Canon, as a part of its effort to protect the natural environment, has carried out its Environmental Conservation Activity since 2006. Through cooperation from an NPO, this program has Canon employees and their family members observe and learn about the natural environment in the outskirts of Tokyo, and survey and cleanup such areas.
The program was held at Ikegami Honmonji Park, in Ota Ward, in October 2008. There is a precious forested area that is said to have survived since the prehistoric Jomon Period in this park. The participants observed and surveyed the trees and creatures there and gathered acorns. They then planted these acorns in pots and took them home to cultivate saplings.
Scene from the 2008 Environmental Conservation Activity: "I found a big acorn!"
Even the grownups looked for acorns with earnest
One year after gathering acorns in Honmonji Park, the saplings cultivated by participating Canon employees had grown to the point where they needed to be planted in the ground. However, it was difficult to find a place in Ota Ward where they could be planted. Therefore, the project consulted the NPO C&P Support Center, which had helped them with their activity in Honmonji Park, and were introduced to the Uruoi-no mori Project.
In cooperation with the C&P Support Center and Wakasu Kaihin Park, in Koto Ward, the Uruoi-no mori Project has volunteers carry out tree-planting based on the theme of "working together to create a coastal forest along Tokyo Bay capable of sustaining beetles." As the beeches planted through this project were cultivated from the acorns gathered at Honmonji Park, it was born through combining the wish to return acorns from Ikegami, a coastal area during the Jomon Period, to the seaside once again and the wish to have a park where children would be able to come in contact with beetles living among Japanese chestnut oaks from Higashi Kurume City.
Canon was happy to be given the opportunity to participate in this project, and carried out the first planting of saplings, including those cultivated from Honmonji Park acorns, in October 2009.
The saplings were planted in a section of grassy area along both sides of the bicycle path encircling Wakasu Kaihin Park. Across the water from this area one can see the Tokyo Disney Resort and Kasai Rinkai Park, and if one walks a little further on the Tokyo Gate Bridge is also in view.
Of the 30 participating employees and their family members, most were experiencing tree-planting for the first time. With the guidance of the people from the C&P Support Center, both children and their parents were able to enjoy the effort, working diligently together to dig holes with shovels, remove the saplings from their pots and plant them in the holes.
Planting a tree for the first time
Acorns were also sown
- *The ground was hard and my hands were badly chafed by the digging. It made me understand what hard work tree-planting was and the importance of such persistent efforts. This was something I could never experience in my everyday life.
- *I could see that tree-planting was an activity that allowed you to assess the impacts on the environment and ecosystem from various perspectives. The problems with forestry in Japan are the result of not using trees of the appropriate age and the lack of forest maintenance. I believe it is important to carry on continuous efforts and not simply end an activity after the saplings are planted.
- *Since we live in a condominium, my child does not have the opportunity to even play with dirt. I believe it was a good thing to be able to interact with the natural environment through this kind of activity.
- *We were able to experience many interesting things, not only tree-planting. I don't think one would usually be able to see grownups working so hard to open holes in acorns. Through this interaction with nature, children meeting each other for the first time were also able to become friends quickly.
There are many acorns on the ground in forested mountains in the fall. However, what do you know about trees bearing acorns? "Acorn" is the general name for the nuts of trees of the beech family. In Japan, there are about 20 different varieties of beech, such as Fagus, Japanese chestnut oak, Quercus, Lithocarpus. The trunks of the Japanese chestnut oak and Quercus often ooze sap, which attracts beetles and stag beetles.
The lawns within the park are usually mowed regularly to keep the grass to a fixed height. What would happen if they were left unkempt? In a year, the grass would be taller than knee-level for an adult, and robust weeds would also work their way up and grow among the grass of the lawns. In that case, it would look no different than an overgrown wild patch of land.
Since the areas where the trees were planted are enclosed by fences, the grass there is not mowed. Therefore, from the second year of the program, the task of cutting the grass and preparing the site before planting was added.
As grass grows faster than trees, the saplings are obscured by the grass and the grass has to be cut by hand using a sickle, working carefully to be sure to not mistakenly cut down the saplings or step on them. In addition, the "liana" plants entwining themselves around the young trees have to be painstakingly untangled to prevent them from hindering tree growth.
This is work that requires stamina and patience. But with everyone working together, the area was transformed to a state of beauty.
Young trees obscured by tall grass
Helping to carry away the cut grass
- *Was pulling weeds this much hard work? ··· Was untangling vines this much hard work? ··· I found out just how hard it was by actually doing the work. (Participant in the program's second year activity)
- *It is wonderful that work that one would soon be sick of doing if alone, can be accomplished if we all labor and sweat together! I want to go and see how much the trees have grown next year, too. (Participant in the program's second year activity)
- *I was alarmed when I almost pulled out a sapling along with the weeds. But, we were told that the saplings could not be pulled out so easily, as the roots of a 20cm-tall sapling will have grown to that length as well. This taught us about the vigor of such small saplings. (Participant in the program's third year activity)
- *My child's participation last year was to just watch "daddy at work." But this time, my child was big enough to help carry away the grass that had been cut. I was able to see how much my child had grown as well, along with the saplings that had grown to a height of 20cm. (Participant in the program's third year activity)
Through the experience of planting trees, we encountered many things for "the first time," and our awareness was also changed greatly. We were surprised at how much we did not know about trees and forests, and the children were delighted to touch insects for the first time in their lives. As we often seek results immediately in our daily lives, it was through this program that we came to realize that there are important things that we must cultivate through efforts over a long period of time.
Among the participants were people who said that "I participated again because I was concerned about whether the trees that we had planted last year were growing well" and that "my child really looked forward to this activity," and also people who earnestly listened to the instructions on sowing and cultivating acorns because they "want to cultivate saplings from acorns" on their own. By having people deal with nature through cutting grass and digging in the dirt with their own hands, this small "future forest" has become an important and special place to each participant.
The wonder, discovery and joy that this priceless experience gave us are what we would like to pass on to others in the future. Furthermore, when our children grow up and their children become adults, this will surely be a forest where beetles live and bred. We will continue this activity believing this.
Saplings being planted in an area made beautiful after cutting the grass
A Japanese chestnut oak sapling two years after planted from an acorn
The Japanese chestnut oak, although somewhat resistant to salt, is not originally a seaside tree. Some even said that "(Japanese chestnut oak) couldn't possibly grow in this kind of place." However, we tackled this tree-planting as a challenge, not by starting with the thinking that "it can''t be done." We believe that creating a forest, along with being an effort to protect the natural environment, is also an endeavor that nurtures tender-heartedness toward living things and a spirit that takes on the challenge to realize one's dreams.
- *I initially thought tree-planting was just a matter of planting the trees. I can now see the difference in tree size depending on the age of the tree, I was able to experience cutting away weeds and I have a better understanding of how trees are cultivated and grow.
- *It is delightful to be able to actually see how much a sapling has grown compared with each year since it has been planted. By continuing this activity over the decades, both people and the forest will mature ··· I think the most important thing is to continue the activity even a little at a time. In addition, it would be great if Canon employees could endeavor to broaden this activity.
- *This was a good opportunity to be able to have children experience interaction with nature and teach them the importance of life through the fact that it takes a very long time for plants to grow.
- *We learned a lot by hearing about how trees develop, how they are cultivated and what kind of care needs to be taken. The children were also able to experience something priceless by working with the soil and observing the insects that live there. I hope there will be other Social Contribution Activities like this that include children in the future.