|Symbiosis in Economy
The Roots of the Philosophy of Symbiosis
From the Age of the Machine to the Age of Life
The Debate on Symbiosis in the Business World
Towards Economic Assistance and Technology Transfer that Encourages Multiplicity
A Shared Strategy for Business and Culture
Sacred Zones, Indispensable for Symbiosis
It was toward the end of 1978, I remember, that I received a telephone call from my friend Lou Dorfsman, A graphic designer and vice-president of CBS. "Would you agree to be the chairman of the 1979 Aspen International Design Conference?" he asked.
Aspen, Colorado was originally a silver-mining town, and after the mines were closed, it was redeveloped as a resort. Three famous events are held each year in Aspen; the Aspen Music Festival, the Seminar of the Aspen Research Institute, and the Aspen International Design Conference.
The Aspen International Design Conference is not only a meeting of architects and designers; philosophers, business people, government officials, and political figures also participate. This extremely unique conference is held each summer in Aspen.
Six months later, the busy days of preparing for the upcoming conference were upon me. I also had devised, by this time, a secret plan of my own. It was to make several of the aspects of Japanese culture that were usually identified as unique the themes of the discussion. Among the aspects of Japanese life that the Japanese believe are unique to Japan, there are some that are very well understood by the American people, and, on the other hand, aspects that Americans think are precisely the same as their own culture but are, in fact, quite different. Even if there were truly unique aspects of Japanese culture, I thought that by discussing them from a common point of view they would be transformed from an incomprehensible uniqueness to a uniqueness that can be understood for what it is.
After discussing my ideas with Lou Dorfsman, I decided to make the theme of the conference "Japan and the Japanese," in search of a path of symbiosis for America and Japan.
Symbiosis with different cultures was a theme that I had presented since the 1960s, and subject that I will discuss in greater depth later.
The themes I selected for the subcommittee discussions were also rather different: "Rice," "Decision by Consensus," "Isolationism," "The Hedge," "The Verandah," "The Bullet Train." (I also decided to express the subjects for discussion in the original Japanese, hence, "Kome," "Ringi," "Sakkoku," and so forth.) These themes were not only keywords for understanding something important about Japan, but also keywords for discovering the way to a symbiosis of American and Japan, I thought.
In the subcommittee discussion of "Rice," for example, we reached the conclusion that California rice was already as delicious as Japan's Koshihikari, but we also went on to discuss the fact that California rice included none of the cultural elements that adhered to rice produced in Japan -- folk crafts, folk songs, festivals, sake-making, and farming life. My conviction that for Japan, rice is "sacred cow," that rice is culture, and my opposition to the complete liberalization of rice imports from the United States has continued from the Aspen conference to the present day.
In the subcommittee on "Decision by Consensus," the discussion attempted to evaluate the traditional Japanese decision-making method of working from the bottom of the organization up, in a democratic, consensus-style fashion rather than the top-down decision-making style of the American corporate world. The subcommittee's conclusion was that even such an apparently different method could well be adopted in the United States.
In subcommittee on "Isolationism," an interesting idea was proposed. Instead of regarding Japan during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) as completely isolated from the rest of the world, perhaps it was possible to see Japan as having adopted during that period a dynamic semi-isolation, under the shield of which the country was able to actively taken in only what it wanted, rejecting the rest.
In the sessions on "Hedges" and "Verandahs," the Japanese traditions of the symbiosis of human beings and nature, and of architecture and nature were evaluated.
Sakyo Komatsu, Hiesuke Hironaka, Issei Miyake, Tohru Haga, Nagisa Oshima, Masuo Ikeda, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Tadanori Yokoo, and Yotaroh Kobayashi all came from Japan to participate in the conference, which ended in success.
Japanese and English were both made official languages of the conference, and at first there was resistance to and criticism of the decision to express the themes of the subcommittee meetings in Japanese only. This was the first time that any conference had been held in the United States in which Japanese was heard with such frequency. After the conference had ended, I was moved when an official of the U.S. government walked up to me, shook my hand, and remarked, "This conference demonstrated for the first time that English, too, is no more than a regional language. I feel as if the scales had fallen from my eyes. Thank you." Another participant declared, "I feel as if I understand at last the way in which the Japanese tradition and contemporary Japanese life are linked. I am convinced that Japan and the United States can live in symbiosis. "
At its closing, the 1979 Aspen International Design Conference left an enormous impact on the more than two thousand American professionals and students who attended it, as well as the Japanese panelists. What we all learned from the conference was that it was possible to build a common stage on which different cultures could meet, as long as they recognized their differences.
After returning to Japan, many of the Japanese panelists sought to continue to discuss the topics raised at the Aspen Conference, and the Japanese Culture Design Conference was founded to provide this opportunity.
The idea was to choose a different location outside Tokyo each year as the site of the Japanese Culture Design Conference.
The first conference was held the following year, in Yokohama, and I took on the roles of organizer and chairman. The main theme was "Toward the Age of Symbiosis." From outside Japan, we invited the French critic and urban studies scholar with whom I had been discussing the idea of symbiosis since the 1960s, Francois Choay; the Polish film director Andrzej Waida; Paolo Soleri, who was building an Eco-City in the Arizona desert; Renzo Piano, the designer of the Georges Pompidou Center; and the legendary desert poet Alias Adon is. Japanese participants included the members who had participated in the Aspen Conference, plus Takeshi Umehara, Daizo Kusayanagi, Shuji Takashina, Ichiro Haryu, Shichihei Yamamoto, Hideo Kanze, Taichi Sakaiya, Shozaburo Kimura, Hisashi Inoue, Yasushi Akutagawa, Masahiro Shinoda, Junichi Ushiyama, Masao Yamaguchi, Yuusuke Fukuda, Kimihiro Masamura, Tadao Ando, and others.
I remain impressed today how many profoundly significant issues were raised during the discussions at the various symposiums on the symbiosis of nature and humankind and the symbiosis of different cultures.
Paolo Soleri, who was building an experimental city called Arcosanti in the Arizona desert, put forth the idea that the symbiosis of humankind and nature was one in which human beings continuously created new things and in doing so, wrought change on an unfeeling, insentient nature.
For sentient human beings to live in symbiosis with insentient nature, human beings had to dedicate themselves eternally to transforming nature. There was no nature in this world that did not undergo change.
In contrast to this viewpoint, Shichihei Yamamoto declared that Paolo Soleri's "Symbiosis" was a Western-type symbiosis, and that Japanese could not live in such an artificially symbiotic city.
According to Yamamoto, the symbiosis of the Japanese with nature meant that the Japanese followed nature and merged with nature, and whatever did not follow and merge with nature was "unnatural." Symbiosis in this Japanese interpretation, then was an imminent harmony.
The interesting point that differences in cultures were so broadly reflected in the discussion of symbiosis offered a hint for carrying the discussion of symbiosis to a deeper level.
Another stimulating issue was raised by the Arabian poet Alias Adonis, also a logician interested in the semantic theories of Structuralism. He discussed the trend apparent throughout the Third World for Western culture to harm and trivialize local cultural, while at the same time traditional cultures repelled any creative reform that contemporary culture offered and political regimes exploited the customs and traditions of the messes to preserve their own hold on power. Symbiosis, he insisted, would be impossible as long as traditional cultures did not liberate themselves from both Western culture and their own tradition.
The issue of obstructions to the arrival of the Age of Symbiosis raised by Yamatomot and Adonis percolated in my mind until I organized by thoughts on the subject in my 1987 book, Philosophy of Symbiosis.
The Roots of the Philosophy of Symbiosis
I think it is appropriate for me to explain here why I have been championing the Philosophy of Symbiosis for the past three decades.
I graduated from Tokai Gakuen in Nagoya (Tokai Junior High School and Tokai High School), the alma mater of both the philosopher Takeshi Umehara and the ex-prime minister Toshiki Kaifu. They are old schools, founded a century ago. No doubt because they began as schools established by monks of the Pure Land school of Japanese Buddhism, they are unique in that even today most of the teachers are Pure Land monks.
When I was at Tokai Junior High School, the principal was the Dr. Benkyo Shiio, a professor of Buddhist philosophy and head of the Shiba Zojoji in Tokyo.
Professor Shiio had founded the Tomo-iki (Symbiotic) Buddhist Group in 1922, and was part of the movement for developing new directions in Buddhist thought. This movement continues to be active today, as the Foundation for Symbiosis. Professor Shiio was the author of many works, including the Kyosei Hokku Shu ("Verses on Symbiosis), Kyosei Bukkyo ("A Buddhism of Symbiosis"), and Kyosei Kyohon ("Manual of Symbiosis"), but at the time I had not ready any of his books. But the lectures that Professor Shiio gave on Buddhism at that time remain firmly fixed in my mind.
"Human beings cannot live without eating meat and vegetables. They can not survive without inorganic minerals. Not only that, but we are alive because all sorts of life forms (bacteria) live in our digestive organs. Human beings are kept alive by other life forms and by nature itself. And when people die, they become ashes and return to earth, where they in turn are eaten by plants, animals, and other forms of life. This relation of giving life and being given life is the relation of "symbiosis"(tomoiki). And symbiosis is the most basic teaching of Buddhism.
Professor Shiio's message is none other than the message of environmentalism and ecology so important today.
After deciding to become an architect, I studied at Kyoto University. It was there that I encountered Professor Hajime Nakamura's The Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples.
This is a famous work that seeks to define the differences among various Asian cultures by examining the way in which Buddhism was transformed in India, Tibet, China, Japan, and other Asian nations as it encountered these very different cultures.
It was in this book that I first learned of the Indian Buddhist philosophy of Consciousness-Only. I had an intuition that the Consciousness-Only school of Buddhism was in fact the source of the philosophy of symbiosis. From that time, on, the Consciousness-Only philosophy has not only been important to me as an element in theories of architecture and urban design, but has also served as a guiding theme for my personal life.
My home is on the eleventh floor of an apartment building in Akasaka. It contains a manmade garden and a reproduction of the teahouse by Enshu Koborihat was part of his Fushimi residence.
I have christened this tea room "Consciousness-Only Retreat." And my name as a practitioner of the art of the tea ceremony is Yuishikian Kuchu -- "Suspended in Emptiness of the Consciousness-Only Retreat." I was given this name by the tea master and president of the Hakuhodo Advertising Agency Michio Kondo, in reference to the fact that my tea room is suspended in space, on the eleventh floor.
I think this helps you to understand the preoccupation I have with the philosophy of Consciousness-Only and the philosophy of symbiosis. I have no intention of discussing the philosophy of Consciousness-Only in detail here, but a basic concept of the philosophy is the alaya, or unconditioned stream of consciousness. The alaya consciousness does not distinguish things into dualisms or pairs of opposites, such as good and evil, body and spirit, human beings and nature. Instead, it is an intermediate zone in which such pairs exist together in symbiosis. In an intermediate zone, opposing, contradicting elements exist together, producing an undifferentiated, vague nature. This undifferentiated, vague element exists at all boundaries and peripheries. Because it is undifferentiated, it includes dense and deeply significant shades of meaning.
Since Western culture is based on dualism and antinomial opposition, undifferentiated and ambiguous elements are rejected as irrational, incomprehensible, and unscientific.
It goes without saying that economic achievement, science, and technology have played an enemas role in the modernization of Western civilization, but nothing could have been attained without the dogma of modern rationalism -- that is, binomial opposition and dualism.
But today the world is in a period of a major transition to a new age, and it is not in the least surprising that in an attempt to discover a new order for the further development of economics, science, and technology, rationalism is being abandoned and the ambiguous and undifferentiated elements of intermediary zones that had previously been rejected are being reevaluated in all fields.
It goes without saying that the philosophy of Consciousness-Only, as part of the fabric of Mahayana Buddhism, has broadly influenced Japanese culture and the Japanese people. If I may give just one example, let us look at the traditional Japanese aesthetic -- an aesthetic of symbiosis.
I call an aesthetic that seeks to create a rich significance by causing different elements to exist in symbiosis hanasuki.
In his Kadensho, the Noh actor and playwright Zeami wrote, "When playing a night scene, bring daylight to it, and when playing an old man bring a youthful feeling to it; when you play a demon, do it with gentleness." Zeami called this process of bringing opposite, different elements together to create a deeply expressive richness hana.
It is often said that the Japanese are vague, or that Japanese politicians are so vague that no one know what on earth they are saying. The aesthetic of symbiosis that I call hanasuki is not this kind of vagueness, which can't be pinned down one way or another. It is an ambiguity produced purposefully, creatively, ambiguity as a new essence altogether.
This Buddhist concept of symbiosis and the symbiotic aesthetic of traditional Japanese culture cannot, as Shichihei Yamamoto suggested, be applied in contemporary international society as they are.
But Japan, which has become an international economic power, is now expected to play a major role in the construction of a new world order -- whether it wishes to or not.
Contributing money is an important duty for Japan, of course, but I believe it is also important for Japan to participate in the creation of the new world order through Japanese culture and Japanese ideas. Isn't is appropriate for us to apply ourselves to recasting the philosophy of symbiosis we find in Japanese Buddhism and traditional Japanese culture in such a way that it is useful to the contemporary world ?
From the Age of the Machine to the Age of Life
The world order is on the verge of major transformation. The Soviet union has collapsed, the Cold War is over, American power has declined, and various national groups are declaring their independence -- what kind of new world order are these developments leading to?
Why is it that we hear a call for a reevaluation of Western ethnocentrism and modernism (dualism) from the midst of Western civilization?
Why is it that the concept of symbiosis has been adopted by all fields of study and endeavor, from physics, biology, and geometry to philosophy, art, medicine, economics, and architecture? If a symbiotic order is to be the new world order and the philosophy of the twenty-first century, what kind of a order will it be? Perhaps "the transition from the Age of the Machine to the Age of Life" is suitable framework for explaining the new symbiotic order.
In 1959, the largest international design conference was held in Japan for the first item. I helped with the preparations. While discussing what face we should present to the world, I founded that Metabolism movement with several other architects and critics at this time. My thoughts at that time were concerned with how we might face the relentless domination of Western culture. And my conclusion was a declaration of "The Age of Life."
If we were to describe the twentieth century in a phrase, it would be "The Age of the Machine." Humankind placed great hopes and dreams in a future that would be created by machines and technology.
The film director Sergei Eisenstein called the cinema a machine, and the Futurist poet Marinetti proclaimed that poem was a machine. The architect Le Corbusier declared that houses were machines for living. The mass production of the Model T by Henry Ford meant that the masses could purchase automobiles, and soon humankind had not the slightest doubt that its future would be pioneered by machines.
The goal of the Age of the machine was industrial society. A single model of a product could be mass-produced in a factory and then distributed around the world, until people the world over were alike and the world was one. It was believed that an architecture of steel, glass, and concrete that was mass-produced by machines would spread across the world, transcending cultural differences. This architecture was called the International Style. Decoration and traditional elements were rejected as un-modern. The Western culture that produced this industrial society was regarded as indisputably superior to all other cultures, and it was spread throughout the world by force.
Once it is accepted that Western culture is the most advanced culture, all "minor" cultures were inherently un-modern, and every step they took toward Western culture was regarded as progress. The poet Adonis's question whether traditional culture had to be abandoned for the sake of economic progress was the question on the lips of all developing and Third World nations.
Japan chose the way of Westernization, cutting itself off from the Edo period and categorizing all of traditional culture as un-modern. The great transformation of Japan wrought by the determined efforts of the Meiji government resulted in Japan becoming the honor student in the school of Westernization, until it had achieved such outstanding economic results that it outstripped its teachers. Without that astonishing "Meiji perestroika," Japan as we know it today would not exist.
But the position that Japan finds itself in today is clearly a dangerous one, on the very edge of a precipice. It's teacher, the Western world, is engaged in serious self-criticism, and is beginning to identify new goals for itself. This will leave Japan an honor student without a school, and the fact of the matter is that Japan does not know what to do.
The reason that Western culture stood at the undisputed peak of modern civilization was because every aspect of that culture -- thought, religion, commerce, industry, science, technology, and art -- were orchestrated like a grand symphony, moving forward in a unified direction.
The rationalism and dualism that dominated from Aristotle through Descartes, Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory of evolution, the belief in universalism in the Catholic Church of Christianity, the doctrine of scientific proof, the Bauhaus school, which praised the beauties of industrialization, the poets and artists who sang paeans to the Age of the Machine, the capitalist economy, with its praise of competition, the industrial products mass-produced in factories and sent to the far corners of the world -- all of these were interrelated in creating a grand, easily grasped social goal.
The spirit of the Age of the Machine is the essence of the law of survival of the fittest, based on free competition; the rule of domination of the weak by the strong; and modern scientific technology and economic law, which reject all ambiguity and difference in favor of speed, efficiency, and standardization.
The spirit of the Age of Life is symbiosis among differing things, an ever-changing dynamic balance, sudden mutations, metabolism, cycles, growth, the preservation of unique individuality through genetic codes, and multiplicity. These life principles are the goals of the spirit of the Age of Life. Among them all, symbiosis is the most representative life principle. The transformation from the Age of the Machine to the Age of Life is a simultaneous transformation from industrial society to information society.
During the Age of the Machine, there was competition to create high-quality products cheaply and in quantity, exploiting the merits of industrial scale. Since consumers wanted high-quality objects at low prices, what could be wrong about producing large quantities of high-quality, cheap goods? This was the typical approach of the Age of the Machine.
At the recent Environmental Summit in Brazil, the Biodiversity Treaty was signed. This is a ground-breaking event, announcing the beginning of the Age of Life. If you subscribe to Darwin's evolutionary doctrine of "survival of the fittest," the extinction of species is a natural phenomenon that we can and should do nothing about. Why, then, do we try to protect species on the edge of extinction?
We should see this as the birth of a new value system for the Age of Life, which regards the existence of a wider variety of life forms as a richer kind of existence.
During the Age of the Machine, Western culture spread across and dominated the world, producing a homogeneous world. In contrast, the new age will treasure the distinct cultures of minority peoples and aim for the symbiosis of distinct cultures.
In the field of biology, various arguments are calling for the abandonment of Darwin's theory of evolution. Newsweek recently introduced biologist Lynn Margulis's theory of symbiosis, which is gradually becoming the most widely held opinion in the field, contributing to the demise of Darwin's theory.
The "Sharing Theory" of the recent deceased Dr. Imai attracted attention as a revision of Darwin's theory of evolution. Within a certain species, Dr. Imai found a tendency to create a boundary and then live in symbiosis, sharing the essentials of life.
The relations between medium- and small-sized companies and giant enterprises, and the relations between the multinationals and their regional partners will also change.
Up to now, the larger the company, the more centralized and efficient management system it was able to create, and capital investment on a large scale contributed to the manufacture of high-quality, low-cost products in large quantities.
Medium- and small-scale companies were "developing companies" that would someday become giant enterprises or would ally themselves to large enterprises as subcontractors. As we can see from the example of the automobile industry, subcontractors are completely absorbed in the centralized management systems of the large enterprises.
In contrast, in the new age, in the Age of Symbiosis, medium and small -scale companies will exist in symbiosis with giant enterprises, just as local enterprises will with the multinationals.
In an information society, the desire for added value and variety, even in manufactured goods, will force the system toward diversification. Soon, even manufacturing plants will be very different things from the kind of factory we see in Chaplin's Modern Times. Today, when non-manufacturing industries account for seventy percent of Japan's GNP, there is not necessarily any merit in scale for the production of added value. It may well be that the crisis that confronts IBM, which has pursued largeness without looking back, is related to this major change in the nature of our times.
I believe that symbiosis directed toward the new age will begin in a variety of fields. The movement toward symbiosis in every dimension has begun; the symbiosis of humankind and nature, the symbiosis of intellect and emotion, the symbiosis of science and technology and art, the symbiosis of commerce and culture, the symbiosis of public and private, the symbiosis of large enterprises and medium- and small-scale enterprises, the symbiosis of different cultures, the symbiosis of play and work, the symbiosis of industry and society, the symbiosis of city and country, the symbiosis of generations, the symbiosis of men and women, the symbiosis of weak and strong, the symbiosis of the part (the individual) and the whole (an enterprise or a nation), and many other relations of symbiosis.
Whether it be inside Japan or in international society, a society that makes symbiosis on all these many levels possible represents a hierarchy of symbiosis.
During the Age of the machine, when Western culture was in the lead, the type of society aimed for the kind of culture that should be produced were clearly defined. The leaders of the West were clearly aware that technology, commerce, and government were in the service of the creation of such a society, a method to achieve it.
Once I was asked by French government official why it was that Japanese government officials and businessmen were unable to discuss culture. He had clearly identified a weakness of present-day Japanese politicians and businessmen, I believe.
In the West, people work to obtain the means to enjoy their lives, for the emotion and joy they receive from cultural experiences, not for the sake of work itself. In contrast, most Japanese politicians and businessmen seem to think that personal enjoyment and cultural activities exist only because of commerce, and that once you have attained a certain degree of comfort and leisure, you can enjoy "hobbies." For the Japanese, art and culture are not national goals; they are no more than the "hobbies" of music and art.
When economic development itself becomes the goal, the country becomes an economic machine directed toward eternal expansion, and from the viewpoint of Westerners, something that simply grows larger and larger without any higher purpose or goal is monster.
The Debate on Symbiosis in the Business World
Recently, discussion of the concept of symbiosis has become popular in the business world as well. For the business world, which was the motivating force behind industrial society , to entertain the concept of symbiosis represents a dramatic conversion, a perestroika that japan has not seen since the heady days of the Meiji Restoration.
But what is most conspicuously lacking in the discussion of symbiosis among business leaders is the conception of a goal appropriate to the symbiotic society of the Age of Life, which will replace the industrial society of the Age of the Machine.
In the recent debate on symbiosis, two essays have attracted my attention. One is by Yotaroh Kobayashi, and appeared in the Sankei Shimbun under the title, "The Philosophy of Symbiosis for Japan." The other is by Ako Morita and was serialized in Bungei Shunju under the title "Japanese-style Business in Crisis."
Yotaroh Kobayashi offers three points that must be addressed when discussing symbiosis. The first is defining the concrete conditions that must exist to say that industry and consumers are in symbiosis, or that Toyota and Fiat, or Japan and France exist in symbiosis. The second point he raises is that
"While Japan may talk about symbiosis, it is naive to suppose that Japan's competitors will repay Japan's symbiosis in kind. Japan must take care not to lapse into a one-sided Japan-style symbiosis and it is important for Japan to realize that at times a certain kind of stubbornness will be necessary."
The third point he raises is that "Symbiosis is not a goal in itself, but a method and necessary condition that a person, an industry, or a nation must employ to be and act as it truly wishes to." On the other hand, Kobayashi does suggest that since the Japanese ideal is to become a nation with a high standard of living -- or "Standard of Living Giant," Seikatsu Taikoku , a newly popular spin off and the term "Economic Giant" -- the philosophy of symbiosis is the necessary means to achieve that goal.
If symbiosis is a method for achieving a goal (an ideal), there is really no need to even use the term symbiosis. "Adjustment," "compromise," "mutual understanding," and "cooperation" would serve as well and are easier to grasp.
If we regard symbiosis as no more than a means, then as Tsuneo Iida has said,
"The cartel is the easiest method for getting along with one's competitors. if you cast symbiosis in economic terms, you have a cartel. When the Keidanren starts talking about symbiosis, it must be because they wish to change the method of coming to terms with environmental issue, regional problems, and foreign industry."
In an interview in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, J. Dowling, the chairman of the Japan-America Economic Council, expressed his doubts about the idea of symbiosis, remarking that it could be in violation of the U.S. anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws.
The objections raised to symbiosis in business and industrial circles arise from the existence of a deeply rooted methodology there that is opposed to the idea of symbiosis.
J. Dowling later read my Philosophy of Symbiosis in English and wrote me a letter about it, from which I quote below.
"Reading your Philosophy of Symbiosis, I learned of the intellectually challenging and stimulating concept of symbiosis as a new world order. But the problem is that symbiosis as discussed in Japanese industry is very close to government-managed trade and sharing of markets. I am concerned that it is unlikely to encourage new ideas, and that it could well obstruct the growth that new competition should bring."
In contrast, the main argument of Akio Morita's thesis is that the products of Japanese industry, which are high-quality and sell in great numbers, are produced from a different set of circumstances than prevail in non -Japanese industries. Japanese industry should try to approach the conditions that prevail in Western industry, with regard to vacations, salaries, environmental responsibility, and contributions to the community, for example. If prices rise as a result, then Japanese industry can sell high-quality products at high prices.
What Japan must do now is aim to move from Economic Giant to Standard- of-Living Giant. It is necessary to change the Japanese economic and social systems as a whole.
I am in agreement with Morita's conclusions, but in his argument he suggests that Japanese industry must compete with foreign industry on its terms, and to do that Japanese business methods must be reformed. The new world order that he is aiming to achieve through economic means is, however, unclear.
Both Kobayashi and Morita affirm the "Standard-of-Living Giant" that is a policy of the Miyazawa cabinet. I agree that this policy is important, since it represents the first time that Japan has made the improvement of daily life a national goal. But if all that means is larger houses, indoor plumbing, and a network of superhighways, that is, the improvement of the standard of living in terms of quantity alone, Japan will remain undistinguished among the nations of the world.
There is also the possibility that nations of the Third World will criticize the idea of symbiosis as a means for Japan and Japan alone to attain a high standard of living.
The idea that the goal of business is more business, that all profit is immediately reinvested for further economic expansion and more profit is now recognized as one of the causes of Japan's "bubble economy" of recent years. Shouldn't the business world as a whole be engaging now in a serious discussion of a new world order with a society of symbiosis as its goal?
Toward Economic Assistance and Technology Transfer That Encourage Multiplicity
If we recognize the symbiotic world order represented by the Biodiversity Treaty, we cannot avoid the fact that it has called into question the oppressive universality of technology and economic factors that have dominated up to the present day.
As long as the developing nations seek to modernize after the model of Western culture, they have the potential of developing into a future market. Until the entire world has achieved a homogeneous modernization, Western manufactured goods can continue to be produced in ever-increasing quantities.
It cannot be denied that economic assistance from developed to developing nations has been regarded as advance investment for developing future markets. But all nations do not necessarily follow the Western-style pate of modernization. Precisely because each follows its unique path, diverse cultural identities are created in the world, and so it is we must drastically revise the universal application of technology and economic assistance regarded up until now as obvious.
The very term "developing nations" will lose its meaning, and the concept of economic assistance, in which the rich help the poor, must be abandoned. A new kind of economic assistance, which included the "developed countries" as well, will become necessary. If pursue this new way of thinking, we may come to the conclusion that the country Japan should be strategically concentrating it's economic assistance on now is the United States.
In order to realize a new symbiotic order, a symbiosis of diverse cultures, money must be used strategically. I will discuss the reasons for this later, but what I mean by a strategy of the age of symbiosis is to protect the American identity by providing economic assistance to the US automobile manufacturing industry.
It is also necessary to change the very essence of technology transfer, through which the developed nations passed their technology without any modification to developing nations. Is it a good idea, for example, to transfer nuclear fission and fusion electricity-generating technology to India and Africa?
Even today in India, the main source of fuel for cooing is dried cow dung. What would it mean if the power-generating facilities of the developed countries were brought to India and the use of cow dung ended? The use of cow dung as fuel is grounded in a culture that regards the cow as a sacred animal. If indeed out goal is to create a symbiosis of diverse cultures, our task is to effect a transformation of technology that will allow electricity and cow-dung fuel to exist in symbiosis. This shows us that in the new age of an order of symbiosis, the economy and technology can no longer evolve separate from culture and tradition. For the world of commerce, which believed up to now that the principles of business and technology had universal application, a new scenario is going to be required for the age of symbiosis.
Since in the age of symbiosis the symbiosis of diverse cultures the world over, including the smallest minorities, will be the goal, we will have to drastically alter the direction of economic assistance and technology transfer in such a way that they will contribute to the preservation of this enormous cultural diversity. And of course, we must dissuade the developing nations from the path of modernization through industrialization.
For example, if we build highways in every country of the world and make automobiles the universal mode of transportation, we probably cannot avoid destroying distinct traditional lifestyles. Isn't it possible to combine the most advanced technology of the developed nations with the traditional technology of each "developing" nation and support instead a creative and distinct development of technology unique to that society?
In order to discuss this in more concrete terms, let me introduce my experience working in the Sahara desert.
I was approached with the project of creating a desert city with a population of tens of thousands. A large reservoir of water was discovered several hundred meters below the desert in the North Sahara, near As-Sarir. The plan was to tap that underground deposit and use it for farming in the desert.
When I first arrived at the site and looked to the horizon, all there was to see was vast, empty desert. That's when I had an inspiration; wouldn't it be wonderful if we could use the sand all around us as a building material? We would create a recycled city, born from the sands and someday returning to them again.
The grains of desert sand, unlike ordinary sand, are perfectly round. They are also finer than ordinary sand, and they can't be mixed successfully with cement. But after two years of work and with cooperation of a desert research center located in England, we were able to develop sand bricks using the local desert sands.
We made plans for revising the most advanced mass-produced kitchen sets and toilet facilities to fit the lifestyle of the Bedouin inhabitants.
Because of future maintenance problems for electrical equipment, we decided not to install air conditioning and heating but to rely instead on the traditional "wind chimneys."
A wind chimney is a tower attached to a house that helps to create, by exploiting breezes or temperature gaps, an updraft inside the house. Though the desert surface undergoes drastic changes in temperature, the earth from one to several meters below the ground is stable in temperature. A wind chimney brings cool air up from below the earth when it is forty degrees outside, and when it is cold at night, it warms the floor, acting as a natural and traditional heating and cooling system.
Our experiment in our desert town was not simply bringing in the newest technology and the industrial products of the developed nations unchanged, but transforming the technology and products to exist in symbiosis with the traditions and climate of the region, the lifestyle that is the region's culture.
Simply preserving tradition is a backward-looking approach, and quickly lapses into old-style racialism. On the other hand, introducing the economy and technology of the developed nations into the developing nations without making any changes results in the destruction of the culture and lifestyle of the people and the region.
The technology of the developed nations, and the economies that have been grown from that technology, are unavoidably being pushed to a new transformation for the age of symbiosis that incorporates regional identity and traditional cultures and lifestyles.
The argument that business comes before culture, that cultural support for the arts depends first upon thriving commerce, no longer holds, even for the sake of business growth itself.
A Shared Strategy for Business and Culture
I would like to discuss another experience I had, because I believe it is relevant to our discussion of Japanese business.
As everyone knows, excess Japanese capital has poured out into the world, seeking new enterprises to invest in. I have fielded questions from American and European businessmen and intellectuals regarding Japanese industry, which has bought property in Europe and America and is engaging in many redevelopment projects.
"When the oil dollars began to buy buildings around the world and engage in redevelopment projects, it was our evaluation that the goal of this investment was a quick return, and that sooner or later the investors would withdraw again. As a result, we agreed to be very cautious about such investments.
"We all hoped that the recent Japanese investment outside Japan would be different, but now the emerging consensus is that the Japanese investment is not so different from the oil dollar investment before it."
From the perspective of our friends in Europe and the United States, architecture and urban development are the very core of a country's culture, and as such are part of a long-term general strategy that encompasses business, technology, and culture.
Francois Mitteran's "Grand Projet" -- including the construction of the New Paris Opera, museums, the new Arc de Triomphe, libraries, the Arab Cultural Research Center, and the renovations and additions to the Louvre - - was a grand international strategy to assure that twenty-first-century France would remain an international center of art and culture.
Looking to the upcoming unity of the EC, the goal of Mitterand's strategy was to make Paris an international cultural center, and he clearly stated that business and technology were means to achieve this cultural goal.
Nations with powerful economies and advanced technology have a comparable authority, and their political clout is strong. Usually, such nations also increase their military power and take the role of world leader or world policeman. England in the Victorian period, the Prussian Empire, and post-war America are all examples.
But it is no longer true that a nation with a strong economy, advanced technology, and a large military force necessarily commands respect from other nations in the world.
The fear of Japan that is whispered about in the world recently is not a simple phenomenon; its source ranges from jealousy to complete misunderstanding, but especially frequently heard is that others have no idea what kind of nation the Japanese want to create with their money and technology, what kind of world order is their goal. Perhaps Japan has no cultural goals and seeks only to expand its economy and increase its profit. The thought of an infinitely expanding giant economic machine is unsettling.
To become a world leader that can contribute to the construction of a new world order, a nation needs not only power but authority. Power is obtained through economic achievement, technology, and military force, but those are not the stuff that authority is made of. Authority is acquired through culture.
In every country on earth, people look down on the nouveau riche, people who spend all their time hustling after money and have no interest at all in art or culture. You can't expect to have the respect of others simply because you are rich and your hands are covered with gold and diamond rings. The farther such a person goes -- having the Mercedes Benz trademark cast in gold or making an all-gold bathtub -- the more he is scorned.
In contrast, the poorest artist or scholar may well possess the authority to move people's hearts. This is the power of intelligence, of culture. The criticism that "Japan has no face" is another way of saying that though Japan may be wealthy, it has no cultural authority.
The many and diverse regional cultures that exist in the world today may be a bit backward from an economic or technological perspective, but each possesses its unique cultural identity. The symbiosis of different cultures around the world only becomes possible when we respect and value the authority and pride of each of these traditional cultures. This is no doubt the sense of the Arab poet Adonis's remark that an in dispensable condition for symbiosis is the liberation of other cultures from the oppression of Western culture, which harms their pride.
Sacred Zones, Indispensable for Symbiosis
I believe that a theory of sacred zones is a key concept in discussing the significance of the dawning Age of Symbiosis in greater depth.
The word "symbiosis" is probably of little interest to friends, to people without competition or opposition. Symbiosis as a new world order should really be used to describe the relationship we form between two essentially opposing mutually exclusive elements. In this sense, it is completely different from Shichihei Yamamoto's Japanese-style symbiosis as imminent harmony.
The "harmony" that the Japanese are so fond of is a sort of peaceful compromise that avoids struggle, conflict, and competition. It is a concept that the Japanese probably acquired in the communalism and agricultural society. We also have the terms "coexistence." How is that different from symbiosis?
During the Cold War, period of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union and the United States turned their backs on each other and competed to dominate the world. I think this can be described as a state in which neither party needs the other.
What I mean by "symbiosis" is a relationship of mutual need -- while competition, opposition, and struggle continue. How can mutually opposing, different things exist in symbiosis? The concept of sacred zones is the key. I believe that every country, every culture should have its sacred zones.
As I followed the meeting of the Japan-U.S. Structural Impediments Imperative, it seemed to me that the U.S. position was that as world leader, America's rules should be the world's rules. Everyone should follow the same, common rules, which transcend differences among cultures and peoples. This is a typical form of domination, of the universalism of the previous age.
Certainly, as much as possible commonly held rules are a good idea. No one, I think, would oppose the statement that as much as possible, we should have free competition based on a fair and agreed-upon basis. But on the other hand, the fact that differences remain is not evil, nor is it irrational. The United States certainly does not suggest that Iran, for example, should abandon Islam and Islamic customs.
Protecting the diversity of life means protecting the diversity of culture, and supporting that diversity. A symbiotic order is an order in which we recognize others' differences and their sacred zones, and compete on that basis. Economic activity can be statistically measured, but the same standards cannot be applied to culture, religion, or a lifestyle. These things are judged by quality. That is why we cannot rank cultures in a hierarchy of superior and inferior.
I think that for Japan, the emperor system, rice, and the sumo rank of yokozuna (grand champion) are sacred zones.
Though the emperor system may be regarded as merely a symbolic rank today, I believe it plays an immeasurable role in stabilizing Japanese society. That is the reason that the U.S. Occupation made positive efforts to preserve the system after the war.
I have mentioned rice earlier, and as long as rice is discussed purely as a foodstuff, I think it is only natural to completely liberalize the market and allow the free import of U.S.-produced rice.
But though it may be true that Japanese agriculture is gradually becoming a part-time occupation and the nation is increasingly urbanized, rice production is shrouded in the very roots of Japanese culture in farming villages, festivals, folk songs, sake production, and the other aspects of rice as culture. The forestry industry, now in crisis, is supported by agricultural labor during fall and winter, as are lacquer work and other traditional crafts. This "culture of rice" does not come with rice grown in California, which is a foodstuff pure and simple.
If sumo were simply a sport, no one would disagree that everything in it should be decided on the basis of matches won and lost. But from its inception sumo has been closely linked to the emperor system, and it has a strong traditional and ceremonial aspect. If we ascribe a special significance to the grand champion, who carries out many of those ceremonies, there is nothing wrong with regarding his rank as a sacred zone. This is not racial discrimination by any interpretation.
The idea of sacred zones is fundamentally distinct from the doctrine of protectionism in trade.
It is important to note that America has its sacred zones as well. Having adopted a dominant, universalist posture, it is hard for the United States to admit that it has its own sacred zones, so, for the sake of building the new symbiotic order, Japan should come out and say to the U.S. that it is all right to have sacred zones. Once Japan has helped America defend its sacred zones, Japan will be able to declare its own sacred zones.
In my opinion, the automobile industry, baseball, and Hollywood are all sacred zones for the United States. American culture as we know it would not exist without the automobile industry, baseball, and Hollywood. All three are deeply rooted in the American lifestyle and are sources of pride for Americans.
If we think solely from the perspective of economics, there is no reason why Japanese companies shouldn't buy Hollywood studios, become owners of major-league teams, or crush the U.S. auto industry. Japanese companies insist that they were invited to buy out American interests, or that U.S. consumers prefer Japanese cars.
According to M&A, one of the rules of America business is that a company can be sold at any time, and the Japanese buyers thus see no problem with their acquisitions, even thinking, with some justification, that the Americans should grateful to find a buyer. But U.S. business leaders and the American people are two different things. The rules of business and technology are not just that but should also be seen as connected to a people's lifestyle and feelings.
The feelings of the American people are deeply hurt. In addition to the need to bring Japanese industry closer to that in the West and to change the Japanese economic and social system as a whole, we need to recognize the cultural imperative not to invade the sacred zones of other cultures. When we do business abroad, we must make efforts to preserve the unique local culture, participate in the cultural life of the cities, and strengthen the links between business and culture.
Even if two parties recognize each other's sacred zones, if they share no common rules, there is no way they can exist in symbiosis. But if they share at least a certain amount of rules, and if they have any desire at all to understand each other, they can use that common ground to open a dialogue and the construction of symbiotic relationship becomes possible.
The size of the arena of shared rules is never fixed. It is better to think of it as always changing, in response to the changing strengths of both parties and global conditions.
Symbiosis is a dynamically changing relationship. At times Japanese business style should be followed, and at other times the other nation's business style should be adopted. Through a process of trial and error, the arena of shared rules can be enlarged.
That is why Japanese companies should not become the sole owners or operators of foreign companies. Whenever possible, they should expand cooperative ventures with the companies of other countries. The reason Japanese companies prefer to completely buy out a company is that they regard it as a loss of face unless they have complete and sole control.
But through trial and error and repeated dialogue, and to deepen mutual understanding, we must change direction from outright purchase to participatory investment, from sole operation to joint operation, from buying completed buildings to building a symbiotic relationship through participation in long-term urban redevelopment programs. In any case, the new symbiotic order that is beginning is different from the free competition we have known until now, and it is without a doubt a goal that requires painstaking effort and is fraught with difficulties to overcome.
1. Kyosei no Jidai, edited by the Nihon Bunka Desain Kaigi. Kodansha, 198a. My principal lecture, "Toward the Age of Symbiosis," is included in this volume. In addition, the reasons for selecting the theme "Toward the Age of Symbiosis" are discussed afterwards in the book.
2. Kyosei no Shiso, by Kisho Kurokawa. Tokuma Shoten, 1987. Revised edition, 1991.
3. Hanasuki--Reflections on Traditional Architecture. Kisho Kurokawa, Shokosha, 1991.
4. Rikyu Nezumi Ko: Ryogisei no Geijutsu. Edited by Kisho Kurokawa, Geijutsu Shincho, June 1978. Also, Guree no Bunka, Kisho Kurokawa, Soseiki, 1977; Michi no Kenchiku--Chukan Ryoiki e--, Kisho Kurokawa, Maruzen, 1983.
5. Metabolism in Architecture, Kisho Kurokawa, Studio Vista, London, 1977.
6. Newsweek, October 1989, no.19.
7. February 1992, Bungei Shunju.