Volunteers work to clean up, reforest Kyoto’s ‘Poet’s Mount’

In his article, Johnston laments the damage Mount Ogura, situated in Kyoto, is suffering – “[it] is also a dumping ground for everything… while tree damage from insects is spreading” – as it is a site of heritage, admired by artists past for its beauty and literary value.

He continues that Non-Profit Organizations (NPO), together with private companies and government aid, are working to revitalize the mountain – the “Association of Preservation of Scenic Ogurayama,” together with Mitsubishi-Tokyo UFJ’s Foundation, has put into motion a plan to replant 500-1000 trees a year over the next decade.

While admirable, this ‘green’ reforestation initiative – which reportedly will reduce the risk of forest fires and aid the mountain’s biodiversity – appears to be misleadingly positive. Johnston talks glowingly of restoring the mountain to its former glory, but glosses over several important issues.

First: the problem of illegal dumping. He notes the NPO “People Together for Mount Ogura” works on “garbage cleanup, clearing the hiking paths… and widening the paths or making them safer,” and that their lobbying has convinced the government to install four surveillance cameras. Although it is a start, four cameras is likely insufficient deterrence. Further, government and private organizations’ efforts focus on reforestation, while the NPO merely mitigates the damage. Neither of them aims to stem this problem at its root.

Second: Johnston depicts tourists as victims, not part of the problem. He glosses over the damage done by thousands of tourists cavorting up and down the mountain every year, instead worrying that the view they paid for might be substandard due to dead trees. The tourist “problem” is left unaddressed by all parties.

In leaving these problems unresolved, this ‘green’ initiative displays a major pitfall – a lack of sustainability. Until they are addressed, it is likely Mount Ogura’s restoration efforts are for naught.



Johnston, Eric. “Volunteers work to clean up, reforest Kyoto’s ‘Poet’s Mount’.” The Japan Times, Aug 22, 2013. Accessed October 9, 2013. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/22/national/volunteers-work-to-clean-up-reforest-kyotos-poets-mount/#.UlTTN1Bmidm

One thought on “Volunteers work to clean up, reforest Kyoto’s ‘Poet’s Mount’

  1. This is a refreshing “local interest” piece in the Japan Times. The article clues readers into a problem that is more widespread than the author admits – illegal dumping on mountainsides throughout the archipelago. What is not addressed is “why” people resort to this behavior.

    Instead of examining the root of the problem – maybe the waste disposal system is too draconian and demanding, or maybe there are insufficient receptacles in public places – the author speeds forward to the solution, a resident-led NPO.

    Local citizen groups have been vital in expressions of civil society throughout the postwar era, with local environmental concerns being a primary focus of many groups. This article is especially interesting because it also (implicitly) praises the internationalization going on in Kyoto, rallying around the environment. This NPO and its efforts are presented as a model for others to follow to show their environmental awareness and their community spirit.

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