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I want to thank Sherilyn Siy for her June 26 letter, “Spare the cut and save the shade.” I’ve long thought about writing this kind of letter, but never got around to it.

Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that Japanese cities lack trees. The trees are kept cut back to such an extent that they contribute little in the way of environmental cooling and are barely even noticeable.

Yet, trees are everywhere, lining almost every major — and often minor — street. Imagine how much more comfortable Japanese cities would be to live and work in if these trees were allowed to grow out over the sidewalks and streets.

Just about every city in Japan has a few tree-lined streets in historic or shopping areas. Omotesando in Tokyo and Midosuji-dori in Osaka are prime examples. On a hot summer day, the cooling, calming and aesthetic effects are immediately evident to any visitor. So why can’t most city streets be like that?

Almost every Japanese to whom I’ve spoken to about this has never really thought about it, and the reasons they offer are very similar to those mentioned in Siy’s letter. Another factor is probably fear of typhoon damage. This is a legitimate point, but the constant benefits far outweigh the occasional risks. And trees also act as windbreaks to prevent storm damage.

Siy mentions a U.S. Department of Agriculture finding that a single young tree has the cooling effect of 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. An NHK program several years ago made a similar analogy: that one large tree has the cooling effect of 60 air conditioners.

Letting streetside trees grow will alleviate the urban heat-island effect. They will also absorb more carbon emissions and create a more beautiful and stress-reducing urban environment.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

ronald sabatini

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