BTMU Promotes Reforestation in the Tohoku Region
Since 2008, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and the Mitsubishi UFJ Environment Foundation have been conducting the Save Our Common Treasures of the Earth project in cooperation with the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan. The project aims to preserve Earth's natural resources for future generations by giving children opportunities to engage with global issues, such as environmental conservation, and cultivate a commitment to sustainability. As part of the MUFG Group, BTMU participated in the project and conducted a two-day environmental activity in the area surrounding Shirakami-Sanchi, the World Natural Heritage Site in Aomori prefecture, Japan.
Shirakami-Sanchi, UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site
Shirakami-Sanchi is a vast mountain expanse that covers as much as 1,300 km2 (about 500 square miles) in the northern end of the Tohoku region. The site includes a primeval beech forest that has never been disturbed by humans, where highly diverse flora and fauna coexist - about 100 animal species, 2,000 types of insects, and 500 plant species. This valuable ecosystem was listed as the first Japanese UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in December 1993. While some parts of the Tohoku region suffered great damage from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, many of the region's natural treasures, such as Shirakami-Sanchi, escaped unharmed.
Deep inside of the forest in Shirakami-Sanchi.
Forests in Japanese Culture
Since ancient times, Japanese have coexisted with and benefited in many different ways from the forest. The forest embodies the grandeur of nature which supercedes human understanding, and to this day, giant trees are sometimes revered and forests are worshipped as sacred places. The ritual prayer for safety that was held before going into the forest for the tree planting and growing project is one of the customs that come from Japanese old traditions. In the ceremony, celebrants make special offerings such as liquor or fruits to the god of the forest to ask for permission to enter, and they pray that all members of the group can work safely.
Ritual to pray for the safety of the project to the god of the forest.
Tree Planting and Growing Project
In the hope of passing on to our future generations the lush greenery of Shirakami-Sanchi, where appreciation for the forest is alive, MUFG and the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan began the Save Our Common Treasures of the Earth project in 2008. The project aims to revitalize the areas where cedars have been cleared out into natural mixed forests. In the first phase of the project, 100,000 trees were planted in the deforested areas of the national forest over a period of five years. In 2013, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of Shirakami-Sanchi's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a new five-year project started with tree-growing activities focused on underbrush cutting and supplemental planting.
President Hirano led the Activity of cutting the weeds.
The areas where trees had been planted were revisited, and tree-growing activities were carried out. The land was overrun with weeds as tall as the participating BTMU volunteers. As the weeds may stunt the growth of young trees, they were cut using large hooks with support from local volunteers. New trees were also planted to mark the 20th anniversary of Shirakami-Sanchi's inscription as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. During the activities, volunteers engaged with the rich natural environment unique to Shirakami-Sanchi, such as the giant "mother tree", estimated to be approximately 400 years old.
Reconstruction and Economic development of the Tohoku region
While the Tohoku region is endowed with beautiful natural locations such as Shirakami-Sanchi, some areas were severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake. BTMU has been supporting reconstruction by developing local youth through the establishment of the MUFG NFUAJ East Japan Earthquake Recovery and Scholarship Fund.
In addition, BTMU created a fund with local financial institutions of four prefectures of the Tohoku region. This fund supports the efforts and actions that the Tohoku agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries are undertaking to restore production, processing, and marketing.
BTMU also offers solutions to those Tohoku clients looking for business partners by using our domestic and global network and finding potential matches among our clients.
It is BTMU's aspiration to contribute to the revival of the Tohoku region by supporting economic growth and employment as well as improvement of the environment.
October 7, 2013