A Symbol of Harmony for People, a Factory and Nature
It was in 1976 at a school reunion when Michihiro Nishida, then a corporate vice-president, learned about the "hometown forest" theory from Akira Miyawaki, then professor at Yokohama National University. Professor Miyawaki had been Nishida's junior in school, graduating from the Yokohama Technical College of Engineering currently Yokohama National University, Engineering Department. Nishida was very excited about the idea of creating groves like those surrounding village shrines, since it was a completely new concept for him. Following Miyawaki's speech, Nishida immediately offered the professor his enthusiastic assistance.
The front entrance of Saitama Factory's Sayama Plant in 1977, soon after the start of the Hometown Forest Project. The white area indicates sections covered with straw bedding in which the potted seedlings were planted.
Nishida wasted no time in buying and reading the books Miyawaki had authored. The professor's idea was essentially to plant the native tree species that had embodied the natural beauty of Japan throughout its history, and to create what we now see in the groves surrounding local shrines. By doing so, he believed it was possible to preserve the country's unique ecological matrix. Such plantings would encompass a broad spectrum of trees and shrubs, each with its own group of varieties. Nishida was fascinated by the word, "variety."
"This is just what Mr. Honda has been saying about how a company should be," thought Nishida.
Some trees are strong, yet others are weak. Tall trees are often surrounded by shorter ones that support them at the base. Similarly, there are varieties of employees within a company. To hire people having the same ideas and mindsets may at first appear very efficient, but such companies are vulnerable to change and will eventually fall from prosperity. This was the idea persistently put forth by Soichiro Honda. He believed that choosing people of diverse backgrounds and experience, and allowing them to maintain their character and opinions would vitalize the organization and make it stronger in the long run.
Inspired by the concept of diversity, Nishida believed the idea of a hometown forest would not only provide solutions for environmental problems but prove useful in managing the people within a company. Therefore, he invited Prof. Miyawaki to the company, where he could speak to the Board of Directors. Following his address at the head office, Miyawaki was asked to visit other factories and branches and give lectures there. As a result, Miyawaki's theory was gradually adopted by Honda and disseminated among its employees.
Recalls Nishida, "I simply introduced Miyawaki's idea. Once the idea was disseminated, initiatives were born and projects were started without anyone giving specific directions."
Hence, the ideal to which Soichiro Honda held so enthusiastically materialized in the form of the Hometown Forest Project.