2020 Tokyo Games – #1 Sustainable Olympics Event

Article: “2020 Tokyo Games to be fully powered by renewable energy, organizers say” https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/22/national/2020-tokyo-games-fully-powered-renewable-energy-organizers-say/#.W59jfNgzbOS

Tokyo is where the next Olympics in 2020 will be held. The committee organising the event has stated that the games will be powered only through renewable energy. Wind and solar will be the main renewable sources from which electricity will be generated.

It also noted that the electricity generated by renewable energy will run through the athlete’s village, broadcasting area and the main press centre. The initiative of 100% renewable energy is the committee’s effort to promote decarbonisation. Some of their methods to reach the 100% renewable energy target include purchasing renewable energy from power companies, installing solar panels and developing solar roads to generate power for the Games.

The implementation of these methods will allow Japan to appear as a “green country” as they prioritise creating a sustainable Olympics event. Some of the reuse and recycle efforts include using items which have been rented or leased and ensuring any purchases are guaranteed to be used after the Games are over. The other “green” effort involves citizens to donate used mobile phones to create medals made from recovered metal. Japan has set a 99% reuse and recycle target for 2020 Olympics.

The article refers to the different efforts as “green” which gives a sense of a strong relationship Japan has with nature. Both the 100% renewable energy target and the 99% reuse and recycle initiative promotes sustainability across the country and internationally, it seems as though Japan will act as leader to follow for future countries which host the games. Though London has set the bar high from the previous Olympics, Japan has some strong targets and motives to take the title (Ohno, 2014).

There are additional reasons why Japan set such strong sustainable targets such as showing the world that they have recovered from the 2011 events, especially the Fukushima nuclear disaster. They also want to show effort in climate change issues, as disasters striking Japan are becoming more severe mainly due to climate change. (Ohno, 2014) Although the intentions seem promising, in reality these goals is difficult to uphold.

A controversial issue rose when it was discovered that the stadiums for the games were being built from timber imported from Malaysia and Indonesia, countries with vast rainforests and a history of deforestation. Although some of the timber used was from sustainable sources in Japan, the Tokyo Olympics organisational committee did officially confirm that 87% of timber used was from rainforests in southeast Asia (Neslen, 2018). This controversy suggested that Japan’s intentions for so called “green games” may be to a certain extent more of a political construct, rather than a caring connection with nature. One ones petitioning against this controversy were a US NGO called RAN (Rainforest Action Network) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee), showing that the efforts to stop this came from international grounds and not Japan. (McNicol, 2018)

This goes back to Totman’s idea that Japan treasures nature for its aesthetic value rather than a relationship with nature as a working ecosystem. From this controversy it can be deduced that Japan did not want to take large amounts of timber from its own resources and importing it from abroad would most likely be cheaper and not cause any “aesthetic” damage to Japan’s nature.

This idea of maintaining a good political image is further supported by the fact, that majority of the article is comparing these goals with the ones set in London’s 2012 Olympics, indicating that main goal is not as much to be “green” but to have better statistics in terms or recycling, energy use and sustainability than the previous Olympics in London.

But despite the underlying reasons and motives Japan may have to enhance their image as a sustainable country for the Tokyo Olympic Games, the bottom line is that there is still benefit to the environment. Further countries who host such large-scale international events should take into consideration environmental harms and how to reduce their impact on the environment through such initiatives.  

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K. (2017, October 13). TOKYO 2020: RECYCLED METAL MEDALS. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.japan-experience.com/update/tokyo-2020-medals-in-recycled-metals

McNicol, A. (2018, April 08). How the Tokyo 2020 Games are killing Asian rainforests. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2140659/how-tokyo-2020-games-are-killing-rainforests-malaysia-and

Neslen, A. (2018, February 23). Tokyo 2020 Olympics confirms use of rainforest timber in stadium build [Digital image]. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from http://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/02/23/tokyo-olympics-confirms-use-rainforest-timber-stadium-build/

Ohno, T. (2014, April 24). The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Sustainability. Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://www.renewable-ei.org/en/column/column_20140424.php


Companies taking the lead towards renewable energy

Figure 1: News article in The Japan Times

Sustainability has slowly emerged and become a major topic of concern. At the 2015 Paris climate change accord, countries agreed to control and restricting the global temperature rise. Companies around the world have to adopt sustainable business policies to increase their value and stay part of the market (Sustainable Business Network, (n.d.)). On September 10th, The Japan Times* published an article on Sony’s renewable energy plans (Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040, 2018).

Sony Corporation, one of Japan’s well-established multinational company, has decided to achieve 100% renewable energy consumption in all of its global operations by 2040. Though its European sites has already achieved using 100% green energy. However, the sites in Japan and Thailand are behind in such green initiatives, due to the high investment cost. Besides, Japan is the company’s main power consumption site and even hosts seven semiconductor plants. (The Japanese Times, 2018)

Sony has plans for installation of solar panels in both Japan and Thailand operation sites, intending to increase the renewable energy usage from 5% in 2017 to 30% in 2030. Despite their concerns towards the raising cost, they believe this is a good opportunity to add value to the company. In conjunction with this plan, they have also join RE100 and work on the solutions to lowering the cost of renewable energy with other partners. (The Japanese Times, 2018)

RE100 is a collaboration of influential businesses to move towards a low carbon economy by the usage of 100% green electricity. In total 144 companies have joined this movement (RE100, (n.d.)). Sony recently joined the RE100 (Hill, 2018). The advantage is that the companies share their practices knowledge and learn from each other. Additionally, this group of frontrunners has an inspiring purpose for other companies, which adds to their image as being a sustainable company. (RE100, (n.d.))

Sony already made some steps towards sustainability. The Sony operations in Europe rely for 100% on green energy (Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040, 2018). They aim to have a global CO2 reduction of 300,00 tons in 2020 (see figure 2) (Sony, 2018).

Figure 2: Overview CO2 reductions Sony in the past years.

Besides, Sony plans to install solar panels at the factories in Japan and Thailand. However, installation of solar panels requires a great surface area to capture significant amounts of energy. Sony did not reveal any cost estimation and specific information on the timeframe for this plan. Thus the feasibility of this plan cannot be examined.

Renewable energy does contribute towards CO2 emission reduction. However, a company can not be totally dependent on this energy source. Natural factors (weathers,seasons etc) fluctuate, therefore the supply is not constant. As Japan is a seasonal country, with short daytime in winter, it is impossible to obtain enough energy from solar panels alone. Storage facilities are required to make this energy source more reliable and the company even more sustainable (LeBlanc, 2018).

Next to renewable energy Sony has made up its own challenge ‘road to zero’. The aim is to decrease the environmental impact of the company to zero. Sony has organized several environmental activities around the globe, including: promoting bike use, reducing waste, cleaning up beaches and supporting sustainable practices. (Sony, 2018)

Sony also puts effort in sustaining environment in other ways. While taking care for the environment, those campaigns also contribute to their familiarity and value on the market.

Among 144 companies that are part of RE100, 11 of them are from Japan (RE100, (n.d.)). This shows that the Japanese companies significantly contribute to sustainable businesses. They realize the importance of sustaining the environment and hence took the lead in making an effort to use more renewable energy sources.

However, for Japan as a country it is important to reduce the carbon footprint to ensure a pleasant world for the next generations. Additionally, it adds to being less dependent on other countries for energy production. (Agency for natural resources and energy, 2017)

Japan has a low energy self-sufficiency ratio, 7,4%, compared to other countries as it does not have many natural resources. Therefore it relies on other countries for its energy supply. Oil, coal and natural gas, are mainly imported from overseas and requires huge amounts of energy, which is not sustainable. Before 2011 nuclear energy had an important role in the energy generation of Japan. Currently Japan is doing research on the usage of alternative energy options, like solar, wind, methane hydrate and hydrogen. (Agency for natural resources and energy, 2017)

Overall, Sony has made serious efforts to reduce its CO2 emission. Besides, events, campaigns and promotion are organized to reduce the environmental footprint in other categories as well, they aim to involve the users in this process as well. As a company, Sony really wants to live together in harmony with the environment.

Sony recently joined the RE100 to cooperate and move towards an 100% renewable energy usage. The Japanese companies, of the RE100, should be an example for Japan to implement more renewable practices and improve the environmental impact of the country.

* The majority of the readers of The Japan Times are non-Japanese, who live in Japan. The newspaper is also globally spread and seen as quality reporting (World Eye Reports).

Agency for natural resources and energy. (2017). JAPAN’S ENERGY, 20 Questions to understand the current energy situation [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/en/category/brochures/pdf/japan_energy_2017.pdf

Hill, J. S. (2018, September 10). Sony, McKinsey, & RBS Join RE100 In Commitment To 100% Renewable Energy. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/10/sony-mckinsey-rbs-join-re100-in-commitment-to-100-renewable-energy/

LeBlanc, R. (2018, April 9). The Importance of Battery Storage for Sustainable Energy. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/importance-of-battery-storage-for-sustainable-energy-4163010

RE100. (n.d.). Companies. Retrieved from http://there100.org/companies

RE100. (n.d.). RE100. Retrieved from http://there100.org/re100

Sony. (2018, July 30). Sony and the Environment | Initiatives. Retrieved from https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/csr/SonyEnvironment/initiatives/index.html

Sony. (2018, August 29). Use of Renewable Energy. Retrieved from https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/csr_report/environment/site/re_energy.html

Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040. (2018, September 10). The Japan Times. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/10/business/corporate-business/sony-plans-power-global-operations-renewables-2040/#.W5s1fUxuKUm

Sustainable Business Network. (n.d.). Why should my business become more sustainable? Retrieved from https://sustainable.org.nz/guide-to-sustainability/

World Eye Reports. (n.d.). The Japan Times. Retrieved from http://www.worldeyereports.com/media-the-japan-times/

Fukushima Timber Industry: An Epitome of the Japanese Never-Say-Die Spirit


The article was published on 15 June 2018 in The Japan Times and primarily depicts various efforts to revive the declining forest industry in the Fukushima Prefecture. The forest industry in Fukushima prefecture has been declining over the years for several reasons:

  1. Ageing population
  2. Many leaving the forest industry due to decline in timber prices
  3. Restricted zones set up after nuclear reactor meltdowns in 2011

The central problem the forest industry is now facing is a lack of young successors to revive forests.

Main local efforts to revive the forest industry are:

  1. Engaging local students

A local timber group in Iwaki (city in Fukushima) organises field trips for students to watch professionals’ jobs on-site, classes to give students experience in forestry, and public displays of handmade christmas trees and kadomatsu.

Kadomatsu (Fae’s Twist and Tango, 2012).

  1. Branding timber as environmental friendly

Local timber companies in Minamiaizu mark certified cedar logs in green to show that they are environmentally friendly. Certification is provided by the Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC), “a third-party group in Japan that certifies timber from forests which clear specific criteria, including those where measurements are taken to maintain soil and water resources when trees are cut” (Disaster-hit Fukushima, 2018).

These efforts have achieved moderate success as some young people have joined the local timber group to become forest workers. Environmental-friendly certification has also helped, as timber from a local timber company has been shipped to Tokyo to build facilities for the 2020 Olympic games. However, challenges remain as the SGEC certification is not widely recognised and it has not promoted many shipments of lumber so far.


Representation of Japan and the environment

Japan is represented in this article as having a vast natural terrain of green, with “the Tabito district is known for rich forests which occupy 90 percent of its land”. Implicit in the whole article is the whole concept of Satoyama, which Catherine Knight (2010)  defines as “the semi-managed, semi-cultivated area of woodland…surrounding human settlement”. While the forests in Fukushima Prefecture are not exactly “semi-managed, semi-cultivated” woodland, there is definitely a strong resounding theme of coexistence with the natural terrain, another idea central to the concept of Satoyama. In the article, humans are portrayed as sustaining and reviving the forests by engaging in operations such as thinning, while these forests sustain the livelihoods of local residents by being a source of timber to be sold.


What makes the subject “green”

As stated above, timber from Minamiaizu are branded as environmentally friendly. With the certification from SGEC, consumers become more aware of the environmental impacts of the forest industry. They can make more informed choices about the products they purchase and can choose to support sustainable brands such as those from Minamiaizu. Sustainability is extremely important especially in the forest industry as trees take a long term to regenerate and this is one of Fukushima’s most important resources (Disaster-hit Fukushima, 2018). If the trees are thinned out too rapidly, problems such as soil erosion and flooding downstream may occur. It is also important to ensure sustainability in the forest industry as forests play a huge role in cleaning up the atmosphere.


How this relates to ideas from class

Firstly, the article explores the relationship between nature and society. People working in the forest industry in Fukushima are working towards sustainability. This demonstrates the Japanese people’s control over resources and nature, while still respecting nature. They are willing to sacrifice short-term, immediate profits for long-term benefits to the environment, in order to sustain the industry for a longer period of time.

Secondly, this article is also reminiscent of forest management by younger workers in Tokyo Chainsaws. Due to the aging population and the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima in 2011, there is a lack of workers managing the forests. By introducing students to forest management in an effort to revive the forests, perhaps these students would take on roles similar to their Tokyo Chainsaws counterparts in the future.

Lastly, it is heartwarming to see Fukushima take steps in logging timber sustainably. As we have learnt in the roleplay exercise, over-logging not only affects those in the region, but may also affect Japanese people living in other regions. People living downstream may experience flooding, which may have negative impacts on their livelihoods.


A final word

It is essential to note the continual reference to “industry” throughout the entire article. Locals seem to be concerned with recruiting young workers only for the sake of boosting timber sales. It calls into question one of the fundamental assumptions of that this module also aim to address: the Japanese love for nature.

Word count: 764 words



Disaster-hit Fukushima struggles to secure forest industry workers but efforts slowly bearing fruit. (2018, June 15). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/15/national/disaster-hit-fukushima-struggles-secure-forest-industry-workers-efforts-slowly-bearing-fruit/#.W5c4SOgzY2z

Iizuka, M. (2018, January 3). Forestry industry has growing appeal for Japan’s young women. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/03/national/forestry-industry-growing-appeal-japans-young-women/#.W5c6legzY2w

Kadomatsu [Digital image]. (2012, December 30). Retrieved September 10, 2018, from https://fae-magazine.com/2012/12/31/japanese-new-year-oshogatsu/kadomatsu/

Knight, C. (2010). The Discourse of “Encultured Nature” in Japan: The Concept of Satoyama and its Role in 21st-Century Nature Conservation. Asian Studies Review, 34(4), 421-441. doi:10.1080/10357823.2010.527920

Ecosystem preservation – rise of satoyama around Japanese factories

Satoyama (green spaces) are being established in the vicinities of Japanese firms, such as Mitsubishi Electric Corp.’s factory, and Canon Inc.’s headquarters in hopes of preserving the local ecosystem. Mitsubishi hopes to assimilate their factory with the local biodiversity by having the established satoyama with diverse plant species serve as a resting station to a variety of wild birds and insects (JIJI, 2018). They have also made efforts in relocating local plant species that were threatened by the housing developments nearby. In a similar light, Canon went the extra mile by heeding advice from the Wild Bird Society of Japan, then making improvements and conducting biological research (on birds) at their satoyama, Shimomaruko no Mori. Both Mitsubishi and Canon were successful, as they had both observed a wide variety of wildlife species visiting their satoyama (JIJI, 2018).


Land clearing for the building of factories is unavoidable for any industrialized nation. The resulting loss and fragmentation of natural habitat would disrupt the ecosystem, animal movement, and genetic flow (Xun, Yu & Liu, 2014). Additionally, it would threaten biodiversity, contributing to the extinction or decline of certain species (Xun, Yu & Liu, 2014). However, the establishment of satoyama in the vicinities of Mitsubishi’s and Canon’s factories could partially mitigate the impact of the factories on the ecosystem and biodiversity. These small satoyama could serve as stepping stones that enhance habitat connectivity and allow organisms to migrate from one habitat patch to the other. Migration between habitat patches is important for the survival of species (Hanski, 2011). When a population of species is unable to migrate and becomes isolated, inbreeding depression and gene mutations that could result in random loss of beneficial genes occurs (Hanski, 2011). Thus, unfit species’ populations could eventually go into extinction.



Canon’s focus on conserving bird species has been acknowledged where forest bird populations are a crucial part of the food web and ecosystem (Kang et al., 2015). Mitsubishi’s relocation of local plant species that were threatened by the housing developments nearby not only contributes to the conservation of the biodiversity of plants species, but also other organisms that rely on those plants for survival. 

While all these efforts are commendable and beneficial to the surrounding flora and fauna, we should also question whether these companies have environmental conservation as their primary objective for carrying out such measures. On the surface, there is no economic gain for comapnies to establish satoyama within their compounds. The setup and maintenance cost associated with these satoyama, coupled with opportunity cost of not building facitlities on precious land, makes it seem like the companies are truly concerned with the environment. However, there are intangible benefits of being “green”; these companies could be doing it for the sake of improving their public image or gaining acceptance among the residents in the neighbourhood (as mentioned by Junko Kimura, a representative of Canon).

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. factory in Shizuoka-ken

Canon Inc. headquaters in Tokyo

Based on observations made on Google Earth, it could be argued that the impact of these satoyama on the environment is negligible when we compare the land area occupied by the factory/building to the land area of the satoyama established. In the case of Mitsubishi Electric’s factory located in Shizuoka-ken, the tiny green spaces are dwarved by the scale of their factory. Canon however, has established a more impressive satoyama around their headquarters.

Perhaps, the resources that they spend on establishing and maintaining these satoyama could have been allocated to other initiatives, such as the development of cleaner machinery or building systems that would reduce overall carbon emissions, yielding a higher net benefit for the environment. Notwithstanding these considerations, there is too little evidence to suggest that these companies are motivated by non-environmental incentives to establish satoyama around their premises.

Ultimately, regardless of the underlying reason, the creation of these green spaces around factories or office buildings is something that should be encouraged among large corporations as they preserve the ecosystem and local biodiversity, allowing various endemic, as well as migratory species of wildlife to coexist with humans in our urbanised and industrialised landscape, while beautifying the locality with nature’s aesthetic.

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JIJI. (2018, August 22). Japanese firms creating green areas to boost biodiversity at factories. The Japan Times. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/08/22/national/japanese-firms-creating-green-areas-boost-biodiversity-factories/#.W5PPpugzY2x

Hanski, I. (2011). Habitat Loss, the Dynamics of Biodiversity, and a Perspective on Conservation. Ambio, 40(3), 248-255. doi:10.1007/s13280-011-0147-3

Kang, W., Minor, E. S., Park, C., & Lee, D. (2015). Effects of habitat structure, human disturbance, and habitat connectivity on urban forest bird communities. Urban Ecosystems, 18(3), 857-870. doi:10.1007/s11252-014-0433-5

Knight, C. (2010). The Discourse of “Encultured Nature”in Japan: The Concept of Satoyama and its Role in 21st-Century Nature Conservation. Asian Studies Review, 34(4), 421-441. doi: 10.1080/10357823.2010.527920

Xun, B., Yu, D., & Liu, Y. (2014). Habitat connectivity analysis for conservation implications in an urban area. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 34(1), 44-52. doi:10.1016/j.chnaes.2013.11.006




Kitakyushu – The World Capital of Sustainability

Dokai Bay - Water Pollution

Kitakyushu, a city on Kyushu Island, came to be one of Japan’s biggest manufacturing sectors in the 1960s, during which Japan was experiencing sharp economic growth. The city met with problems of air and water pollution due to industrial activities in the area, causing the intense suffering of Dokai Bay, later termed the “Sea of Death”. However, this gave the people of Kitakyushu an opportunity to show the world their expertise in sustainability. The Environmental Pollution Control Bureau (EPCB) was established, along with The City of Kitakyushu Pollution Control Ordinance (CKPCO) later on, which enforced stringent and meticulous regulations on pollution. These were firsts of the many green initiatives which sprouted for Kitakyushu, and together with the people’s cooperation, their environment recovered remarkably and was awarded the title of “Gray City to a Green City”, to lead the globe by example.

World Capital of Sustainability

The environmental issues that the city faced illustrate the ambiguous relationship that Japan has always shared with nature. The control over nature, which resulted in its destruction, followed by the desire to repair and protect nature. Kitakyushu’s successful attempt to alter the consequences of its actions on the environment while promoting economic growth served as a good example to fellow developed countries, making Japan a modern leader in green initiatives. All this was achieved despite previously being one of the most industrial areas in Japan, showing the importance of its transformation in this climate change era.

The implementation of the “Kitakyushu Ecotown Plan” in light of pressing global waste issues, pushes for the recycling of various items such as plastic bottles, automobiles and electric appliances etcetera.  The city aims to recycle both resources and energy while promoting environmentally-conscious activities. With majority of the plan carried out in Hibikinada, Northwestern Kitakyushu, giving the city an edge in issues of sustainability. The prioritisation of recycling and reducing nearly all types of waste coupled with the goal of creating new environmental sectors reflects Kitakyushu’s determination towards a greener future. These further green efforts which developed from their initial pollution problems also supports Japan’s eco-friendly relationship with nature.

However, it is important to delve into any underlying motives Japan has in investing in sustainability efforts. Their destruction of the Dokai Basin parallels the wrecking of the Kinai Basin in the Nara-Heian period, when there was intense abuse of forest areas. (Totman, 2009) Similarly, Kitakyushu only commenced its green initiatives after realising that its environment could not take further pollution. Totman explained the cycle of Japan’s increasingly intensified abuse of its forests over the progression of the 4 periods, along with how Japan managed to fix what they broke each time, thereby depicting their control over nature. Kitakyushu did not suddenly go green because of their love for nature. Instead, it was the fact that nature was their habitat and thus they had to take action to save themselves; revealing their reliance on nature. Plausible economic reasons include the Dokai Basin as a source of fishing resources which is vital to their community. Therefore nature could very well just be an instrument for the Japanese to achieve what they want.

Their aim to attain the title of World Capital of Sustainable Development may be fuelled by the need to uphold their image of their love for nature (Kalland and Asquith, 1997) and the desire to be seen as a pioneer of sustainability by the international community. Their planning for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in which sustainability plays a key role, is another manifestation of this desire. With more green or sustainability related awards on Japan’s shelf, her resume for being a green nation becomes more substantiated which would pave the way for potential investors. This is how Japan might want to be thought of – being the only nation that has a special relationship with nature, rather than actually caring for the environment.

640 words


Clark, T. (2017, December 28). Kitakyushu – The World Capital of Sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.apfed.net/kitakyushu-the-world-capital-of-sustainability/

Totman, C. D. (2009). “Japan’s Forests: Good Days and Bad – Rhythms of Damage and Recovery.” from http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/japans_forests_good_days_and_bad_–rhythms_of_damage_and_recovery_-.

Kalland, A. and P. J. Asquith (1997). “Japanese perceptions of nature: ideals and illusions.” Japanese Images of Nature. P. J. Asquith and A. Kalland. Richmond, UK, Curzon.



Oh! My (cash) cow’s green!


Article: Japanese firms find profits in going green (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/11/13/national/japanese-firms-find-profits-in-going-green/#.W4ifT5P7SR)



The article explores the financial benefits of investing in “green” products and technologies, by citing examples of two companies.

Kirishima Shuzo Co. cut costs of outsourcing its disposal of industrial waste, by investing in a recycling facility that harnesses waste methane from a fermentation process of its shochu (distilled sake) to, firstly, power its production, and secondly, generate excess electricity to sell to Kyushu Electric Power Co. for profit.

New Tech Shinsei Inc. has expanded its scope of operations, and started utilizing waste wood from forest thinning (which is unsuitable for furniture production (Mokulock, n.d.)) to create wooden toy blocks (called Mokulock) as an alternative to plastic ones.


Choosing to Go Green

In both cases, the Japanese veer towards “greener” ways: generating renewable energy in the former; changing product inputs from un-renewable electronics to biodegradable waste (wood) while reducing waste from forest thinning in the latter. To the layman, this may incidentally appeal to the Japanese’ claim to love nature. Hence, Japan’s apparently quaint, and spurious love for green could be reinforced.


How is “going green” represented?

However, it’s evident that the key focus of the article is not the environmental benefits of “going green”, but the financial benefits.

For both examples, there is repeated emphasis on cost and profit; Kirishima Shuzo Co. reduced disposal costs from 10,000¥ per ton to below 1,500¥ per ton. Its representative cited the financial soundness of this strategy: investment costs would be recovered as prices of renewable energy stay fixed for 20 years under the FIT system – a governmental policy which encourages renewable electricity production in private firms in Japan, by obligating electric power companies to purchase the energy on a fixed price, fixed period contract (IEA – Japan, 2018). New Tech Shinsei created Mokulock to stay afloat when its original business was failing.


Honestly it wasn’t for the environment at first, but rather for [them] to survive…


There is little analysis of how the “green” practices would benefit the environment. For example, there is no mention of how much wood from forest thinning is saved due to the Mokulock project, or how the sustainable disposal of waste by Kirishima Shuzo Co. will reduce its carbon footprint, apart from a vague mention that it would “help combat global warming”.

Thus, Japanese firms are represented as having a pragmatic approach to conservation, implying that their “going green” is motivated solely by financial interest. The environmental impact is almost portrayed as a side bonus. Strikingly, New Tech Shinsei’s representative stated: “Honestly it wasn’t for the environment at first, but rather for [them] to survive.”

The Japan Times is owned by Nifco, an industrial manufacturer. Its lack of affiliation with environmental organisations could explain the limited emphasis on environmental benefit. Instead, emphasising profits may be a conscious decision to appeal to the elite Japanese’ (part of its audience) practical relationship with nature.



Japanese’ attitude toward nature has been unique. For example, they see bonsai, an unnatural form of a live plant, as ‘love for nature’. This ambivalent view on nature innate in japanese culture (Asquith & Kalland, 1997), could have romanticized the article’s content in the eyes of its Japanese writers – they are unaware of its pragmatic implications to outsiders, which could damage the carefully constructed idea of Japan’s ‘innate love of nature’.

The pragmatic attitude towards environmental conservation is reflective of Japan’s historical relationship with nature. Historically, there have been regulations on preserving vegetation, which were justified by how it is necessary for maintaining the people’s needs – an anthropocentric approach. One example is an ancient court order on protecting “vegetation on the mountains” in order to “[secure] water” (Totman, 1989). This suggests that the Japanese have been consistent in conserving the environment for their own needs. Today, apart from keeping resources plentiful, “going green” is also used  for reducing costs and increasing profits.

Also interestingly, what was described in this article could be a twist on ‘political ecology’ – political circumstances forcing environmental degradation (Stott and Sullivan, 2000), now that circumstances seem to promote conservation.


The bigger picture

In both cases, human intervention was imperative to “going green” – government policies in the former, and creative entrepreneurship for the latter. The ultimate driving force is, however, still economic. Therefore, if economics discourse could recognize nature as a finite source/sink of resources, conventional economic forces which used to exploit nature could instead drive conservation. The FIT system may be a sign of politics moving in this direction.

Caption: A proposed concept including ‘environment capital’ as a source/sink among the pre-established web of economic flows (Thampapillai & Sinden, 2013).


Like this, the environment would be better understood by the layman as part of a closed loop with finite resources, to be exploited only sustainably.



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Asquith, P. J., & Kalland, A. (1997). Japan’s Perception of Nature. Japanese images of nature: Cultural perspectives. (pp 21) Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press.

IEA – Japan. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/policiesandmeasures/pams/japan/name-30660-en.php

Mokulock (n.d.) How did Mokulock come to be? Retrieved from https://mokulock.biz/

Stott, P. A., & Sullivan, S. (2000). Political ecology: Science, myth and power. London: Arnold.

Thampapillai, D. J., & Sinden, J. A. (2013). Environmental economics: Concepts, methods, and policies (Second ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Totman, C.D. (1989) The Green Archipelago: Forestry in Preindustrial Japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

All uncited pictures taken from the creative commons.