Jacob Reiner is founder, Chief Designer & COO of Earth Embassy and Eden Homes, an eco-friendly architecture, design & building company. He has 20 years of experience in sustainable design, construction management, eco-technology and agriculture in Hawaii, New York, Canada and Japan. Seewww.earthembassy.org for more info.
If you are wondering where to find a true example of eco-friendly lifestyles, incorporating all the modern catch phrases -- sustainability, organic agriculture, LOHAS and slow life -- the best place to look is actually to the past. Traditional Japanese villages from the Edo period were self-sufficient, completely organic and the homes were built with readily available materials from nearby forests.
One such village that has escaped the hectic development of modern life is a small enclave of traditional Japanese kominka homes on the shores of Lake Shoji in the Fuji Five Lakes region known as Fujigoko. While nearby Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Yamanaka are cluttered with hotels and chain restaurants, Shoji is a quiet, bucolic community where the locals still grow their own edamame (baby soybeans) and make their own miso.
The one street that runs along the small river in the center of the village is filled with classic Japanese homes dating back to the Edo period. The local family restaurant, Kotobuki, is run by a family that has actually been there for three generations. The menu includes wakasagi fish from the lake, pumpkins grown in the garden outside, organic mint tea from the nearby Solar Café & Farm, and venison from the local mountains.