Yuriko Ito, Advisor and former President of Seikatsu Club

Younger generations in Japan are joining Seikatsku Club “to better their life”

News 19.01.2023

Amid a growing list of societal challenges, including social isolation and a deflated economy, Japan’s young people are turning to the 1989 Right Livelihood Laureate Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative (Seikatsu Club) for support. In a recent interview with Right Livelihood, Yuriko Ito, Advisor and former President of Seikatsu Club, shared how the organisation’s comprehensive approach to community-building and sustainable living is resonating with a generation in desperate need of economic and social stability.

With the empowering motto “autonomous control of our lives,” Seikatsu Club is proving to be a beacon of hope for young people in Japan.

“Japan is in a very serious condition now,” said Ito. “In terms of social aspects, the population has been decreasing for 5 consecutive years. The percentage of people older than 65 is the largest in history and the number of children who were born last year was under 800,000, the smallest number in history.”

The country’s deflating economy is only making matters worse, she explained. This is especially hard on Japan’s young people.

“The younger generation is suffering the most,” said Ito. “They are experiencing very difficult conditions where their income is not increasing. There is also a widening gap between the rich and poor that creates hostility among people.”

Due to these difficulties, Seikatsu Club has seen an increase in the number of young people joining the organisation. This shows that the organisation, founded in 1965 and operating across 33 clubs serving 420,000 families, has continued to remain relevant and even reach new generations.

“Compared to 10 years ago, more of the younger generation is joining our cooperative, especially those who have young children,” said Ito. “They feel that their daily life is not secure and they join Seikatsu Club for their peace of mind, and to have human connection.”

Seikatsu Club’s forward-looking approach ensures they will provide “peace of mind” for generations to come. Rather than reacting to new challenges as they arise, the organisation works proactively to create the society they envision for themselves and their members.

“Before we create a new plan, our members discuss what society will look like in 10 or 15 years,” said Ito. “And then, we talk about what kind of society we want and what Seikatsu Club can do to create that. This kind of discussion is very carefully done.”

Such discussions have enabled Seikatsu Club to expand far beyond their brick-and-mortar food depots, and into e-commerce, renewable energy plants, and even a localised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme they call their “Action Declaration”.

A recent project combines all three of these elements. Taking place in the food-production hub of Shonai, a town in the coastal plains of the Yamagata Prefecture, Seikatsu Club has teamed up with local businesses, governments and universities to create a more circular society in terms of food, energy and social welfare.

“Some of our members will move to that area and participate in local community building,” said Ito. “And in that area, we have a solar power plant. We have used the money generated by the plant to create a fund that is used for supporting local activities.”

But, Seikatsu Club’s work is far from over. The organisation aims to expand its environmental and social welfare work even further, according to Ito, and hopes to gain another 100,000 members in the next 5 years.

“We want to tell people who are isolated, who are struggling to raise their children, and young people who will soon enter the workforce that Seikatsu Club is a tool for them to use to better their life,” said Ito. “Seikatsu Club is not just a place to buy food, we also provide the mechanisms to make their lives happier.”

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