Shoji Murayama y YukishigeNakata

SHOJI MURAYAMA earned his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Kyoto University and is now a professor at the Department of Educational Psychology, Kyushu University, Japan. He teaches psychotherapy theories and research methodology and works as the director of the University Psy-chological Clinic. He studied with Carl Rogers for two years at the Center for Studies of Person in La Jolla, California. His research interest is in experiential focusing and group therapy. He has long been the editor of the Japanese Journal of Humanistic Psychology and is now the chairman of the Japanese Association of Humanistic Psychology.

YUKESHIGE NAKATA, MA, works as a laboratory assistant at the Department of Educational Psychology, Kyushu University, Japan. He earned his master's degree in educational psychology from Kyushu University and has studied at the University of Southern Mississippi as a Fulbright fellow for two years. His current work focuses on an experiential aspect of human interaction in psychotherapy.


At the time of the student riots in the 1960s, a small seminar on Carl Rogers's writings began at a college in the city of Fukuoka, Japan. It has spontaneously developed into a satellite network community called Fukuoka Human Relations Community (FHRC), and it is likely to evolve further into an unknown form of community. The FHRC is a large growth-oriented network of people who get to know each other through encounter groups, monthly open group sessions, and other humanistic activities. The purpose of this article is to describe: FHRC and discuss how FHRC activates human potential for growth. This social experiment has important implications for the transition away from a hierarchical society in Japan and illustrates the benefits of new spontaneous, humanistic ways of being and relating.

This article describes the Fukuoka Human Relations Community (FHRC). It is a gathering of people that started over 20 years ago in the city of Fukuoka in Japan and has developed into a satellite network community, (Murayama; 1991). In the first stage of FHRC, no member knew, the', term community approach or encounter group. But -the people, who started FHRC, kept on meeting regularly. They, the students of one of the authors (Murayama), were eagerly trying to find another way of being at the time of the student riots in the 1960s. Their enthusiasm for a new way to be was not an escape from the riots but an expression of their drive for another way of being. It was several years after FHRC started that the authors learned about Carl Rogers's person-centered approach. The FHRC has now come to form a satellite network community spontaneously. Gibb (1972) stated that "the group itself is a growing organism," but the history of the FHRC teaches that a community also can be w growing organism. Even though neither the authors nor the FHRC members themselves can predict at this point how and in what direction the FHRC will develop in the future, the authors predict that the FHRC, which has more than 20 years of history, will continue offering opportunities for growth experiences and developing into another form of community. In Japan, with the exception of religious groups, people rarely develop this kind of nonprofit and individual-growth-oriented community. This whole history of development of the FHRC seems to indicate that fundamental human potentiality for growth could be manifested in making this kind of community and that cooperation or coexistence may be an inherent way for human beings to exist. FHRC seems to have provided the climate that could nurture this way of being.

The purpose of this article is to illustrate the history and activities of the FHRC and discuss what the FHRC implies from a humanistic perspective and what should be done to better facilitate FHRC-like communities.


When one of the authors (Murayama) was teaching psychology as an associate professor and counselor at Kyushu University in the late 1960s in the city of Fukuoka, a large city with a population of about 1.5 million, there were storms of furious student riots. Students violently forced college staffs out of universities and took over university buildings for a long time. They attacked professors by asking them radical questions such as "Why do you try to control us through education?" They were expressing fundamental doubts about the validity of postwar democracy in Japan. They were feeling that Japan was not really democratic but still a very oppressed society. One of the authors (Murayama), as a college counselor, was asked questions such as "Why are you just offering psychotherapy to college students who were severely wounded psychologically from tough entrance-exam competitions to college? Why don't you try to change the system of the whole society?" These questions were difficult to answer because they pointed radically at the problem of the basic value of education and counseling. Thus Murayama himself was faced with a fundamental question, "What is psychotherapy for?"

At that time Murayama was conducting a seminar on Carl Rogers's writings for students. The late 1960s were a time when Japanese translations of Carl Rogers's writings were being published. The students and Murayama read and discussed On Becoming a Person (Rogers, 1961). The seminar attracted many radical students. They were different from many other students of the riots who were criticizing the society. They were directing their thoughts toward the question "What is a meaningful way to be in the society as human beings?" Rogers's works were highly stimulating to them. Through reading and discussing Rogers's philosophy, the students gradually became aware that the most important thing was whether the person could be really trusted. Trust became an important issue because many of those students who "fought" for a real democracy finally ended up merely obtaining traditional leadership roles without changing the social system. They did not turn out to be as democratic as they had demanded the whole society be. There was a big gap between what they said and what they did. Nevertheless, the students of the seminar on Rogers were always willing and able to discuss anything with anybody from the bottom of their heart, whatever sect or ideology the person belonged to, because they had a sense in common that what mattered was not what the person's social position was but what the person him- or herself was. In other words, they felt that they could share as human beings, which they found to be a most valuable experience.

As the seminar gradually changed from just a college seminar to an intensive experiential and existential encounter, the students began to meet outside of the university and, then, to explore what kind of society they should make in order for any person to be respected as an individual. They felt a strong need for a community where each individual's potential could be respected, explored, and opened up. They wanted a community that could cast some impact on the society. Then the students opened the meeting up to the public, because some former members who graduated from the university still wanted to keep in touch, and there were also quite a few people outside of the university who wanted to join the meeting. Because the meeting became open to the public, it has become more flexible. It has been attracting and accepting many people with a variety of interests, jobs, ages, and reasons to come to the meeting. It also welcomes people with psychological problems as well as psychological counselors and psychiatrists.

The meeting was not only a place for talk but also a therapeutic place like "Changes" in Chicago (Glaser & Gendlin, 1973). Participants began to have intensive regular meetings where they talked freely about themselves. It was actually very much a basic encounter group although nobody knew the term encounter group. It was 1970, 1 year after they opened the meeting to the public, that Murayama learned this term. Hatase Minoru, a Japanese person-centered researcher and practitioner who learned client-centered therapy under Carl Rogers in California, told Murayama that this kind of intensive group was conducted actively by Rogers in the United States and called "encounter group."

Murayama was always very supportive of the students and the other members, and he encouraged them to do whatever they felt they needed to do. He often offered his place for them to hold a meeting in the early stage of FHRC history. He named the group Fukuoka Human Relations Community (FHRC) in 1970, because he needed to introduce this group to researchers of encounter groups, group therapy, and community approach. He also needed to make an announcement of encounter group workshops organized by FHRC members to attract participants from other areas of Japan. The establishment of the FHRC prompted other societies in Japan to conduct basic encounter group workshops (Hayashi, Kuno, Osawa, Shimizu, & Suetake, 1992).


During the development of the FHRC, the members have been trying to do many things:

1. The core activity of the FHRC is the Monthly Open Group (MOG). This is a 2-hour encounter group held in the afternoon on the last Saturday of each month in a condominium located in Fukuoka. Anyone who calls for an appointment or walks in is welcome at the MOG. The number of participants is normally between 20 and 30. Each time, the participants assign one or two persons as facilitators. Frequently, the MUG is a basic encounter group, but sometimes it is a structured encounter group in which the facilitators lead the participants. After the encounter session, there normally is a party attended by those participants who wish. This party is another important phase of the MOG, because participants relax and talk about what they wanted to say but could not in the preceding encounter group session. They also discuss personal problems and interests that they prefer to talk about among fewer members than in the large encounter group session.

2. Another major activity of the FHRC is publishing a 14- to 20-page monthly newsletter called Encounter Mushin (encounter newsletter). The editor and editing staff are assigned annually among FHRC members. The newsletter publishes mostly personal reports of experiences of the encounter group or other kinds of experiential workshops, articles in any area of psychotherapy, essays on awareness obtained from everyday life, and other material from FHRC members such as stories or poems. It also announces the schedule of FHRC activities.

3. A 5-day workshop of a basic encounter group is conducted by the FHRC twice a year, summer and winter. It is open to anybody. More than half of the participants are new people who have never been in touch with the FHRC. Recently, there have been too many applicants, probably because people are beginning to realize that they need some warm and empathic human interaction in this highly technologically developed country. After the workshop, some newcomers begin to attend the MOG or get in touch with FHRC members through the newsletter, because they learned the experiential value of group experiences. In order to keep the high quality of the workshop, we are very careful in selecting facilitators. We invite some facilitators from outside of the FHRC as well as select experienced FHRC facilitators. The facilitators hold a 2-day closed conference after each workshop where they present their group process and discuss the facilitation process. The workshop is normally held in a mountainous area with hot springs and rich nature—about a 3-hour drive from Fukuoka. There are two or three groups with two facilitators each.

There is no basic encounter group workshop in Japan of this long and intensive quality other than this encounter group by the FIIRC. The reason why the FHRC tries to keep on offering this highly intensive encounter group is that Murayama and Mlle members have learned from their personal experiences that they get the most experientially out of a basic encounter group.

4. There is a group conference by the FHRC other than the conference above. This is more of a science-oriented conference. Researchers of encounter groups or group therapy, facilitators, and participants of encounter groups (including non-FHRC groups) get together once a year and discuss group research or experience for 2 days. This conference functions to develop group research and researchers. Actually, the FHRC is one of the few major places in Japan where encounter-group studies have been done extensively. For example, Murayama and Nojima (1977) key members of the FHRC, developed a widely used six-stage model of the encounter group process.

To manage the above activities, the FHRC has a staff meeting, in January every year. The financial plan and annual schedule of major FHRC activities are discussed and necessary jobs and personnel are decided. Any member is welcome to work on the management staff At this meeting we aim to talk about business matters, but not in a formal business manner. The staff group respects personal interests and desires of the members and welcomes volunteers to do jobs for the FHRC. In a humanistic way, it tries to match personnel and jobs so that the assigned person feels authentically involved.

Satellite Network Aspect of the FHRC

In addition to those periodic activities, there are many others done by FHRC members. When members feel that they want a new kind of group that would fulfill their specific interests, they organize a smaller interest group the way they want it to be. Because they have learned to be themselves through FHRC experiences, they are willing to create a new group with someone trustworthy when they feel it necessary and to close it when they feel it is not necessary anymore. Any member who is interested in such a group makes the announcement in the newsletter. For example, there are currently a Focusing Group, a Housewife Group, a Women's Group (Meador, Solomon, & Bowen, 1972), a Body-Work Group, a Facilitator-Training Group, a Picnic Group, and a Jogging Group.

As the members get more involved in the FHRC, they gradually learn to be free to make their own interest groups independently of FHRC. Consequently, some members even make their own communities like the FHRC; however, because they are still members of the FFIRC, there are still some links between the FHRC and their communities. The authors call this whole society of these groups satellite network community. It develops like a cell multiplication (see Figure 1).

For example, one of the members of the FHRC who works for the university as a psychology instructor now organizes a so-called Getsuyou-Kai (Monday meeting), which is a 2-hour meeting held on every Monday evening. One of the reasons that he started this meeting was that the MOG, the core group of the FFIRC, is held only monthly, and he and his friends felt that they needed a place where they could feel free and relaxed in a circle of people much more frequently. He now has shifted his research interest from encounter groups to self-help groups in general since he started this. This meeting now attracts young people in their 20s and 30s. There are many people in this group who are independent of the FHR,C, because this meeting has a different quality that fits young people.

Another member started the Saga Human Relations Community (SHRC). Saga is a neighboring city of Fukuoka. It takes a couple of hours to come to the MOG in Fukuoka from Saga, so he felt it necessary to have a FHRC kind of community in his city, too.

Figure 1: Satellite network community.

Now he and his friends manage their own activities independently of the FHRC, but he still attends the MOG, too.

Another key member of the FHRC is running a café group called Taihi. It is half a café and half a group. He wanted to have a place where people could talk about their interests quietly, enjoying good coffee, so he started a meeting in the afternoon every other Saturday.


There are five issues to be discussed about the FHRC.

Networking Model

It is important to note that the FHRC has developed not hierarchically but horizontally, because Japan has been traditionally a very hierarchical society where people are "forced" to follow the social norms under a strong hierarchy, which used to function to put the whole society in order or under control. However, people are now beginning to learn a variety of values of life and to realize that they do not necessarily have to respect the traditional values. Thus the hierarchy does not stabilize people psychologically anymore, even though it still functions in business. Therefore, people need something else that can vitalize their lives from inside. In that respect, the FHRC from the beginning has created an atmosphere that lets the members be themselves, and it thus has formed a horizontally growing system. This suggests that when human beings are placed in a growth-facilitating environment they form a nonhierarchical, horizontally developing networking society where each member is allowed to live in cooperation with others. A FHRC kind of community could be one of the potential ways for each country in the world to coexist for world peace: Humanistic psychology could make some contribution to this.

Therapeutic Place

The FHRC functions as a therapy place for members. Even though FHRC members normally do not discriminate between normal members and psychopathological members, there are some members who show clear psychiatric or neurotic symptoms, go through therapy or counseling, or take medicines from psychiatric hospitals. When they begin to join us, some of them continue to attend both the therapy and the FHRC, and others quit the individual therapy and remain in the FHRC. Conversely, there are some nonpathological members who have become interested in knowing themselves more deeply as a result of attending FHRC activities. We refer them to trustworthy individual therapists through our broad network. An individual therapist tends to believe that he or she is the only person who cures clients. However, the FHRC experiences teach us that the surrounding environment of the client such as friendship, groups, and family can function therapeutically to quite a extent. Thus it is therapeutic for each member to explore the way for his or her personal growth through talk with others in the FHRC.

Here is a case illustration of a 25-year-old single female who got over her psychological problems through FHRC experiences. She was first invited to our 5-day basic encounter group workshop 3 years ago. She told the other members something about her tragic life history and got positive feedback from them. Nevertheless, she was not able to take the feedback as it was, because she had a very negative self-image.

Then she got into a panic and had a strong feeling like "I am so sorry that I was born in this world." She could not do anything but reject the other members' warm remarks. It seemed that she somehow found something in the encounter group experience that could be healing to her. Since then, she has been attending our basic encounter group workshop and the MOG. In each group she found a close male friend who could provide support. Finding a boyfriend might have been her developmental task. A couple of years later, she finally figured out her core problem of self-denial when she was doing focusing (Gendlin, 1981) in an encounter group. The moment she discovered the core problem, she accepted it as a lovely part of herself. Until then, she had spent so much time and energy to put a lid on the problem. She has learned to pick up the most supportive persons for her and learned to be supported well, and she is still supported by some FHRC members, Also, she now is actively engaged in being trained as a facilitator and is planning a women's encounter group.

Even though she was not going through therapy, she was very disturbed by her psychological problems. The authors saw her as severely neurotic. This case tells us that the encounter with the FHRC was a real turning point for her recovery. The FHRC, which not only organizes a basic encounter group workshop but also has vast human resources, provided great opportunities for her to get over the problems.

In addition, being a satellite network community, the FHRC is a therapeutic satellite network community. Murayama and Murayama (1992) reported several cases in which they treated psychologically disturbed people through an integrated approach of group and individual psychotherapies with the broad human resources within the FHRC satellite network.

Bridge Over the Encounter

Group and Everyday Life

The basic encounter group is so powerful that it has a therapeutic and growth-oriented influence on members; however, sometimes it also has been reported in Japan that a participant has had troubles in social adjustment after the group experience. Values that the participants discover in encounter groups are sometimes so different from their former cultural norms that the participants begin to be troubled by conflicts between new values and the traditional norms. The FHRC, in that respect, offers the MOG and a broad human network where group participants digest and share personal group experiences with others, as well as recover a touch with the "external world" without destroying their new values. Because most of FHRC members have been to basic encounter groups and have experienced the conflict between a conventional way of being and a new way of being found in encounter groups, they can be empathic listeners to those who have existential problems after an encounter group.

Developmental Task

As many theories of psychology suggest, each generation has its own developmental task. One of the reasons the FHRC attracts young people is that the MOG provides an opportunity to try to achieve their developmental task, which is to explore the best fitting relationship with opposite-sex peers. The MOG is a place where the participants practice being on good terms with others and, at the same time, being themselves, which is required for a good couple. Interestingly, however, members mostly do not marry each other, although some of them get into boyfriend-girlfriend relationships with other members of the FHRC. This is probably because people get to know too much about each other through

FHRC activities, which means that they see many negative parts of the partners as well as positive parts.

Culture and Individualization

The authors believe that basic encounter groups facilitate individualization of the Japanese, who are traditionally pressured to follow the norms of their society. Participants of basic encounter groups learn to be themselves, to express themselves, and to be independent of social norms and others' opinions. Some learn to say no to others. These are valuable experiences, but there are unfavorable effects of encounter groups at the same time.

A few members of the FHRC went through group experiences many times. Then they became too assertive to get along well with others. Actually, they seem to be not only assertive but to cause friction with others. They are considered too assertive because they wrongly learned in encounter groups not to care about others as well as to be independent. The Japanese people have a unique feeling of amae, which Doi (1973) explained as the basic wish and need to be loved and taken care of, as well as to indulge in another's kindness. As Rotenberg (1977) discussed, the amae society is not egoistic-competitive in nature but is directed toward the fulfillment of one's wish and need through interdependency. In that respect, the authors believe that the few FHRC members described above use encounter groups as only an opportunity to fulfill their amae not through interdependency but through assertion. The authors do not know yet whether this is because of their personality or because of the way we conduct the group. To develop and refine the FHRC, this problem has to be examined further.


We illustrated the history and developmental process of the FHRC and presented a networking community model. This social experiment shows how each person can coexist with people with different beliefs, personalities, social status, and so on in a community. It is our belief that we will need this kind of community from now on where people can grow and relate to others at the same time.


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Reprint requests: Shoji Murayama & Yukishige Nakata, Faculty of Education, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812, Japan (e-mail: shojidu@mbox.nc.kyushu-u.acjp).