside your comfort zone would greatly enhance the value of ICU students. If more students could take action, even just a small step, ICU would become a more enjoyable and open university. 

Q7. What do you hope to communicate or advocate in society?

Furuya “Development” and “Revitalization.”

These terms have become very prevalent, but I hope people will reconsider what these terms connote. 

Our fundamental principle is to focus on the assets, not what is lacking, and question what we can do by getting involved.

To my mind, considering the assets and not starting from the problem changes how we view the world.

___What made you think this way?

Furuya Getting involved with the people of Noda Village was a major factor. In engaging with such energetic community members, we never thought of ourselves as “helping to develop the community.” I was in an environment where I firmly felt that “I want to do something together with them.”

Q8. Please tell us what you would like to do in the future!

Doi Since Nodasen is a new project we have just begun, we have been working hard to build a foundation this year. Nevertheless, our goal is to connect the relationship we started to cultivate. We would like to discuss with everyone our mid- to long-term goals for the next 5, 10, or even 100 years and move forward with the project.

Furuya Based on this year’s activities, we would like to thoroughly consider what we can do, redefine the significance of our activities, and enjoyably determine our next steps.

Until now, our projects have focused on how to add value to what already exists in the Noda Village rather than on how to solve problems. This is because finding and solving problems requires a deeper understanding of the history of Noda Village, the lives of its people, and their beliefs. That is why this year, the first year of the project, we have undertaken a project to re-discover and communicate the fascination that Noda Village offers.

We feel that we are a little different from so-called “activists” who have some special message for society. First of all, we are working to create a comfortable place through a small organization called the “Organization to Create a Whirlwind at ICU in Noda Village.” In other words, I want Nodasen to be a place like a sandbox where values are nurtured on their own from interesting chemical reactions of values that people bring. 

In the course of creating this year’s guidebook and talking with people in Noda Village, we have gradually begun to see the potential for change that exists in Noda Village. For example, we discovered the need to address the following concern: “since there is no place of employment in Noda Village, we are forced to go outside to work. It would be more fun if the villagers could get together during the day and communicate with each other while working.”

In response to this demand, we are exploring ways in which we can work together to find a solution to this problem, such as by creating a processing industry for scallops, a specialty of Noda Village.

Yet, our ultimate goal is to build a long-lasting relationship between the Noda Village and ICU students, where they can support each other and create value for each other. In the process, we would be very happy if we could be a part of helping to solve the issues in Noda Village.

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