Hello, I am Tonari, and I work for the Corporate Citizenship Office at Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd. I am writing today about Tokai Rubber’s forestry project, which we employees look forward to participating in every season.
In July 2008, our company decided to support “Forest Adoption Promotion Project” of Nagano Prefecture and signed an agreement to “adopt” a forest in Ikeda Town, Kita-azumi County.
Why Nagano Prefecture, you might wonder, where none of our business sites are located?
At first, our company had no experience in forest conservation activities and didn’t know where to start. After some research, we found that Nagano Prefecture had the most well-devised program and best public-authority support, which made it an ideal place for us to gain practical experience. We chose Ikeda Town because it is located in the Azumino area, which offers beautiful views of the Hida Mountains. The idea, advocated by residents of Ikeda Town’s Hirotsu District, of utilizing the forest conservation project to rejuvenate the depopulated community also struck a chord with us. Our company thus made a commitment to care for a 38 ha plot in Omine Highland in Ikeda Town’s Hirotsu District, where our employees will engage in volunteer work three times a year in spring, summer and autumn to maintain the forest, each time spending two days and one night.
The very first forest thinning took place in 2008, in which our president himself participated. The forestry project in May this year was the 9th such occasion since we became a sponsor. Each time we enlist 30 volunteers, which are chosen by lottery nowadays because there are more applicants than available places.
This spring, forestry project took place on May 14 and 15. Volunteers traveled to the site in two microbuses, where they checked on the growth of hinoki (cypress) trees planted in spring 2009, and then planted young Sargent’s cherry trees. Stakes supporting the cherry trees bore the names of volunteers, which made the experience even more special. Afterward, the volunteers gathered sansai (mountain vegetables) in the forest bursting with new growth, and took group photos in front of the “adopt sign” (erected in the forest and bearing the name of its adopter) with the Hida Mountains in the background. In the evening, volunteers enjoyed a barbecue with members of the local community.
▲ Experiencing forest-thinning
▲ Planting young Sargent’s cherry trees
The next morning, volunteers engaged in rice planting at a rice terrace situated in the mountains, for which our company had signed up for conservation activities. Although the unfamiliar task of hand-planting rice was a challenge, we managed to complete it, and the water from the clear stream where we washed our muddy feet felt cool and refreshing. We can’t wait to taste the sun-dried, tasty rice in autumn. For lunch, we enjoyed traditional local cuisine. Guided by local people, we made dumplings called oyaki, a specialty of Nagano, broiling them in ashes in the traditional manner. We enjoyed the oyaki with sansai tempura and pickles.
Many of the employees have been forestry volunteers more than once, and have become friends with the local seniors, who make them feel at home each time they return. This summer and autumn, as in previous years, we are planning to engage in thinning, maintenance of forest roads, some agricultural work, woodworking and buckwheat-noodle making, among others, thereby interacting with local people and helping them rejuvenate their community.
▲ Group photo of participants
More than 60 companies take part in Nagano Prefecture’s forest adoption program, we received the Taihoku Region Forestry Grand Prize at the Taihoku Satoyama Regeneration Symposium in February 2010 as a model program involving local communities. In March 2009, Nagano Prefecture introduced a system that recognizes companies’ forest conservation activities by converting the activities into amounts of carbon dioxide absorbed, and our company became the first to receive accreditation under this system.
Building on our experience to date, we launched in August 2010 another forest project, this time in Mie Prefecture, where our Matsuzaka Works is located, by entering into an agreement with Mie Prefecture, Matsuzaka City and the local Seizu District.
To live in harmony with the environment, Tokai Rubber will continue activities to preserve the country’s forest, in partnership with local communities.