Sumitomo Cultural Forum 2006

“Sumitomo Cultural Forum 2006 ‘How we live in this period’ ” was held by Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee at Izumi Garden Gallery in Minato Ward, Tokyo on October 28th, 2006.

This forum was started in 1979 on the theme of “How we live in 80’s.”
Then, the forum was held 10 times having the panelists of intellectuals from various quarters in search of how to live in the period. The forum was stopped once in 1985. However, it resumed because a significance of the forum was evaluated again.

On the theme of “How we live in this period,” we discussed for 3 hours about how we should live as Japanese in the present which various problems such as racial confrontation, economy to become borderless, aging society and weakening of educational system occur both at home and abroad.

The panelists were writer Taichi Sakaiya, critic Eiko Ooya, Kenichi Matsumoto and literary critic Kazuya Fukuda.

At the beginning of the first half, Mr. Sakaiya, who chaired the forum, analyzed that Japan after the war has promoted the system of bureaucratic initiative and excessive concentration aiming for modern industrial society but its sense of value was greatly changed. He said, “We used to find happiness in material abundance in the former society but now it has been transformed into ‘wisdom value society,’ that is, a level of satisfaction becomes a yardstick for happiness. I would like to think about appropriate way of living in the period of this new sense of value with other panelists.”

Mr. Matsumoto, who is famous for a criticism of political thinker of the Showa era, said, “It’s going to be important to change in thinking from ‘private’ to ‘public.’
Although Japanese people have got the present economic prosperity after the war by searching for the ‘private’ individual right and desire instead of the lifestyle of ‘self-annihilation for the nation’ before the war, historically the civilization to search for ‘private’ only ruins sooner or later.
The society with a high level of satisfaction is related to the view point of ‘public’ and an importance of education and a fullness of regional mutual aid are valuable.”

On the other hand, Ms. Ooya, who was a member of Promotion Committee for the Privatization of the Four Highway-Related Public Corporations, talked as follows on the base of her career involved in Japan’s structural reform.
“‘Society with many choices’ has a high level of satisfaction.
Everyone was needed to be equal in poor times to raise the level of the whole nation.
However, individual consciousness has become important at the diversifying present time.” Matured individuals, who can own their yardstick without comparing to someone, think, choose and take responsibility, are changing the world.

The youngest panelist Mr. Fukuda who is active as literary critic viewed modern time as time of mass production and consumption and the keyword of the time to come is “sustainability.” With an example of town at Edo period, he analyzed the reason, why it was developed stably for a long time, was sustaining the community of an appropriate energy scale. He ended with “Creating a community of well-developed self-government with less effect of public power will lead to the society with a high level of satisfaction with an eye to the next generation.”

At the second half after break, we discussed about concrete way of living with the keyword of “individual”, “community” and “education” in each remark.

For the time to come, it is important to “establish the thing’s value standard not by an economic affluence only and owe a reason or backbone with desire” (by Mr. Matsumoto) and “create a small scale of society like a town at Edo period” (by Mr. Fukuda).
“Napoli in Italy is a good example because people live and work at the local area to have no commuting hell. Less stress results in a high level of satisfaction” (by Mr. Fukuda). This kind of society is able to be realized by the technology such as internet.

Also, concerning the education for the next generation to form that kind of society, Ms. Ooya said, “There are differences. We need to regard the individual’s opinion highly saying it’s more interesting to have a difference.
If we don’t promote the education to accept diversification, we have no future.”

Mr. Sakaiya ended the forum as follows, “You can start from looking for something you like to escape from living of modern industrial society.
If you can create a standard of judgment for what you like inside yourself, you don’t have to compare to others to judge a level of satisfaction.
A level of satisfaction is higher and sustainable because what we like doesn’t make us tired.
Let’s look for something you like right now.”
On the day of the forum, about 450 observers who are particularly in their 50s or 60s listened to each speech of panelists enthusiastically taking notes and nodding sometimes.
Mr. Mitsuru Iba, Secretary General of Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee, the organizer of this forum, said, “Sumitomo Group does various activities for corporate social responsibility and it get more active nowadays, we planned this forum to try to do something new by the whole group.
If this forum is evaluated as successful, we’d like to continue 3 or 4 times from now on.”

Taichi Sakaiya, writer
Eiko Ooya, critic
Kenichi Matsumoto, critic
Kazuya Fukuda, literary critic
Mitsuru Iba, Secretary
General, Sumitomo
Group Public Affairs