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

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