Local to Local

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Minamata Story

Turning something negative into positive energy

- Minamata desease
- Reestablishing emotional ties (moyainaoshi)
- Minamata must be the most environment-friendly city in Japan
- Green Tourism
- Generation to generation

We must learn many things from Minamata for our future.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kitchen Scraps Become Fertilizer for Farmers

Kitchen Scraps Become Fertilizer for Farmers
Nagai, Yamagata Prefecture
Written by Sanada Kuniko
Photos by Sugawara Chiyoshi

Nagai has only 33,000 people, but its composting efforts have caught the attention of the whole nation. The city has a rural setting in Yamagata Prefecture, north of Tokyo. The fastest way to get there from Tokyo is by bullet train, then two local train lines - a journey of about three hours.

Here, farmers who produce organic food, consumers, and the municipal government are working together to promote the aims of their recycling plan, which was adopted approximately 10 years ago. The official name of the plan is Nagai Kitchens and Farms, but everyone just calls it the Rainbow Plan. The Compost Center, the key facility envisioned by the plan, began operations in February 1997. It cost 580 million yen to build.

Sato Yuichi, of the city's Rainbow Plan Promotion Bureau, told us that the recycling efforts are paying off - the city has reduced the amount of kitchen scraps it incinerates by almost 70%.

In most cities, kitchen scraps are thrown out with the garbage, then incinerated or buried in landfill sites. Nagai's Rainbow Plan changes that, and it does more - it converts household organic waste into fertilizer for farmers, improving the soil and reducing the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The final goal is to get more local producers to farm organically.

About 4,900 households in the urban part of Nagai separate kitchen scraps from other garbage. They remove as much water from the scraps as they can, then place them in recycling buckets. Twice a week, they take the contents of the buckets to containers situated at neighborhood pickup points. Municipal garbage trucks take the waste to the Compost Center, where it is mixed with animal manure, rice husks and other organic material. The mixture ferments for about 80 days, turning into a rich, ready-to-use fertilizer which is bagged and sold (a 15-kg bag sells for ¥280).

About 50 farmers use this fertilizer, thereby meeting one condition for certification as organic farmers under the Rainbow Plan. Their produce is sold in supermarkets and morning markets, and eventually contributes to the next generation of compost.

Kanno Yoshihide, a farmer who raises rice and free-range chickens, is an important participant in the Rainbow Plan. Actually, it was his idea to recycle kitchen scraps into fertilizer. He says the plan succeeds because the fertilizer produced by composting is of excellent quality, and because the growers learned how to use the fertilizer effectively. Farmers in the Nagai area are actively involved in the plan, ensuring its success.

"Our timing was good," Kanno says, "because we started just when people were realizing the need to do things in an environmentally friendly way. Producers and consumers have a strong attachment to their own area, so they naturally want to protect and improve the local environment. I suppose that this desire develops more easily in a small community than in a large city, but it will one day spread throughout the country. Another reason for the plan's success is that our mayor is 100% behind it. The Rainbow Plan works because producers, consumers and the municipal government support it."

Underlying the Rainbow Plan is the desire to work in harmony with the environment. The people of Nagai show that we cannot wait for someone else to protect the environment - each one of us has to change his or her own way of thinking, and then act.

Source; http://web-japan.org/nipponia/nipponia7/sp05.html

Monday, November 27, 2006

Zero Waste Declaration and "Leaf" Business in Kamikatsu Town

Towards Building a Society with Sound Material Cycles: the Zero Waste Declaration from Kamikatsu Town in Tokushima Prefecture

In Japan various laws have been enacted to establish a "society with sound material cycles" and shift away from the prevailing socioeconomic system of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal. For example, the Basic Law for Establishing the Recycling-based Society (enforced in January 2001) stipulates the order of priorities regarding waste disposal measures: (1) reduce waste generation, (2) reuse products as long as possible, (3) recycle products as resources, (4) burn waste for heat recovery, and (5) dispose (non-usable) waste properly. These measures are to be taken by all entities in the society with sound material cycles to reduce as much as possible the environmental impacts of waste.

Waste disposal by burning, landfilling or ocean dumping, while decreasing in scale, has been continuing. Construction of waste disposal facilities such as incinerators not only imposes a heavy financial burden on municipal governments, but also fails to curb the production of waste. Such facilities will generate greenhouse gases or hazardous chemicals that pollute air and soil, contaminating agricultural products and threatening human health. Aiming at the ultimate solution to these problems, a small town named Kamikatsu in Tokushima Prefecture announced what is called the zero-waste declaration in September 2003. It is the first municipality in Japan to do so.

The Town Where Elderly People Enjoy Working in the Flourishing "Leaf" Business

The town's district covers 55 villages of various sizes, southeast of the Shikoku mountains. Forests occupy about 85 percent of the town's total area (109.68 square kilometers). Of its population of only about 2,200, 44 percent are 65 years old or over. This town is aging and depopulating. Although Kamikatsu's main products used to be timber and satsuma (Onshu) oranges, they have been pushed away by imported timber and foreign oranges. In February 1981, a cold wave hit the town and the temperature fell to minus 13 degrees Celsius, causing the eventual death of most of the orange trees and devastating the town's economy. Under such circumstances, the town office, in cooperation with farmers and the agricultural cooperative, drew up a major plan to develop problem-solving abilities among citizens.

Kamikatsu town attracts many visitors from all over Japan. One of the main attractions is the "Tsumamono" business run by the elderly. "Tsumamono" refers to decorative leaves and flowers which adorn plates of food at restaurants. In 1999, the town established Irodori Co. Inc. with the mayor as director. Irodori ships over 300 kinds of leaves and flowers such as maple, cherry, hydrangea, and nandin to Japanese inns and ryotei (high class restaurants), where they are arranged by master chefs. Today, this industry generates over 250 million yen (about U.S.$2.3 million) in profits, which provides an important source of income for the town's elderly people. About 180 people, most of them women with an average age of 67 year-old, are involved in this business. Everyone, including people over 80 years old, shares market information via fax and personal computer. This business was introduced as "a leaf-turns-into-capital magic" and praised as one of the model cases of agricultural revitalization and the use of information technology to address the problems of depopulating areas. It is bringing people joy, health and happiness.
http://www.kamikatsu.jp/3sec/3seku_iro.html (Japanese)
http://www.irodori.co.jp/english/english.html (English)

The Town with 34 Categories of Waste and without a Garbage Truck!

Kamikatsu Town is also attracting attention for its garbage collection efforts. Garbage in this town is not collected by a conventional garbage truck. Residents bring their own waste to the town's trash station. Garbage is classified into 34 categories and then whatever can be recycled is recycled. The garbage station is open until 2:00 p.m. every day. A local volunteer group was also set up for elderly people who need assistance. Every fourth Sunday, a flea market is held at the station selling secondhand clothes, books, etc.

The town first took an initiative to reduce waste by composting kitchen waste that accounted for some 30 percent of the total garbage. In 1995, the town became the first municipality to subsidize household compost machines in Japan. Together with outdoor compost machines already subsidized in 1991, most households in the town now make use of compost machines.

Back in 1997 when the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law took effect, waste was classified into only 19 categories, and non-recycleable materials were incinerated at the town's two small incinerators. Since then, garbage was divided into 25 categories. After the enactment of the Law Concerning Special Measures against Dioxins in 2000, the small incinerators were shut down for good. Today, garbage is classified into 34 categories and 79 percent of it recycled.

Efforts toward Zero Waste

On September 19, 2003, the Kamikatsu Town Council issued the first-ever "Zero Waste Declaration" among Japanese municipalities. The preamble clarifies that the current national policy with its emphasis on incineration only encourages more, not less, waste generation. The town aims to cut its incinerated and landfilled waste to zero by 2020. To that end, the declaration contains five points of action plans including calling on the national and prefectural governments to make their utmost efforts to create legal and other frameworks to reduce waste generation.

"Zero waste" is a concept in waste policy that was born in the Australian capital of Canberra in 1996, embracing the idea of trimming the unnecessary use of materials to zero, rather than cutting down rubbish delivered to disposal facility to zero. Zero waste has been adopted by municipalities in many countries including New Zealand and Canada. Dr. Paul Connett of St. Lawrence University in New York introduced the concept to Kamikatsu during his visit in July 2003.
http://www.kamikatsu.jp/kankyo/zero_sengen.htm (Japanese only)

The Zero Waste Declaration of Kamikatsu includes educating individuals not to litter and pollute the Earth and getting more friends around the world to improve the global environment. To that end, a non-profit organization named the Zero Waste Academy is being planned. Open recruitment for staff of the organization has already been completed in preparation for full-scale activities.

Mayor Kazuichi Kasamatsu of the town is energetically conducting various activities. For example, he submitted to the national and Tokushima prefectural governments a proposal to draft a law for extended producer responsibility in which producers are not only required to collect their products at end of life but also prohibited from manufacturing and selling products that cannot be collected. The mayor also delivers lectures on zero waste in various parts of the country.

Thanks to the town's continuing efforts, Kamikatsu has been selected by the Environment Ministry as one of the nation's model towns for fiscal 2004 with a "virtuous cycle of the environment and economy." The town has also been designated by the Japanese government as a special zone for structural reform and chosen to engage in a regional revitalization plan.
http://www.env.go.jp/press/file_view.php3?serial=5683&hou_id=5032 (PDF file : Japanese only)

In more and more parts of Japan, municipalities and residents are working hard to better manage their own waste. We are hoping to see the nationwide spread of activities that have been initiated in a small town in a mountainous area under the inspiration of that great slogan, "Zero Waste!"

(Staff Write Kazumi Yagi)

Link to Japan for Sustainability:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Links on Crafts in Japan

Traditional Crafts in Japan:

The Association for the promotion of Traditional Craft Industries:

Japan Traditional Crafts Center:

Worldwide Online Shopping for Japanese Traditional Crafts:

Mishima-machi's Sense of Community

In Love with the Paulownia--Mishima-machi's Sense of Community
(Sharon Wu/photos by Hsueh Chi-kuang/tr. by David Mayer)

In the late 1960s and early '70s, rapid economic develop-ment in Japan triggered a lopsided concentration of population and infrastructure in that country's urban areas, and a serious decline of rural towns and villages, as people flocked to the cities and misguided development schemes wrought havoc left and right. At the same time, the signing of a US-Japan security treaty spawned protests throughout the 1960s by university students concerned about the possibility of Japan returning to its former militarism. The student protest movement died down in the 1970s, but graduates returning to their rural homes nevertheless retained their idealism and turned their attention to improving their local communities. They hoped that the "hometown movement" could change the "Japanese spirit."

Taiwan has also seen a vibrant community-building movement grow up in recent years. The Council for Cultural Affairs is working to encourage local neighborhoods and communities to establish their own websites, Taipei City Hall has launched a number of environmental projects, and an assortment of groups have been carrying out social movements and hometown revitalization movements across the island. In all of these activities we find local culture bursting with energy and dynamism. These efforts are progressing bit by tiny bit, and in the process, activists in Taiwan have often sought to learn from the hometown revitalization movement in Japan. Exchange between Taiwan and Japan in this field has been carried out at large conferences and through the dispatch of study delegations. What are the distinguishing features of Japan's community-building movement? What can Taiwan learn from Japan? Sinorama decided visit three typical communities in Japan to see how community-building is carried out in Japan. In addition to the two articles here, we will also publish two more on the subject in next month's issue.

It would probably be fair to describe the town of Mishima-machi, in Fukushima Prefecture, as the fountainhead of Japan's community-building movement. In this mountain town that sees two meters of snowfall every winter, how did the locals manage to create a vibrant and beautiful community in spite of the fact that the snows of winter virtually cut off transportation each year?

Mishima-machi sits amidst a huge forest of paulownia trees. Aging but sprightly locals forage among the trees for paulownia wood to use in their handicraft activities. The trees lift their branches skyward as if in prayer, the rushing Tadami River provides background "music," and the Tadami River Bridge looms in the distance. A sense of communion with nature envelops the quiet mountain town.

Located to the west of the Aizu Basin in Fukushima Prefecture, Mishima-machi lost many of its young people during Japan's period of rapid economic growth, with the population declining at a rate of over 17% at one point. The town was included on the list of localities undergoing depopulation. Imported lumber from Canada and China made inroads into the market for locally produced Aizu paulownia, and the resulting tumble in prices struck a heavy blow to the lifeline of the Mishima-machi economy.

Paulownia makes a good dowry

Takeshi Suzuki, chief of the Planning Section at the Mishima-machi Town Hall, recalls: "In Mishima-machi they used to call paulownia 'gold wood' because you could pretty much sell the wood from one paulownia tree and buy a new car with the proceeds. When you gave birth to a daughter, you'd plant three paulownia trees, so that they'd be grown by the time she was ready to marry, and you could use them as dowry." Back in the 1970s, a rich person was someone who owned a lot of paulownia trees. But all good things must come to an end. After imports yanked the rug out from under the paulownia market, the wood from a single paulownia tree was only worth a few hundred thousand yen.

In 1972, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs amended the Law for Protection of Cultural Properties and made it easier for community activists to pursue their objectives in the field of cultural and historic preservation. With the help of a supportive government, former participants in the student movement turned their attention to the task of revitalizing Japan's declining rural towns and villages. The activities they launched came to be dubbed the furusato undou ("hometown movement"). Mishima-machi was swept up in the tide.

It was sometime around 1974 when the "community paulownia mill" was established in Mishima-machi. The idea was to develop high-quality paulownia products to bolster the local economy and stop the population drain. Pop superstar Teresa Teng even went to Mishima-machi to sing her new Furusato wa doko desu ka? ("Where is my hometown"). Soon, thanks in part to Teng's song, the word furusato seemed to be on everyone's lips, and the furusato movement in Mishima-machi gained unstoppable momentum. Today, 30 years later, the people of Mishima-machi continue to carry out their "paulownia handicrafts movement," and it is regarded as a classic example of community building in Japan.

Beautiful paulownia mill

"We were trying to figure out ways to make it so that our town could do more than just ship out unprocessed logs. We wanted to take advantage of our paulownia to build up a profitable industry. But it also had to be one that represented a certain outlook on life, one that the residents of Mishima-machi would be happy to embrace. That is the key focus of the community-building movement in our town." So says highly regarded town mayor Shigeki Saito, whose name cards and even his briefcase are made from paulownia. He adds with a laugh, "All the gifts that I give people are made by local craftsmen from paulownia wood!" Most name cards used by the locals are made from paulownia. Each time they exchange their paulownia name cards, the story of their hometown echoes in the mind and gives them a sense of pride.

The local paulownia industry is involved with every step of the product life cycle, from planting, cultivation, and logging to the working of the wood and sales of the final products. Besides chests, other paulownia items from Mishima-machi include lamps, hand fans, and charcoals (used for deodorizing the home, or filtering water). The town organizes periodic shows to promote sales. These beautiful handicraft items are expensive though; a large paulownia chest can cost over ¢D1 million (about US$7500 at current exchange rates), and an elegant paulownia lamp might run ¢D400,000.

Women all over Japan are in agreement that the best wood for a chest of drawers is the Aizu paulownia of Mishima-machi, because a kimono must be stored in a high-quality chest. The paulownia goods of Mishima-machi are all made of locally grown Aizu paulownia, as are the fine-quality paulownia chests on display at famous national museums all over Japan. Masakazu Nihei, who started learning his craft at age 18, spent ten years in apprenticeship before finally gaining recognition as a master craftsman in his own right. He spends every day at the paulownia mill, taking logs and working them down to size to make them into beautiful chests inlaid with seashells. The long, difficult process practically doubles as a spiritual exercise in self-cultivation.

I love my briefcase

The Mishima-machi area also abounds in porcelain-berry vines, which serve as yet another raw material for handicrafts. A lot of porcelain-berry basketry can be found on display at the Mishima-machi Handicrafts Museum, a past recipient of the Japan Architectural Culture Prize. Items include straw sandals, bags, baskets, and other things made from porcelain-berry vine, and all were made by the talented hands of Mishima-machi's old folks. Deputy director Miyoshi Igarashi recalls fondly: "Even Prime Minister Tanaka visited our museum!"

Igarashi, who is an active participant in Mishima-machi's handicrafts movement, personally wove the briefcase that he now uses every day. It took him four days to finish. His voice betrays a hint of wistful nostalgia as he recalls the time Teresa Teng sang Furusato wa doko desu ka in Mishima-machi: "The furusato movement brought a famous singer to our hometown. The old folks really enjoyed the performance. I'm glad we were able to do that for them."

Says Mayor Saito: "I want to establish a 'handicrafts artisan village' to help artisans open their own little shops, and I would like to make it so that customers who come here are not just 'buying products' but sharing their lives with us, and us with them. I'd like to seem them partaking of the 'life spirit' of the old folks who make these products."

Another person who has made a big contribution to the community-building movement in Mishima-machi is Professor Kiyoshi Miyazaki, of Chiba University, who carried out an in-depth study of Mishima-machi's handicrafts and helped the town's craftsmen design a craftsman's badge in the shape of a hand to serve as proof of craftsmen's qualifications and bolster their sense of pride.

Happy town

Besides giving the older folks a chance to specialize in a craft, the local handicrafts industry has also enhanced the experience of growing up in Mishima-machi. Every year the town organizes over 30 small-scale handicrafts festivals, and a "Workman's Festival" held annually for the past 15 years draws some 4,000 participants, while the mid-summer mushi okuri ("good riddance to bad bugs" festival) is very popular with the kids. A local man who had done his Master's thesis on Mishima-machi's mushi okuri festival, explains with a chuckle what it involves: The town's children go out together into the fields to catch bugs, which they put into sacks. Then they take the sacks and hand them over to the older kids in exchange for lanterns. The mushi okuri is an old tradition in Mishima-machi.

Absolutely everyone is involved in the community-building movement in Mishima-machi , from the elders who contribute their handicraft skills, to the younger generation returning from the big cities to promote the community-building movement, to the children who just think all the festivals are a lot of fun. If love for one's hometown is a virtue, then perhaps bucolic Mishima-machi is proof that there is at least one spot on this planet that isn't so far from heaven.


(From website:

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Yufuin Station: Barrier-free station greets young vacationers

Daily Yomiuri:

Barrier-free station greets young vacationers

By Keiko Nakamura
Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

"The next stop is Yufuin," announced the train conductor. Hearing this, I made my way along the shiny wooden floor of the Yufuin-no-Mori Go, an express train from JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka, before stepping onto the station platform.

My body was bathed in the cool, damp mountain air. Looking around, I saw the fog-cloaked mountains towering over me.

Taking in the milky white of the fog, the dark green carriages and the black station building, it struck me that I was inside a living sumi-e Indian ink painting.

A wide road leads away from the front of the station. Beyond it rise the graceful lines of Mt. Yufudake.

Town residents say the railway lines here were intentionally curved so that the station was ideally placed for a view of the mountain — the symbol of the town.

Since renovation in 1990, the station has had no ticket gates. Though common in Europe, this is rare for a station in one of Japan's most popular tourist spots.

Kentaro Nakaya, 70, owner of an inn with a long history in the town, said the absence of barriers resulted from discussions among local residents over the ideal form of the new station.

"We concluded that we should not appear to distrust visitors from out of town. That kind of attitude is a century out of date," he said.

Yufuin is known for the discreet hospitality it extends to visitors with its abundant hot spring baths and highly popular film and music festivals.

The barrier-free station somehow seems appropriate to the town, which is sometimes called the "land of healing." The then newly established JR Kyushu was struggling with many loss-making routes at the time, but was happy to comply with the wishes of the locals.

Yoshitaka Ishii, 71, then the president of the railway company, was looking for a centerpiece for his new company. "We needed a new way of thinking that would mark a total break from our years with Japanese National Railways," Ishii said.

The townsfolk's idea was to convert their station into a place where people would want to stop and savor their surroundings, rather than just getting on and off the train. Other towns had similar ideas, but Ishii chose Yufuin for the project. "We chose Yufuin in part because it was so popular with young men and women, which makes it a bit different from other traditional tourist spots. But the most important reason was local residents' enthusiasm," he said.

Construction of the new station was unprecedented not only because the railway company and the town government evenly shouldered the cost, but also because it was designed by world famous architect Arata Isozaki, now 72, a native of Oita Prefecture.

"I had a real passion for the job. When I spoke to my acquaintances and architects from other countries, they echoed my view that the hot springs and natural splendor of Yufuin — things I have enjoyed since my childhood — are things to cherish," Isozaki said.

Another tourist attraction in the town are the horse-drawn cabs known as gharries. From spring to autumn, the cabs carry visitors to tourist spots around the town. On holidays, the gharries are so popular that long lines of people can be seen waiting for a ride.

The Regional Circulation Network

The Regional Circulation Network- Article No.8 (Jan, 2005)

Re-confirming Relationships among People, the Community and the Earth
Late last November, the Waste Control and Recycling Technology Exhibition was held for the 14th time; this was WASTEC 2004. The aim of this general convention is to contribute to reducing environmental impacts through waste management and recycling.

Companies and organizations that develop technologies and systems for waste treatment and recycling, or manufacture and supply such equipment, participate together with their clients in this exhibition to present their efforts and perspectives. An exhibition co-event gives WASTEC Awards to companies or organizations that have achieved excellence in this field.

In 2004, the winner of the Environment Minister's Award, the WASTEC Awards' grand prize, was not a large company with the latest technology or manufacturing facilities, but a non-profit organization that is making a great contribution to creating a recycling-based society in a local community. In this article, we will introduce this award-winning organization, the Regional Circulation Network.

The Regional Circulation Network is based in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture. Nagaoka is about 80 minutes north of Tokyo by bullet train and has a population of 190,000. It is located at the south end of the Niigata Plain, with the Shinano River running from north to south through its center. It is hot and humid in summer and very windy and snowy in winter, typical weather along the Japan Sea coast.

The city's main industries involve the manufacture of machinery, electronic goods and precision instruments. These manufacturing businesses have grown up here since the mid-Meiji Era, and about 23 percent of workers in Nagaoka are still engaged in manufacturing. Having about 12,800 farmers, Nagaoka is also one of the major producers of rice in the prefecture, mainly Japan's deluxe "Koshihikari" rice variety.

Nagaoka is a beautiful city through all four seasons, but the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, which hit central Niigata Prefecture in October 2004, caused tremendous damage here - about 50,000 houses were completely or partially destroyed. Having just experienced this disaster, the presentation of this award to a local NGO was a great encouragement to Nagaoka citizens.

The Regional Circulation Network - Background

This Network promotes the recycling of food waste from school lunches at all schools in the city - it was this activity that led to the establishment of the Network and remains one of its essential programs.

The Network started out as a citizens' group named the "Mizubasho (White Arum) Group," formed in 1994 to work on recycling kitchen garbage from households. In the course of this work, the group noticed that a significant amount of leftovers were generated from school lunches, so it began to collect food waste from schools.

At this juncture, in September 1997, the Regional Circulation Network was founded. Although the Network initially collected food waste from only nine schools, by April 2004 this number had increased to 80 and is still increasing - 88 as of January 2005.

The Network's program recycles this food waste, which would otherwise be incinerated or dumped in landfills. One notable aspect is that citizen action is the basis of the Network's contribution to creating a recycling-based society.

The School Food Waste Recycling System

The Network collects school lunch waste from nursery, elementary and junior high schools in the city and transports it to three livestock breeders located in the city. There the waste is fermented together with bean curd pressings, rice cracker crumbs, miso and soy sauce production residues, and rice bran, which have also been collected in Nagaoka.

This mixed, fermented waste is suitable for feeding livestock, and meat from these livestock operations is sometimes used in cooking school lunches. The Network now annually recycles about 1,000 tons of food waste, including about 290 tons of school lunch waste, that would otherwise be incinerated.

Each Participant Plays a Key Role

Today, Nagaoka City commissions the Regional Circulation Network to conduct this School Lunch Waste Recycling Program, but the Network organization employs only 9 people, nowhere near enough to carry out the whole program. Its smooth operation can only be secured through the cooperation of many people.

School lunch cooks and students sort and drain the food waste and divide it into two categories, one for cattle (herbivores) and one for hogs and minks (omnivores). Since 80 percent of the waste is water, it is important to reduce its moisture content for recycling as feed.

Many citizen volunteers participate in the program, collecting the food waste from schools and transporting it to livestock breeders. At present, about 30 citizens regularly do this volunteer work. Each volunteer supports the Network's activities in his or her own way: some work every weekday, and others use their spare time.Once the waste is delivered, the next step is up to the livestock breeders. They add a fermenting material called "EM (Effective Microorganisms)-bokashi" to the waste in order to promote its fermentation. Then they mix the fermented waste with bean curd pressings and rice cracker crumbs to help absorb moisture.

Sometimes rice bran is added for nutrition, because a well-balanced feed cannot be made using only school lunch waste. Drying reduces the mixture's weight by four fifths. It then takes another four to seven days to complete the fermentation process. The resulting feed is perfect for raising livestock, and in the final phase breeders sell the meat, processed food products, and processed food ingredients .

In practice, this program is managed by a large number of people - volunteers, schools, cooks and many others - in addition to the employees of the government-commissioned NPO

Program Results

This program not only puts to use about 290 tons of waste annually, but it also helps students and citizens clearly recognize the relationship between their meals and food production sites. In addition to enhancing food-related and environmental education, it promotes the consumption of locally-produced food, reduces carbon dioxide emissions from incinerators, and fosters a lively social movement.

On receiving the WASTEC Award, the Network commented: "Though 'creating a recycling-based social system' may sound difficult, we are taking an approach that is comprehensible to anyone by using a system that turns our leftovers into livestock feed, and livestock into food.
We want to keep on working to diffuse the idea of material cycle systems through this initiative that involves local government, a non-profit organization and businesses".

The Network's expanding activities

The Network is working on various other initiatives at the same time. The Chopstick Recycling program, for instance, promotes the utilization of used disposable chopsticks collected from restaurants in Nagaoka City as material for making paper and charcoal.

As of June 2004, 221 restaurants are cooperating with this program. Another example is the Eco Green Club program, which exchanges household kitchen waste for meat. Cooperating families dry their kitchen waste using an electric disposal unit installed at each house. The Network collects the dried waste for use as livestock feed, and distributes meat and eggs to the families in return.

The fuel used to dry food waste for recycling at schools is reformulated kerosene derived from used cooking oil. The Network collects used cooking oil from restaurants in the city, and transports it to a plant where it is processed into recycled fuel. Each activity is inseparably connected, a reminder of how various things are connected in our lives as well.

Nagaoka City has an old story about 100 bales of rice that became famous when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi quoted it in a general policy speech. In the early Meiji Period, when Nagaoka province was defeated and devastated in the Boshin War (1868), neighboring Mineyama province (now Maki Town of Nishi Kambara, Niigata Prefecture) contributed a hundred bales of rice - about six tons - to succor the people of Nagaoka.

However, Torasaburo Kobayashi, one of the leaders of Nagaoka at the time, insisted, "Human resources are the primary source of prosperity in any country or city. When we find ourselves in need of food, what we really need to do is educate our people." And he persuaded the samurai of the Nagaoka clan to sell all the contributed rice in order to found of a new school rather than distribute it for immediate consumption. The school was named Kokkan Gakko, literally, "school of Japanese and Chinese literature."

Citizens of Nagaoka are thus thought to have inherited the ability to avoid being shortsighted and think ahead. This rooted concept of looking to the future may have helped citizens steadily accept each progressive initiative by the Network.

* Some participants have been obliged to suspend their activities due to the October 2004 earthquake. Messages of encouragement from readers around the world would be welcome.

[For Your Reference] WastecThe Spirit of Kome Hyappyo

(Staff Writer Hiroyo Hasegawa)

(Article from: http://www.japanfs.org/en/public/ngo08.html)

Japan for Sustainability: http://www.japanfs.org/

Iida City: An Environmental Town Inspires Others


On May 26-28, 2004, Iida City will be hosting the 12th Meeting of the Coalition of Local Government for Environmental Initiative, a national network of 74 municipalities that promote environmentally conscious local government. Why is this little town inspiring cities all over Japan? Read on to find out more.

Apple Tree Street, a Symbol for the Town

Located between the South Alps and the Central Alps in the heart of Japan, Iida City, an old castle town in Nagano Prefecture, is blessed with the natural environment and a rich culture. With some 106,000 inhabitants, this town overlooking the river Tenryu was once called Little Kyoto for its beautiful streets, but much of the central area was burned to ashes by a fire in 1947.

Learning a lesson from the big fire, the city constructed green zones as fire belts in 25-meter-wide streets that crisscross the city. Junior high school students at the time proposed the idea of planting apple trees in sections of the green zone so that people could enjoy the aroma of their white flowers in spring and the red apples in autumn.

They felt that a town of real beauty doesn't just depend on a good view, but also on the sincerity in the hearts of its people, so they had no concern about apple-stealing becoming a problem. Their hopes took on real form as a street lined with apple trees. Stories about the street are now a part of local legend. Fifty years have passed, and students still tend the tree-lined street, which has become more of a park for pedestrians than a street for cars. The idea of giving more priority to pedestrians was one arose at a workshop during the 1990s to revitalize city center.http://www.city.iida.nagano.jp/namiki/home.html (Japanese only)

Community-Wide Initiative for Iida's Own Environmental ISO

Iida City has become known for its apple-tree-lined street and puppet shows, but more recently it has also been gaining recognition as an environmentally friendly town. In 1996, the city stated in its fourth basic plan that its vision is to be an environmental and cultural town that is attractive because of its people and nature. It has since then been promoting projects that help establish itself as a sustainable town.

Under the "Iida Environment Plan 21," formulated in 1996, specific numerical targets were set to promote effective implementation by 2010. Five years on, the progress made so far was assessed, analyzed and reviewed. The review, conducted by the "Iida City Citizen's Conference for the Environment" and a working group formed by city employees, lasted for about a year.
In the realm of new energy, the city began subsidizing households that install solar power generators in 1997, using a unique form assistance provided in the form of grants and subsidies to cover interest payments for the purchase of equipment. The town now is now one of the top in Japan in terms of percentage of households with solar power systems. The city is now considering the idea of introducing biomass energy.

In 1997, five companies based in the city that aimed at acquiring ISO 14001 certification and the Iida city office jointly launched a "Study Group for the Community-based Approach to ISO Accreditation." The study group later changed its name to "Study Group for the Community-Wide Initiative to Acquire ISO Certification," and now nearly 30 companies in the group are attempting to expand isolated activities to community-wide initiatives. The group is undertaking various initiatives to build a sustainable community, even after member companies have acquired ISO certification. (Not all have acquired the certification.)

Furthermore, it created a registration and certification system known as "Minami Shinshu EMS 21," a simplified local version of the ISO environmental standards. With this system, they have launched an initiative to promote environment management system in the southern Shinshu region of Nagano in the twenty-first century.

This activity translates into implementing workable plans to improve the environment and involve the community in addressing environmental protection issues. The "Study Group" will nominate companies with eco-friendly operations so that these companies will be registered with "Minami Shinshu Kouiki Rengo," a coalition of Iida City, villages and towns in southern Nagano Prefecture, and their names will be published. This is expected to boost the credibility and the image of participating companies, and eventually to improve business performance by reducing operating costs.http://www.city.iida.nagano.jp/kankyo/iso/index.html

Iida Switches to "Self Declaration of Conformance with ISO 14001" (Self- Monitoring of ISO 14001 compliance)

Iida City acquired ISO 14001 certification in January 2001, making it the first municipal government in Nagano Prefecture to do so. In January 2003, just before the three-year certification was to expire, the city decided to shift to "self declaration of conformance", instead of the standard assessment procedures by external certification bodies. It was the first among Japanese municipalities to do so.

The declaration of this new approach is an outcome of the city's initiatives so far. The city government has been engaged in establishing and running the city's unique initiative, the Iida Environmental Management System into the 21st century, or IEMS 21. It also has cooperated with a community-based study group on the initiative, an objective assessment by external actors, internal audits, and education and training for city employees.

The city realizes that this "self-declaration" status makes it bear more responsibility for accountability to the public. It thus tries to enhance collaboration on a global scale by networking, both nationally and internationally, and also plans to actively disclose information on its website.http://www.city.iida.nagano.jp/kankyou/manage/sengen.html (Japanese only)

Town Spirit Inspires Action

The environmental efforts of the Iida government, including the ISO 14001 Self-Declaration of Conformity, the Study Group on the Community-Wide Initiative for the Environment and ISO Certification, IEMS 21, the Minami-Shinshu EMS 21, all derive from the philosophy of local residents, committed to foster community development on their own initiative.

"Mu-To-Su" is the local word to represent such a sprit, meaning "to be going to do something." It means taking initiative before being told to do something by other people.

The essence of Iida City's proactive initiatives originates from the citizen's independent spirit, evident in the Apple Street initiatives launched years ago by students and carried out in cooperation with local residents.

On May 26-28, 2004, Iida City will be hosting the 12th Meeting of the Coalition of Local Government for Environmental Initiative, a nation-wide network of 74 municipalities that promote environmentally conscious local government. It will be a great opportunity for local governments all over Japan to learn and study Iida's unique initiatives.

The Coalition of Local Government for Environmental Initiative, Japan: http://www.colgei.org/ (Japanese only)

Iida City's environmental information website: http://www.city.iida.nagano.jp/kankyo/ (Japanese only)


(Article from: http://www.japanfs.org/en/public/gov_04.html)

Japan for Sustainability: http://www.japanfs.org/

Monday, January 30, 2006

Regional Revitalization in Okitama

Regional Revitalization in the Okitama Basin of Yamagata Prefecture
by Moen, Darrell Gene


This report describes the ways in which a group of organic farmers in Yamagata Prefecture have been able to effect basic structural changes that contribute to the social transformative process of counter-hegemony. Members of the Okitama farmers' League (OFL) have initiated a regional revitalization plan that is based on the concept of eco-circularity in which local household food wastes and other organic materials are converted into compost for use by area organic farmers. By forming organic farmers' collectives, members provide farm-related work in rural areas during the long winter months. The women farmers in the group formed a support group for farm wives to fight collectively against female subordination within the household as well as to improve the overall position of women in the Okitama area. They are challenging the dominant culture's values and social assumptions, and are engaged in creating new cultural values and definitions of self in relation to others. The OFL offers a vision of a noneconomistic, democratized, and environmentally sustainable society centered on universal principles of human rights, social justice, and popular participation in the reformulation of the meanings attached to work, authority, culture, family, community, gender, and consumption.

The full report can be seen at:

The Asaza Project

The Asaza Project- Article No.4 (Jan,2004)


Lake Kasumigaura ranks second in size in Japan, after Lake Biwa, with a surface area of 219.9 square kilometers and a catchment basin more than ten times the lake's surface area. Located not far from the metropolis of Tokyo, Lake Kasumigaura was developed on a large scale during Japan's period of rapid economic growth from 1950s to 1970s, to provide water for industrial and drinking. In the process, much of the lakeside was encased in revetments (concrete facing to sustain an embankment), with a devastating effect on the natural environment. The lake suffered. People stopped visiting the lakeside, and the migratory birds and other living creatures that once visited the reed beds disappeared.

Seeing the situation deteriorate, the government tried various measures and projects, in the attempt to restore the local nature. These efforts, however, did not drastically improve the environment of the Lake Kasumigaura catchment area. The top-down, government-led approach of pouring money and equipment onto the problem, failed to produce any community-based activities. Moreover, each ministry and agency implemented its own projects independently, resulting in needless duplication.

Amid this background, the Asaza Project was started in 1995. Its innovative approach is called a "community-based public works project," and is quite different from the traditional government-led ones.

The Asaza Project started with restoring lakeside vegetation. First, the project focused on reed beds as an effective means of water purification. The reed beds absorb nitrogen and phosphorus that cause water pollution. They also provide spawning and feeding grounds for fish.

Vertical concrete revetments, however, prevented the reeds from taking root, because the waves beating against them bounced off the wall, digging deeper into the lake bottom. With no room to take root, the reeds gradually declined and were on the verge of disappearing.

But then Hiroshi Iijima, director general of the Asaza Fund, an NPO, turned his attention to a native water plant called "asaza," or "floating heart" (Nymphoides peltata). They form into large plant communities and have a natural wave-dampening effect, thus contributing to the revival of vegetation, including the reeds.

Floating heart seedlings were replanted in Lake Kasumigaura by local elementary school students and residents, but the waves washed the seedlings away. Such was the impact of the concrete revetment.

The Asaza Fund proposed building brushwood breakwaters made of wood from the thinning of forests in the management of tree plantations, to help the floating hearts take root on the lake bottom.

The brushwood breakwaters were made of wood supplied by a local forestry cooperative using traditional Japanese craftsmanship. The forests around Lake Kasumigaura had been left to deteriorate due to prolonged slump in wood prices and labor shortage. By utilizing local wood from the thinning of plantation forests, however, the project has created new jobs and restored healthy forests at the same time. It was also approved as one of the government's public works projects.

Lake Kasumigaura, once a fertile fishing ground, experienced a sharp decline in catches during the past 20 years, giving the local fishing industry bleak prospects for the future. The brushwood breakwater, which has also become a fish shelter, is now protecting and nurturing aquatic resources. There are other ongoing government public works projects in the lake area, in conjunction with idle farmland and rivers flowing in from catchment basin.

To restore nature, it is essential to know the original conditions. That is why the Asaza Fund has launched activities in which local elementary school students are encouraged to ask their grandparents and elderly neighbors about the past conditions of the lakefront. At present, a total of 170 elementary and junior high schools in the Kasumigaura catchment basin are participating in the Asaza Project, which provides a valuable opportunity for local residents to learn about the environment first-hand.

Thus the non-governmental organization has streamlined public work operations, previously implemented by the government separately, by offering a new approach linking public works projects of the lakes, rivers, rice fields, and forests that are inherently linked to one another. By networking citizens, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, schools, business organizations, research institutes and public administrations that are involved with the nature revitalization of Lake Kasumigaura, the Asaza Fund linked the separate efforts and established a networking culture that is mutually beneficial.

As the network matured, more and more citizens participated in planting the floating hearts and forest management activities. Since 1995, a total of 86,000 people have participated in the program.

The main feature of this undertaking is that no core organization exists to manage the project. It may seem as if the Asaza Fund is managing the citizen's participatory public works project. But it just serves as a forum for collaboration to restore nature around Lake Kasumigaura. The entire system works on account of cooperation among persons with different views and standpoints, goals and interests. But they share a common challenge: the revival of nature.
Participants of such broad-based networks actively engage in environmental conservation because doing so invigorates their own projects, not because it is obligatory or regulated. Mr. Iijima explains the success of the approach, saying this project is based on "natural linkages and networking, with an non-profit organization as the catalyst, while conventional public works projects are territorial and control-oriented."

The Asaza Project takes a citizen-participation approach, a network created only because of the mobility of an NPO that acts as a go-between for the different sectors. This kind of project is especially suited for NPOs that have a broad view of the entire picture.

Mr. Iijima's approach is evident in his words: "In the twentieth century, humanity, in its attempt to control nature and society by force, created countless cases of nature destruction and pollution, poverty and conflict. As society became more complex and organizational functions specialized, the connections between relevant factors were lost, which meant that problems in the real world could no longer be addressed by any single technology or measure. Today's environmental pollution is the epitome of this situation."

The Asaza Project does not take forceful approaches to restore nature and reform society, but creates a networked community by integrating environmental conservation functions into the local social systems, such as education and business. This enables compatibility with nature restoration and revitalization of the local community.

The broad network that has taken root around Lake Kasumigaura, nurtured by the Asaza Project, is a focus of national attention today as one sustainable model of how to do things.

(Staff Writer Keiko Hoshino)

(Article from: http://www.japanfs.org/en/public/ngo04.html)

Japan for Sustainability: http://www.japanfs.org/


Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai (Association to Preserve the Earth)
- Article No.9 (Aug, 2005)

Gifts from the Land to Your Kitchen
http://www.daichi.or.jp/ (Japanese only)

How much do you know about the toast you ate this morning? Who baked the bread, and how? Where did the flour come from? Food today is made to seem inexpensive and attractive, while the real priority is in fact production efficiency. Such food comes to us through a complex web of processors and wholesalers, so it is difficult to trace back information about the product.

In Japan, most foods are made from imported crops. Japan's calorie-based food self-sufficiency ratio is only about 40 percent, the lowest of all OECD countries. Farmland has been shrinking year by year, dropping to 12.8 percent of total national land area in 2002. The primary industry (agriculture, forestry and fisheries) workforce also declined to 4.7 percent of the total.

Under these circumstances, various groups large and small have been formed to protect and develop local food traditions and primary industries by establishing closer relationships among producers who farm organically, processors who maintain traditional manufacturing methods and their supporting consumers. There are quite a few such groups, but in this article we introduce a group called the Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai (Association to Preserve the Earth). This group has been in existence for 30 years and presently links 2,500 producers nationwide and 72,000 consumer households, mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Historical Background

As Japanese agriculture was rapidly modernized to improve productivity in the late 1950s, practical farmers were quick to adopt pesticides and chemical fertilizers. However, after 15 to 20 years, they began to understand the dangers of using agrichemicals. Living organisms disappeared from the soil and increases in crop yields finally fell off in spite of expectations.

Some people reported feeling ill or getting sick because of agrichemicals and some farmers began to stop using them on the principle that food produced using such dangerous substances cannot be good for the human body.

The Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai was established in 1975 as a result of an encounter with farmers disillusioned with agrichemicals. "Rather than shout a million times about the danger of agrichemicals, let's start by growing, delivering and eating just one agrichemical-free daikon radish." Under this slogan, the association first started its activities as a civic movement working with farmers to seek ways of growing agrichemical-free vegetables and rice and delivering them to consumers in urban areas.

Two years later, as the number of participating producers and consumers increased, the association established a distribution company, Daichi Co., to ensure the economic independence of its activities, and started a full-scale service that delivers organic and agrichemical-free vegetables to consumers.

Daichi's delivery service initially was a group-purchasing system that required at least three consumers to place a combined order. Then, with a growing number of working homemakers, it began a door-to-door delivery service for individual households. With this, its number of consumer members dramatically increased. Accordingly, the number of products it handles was gradually expanded up to 3,500 items, including meat, fish and processed foods. Its annual sales for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2005 amounted to 12.7 billion yen (about U.S. $115.5 million), and it has 170 employees.

The company classifies its products into five categories: vegetables, meat and eggs, fish, processed products, and general merchandise. It has strict safety standards in each category, and only carries products that meet these standards. In the vegetable category, four standards apply: the soil must be maintained with organic fertilizer, the soil must never be sterilized, chemical weed killers must never be used, and pesticide use must be minimized as far as possible. Daichi and a third party investigator confirm whether products meet these standards.

The Secret of Sustainable Action

In today's society, awareness about environmental and food security issues is growing, and supermarkets have started carrying organic farm products. However, 30 years ago, using agrichemicals was standard practice, and the public had no understanding or appreciation for organic farming. How was Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai able to launch its movement?

At that time, a few producers with firm beliefs started to work on these issues, but a lot of conflict and mutual criticism took place because each producer had his own personal method for growing safe vegetables. To encourage a widespread organic farming movement, the Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai tried to induce producers to take a more tolerant outlook by establishing a basic rule of "never speak ill of others."

It also had a hard time gaining the understanding of consumers. Consumers who took attractive, uniform, unblemished vegetables for granted immediately complained about worm-eaten vegetables or supply shortages. The association turned those complaints into an opportunity to educate consumers about the consequences of growing vegetables and crops without agrichemicals and the significance of purchasing foods from known producers. Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai staff explained these things in a polite and honest way, and thanks to their efforts, consumers soon came to understand the reasons behind the association's policy.

Encouraging the forging of deeper relationships between producers and consumers is also important for the association. It holds about 100 events a year on various scales, from small group activities to a corn-harvest festival with over 800 participants. There are four staff members who play a key role as coordinators for all these events. Consumers visit farms, farmers hear the consumers' opinions, and both consumers and farmers affirm their mutual connection. Such experiences tend to make consumers feel grateful towards farmers who grew the vegetables or other crops and to be happier about the food they eat, leading them to buy more of the products.

"When you buy organic products, you buy the effort that went into making them," Kazuyoshi Fujita, chairperson of Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai, says. "For example, when you buy a 'cucumber made by Enji Sato in Fukushima Prefecture,' you don't buy just the cucumber itself. You are also buying the qualities of Mr. Sato's experience, the good earth, the regional culture, as well as the news, for example, that the Sato's son has passed his university entrance examination. Daichi's agricultural products are produced in the context of a closer relationship between producers and consumers."

New Activities for Sustainable Primary Industries

One of Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai's aims is to develop sustainable primary industries. It believes that Japan needs to raise its food self-sufficiency ratio in order to prepare for the global food crisis widely expected to occur in the near future. Such action will also help avoid this crisis, they believe.

To help achieve this aim, it launched a "Food Mileage Campaign" in April 2005 as a way of changing consumers' awareness.http://www.food-mileage.com/ (Japanese only)

Food mileage is a way of expressing the consumption of energy used to transport food, and is calculated by multiplying the volume of food transported by the distance it travels. According to estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan's total food mileage for 2001 was about 900 billion ton-kilometers. This is 8.6 times that of France, three times that of the United States and 2.8 times that of South Korea. Because so much food is brought to Japan from so far away, huge amounts of energy are consumed for transportation and huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted.

One critical problem with raising consumer awareness about domestically-produced foods is that, despite their image as being fresher and healthier, they are more expensive than imported foods. With interest in helping curb global warming growing since the Kyoto Protocol was ratified, Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai decided to further enhance their image by adding the additional appeal that they "reduce CO2 emissions." The concept of Food Mileage helps people understand the link between the environment and food, and has attracted a lot of attention from high school and university students.

CO2 emissions produced during the transport of food are calculated by multiplying the food mileage by CO2 emission coefficients, which vary depending on the means of transportation. Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai has independently estimated CO2 amounts from the transport of various kinds of food coming from different production areas to compare the differences between domestic and imported foods. CO2 emissions from domestic food transport were estimated from the main areas that supply the Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai to Tokyo, and figures for imported foods were estimated from Japan's major supplier countries to Tokyo.

The association uses an original unit it calls the "poco" to clarify the differences in CO2 emissions from imported and domestic foods: 100 grams of CO2 equals 1 poco. For example, choosing asparagus grown in Hokkaido means a reduction of 4 pocos of CO2 compared to buying it imported from Australia. Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai estimates that 66 pocos of CO2 are emitted daily per capita in Japan, and that a daily reduction of15 pocos per capita is needed to achieve Kyoto Protocol targets.

The association disseminates this kind of information through its public relations magazines and website as a way of advocating domestically-grown foods for the purpose of reducing CO2 emissions. It also estimates that making dietary changes in order to eat 100% domestically grown food would reduce per capita CO2 emissions by 90 kilograms annually, and is working to achieve a numerical target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20,000 tons during a one-year campaign involving its 70,000 member households.

From Japan to the World

Association chairperson Fujita says, "Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai has established a framework that sustains local food cultures and primary industries through partnerships among producers, consumers and processors together with social activism. This framework can be used as a model for other countries." The association has been building partnerships with rural villages in Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam, and has been exchanging people and organic farming techniques for 15 years. Hoping to encourage Asian farmers, the association is also building its network through activities such as inviting students from various Asian countries to take part in internship programs for growing rice and mushrooms.

Daichi-o-Mamoru-Kai's approach, which emphasizes domestically-grown, environment-friendly, safe, high-quality foods, is bound to gain in importance as more people strive to achieve a more sustainable and spiritually enriched lifestyle.

(Staff Writer Eriko Saijo)

(Article from: http://www.japanfs.org/en/public/ngo09.html)

Japan for Sustainability: http://www.japanfs.org/

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Aya Town: Food and Human Waste All Recycled


Aya Town in Miyazaki Prefecture is a town on the island of Kyushu with an area of 9,521 hectares, composed of an alluvial fan, between two beautiful rivers and natural evergreen oak forests stretching across its northwest area. Aya town is a 40-minute drive from Miyazaki City, the capital of the prefecture. Blessed with beautiful forests and clean rivers, Aya town has been designated as one of country's the top 100 natural sites and top 100 forest enjoyment, or "forest bathing" sites in Japan.

Aya town's impressive evergreen oak forests cover more area than any other forest of this type in Japan. Eighty percent of the town area actually in the forest, and 80 percent of its population of approximately 7,600 lives within 3 kilometers from the town center.

Aya is an agricultural town and unique in its initiative to recycle nutrients in the town--from agricultural crops to food waste, to compost, and again to agricultural crops. In Aya, farmers have a long history of composting their food waste into organic fertilizers, and since long ago local pig farmers collected food waste from households for animal feed. With this background, the town started its modern food waste recycling system in 1973, when it started collecting food waste by truck and using it as feed for pigs.

Now, the town collects about 500 tonnes of food waste per year from households, restaurants and other shops, and brings it to a town-owned composting facility. Mixed with cow manure from nearby farms, collected food waste is put into fermentation tanks to be composted. The compost produced is sold to the town's farmers for 3,000 yen (about U.S.$25) per tonne, only about 7 to 10 percent the cost of commercial chemical fertilizers. Farmers in the town use the composted organic fertilizers on their land and then sell the farm produce to townspeople.
On the wall of the vegetable section at the center, a list is posted with the names and identification numbers of certified farmers. By looking at the number on a vegetable package, consumers can identify who grew the vegetables they are about to buy. This system encourages producers to take pride in their products and gives consumers peace of mind when purchasing and eating their products.

In addition to food waste recycling, in Aya town night soil is collected and composted into liquid fertilizer and returned back to the town's cropland, just as was done during the Edo Period in Japan! A number of local governments and grassroots groups have started local food waste recycling systems, but Aya Town is unique in its recycling of night soil.

In an effort to protect the evergreen oak forests, local residents recently started a campaign to register the Aya forests as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collecting 140,000 signatures in a short period of time. On 25 March 2003, a national committee to select candidate world heritage sites identified 17 from among 17,000 sites around Japan, and Aya is one of them! This is seen by locals as wonderful news and a sign of hope.

For images of Aya's evergreen oak forests, please check out this website, which also has a link to an on-line petition to support the registration of the Aya forests as World Heritage Site. http://www.bunkahonpo.or.jp/aya/index_eng.htm

(Article from: http://www.japanfs.org/en/public/gov_02.html)

Japan for Sustainability: http://www.japanfs.org/