It was 2009 when Kamiya took over as manager of the Community Forest at Hamamatsu Factory.
"I'm the fifth generation in this line of managers. When I took over for the fourth manager, the Hamamatsu Community Forest was in a state of transition. At the time, we wanted to take the forest in a new direction."
The trees had grown remarkably well over the three decades since the start of the project, but a number of problems surfaced as the surrounding area became urbanized.
The largest of the trees had grown their limbs into the streets and into neighbor's yards. In autumn, dead leaves piled up in inconvenient places. This laissez-faire style of forest management was presenting challenges all its own. And despite the intention of growing the Community Forest to encourage communication between the factory and local community, they had grown thick and were difficult to walk through.
The forest was in this state of affairs when, in 2007, a new movement began at Hamamatsu Factory. Associates decided to reexamine the forest and manage it differently to promote communication with the local community. The answer they found was the “Community Forest for the 21st Century,” a forest renovation plan. The plan called for creating a biotope* in a section of the Community Forest that could be used as a setting for teaching local school children about the natural environment. It would include a pond and stream and would be divided into zones based on different themes, such as insects and riparian life, with paths cut through the zones so people could be guided through them.
*Biotope: A place where organisms live as they do in nature. In human environments such as cities, biotopes are artificial environments created to regenerate and preserve a natural habit.
After work on the plan began, Kamiya took over as the fifth manager of the Community Forest. "I never managed a forest before, so my primary goal was to just do the best job I could. Not much went as I expected," said Kamiya. The gate zone, located next to the factory's front gate, was designed for enjoying seasonal flowers and fruit, but instead of producing fruit, the fruit trees died and the grass grew tall. "Every time someone told me the grass was wild and looked bad, I told them, 'Well, that's nature,'" Kamiya recalled. "You see, when I started I was still preoccupied with growing a 'guardian forest.' I wanted to alter the environment as little as possible. I convinced myself that that was enough."
Kamiya reached a key turning point in this process of remedying his mistakes. This turning point came when a team of researchers led by Ryuichiro Sakino, director of Hello Woods, arrived at Hamamatsu Factory in 2011 to conduct a biodiversity survey.
Hello Woods is an experience-based nature learning center located at Honda's Twin Ring Motegi race track in Tochigi Prefecture. Kamiya was stunned by what Sakino, a forest management expert, said after looking at the biotope at Hamamatsu: "You've have to take care of it more."
Kamiya, who had learned and put into practice the concept that a real forest was shaped by the forces of nature, not people, found this surprising—especially since it was coming from a well-recognized expert in the field. Kamiya asked for clarification. "We surveyed all of the Honda factories in Japan, and Hamamatsu was the only one to go as far as making a biotope with a pond and stream. In that sense, the place had enormous potential for accommodating a diverse ecosystem. But for such a good idea, their method seemed a bit inadequate, what with the dying trees and all."
Sakino also told Kamiya, "The reasoning behind a guardian forest is correct. We need that type of forest as well. But a forest that has close contact with human activity and lives in proximity of people needs to be actively cared for based on the best of human wisdom. We [Japanese] have been calling this kind of forest satoyama for ages. By making changes to the environment, we were able to cultivate a wide range of natural services that we benefited from. If you plan to bring children to ‘Community Forest for the 21st Century,’ you should also introduce satoyama practices."
Having learned about the satoyama concept, Kamiya adjusted his forest management policy. He shifted to an approach in which he would introduce satoyama ideas and actively modify the biotope as needed while receiving advice from Sakino.
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