To help transition Japan to a peace promoting post-carbon country while enjoying every step of the process.
僕のビジョンは、祖国日本で、平和文化を育みポストカーボン(Post-Carbon) 社会を促進してゆく事です。

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Permaculture in Japan (resources and sites to see)

Updated 2016 updated elements highlighted
Updated after April 10, 2014 updated elements highlighted
Updated Dec 19, 2013 updated elements highlighted. Descriptions about blogs added.
Updated Oct 29, 2013 updated elements highlighted




Hey, so I get an inquiry once in a while about where to check out for permaculture in Japan. I decided I'd try to organise what I've found so far. It's not comprehensive but its a start. Feel free to comment with additional info that you have, or if you found it helpful! (that'll motivate me to keep doing this stuff).

Basically, the Permaculture movement in Japan is still young and very little info is available in English. Not a lot of people seem to be doing permaculture (as a design method) beyond organic gardening, herb spiral making, and reskilling in the arts of miso making or natural clothes dying. It's not that impressive if you just look for capital "P" Permaculture. I also question whether importing Western-style permaculture elements really makes sense in the Japanese context. There is a difference between looking permaculture and being permaculture.

I would say permaculture has been practiced in Japan for hundreds of years (if not longer). The best practitioners alive often seem to be the really old rural farmers, carpenters, artists, etc who are dying without having a chance to pass on their wisdom. Many of these people have never heard of Permaculture, but they live it. You can find elderly villagers that are more than happy to share with you their amazing skills and knowledge, which are quite ordinary for them. In older districts of Tokyo, there are areas where cramped old wooden houses stand with impressive vertical gardens, rainwater catchment systems, and elaborate fire prevention strategies which are some examples of urban permaculture.

The natural farming movement is perhaps one of the most impressive things, permaculture-wise, happening in Japan. There are a lot of different people and styles involved. My favorite is Yoshikazu Kawaguchi in Nara prefecture who is an amazing natural farmer and human being. He founded a natural farming school in Mie called Akamejuku where several hundred people every year learn to do natural farming by doing it. The general idea is no fertilizer, no pesticides, no weeding, and no digging (in practice these are not strictly followed and the principles are quite nuanced). So, don't miss out on doing some natural farming with experienced masters spread all over Japan.

Key words to look into: Edo, satoyama, shizenno (natural farming)

A few resources you can start with
Blogs by foreign permies in Japan and a few extras
  • Dion Workman: Kiwi permy living in Izu with an excellent understanding of plants, food forests, and low-income living in Japan
  • Kyle Holzhueter: Young straw-bale home builder with a PhD in the subject. Offers workshops in various countries but resides in Japan
  • Ken Elwood: Permy in Nagoya area with a very well-done website and lots of projects
  • Phil Cashman (website is more updated): Cool Irish-Japanese former carpenter who is a hub for permaculture action in Japan
  • Cecilia Macaulay (mix of Japan and Australia articles): The most beauty conscious permy I have ever met. Cecilia specialises on balcony gardening and share-houses.
  • Cecilia's website that includes some projects she did in Japan
  • Article on permy artist duo Namaiki. All I know is that they do cool stuff.
  • Tokyo DIY Gardening: just found this an it is awesome!!! Must check out.
  • Edoble: through the site above I found a Tokyo food foraging group. How cool!
  • Byron Nagy: up-and-coming permy starting a permaculture village empire
  • Tokyo Green Space

Below are a few recommended places for sustainable living and permaculture interest. Most places don't have English information yet, and the hosts probably don't speak English either. But, with enough enthusiasm and resourcefulness, I'm sure you can make a visit work.
** means I haven't been there yet.

Sumida ward, Tokyo (North of Skytree) 墨田区
  • Mukojima
  • Kyojima
Walk around the neighborhoods and get lost on narrow meandering paths sandwiched by old wooden houses. You'll find impressive vertical gardens, rainwater harvesting systems, and other interesting features of old urban Japan. The less straighter paths leads to more interesting finds. The meandering narrow roads are former rice paddy paths. This area was saved from the US fire bombing and incinerated Tokyo during WWII.

Shitamachi Museum, Ueno 
Good place to get a sense of Edo period permaculture. Very resource efficient living designed with almost no waste. It's small museum but there is a lot you can learn.

Commune 246, Omotesando
Mini-Portland. Its consumption based but creative and the company runs a farmers market at the United Nations University nearby.

Ginza Bee Project, Ginza
English article:

Dion and Asako's Shikigami homestead CLOSED
For Permaculture in rural Japan, this is my number one pick so far. Traditional homestead slowly enhanced by their edible forest gardening. They are well-versed in permaculture and knowledgeable about traditional Japanese farm-life.

Check out

Fujino station 藤野
Fujino is a hotspot for alternative culture in Japan. They host the Permaculture Center Japan (PCCJ) which is probably the first permaculture hub in Japan. Many of their graduates have started interesting projects in Fujino, like Transition Town Fujino (TF) that was featured in the documentary In Transition 2.0. The PCCJ site hasn't impressed me yet, but graduates have done some cool housing designs such as the Satoyama Nagaya.

The vibrant TF movement is worth checking out.  They've developed a solid local currency called yorozuya, a forestry group, a young farmer group, and an energy group called Fujino denryoku. Fujino denryoku has been working on creating alternatives to centralized energy systems after the Fukushima nuclear disaster (still continuing). They have developed a solar electric scooter station, they are trying to provide 100% solar energy for a school building, and are looking into community scale micro-hydro systems.

There is also a guy I hear often about named Bryan Whitehead who makes kimonos starting from silkworm eggs. Check out the article below, it's quite amazing.

My friend Byron Nagy is starting a permaculture homestead in Fujino. He might have an internship program in the not so distant future, and probably could use skilled help. Another friend Shiori (21) built herself a mobile home (hut on wheels) and is starting to practice permaculture on Byron's land.

The project is called Umbrella Pine Permaculture

Nihon University: Center for Natural Environmental Sciences, Koji Itonaga Laboratory

Cafe De La Terra (Totsuka) カフェデラテラ
A hub for the slow movement in Japan. Really cool straw-bale temple.

Gokan no Mori Permaculture Preschool (by Phil Cashman and co.)

Sansu Asuke Yashiki 足助屋敷
This is a educational "theme village" that recreates an old artisan village. The buildings are made in the traditional manner and various artisans inhabit the village during the day making charcoal, wooden bowls, baskets, water buckets, metal tools, silk kimonos, etc. The crafts-wo/men are very friendly and will gladly teach you their skills. It is a business that allows for crafts-wo/men to make a living in modern day Japan. It feels like a romantic recreation of traditional rural Japan. Located in a very beautiful area where you can venture deeper into the mountain for a more "authentic" experience if you please.


Tokurinji Temple (Aioiyama) 徳林寺
This is a zen temple with a radical abbot who is always starting up new projects. He has a strong connection to Nepalese culture and has built two naan ovens. Other projects I've seen are a giant water tank, PV array, cob oven, organic garden, and a minna no ie (a place to demonstrate sustainable living).  They also have meditation practitioners from around the world and a donation based dorm.
Blog (more update):

Time to get lazy for now.....

Adams Guild**

Misumi Ecovillage Saihate 三角エコビレッジ

Annapurna farm** アンナプルナ農園

Ureshipa farm** ウレシパモシリ自然農園

Shimosato farm 霜里農園
This is a legendary farm, known to be one of the original CSAs, and is a comprehensive organic farm. They are a central driver of the agroecology movement in Japan.

Miracle Apple **(naturally farmed apple orchard) 木村あきのりの奇跡の林檎

Yoshikazu Kawaguchi (natural farmer) 自然農の川口由一

Akamejuku (natural farming school he started) 赤目塾
I have an article I'll post soon

Toyouke no Mori

Phil Cashman's site

Kamogawa Yoshiki Hayashi's home and Earth Living School

Kamogawa Okoku** 鴨川王国
Article: (look toward the end)

Permaculture Azumino パーマカルチャー安曇野

Hotaka Youjouen 穂高養生園
Holistic resort with magnificent green buildings

Asian Rural Institute** アジア学園

Fuji Ecopark**

Misumi Ecovillage
English profile:

Bunch of others but too tired now. I'll keep updating when I can.


  1. I'm really happy that you are putting this list together. A great resource!

    Resurgence Magazine was looking to introduce Kawaguchi-san to a wider English audience, and asked me to write something on him. The article is also on the Kyoto Journal webpage:

    1. Great! I'll add that to the contents.
      Thanks ted

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  2. thanks for this!! it's a great resource.

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  5. Hi there! I've been composting on the rooftop of my building in Osaka where we run a yoga studio for the last few years, so I was really interested to find out about permaculture, but I also wanted to find resources closer to home and examples of what works in Japanese climate, so your blog was a great find! Thanks.