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OISCA organized Tohoku Disaster 5th Year Memorial Events

Mar 23, 2016

On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster which devastated the Pacific coastal areas of the Tohoku Region on March 11, 2011, OISCA organized a series of special events in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit parts. All these events featured the 10-year Coastal Forest Restoration Project carried out by OISCA and the disaster-affected local residents in Natori.

To kick off the disaster special, a photo exhibition opened on March 1, 2016 at the central corridor of JR Natori Station. The exhibition which runs until March 30, demonstrates about 50 photo panels depicting the current progress of the project, particularly active participation of the local farmers as well as the volunteers in growing seedlings both in the nursery and in the planting site. 

On March 11, OISCA co-organized a half-day project site tour for over 70 top corporate executives who are members of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), one of the leading business organizations in Japan. Together with the business leaders, Mr. Masakatsu Okamoto, Vice-Minister of the Reconstruction Agency, and a few other government officials also joined the field tour and observed the OISCA tree-planting site along the Natori seashore.

On March 12, a debriefing meeting on the Coastal Forest Restoration Project was held at the Natori Performing Arts Center. It was attended by 100 people who are mostly local residents and volunteers from Toyama, Niigata, Saitama and Kanagawa Prefectures.

At the outset, Mr. Isoo Sasaki, the Mayor of Natori City, delivered an opening speech. He welcomed all the participants to the meeting and expressed satisfaction with a steady progress of the Coastal Forest Restoration Project which would contribute to the overall recovery from the disaster. It was followed by the remarks of the dignitaries from the Tohoku Regional Forest Office of the Forestry Agency and the Miyagi Prefectural Government.

In the first talk session, Dr. Kunihiro Seido, OISCA Forestry Technical Adviser, served as the moderator and discussed on technical aspects with three panelists: Mr. Koichi Sasaki, OISCA Field Manager responsible for the day-to-day operations at the Project site in Natori, Mr. Eiji Suzuki, one of the disaster victims and now heading the Association for Coastal Forest Restoration in Natori City, and Mr. Hidenori Sasaki, a forestry technician from Miyagi Central Forestry Cooperatives. The panelists talked about their respective involvement in the Project, positive experiences and hardship in the past 5 years. Mr. Koichi Sasaki said that as there is no handy manual available for implementing the Project, it is necessary to carry out the daily work closely observing the field conditions. He emphasized the importance of promoting it as a practical business and not for purely ceremonial purposes. 

The importance of volunteers` participation was mainly discussed during the second talk session. Mr. Shota Kobayashi, former journalist of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, acted as the moderator and asked questions to 5 panelists: Mr. Hisao Otsuki, a 72-years old local resident who is regularly helping the work at the nursery and planting site, Ms. Natsuko Ide from the CSR office of SEIYU, Ms. Shizuko Saito, a volunteer from NIKON local factory, Ms. Chihiro Oogiri, a young staff of the Natori municipal office, and Ms. Kumiko Hayashi, Manager of the OISCA PR office, who is coordinating the activities of local and outside volunteers. Mr. Otsuki remarked that so far, there has been relatively few locals participating in the volunteer work and that how to encourage locals, particularly young people joining the volunteer activities is a big challenge from now on. 

Afterwards, Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, Deputy Director of the OISCA Domestic Operations Division, who is the overall coordinator of the Project, took the floor and made a presentation on several good examples of coastal forests nationwide such as “Nijino Matsubara” in Karatsu, Saga, “Erimo National Forest” in Hokkaido, and “Enshunada Coastal Forest” in Shizuoka.

Lastly, Dr. Takehiko Ota, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University, who chaired Forestry Agency’s Review Panel on Coastal Forest Restoration, gave a lecture. He noted that cooperative relations among OISCA, local residents, the private sector and the central and local government bodies are very harmonious and the Project has been running smoothly towards the original purpose. At the same time, he pointed out that restoring and developing coastal forests does not end in just planting seedlings, but what is more important is to take care of trees on a long-term basis. 

On the morning of March 13, OISCA organized a group bus tour to visit the project site. About 60 people, mostly local residents but also an American lady who lives in Sendai, participated in the on-site tour. They first went to the coastal planting site and walked about 2 kilometers on foot observing the growth of the 130,000 seedlings of black pine and other species planted in 2014 and 2015. Then, the group moved to the inland nursery where black pine and red pine seedlings are raised in pots for next planting.

This year, OISCA Japan and the members of the Association for Coastal Forest Restoration in Natori City will be planting additional 50,000 seedlings of black pine and other species over 10 hectares at the project site.