ARI was established in its present location in 1973 based on the Southeast Asia Christian Rural Leaders Training Course at Theological Seminary for Rural Mission in Machida, Tokyo.
It started as an international organization training leaders who engage in rural development in developing countries, to satisfy the demand for training by Christian churches and groups that had already taken part in rural development in Southeast Asian countries. The foundation was supported by Japanese, European and American Christian churches and other groups.
Back in Japan, for ten years Rev. Dr.Toshihiro Takami taught practical theology and directed the Southeast Asia Christian Rural Leaders’ course at the Theological Seminary for Rural Mission in Tokyo; work that led to his eye-opening field assignment in Bangladesh and the founding of the Asian Rural Institute.
Takami designed the institute’s curriculum around intensive, small-scale, organic farming, and animal husbandry, linking these activities to building a vibrant community. All participants, including staff, engage daily in dirty-hands chores at the institute. And all take their turns preparing food for the group’s common meals. “Sharing food is sharing life,” is one of Takami’s most well known phrases. ARI participants also share in decision making. The difficult process of achieving consensus among a group of strong-minded, quick-to-action people, Takami believes, helps ARI’s rural leaders become more effective change-makers in poor communities. Since 1996, ARI has also accepted Japanese participants who intend to serve rural communities in the future – either in Japan or worldwide.
Here is an article from the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s Mission Mosaic on Rebuilding ARI in Japan after the Earthquake.
1985 June. Gretchen DeVries received the Antoinette Brown Award from the United Church of Christ in USA.
1988 March. Toshihiro Takami was awarded with Shimotsuke Prefectural Citizen Prize.
1988 July. ARI received the Foreign Minister’s Commendation for its effort in promoting international exchange.
1994 June. Toshihiro Takami received the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize.
1996 Aug. Toshihiro Takami was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding.
1998 Apr. ARI received a special prize for social contribution from the Tochigi Association of Corporate Executives.
2001 Sept. ARI received the Mainichi Newspaper International Exchange Award.
2001 Nov. ARI’s community development work in Negros Island, the Philippines was chosen as “Project of the year” at the International Cooperation Festival in Tokyo.
2006 Oct. ARI received the Asia Pacific “Culture Prize” of the Asia Pacific Forum Iue Memorial.
2008 Apr. Received the 14th Distinguished Services Prize from the Japan Ecumenical Association.
2009 Feb. Received the Asahi Social Welfare Prize for the year 2008.
2012 Oct. Takami received the William Sloane Coffin Award for Peace and Justice
– Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut