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.”

Striving for a Healthy Forest
   Generally speaking, mountain trees absorb carbon dioxide, and store carbon inside of them. For this, nurturing one tree to grow larger and to increase its storage capacity is more important than having a large number of trees. Larger trees mean an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide stored.
   However, the trees in man-made forests are planted very closely together, which obstructs healthy growth. To grow healthy and thick trees, periodic tree thinning is necessary. If this is carried out, space is made between trees, which allows the foliage to spread further and for them to be nurtured healthily. The absorption and storage of carbon dioxide is also connected to the prevention of global warming. Furthermore, if the sunlight can enter, the forest gets brighter, grass and shrubs can grow in the earth, and living creatures can increase. This therefore, helps it to become a thriving biodiverse forest.
Forest thinning experience (1):
making the felling cut!
Forest thinning experience (2):
the beautiful sky that became
visible after cutting down a tree
Trying out Forest Thinning for Ourselves!
   Many people think that forests are dark places. I am one of those people, and that forest was indeed dark! The landscape was as one would expect. We were told “Right, let’s go to the forest! Please choose which tree you would like to fell!” “We will chop down a thin tree, let’s leave the thicker trees” we said. But on hearing our choice Hirako explained to us, “you can’t just fell a tree based on whether it is thin or bent. You have to think how you will nurture and use them in the future and choose which trees you want to remain”. This was clearly a difficult task for beginners.
   After choosing a tree, you have to decide the direction in which you want to fell it. Then you make the directional notch cut- a horizontal cut made at an angle of 30-45 degrees. Next, on the opposite side, you decide the felling cut. Part way through cutting this, the weight of the tree caused it to fall over to the side of the directional notch. The holding wood, which runs throughout the tree made a creaking noise, split, and then that fell too. The felling cut was damp and the aroma of fresh tree came from the 40 year old cedar.
*Regardless of whether the mountain trees are owned privately or by the government, you are required to submit a request to the local municipality before felling one. On the day we went, we received permission from the forest park staff before going tree thinning.
Making a spoon out of Japanese
Making a Spoon out of Japanese Cypress!
   We had thought that we would use the cedar that we had just felled to experience making some type of craft. However, so that we could use dry timber, we used the Japanese cypress that Mr. Hirako had prepared for us. We received the timber which had already been roughly made into a spoon shape, and used sandpaper to make it into the shape we wanted. While trying to focus on the shape, and making the spoon itself, a whole hour and a half passed, and before I knew it the spoon was finished.
   Going into the forest it had been dark, however after felling the tree, I looked up and saw the vast blue sky. Alongside the exhilarating feeling when I cut the tree, I felt that I had contributed to keeping the forest healthy. In addition, thinking of forestry as an outdoor activity was new for me. 
   If you are interested in experiencing tree felling, environmental education (nature games etc.), or craft games, then please enquire directly at Hokigamine Forest Park.
Shinji Hirako, the chairman of

〇Hokigamine Forest Park
   Location: Tosayamada-cho Hirayama, Kami City
   TEL: 0887-57-9007 Open times: 9:00-16:30

1 comment:

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    This was a really great contest and hopefully I can attend the next one. It was alot of fun and I really enjoyed myself.