By Caroline Mellor
We kicked off the LiveMove Speaker Series this year with a screening and audience Q&A of the documentary, “The Slow Way Home.”
“The Slow Way Home” compares the cultural and environmental contexts of Japanese and American pedestrian-oriented infrastructure. The film highlighted that nearly 98% of Japanese school children walk to school, while very few children do so in the United States. This phenomena led director Len Schoppa to explore the differences in Japanese and U.S. post-world war II investment for pedestrian infrastructure. Schoppa also explored the built form of communities, cultural norms around Japanese harmony as compared to American individualism, and people’s social responsibility to be active participants within their communities.
Following the film, Director Len Schoppa, and Eugene Safe Routes to School Organizer Shane MacRhoades led an audience discussion. Topics discussed included; whether the Japanese model could be advocated in American communities? What limitations would surface?
Among discussion participants was a Japanese family, who shared their insights of the Japanese model. The mother of the family pointed out that these community structures were imprinted among Japanese citizens, and felt normal (if not expected) in Japan. She also requested that the film be screened there too, to show families in Japan the uniqueness of their communities and the value of their contribution.