Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Let’s Learn about Kochi’s Forestry Industry

In the dark forest which blocks out the sun’s light
   For this issue we went to the Hokigamine Forest Park in Kami City, which was established in 1978, and consists of 102 hectors of mountain maintained by the Prefectural Government. Our guide was Shinji Hirako, the chairman of HIRAKO Lab. He left his work in the mass media six years ago, spurred on by his interest of “What can I do to protect the forest?” and is now involved in work including public awareness and forest environment education to “Protect and have others learn about the forest”.
   We asked about the current situation of Kochi’s mountains; “man-made forests are known by this term because they are formed by planting trees by hand, and mountains like this makeup 27% of the national land area. In Kochi, Japanese Cedar and Japanese Cypress makeup over 60% of Kochi’s forests.”
   In regards to man-made forests, he said “After the Second World War, the trees in these man-made forests were planted as a national policy. However the trees couldn’t be used for timber for buildings until 40-50 years had passed, which meant that reconstruction after the war was carried out using cheap timber from abroad. As a result of the free movement of imported timber, the demand for overseas timber greatly increased, causing prices in timber from Japan to slump. Many forest workers who owned mountain forests had to abandon them due to reasons including not being able to make a profit despite cutting down their trees, and not having a successor. This had a devastating effect on the economics of the Japanese forestry industry.”

Cycling Around the Mountain Villages

   Domestic woodland areas are located near to settlements, and thus indicate a deep connection to the humans around them. These communities would open up areas of the original woodland, which was formally used for firewood and the gathering of edible wild plants, and gradually changed it so that it became easier for people to use, such as through the replanting of trees to replace those cut for use in everyday life. The land around the domestic woodland areas is maintained, and used for rice fields, other crops and irrigation. As a result, insects and small animals gather, and an ecosystem is created that is shared with the community.
Small road bordered by trees
Bicycles rented? Check. Let’s go!

   Most parts of the cycling course had wide roads, with only one portion that had ups and downs, so even cycling beginners like us were able to handle it. One of the benefits to cycling is how we could cycle at our own pace while looking at the thinly covered mountains of red leaves and wild plants along the roadside. It was also fun to strike up a conversation with people we met while cycling.♪
  We rented bicycles with gears from “Muranoeki Hidaka”; a place that houses a cafe, fresh vegetables brought there directly by farmers, and a tourist information spot. Once we did the safety check of seeing if the brakes were working and whether the saddle was at a comfortable height, it was time to depart! This cycling course around the villages is a 15km “Satoyama Course” with its start and end point being “Muranoeki Hidaka”.

Kochi Lifestyle Q&A : Winter in Kochi is colder than you’d expect. Other than turning on the heater, what are some ways to keep warm?

   Kochi is called “Tropical Tosa” but can be surprisingly cold in the winter. The temperature can fall below 0℃ in January and February.
   Here are some tips from the KIA staff members in order to stay warm this winter.
○ Yutampo (hot water bottle)
   Add hot water to a container meant to be used as a hot water bottle, and put it under the blankets to warm them up before sleeping, or place it on your back or on your knees to keep warm. Metal hot water bottles were common in the past, but now there are bottles made from soft resin, which can be purchased for around ¥1000.
They stay warm for longer than you might expect, so please avoid moderate-temperature burns by putting on a cover.