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Hisashi Fujii, 77, a Soka Gakkai chapter leader, lives in the town of Okijuku near the shore of Japan's second largest lake, Kasumigaura Lake. Hisashi is a representative of the Kasumigaura Clean Party, a volunteer organization devoted to environmental beautification, specifically the clean up of the lakeshore and its environs. Together with some 50 volunteers, he goes out once a month to pick up trash and garbage along the lake's embankments, tributaries and a nearby national highway. The Clean Party's efforts to restore Kasumigaura Lake have contributed to an increase in tourism to the area, which in turn has brought regional economic revitalization.
In 1999, just before his 70th birthday and after having retired from his position as an assistant stationmaster, Hisashi was appointed a community outreach leader in his local Soka Gakkai organization. As he began seriously thinking about what he could do for the community, his first thoughts centered on the lake. Hisashi recollects, "When we were young, there used to be fishing boats that would fish for pond smelts and sardines in the lake. We could even drink the lakewater. With the growth in population and improvements to the standard of living, there was also an increase in the garbage. In spite of how bad the situation was, no one had taken any action to rectify it. So I thought that I should."
Various kinds of debris drift ashore at Okijuku because of its proximity to urban communities. The south wind also blows refuse toward the lakeshore. Even more litter is left by the many amateur anglers attracted to the embankments along the lake. In February 2000, Hisashi organized the first clean up. He and the volunteers he recruited collected four tons of garbage. After witnessing his initiative and its results, local cooperative fisheries associations and environmental protection groups began coordinating efforts with those of Hisashi, leading to the formation of the Kasumigaura Clean Party, a network of concerned citizens.
related article SGI and the Earth Charter SGI groups in over 20 countries are now actively involved in promoting the Earth Charter and finding ways to put it into practice at the local level, working in partnership with other community groups and organizations. Today, Hisashi's efforts to contribute to his community have broadened in scope. He is currently one of the leaders of his local gateball federation (a team mallet sport similar to croquet), and serves as vice president and treasurer for the community's senior citizen's association. Also, for many years he has conducted statistical surveys for the community and, in 2006, he received an official certificate of appreciation from the town.
Hisashi says, "In 1983, I suffered a compressed spinal fracture. The doctors told me I would never walk again. But thanks to the earnest prayers of the people around me coupled with medical treatment, I was able to recover completely. I am profoundly indebted to the local Soka Gakkai members, whose support has made me what I am today. Dedicating my life for the sake of my community and for the sake of others enriches my life." Hisashi has learned that restoring and maintaining a beautiful environment requires both awareness and action, and that our efforts win the respect of local residents.
[Adapted from an article in the March 26, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]
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