April 4, 2005, Japan for Sustainability: Gara-bo
Aikokai, a non-profit organization based in Hamamatsu
City, Shizuoka Prefecture, has been encouraging people
to protect the environment by using detergent-free cloths
for washing dishes. The wash clothes are made from organic
cotton the NGO has planted in local fields. Once a center
of cotton production in Japan the fields had laid abandoned
for several years and the local industry has struggled
as a result. The NGO hopes the cotton grown without
the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides will have
the added benefit of boosting the local economy.
Using their past experience, about 40 elderly residents
undertook the task of cultivating and spinning cotton.
The cotton is being spun using a now obsolete method
called “Gara-bo”. According to water quality
activist Ryoko Honda, they enjoy these activities, believing
that they are playing an important role in preserving
the local culture. The passing on of traditional wisdom
and techniques from the elderly is also developing the
relationships between generations in the community.
Children also participate in cotton harvesting. Fascinated
with white cotton, they handpick it with tender care.
"I'd like to preserve the authentic texture of
traditional cotton for children," said Honda. The
organization aims to produce one ton of cotton in 2005.