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OUIK Biocultural Diversity Series #5 Restoring Kinship with Nature through Japanese Gardens -The Challenge to Achieve a Sustainable Commons in Kanazawa

The book introduces unique roles and teachings of Japanese Gardens in Kanazawa City in a relation with human society and it is breaking new ground for Kanazawa’s sustainable future. 

【開催報告】SDGsカフェ#11「持続とは変化!? ~with コロナ時代の働き方とリモートワーク~」

Sorry, this entry is only available in Japanese.

Workshop: “Green Infrastructure Starting from Gardens in Temples and Shrines” 

On the 22nd of October 2019, the second volunteer cleaning activity at Shinrensha Temple Garden and the first workshop about green infrastructure were held. This time, together with Mr. Maruyama from Kanazawa Univ., Mr. Sakamura from JAIST, as well as their students, we invited Ms. Hayashi from Ryukoku Univ. as a guest speaker to talk about her research on the land use of Lake Biwa.  

OUIK’s researcher Dr. Ivars, the main organizer of this event, talked about his research on Kanazawa’s biocultural diversity. As he mentioned in his book published last July, it is important for citizens to actively collaborate to conserve the nature that exists in cities. Dr. Ivars is hoping that events like this cleaning workshop become more common among locals and tourists, as it would help the owners of the gardens maintain and preserve them. Dr. Ivars conducted a survey of participants before and after the cleaning. The results showed that cleaning the gardens increased positive emotions and reduced negative emotions. This activity gives benefits not only to the garden owner, but also to the participants. 

Next, Ms. Hayashi’s presentation taught us the importance of taking records on land use. If the cultural landscape and biodiversity of Japanese gardens in Kanazawa is a micro perspective, Ms. Hayashi’s story was more of a macro perspective. Ms. Hayashi’s research focuses on the natural environment and cultural landscapes of the past, and investigating changes in land use and the natural environment.  Using a map showing the surrounding area of ​​Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, she explained that investigating how to use the natural environment that has existed from the past to the present time can suggest ways to connect people and nature sustainably, or industries that match the local environment. 

After the lecture, we started the cleaning activities in the Shinrensha Garden. 

It was a beautiful autumn day, and the participants seemed to enjoy being close to nature outside. Participants mainly picked up fallen leaves in the main garden area and the graveyard behind the garden.  After one hour, the garden was finally clean, and we moved on to the discussion session. 

Each group summarized their feelings and impressions of this experience in a 3-minute presentation. Some thoughts included: “What kind of gardens attract people and give easier access to people?” “Let’s make use of fallen leaves” “I was able to relax and enjoy myself” and so on.  

Spending time in the garden surrounded by nature gives people living in the city opportunities to  come in contact with nature and share a common purpose with other people. The participants enjoyed learning in the beautiful garden, and they seemed very satisfied.  


Report on SDGs cafe #10 SDGs x Sports

2020 is the year of the Tokyo Olympics. As the interest in sports has increased with each passing day, this time at the SDGs café, we focused on Sports and how they relate to the SDGs.

Our first guest was Ms. Haida, Deputy General Manager of the Business Planning Department and Hometown Promotion Office of Zweigen Kanazawa Football team (J2).

The J League (Japan’s professional football league) has three philosophies, one of which is “promoting a rich sports culture and contributing to the healthy development of the mind and body of the people.” In other words, there is a strong desire to develop Japanese sports culture through football.

Zweigen Kanazawa has a club philosophy: “Challenge the tradition of this city.”

“In Kanazawa, there are many things that are said to be ‘tradition’. We are trying to make ‘challenging’ a new Kanazawa tradition,” Ms. Haida said.  

J-League clubs conduct 20,000 community engagement activities a year to gain more supporters as well as the favor of the local community. Last year, Zweigen Kanazawa conducted 250 such activities, including a football training session for kindergarten kids, support for the blind football team “Zweigen Kanazawa BFC”, and football lessons to help rehabilitate patients with mental illnesses. 

All 56 clubs in the J-League have performed about 20,000 community engagement activities in the year 2019. However, despite their efforts, there was still a lack of awareness of their activities in the local community. As such, two years ago on the 25th anniversary of the J-League they decided to start “Sharen” in addition to their regular activities. 

“Sharen” is an abbreviation of “social cooperation activity” in Japanese. Zweigen Kanazawa has been working with companies, governments, schools, and other local groups to solve social issues in the community. Before starting Sharen, they focused on quantity, but now they are more focused on the quality of the activities. 

Our second guest was the SDGs expert Mr. Cosmo Takagi, a Research Associate at UNU-IAS OUIK as well as a Research Assistant at Keio University. He also has experience learning football in Brazil, so he was a perfect speaker for this workshop. 

He first explained what the SDGs are with examples and explained an important theory of the SDGs: backcasting. There are 17 goals in the SDGs, so we need to think ahead and define our goals and then work backwards to identify policies and programmes that will help us achieve those specific goals. This planning process is vital to achieving the SDGs. 

”How do you use the SDGs in connection with the J-League?”

One way to use the SDGs is to organize. For example, a J3 team called “YSCC Yokohama” is sending a team of nutritionists to an impoverished area and teaching the residents how to make a nutritionally balanced meal at a low price. This activity contribute to the second goal of the SDGs: Zero hunger. However, this is very broad in terms of goals, and it seems that anything can be linked.

The SDGs have 169 targets and indicators for their progress. Looking at the targets and indicators, we can see that there is a concept of “eliminating undernourishment” and that we are contributing to it.

“When organizing our efforts in the SDGs, look at specific targets rather than the overall goals. The targets are so specific that we can organize our efforts in a meaningful way,” Mr. Takagi said.


Some further examples he gave included Kawasaki Frontale’s contribution for SDGs goal number 4, Quality Education, where the team donated maths workbooks to kids to learn basic maths by counting football game scores.   

The UK’s Forest Green Rovers FC is known as the world’s most environmentally friendly club, and is certified as such by the United Nations. They attached solar panels to their stadium which supply all of the electricity the stadium requires with solar power. 

During the group discussion session, participants discussed what kind of activities we can organise to promote SDGs with sports, what can lead to the achievement of Kanazawa’s SDGs using sports.

Some of the opinions of participants are as follows:

“Nobody at our table really plays any sports, so we talked about how we can individually enjoy and support sports.”

“We would love to host an event where children and football players can play together”

“It would be easier for disable people, people with illnesses, and elderly people to go to the stadium if there were more transportation options to get to the stadium and more accessible toilets.”


OUIK Biocultural Diversity Series #4 [Learning About the Satoyama and Satoumi of Hokuriku Region from Maps]

Map information  compiled by various scales to learn about  the link between anthropogenic activities and physical environment within Hokuriku Region.

Youth Capacity Building Workshop towards UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

From January 1, 2016 until 2030, United Nations adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), with 17 goals and 169 targets, to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. These goals are applied to all countries and regions, and for the next 15 years they will be the critical tools in the dialogs to solve environmental, economic and social issues. Youth capacity development towards those issues will be essential to ensure the successful achievements of those goals. This Workshop is jointly created by Kanazawa University and United Nations University, and it aims to create the platform for the younger generations to come together and deepen the discussions on SDGs and share the regional issues.

Report on SDGs # 9 “Thinking about Kanazawa’s Public Transport in 2030”

At the ninth SDGs cafe we discussed the question, “how do we want transportation in Kanazawa to be in 2030?”, with particular attention to the happiness of people and the development of attractive towns.

Our first guest was the mastermind and secretary of Kanazawa’s “machinori” bicycle rental system , Masahiro Kagishi (Nihonkai Consultant Co., Ltd.), who is also familiar with domestic and international public transport systems.

We also welcomed Derk Loorbach (director of the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions and Professor of Socio-economic Transitions at the Faculty of Social Science, both at Erasmus University Rotterdam), who was visiting Japan from the Netherlands, as our special guest. Masahiro Matsuura (Professor, Graduate School of Governance, Meiji University) cooperated as an interpreter and coordinator.

A new “machinori” will start soon

“Machinori”, the bicycle rental system created by Masahiro Katagishi, has been in operation for eight years as of January this year, with a total of 1,239,000 uses and  425,000 users. Currently, the system is being updated and the number of cycles and cycle ports will be tripled on March 1st. “I’m working hard to make it a true public transport system,” says Kagishi.

“As the global trend is transitioning from car to person and from space to place (space becomes place by adding human activities), this trend is closely related to SDGs. Before thinking about transportation, sharing the vision of how we should develop the town/city itself is important,” Mr. Katagishi said. He also introduced a service called “MaaS (Mobility as a Service),” which allows users to search, make reservations, and settle payments in an integrated manner by combining them optimally, which is getting more and more attention these days.

Three years ago, Mr. Katagishi traveled to Barcelona, Spain, where he interviewed various local transportation operators and asked, “Why is mobility necessary?”. The answer was simple but impactful for him: ”For the happiness of people. Our mission is to support people’s activities and produce a happy urban life. We will provide mobility services for that purpose. Is it different in Japan?”.


Mobility is needed for people’s happiness

Thanks to that revelation, Mr. Kagishi learned three points that support happiness:

Accessibility: Improve the accessibility of many kinds of activity by diverse groups of people

Multimodality: Coordination of various transportation forms in consideration of accessibility (ease of use)

Integration: Development and transportation policies that take into account various policies such as land use, welfare, environment, and tourism (integration of various city policies is needed)


“Happiness is the emotion that you gain from various activities movement occurs to proceed with activities supporting people’s activities and people to access happiness” = Mobility,  Mr. Kagishi said. 


Then how about Kanazawa as a city and its transportation from the perspective of happiness?

Mr. Kawagoshi said that many great ideas have already been shared for transportation and community development for the future of Kanazawa City. However it is not progressing easily because stakeholders are not sharing a common vision like his idea of mobility-based happiness yet.

However, based on the environmental and social aspects of the five directions of the Kanazawa SDGs, Mr. Kawagishi hopes that there would be more opportunities where open discussions can be held in the future.


Imagine traffic in Kanazawa in 2030

”Technologies such as AI, autonomous driving, and MaaS apps are means, not goals,” Mr. Kawagishi said.

“First, enjoy yourself.” He says that it is important to think about “What are the attractions and activities of Kanazawa that you want to cherish? What is unique about Kanazawa?” Then, in order to realize happiness, consider the ideal way of mobility to support it, create a transition, and create a human-centered world in Kanazawa where citizens and tourists both can enjoy moving around. 

“How to make a transition?” by the pioneer of mobility transition

So how do we rebuild mobility for future happiness? Derk Loorbach, a professional of mobility involved not only in research but also in its real-life application, made a proposal to improve the sustainability of the city.

“For example, climate change and the loss of biodiversity are recognized worldwide, but there is no real action, and that’s the problem. People are aware of it and they even know the solution but there is still no action. How can we make a big change there? That’s what we focus on,” said Mr. Derk. 

Transition starts with thinking about a sustainable society, and we need to have critical thinking sometimes. The study of transition does not mean thinking about what has happened now, but rather thinking about why things aren’t changing, and how we can enact change.

“When I talk about transition, some people take a negative stance and call me an idealist or a dreamer, saying it can’t be done, and it costs money. It isn’t easy to believe in the future, but increasing the number of people who believe in change and the future is a part of the transition process.” Mr. Derk said.

At first, it might just be a few bureaucrats in a government office or  employees in a large company, but the transition begins when those people successfully make friends and try various experiments and methods to begin a transition. As it grows, the shape becomes visible–in Kanazawa, for example, the number of bicycle lanes has increased considerably these past few years. In the same way,things that will be considered normalin the future but are still not common right now will gradually develop to become the norm.

“There’s a project called “place of transition” where people who can make a change come together and think about what kind of transitions are possible. The aim of this idea is for the participants to get back to their workplace or community and create opportunities for movement as an organization,” Mr. Derk said. 

Mr. Derk also introduced us to a number of actions taken in cities in Europe. For example, in Ghent, which is one of Kanazawa’s sister cities, there is an initiative called “Living Street”, a project to close the streets to traffic for two months during the summer and use them as parks. Apparently it took two years to persuade the relevant departments, and in the first year it was carried out in only 2 streets where cars hardly could pass. After a few years, more streets joined the project. In another example, this time in Rotterdam,  the government was undertaking a mobility transition project and they noticed that some people were being excluded. For example, poor people can’t commute, can’t move, or can’t ride a bike because they have no money. This was perceived as a social welfare issue, and free bicycles were offered.

It seems that the transition has changed the mindset of officials who did not like rapid changes until now, and they are now trying more and more experiments. Until now, the idea was “to solve problems when they occur”, but it is said that the idea has been shifted to “creating problems on purpose and providing solutions.”

There were a lot of deep questions at the question time.

Everyone seemed to be having a lot of problems and asked a lot of questions. Here are some of them.

<Questioner A>

People in Kanazawa hardly think about public transport. What should we do to change the consciousness of these people?


Some people may be uninterested or find it annoying, so the point is to start small. It’s also important to start by connecting with people who are already active and making it visible.

<Questioner B>

In the Netherlands, it rains a lot, but I hear that lots of people ride bicycles. On the other hand, people in Kanazawa say that bicycles cannot be used because it rains and snows here. How has the Netherlands encouraged people to use their bikes in the rain?


In the Netherlands, where a bicycle infrastructure is available, riding a bicycle is easier than riding a car. In Kanazawa, it may be easier to drive. Whether it is raining or snowing, it’s important to try out a bike tour or an event together, make it visible, and make it seem normal.

<Questioner C>

How did the results of the transition experiment affect the economy?


When talking about a case where a parking spot on the street was turned into a park as an example, we asked the shop owners or residents in front of us, “Do you want to do it?”. At first they said no because customers could not come in if they closed the street, but when they actually tried it, they realized that creating an attractive space increases the number of customers. This project gradually spread, and in Rotterdam 4,000 parking spaces have now been converted to parks. We have also calculated that zero emissions will bring various social benefits, improve health, and reduce costs. As for which sector suffers the greatest damage, the fact is that the government has a lower tax revenue, and that’s the greatest impact.

<Questioner D>

In your experience, are there any examples where tourism has become more active as a result of a transition?


Like Barcelona and Rotterdam, a city that is easy to walk and comfortable to live in would have more benefits in tourism. The point is not to shut down the car immediately, but to give more options to people, for example allowing only electric cars and providing other transportation methods. 

<Mr. Katagishi>

It would be amazing if Kanazawa becomes a city like Zermatt where only electric cars are allowed. I feel like it would be better to change people’s mindset in that kind of direction.

<Question from Katagishi-san to Mr. Derk>

How did you make everyone agree to one person’s idea as a policy? I would like to know if you have any tips. 


Making a plan that says “everyone agreed” and expecting it be implemented someday is just a dream or an illusion. We should focus on people’s actions, how we can all positively keep working for a better future. If you have a strong opinion of  what the future should look like, you should talk and connect with individuals who are in tune with that belief, and in that case you don’t need all the stakeholders to agree with you.

More than 60 people gathered to participate in this event, likely because the theme of  “transportation” was familiar and relevant to their lives. Derk said, “I would start with the little things like this cafe first. This could be the start of something big, I believe it could”. 

The official website of Kanazawa SDGs IMAGINE KANAZAWA 2030 has been launched. Check out the upcoming SDGs cafe schedule as well. Https://kanazawa-sdgs.jp


Report on Hokuriku SDGs Stakeholder Meeting 2019

On December 17th, the 2019 Hokuriku SDGs Stakeholder Meeting was held jointly with the Kanazawa Institute of Technology at the Kanazawa Theatre.

This meeting was held as a regional version of the Stakeholders Meeting for Revision of the SDGs Implementation Guidelines hosted at the United Nations University Headquarters on September 6, 2019.  People from various parts of the Hokuriku region, including those from the private business sector, local governments, and citizens who had already been working on SDGs participated in this meeting and discussed the future of Hokuriku region and presented a sustainable plan for the future, looking forward to the next generation.

First, Mr. Kazuhiko Takemoto, a visiting professor at the United Nations University Institute for the Sustainability Advanced Studies, gave an opening speech. He talked about the importance of such a meeting being held in rural areas when the implementation guidelines for the SDGs are revised at the end of the year.

Next, Mr. Kentaro Endo, Counselor of the Cabinet Office Regional Revitalization Promotion Secretariat, gave a greeting and explained the nation’s policy towards achieving SDGs and regional revitalization. 

In addition, Associate Prof. Shintaro Hiramoto, Director of the SDGs Promotion Centre at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, shared information and explained the purpose of the meeting and how to proceed with the breakout sessions.

The meeting was divided into 5 subsequent sessions, and each group produced a specific plan for Hokuriku in 2030 in the form of a scenario.

What does it mean to be a comfortable city for everyone to live in?

Why do people, money, things, and information gather in Tokyo? How can we apply the SDGs perspective to revitalize the region and change this trend?

Facilitator: Yuki Mishima (President of Fork and Landscape Designer) Tatsuya Kitagawa (Department of Information Management, Kanazawa Institute of Technology)

Innovation: Production in the countryside and transmission to the world: What do we produce and transmit, and how do we gain the world’s understanding? Will the SDGs be its common language, and how will it co-exist with technology?

Facilitator: Hiromi Onuma (Representative of Hiro), Kenichiro Fukushima (Representative Director of Code for Kanazawa, Representative Director of Eye Publishing Inc.)

Education: Careers and learning in a 100-year lifetime society:

How do you enjoy and build a career over a lifetime of 100 years?

Facilitator: Naoki Miyatani (Start SDGs Operation Manager) Shoko Maruyama (Family Business Facilitator)

Partnership: A mechanism to bring everyone’s power together in the community

-How can various actors co-create across sectors and organizations in order to achieve the SDGs?

Facilitator: Hirofumi Taniuchi (Kanazawa City Citizens’ Activities Support Center) Naoyuki Tsukamoto (Company Inc.)

Diversity: A society where diverse people can participate in decision making

How will our lives change if we can create a society where diverse people can participate in decision-making?

Facilitator: Kenji Kitamura (Coordinator of Social Division, Noto SDGs Laboratory) Sayaka Watanabe (Representative of re: terra)

During each session, members first looked over materials such as the NRI Future Chronological Table 2020-2100 and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ TECH Strategy for the Future. They then drew up a vision of what work styles and lifestyles might be like in 2045. Next, members created a “persona,” a hypothetical person whose life they would simulate through an example scenario, including specific details of their life story and turning points.

After the afternoon breakout sessions, the scenarios were reported to the local students, the next generation who would hold the future of Hokuriku region. Many ideas were shared, such as the systems enabled by technological advances and changes in family structure. 

Thank you to all of the participants who took their work seriously to the end. We also thank the students who participated in the sharing session in the end.


Cleaning workshop at Shinrensha Temple 

On July 4, 2019, a garden cleaning workshop was held at Shinrensha Temple. This event was organised by Dr. Ivars (Researcher at OUIK), Dr. Mamadowa (Associate Professor, International Organization of Kanazawa University) and Dr. Iida (Collaborative Research Center for Environmental Research in the Sea of ​​Japan, Kanazawa University). 

This time, 14 exchange students from Kazan Federal University, Russia participated to learn about Kanazawa’s culture and history while strolling through the Higashi Chaya district and cleaning the garden. At the end of the event, a tea ceremony was held in front of the garden which they had just cleaned. 

One of the students commented “While cleaning the garden, I was able to take a closer look at it, which  made me admire it even more”. 

Kanazawa SDGs Café #8 “What is Needed to Connect with Others and Help Each Other? -Thinking About a New Form of Partnership”

This SDGs Café’s topic was “partnership”. We invited Mr. Hiroishi from K.K. Empublic and Ms. Kasama from the Kanazawa City Government as guest speakers to imagine Kanazawa in 2030. The SDGs can only be realized through strong partnerships, a point made clear by the explicit inclusion of partnerships in the Goals themselves (Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals). After Ms. Nagai from OUIK introduced the collaborative project between Kanazawa City and JC Kanazawa, Ms. Kasama commented that “My dream is that in 2030, Kanazawa will be a city where everyone can naturally work together to solve social issues.” 

Mr. Hiroishi, who works on various partnership projects, introduced problem-solving processes and methods. He explained that ”complex problems” and “difficult problems” are different: difficult problems can be answered, but today’s social problems are complex, with diverse elements and complex contexts that interact and intertwine, so the main cause of the problem cannot be identified. Until now, we have solved one problem at a time. In other words, the only premise is a “problem-free situation”. “What is a problem-free situation? And is it really a good approach to solve problems one by one? At the end of the day it might be quicker and the total cost is cheaper if we try to make a situation where everyone is happy. ” Dynamic problems that are occurring in the system and those that are caused by complex factors require complex solutions. When a problem occurs, it is not something that can be solved if someone does something, rather it is necessary for the local community and society to improve so that they can either solve problems or prevent them in their early stages. 

After Mr. Hiroishi’s presentation, participants had a discussion over a newly introduced SDGs action plan for Kanazawa. 

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