The Japan Times Satoyama Consortium has been engaged in various activities to promote municipalities and local companies representing the beauty and excellence of deep Japan.

The forerunner of the consortium held such activities, hosting a two-day study tour from Oct. 22 at Suo Oshima Island, also known as Kingyoshima Island for its resemblance to a kingyo (goldfish).

Usually a description for the nature and woodlots adjacent to rural communities, satoyama now encompasses a movement where local residents cultivate these areas for the sake of business and environmentalism.

Participants from the satoyama capitalism practitioners’ gathering visited the scenic island in Yamaguchi Prefecture to meet and learn from the satoyama practitioners who live and make the most out of the surrounding community in real-world examples of satoyama capitalism.

Of the 12 aspiring members of the study tour from various backgrounds and communities were two college students from Ehime University who were impressed by the book “Satoyama Capitalism” during their senior year in high school; two participants from Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture; two local teachers working in Yamaguchi Prefecture; and one person from Osaki-Shimojima Island, another island community in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Although the group was not blessed by good weather, the group visited Setouchi Jam’s Garden, a small self-owned jam shop, and talked with the owner, Tadashi Matsushima. Among the topics discussed were the best work-life balance, and revitalizing the local community with the local temple serving as a hub.

The group then had lunch at Samurai Chaya, run by the local Chidori group. This locally owned and focused eatery is known for its signature dishes mikan nabe (citrus hot pot) and tachiuo no kagamimori (mirror-like cutlassfish) sashimi. The menu of the day was iriko soba, with Japanese buckwheat noodles dipped in a broth made from dried anchovies.

After lunch, the tour visited Kasahara Honey, a honey farm operating on the island. The owner, Takafumi Kasahara, spoke on Japan’s current beekeeping situation and the strengths and strategies of Kasahara Honey. The group learned the importance of continuing the production of value-added goods while maintaining sound business practices.

The group was reminded of “Satoyama Capitalism” co-author Kosuke Motani’s theme where making part of one’s livelihood self-sustaining results in becoming less dependent on money. Individuals the group met and talked with taught a firsthand lesson on making the best of community, taking good care of it and handing on the assets of satoyama to future generations.

Overall, the group felt it was a helpful and important two-day trip on finding out how the bonds between people become a community asset. Each member will take what they learned to develop their localities based on their community’s resources. As the trip wound down, the group thanked the people of Suo Oshima Island for their hospitality and generosity, promising to visit the beautiful island again.

On the previous day, the group organized a symposium where Motani delivered a speech to Suo Oshima High School students, introducing a project involved in identifying challenges facing the island and proposing public policies addressing them. The students also delivered presentations of their projects on developing new local products and establishing a company.

In the panel discussion that followed, the student president joined a satoyama capitalism practitioner from the island and a researcher to discuss satoyama capitalism that could last generations.

Download the PDF of this Satoyama Consortium Special