When industry works in step with nature

Article: When industry works in step with nature from The Japan Times by C.W. Nicol
Link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/05/31/environment/industry-works-step-nature/#.U_mGKfk70TJ 

Reviewer: Anita Sin

This article portrays the success story of a Japanese company – Sanden Corp – in its effort to become more sustainable and eco-friendly.  In the late 1980s, Sanden Corp bought over a large tract of land near the foot of Mount Akagi and wanted to build a golf course there but the locals protested against it. In the end, Sanden Corp built and opened Akagi Industrial Plant in year 2002 on half of the land while the other half was set aside as Sanden Forest whereby the physical environment was preserved and improved upon. For example, ’40 species of trees totaling some 30,000 specimens’ were planted in Sanden Forest and an environmental center which ‘attracts some 15,000 visitors a year’ is also built (The Japan Times, 2014). Schools and environmental groups were also allowed into the forest for academic purposes and from local history research, this plot of land ‘revealed sites dating back to the Neolithic Jomon Period… and the succeeding iron-age Yayoi Period’ which made the preservation of the forest even more notable (ibid).

This success story represented Japanese companies as being ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ as Sanden Corp won various prizes in Japan and around the world due to its ‘green’ efforts. Japan itself was also being portrayed as being relatively ‘greener’ when compared to other countries as it was mentioned that people came from China and India to take a look at this case study. Such representations in this article might be what Kalland and Asquith (1997: 25) sees as a way Japan “partake in a ‘global ideology of nature’ and define their own ‘cultural identity’”. It is also a way Japan uses nature ‘in its orientalist discourse…both at home and abroad’ (ibid, p. 25).

Such a green representation can also come across as problematic as we know that not all Japanese companies are as such and that Japan is laden with environmental problems. For example, Japan chose coal as a long-term electricity source in its new energy plan even though they could have used the Fukushima nuclear accident to make the switch to renewable energy supplies (Bloomberg, 2014).

On the other hand, as much as this representation can be problematic to a large extent, this representation can be seen in a much positive light as it contradicts Kellert’s (1991) critique in Kalland and Asquith’s (1997: 7) paper that the Japanese ‘expressed little ethical or ecological orientation to conserve nature and wildlife’. In addition, such articles provide good role models for other Japanese companies and are positive articles that we can draw hope from in Japan’s attempt at becoming more sustainable.


Bloomberg (2014) ‘Post-Fukushima Japan Chooses Coal Over Renewable Energy’ Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-13/post-fukushima-japan-chooses-coal-over-renewable-energy.html (accessed 20 August 2014)

The Japan Times (2013) ‘When industry works in step with nature’ Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/05/31/environment/industry-works-step-nature/#.U_ojkPmSx5y (accessed 20 August 2014)

Kalland, A. and Asquith, P.J. (1997) Japanese Perceptions of Nature: ideals and illusions. Japanese Images of Nature,  UK: Curzon

Kellert, S.R. (1991) in Kalland, A. and Asquith, P.J. (1997) Japanese Perceptions of Nature: ideals and illusions. Japanese Images of Nature,  UK: Curzon