College of the Atlantic's 2016 program in Japan comprised extensive local fieldwork with the residents of the Seto Inland Sea Island of Ōsakikamijima.College of the Atlantic's 2016 program in Japan comprised extensive local fieldwork with the residents of the Seto Inland Sea Island of Ōsakikamijima.

Ōsakikamijima is on a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, off Hiroshima. It has a population of 7,800 that’s trending up in age as younger people move away. Shipbuilding and fishing have long been stalwarts of the local economy, along with native blueberries. 

Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island has a population of 10,400 that’s trending up in age as younger people move away, and it, too, has a heritage of shipbuilding and fishing. Blueberries also are a native crop.

“The parallels with Maine, and with MDI in particular, are unbelievable,” said Jay Friedlander, COA Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business.

After a 2015 visit to Ōsakikamijima with COA President Darron Collins, Friedlander led COA’s effort to fulfill the island community’s request. Over the next two summers, Friedlander, Academic Dean Ken Hill, and students brought together students from institutions of higher education from elsewhere around the U.S. and the world to convene in  Ōsakikamijima  and establish a program called the Human Ecology Lab & Island Odyssey, or HELIO for short. The program was established in partnership with Ashoka Japan, Ashoka U, the Town of Ōsakikamijima, and Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership Global.

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