One subject that is extensively taught from external sources, however, is Yamagishi’s history.
As the legend goes, Yamagishi-ism has its roots in Typhoon Jane of 1950, a violent storm that hit Japan especially hard around the Kyoto region. The Uji-gawa river subsequently overran its banks and flooded a number of rice fields, including those belonging to one Farmer Yamagishi [Miyozo].
Once the storm subsided, a government official from the Department of Agriculture was dispatched to survey the damage and was surprised to find Mr. Yamagishi’s rice paddies completely intact, while those of neighboring farms were devastated.
Farmer Yamagishi proudly attributed this feat to his unique farming and chicken-raising techniques. But more than that, Farmer Yamagishi reportedly explained, was the environment in which the products were cultivated: within the framework of this ‘ideal society’ where humans work the land in total harmony with nature and the rest of the universe.
The government official’s curiosity was naturally aroused, as the story continues, and he started visiting Farmer Yamagishi on a regular basis. Other farmers joined in the occasional gatherings and in March 1953 the Yamagishi-kai (Yamagishi Association) was officially founded.
On January 12th, 1956, 162 Yamagishi supporters held their first tokkoh, an abbreviation for ‘special workshop’, at Kyomo-ji [temple] near Kyoto. The original idea behind the workshop was directing the participants’ inner energy toward the kind of ‘happy society’ Yamagishi offered. The special workshops have been held ever since.
The workshop is an integral part of the village lifestyle even now because it is more or less the only way an outsider can get his foot in the Yamagishi door. The workshop is an eight-day retreat spent atop a mountain in nearby Yokkaichi. Yamagishi staffers deliberately avoid giving out any details of the workshop, except to say that it teaches one “how to find oneself.” As Hans says, those who take part in the eight-day session find themselves afterward with lit-up faces, a fresh outlook on life, and a sense of mellowness in their being. The cost for such enlightenment is ¥38,000 per periodic workshop.
That’s the first required step any potential villager must take before being accepted into the Yamagishi clan. Of course, those who decide not to join after completing the workshop are free to go their own separate ways. But for those who are intent on becoming a village person, there is a second two-week workshop for ¥15,000. After that, the Yamagishi doors start to open and a new life begins.