STORY 4Philosophy Café : Designing a Place to Discuss
In today’s local communities, there are no places where people can freely discuss various topics. It may be because it is against manners to talk about so-called “serious” topics such as social issues, community problems, and life concerns. It is taboo, so to speak, because the speaker does not know whether or not to talk, and the listener does not know how to react. However, if we do not talk to each other, we cannot share our awareness of the problem, much less work together to solve it.
In addition, with the advent of a super-aging society, the participation of the elderly in society has become a serious issue. Having spent most of their lives as so-called “company people,” the elderly often have little connection with their local communities. It not only takes great courage for them to enter the community like new employees, but they often stumble at the entrance because they do not know how to communicate with others there.
In Higashimiyoshi Town, Tokushima Prefecture, there is a “philosophy café” that meets every three months on Sunday mornings to discuss various topics. Anyone can participate as long as they pay for coffee and do not have to identify themselves. However, the Philosophy Café has certain rules. Those who want to speak may express any opinion they wish, and those who do not want to speak may listen. There is no need to draw conclusions or reach a consensus. It is simply a matter of participants sharing their various opinions. Professor Yoshiyuki Yama of Kwansei Gakuin University has been running a philosophy café regularly since 2015 in Higashimiyoshi Town, Tokushima Prefecture, where he has been conducting long-term, in-depth fieldwork since 2009. Professor Yama first encountered philosophy cafes while studying abroad in France and intuited that they could be helpful for community development (Machizukuri). After returning to Japan, he introduced them to several community development projects.
Philosophy cafes may seem intimidating, but they are valuable opportunities for social participation, where people can think deeply about various issues and exchange opinions. Local intellectuals gather there and become aware of each other’s existence through discussions. It is also an opportunity for participants to learn communication skills for placemaking through the experience of creating a place together and to make it more complete. Furthermore, those who have acquired such mannerisms create new contacts and develop various community activities. Researchers around the country operate various philosophy cafes, but this philosophy café is the only one with the objective of community development.
Nowadays, there is a need to design such a place for discussion in the field of community development.
Author: Bonjun Koo
The story focused on co-creation activities of researchers and the stakeholders to real-world problems. It is not a summary of the research project, but an original article based on interviews with the researchers and residents involved, as well as publications from the project. If you would like to know more about the research project and its outputs, please refer to the following references.