Written by Yutaro (Class of 2019, Japan)
On 6th of March during the community assembly, we welcomed government officials from Forestry Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery to sign a contract for the lease of forest nearby. For the next five years, the 30 hectares of forest next to our campus will be part of UWC ISAK Japan.
As I lived in Tokyo prior to coming to UWC ISAK Japan, I was excited to be at a high school surrounded by nature. At the end of grade 10, when I was thinking about my leadership project, I was reminded of this excitement and aspired to immerse myself in the nearby forest. After two years of working with various stakeholders, I am very thrilled to see how what I envisioned two years ago is now finally coming together; this week was not the goal of my project, but it was only the beginning of what I hoped to achieve.
Perhaps, the only reason I have managed to pursue this idea over the course of two years is because it has been fun to think about forest. In this school, we are often asked the question of what is most important? In my case, it was not necessarily the needs in the society that prompted me to be involved in the forest, but it was more of the feeling of excitement. There have been times where I got lost not knowing the purpose of my project, there have been times when I forced myself to make pseudo-social needs just so I can evidence the significance of my project. But now that I look back, one thing I learned about myself is that it is okay to be honest to my feeling; the only reason that propelled me to contact the national government is because it was fun, and I was extremely grateful to be in a school that supported my initiative.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that our action in the forest will impact the local environment. I see three pillars in the initiative.
One is the social benefit. As much as I have appreciated the international boarding setting, it has also been important for me to stay connected with the local people. Satoyama, meaning village (里) and mountain (山) in Japanese, refers to the integration of human settlement and forest in the rural areas. People make sustainable living by actively using resources in forest for instance by producing charcoal out of underbrush or by collecting mushrooms, while contributing to the management of the environment simultaneously. Through our active engagement in the forest, we hope to access the local culture that is passed down over the generations and access their wisdoms. One of the objectives of this forest is to bridge UWC ISAK Japan and Ohinata community to strengthen our responsibility to the local community.
Forest also has an environmental impact. Enriched forest can contribute to the curbing of global warming, by increasing the rate of carbon fixation in the forest; if our forest was well maintained, it could store 60 tonnes of carbon equivalent to the emission produced in 10000 round trips between school and the local supermarket. Also, forest stores rainwater, improves air quality, and provides habitat for wildlife. Our forest aims to encourage the local biodiversity to preserve the natural landscape unique to Karuizawa.
And lastly, the design thinking mindset. Forestry has been a blue ocean industry in Japan due to the lack of demand and poor working conditions. This could also mean that forests in Japan is abundant in opportunities that have not been explored yet. I hope to creatively design the use of forest, experimenting innovative ideas. For example, I recently discovered that a restaurant in Okutama, Tokyo served woods as their dish. I hope to integrate the ISAK forest with another field to cultivate the potentials of our new asset.
I believe that this forest will be one of the best opportunities to demonstrate the mission and vision of the UWC movement: contributing to the creation of a sustainable and peaceful future. I am very excited to see how this forest can evolve before my graduation and beyond.
Be sure to check the website: https://sites.google.com/view/uwcisak-forestry