COARA, a network in Oita

I was steeped in a sense of freedom when I went to Tokyo from Fukuoka. This is because at that time Fukuoka was not attractive for me. I was full of remorse for coming from Oita to such a shabby city Fukuoka. Since it is now growing to be one of the most prosperous areas in Japan today, I should have regretted that I moved to Tokyo. Tokyo was the center of every culture. Fukuoka was just an outsider. I strongly felt so when I heard second-hand news in Fukuoka. Every thing around me was outdone by Tokyo - included were first-class jazz bands, first-run movies, and brand new records. Those things were very difficult to get in Fukuoka. I believed I made a mistake by living in Fukuoka. So, I was very delighted to go to Tokyo and get a job in Hitachi as I mentioned before.

But it was a big surprise for me to live a life in the capital. I packed all my belongings from student days into cardboard boxes and sent them to Tokyo. Oddly enough, I had no chance to open any of them for three and a half years during the days in Tokyo. This was because I had no space to take my things out and arrange them in order. So the cardboard boxes were all left untouched and sent back again as they were. I wondered "Were people in Tokyo really satisfied with the standard of living like that?" I couldn't accept an hour for one-way commuting. Whenever I came back to Oita or Fukuoka, it always made me wonder what such a life in Tokyo was for. I switched my thinking to believe that I should live a free life in abundance of nature and think in such an environment as that. I finally came back to Oita. I was disappointed in Fukuoka, in Tokyo, and again in Oita. This was because I just felt as if I had returned to a remote countryside and got sent to the boondocks.

I was discouraged, and thought such a miserable life should be eliminated. One day, I met Morihiko Hiramatsu, the governor of Oita prefecture. He has been advocating "Era of local area." He is indeed a man of a cheerful disposition. He often encouraged us who were complaining of the shortage of resources. His type of thinking is very optimistic. A famous movement called "One village one product movement" certainly came from a "reverse way of thinking." From medieval days, Oita was divided by Tokugawa shogun into small fractions of feudal clans, because Oita opposed the Tokugawa shogunate. The land was divided and citizens wer encouraged to quarrel with each other. Hiramatsu made good use of this traditional isolated sense of the people. He said each area had to have its unique resource and everybody should be able to produce something competitive all around the world. He also said, concerning the production of such excellent goods, that people could make a profound study of each other and improve themselves. This would, in turn, make much better products. I was in complete agreement with him. I thought that the "One village one product" movement is a way of mapping out a plan to boost the economic development of villages, and also, perhaps, of farming areas. I came up with an idea that in towns, there must be something that fits the residents of the city. By fortuitous timing, a plan was offered from the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency to establish a computer network and a database in the Oita area. I thought that if we could make good use of the database, our experience would be useful and we could do something for the local residents. In 1985, about 12 years ago, 30 young comrades joined together and started an activity. This is the origin of COARA.

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