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Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research

Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research

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International Symposium on Satoyama Highlights Ecosystem Values and Traditional Knowledge and Practices

Attended by about two hundred participants, an international symposium on Hokusetsu Satoyama was held on 30 November 2014 in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture.

The symposium, organised by APN and Hyogo Prefectural Government, featured three lecture presentations on satoyama and three case studies of traditional use and management of landscapes and natural resources. The program was designed and intended to raise awareness on the importance of satoyama, particularly the satoyama of the Hokusetsu region.

Satoyama, one of the traditional heritages of Japan, provides an example of harmonious co-existence between human and nature. The term literally means “village mountains” and is generally known as the border zone or area between mountain foothills and arable flatland. The Japan Satoyama and Satoumi Assessment (JSSA) defined satoyama landscapes as “dynamic mosaics of managed socio-ecological systems producing a bundle of ecosystem services for human well-being” (Duraiappah et al., 2012).

Promoting Hokusetsu as Model Satoyama

Satoyama landscapes are found mostly in rural and peri-urban areas in Japan. One of the preserved satoyama in Japan is the Kurokawa area in Kawanishi City, which is located in the Hokusetsu region. As many other satoyama in Japan, Kurokawa also faces threat due to rural depopulation and aging population.

To give participants of the symposium a feel of satoyama, a field visit was arranged to the Kurokawa where participants were able to see firsthand various traditional knowledge and practices in managing satoyama. An example is how local people utilise and conserve the oak tree called “kunugi” (Quercus acutissima)—source of “kikuzumi”, a high quality, chrysanthemum-shaped charcoal favoured in Japanese tea ceremony. The charcoal production, particularly the tree-cutting work, considers the cycle of the growth of the oak tree.

Knowledge Imparted and Lessons Learned

The field visit made it evident how management of satoyama relies on volunteers and support from government. The volunteers are also actively seeking participation from the private sector to improve the management of satoyama. On site, the participants drawn lessons in addition to the knowledge gained from the presentations in the symposium.

The symposium informed participants of the efforts done globally to promote revitalisation and sustainable management of landscapes, and the importance of looking at historical roots of the landscape and opening up to explore new trends and societal needs in managing the landscape.

One case study in Germany brought forward the value of youth engagement by inculcating in their minds the importance of sustainably managing the land and its resources. In addition, the case in the northern Philippines emphasised traditional knowledge systems and tradition of the indigenous people, and how demarcation of the lands of the commons strengthens customary governance for sustainable resource use and equitable sharing of resources.

In closing, the participants expressed their understanding of the benefits and values that satoyama offers and agreed to help realise a “lifestyle of harmonious co-existence with nature” in Hokusetsu region. The symposium was an avenue in the creation of Hokusetsu Satoyama Declaration that incorporates the ideas of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) to work efforts towards making Hokusetsu Satoyama an ideal representation of satoyama globally.