Journal Entries from the Zena Farm Program
By Yoshio Nakayama
Tokyo International University (two year program-transfer student) '12
Home town: Tokyo, Japan
5/31/2011 - the 8th day
Living in nature and working at Zena farm has lead me to think about what my life should be. As I am going to graduate next year, many people ask me, “What will you do after college?” or sometimes more specifically, “In the U.S. or in Japan, where do you want to work?” Since I am an international student from Japan, these are common questions to be asked.
Personally, I have never decided or limited myself to the one country where I want to spend my entire life to live in and work. I think my background -- that I was born and raised in China, and immigrated to Japan and then the U.S. -- makes me apathetic about the sense of nationality. Until last semester, I was thinking that either working in the U.S., Japan, or any other country would be fine as long as I can find a job that I want to do and make my living in the country. I could not choose one because there are so many choices and cost-benefit associated. Living in the U.S. for about a year and a half brings a lot of new perspectives in my mind, and I have been experiencing how wonderful this country is. However, at the same time, I also realized some of fantastic points of Japan. Many of my American friends ask me to talk about Japan. Because of that I know much better about its culture than before even though I am not in Japan.
In reality, working conditions in Japan and the U.S. are slightly different. One major point is that Japanese corporations prefer to hire graduating students from colleges. Since many of them hire and promote their employees based on a seniority system, they want to everybody to be employed at a same age. Therefore, if I decide to work in Japan, I need to be ready immediately after my graduation.
For my future job field, I am thinking about working for the information technology industry. At the same time, I am also interested working for a company that produces some sort of entertainment to its customers, for instance, theme park, music/movie industry, and musical/event production. There are two reasons why I might like to contribute to these kinds of fields. First, and most simply, I am fascinated with today’s rapid developments of technologies and how people apply advanced technologies to enhance their standard of living, especially, adding entertainment. For example, beginning from 1980s, innovations of personal computer and the internet have changed our life style significantly. They increased people’s productivity in/out office. They enable to people to communicate without concerning distance and time differences. Nowadays, everything becomes even easier with the fast evolutions of electronic devices. We use laptops for finishing our tasks. We use smart phones for searching everything we wonder. The internet and wireless connections are getting faster and faster, and the areas covered are becoming wider and wider. Not only personal computer and the internet, but also other technologies associated to them are changing our life values. We certainly enjoy more watching movies with higher resolution, and sometimes they are in three-dimensions today. We are excited for playing online games with friends who are in some other countries. We exchange news and opinions, and even increase people’s awareness and education level through development of technology. Thus, I am very curious how far we are going with this technological evolution, and want to participate in a part of this radical movement.
The second reason why I focus on the two job fields is that I think they are most expected growing industries nowadays. In advanced countries, people have a great accessibility to their desires, for instance, foods, clothes, houses, cars, computers, education, and medical treatment, and so on. People’s desires are infinite. However, as Abraham H. Maslow has insisted that once people fulfill lower levels of needs—food, water, and safety—they move up to satisfy higher levels of their needs until they feel self-actualization. In fact, in advanced counties, once people have an excess income, they are likely to spend it on something that enhances their value rather than to fulfill their basic needs. For instance, people eat food until they feel they are full. After that people can’t eat anymore unless they want to be sick. Yet, people are not likely to be fully satisfied at higher levels of their desires, for example, traveling to new places, watching new movies, studying new things, and enjoying new hobbies. In fact, statistically it is shown that only 8% of household income is used for purchasing food. On the other hand, recent business journal stated that information technology industry has one f the highest profit margins, particular in advanced countries.
Therefore, if I can work for technological or entertainment fields, while I am experiencing rapid changes of their environment, I can contribute providing extra happiness to people through my ability. That would be a great thing to do spending my life.
However, through reading Clive Ponting’s book, A Green History of the World, and through discussions in the Sustainable Agriculture classes, I have started to realize that the basic need—food—is not secure at all. In the entire human history, we are suffering obtaining food while sustaining the environment. We do not know if we can really find solutions and ethical ways to practice them yet. Where are we going? Without a secure method to meet basic needs, we can’t pursue higher levels of our desire.
6/1/2011 - the 9th day
It is already June; about half of this year is going to past. I just feel that time flies. I wonder when I start to feel that time is flying in my life. Probably the answer is after I became a college student. In general, it is completely different in 180 degrees between being a Japanese college student and being an American one. In Japan, we have intensive junior high and high school education systems. In the period of time, students have to read, write, and memorize tons of materials, and take comprehensive exams in order to get into a college. However, after enrolling into a college, say even for top schools, the amount of required work is usually less than what students have done during their high school years. Going to college in Japan could be interpreted as the time for enjoying last freedom before entering into the labor force.
I feel that I was a few of the exceptions. I did not put a large proportion of my time for working a part-time job and playing around. I made my best studying what I want to learn, business, economics, and English. In my sophomore year, I studied at Tokyo International University of America (TIUA). The classes taught at TIUA were based on the U.S. high education style, so it was intense. Not only in the classrooms, but I have also tried many outside activities since I thought that the time staying in the U.S. is precious and I should take every chance that is offered for me. In my junior year, I successfully passed the long-term studying abroad scholarship exam at Tokyo International University (TIU), and here I am, being a Willamette student. From now, I plan to finish economics major at Willamette and obtain business B.A. degree at TIU.
Studying at Willamette University, especially the first year, was challenging. All of the time, I was either studying in my room or participating outdoor activities. My roommate last semester has made an analysis about me by saying that, “I can see one reason why you are trying to work so hard. That is you are worried about your past failure.” Personally, I dropped out my high school in the first year. I could not find values of studying in the school and as well as meaning of my life and goal. After I quit the high school, I was having rough days and wasting my time for doing nothing. But because of the experience, I came to realize I could change myself. Through encountering new people and experiences as well as traveling new places, I finally started to know about myself and what I want to do in my life. I realized that I need to learn more and have more education in order to be what I want to be. Since I have discovered my goals, and been working toward them, every day I feel fulfilled.
6/2/2011- the 10th day.
Today, I would like to refer to the reading, Nature and Culture. In the reading, the author Jack D. Forbes defined the terms nature and culture. He showed that the word “nature” is used negatively describing “not domesticated or cultivated; wild” and “not civilized; primitive.” On the other hand, the word “culture” has meanings of “civilized” and “to improve and develop by education and training; to refine.” In the class discussion, we raised an interesting question about whether human’s “culture” stays inside of the powerful “nature,” or it is already beyond the “nature” and rules it. I think that with more improvement of technology and science in the future, human would try to control the “nature” by their “culture.”
One example I have here is from the Ecology of Agroecosystems. The author John H. Vandermeer explained many factors that determine soil structure, and soil classifications. For example, he demonstrated that depending on parent material, weathering process, time, and vegetation, the soil composition varies. In addition, he stated that, “It is not possible to disentangle completely the effects of parent materials, climate, time, and vegetation, since they all act dialectically and simultaneously.” Thus, categorizing soil profile is not an easy task. Nevertheless, the U.S. department of agriculture has developed a standard of classification, and it is widely used in the world today. I feel that through the soil determination system, we label good and bad soil in terms of agricultural productivity. We would primary cultivate the “good” kinds of soil and try to increase its availability by using our “culture” such as technology. I just wonder if we intervene in “nature,” depending on whether it is possible to control or not, ecosystems can be affected, and some undesired consequences would be returned to us.
6/3/2011 - the 11th day.
Cooking. We are cooking every day, every meal using local, organic, and importantly, some of our own produced food at Zena farm. I love eating and tasting new food. Food is essential for our lives, and thus without food, we won’t survive. Different countries and culture provide different kinds of interesting food. Experiencing new tastes is one of significances of living.
However, cooking was one of my least favorite activities until last year. I grew up with fast-food, packed meal, instant food, and meal from restaurants. Since both of my parents were busily working at the time, they did not have the ability and time to cook for me, and instead, they gave me some money for buying food. With this background, I am used to eating those quick and convenient meals, and never tried to cook by myself. Also, I did not like the fact that even though cooking takes so much time and effort —purchasing, preparing, cooking, and cleaning— the time that is spent to eat dishes is much shorter. Every time when I try to cook, I think that the time and input I devote is never equal as the output that I can gain.
Last semester, I had my two best friends as my roommates, and one of them suggested to me that, “For saving money, let’s cook by ourselves instead spend money eating at the cafeteria.” Indeed he was great at cooking. It was his hobby, and he has been studying about cooking occasionally. In addition, he has also studied abroad in Japan, so he knew more than I did how to cook Japanese food. Through a semester enjoying his meal and sometimes cooking with him, I have changed my attitude toward cooking. When I successfully made something and shared the meal with my roommates, I felt good about myself because I made someone happy through the food I provided. Also, I felt self-sufficiency. I can survive by myself. I think that even though I have studied so much academic knowledge, if I can’t feed myself, I am useless. This thought reminds me what I discussed in previous journal that humans have developed much advanced technology, culture, and society nowadays, but still we are facing difficulties eating food from the time when our history began.
- "Into the Woods" - Kristin Light
- "Farming, eh" - Amanda McCLelland
- "Thinking of Sustainability and the Future" - Yoshio Nakayama
- "Journal Entries for the Zena Farm Program" - Yoshio Nakayama
- "A Brief Anatomy of Zena Farm" - Sarah Spring
- "Real Food: My Lifelong Quest for True Flavor" - Michelle Tynan