October 23, 2012


Interview on Post-March 11 Visions -- Japan's Regeneration from the Perspective of Forests

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.121 (September 2012)


One year and a half has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Support is still flowing into the disaster zones, to people still living as evacuees, and for the reconstruction process are ongoing. People are struggling to create their visions of how Tohoku will be after reconstruction.

This article will introduce an interview with Tadashi Inamoto about his views on Japan's regeneration that was posted on "" Inamoto is a founder of Oak Village Corp. and a representative of the NPO Acorn Club (Donguri-no-Kai in Japanese), which have long advocated the importance of forest ecology.

Interview posted on (in Japanese)


"I feel strongly that Japan must change after experiencing the disaster on March 11, 2011. In other words, mankind will perish unless we change. A proposal released in May 2011 -- 'Towards a Green Cosmos Project' -- considers this necessity from a starting point of aid for reconstruction of disaster zones and eventually extending to the regeneration of the entire country of Japan.

"First, a large area of Japanese cedar forests will undoubtedly be cut down and used for constructing houses in Tohoku (Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica, in Japanese sugi; 'cedar' below). More temporary housing using wood and new wooden homes will most likely be built. My company, Oak Village, has unveiled a new cedar-built house designed for post-disaster reconstruction, 'Gassho no Ie' (Gassho refers to Gassho-zukuri houses known for their steep triangular roofs, ie means 'house'). Construction of one of these houses consumes a hundred cedar trees. In this context, the first thing I propose is to replant cedar trees as well as some broadleaf trees after cedar forests in Tohoku are logged. As more newly-planted forests mixed with both conifer and broadleaf trees grow, they can help restore biodiversity and support a 'Green Cosmos.'

"My second proposal is to fully utilize timber from broadleaf trees cut when thinning out plantations -- for example, by making blocks or extracting aromatic oils. Some children in disaster zones who have lost their parents do not feel like playing, so I would like to send people to these areas to play with these children using blocks. Aromatic oils are useful for massage therapy. The scent of domestic aromatic oils such as kuromoji (Lindera umbellata, related to shrubs known as 'Spicebush' in North America) and Japanese pepper attract elderly people who find the scents familiar.

Collecting seeds and acorns
Copyright NPO Dongurinokai

"The third is to grow seedlings of broadleaf trees to plant. I am collecting seeds [including acorns] in Tohoku because, in fact, I cannot find any seedlings of native species for sale anywhere at all. So, I organized a seed collecting tour at Mount Kurikoma (in Miyagi prefecture) in October 2011 and participants collected over 20,000 seeds [and acorns].

"I plan to distribute these seeds/acorns to children in urban areas and ask them to grow seedlings. We advocate 'one acorn to one child,' and ask the children to be 'foster parents to the acorn.' Although it will take two to three years to grow seeds in seedbeds and plant seedlings in Tohoku, I believe this will connect the disaster areas with people in cities.

'Acorn Group' Educates by Replanting Trees

Showing the World a "Green Cosmos" through a Circulatory Model in Tohoku

"The Green Cosmos project aims to establish an ecologically sustainable forest-based circulatory model in Tohoku. We often hear that forestry in Japan is an unprofitable business. This is true because business aim only to cut thick posts from the timber. However, this timber, including plantation thinnings, can be more thoroughly utilized. Leftover wood chips can even be used to produce aromatic oils, toys, paper, and biomass energy. If we can organize a proper sales system by reviewing forestry resource use, we can anticipate greater results.

"Construction of a new sustainable 'small green country' on the ruined land of Tohoku will be a good model case that could point to Japan's future. And if we can succeed in leading the world by demonstrating this model, human civilization might also change and become sustainable. Believing in principal that most of the plastic items surrounding us can be replaced with wooden products, I am now searching out the many possibilities of wood.

Air, Water and Food -- Our Life Depends on the Basic Elements of a Green Cosmos

"Why do we need the Green Cosmos? First of all, humans need air to live. An average adult breathes 20 to 25 kilograms of air a day, and it takes 15 trees to generate the constituent oxygen. Moreover, per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in civilized countries are 20 times more than this, thus, to absorb these emissions requires about 376 trees per person in Japan, and as many as 800 in the United States!

"Once China and India begin consuming oxygen at the same pace as Japan and the US do now, we will never have enough forests to replace the oxygen. Much of the oxygen on Earth is generated by photosynthesis in forests. The entire planet will be short of air if forests decrease too much, and humans will face fateful crises.

"Secondly, humans cannot live without water. An average person needs two liters of clean water a day. About 97.5% of water on Earth exists in the ocean, and 90% of the remaining 2.5% exists either as underground water or as polar ice caps, glaciers or permanent snow. Thus humans can only access about 0.25% of the fresh water on Earth. Furthermore, most of this accessible water is not clean, so the volume of usable water is actually less than 0.1%. Most clean water is produced in forests. Foreign capital is buying up forest land in Japan because they want the clean water. For those countries, water is one of Japan's most valuable resources.

"Thirdly, humans need food. An average person eats two kilograms of food a day. The source of all nutrients is poison-free plants, be it meat or fish, so we need plants grown with clean water. Without clean water from forests, we cannot obtain safe food.

"Therefore, trees and forests are essential for air, water and food. This is quite obvious, but I think most people might not really understand it. Humans cannot live without healthy, abundant forests, in other words, there is no doubt that we need a 'Green Cosmos.'

"Why do you think that the leaves of plants are green in color? When considering the effectiveness of sunlight absorption alone, wouldn't black be best? In fact, leaves reflect green rays, which are the most intense in the middle range of the visible spectrum. It seems to me that leaves mean to give as much energy as possible to humans and other creatures. I feel we are being kept alive by plants.

The Striking Existence of Forests in the Disaster Zone Leads to a Re-evaluation and a Decision

"When the huge earthquake hit the eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, I was staying in Kyoto, far away in western Japan, to give a lecture. I didn't feel it myself, but I heard that a devastating catastrophe happened in Tohoku. I worried about my old friend, Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, who is a fisherman (oyster farmer) and a representative of a group called 'Umi wa Mori no Koibito' (literally, 'the forest is the sea's lover') that promotes tree planting in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. Soon after, I could confirm that he was safe, although his mother died in the disaster. But, I very much wanted to work with him on the Green Cosmos project, so I went to Kesennuma to see him in April 2011. It was still cold there.

Note: Regarding Hatakeyama's work, see the following article.
About the Condition of Japanese Forests

"Located at a height of 25 meters above sea level, his house narrowly escaped the tsunami waves that rose to 21 meters. However, 90 percent of the houses in the local Moune area as well as his oyster farms in Moune Bay were completely swept away by the tsunami, and all lifelines were destroyed or cut off. He invited me into his 'living room' inside a tent. A wood stove was burning, and we had a talk there.

A forest near Moune Bay. Trees in front turned brown and died from salt damage by seawater due to Tsunami.

"Hatakeyama kept saying 'I think fishermen are something like thieves. Without paying anything back to the sea, we should not just catch fish. If you want to express an appreciation for the blessings of the sea, plant trees on a mountain.' Advocating the catchphrase 'the forest is the sea's lover,' he has been engaged in tree planting for more than 20 years. In order to make the sea rich in minerals and nutrients for oyster farming, he has been leading the program by planting broadleaf trees in forests upstream of the river flowing into Moune Bay every year.

"I heard that fish actually began to come back to Moune Bay just three days after the disaster. When he mentioned this, he said thoughtfully to me, 'The sea is surely awesome, isn't it?' I was really impressed by his talk, because even though the fishermen had devastating experiences, he said 'There is no fisherman who blames the tsunami. No one wants to live in a place without a view of the ocean.'

"Responding to the multiple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant accidents, I made up my mind to renew my efforts to move forward. To tell the truth, I had been thinking that it's about time to take a rest and hand over my duties to the next generation, after tirelessly visiting forests throughout Japan and overseas. But, once I made my decision, all I can do now is to keep planting and growing trees for the rest of my life. The meeting with Hatakeyama made my determination stronger. Now I intend to complete the Green Cosmos project according to the scenario, as long as I can actively work."

Reprint from (in Japanese)