New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

Article: New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

New nature-friendly condominiums are housing solutions that are increasingly gaining attention due to the rising awareness in environmentally-friendly products. Not only are they an add-on to energy-saving condos, suitable greenery is planted on the condo buildings to create habitats for creatures, allowing its inhabitants to live in harmony with the biodiversity and thus helping to “preserve the local environment” by minimizing damage to the ecosystem.

Representation of Japan and the environment
Japan is seen here as nature-loving; in the article, both the contractor and the buyers are interested in not just a natural environment to live in, but also being closer to the environment and co-existing with nature by incorporating it into their living spaces. They acknowledge that such is a healthy environment for children and future generations to develop in and to learn about the importance of protecting the environment and living in harmony with other creatures. It may also be the direction that Japan is taking in an attempt to obtain a win-win situation for both the Japanese and the environment.

What makes Japan “green”?
The amount of attention and expertise the contractors employed into researching the biodiversity and the many factors to encourage plant growth reflects the Japanese’ understanding of the importance of a healthy ecosystem. Along with the pre-existing energy-saving condos, Japan seems to aim towards being as “green” as possible by to minimize harm to its biodiversity. Additionally, the fact that the ABINC certification exists shows that the authorities and the citizens acknowledge the importance of the ecosystem in Japan. This article shows how the Japanese play their part in protecting nature in their own way, which gives off the idea that the Japanese are nature-loving and “green”.

Relation to ideas in class
The way nature and habitat is “created” is also a way of selectively modifying nature to suit the Japanese housing needs. By adding nature to housing to make it seem practical, environmental and aesthetically pleasing, the contractors might be encouraging co-existence with nature and also adding on to their project to increase attractiveness to buyers. The ABINC certification recognizes whether a project is environmental, but the contractor may have used this very certificate to promote the condo. Buyers, upon seeing that the condo is ABINC certified, might feel better about themselves for buying a nature-friendly apartment, which probably had a huge piece of land and habitat cleared for its construction, thus holding less concern for the loss of environment to development. Hence, is it ethical to believe that “Exploiting nature for human sustenance is not wrong if it allows other life to coexist” (Williams, 2010)? Despite these controversies, the developer’s decision to bring elements of nature into the urban to ensure sustainable living for both humans and the biodiversity makes this condo a positive change (ibid). However, ensuring that the wildlife do not hinder the daily lives of the condo inhabitants and that the inhabitants do not abuse the wildlife living in the vicinity will pose great difficulties for the future management.

(500 words)


The Japan Times. (2016). “New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly”. The Japan Times. Retrieved 30 August 2016, from

Williams, B. (2010). “Satoyama: The Ideal and the Real”. Kyoto Journal, 75, pp. 24-29.

Futuristic Japanese indoor vertical farm produces 12,000 heads of lettuce a day with LED lighting

Article Link:

The article begins by introducing to us an Amsterdam-based company known as Philips Lighting. This company has experimented with indoor vertical farming, and has made major headway in this area. It has 2 trial facilities in Japan, and one them has been reported to produce 12000 heads of lettuce a day just by using energy-efficient LED lighting.

Urbanization is taking place on a large scale in Japan, where most areas are either occupied by modernized cities, or too steep and mountainous for farming to take place. Vertical farming could be the new agricultural solution that Japan needs, and studies have shown that this method can produce a large variety of herbs and plants under controlled environments. This method of farming also saves water, space and energy. The two trial facilities are located in the Shiba and Shizuoka prefectures, allowing fast and easy transportation from the facilities to stores, making sure that customers get the freshest vegetables.

Since centuries ago, Japan has been heavily reliant on agriculture for survival and economic growth. Famous produce from Japan such as the corn from Hokkaido, cherries from Yamagata and strawberries from Nara are grown and exported to foreign countries where they are eagerly lapped up by consumers (Johnston, 2016). However, in more recent times, climate change has rendered farming and agricultural work in Japan to be rather risky business. The irregular weather patterns, which will certainly involve heavier rains and more frequent floods will significantly decrease the quality and quantity of rice and other fruit and vegetable crops. The steady rise in temperature due to global warming is also extremely unfavourable especially for fruit crops (Johnston, 2016).

As such, vertical farming could well be a solution to these modern day agricultural problems and help to complement traditional farming methods. Vertical farming uses no herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, making it organic by nature. There is also no agricultural runoff as all water used for farming is recycled and used again. These reasons, coupled with the fact that it is not limited by the seasonal changes, make vertical farming a very ‘green’ and ideal method of choice.

In the 1st or 2nd lesson, it was mentioned in class that the Japanese tend to be very ‘selective’ about nature, picking out and cultivating only the aspects which they like in a non-natural environment, in the form of Bonsai and Ikebana. Vertical farming has some similarities to this, in the sense that plants and vegetables are first picked from their natural environments, then transferred to high-tech controlled environments which allow optimum growth and harvest. This style of thinking has clearly reaped more benefits in the latter situation than in the former, providing Japan with an alternative method to obtain more food, and boost the economy.


Johnston. E. (2016). Climate change threatens nation’s agriculture | The Japan Times. Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Arboriculture: Ideal Japanese Forests

The article talks about the arborist Matsuoka, who maintains and takes care of trees. He partakes in competitions on tree-climbing and safety.

From the complimentary tone of the article, Japan Times seems to praise Matsuoka for embracing nature in his lifestyle through his interactions with the forest. The media sees his actions as “green” since he lives and works among nature. However, this does not mean that his behaviour actually benefits the forest he is in. By managing trees as his job, Matsuoka ensures the growth and survival of certain species of vegetation that are valued in society, whether aesthetically or for the products that can be manufactured from them. During this process of selectively nurturing the forest, however, the balance of the ecosystem will likely be affected. Certain species of plants seen as invaluable will be weeded out to let other plants flourish.

The need for arboriculture seems somewhat ironic. It implies that forests, despite being a part of nature, cannot be left to grow naturally, and that forest management is required for ideal growth. This idea is similar to many other ways Japanese deal with nature, such as flower arrangement, bonsai, and Japanese gardens. In all of these cases, control or altercation of nature of a great extent is necessary for nature to be best appreciated. This complements the article by Kalland and Asquith (1997: 13), who say that objects of nature can be placed on a spectrum with “wild” on one end and “domesticated” on the other. The Japanese treat those nearer the “domesticated” end as ideal forms of nature (ibid.: 15-18). This means that they have to be managed by humans such that they become products of both nature and culture.

I also found Matsuoka’s actions seemingly contradictory. While he claims to protect trees, he chops them down for firewood. Nevertheless, his behaviour can be understood in the context of the common ideology in Japan towards an ideal rural lifestyle, which is manifested in the concept of furusato. This ideology promotes a simple, rural lifestyle with activities and settings that symbolise nostalgia or Japanese culture (Robertson 1988: 494-495). Thus, Matsuoka can be seen as embracing the rural lifestyle of living with nature by retrieving and consuming firewood instead of relying on electricity. With this perspective, his actions show that he upholds the Japanese ideals of dealing with nature by maintaining the forests and living a rural lifestyle.



Kazutaka, Hinata. 2014. ‘Climbing champ urges deeper understanding of forestry’. The Japan Times.



Asquith, Pamela and Arne Kalland. 1997. ‘Japanese Perceptions of Nature: Ideals and Illusions’. In Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives, ed. Arne Kalland and Pamela Asquith. Surrey, Curzon Press: 1-35.

Robertson, Jennifer. 1988. ‘Furusato Japan: The Culture and Politics of Nostalgia’. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 1(4): 494-518.

Railway line up Mount Fuji: Environmental Protection?

A local Japanese tourism firm is considering building a railway line, 30 kilometres in length to an altitude of 2305 metres, to the fifth station of Mount Fuji. Human construction on Japan’s most iconic natural feature and environmental protection are two contradicting concepts which this article [1] attempts to reconcile.

Koichiro Horiuchi, who holds authoritative positions in Fujigoko Tourism Association and a major railroad operator, describes the railway line as a “long-held dream”. The desire to make the great heights of Mount Fuji accessible is a continuation of Japanese longing to control symbolic forms of nature.

Mount Fuji was designated a World Heritage Site last year in June 2013; perhaps this helps to explain why the strong association of environmental protection is being incorporated into the railway scheme. Surprisingly, recognition of Mount Fuji’s international importance was based on its cultural and religious significance in Japan rather in its natural features [2]. Mount Fuji is important to the Japanese mainly because of its depiction as sacred in several arts.

Many advantages of the railway are focused on in the article such as: controlled number of visitors to the mountain (and undoubtedly increased numbers), less disturbance to animals, less air pollution, ability to operate in winter and most obviously access to beautiful scenery. The article avoids addressing any specific negative environmental impacts of the scheme; it only mentions that as the railway line will be constructed on an existing public road “almost no environmental destruction” will be caused. However, environmental disturbance will undoubtedly occur with the construction and operation of a railway.

The article vaguely suggests that some eco-friendly technologies and practices will be implemented in the design of the railway. However, this appears to stem from appreciation of the work of a Swiss railway firm, whom they are in a partnership with. Interestingly, as noted by Moon [3], traditionally the Japanese saw the West as often exploiting nature, but presently most practices of environmental protection are taken from the West.

Although the article attempts to present the railway scheme as an environmental protection project, it is obviously driven by the potential to grow Japan’s tourism industry. If the railway plan is approved, Horiachi expects the completion of the line to be in advance of the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. With an influx of tourists, and many willing to pay for unique experiences, there will be a large opportunity for economic profit.

News Article:


[1] M. Sakamoto, “Environmental Protection key to proposed railway up Mount Fuji,” 13 August 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 August 2014].
[2] “Mount Fuji named World Heritage site,” 23 June 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 August 2014].
[3] O. Moon, “Marketing Nature in Rural Japan,” in Japanes Images of Nature, P. J. Asquith and A. Kalland, Richmond: Curzon, 1997, p. 228.

The Return of the Stork.

According to Yuzo Suwa’s article, “When storks arrive, you’re growing good rice, Hyogo farmers discover”, environmentally-friendly practices implemented by a group of farmers in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, has increased numbers of a previously extinct bird species, namely the Oriental white stork. After doing some background research to understand why these storks were extinct in the first place, I found out that it was in fact, the Japanese introduction of modern high-yield rice farming techniques – altering natural drainage systems and using agricultural pesticides and other toxic chemicals – that led to the wipeout of these majestic birds in 1971. Although Suwa did mention how “Japan’s postwar agriculture placed high priority on crop yields by encouraging the use of chemicals, fertilizers and the off-season drying of paddies”, this particular article didn’t quite clearly state that it was because of this, did the birds die in the first place. So how highly praised should this reintroduction program be anyways? I mean, after all, wasn’t it the lack of environmental sensitivity that led to the extinction of these stunning creatures in the first place?

Regardless, this article focuses on the benefits of these green, chemical-free rice paddies for these Oriental white storks. Japan is portrayed as a country that puts emphasis and value on wildlife and environmental restoration. But is that their main objective? Suwa also mentions the benefits of the stork individuals on eco-tourism, as the reintroduction of these birds have drawn in tourists into the area. This improves the villagers living standards by selling touristy knick-knacks and other merchandise. Not a bad side benefit….  It brings in some profit, and boosts the Japan’s “green” label too.

Coming from a biologist’s perspective, some of the questions that pop up when I read this include issues of inbreeding and the ability for this small area of chemical-free rice paddies to sustain the Oriental white storks’ population in the long-term. If this city farming project is successful, as the article says to be, what size of restoration area is needed to increase the bird’s population to its original numbers, and is Japan willing to convert more rice paddies despite major cuts in output? Food for thought.

Image from:

Main article reference:

Suwa, Yuzo. “When storks arrive, you’re growing good rice, Hyogo farmers discover.” The Japan Times. 15 Aug. 2014. Web.

Accessed on 24 August 2014 from

Other background information:


Eco-House, Machiya

Author: Wako Toyama

In this article, author says Machiya is very eco-friendly house.
Machiya  are traditional wooden townhouses found throughout Japan and typified in the historical capital of Kyoto.

Machiya is a long wooden home with narrow street frontage, and often containing one or more small courtyard gardens or tsuboniwa.The front of the building traditionally served as shop space.Behind this mise no ma (店の間, “shop space”), the remainder of the main building is divided into “living space”.

Why are they called Eco-House? It’s because Machiya are designed to live deliciously cool in summer without using electric power, or air conditioning fan.

But nowadays, Machiya are rapidly disappearing.

Between 1993 and 2003, over 20% of the machiya in Kyoto were demolished. Roughly forty percent of those demolished were replaced with new modern houses, and another 40% were replaced with high-rise apartment buildings, parking lots over 80% have suffered significant losses to the traditional appearance of their facades.

There are groups, however, which are taking action to protect and restore machiya in Kyoto. One such institution, the “Machiya Machizukuri Fund,” was established in 2005(two thousand and five)

The group works individual machiya owners to restore their buildings and to have them designated as “Structures of Landscape Importance” (景観重要建造物, keikan jūyō kenzōbutsu), under this designation, the structures are protected from demolition without the permission of the mayor of Kyoto.

I think we can learn eco-frindly systems from Machiya and apply it for constructing new house. And we have to restore Machiya because they are traditional houses and have very ‘green’ system.








Taiji Dolphin Park – License to Kill?

Dolphin and whale lovers will be happy to hear the first part of this news: Taiji, the starring town of Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove”, is now planning to partition off an area for tourists and visitors to swim and frolic with the intelligent mammals. The plans are still in its stages of conception, where “research” is being done to determine which section of the cove to use for the marine mammal park.

However, the next part of the news will probably incite indignation (if not anger) in a lot of people spanning from animal activists to environmentalists to sophists worldwide: The cove will be part of the town’s plan to increase tourism flow in the area, but it is in no way an attempt at conservation of marine wildlife. On the contrary, they are hoping the erection of this park will help perpetuate the tradition of whaling and dolphin-hunting (or dolphin-ing?) through means like selling dolphin, whale, and other marine animals’ meat that were implied but not explicitly stated in the article.

In case anyone is uncertain, the aforementioned movie “The Cove” is not nice. It is about how dolphins get corralled and slaughtered yearly by fishermen in Taiji, Japan, and it is a massacre sanctioned by the local government. The movie was released in 2009, but dolphin hunting and whaling activities are still adamantly continued by these fishermen who insist on carrying on the four century old tradition.

In addition to Dolphin Park, the town also has plans to construct a 69-acre Whale Safari. Three guesses as to what cuisine will be sold there.

Obviously this article portrays Japan as a threat to the ecology. Their whaling activities have come under fire, but for reasons incomprehensible to me, they resolutely insist on continuing it. If the IWC is unable to stop whaling activities and dolphin-hunting, there is a very high chance they might become endangered as happened in the other parts of the world.


AFP/xq. (2013, 10 7). Japan dolphin-hunting town to open marine park. Retrieved 10 7, 2013, from Japan dolphin-hunting town to open marine park:

Demetriou, D. (2013, 10 7). Japanese dolphin-killing town in ‘The Cove’ to open marine park. Retrieved from The Telegraph:

Psihoyos, L. (Director). (2009). The Cove [Motion Picture].



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.

The Newest Eco-Friendly Food- Rice Stomped by Endangered Birds

By Iwata Mari.

Reviewer: Ang Lee Yee Madeline

  In this article, Iwata Mari wrote about the undergoing efforts of the municipal government in Sado Island to conserve, breed and subsequently reintroduce the endangered Asian Crested Ibis to the wild. Faced with a difficult situation of protecting the species, while not jeopardizing on the farmers’ livelihood, the government is looking to promote and market high-priced “Ibis stomped” rice.

  The Ibis conservation project signifies a part of Japan which sees the need to protect biodiversity and to save endangered species. Such an attempt is made possible by engaging in environmentally-friendly practices to restore the agricultural wetland landscape needed to sustain the birds. As Iwata noted, farmers set apart feeding areas in part of their rice fields, introduce only minimal inputs of agricultural chemicals and fertilizer, and made irrigation channels bare so as to not kill off fish and insects that are the staple food of the birds. However, the author failed to take into account the significance of Sado’s conservation efforts beyond its use of environmentally-friendly practices. I argue that Sado’s conservation efforts is important as it moves away from the conventional idea of “fencing” the protected animal. Instead, the conservation effort is paired up with community participation, allowing farming and conservation to go hand in hand.

  Moreover, the “Ibis friendly agriculture” helps add value and price to the certified rice. Quoted from the article, the authorities clearly hoped that the marketing strategy of “Ibis stomped” rice would appeal to some. However, I argue that it is the sense of involvement and contribution to the efforts in preserving the Ibis, that would appeal to consumers to make the purchase.

  Thus, the ‘green’ concept here highlights a conservation effort that not only involves environmentally-friendly practices, but is made possible through the involvement of the community, and the conscious participation of the consumer.


  1. Iwata, M. (2013, August 1). The Newest Eco-Friendly Food- Rice Stomped by Endangered Birds. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Mount Fuji, So Popular It Hurts

By Belson, Ken.  13 Aug 2013

Review by Pearl:

As the title suggests, the popularity of Mount Fuji might, or rather, is hurting the environment around Mount Fuji. Here, Belson informs us about the Japanese government’s decision to add Mount Fuji into the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, which because of overcrowding, might aggravate the problem of preserving the nature of Mount Fuji already at hand. As he described it, “Illegally dumped garbage fills the forests. Traffic chokes surrounding roads and paths to the peak.” Even “big events like the jazz festival at Kawaguchiko [that] draw thousands of fans” to the area was contributing to the resultant degradation of the mountain as a cultural heritage site.

Alluding to his personal experience to Mount Fuji, Belson puts across the overcrowding issue fully. The resonance of Mount Fuji was reduced to tourists’ snapping away of a picturesque view of Mount Fuji. The sound of nature surrounding Mount Fuji was also polluted by the congested traffic below. It seems that the preservation of Mount Fuji runs incompatible with human activities near and about it. Thus, I believe Belson’s idea of “green” and “preserving the nature of Mount Fuji” is protecting the natural state of the mountain itself, without any or limited human interference.

Perhaps so, the issue of reconciling the protection of the natural environment with tourism and human activities, that is undesirable to the area, is so contentious. It is notable that restricting access to nature like Mount Fuji is impossible, especially in the present world of globalization. The Japanese government might need tighter control with regards to regulating the number of visitors per year, but it is highly unlikely they’ll stop tourism altogether in the name of “preserving the nature”.

To me then, “being green” represents the relationship between nature and human. One is not subordinate to another, for one’s action will ultimately prompt a response from the other. Human activities are not necessarily detrimental to the environment, but at the same time too much of it would result nature “crying out” through its degradation. Therefore, we humans have a responsibility to ensure the balance in this relationship.

Belson, Ken “Mount Fuji, So Popular It Hurts” [The New York Time 13 Aug 2013.] accessed on 3 Sep 2013.

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