Foxfire in Japan!


Tokyo Presentation: Kikigaki-Koshien Conference


Visions of Foxfire: Then and Now


            We appreciate the invitation by the Kyozon-no-Mori network to join other celebrants on this occasion. We are honored and affirmed to participate in this event to celebrate the fifteenth year of Kikigaki-Koshien, and to share the hope that its success will stimulate similar initiatives in Japan and other nations. We are proud of the Kikigaki-Koshien initiative and its Foxfire Roots. 

            We aim today to share with you a wide range of perspectives about Foxfire, with the hopes that they will both enlighten you about how Foxfire has developed in fifty-one years, and encourage you to consider the relevance of some of those developments in your own contexts, opportunities and challenges.  We have provided some documents to supplement our talk.

            After watching the DVD, Listen to the Mountain Sages, reading about the Kokigaki-Koshien initiative, and observing the presentations on Saturday, we realize there are many possibilities to share with Foxfire when we return to the U.S.  It is evident to us that there is much that we can learn from one another.

Foxfire’s beginnings and development

            A condensed narrative about how Foxfire got started, then gained momentum, then national attention seems appropriate here.

            Foxfire’s beginning certainly was inauspicious: a young, inexperienced English teacher realized his attempts to guide his ninth-grade students toward some understandings of grammar and composition were ineffectual. The story is that he was made fully aware of his situation when a student attempted to set fire to his podium with a cigarette lighter. Elliot Wigginton’s next-day response, however, set a precedent that was developed over the following years into the Foxfire Magazine project that has lasted fifty-one years.  Rather than attempting the usual coercion tactics, he challenged the students to suggest possible ways that might engage them in what they were expected to learn. One of the options they suggested was that students would write compositions.  This was an unpromising route, considering most of the students’ lack of basic understanding of grammar and writing.

Two students chose instead to interview a former sheriff about a bank robbery that had occurred thirty years previously, and then edited that interview into an article.  This became the prototype for the interviews and articles that have spanned now more than 50 years. The students learned that a great many skills were necessary to turn an interview into a readable article.  They were motivated to make the article the best it could be by the fact that their article would be read by members of their own community and beyond. That first article, like the ones that followed, was extremely well received and gained approval in the community. From this first interview and article, the magazine project took off.  But what is most important is this: in their effort to produce compositions for a publication with audiences beyond their teacher, their grammar and composition skills leaped up to grade level and beyond. This accelerated learning curve is a classic illustration of the pedagogical ideas John Dewey introduced in the U.S. as far back as 1938.  John Dewey is recognized as the theorist most closely aligned with Foxfire.

            The name, Foxfire, came up in a discussion with the students about the magazine’s title. One of the local students had taken Wigginton to observe the phosphorescent growth glowing in the dark in the forests in the area, referred to by the locals as “foxfire.” As the discussion about a name reached a stalemate, he suggested, “Why don’t we just call it ‘Foxfire’?” It was a natural fit that distinguishes it from any other publication.

            Similar to Kikigaki-Koshien, an equally important outgrowth of the Foxfire project has been the appreciation by the younger generation of the skills and talents of their ancestors.

            When we consider that Foxfire has endured for over fifty years, that clearly suggests that the project embraces a number of durable elements, expressed most clearly in the Foxfire Core Practices, referred to in the rest of our talk. A translated copy has been provided to everyone. 

            The Foxfire interviews highlighted the skills and initiatives of the people of Appalachia.  These people had been often been considered “backward” by people in other regions of the U.S.  However, these original interviews and articles happened to align with the development in the U.S. in the 1960’s of a renewed interest in the “old ways” of doing things.  A smart publisher, Doubleday, recognized the potential for book sales.  He initiated an inquiry to Wigginton about publishing a collection of articles from The Foxfire Magazine.  Foxfire students voted “yes,” then selected and edited the articles for the book.  The Foxfire Book was a best seller for that year.       

            Book sales generated revenue. Although the check for $75,000 – a fortune in those days – was made out to Wigginton, he credited the students’ active roles in producing the book and gave them the option of deciding what to do with the money. The students knew of a 90-acre plot of land on the southeastern slope of Black Rock Mountain and voted to use the money to purchase it. That’s how Foxfire came to possess the land that is now the Foxfire Center. Donations of artifacts by people who were interviewed were the beginnings of what has now become the Foxfire Museum. 

            The official organization of Foxfire, the Foxfire Fund, has new leadership, TJ Smith. We are very fortunate to have someone with TJ’s experiences to assume the leadership, as you can tell from his letter to this conference, which will be provided upon request.

            In fifty-one years, there have been many changes affecting Foxfire: Wigginton is no longer associated with Foxfire; schooling in the U.S. has undergone changes adverse to Foxfire-inspired instruction; Foxfire survived a period of ineffectual, damaging leadership that would have destroyed a less resilient organization.

            Through it all, students at Rabun County High School continued to produce the Foxfire Magazine with new leadership. Jonathan Blackstock, the teacher managing the magazine since 2010, provides his perspective on the durability of that project.  Following are excerpts from his comments.  We also have short comments by current magazine students for anyone who is interested. 

Jonathan Blackstock

            The class that produces The Foxfire Magazine has experienced many changes over the past 50 years, but it is currently a journalism class that is offered through our English Language Department.  At one time, it was a core language arts class, and at another time, it was actually listed as a business elective. I mention these drastic changes only to illustrate that none of them matter. While changing political and education theories have rocked so many other courses and disciplines, The Foxfire Magazine production class continues to encourage students to make choices about how they learn as they chronicle the culture, values, and heritage of our local community. Our standards include the quality demands of our contacts and our past students, as well as creating magazine issues for an authentic, international audience.

            In our last issue, one of the senior students, Halle Fowler, described the Foxfire mission this way: “Foxfire is a family that has been preserving the history of other families for 50 years.” While we’ve seen many changes, the Foxfire focus continues to be local and personal in its attempt to inspire people globally. Similarly, The Foxfire Approach continues to guide our efforts to build community, record heritage, and educate by authentic and democratic means.

            We have provided several copies of the most recent edition of The Foxfire Magazine for your casual review.

Foxfire Programs for Teachers

            In 2016 we also celebrated the 30th anniversary of our Programs for Teachers. We have adapted the narrative for how that came about from the Introduction to The Foxfire Approach: Inspiration for Classrooms and Beyond. We have also provided three copies of this book for your contemplation.

            With the publication of the The Foxfire Book in 1968, containing articles composed by students for previous issues of the Foxfire Magazine, the high school project gained national attention. English teachers wanted to know how they could engage their students in that kind of accelerated acquisition of composition skills. Over the next decade Wigginton and his students addressed educator audiences of all kinds. Foxfire books came out at regular intervals. There are currently thirteen books of collected articles with a 14th slated for release in the near future.   Understandably, this program attracted the attention of educators and foundations.

            The Bingham Foundation of Connecticut visited Foxfire in 1986 to assess Foxfire’s potential to become a change agent in unshackling schooling from the entrenched, unpromising practices typical of our public schools.

            The next week the Bingham Foundation offered Foxfire a challenging grant: To actively explore the potential that the pedagogical practices which guided Foxfire’s cultural journalism program at Rabun County High School could be adapted – key word there: adapted – for students in grades K-12, all different subject fields, and all demographics. It was a one-time grant of five million dollars over five years.

             We asked ourselves how to label our venture into programs for teachers? What we advocated was not a “method,” nor a “strategy,” nor an “activity,” nor a “curriculum,” nor a distinctive “pedagogy.” In year two of our implementation of the Bingham Grant, in a conversation involving a teacher from the Foxfire teachers’ network in upstate New York, the coordinator of the Foxfire teachers’ network in North Carolina, and me, one of us said something like, ‘Well, it’s how you approach situations as a teacher…’ That was it: The mind-set each of us holds as we approach planning, implementation, and reflection on our instructional practices. Through our programs for teachers we aim to influence each teacher’s instructional practices by considering Foxfire’s Core Practices as key elements in his/her mindset.

            Our implementation of the Programs for Teachers included these initiatives:

  • First, offering week-long graduate-level courses on the Foxfire Approach, residential at the Foxfire Center during the summer. This has been a very successful venture and is scheduled to continue in summer 2017. Note: This is the course that Daisuke Fujii experienced that inspired him to connect Foxfire to the Kikigaki-Koshien writing and listening-method. It is through our relationship with Daisuke that we are here today.  
  • Second, continuing to review and refine the Core Practices, based on relevant, reliable research and the reflections of Foxfire practitioners. Last done in 2013, so it is about time for another review and revision.

            We included the foregoing to reiterate the understanding that Foxfire involves much more in the world of education in the U.S. than producing a magazine. Our hope is that you will see this wider application as well. A quick example of that deserves sharing. In 2003, three gentlemen from Harrar, Ethiopia, participated in our summer course. They were informed about the opportunity by a member of the U.S. State Department who was a native of the eastern part of the State of Kentucky, where we had established our first network of teachers. Their purpose was to learn how they could initiate a program that would lead the people of Harrar, including Christians in the area, to a deeper appreciation of their culture. In turn that would enable them to withstand efforts by radical Muslim groups to stir them into rebellion against Christian and Muslim minorities.

            The balance of our presentation provides a number of examples of our Programs for teachers.

            Kiel Harrell, one of the participants in the summer residential course, was inspired to the point that he focused his doctoral dissertation on Foxfire and continues to be an advocate and model of the Foxfire approach in his roles as a college instructor. Kiel shared his insights about Foxfire in a chapter in The Foxfire Approach.

Kiel Harrell

            The Foxfire Course for Teachers provides a unique space for in-service teachers to deeply reflect upon their teaching philosophy and practice. The types of reflective experiences available to participants in the course are best understood in relation to the history of reflective teaching. … The design of the Foxfire Course for Teachers promotes genuine professional development by supporting reflection that is generative, social and conscious of the aims of education and the social context of schooling. Teacher educators and facilitators of professional development who are interested in supporting deep reflection should look to the Foxfire Course for Teachers as a model of how to support teachers on this path.

                                                                        Smith, McDermott, The Foxfire Approach

            Kiel’s wife, Sara Lam, provides a unique perspective about her work in China that complements his comments about the Foxfire Course for Teachers, which she took in 2008. We included the first paragraph of her thoughts in our presentation. Her entire composition can be made available if there is interest.

Sara Lam

            I had been working as an educator in rural China for several years when I first heard of Foxfire. The Foxfire story of students working collectively to reclaim their education and reclaim their culture immediately resonated with me. Dominant culture in China associates “rural” with “backwardness,” “ignorance,” and “lack of culture.” The history, culture, lifestyle and contributions of rural areas are not reflected in curricula. Students are not allowed to use their home dialects in class. The goal of schooling is to achieve high-test scores to enter university to escape the village. In this way, the urban-oriented nature of education is strongly connected with the focus on test preparation and rote learning. In this context, my colleagues and the Rural China Education Foundation and I worked to break down the barriers between school and village, and create learning opportunities in which students could connect with their communities, engage in rigorous and meaningful inquiry, and practice working collectively to solve community problems and celebrate community assets. Foxfire was an invaluable source of inspiration and experience through that process.

            The next perspective about Foxfire’s Programs for Teachers is a very special one: my wife, Sara Alice Tucker. Her views about Foxfire reflect more than the reality that we share that experience. Prof. Tucker thinks for herself, often stimulating me to reflect anew on my own views.

Prof. Sara Alice Tucker

            My involvement with Foxfire actually began on my first date with Hilton Smith, who five years later became my husband.  I had heard of Foxfire before that fateful day in October when Hilton and I met; I had given a copy of one of the early Foxfire books to my brother, because it seemed to dignify and honor the ‘old ways’ of doing things practiced by our parents and grandparents.  But I did not know of Foxfire as a teaching approach.  The more I learned about Foxfire, the more intrigued I became as I could trace its Core Practices to the best teaching I had been able to do during my career—even before identifying the basis of the approach as Foxfire-inspired. 

            For eleven years, I taught in a small private school on the eastern shore of Maryland.  This was in the days before state standards, curriculum maps, and mandated high stakes testing.  The mission was clear: to provide students with engaging, pertinent work that resulted in durable, joyful learning. We were allowed great academic freedom surrounding  “how” to educate students in meaningful ways and as long as progress was evident—and it consistently was. Our students excelled by every measure.  They won awards at every level; they scored well on college entrance exams; they attended and graduated from excellent colleges and universities.

            There was a great deal of community involvement in the schooling at this small institution. The result was an almost exclusive project-based approach to learning—and the projects we undertook always included input from the students and their parents.  As I look back on our multicultural project, our manners project, our gardening project, our variety of technology projects, our bakery project, our environmental projects, our hospital project, just to name a few, I am aware of how much they resonated with the kind of learning promoted by the Foxfire approach.

            The college has another connection to Foxfire, Prof. Wilma Hutcheson-Williams, faculty member of the School of Education and, most importantly, the chair of the Education Committee of The Foxfire Fund. Her thoughts, shared below, serve as an introduction to the rest of our presentation.

Prof. Hutcheson-Williams:

                        Foxfire is an approach to teaching and learning whose time has come. Government and business leaders in the United States and other countries around the globe have recognized the limitations of rote learning that is captured in most standardized testing and have called for an increased use of experiential learning, frequently referred to as project based learning.  Many leaders in academia and in business have identified a set of 21st century skills that include these:                 

            (1) The ability to think critically, to sift through the oceans of data, information, and opinions now readily available, then to use the relevant information to solve problems.

            (2) The ability to think creatively, to find new and better ways to think about and use information and data.

            (3) The ability to communicate thoughts and ideas to others effectively.

            (4) The ability to work collaboratively with others to arrive at useful solutions to problems.

While it is important to note that it is not necessary to incorporate all ten-core practices into every unit or lesson, there are key elements to the approach in the absence of which its full power is unlikely to be felt.  The first of these is the concept of student choice.  While academic standards provide the “givens” that identify the academic goals of the class, student choice provides the engine that can power student engagement and motivation in the instructional process.  We know that an engaged student is a student who is most receptive to learning. It is why students taught under the Foxfire Approach show more engagement and motivation in their learning.

Another key element of the Foxfire Approach is the notion that the work is characterized by active learning, which includes problem solving and the building of understanding through experience.  The power of experiential learning has been recognized for over a century.  It is returning to prominence today as more education stakeholders recognize the limitations of knowledge as tested by standardized tests and the value of critical thinking skills and creativity. 

 Government and business leaders have identified the ability to collaborate and work with others as a key goal of 21st Century learning.  The Foxfire approach identifies such collaborative activities as peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork as consistent features of a Foxfire classroom.  The Foxfire Approach gives students many opportunities to learn and practice the skills necessary for effective collaboration with others. 

Finally, one of the key precepts of the Foxfire Approach is that there is an audience beyond the teacher for learner work and that the work is connected to the larger community in which the student lives.  This publication to others and connection to the outside world gives the work purpose and further enhances the students’ interest and motivation to produce their best work.  This leads to deeper learning and greater understanding. 

While each of the core practices are found individually in other approaches, the Foxfire Approach to Teaching and Learning uniquely combines these best practices in a way that reinforces and strengthens each.  Foxfire has had the benefit of fifty+ years of numerous practitioners’ experiences and is the right approach at the right time to teach students the skills and dispositions they will need to succeed in the 21st Century.

Speaking of skills and dispositions to succeed in the 21st Century, certainly the skills and dispositions associated with Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) are essential in coping with the challenges of the 21st century.  To that end, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation initiated a program for individuals with strong backgrounds in one or more of the STEM subjects and who had a strong inclination to teach secondary school. These candidates would have their expenses paid by the Foundation to participate in a specially designed four-semester program leading them to a master’s degree and certification to teach in a STEM field.  They would be committed to teach in “high needs” schools: low income, diverse ethnic student body. 

Piedmont College was one of five institutions in Georgia chosen to participate in this program. Professor Julie Palmour, Associate Dean of the School of Education, assumed the leadership in bringing this vision into actuality.

Professor Palmour

            We began our planning year for the Woodrow Wilson Program with a blank slate, albeit mindful of state requirements. Foxfire was clearly indicated as a main component that helped the Foundation to see our ability to create a transformational program.

            Professor Lynn Rambo manages our Woodrow Wilson Fellows program She provided the following perspective on the value of Foxfire in fulfilling the aims of this program.

Prof. Lynn Rambo

            From my perspective as curriculum director, launching each cohort of the Piedmont College Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellowship program with Fellows immersed in the Foxfire Experience has the effects of inviting Fellows to the work of education, setting the tone for our experiential, inquiry-driven program, and establishing norms and relationships in a learning community.

            . The plan to begin with Foxfire – rather than end with or embed it mid-program – is opportune since Fellows recognize the value and appropriateness of the Core Practices to impact teaching and learning early on.  They can, then, enter into educational environments with lenses attuned to student choice, teachers as facilitators and collaborators in active learning environments that connect the classroom and community, prepared for ongoing reflection relative to their burgeoning practice as teachers.

            A Fellow in our initial Woodrow Wilson cohort, Kimberly Tagaki, provides an eloquent and substantive account of how the Foxfire Approach guides both the preparation and practices of participants in that program. Kimberly, by the way, is 4th generation Japanese-American (Yonsei) and did her graduate studies in Japan. We are happy to share Kimberly’s thoughts along with other documents.

            The closing perspective comes from Jan Buley, education professor at Laurentian University in Canada. Jan’s involvement in Foxfire had a circuitous route that resulted in her participation in one of our summer courses, from which she emerged as one of our all-time most effective facilitators. Her eloquent narrative sings for itself and needs no introduction.      

Jan Buley

            Foxfire has been like a series of lanterns in a maze for me. Teaching in a university setting as I do presently – and in any setting – can be complicated. I can recall my days of elementary school teaching. There were and are twists and turns with diplomacy, deficits and discussions in staff rooms. There are compromises with materials and the “stuff” of day-to-day learning spaces and situations. There are lofty curriculum documents, policies and strategic plans that require hip waders, lest we drown in a river of paper and proceedings.

            There are students who are excited to be in school and those who may not be – yet. There are students who used to be excited about school. Such needless chaos at times! And yet, around the corners of the maze corridors, there are lanterns guiding me onward with hope and vision. Inside these lanterns, Foxfire glows brightly for me. In the soft light of the lantern, I can see the Core Practices and their words cause me to slow down and reflect more carefully.

            Sure there are times I get quite lost in the maze. One tunnel seems to end without another visible option to turn. But when I physically stop and breathe – when I truly reflect on the “what ifs” and “yeah buts” and the options ahead of me, I can always find my way to the next lantern – to the next stopping place with Foxfire. With each stopping point, my learning journey is illuminated by conversations with students and colleagues.

            I am invited to wonder about possibilities and imagine things as other. Ideas spiral upward and outward, sometimes disrupting “old rituals” or affirming ideas that were perhaps dormant for a long time. The maze becomes less restrictive and resembles a walk through a wonderfully rich forest.

            Our hope is that by providing this rich mixture of perspectives on Foxfire we can build on those perspectives and serve our students with experiences that leave them with durable learning that enable them to improve the social-economic-political conditions wherever they live and work and raise their families. We hope sharing these noble goals with our new friends of Kikigaki-Koshien will forge a better future together for all generations to come.

Hilton Smith

Sara Alice Tucker

March 20, 2017

Kikigaki Koshien Presentation

March 20, 2017


Our account of experiences at the symposium celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Kikigaki Koshien project at Yayoi Hall, Tokyo University.

Hilton Smith and Sara Alice Tucker


            The invitation to present at the closing session of the symposium came from Daisuki Fujii, participant in 2008 in our graduate course on the Foxfire Approach, at the request of Kyono no Mori Network, the non-profit organization that sponsors educational programs in Japan.  The invitation specifically requested Foxfire representatives from the U.S. because Foxfire was the inspiration for Kikigaki Koshien.

The project

            Kikigaki Koshien founder Shiono Yonematsu’s account of founding of the project and its connection to Foxfire seems like the best way to share the story.

            It is from the Foxfire project that I have learned our way of conducting Kikigaki Koshien program. One of my American friends gave me a set of Foxfire books I, II and III when I went trout fishing in Eugene, Oregon, 35 years ago. He told me that these books were widely read and sold two million copies.

            I was interested in the Foxfire project as high school students interviewed the members of their own communities and compiled their stories. I thought about starting a similar project in Japan, using my way of Kikigaki interview. Although I contacted several publishers to realize the project, my efforts did not bear fruit.

            Then the Forestry Agency of Japan started to honor 100 veteran forestry experts for their achievements and skills in 2002. (The experts of ocean and rivers are also honored now.) As a member of the selection committee of veteran experts, I proposed that students interview and record the experts’ lives and skills, and gained the consent of the organizers such as the Forestry Agency and Ministry of Education. In this way Kikigaki Koshien started in 2002, about 20 years after I first learned about the Foxfire project. Today, the Kikigaki Koshien program is administered by the NPO Kyouzon no Mori Network and is made possible through the support and cooperation of many private businesses.

            The reports of 100 high school students are compiled and published as a book every year and we have already published 15 books. The books are valuable records of the experts’ skills, experiences, and daily lives.

            (Mr. Yonematsu’s complete account is the first document in Tab C.)                          

            Excerpts from Listening and Documenting, a handout about Kikigaki in English, provide additional information about the program.

            Through this process of “Kikigaki” (it literally means listening and documenting), opening themselves to the experts, and attentively listening to their stories, the students empathize with the sustainable lifestyles and values of experts and become interested in problems of the society or regions faced by these experts.

            Listening to the stories of the experts and realizing various problems of the rural areas, high school students engage in such activities as restoring nature or revitalizing these areas in many parts of the country.  

            Kikigaki Koshien mission: Transmitting the wisdom and sustainable lives of our ancestors to the future generations.

            Listening and Documenting, First Edition, May 2012; United Nations University, Kyozon no Mori Network, and Ministry of the Environment, Japan. (This document is included in Tab E.)

            So high school aged young people go to the forest regions to interview and film individuals who have made their living by working in the forests. Note that they go there more than once. What is evident from their reports and films is that they bond with these craftsmen (and craftswomen). Often they experience life-enhancing insights into themselves, including perspectives about what they would like to do as their life vocations.

            Though initial descriptions of Kikigaki indicated that it is not a school program, we did learn that there have been spinoffs as school programs, as described in these excerpts from Listening and Documenting:

            The success of the Kikigaki Koshien programme led to the adoption of the Kikigaki method in regular school curriculums. One example is a class called “Creations from the Environment” taught at University of Tsukuba Senior High School at Sakado in Saitama prefecture. One year in this class, when the theme was “Uses of Bamboo,” students used the Kikigaki method to interview craftsmen who made rope, farming tools, and charcoal out of bamboo.

            One year, in the shopping mall near their school, Kakunodate students applied the Kikigaki method to interview the tofu maker, the fish vendor, the proprietor of the general-goods store, and other owners of the small shops that make up the old-style shotengai shopping mall there.

            To date about 1500 young people have participated in Kikigaki, 100 each year. The range of projects goes way beyond forests to include all types of vocations deemed deserving of preservation and sharing, such as ocean-going canoes, various handmade wooden utensils, and preserving rare plants. There was, for example, a project to highlight the history and culture of the Ainu, an indigenous culture that had been suppressed and exploited by the dominant Japanese culture.  The Kikigaki student and an 84-year old Ainu woman who constructed amazing garments from bark were featured in the March 18 event .

            We have requested a copy of a DVD that features five of those projects, complete with Hollywood scale scenes and musical sound track.

The symposium, March 18 – 20.

            March 18 involved 100 current Kikigaki participants, featuring special speakers, representing a wide range of views. We were fortunate to have Motoko Hosoi, the young woman who met us at the airport and guided us through the intricacies of bus and cab to the hotel, as translator. There were a number of special awards to the young people who had completed their projects. We watched about two hours of this event.

            There were displays of Kikigaki projects in the lobby. We included photos of some of those in our photo album.

            Our guide through our preparation and stay, Yui Kamiya, indicated that the second day would not be very informative (no translators available). That enabled us to spend it with Sara’s older son, Jason, his wife, Ji Hye, and their two young sons, who had flown up from South Korea. Our initial venture took us through the Tokyo fish market, an incredible collection of stalls featuring all sorts of fish fare, knives, cookies, clothing, etc. We had our most memorably delicious meal there. Later, we walked (and walked…) through a shopping district, then watched – get this – a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade, complete with brass bands, men and women dressed in green uniforms, and some scantily clad majorettes.

            Day Three, March 20, featured us as the initial presentation.  The 50th Foxfire Anniversary video was played as the introduction to our presentation.  We described how the Foxfire Magazine began, developed, and became recognized nationally. We described the development and aims of the Foxfire Programs for teachers, now 31 years in duration.  We wove mentions of Kikigaki through our presentation to relate them as much as possible to Foxfire. Our translator, Mizuki Nakamura, was excellent. Her animated representation of our remarks clearly engaged the audience. The audience was attentive/polite, something we observed at every event. There was no time allocated for questions.

            A copy of our presentation is available for anyone interested.

            A panel discussion followed our presentation, featuring two representatives of education (one from the Ministry of Education) and three who worked in various roles with Kikigaki Koshien.  We were able to follow the gist of the discussion through translation by Mizuki. The education reps valued the Kikigaki project and thought it should involve schools. The Kikigaki reps were appreciative of those views but thought involvement in schools was not a good idea. Their exchanges were civil and elicited laughter several times.

            On the 21st, Daisuki Fujii, the Foxfire summer course participant who invited us to present at this event, drove us to the airport. We stopped at the small, old town of Narita to do a self-guided tour of an ancient Buddhist temple. That turned out to be the perfect experience to complete this adventure.


            TJ, Jonathan Blackstock, and three or four current Foxfire magazine students could attend the 16th annual Kikigaki Koshien symposium in March 2018. Members of the Foxfire Board could also consider attending. That would provide first-hand information about their projects, with the possibility of similar projects here.

            We strongly suggest that the venture get out of Tokyo for a trip into the mountainous region of Japan.  When you see the DVD, you will understand why.


            It was very affirming to engage with this Foxfire spinoff on the other side of the world in a very different culture. At the same time, it is stimulating to consider the possibilities of projects like Kikigaki here.  The session featuring the Ainu woman stimulated considerable discussion between us about the possibility of Foxfire projects focused on minority populations, specifically Spanish-American and African-American. A focus on Muslim Americans seems especially relevant. 

            If we were to do this again, we would “be the thing.” We would have the house lights turned up, find out what the audience wanted to know about Foxfire, and ask for their reactions to what we were saying. It would have been a very different experience for the members of the audience who manifested the politeness we observed in every venue in Tokyo.


            … to Yui Kamiya, member of the Kyono no Mori staff, who arranged our travel, lodging and details of our participation – all with genuine caring and warmth.

            …to Motoko Hosoi, who met us at the airport, arranged bus and taxi service to our hotel, and seemed to be always available when needed – all with good humor and caring.

            …to Nanase Shirota, who served as our translator and guide on the 18th, and provided connections with Kyono no Mori and Kikigaki Koshien – with grace and warmth.

            …to Mizuki Nakamura, our highly skilled translator for the events on the 20th, including the panel discussion following our presentation – with skill and enthusiasm.

            …to Shiono Yonematsu, founder of Kikigaki Koshien, who asked for some additional time after the events on the 20th to share perspectives about our respective programs and provided his narrative of the founding of Kikigaki for our report.

            …to Daisuki Fujii, our Foxfire student who actually made the invitation to us to participate in the 15th anniversary event, and who drove us to the airport on the 21st, with a stop to tour a 920 A.D. Buddhist temple on the way.