Surf Shacks 006 - Hiromi Matsubara

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By Indoek / Published by Indoek
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Meet Hiromi Matsubara, CEO of Surfrider Foundation in Japan. Hiromi is a free spirited yoga instructor, macrobiotic vegan chef, environmentalist, and all around amazing human being who embodies the generosity and hospitality of the Japanese people. She lives in the woods in Chiba, close to the beach in an incredible artist community where she hosts many a wandering traveler, showing them the best that Japan has to offer.
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Where are you from? Where do you live now?

I spent five years of my early childhood in London, UK, and after that grew up mostly in Chiba, Japan. Now I live in the woods in Chiba, a lush forest community 90 kilometers east of Tokyo, 10 minutes to the beach.

Has your job become more demanding after the disaster at Fukushima?

Definitely yes. Many people (not just surfers) are concerned about the state of our ocean and we’d like to be a reliable, authentic, trustworthy source of information. But it’s very hard, as it is an unprecedented time in history where nobody yet really knows the full scope, scale, and real impact to the health of the planet and its people.There is a lot of conflicting news out there about radiation levels in the Pacific ocean and in our seafood.

What can you tell us about Surfrider’s research and testing?

We have been conducting water quality and bottom sand (knee to thigh deep) testing programs to measure radiation (C134, C137). Fortunately, we have not yet detected any harmful amounts of radioactive isotopes in the water or sand, but with our limited sample and lack of professional knowledge and expertise, it will be inappropriate to declare, with 100 percent confidence, the safety of the ocean. We just don’t know yet. But, we hope to build a metric or some sort of independent water quality standard with experts and officials in the future. Now talking about the food contamination: It is true that radiation does accumulate in the ecosystem (soil and food system) and some isotopes have long half-lives, so we just have to be cautious about where we live and what we eat to minimize both external and internal radiation exposure.

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What has been your biggest challenge as an environmentalist in Japan?

I think all of the environmental problems today are derived from human ego. We have destructed and taken so much out of the nature in the name of development, better lives, good lives… but is it really that good and worth it? In the developed world, we have to realize that we already have so much stuff and waste in our society, and yet we are still driving consumerism and capitalism, which is so unsustainable. The challenge is to make people realize that we are all part of a finite system and we are the cause of the results of our problems. Only humans make waste that nature cannot digest. So we have to rethink our core behavior so we can also be part of the solution. The richest person is not the one who has the most, but who needs the least. Less is more, small is beautiful.

How did you find this place and how long have you been here?

I just came across it randomly through a local real estate agent when my friends and I were looking for somewhere in the countryside for our satellite office for my previous job. When we found this place, it was love at first sight. We started renting in summer 2009 and I moved out of the city and moved permanently in April 2011—so almost four and a half years.

What is your favorite part about your space?

I love everything about the house—except for the fact that it is darn cold in the winter! But maybe the view from my dining room. The green, lush rice fields in the summer are absolutely stunning and it nurtures my soul and DNA.

Your home feels like it belongs somewhere in California, instead of Japan. Do you draw inspiration from the American surf culture aesthetic?

It’s a mix and bit of everything. Californian, Hawaiian, Australian, European, Scandinavian, Balinese, and Japanese. A lot of the stuff I have in the house are gifts from people who have stayed with and visited me. It’s a nice way to always remember them and the fun times spent together, and feel their presence somewhere in the house.

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What is your favorite part about the area you live in and your community?

It is so quiet that I can hear the trees whisper, the birds sing, and the insects cry. The sky is so open and the air is so fresh, which has become almost unnoticeable in the city. People don’t even have the time or space in their minds to look up to the sky and breathe deeply. Nature is so powerful and when I see the seasons change slowly and elegantly, I feel so alive here. And I think when you are surrounded by something bigger than yourself, you become humble, gentle, giving, creative and sensuous—and hence try to be yourself, live life, and live your dreams. Everything here is real, nothing here is fake and you cannot be pretentious. In nature, you can really let go of suppressed emotions, get in tune with your values, and follow your passions. It’s the kind of the quality of life that neither money nor time can buy—you just have to be here in this moment, here and now, to appreciate that you are simply alive. Also, people chose to live here intentionally, whether for surfing, in pursuit for organic, sustainable living, or for other reasons. There is one thing in common: we all have a story to be told and shared and we have time and space to listen to others. It’s the story that led us here in this present living, the story we chose, different from the norm and unique, which is much needed in Japanese society.


This article was originally published on Indoek as part of the Surf Shacks series, featuring the homes of creative surfers from coast to coast and overseas. See the full interview and photo gallery here.

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