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現在位置: Wall Paper Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan Interviews Vol. 5: Creating Jobs to Rebuild Eastern Japan: “Heavy Equipment License Project”

Vol. 5: Creating Jobs to Rebuild Eastern Japan: “Heavy Equipment License Project”

Takeo Saijo’s innovative ideas for Japan’s recovery


Itoi: I would like to ask you a bunch of questions today. What other projects are in the works?

Saijo: Well, one example is a “Free Heavy Equipment License Project”

Itoi: Heavy equipment.

Saijo: Yes. This project also has an interesting story to it. The day after I set up the framework to support individual houses in Minamisanriku Town, I wanted to try out the same support system in Rikuzentakata City as well.

Itoi: Yes, yes.

Saijo: Due to the strong local community network in Rikuzentakata, it was more important to create jobs than to support isolated individual houses. Even though everybody was saying so though, nobody had any specific plan.

Itoi: Oh.

Saijo: I had already thought of the “Free Heavy Equipment License Project” so I explained this idea because there are mountains of debris to remove in the devastated areas…

Itoi: That idea is brilliant!

Saijo: Many of the people in shelters have plenty of extra time, so we encourage them to acquire licenses. Once they have licenses, they will be able to take part in restoring their hometowns with their own hands when the reconstruction activity starts.

Itoi: Yes, yes, yes.

Saijo: The point is, they can continue to live in their hometowns.

Itoi: It sounds like a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone solution.

Saijo: And luckily, there was a driving school with a heavy equipment license program located just north of the devastated area in Rikuzentakata. It is one of the only four such driving schools in all of Iwate Prefecture.

Itoi: Aha!

Saijo: So, I asked them to take me there. Then, during the ten minute trip to the driving school, a friend who had been a few years ahead of me at my high school, called and told me that a company had heard about Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan and wanted to donate five million yen (approximately $65,000*) to us.

Itoi: Wow.

Saijo: This was perfect timing. I asked him to have them use that money to launch this Heavy Equipment License Project in Rikuzentakata.

Itoi: Hmmm…

Saijo: I explained my idea to the president of the driving school as soon as we arrived. He immediately offered to hold the Heavy Equipment Licensing classes as often as possible, though it was normally only offered once a month. Within a few hours, everything was decided.

Itoi: That’s awesome.

Saijo: Everything happens amazingly quickly when the decision-makers connect directly. I believe it functions better this way during emergencies, because decisions can be made orders of magnitude faster. By the way, the heavy equipment license can be obtained within a few days at a cost of around thirty thousand yen.

Itoi: Really?

Saijo: Yes. Thirty thousand yen (approximately $390*) doesn’t go far in terms of living expenses. However, if it’s invested to obtain a heavy equipment license, license holders will be able to earn three million yen per year.

Itoi: So, it can lead to independence.

Saijo: Also, anybody can copy this once the model case is established.

Itoi: Again, it is based on your approach to “create the methodology”.

Saijo: In addition, a financial support system for vocational training schools will be introduced in our project.

Itoi: Oh.

Saijo: The system, created in 2008 during the sudden economic downturn, allows job trainees to be granted a hundred thousand yen.

Itoi: I see.

Saijo: It may sound unusual, but, if a shelter could incorporate a vocational training school, all trainees would be entitled for a hundred thousand yen (approximately $1,300*). They can be sheltered, and, at the same time, develop their skills. I am sure it will empower them and that would be better than just living without purpose.

Itoi: Absolutely.

Saijo: Or if something like a training school for volunteers was created, then people who are volunteering could also be entitled to a hundred thousand yen.

Itoi: That’s because it would be a form of “training school”.

Saijo: There are some regulations though. For example, those who earn more than three million yen (approximately $39,000*) per year are ineligible for subsidies. Nevertheless, I am sure we can find some solutions, for example by applying exceptions to affected areas or those who submit a Disaster Victim Certificate. Currently, Representatives Mito Kakizawa and Ryuji Koizumi of the Diet are working with us. I wish we could recruit more politicians like them with vision who would act for victims.

Itoi: Yes, yes.

Saijo: And also, by incorporating this heavy equipment license project in its curriculum, the driving school becomes eligible for financial incentives for training, backed by the Employment and Human Resources Development Organization of Japan (EHRDOJ), which supports institutions that provide skill-training courses. Therefore, everything is all set for an August start to the “Special Training Course for Post Earthquake Recovery Operations”, providing construction vehicle equipment operation skills training that is supported by EHRDOJ.

Itoi: Did you conceive of all these ideas by yourself?

Saijo: Most of them, yes. But this idea regarding vocational training schools came from Kato-san, who is originally from Iwate Prefecture but lives in Fukushima. He had already developed the original model and we combined the heavy equipment license project with his.

Itoi: Was Kato-san engaged in vocational training or something similar in the first place?

Saijo: I am not sure (laugh). He just turned up when Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan’s Miyagi branch was launched. When I had a chat with him, I was amazed by his unique ideas. Then, we agreed to put ideas into practice. Now, we are thinking about launching a “car sharing” project that utilizes redundant cars at car rental companies to share among a group of home shelters. Each group will consist of about ten home shelters. In the devastated areas, the lack of cars is a big problem, because there are many who can’t even run an errand.

Itoi: Car sharing is a good idea.

Saijo: Another is a “Boat collection for fishermen” project. We’ll collect any unused boats and match these to the needs of the local populace. If it is difficult to transport, we can send the fishermen living in the affected areas to pick up the boats and sail them back to their hometown. (laughs)

Itoi: It is interesting to hear your plans, because everything you said seems to be quite doable. Instead of plans which are outstanding in concept but poor in feasibility, your project ideas deserve gold and silver medals in both! I am impressed by your pragmatism.

Saijo: If a plan doesn’t seem possible to carry out, then the “method” doesn’t hold any real meaning.

Itoi: I agree.

Saijo: The path to your goal can be called the “”method”. If you can’t realize it, that “method” could look perfect but does no good to anyone.

Itoi: If your methods go well, don’t you think that you could start up a “problem solving” company? It seems plausible…

Saijo: It might be possible but our projects are supported by a loose affiliation. We are not “an association”. When each project works out to some extent, people in an affected area can take it over and run it with federal relief funds. The projects could represent other business opportunities for the people in these areas.

Itoi: I see. Can your projects be considered form of artistic activity?

Saijo: I prefer to call it the “Capability of People’s Will.” It is the will of individuals that makes this system work. Ideally, each project will function autonomously to support the affected people and areas. Other details are not important.

Itoi: This sounds like a new style of group, because you don’t care about getting power or authority. I mean, you haven’t used a typical method, like running for general councilor, to achieve something big.

Saijo: Existing power theories always rely on a hierarchy. The upper people control the lower ones. However, the members of our group are in a horizontal line, so everyone is equal. As for me, I’m just a professor but circumstance has motivated me to orchestrate projects which should have been done by the government before now. Although no one is paid a penny, many people are cooperating, just because they want to help.

Itoi: That intention really creates good energy, doesn’t it?

Saijo: The true definition of “energy” is “the source of power to move something”, so actually, it doesn’t have to be something like money for example.

Itoi: Interesting.

Saijo: I think that our intentions are vital: everyone involved really wants to make a difference.

Itoi: We should keep it that way.

Saijo: I think so. I am certain that we can steadily realize our projects.

Itoi: It will be more interesting when you go further with your plan.

Saijo: It should be. Of course, we won’t accomplish anything with just a “let’s do our best” attitude. Instead, we must have a strategy and hope that we will succeed.

Itoi: Success makes your work more pleasant. If it’s not pleasant, you can’t do it in the long run.

Saijo: My mentor, Kiyohiko Ikeda, said the same thing a few days ago. Even in a difficult time, you have to find what makes you happy.

Itoi: I think so too.

Saijo: We operate our projects mainly on Facebook which is perfect for a group like this, since we expand our field gradually while working. That’s why once you register as a volunteer on our website, we make sure that you also join the groups on Facebook. I sometimes visit the “Fumbaro” Facebook site; everyone seems to work together and also enjoy the effort.

Itoi: When you saw that, you thought it everything would work out all right, didn’t you?

Saijo: Yes, I did. I thought it would work out. We can’t continue with only grief and pressure.

Itoi: I think in many cases, threats and intimidation are often used to motivate.

Saijo: That’s right.

Itoi: So it makes me very happy to see projects like yours being implemented so well. You are realizing things we have always hoped for.

Saijo: Thanks to our many supporters, I think it is going well. But there is one important thing left…

Itoi: Housing?

Saijo: Yes, there is a housing problem.

<To be continued>


[*Based on the approximate currency exchange rate as of Aug. 22, 2011.]