Gifts from the Forest
(Umaji Village, Kochi, Japan)
Umaji Village, which is located in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, used to flourish with forestry. The older generations planted a lot of trees for their children and grandchildren. At present approximately 96% of the village is covered with forests. Forestry management is important in order to preserve the natural environment.
Generally, it is said that deforestation is a bad thing. That is true. Cutting trees at random or illegally is not a good thing from the perspective of environmental preservation. So, a lot of people believe that cutting trees leads to the destruction of the natural environment, and that we should not cut trees. But this is not true. Cutting trees is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, trees need to be cut down in a proper manner in order to preserve the natural environment.
In a forest, tree-density management is very important. By thinning out a forest, sun light comes into the forest, and a variety of smaller trees and vegetation can grow there. Forest-thinning contributes to a healthy eco-system. Rainwater soaked into the ground starts to slowly flow into a river, and ultimately flows into the ocean. Thus, a forest plays a very important role in the natural water cycle.
In Umaji Village, local timber which was cut down is used for public construction, for instance, fences, community boards, benches, and so on. Such infrastructure made of local timber contributes to raising local people’s awareness of the significance of proper natural resources management, and fostering their identity as residents in Umaji Village.
In Umaji Village, a forestry company called Eco Asu Umaji was founded in 2000 with a joint investment from the public and private sectors. Eco is an abbreviation of ecology, and Asu is a Japanese word which means tomorrow. The Eco Asu Umaji is a company which takes care of the forests for better tomorrows. As of November 2012, eight forestry workers were working at the company.
In addition to thinning out the forests, the Eco Asu Umaji has developed a lot of interesting products from timber made of thinned-out trees, for example, tables, chairs, trays, coasters, fans, post cards, business cards, and bags. The beautiful wood grain of the cedars in Umaji Village has made it possible to create a variety of designs of wooden products.
In 2005, the Eco Asu Umaji participated in an exhibition held in Milan, Italy. The unique designs and the eco-friendly concepts attracted a lot of European people, which gave the Eco Asu Umaji a lot of confidence. This exhibition triggered the company to make inroads into the international market. Besides Italy, the Eco Asu Umaji has participated in international exhibitions held in France, Germany, and the U.S.A. Their wooden bags are getting more and more popular in Japan due to the uniqueness and natural taste of the products. The Eco Asu Umaji sells wooden bags on consignment at a couple of shops in Tokyo.
These bags are not only stylish but also tough. The hard surface can protect the items in the bag.