Since 1981, the founder Isami Furuta (Isadon), has provided advice on various social issues and has helped to cure some mental diseases. Some of his patients became interested in the structure of our mind and this world. They realized that human activities have damaged the beautiful Earth, and that it is important to live in harmony with nature and all living beings on Earth. In 1994 twenty of them came together to found Konohana Family.
Kono means individual and Hana means flower in Japanese. The community pays attention to make the best of everyone’s individual personality and abilities to play an active social role in their strongest area, letting each individual bloom like a flower. Check out this video presentation to know more about it.
Konohana Family promotes simple lifestyle in harmony with nature and consider the nature as a school for learning about the universe where everything is interconnected. Community is fully self sufficient in terms of food to satisfy their vegetarian and mostly vegan diet. They actually produce 10 times more organic foods than they need and sell it to the locals for a fair price. Konohana Family doesn’t pursue profit, but aims to earn just enough to sustain a living by enjoying the process. From total 18 ha of used land, only 5% is owned by the community, the rest is given by locals in exchange of taking care of their land. There are about 300 different kinds of food such as vegetables, grains, herbs, fruits, mushrooms and tea. Some of these products are processed to make juices, jams, dried fruits, oils, honey, candles, flour, noodles, cookies. The community also produces miso, soy sauce, garlic essence and grow flowers. They had goats for cheese and still raise chickens for eggs. But as they are becoming vegan they gave up their goats and decrease the number of chickens from 900 to 220. The only reason they still have chickens is to have a classroom for kids and satisfy locals with allergies to industrially raised chicken’s eggs. Konohana Family has its own seed bank to ensure the food security and sells 50% of seeds on the market to spread the diversity. They have bee hives for pollination and develop their own effective local microorganisms to fight against diseases and pests. Instead of killing the environment with pesticides they bring more life and diversity to ecosystem to reduce the overwhelming presence of a certain type of life. One of the examples might be attracting ladybirds which eat aphids, that damage plants, or instead of throwing away the humanure they add some microorganisms to facilitate the natural decomposition that helps to avoid regular cleaning and bad smell in compost toilets. Feeding microorganisms with carbon that comes from green manures (freshly cut greens, wood chips, forest leaves) and adding it to the land helps to its continuous regeneration. The community aims to create a healthy soil for human health and healthy peaceful society. Nourishing healthy body and mind, the community value the spiritual pursuit of harmony between human beings. More about Konohana family’s philosophy you can read here.
We are all interconnected in the universe. Think about it when you make actions. Let’s organize a good welcoming for someone and most probably we will have a good welcoming from someone else later. Or for example, if you see someone or want yourself to become a rich person, think that if one person is rich most probably because many are poor. Limited Earth resources are shared among its habitants, making fair share cultivates an equal society.
Konahana family activities cover agriculture, food, economy, social relations, education, childcare, environment, art, and medical care.
Community leader Isadon is engaged in consultancy, education, advisory for new projects, Natural therapy program as well as field work. Natural therapy program aims to heal deviant behaviors, depression, alcohol/nicotine/drug addiction, and even schizophrenia. Thanks to positive energy and family’s care, connection to the nature, absence of stress, money issues, social pressure, bustle and clamor, many people get back to a helthy state of mind.
Konohana family members are gathered into different teams:
- Agricultural seeds and field team cares about crops, food production, harvest, transportation, sale, seeds conservation and species diversity;
- Beekeeping team ensures pollination and diverse honey types production;
- Cooking team provides meals to family members, processes food and organizes catering activities;
- Housekeeping team keeps everything clean and tidy;
- Childcare team is responsible for kids education, communication and care;
- Construction team builds and repairs houses, storages and common spaces;
- Housing management and medical care team provide and plan family’s housing necessity, manages administrative details and healing diseases;
- Office team is in charge of administrative affaires, finance management, paper work and external communication;
- Events and art team organizes diverse activities, performances and venues for family members, guest and local community.
People can change the team if feels happier and more efficient in another position.
Like in a family, the community shares what they have: common spaces, rooms, cars, bicycles, clothes, toys, etc. Money is shared too. That means there is no salary or money engaged, family members already have or produce everything they need, they earn money for community by selling food to local people, but it goes for satisfying their common needs or investing in the growth or paying some bills, such as electricity. They have some solar panels to generate energy and partly use wood fuel for cooking, but not yet autonomous in energy. Lately the government obliged the community to open a bank account for everyone for accounting and tax, but it is still used as a common pot. If there is something special is needed from the external world, for instance a computer, tools or building materials, the person who identified a need asks to the community and if necessary they use the money from the pot to buy it based on the common decision on daily evening meeting.
There is a feedback culture in the family. Here people see it as a way to learn about themselves, understand their emotions and ego. They accept feedback and are willing to change. For instance, if one notices that another has low energy for work, he will ask why and try to help. If someone seems tired, others would advise him to go and have some rest and when feel good again come back to work. Another place to exchange feedbacks, talk about daily happenings, plan the future steps, taking common decisions, and just be all together is community meetings. Being daily together maintain a good atmosphere in the family. There is a main kitchen and restaurant for lunch and dinner where everyone comes to eat at the same time. For guests and breakfast there is a shared kitchen in every house.
Here is description of daily schedule:
No breakfast, but if you want, you can have it.
7:30-12:00 Work with a break of 15 minutes around 10:15.
13:00-14:00 Free time or help cleaning the restaurant and washing dishes
14:00-17:30 Work with a break of 15 minutes around 16:00.
17:00-18:00 Public bath time (17:00-17:45 for women, 17:45-18:30 for men).
19:20-19:25 Konohana chant (pray).
19:25-19:45 Kids meeting (facilitated by one kid, then kids explain what they have done during the day, auto-organized by children, questions/answers with parents, cultivates confidence, responsibility and leadership skills).
19:45-20:45 Free time, dishwashing and cleaning of the restaurant, getting kids back home.
20:45-22:00 Daily meeting.
With such a tough schedule, this is so impressive to see everyone smile, joyful and happy. And actually experiencing it myself, it doesn’t feel so tough, but I feel a certain lack of freedom, even if the “rule” of the Family is “get tired, go to rest, when feel good again, welcome back to work”. But reading, walking or playing is not in the schedule. However, all the happy behaviors that you have seen in the video are true and the majority of Family members really act like this every day.
I think that the secret of Konohana family success is the family atmosphere and well-being mindset, everyone helps and cares about each other, people are open and share everything, there are no secrets and some time to share feelings with every member, people think how to make things happen. Community may be seen as an ants network with simple, useful, collective work having in return quickly visible and tangible results. Another point is spirituality inspired by Buddhism and cosmology. People think about themselves as a part of the universe and taking any happening as learning about themselves, emotion as a reaction from their ego to external factors. They see constant happiness as gratitude for anything what happens as learning to become a better self and believe that the world is guided by a good will.
One critical remark I may express is the way of cultivating crops. It is organic and productive, but sometimes machines are used, a lot of retained sun, water and work is needed.
Comparing the way to do agriculture I can distinguish:
- Industrial/conventional farming, which destroys the soil and provide a lot, but bad quality, low nutritious food, full of artificial pesticides and chemicals;
- Organic farming produces high quality, nutritious food, but takes a lot of natural resources such as land, water and workforce stealing it from nature and wildlife to create agricultural land, impacting the natural biodiversity;
- Permaculture, the way to recreate the natural environment, respecting harmony of nature or better help it to go in a natural way. That requires changing our diet using more locally available plants, fruits, nuts and mushrooms;
- Natural farming that demands the less effort and damage to the environment, but probably too difficult to produce enough food.
Here is the comparison of Konohana fields, organic, but looks quite industrial comparing to the nature itself, and another of the Permaculture center of Japan with beautiful, diverse, flourishing field, with a natural water source, many birds and various wild life.
I stayed in the Konohana family as a volunteer for a week. No matter if you are a volunteer or just a guest, you must start from a visitor’s journey which includes general presentation, fantastic vegetarian lunch, guided tour, welcome concert and accommodation for one night. It costs only 10000 yen. Then you can keep staying as guest for 5700yen per day or become helper and will have food and accommodation in exchange of your labor and opportunity to learn about the community’s life being part of it. You suppose to have enough stamina to work 8,5 full hours per day without any day off, respect schedule, bring clothes to work on the farm, there is no meat, alcohol or smoking allowed. If any of these rules are not respected you may be declined to stay as helper anytime. Possible works can be farming, cooking, child rearing, cleaning, etc. If you will have a chance, come to see how the family spirit community lives in self-sufficiency and happiness using alternative social formation, it inspires!
Facebook page to share the events and daily life of the Family.
Blog to communicate the most important ideas.
Monthly public events like Indian curry, Sushi Nigiri, 50’s American, Noodles and greens, etc. where you can learn about community and its products, listen a presentation of Family’s vision and lifestyle, try massage or acupuncture therapy and of course enjoy a great vegetarian meal.
Earth summit that aims to share ideas and define what kind of actions we can do next to the make the world a better place.
Volunteering to spread the way of life in the Konohana family via practical experience. Many volunteers being impressed by their experience write about it. Here are the Ecovillage desing education report and other feedbacks from volunteers.
Other examples of great sustainable communities