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Aya Town and Hima Approaches… A lot in Common

For SPNL and our Japanese partners it is very important to learn and explore the link between Satoyama in Japan and Hima approaches in our region. This will help to exchange knowledge and experiences to share with the world.

Aya Town, located in Miyazaki Prefecture of the Kyushu Island, harbors one of the largest remaining Lucidophyllous Forests (warm-temperate evergreen broadleaved forests) in Japan. The town has focused on regional development based on harmonious coexistence between human and nature, while conserving and restoring its forests in cooperation with the private sector. Moreover, it is the first community in the country that started to develop and promote a traditional organic agricultural system.

As a result, in 2012 Aya was formally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve(BR). Aya BR includes five municipal governments amongst which Aya is the only location that includes the transition area of the Reserve. The core area that is made up of the preserved district of the Aya Forestry Ecosystem Protected Area has never been used for human activities and is the object of scientific studies on the structure, function and dynamics of the lucidophyllous forest.

In 1984, Aya Teruha Suspension Bridge was built over the forest to connect humans with nature. Having crossed the bridge one can have a two kilometers long promenade in the mountain slopes to enjoy fascinating views. It has been scientifically verified that Aya forests have the effect of relaxing the mind and body. Apart from that, there are many historical, cultural and entertainment spots that attract about a million tourists per year to visit the town.

1988 Aya starts developing an organic agricultural system
2005 Aya Forest Project is launched
2012 Aya is registered as the BR in Japan

Established in 1990, AEON Environmental Foundation (AEON) has continually worked on tree-planting activities both inside Japan and abroad, while providing subsidies and awards to different organizations and individuals that undertake environmental activities and suggest solutions to environmental problems around the world.

The philosophy of AEON is “to pursue peace with customers as the starting point, respect humanity, and contribute to regional society”. Replacing this philosophy with environmental protection activities, we see the “customers” who are the starting point as the eco system which includes people, enabling us to interpret this as respecting people in a peaceful society and contributing to the creation of a sustainable society. In other words, it is the creation of shared value in a form based on AEON’s corporate philosophy and in relation to regional society, and has led us to suggest how new corporate activities should be including the preservation of the environment and construction of sustainable regional society.

AEON implemented its first tree planting in Aya in 2013, within the “Aya & AEON Forest” program. It was a three-year project hold on the forest spot that had been overcut due to felling season, during which 15,000 trees were planted with the help of 1,750 volunteers. In 2017, the Foundation signed a cooperation agreement with the Japan Biosphere Reserve Network (J-BRnet), and a new AEON creating-forest program started.

2013 AEON implements its first three-year tree-planting program in Aya
2016 AEON implements mowing and complementary planting on the tree-planting spot
2017 AEON signs a cooperation agreement with the J-BRnet

A wooden observatory tower in Aya &AEON Forest

In 2017, AEON Environmental Foundation launched another three-year tree-planting program in Aya, based on the BR concept of integrating biodiversity conservation and economic development. During this program about 5,200 trees native to the area were planted, amongst which were flowering trees that attract honeybees – the main pollinators of the local specialty Hyuganatsu, scientifically known as “Citrus Tamurana”.

Tree planting, 2018

In 2018, Aya BR Center was established to become the first and the only BR center in Japan. The center is mainly used for environmental education, where people can also have experience of organic agriculture. When holding tree-planting activities, AEON Environmental Foundation also organizes environmental educational for those who take part in tree planting.
Thus, in cooperation with the AEON, Aya BR implements all three functions of the biosphere reserve: conservation, sustainable development and logistic support for scientific research and education.


Diverse Forest ecosystem in Aya

Though people in Aya protect Satoyama for 50 years. This is history which has utilized a favor in the forest obtained. They respect Aya’s great nature and they are spending every day while maintaining nature.

Lastly, when considering how tree planting activities should be in the modern age the most important thing is to be a “sustainable society”, and we speak on the need to create a recycling society with people accepting and utilizing the blessings of nature. In keeping with the implementation of new forest creation and the results of a citizen’s attitude survey in Aya BR, we considered the roles fulfilled in regional communities by forests as well as future issues and directions. The tree planting on this occasion in Aya is an environmental activity based on conversion to the concept of society at large being the core including people, nature, and everything that surrounds both of them including the air, from the previous concept which saw the environment which envelops humans as the core. We have moved on from the age where conserving the ecosystem was central to the era of revolution to “the creation of a sustainable recycling society”. Environmental activities are required which protect nature with comprehensive ideas and involve all stakeholders contained in nature. This is a time of revolution going beyond the previous environmental policies to dynamic environmental activities.

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