Seeking Nature (JINEN) MIKA SAITO

Through mountain climbing and yoga, MIKA sensed that people are also part of nature.
  • Photograph:HAO MODA

The English word "nature" entered Japan around the time of the Meiji period (1868-1912), and was given the translation "nature. As a result, the word "nature" was given the sense that it is an objective object that is opposed to "human beings. The term "nature conservation," for example, reflects the awareness that humans should protect nature, the surrounding environment.

Moving to Hokuto City

We had always been mountain climbers as a couple, taking time to visit the Yatsugatake Mountains and the Alps from Tokyo. We knew that mountains would always be a part of our activities, and we had talked about wanting to live somewhere close to the mountains.

On the other hand, we wanted to be self-sufficient as much as possible, and to be able to provide our own food for our family. Since my graduate school was in the Graduate School of Agriculture, I was interested in agriculture. I felt that the best place to put this into practice was not in Tokyo. I decided on Hokuto City because there are permaculture designers who actually practice this kind of lifestyle, which is called permaculture. I plan to go to the Permaculture Center Japan in Fujino, Kanagawa Prefecture, in August to become certified as a permaculture designer.

Permaculture is a concept that originated in Australia in the 1970s. The term was coined by combining the words "permanent" and "agriculture," and it proposes concrete practices and designs for the purpose of sustainable farming and living. In Japan, workshops and other educational activities are held at the Permaculture Center Japan in Fujino (Midori-ku, Sagamihara City), Kanagawa Prefecture, and Permaculture Hokkaido in Yoichi Town, Hokkaido, so that people interested in permaculture can learn about it.

MIKA's interest in these activities stems from her graduate studies in food and nutrition at the Graduate School of Agriculture. After graduating from graduate school, she worked for a beverage manufacturer in a research position related to beer production.

I used to drink beer from 8:00 in the morning (laughs). I was doing that kind of research work, but I wanted to shift my focus to making a living more on my own, so I decided to quit my job and move to the area.

In Corona, there were times when you had to wait in line at the supermarket. I wondered if it was really a good idea to become like a "consumer" who cannot live without such things. I want to live a life where I can make what I can by myself.


Yoga I encountered on my travels

One of MIKA's roots in seeking a natural way of life is travel. It was on this journey that she came across yoga.

After passing graduate school, I took a year off to travel around the world on my own. It was unplanned, so I only bought a one-way ticket. But for some reason, I was only interested in India, so I got a visa in advance and set out on my trip. I was traveling around northern India for about three months when I arrived at a place called Rishikesh. I heard that this place was a sacred place for yoga, so I took one-on-one lessons for four hours a day for about a month, just to give it a try. I had an experience that really helped me to get in tune with my body and mind."

Having first encountered yoga in India, MIKA continued practicing yoga after returning to Japan. However, there was a period of time when she blanked out. However, when she became a working adult and was busy with her daily life, she suddenly remembered yoga again.

I remembered that there was yoga," she says, "and I resumed it. I was saved many times through yoga. When I practiced "bringing back to the present" when my mind was in motion, I thought, "Oh, yoga is good. That's when I decided to study yoga again.

MIKA became certified as a yoga instructor, and continued her energetic activities, including organizing outdoor park yoga classes that are easy to participate in, even under the Corona. We asked her about the appeal of yoga.

She replied, "I believe that yoga can help people to become aware of their happiness in the present. I think that everyone is looking for happiness outside, but when you bring your awareness back to the here and now, you can really notice the happiness that is overflowing in front of you. Anyone can maintain a state of calmness at any time.

For me, yoga is a tool to live better, and it doesn't matter how many such tools you have. For me, it's yoga, and mountain climbing, and reading books, and I think that if we can all use these tools to improve our lives, we can all live comfortably.

People are part of nature

After experiencing the richness of nature through mountain climbing and gaining inner peace through yoga, MIKA sensed that people are part of nature. This led to a rediscovery of the traditional Japanese concept of "jinen" (nature).

Nowadays, I think there are a lot of expressions about people trying to protect nature or people destroying nature, but essentially, people are part of nature, too. In ancient Japan, the word "nature" was written as "jinen," which means "the state of things as they are.

It is said to mean "the state of things as they are." The idea from the olden days is that nature is always close to us and is "just as it is. Therefore, if we can become aware of the importance of taking care of nature, just as we take care of our family and friends, we will be able to live "as it is. I believe that such a lifestyle is a good form of living. I am thinking about how I can help more people feel this way.

Traveling, mountain climbing, yoga, and farming are all connected in MIKA's mind, and a new way of life in Hokuto City has begun. I hope that her activities will lead to an increase in the number of people who can cherish nature and their own "as is" state of being.