In 2012, someone else came to Kamiya's aid—Ayame Kanazawa. Kanazawa transferred to the Facilities Management Department from the Hosoe Plant, an outboard engine manufacturing facility that is part of Hamamatsu Factory but located on Hamana Lake, some 10 kilometers away from Aoi Plant where Kamiya worked.
Kanazawa was a novice, too, when it came to forests, but her inborn curiosity and vitality was a major contribution to the project.
"Some girls don't like touching bugs, but Ayame would reach into the rice paddy or stream with her bare hands to grab some critter, or she’d get all muddy pulling weeds. It was a relief to have someone else I could count on," laughed Kamiya.
Although still young in her career, Kanazawa grew over the next six months, to the extent that occasionally would even guide Kamiya on certain tasks. Now she is a core member of the forest management team.
"The concept of the ‘21st Century Forest’ was to create a satoyama environment where we could teach children the symbiotic connections that are possible between humans and nature. We listed all the representative members of such a community—fireflies, medaka, rhinoceros beetles, butterflies—and have been working to recreate their habitat," said Kanazawa.
However, recreating a natural ecosystem is fraught with challenges. Simply gathering plants and animals from the outside does not make a real satoyama. It is made by gradually building an environment where organisms can live and reproduce on their own. Kanazawa emphasizes the importance of being flexible in order to make that happen.
"Having all the key organisms is an important goal, but you can't be too obsessed with it. For example, we might want fireflies but maybe fireflies aren't appropriate for the biotope we have right now. My goal is not to be too rigid and instead put priority on making a habitat for all the organisms that are needed right now."
In February 2012, the day finally arrived when children would come see the new Community Forest. A walk through the biotope was added to the factory tour program for local elementary school children. Marina Uchiyama of the Administration Department was the community liaison and also the creator and promoter of the factory tour program for children.
"Hamamatsu Factory actually stopped offering factory tours from 2009 to 2011, when it was transitioning away from motorcycle manufacturing to transmission manufacturing," said Uchiyama. "We added the biotope tour exactly when we resumed tours after the new Hamamatsu factory was completed in February 2012." The city of Hamamatsu is the birthplace of Honda. Soichiro Honda began manufacturing and selling motorized bicycles here in 1946, and for many decades after Hamamatsu Factory functioned as Honda's motorcycle manufacturing headquarters. Awareness of Honda as a Hamamatsu company was strong in the community, so when news spread that motorcycle manufacturing operations were to be consolidated in Kumamoto, some community members voiced concern that Honda would eventually leave Hamamatsu.
Resumption of the factory tours therefore held great significance for allaying those fears and for unveiling the new Hamamatsu Factory to the community.
Said Uchiyama, "I advertised the new factory tour program by going to teachers' meetings and inviting them to come to the factory so I could show them what it was all about."
The tour program for children started with a video-assisted lecture in a large assembly hall, followed by a tour of the plant facilities, and ending with a walk through the Community Forest for the 21st Century—first the gate zone, then the conservation zone, insect zone, and guardian forest zone, and lastly the riparian zone.
"My job is to lead the children through the biotope," said Kamiya. "My name on the tour is Dr. Kamiya, the forest scientist. That grabs their attention better [laughing]. I use that name but I don't teach them anything directly. I just toss them questions like 'What do you see? What's going on here?' so they think and come up with their own answers."
When asked how she wants to improve the biotope tour program, Kanazawa gave the following reply. "Right now the communication is one-way, from us to the teachers, so I'd like to talk with them more to figure out what kind of learning is required in the classroom, what we should be teaching the kids when they come here. I want to hear their perspective and think about what we can offer through the biotope tour."
Engineer Eiji Ohashi of the Business Administration Division, which oversees communications with the local community, closed the discussion with these last words: "Since resuming the guided tours, we've conducted various promotional activities, mainly toward local schools and neighborhood organizations. Because of our tour reservation website, however, many people also come from faraway places, not just the local community. We find it very meaningful that we can have people from all over learn about Hamamatsu Factory's environmental initiatives through our biotope tours. But biotope tours aren't the only way we communicate with the local community. In the future we plan to combine the factory tour with other activities, such as a cardboard crafts workshop, Nature Wagon workshops, and traffic safety classes. Offering a longer menu of activities will help us meet the specific needs of our guests. We also want more people to hear about Hamamatsu Factory. Excitement is our theme, after all."
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