NYC (New Yamato City) Japan Aims to be a JA Enclave on the Japanese Island of Hokkaido
By CAROLINE AOYAGI, Pacific Citizen
In the year 2020 Japanese Americans return to the motherland and establish a vibrant JA community on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Domed complexes with climate-controlled interiors provide shelter from the blistering winter months. An international airport is the center of a bustling tourist hub where foreigners and Japanese alike can come and experience the wonders of the JA culture.
Sounds like a good premise for a science-fiction movie, right? Well not to Peter Wagner because this is his idea for establishing New Yamato City (NYC) Japan, a vibrant Japanese American community in the Hidako District of Hokkaido, Japan.
“I am pretty sure what we are trying to do is in many ways unprecedented, and this makes it potentially very historic. To me, it is this revolutionary aspect that makes NYC Japan so fascinating,” said Wagner from his home in Maryland. “When you think about the community NYC Japan could ultimately create, it’s almost mythic … If we are successful, it will certainly be an example for the rest of the world.”
Wagner, a 42-year-old retired Marine who works for the Department of Transportation, came up with the idea for NYC Japan on a recent flight home from Japan with his wife, Kazumi Ideguchi Wagner. After several weeks of developing his ideas for the futuristic city, Wagner established NYCJapan.org in July, an informal, non-profit organization. The concept and details can be found at his website.
The development of NYC Japan involves three initiatives. The first is the coordinated resettlement of JAs, those of Japanese descent living in both North and South America, to Hidako, an underdeveloped area of Southeastern Hokkaido. To deal with Hokkaido’s famously harsh winter months, Wagner has come up with the idea to build a network of “solar dome communities” to create pleasant living conditions. The third initiative would involve the construction of an international airport and commercial center that would provide jobs for the relocating JAs and create a world-renowned tourist mecca.
Wagner doesn’t have an exact timeline for NYC Japan but his first goal is to recruit interest from both the JA and Japanese communities, especially from those JAs who would actually be willing to relocate to Japan. He’s hoping to get about 10,000 signatures for a petition posted on the NYC Japan website.
“I really think it is just a matter of getting the idea out there and letting it sell itself by its own merits and by the natural enthusiasm of people when they see a better way to live and raise their children,” said Wagner, who has three kids: Yamato, Makoto and Katomi. “If nobody is interested, then there is obviously no sense to take NYC Japan any further … NYC Japan is not about a sales pitch; it’s a potential that either has merit in today’s world or it doesn’t. The JA community gets to decide.”
Since Wagner’s website has only been up for a few weeks, he doesn’t yet have a clear idea of how people will respond to NYC Japan. But so far his wife and brother-in-law are supportive of the idea.
“[Kimiko] is as excited about the possibilities and the great potential of NYC Japan as I am,” he said. “At first she had a lot of questions … but after she really got to understand the concept the way I was imagining it, we became one in mind about it.” Wagner added, “My wife’s brother, who works as an architect in Japan, thinks it’s a great idea.”
A century has passed since the first wave of Japanese immigrants headed to the United States, and with the passage of time has come vast differences between the JA and Japanese cultures. Asked whether these differences may present a challenge in creating NYC Japan, Wagner said, “The goal is not to reconcile the two cultures, but instead to create something totally new and better from the foundation of the rich JA experience.”
“Only JAs collectively can determine what they want in a culture, and being familiar with the Japanese and American versions, they have a brilliant vantage point from which to decide,” he added. “What NYC Japan could be is a celebration of the best of both Japan and America.”
Wagner readily admits that he cannot easily identify what JA culture is and in this respect, he hopes his current outreach efforts will help provide some defining.
“I really don’t know what [JA culture] is,” he said. “I’d be interested to hear what others have to say. The way I see it, I am not sure if there even is such a thing as JA culture … I just know what goes on in my house, and it is bilingual, and just about everything else is pretty much merged as well. The way we do it is very symbiotic, as I am sure it probably is with most others.”
Wagner hopes he’ll start to hear from the JA and Japanese communities and once that happens he plans to bring the concept for NYC Japan to the Japanese government, especially the representatives in Hokkaido, and eventually to the officials in both North and South America. Once the officials get involved then there’s the matter of recruiting professionals to help in the development and building of NYC Japan, especially those futuristic solar domed communities.
“I have the heart of an architect, but not necessarily the mind of one,” said Wagner, when asked how he came up with the idea for the solar domes. “All I can say is that once the concept is fully developed … it will not only be feasible, but it will be clearly the MOST feasible approach. Just about every study shows that small communities are the most efficient, productive and family friendly places to live.”
Wagner hopes to visit Hokkaido with his wife in the near future and would love to have signatures of support to show some of the Hokkaido officials.
“Kazumi and I know we are just common people with a big dream against great odds. That is why it is important for other common people like us to join the movement so we can show strength in numbers, and also strength in a common mind, heart and spirit of the JA community,” he said. “NYC Japan is definitely a people movement, and as the saying goes, people have the power … but only if they believe it.”