The Art of Hosting

The Story of Hope and Purpose in Japan after 3/11

Bob Stilger and Yuya Nishimura with Nao Y. Ashida tells us the Story of Hope, Possibilities, Prototyping, Trying and Never Giving Up after the disaster of 3/11 in Japan.
The story was shared in Art of Hosting_Thailand_for Social Innovation. A group of people from Thailand, Japan, India, Singapore, China, New Zealand, US were left in deep appreciation of the test that the human spirit was put up to in the triple disaster of Japan. There was a collective emergence of deep gratitude for the connections and conversations from the East and the West that made a difference.
Imagine what more of such connections and conversations can do to enable us to create our world together?

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Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:57am

The video is a result of impromptu capture with the sound of the wind and the sun's glare streaming in sometimes - Also, luckily I got the first part from Mary Alice Arthur, which has better clarity. If it helps, below is a transcription (with Nao. Y Ashida's help) of the entire story sharing to do away with distractions in the video.  

Presenting The Story of Hope and Purpose in Japan after 3/11

By Bob Stilger and Yuya Nishimura (with Translator: Nao Y. Ashida)


Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:47am



Collective laughter


Allen: “Let me get my flash out first (More laughter)….to revive the memory.”


Bob: “So Yuya and I will tell one story of the many stories present in Japan right now.”


Yuya: “With Nao”


Bob: “With Nao, who will help, now.

Today is June 11th.

Three months and six hours ago life was normal in Japan. People would brighten up, going to their houses, going to their schools, going to their stores. 

Three months and five hours ago that all changed.

It changed first when the earth began to shake. And buildings started to sway. And things started to fall. And the earth started to fall. And people said, ‘what’s going on? We know what’s going on but when will it stop?”

A little later, the first tsunami came. And those who were not swept away in the first tsunami, said, ‘oh (phew!) thank goodness – that’s over.

Then the second tsunami came. The second Tsunami was bigger and more powerful than the first. In some places, it was more than 60 ft tall, taller than a three storeyed building, taller than the three storeyed building that still stood infront of you before it was washed away.

Then the atomic plants, the nuclear plants, started shaking and suddenly sleet was coming out. And nobody knew what that meant. These were safe nuclear power plants, built with higher standards. Nothing could happen to them.

The three types of destruction; the destruction of the earthquake, the destruction of the Tsunami, the destruction of a nuclear power plant were each horrific. And each bigger. And experiences of people trapped in each of those disasters were different.

I’ve never seen more destruction in my life when I went to one of the Tsunami sites. But in some ways destruction in a Tsunami is small compared to the invisible destruction of the nuclear power plants.

Just to give a sense of scope now three months afterwards. 300,000 houses partially destroyed. A 100, 000 houses completely destroyed. 200, 000 people who had lost both their homes and their job Another 300, 000 who had lost either their home or their job. The economy of the region is gone. Is almost destroyed. And the destruction at the physical level is actually small compared to the destruction that is emotional, subtle, energetic blow because what happened in total, in that top part in the big island of Japan has reverberated not only throughout Japan but its reverberate through the whole world.

I've been there for the last two months. I was going for other purposes and my purpose changed after 3/11 ... but I arrived in Japan on April 5th and met up with (a pause, a smile and looking at Yuya -) this guy. We already have some plans in motion that were constructed long before 3/11.”

Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:47am

Yuya (and Translator: Nao)

“It is difficult where to start. Let me start with the two simple stories.

We have Art Of Hosting (AOH) session twice last year in Japan. And in April, in this year, we had a plan to do the gathering of the participants of the AOH. So it is just like a festival. We were thinking about it, we were planning. So just like as Bob says, after 3/11, our purpose has changed.


On March 11, I was in the middle of Tokyo metropolitan area,a big town. I was hosting World Cafe. When the earthquake hit Japan, we were doing the second round of World Cafe. Of course we cancelled the World Cafe after that. And because all the training stopped and nobody could go home, we all stayed in that building where we had hosted the World Cafe.

This earthquake was my second big earthquake that I experienced. Nao is from Kobe and 15 years ago, we have such a big earthquake in Kobe We have big earthquakes quite often. But, we never had, the disaster from Tsunami, earthquake and radiation at the same time. We never had anything like this before.


Now I will go back to the gathering’s story.

The gathering that we planned...we were thinking of about 30 or 40 people. But the actual gathering was 14 people. We did World Cafe and we did Open Space. And where we hold the gathering was (Bob points at the location of the area on the map of Japan) .. there, the place called KEEP(

KEEP, that facility, is built by Americans, one American guy. He came to Japan sixty years ago when we had another big earthquake in Japan in Tokyo area.

So he build the foundation and the facility, which is part of the foundation.

What happened there, when Yuya went there, is to see what Art of Hosting can do to help.”


Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:46am


Bob: “So we got there and one of the wonderful people at the KEEP, called by the name of Yamamoto-san and like everyone else in Japan, the day after the earthquake, Yamamoto-san was saying,

'I have got to do something. I have to do something.’

 And, he didn't know what to do. But he got the KEEP's bus and he drove to Koriyama. Koriyama was the place for many of the refugees from Fukushima, who because of radiation, had been evacuated. He didn't know what he was going to do but he knew he had to go. And he went there and he found his way to one shelter. One shelter, among about a 150 shelters! It happened to be the largest shelter. It was a former sports complex. It is still a sports complex. But, at the time, 3000 people were living in the sports complex.

"I don't know what to do but this is impossible."

And he found 43 people and he brought them in the bus back to KEEP, to give them some place better to live and better food to eat for a period of time. And he started to have a relationship with them and with the Kiip. This would have been three weeks later than we were there. And by then, many of those families were returned and only a few were still at the Kiip. There were still 3000 people, who were living in this once sports complex.

They were afraid to leave because if they left, this was the best shelter in the region. If they left, they could not go back, their space would be gone. 

Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:46am

Also, people in Tohoku (Northern Japan) are the ones most rooted in ground, they didn't want to. These were the 3000 people, who 3 weeks before had whole and healthy lives.  They were independent. They made their own lives. Now they were living in a shelter. And the 3 local governments every day brought only one rice bowl 3 times a day because that was what, that was the best thing they could do.  


So, we are talking, we are saying,

What else is possible here? What can shift the situation?

And we started talking about the youth.

And a plan started to evolve.

We said, we know, in one month we will find 15 youth - a third of them living in the shelter, a third of them volunteering in the shelter and a third living around the shelter.

And we will invite them and fifty other youth from around Japan will come together for three days and begin to have a space to host the grief and begin talking about, how do we live now? What will we do now? What do we create now?

And a plan, very lucid plan, just started to come together.


The next day, Yamamoto-san, made another journey from the KEEP to Koriyama.

Part of why he was going was because the KEEP had made a commitment that we will feed the 3000 people for 7 meals. Thats all we can do. We will provide 7 meals. So he went back to work on that. He went back to begin to discover how we might begin to create this kind of gathering.


Like most good plans, the plan we started with wasn't very good.

Things didn't work the way we thought they would.

We couldn’t find the people.

We didn't know enough about the region.

Two weeks later, Yuya and I were scheduled to go to Koriyama, to this shelter. I got sick. Yuya went alone. And, Yuya will tell you a little bit about there.”

Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:46am

Yuya (and Translator: Nao)

“So I went to the shelter

My primary purpose of visiting the shelter was to invite the people, invite youth to come to the workshop that we held in KEEP.

And let me add a little bit about the workshop. The tuition of the workshop is all covered by Kiip and also Berkhana Institute

So for the tuition and transportation and hotel, room fee, its all covered, everything is covered.

So, I was expecting, you know, once I give out the flyers of this workshop, many people would come.

But it was not that easy.


People in the shelter did not want to leave the shelter.

It’s because, they do not know when, but they expect to go back home, so they might be able to go home quite soon.

Its really an unknown. They really did not know. But that was a possibility


So, the local government, they also did not know what to do. They did not want to do any extra things. And the local government's priority and hope was that everything goes back to normal and not to add new things.

So I talked with the NPO and NGO people around the area.

What I found out was that the NPO and NGO people want to do something and start something. They are also thinking. Then I found out that they can be my supporters.  

Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:45am

Bob: “Yuya told me this story 3 days after he came back.

One of the things that he talked about was all the levels of complexity

Here is the nuclear reactor.

The people who live within 20 kms of the nuclear reactor will never go home again, not for a hundred years.

Those live between 20 kms and 30 kms might, maybe, sometime, go home again. But nobody knows when.

In theory, those who live more than 30 kms away can go home again, except now, their ground is becoming too contaminated as well. So, there is huge uncertainty and very different circumstances - all living in that shelter, now down to 2500 or 3000

In the end, 14 people from Fukushima came to the KEEP and joined Yuya, and Susan, and Tats and me and some others, who hosted them for 3 days alongwith 45 other people who came from all parts of Japan - 8 from Hiroshima and many from other parts of Japan and we spent 3 days together, trying to recreate and rediscover what might come next. 


One man who came was a person who worked in a beautiful park in Fukushima. He came. He was in his 50s. He was one of the oldest participants and came saying, "when I saw that flyer, it said - For Young People. But I knew that maybe if I went, I could start to find some hope again.” He came really broken hearted. Somebody you could see, that his normal way of being was to be bubbling with life. He was devastated. One of my favourite images after three days was him running around the circle, saying "I have hope again".


There was an incredible shift in that 3 days.

We wanted something to start,

We didn't know what would start, but we wanted something.

And all those people who came to KEEP said, Please come, Please come back to Koriyama with us and lets do this for some of our friends and neighbours there. 

We did this as a prototype. Berkhana and KEEP supported it to see what would happen, what could happen

We brought people across Japan together, in the same place. 

Yuya went to the Japan Foundation and to the KEEP Board Directors and said, 'we want to do this five more times. We want to bring people from Fukushima together with their friends and neighbours across Japan to be in the question, how do we step forward?'

The KEEP Board Directors, yesterday said, 'ok, we will support.’”


Yuya: 'The President" 

Comment by Natasha Dalmia on June 26, 2011 at 11:43am

Bob: “The President said that we will support. We are hoping that he has lots of swing.

Japan Foundation has said, 'Maybe'


None of this would have happened without the prototype.

The prototype began to demonstrate, what could happen.

We are hoping that it begins one of the bases of connecting people in the region and across Japan with the region.

One of the images that is working right now is creating,  that we are inviting people to create a network of the Future Centers across the Tohoku (Northern Japan) area so the people there control the recreations in the region.


This is only one of the many stories of how people are stepping forward.

On one hand, this has been a terrible disaster and on the other hand, it is re-ordering people

People are saying, 'Hmm, we don't have as much electricity in Tokyo and my life is better. I am spending more time with my family. I am thinking about what's important to me.

In Japan, people are saying, 'Maybe we should use Gross National Happiness' as a way to measure progress

People are in a whole different conversation now.

This is years ahead.

Half a million people either without houses, or without jobs, or without work

Think how that reverberates through the whole region, through the whole country, through the whole world.


So, Thank you.”


Yuya (and Translator: Nao)

“Right after the earthquake, I messaged people, emailed people.

And what I wrote was, ‘I want to host a AOH for 1000 people in Japan. Usually we have 50 people at one time. So we’ll do AOH for 20 times. I know that was a silly request.’

And the President of the Foundation said that he will support the hosting if we do it 5 more times, if we can invite for 300 people, he said he would support us. 

When I send the email to Bob I knew Bob would think that I’m silly or strange, I did know how he would react, but once I did it (sent out e-mails), I felt we are one step closer to our dreams. 


Thank you!” 

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