From Empathy to a Just & Fraternal Society: WSIF Japan 2018 in Review

2756 1837 World Social Initiative Forum

Forum organizer & SIF Board Member Daisuke Onuki gives us an overview of WSIF Japan 2018: Knowing Self through Others  & its central theme “Empathy”, presenting the encounters, questions & new initiatives arising out of the Forum.  What magic was experienced in Japan? What call in society can we address using the tools & insights learned from one another in this meeting? & how can we move the impulses born out of this Forum forward –  together; as individuals; beyond age, borders, & creed? – NA

Text: Daisuke Onuki [JP]  Photos: Ren Tamura [JP] & Daisuke Onuki [JP]


The World Social Initiative Forum was held in Japan in the spring of 2018. This 5-day event took place in the temple complex of a Buddhist sect’s headquarters & a publicly run youth center in the outskirts of snow-covered Mt. Fuji. Blessed by one of the most gorgeous cherry blossoms in recent years, it was attended by over 450 people coming from 15 countries & all different backgrounds: young & old; East & West; South & North; anthroposophically-oriented & those not at all; those with immigrant backgrounds & those even unaware of the multiculturalism in Japan; students; educators; social workers; artists; Capoeirists; & many others.

Through Social Eurythmy, we experienced “I & you. You & I. And also We.” | © Ren Tamura [JP]

The theme chosen for the occasion was “Knowing Self through Others: Empathy, a Path towards a Just & Fraternal Society”. The issues of socioeconomic, as well as cultural marginalization in the world, specifically in Japan, were addressed. The important role of empathy in awakening the local community, the society, & the world to the sense of brother-/sisterhood was emphasized. Different ways with which different cultures “embody” empathy were explored. In our modern times, when embodied experiences of meeting others are compromised both because of a kind of civilized aloofness & the availability of virtual technologies, it was so beautiful to see our participants spontaneously shake hands, kiss, hug, bow, or give Thai wai, respecting each other’s cultures & eager to learn from them.


We believe that WSIF Japan 2018 turned out to be a particularly joyful encounter of people. Even after a year & a half have passed, we keep asking, “What magic was that? What are we meant to pass on to the upcoming Forums? What are the next steps that will be born out of the passionate joy shared by so many?” This short report of the Japan Forum is a summary of the event, as well as an invitation to future Forums. It also presents a concrete proposal to the international Waldorf community to participate in the global network for peace, human rights, & environmental consciousness through education. The movement is a call by the UNESCO Associated Schools Network.

In the temple yard, silently forming a spiral. | © Ren Tamura [JP]

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Waldorf Education & Social Threefolding. They were the responses to the tragedy of World War I, & were the hope offered by Rudolf Steiner to the world. We believe that the centenary anniversary is an opportunity for reflection on the original intentions of the founder, as well as for the planning of the next 100 years. The organizers of the World Social Initiative Forum in Japan hope to contribute to the discussion by sharing our experiences. More insights on  WSIF Japan 2018 Forum Report here


An initiative inspired by WSIF Japan 2018: Monte Azul Mini-Forum on Empathy written by Vanusa Coutinho [BR]

Related article: Knowing Self through Others by Andrea dela Cruz [ES]

Related videos on the Forum theme “Empathy”: Joan Sleigh on Diversity & Empathy in the 21st century & Empathy, Nicanor Perlas on Self-Transformation & Social Transformation & Ute Craemer on World Citizenship

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