How RC Began in Japan

I learned Co-Counseling in 1987 from an English woman, and then from Holly Jorgenson who was visiting from the United States. After I finished fundamentals, Holly asked me to try teaching RC. I wasn't sure I could do it, but it sounded good. RC was a new idea, and I liked the theory. It gave me power. Because of my disability I had always felt oppressed, and I wanted to be an equal with people.

(My disability is called "glass bones." I've had more than twenty fractures because my bones are easily broken. My disability is not yet curable by medical treatment, so when I was a child the doctors treated me like a medical mouse. I had eighty operations and many, many medical treatments. This is why I have always had the strong feeling that I want to be treated as an equal human being. Before learning RC, I was already committed to the liberation of people with disabilities and was becoming known as a strong leader in that community.)

I taught an RC class, assisted by Shiom Morita, my friend and attendant who had taken fundamentals with me. After this Shiom and I went to the United States and attended a week-long fundamentals class with Barbara Love. Then we went to San Francisco to a teachers' and leaders' workshop led by Harvey.

Harvey was very nice to me. He told me to go teach RC. I became very committed. I knew it was the right thing to do. (Later he told me that when he first met me he wasn't sure I could teach or build a Community, that he had some doubts about me.)

After I returned from the United States, any time I spoke publicly I advertised RC. I called the feminist newspaper and told them about it. They printed an article about RC through which I collected a group of women to whom I taught my second fundamentals class. Shiom started her own class at the same time. I was getting excited about teaching fundamentals. I taught lots of classes.

For the first three years after I learned RC, I gave talks about RC maybe once a month. After that the number increased to two or three per month, and sometimes up to ten.

I spoke to parents, teachers, people with disabilities, women, parents of children who didn't want to go to school, single women, businessmen, Koreans, and deaf people. There was lots of travel. If after a talk people wanted a class, I, or later on some other teacher from Tokyo, would go to that Community for a weekend every month, for four months, and teach fundamentals for ten hours each weekend. If someone could be certified to teach, I would certify him or her. Sometimes someone would lead a support group after the fundamentals class. Sometimes people would want an ongoing class, and an RC teacher from Tokyo would follow up.

I was also teaching "peer counseling" at the Independent Living Center, training people with disabilities to be peer counselors. I taught RC as part of that. When I spoke publicly for the Independent Living Movement, I introduced RC theory.

The women's movement called me to give a talk. The anti-nuclear-power movement asked me to speak about "How can we make a good world?" and from that they started RC in Hokkaido. Wako Ono (now the Area Reference Person in Hokkaido) was an anti-nuclear activist. I gave her many sessions as a friend. She cried for several days and then decided to become an RCer and build an RC Community in Hokkaido. Every week for six months I wrote an article in the Hokkaido newspaper (circulation five million) about RC. Wako got more than two hundred calls from those articles, and many who called took classes.

The Kyushu newspaper (circulation 200,000) and the Okinawa newspaper printed an interview with me in a series of ten articles. The Asahi newspaper (the biggest in Japan) also interviewed me and published an article.

Any time I've had a chance, I've granted interviews to journals and newspapers. I don't talk about RC in radio or television interviews because "mental health" oppression is heavy in Japan and people could be confused by sessions shown on TV.

In December 1990 we invited Harvey to Japan. He led our first "open workshop." Seventy people attended. Harvey was surprised to see so many people there. After that I became the Area Reference Person in Japan.

Since then, every year we have invited a leader from outside of Japan to lead a workshop here. More than a hundred RCers have attended each workshop.

I wrote a book about my life as a disabled woman in which I talked about RC. It was published in 1992 and sold more than ten thousand copies. Over a hundred people contacted me after reading the book. If they wanted an RC class, they were put on the waiting list for their Area. Many people came into classes that way.

I have been interviewed many times because of my leadership in the Independent Living Movement and my role as the head of the Bata-Bata Foundation. The Bata-Bata Foundation is a small non-governmental organization I established in 1993 after going to the Philippines and meeting many children with disabilities. It has been supporting children with disabilities in the slum areas of Manila. We collect twenty dollars (U.S.) each month from two hundred people in Japan to help the disabled children go to inclusive schools. Through this work I met Melanie Catalan, a Filipina who became an RC teacher in the Philippines. Natsume Kawashima, who was on the staff of the Bata-Bata Foundation, became an RC teacher in Tokyo.

In 1994 I asked Shiom to be the Tokyo Area Reference Person. Later Tokyo divided into two Areas, and each of us led one Area. In 1995, when I was appointed Regional Reference Person, Tsugumi Fujita became the other Area Reference Person. Many people from our early RC classes are now important leaders in Japan. Tsugumi was in Shiom's second class; Junko Hashimoto, the Area Reference Person for the third Area in Tokyo, was in my second class; Ulala Sakiya, a leader of women and disabled people, was in my third class. Sachiko Ishizuki, who worked at a grass-roots women's center that did telephone counseling, invited me to come teach her how to listen to people. I asked someone else to go instead of me, and that person taught two fundamentals classes to Sachiko's group. Sachiko is now the Area Reference Person in Niigata.

In 1994 I met my present partner, Abno. We got very close, and I became pregnant. It was hard work being pregnant because I am only four feet high and have weak bones. I got through this hard time by using RC. On May 9, 1996, I gave birth to Umi.

Because my disability is genetic, my daughter was born with the same disability. After her birth I became much busier, so other RC leaders got involved in spreading Co-Counseling. The Area Reference People (above) and other leaders from Tokyo, including Machiko Nakano, Hidetoshi Mizoguchi, and Sachiko Mochizuki, have traveled to distant parts of Japan and taught RC.

Now there are ten teachers in each of the three Areas in Tokyo. There are several teachers in the Hokkaido and Niigata Areas. There are also teachers in unorganized areas: Kei Shimada, an anti-nuclear-power activist in Aomori; Miyuki Ueda, who is also a parent leader; Aiko Jinno, my sister; Akiko Endo, a young adult; Maki Usui, a young adult parent leader. Jo Michiko Iwaki, a strong leader of the civil rights movement, is leading in the west of Japan. Hiro Hoshiba, a blind woman, has been steadily building the RC Community in Osaka. Reiko Kotani has been starting a new Area in Okayama. Yuko Otsubaki is a young adult leader in Kagawa. Yukiko Miyazaki, the oldest woman in the Japanese RC Community, is powerfully building a Community in Fukuoka. Setsuko Sato, who met me through Amnesty International, is actively involved in RC. Masako Takezawa is spreading RC in Okinawa.

I have been brave and tried a lot of new things. I have invited many people with disabilities into our Community, and our Community has done a lot of work on inclusion. I think we have the most leaders with disabilities of any RC Community in the world. I am proud of that.

I've also made lots of mistakes. Choosing teachers has been difficult for me. My priority has been getting RC information out, rather than training leaders. I've seen my role primarily as giving talks and starting RC in many places, with others doing the follow-up. I have given many people teaching certificates, like Harvey gave to me, and trusted them to teach, but I haven't had lots of time to provide ongoing support.

The other leaders and I recently decided we would change our focus and consolidate our gains by prioritizing the development of leadership and counseling skills within the Communities we already have. I won't stop speaking about RC, but I will spend less energy on starting new Communities until our existing Communities are stronger. In the next period I plan to focus on men's liberation and family work.

Yuho Asaka
Tokyo, Japan
(from an interview with
Diane Shisk on May 4, 2000)

 


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07