Inaka Lifestyle

Intentional Lifestyle in Japan’s Serene Countryside

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Escaping the Chaos: Embracing Serenity in Japan’s Countryside through Intentional Living

In recent years, intentional lifestyle has become a popular trend in Western culture. It involves simplifying one’s life and making conscious choices to focus on what is truly important. A unique place where one may pursue intentional living is the Japanese countryside. Let’s look at what intentional living can look like in rural Japan and explore if your life priorities might found in the inaka.

Intentional Lifestyle in the Japanese Countryside

Japan is a country that is rich in culture and history, and its countryside is no exception. The rural areas of Japan are known for their picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and traditional way of life. For many Japanese people, living in the countryside is not just a matter of geography; it’s a way of life that is deeply rooted in cultural heritage.

One of the key aspects of intentional living in the Japanese countryside is the concept of satoyama (里山). This term refers to the traditional landscape that surrounds rural communities in Japan. Satoyama is a unique ecosystem that combines forests, fields, and human settlements. The idea is that these different elements work together in a mutually beneficial way. For example, farmers use the forest to collect firewood and cultivate mushrooms, while the forest provides a habitat for wildlife and helps to prevent soil erosion.

Another important aspect of intentional living in the Japanese countryside is the concept of mottainai (勿体ない). This term is often translated as “waste not, want not,” and it embodies the idea of using resources wisely and avoiding unnecessary waste. In the countryside, this means being mindful of how we use natural resources like water and energy, as well as being careful not to waste food or other materials.

Imagining Your Own Future

Designing an intentional lifestyle involves first identifying one’s priorities and values. Here are some questions that individuals can ask themselves to understand what kind of lifestyle they want:

What do I value most in life? Is it family, the environment, relationships, career, personal growth, spirituality, or something else?
What brings me the most joy and fulfillment? Is it spending time in nature, pursuing a hobby, volunteering, or something else?
What are my long-term goals? Do I want to start a family, build a successful career, or travel the world?
What are my strengths and weaknesses? What skills do I want to develop, and what areas do I want to improve?
How do I want to spend my time? Do I want to work a traditional 9-to-5 job, or do I want to have more flexibility in my schedule?
Where do I want to live? Do I want to live in a bustling city or a peaceful rural area?
What kind of community do I want to be a part of? Do I want to be surrounded by like-minded individuals or people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives?

By asking these questions, we can gain a better understanding of our priorities and values, which can help us to design an intentional lifestyle that aligns with our goals and aspirations.

For those having a hard time thinking about their own values, try using Brene Brown’s list of values as a starting point.

Intentional Lifestyle Practices in Rural Japan

So, what might intentional living look like in practice in the Japanese countryside? Here are a few examples:

Growing Your Own Food

One of the most common practices in the Japanese countryside is growing your own food. Many rural families have a small plot of land (hatake / 畑) where they grow vegetables, fruit, and other crops. This not only provides a source of fresh, healthy food but also reduces the need for transporting food long distances.

I’ve joyfully taken on this task on a small scale by growing my own salads.

Preserving Food

Another common practice in the Japanese countryside is preserving food for the winter months. This involves techniques like pickling, drying, and fermenting. By preserving food, rural communities can extend the availability of food throughout the year, even when fresh produce is less available.

Using Renewable Energy

In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards using renewable energy in the Japanese countryside. Solar panels and small wind turbines are becoming increasingly common, as people look for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and take advantage of the natural resources around them.

Recycling and Reusing

In the Japanese countryside, recycling and reusing are taken very seriously. Many communities have strict recycling programs, and people are encouraged to reuse items as much as possible. For example, old clothing might be repurposed as cleaning rags, to mend baskets, or in traditional weaving.

Community Support

One of the most important aspects of intentional living in the Japanese countryside is the sense of community support that exists. In rural areas, people often rely on their neighbors for help with tasks like farming, childcare, and home repairs. Teamwork creates a strong sense of social cohesion and mutual support that is vital for a healthy and sustainable way of life.

What Makes an Intentional Lifestyle Special in the Inaka?

Depending on your priorities, there are unique aspects about living in rural Japan that allow people to create truly beautiful, meaningful lifestyles. Here are some common lifestyle values and the unique experience for each as found in the inaka. 

Family

For those who prioritize family, the Japanese countryside can provide a peaceful and safe environment for families to grow and thrive. The slower pace of life can also allow for more quality time spent together as a family. The close-knit community in the countryside can also provide a support system for families, with neighbors looking out for each other and offering help when needed. As it is common to have small class sizes in rural school, you need not worry about your child getting enough individualized attention ever again.

Relationships

The Japanese countryside offers opportunities to connect with others, whether it be through participating in local traditions or volunteering at local organizations. The sense of community in the countryside can also lead to more meaningful relationships with neighbors and friends. Living in a smaller community can also create a sense of accountability, encouraging us to maintain positive relationships with those around us.

Career

… depending on what kind you are looking for, hah! While the countryside may not offer the same career opportunities as a city, it can provide a unique opportunity for individuals to pursue their passions, hobbies, or freelance work. For those interested in agriculture, the Japanese countryside offers a chance to cultivate the land and participate in community-supported agriculture programs. Additionally, the slower pace of life can allow individuals to focus on personal growth and development, which can lead to career opportunities down the road.

For those seeking to pursue online or remote work, the low cost of living will allow your money to go further. When I started my online business, I felt that it was a low-risk venture because I was living in the Japanese countryside. If I didn’t make much money, the low rent, home-grown food and national healthcare meant I didn’t have to worry about my own survival too much. 

And to quote a local foreigner, “even English teachers can live like a king.” Yes, English teachers are often held with respect in rural areas. Between the working hours and pay, teaching English in the inaka can be a low-stress, high-leisure experience.

Personal Growth

Living in the Japanese countryside can be a catalyst for personal growth and self-discovery. The slower pace of life and closer connection to nature can provide a space for introspection and reflection. The countryside also offers opportunities for individuals to participate in local traditions and learn traditional crafts, which can be a source of personal fulfillment. Immersion in a non-native language, navigating a new culture are also sure to provide both challenges and opportunities to grow. 

Spirituality

The Japanese countryside has a rich spiritual history, with many traditional Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples located in rural areas. Living in the countryside can allow individuals to connect with their spiritual beliefs in a deeper way. The closer connection to nature can also be a source of spiritual inspiration and growth. Even in the inaka, there are lovely Japanese gardens to be found where one can absorb nature and fill their spirits.

Overall, the Japanese countryside offers unique opportunities for individuals to live intentionally and pursue their values and priorities. By embracing the slower pace of life, connecting with nature, participating in local traditions, and engaging with the local community, individuals can create a fulfilling and intentional lifestyle in the countryside.

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