The goal of this class is for you to write interesting and meaningful articles about the place where you live, Kochi. To research, think, and write about your community is an act of citizenship. As citizen journalists, you are actively participating in a democracy.
To begin, we need to understand some basic ideas like “citizen”, “free press”, and “news”.
What is a citizen?
A citizen is the opposite of a subject.
Subjects look up to a master, but citizens are so far equal, that none have hereditary rights superior to others. Each citizen of a free state contains, within himself, by nature and the constitution, as much of the common sovereignty as another. In the eye of reason and philosophy, the political condition of citizens is more exalted than that of noblemen. Dukes and earls are the creatures of kings, and may be made by them at pleasure: but citizens possess in their own right original sovereignty.”–Historian David Ramsay
The fact that you “possess in (your) own right original sovereignty” means that your vote in an election counts as much as anybody else’s. There is no “higher” power than the people themselves.
But with this power comes responsibility. Each citizen is at least partly responsible for every action the government takes. This means that you must understand the world around you, and do what you can to shape it as you think best. If there’s a problem, it is a citizen’s responsibility to fix it — either through voting or direct action (volunteering).
Citizenship is both a great treasure and a life-long obligation.
What is a free press?
When a country is said to have a “free press”, it means that the government can’t control the flow of information to the public. It is one of the most important features of any democracy. Without a free press, citizens can not know the truth about what has happened, is happening or will happen. Without an active free press, a citizen’s vote means nothing.
What is news?
Not everything that happens is news. For example: “Today my wife made misoshiru for breakfast.” Is this news? It is something that has happened, but it is not important to the wider community. Therefore, this is NOT news.
Let’s take another example: “Sakamoto Ryoma was an important figure in Japanese history.” It’s something that happened, yes. It’s something that is important to the wider community, yes. Why is this not news?
Let’s take yet another example: “Syrian refugees are coming to Japan to kill people.” Is this important but not well-known? Yes, it would be if it were true. But this is not actually happening. We call this “Fake News.”
The goals of “Life in Kochi”
From the beginning, the Life in Kochi Project has been more than just a writing class. At first, the goal was to educate your teacher (who cannot read Japanese) about a place he loves. Over the years, however, it has also become an exercise in active citizenship, doing what it can, in its very small way, to help promote our community.
Like many rural prefectures, Kochi faces great challenges. The lack of economic opportunities forces young people to move away, and Kochi is one of the “grayest” prefectures in Japan. As a result, the prefecture struggles to maintain its vibrancy and its ways of life.
In addition, large chain stores have moved in over the last few decades put great pressure on local businesses. These chain stores take much of the wealth out of the prefecture. This in turn puts great pressure on the government to provide the services local people need. Not only that, these large chain stores also take away local character and weaken the bonds of community as the shitamachi shutters go down.
But Kochi people don’t give up. When big money moves in, local people get creative:
There is deep local pride and a long tradition unusual individuals who do interesting things. There is yet much “Life in Kochi.” Our job is to find this life, write about it, and tell the world about it. Writing an article for this site is both citizenship in action and love and support for our community, Kochi.