JUNKO EDAHIRO, President of ISHES and Founder of Japan for Sustainability

Junko Edahiro Portrait

I believe the root cause of many of our problems today is the loss of interconnectedness. We are less connected to ourselves, to each other, to nature; our actions seem not to be connected, money became disconnected from the real things it represents. Now comes the era of recovering, of rediscovering. The point is to recover the important links, and the environment is the starting point.

If it weren’t for her role as dutiful wife, perhaps Junko Edahiro would never have become Asia’s  ‘First Lady of the Environment’ aka ‘The Green Queen’, as she is known in the Japan Times. At the age of 29, Junko accompanied her husband to New York and while he furthered his education, she learned and then mastered the English language. On their return to Japan, she began a successful career as a simultaneous-translator. When Lester Brown (then President of the World Watch Institute) toured Japan in 1993, she acted as his official interpreter.

Lester Brown’s personal anecdotes and professional articles were a source of inspiration for Junko who went on to translate all of his writings into Japanese. True to her quote above, it was a human connection that initiated her interconnection with the environment.  Today, she measures her own life’s value on her ability to lighten humanity’s impact on the Earth: the “human footprint on the Earth is growing. I want to be able to say that I contributed to reversing this trend. I want to say at some point that my life was valuable.”

What initially began in 2002, as a simple newsletter for Japanese citizens concerned about sustainability became the online platform Japan for Sustainability. 30 new articles every month are published on the site with the help of 350 dedicated volunteers. Junko’s attempt to connect people to information quickly snowballed into a large international community. “When it comes to information,” she believes, “the more you give the more you get.”  In line with this she sees her professional role as that of an interface, linking people and information. As mother, wife and member of society, what she values above all is connection.

2003 Summer Onomichi

2003 Summer Onomichi

The success of her first initiative encouraged her to start more. In 2003, four years before the first Earth Hour, Junko co-conceived Candle Night, “Turn of the Lights. Take it slow”. Twice a year two hours are dedicated to candlelight and its gentle anchorage of an individual into the present moment.The following two years were equally as fruitful for Junko, who founded E’s Inc,, an empowerment initiative for Adults, and Change Agent that creating leaders for positive change.  All the while, she continued translating sustainably-minded texts – including Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – and wrote some of her own. Her publication, “Beyond ‘Eco’ – How to make a happy future” foretells her most recent position.  As President of the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES) she describes the foundation as one that “tackles the root causes, not the results of problems” (Green Prospects Asia, 25 June 2012). A specialisation of hers, “de-growth” studies, defines a generational shift in attitude and action towards capitalism. In other words, there is a generation of Japanese workers who redefining the terms of success, reconnecting with each other and nature, and embracing “Half-farmer, half-x” type lifestyles.

“Welcome to an era of “De”!” Junko proclaimed at the 2011 TEDxTokyo Event. To jump onto the “De”-bandwagon, connect with Junko by watching her TED talk.


Additional quotes    

“In this negative atmosphere, people will give up and despair. But I believe in the power of positive information and I want to provide a fountain of hope.”

“That is the obligation of any government – to secure and improve enabling conditions for their people to pursue their own happiness within the limits of sustainability on Earth.”


Country: Japan

Type of Education: Bachelor degree in Education followed by a Masters in Educational Psychology at the University of Tokyo.

Awards: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Germany, 2009

Foundation Affiliation: n/a

Pathway to Impact: Path of Concern, Path of Values

Impact Area/s: Health – feeling well, access to clean air and water; Social Relations – social cohesion, ability to help others; Freedom of Choice and Action – female empowerment.

Organisation Type: Foundation/ Traditional NGO, Social Enterprise

Facts & Figures: An article published 18 April 2013 in Japan for Sustainability promotes the Shiga Prefecture’s ‘smile index’, a new measure of wellbeing. The French Green Political party support ISHES’ “Degrowth” movement.


Junko’s ISHES Blog, http://ishes.org/en/eda_column/                                                                                                            Twitter (in Japanese), @junko_edahiro

Websites of Organisations

Japan for Sustainability

Candle Night E’s Inc  (in Japanese)

Change Agents (in Japanese)


About the author Helena Rosebery

After completing a Master of Communication (Food & Culture) from Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy, Helena Rosebery followed her heart to Zürich where she is inspired everyday by the resilience and greenness of her home-grown herbs. Helena employs words and coloured pencils to professionally communicate all that is – and is not – in the pursuit of a more ethical world.

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