OUIK > Events > Collaborative research > Kanazawa > SDGs Café #18: Let’s consider the use of wood in the Wooden Culture City Kanazawa


SDGs Café #18: Let’s consider the use of wood in the Wooden Culture City Kanazawa

日時 / Date : 2021/10/14
場所 / Place : オンライン

50 years have passed since the forestation project began, and many of the trees have grown enough to be cut down. In the meanwhile, the Wooden Culture City project began as a result of city planning in order to promote the use of timber and local wood in the construction of new buildings, while maintaining traditional buildings such as Kanazawa machiya.


Potential of wooden buildings in the Kanazawa downtown area to realise the Wooden Culture City Kanazawa

Tomohiro Miyashita from Kanazawa Institute of Technology, a member of the Wooden Culture City Kanazawa Committee, presented his vision for the future Wooden Culture City Kanazawa.


Although it is a large city, Kanazawa also contains woods on its outskirts. Mountains, villages and farms are located along the rivers flowing into the sea. Kanazawa was not damaged during the war and many beautiful buildings still remain in its central area. How local people and the government should cooperate to preserve this environment and hand it down to future generations is an important issue.

After the war, Japan aimed to construct non-burnable cities, and proceeded with the construction of non-burnable buildings. Constructing new wooden buildings along the main roads in central areas is prohibited, in order to create fireproof building zones.

Among the large cities in Japan, Kanazawa is a rare case where areas with many wooden buildings, such as Owari-cho, still remain along the main roads. More than 70 percent of the buildings are three-storied or lower structures built on small plots, with human-scale landscapes that match the wooden structures. In addition to wooden buildings, modernist architecture built in the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods remains in the area. The attraction of this area is produced through the mixture of these different types of structures. More interestingly, this area contains shops of rare goods such as traditional medicine, candles and flags. I am attracted to the fact that traditional buildings are maintained along with cultures. Many cities in Japan are attempting to eliminate wooden buildings from their downtown areas. However, Kanazawa endeavors to maintain wooden buildings in the designated Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings and Komachinami areas. I hope that refined, attractive townscapes will appear in Kanazawa in the future.


The present condition of woods in Kanazawa and how to use the forest environment transfer tax

The tree doctor Hirofumi Ueda from the Forest Revitalization Department of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Bureau of Kanazawa City spoke about the present condition of forests in Kanazawa and the plan for the forest environment transfer tax.


Forests are indispensable in preserving land and life, since they prevent global warming and disasters. However, due to a shortage of workers, forests’ conditions have not been improved yet. Thus, the Law Concerning Forest Environment Tax and Forest Environment Transfer Tax was established in 2019 in order to secure funding for local governments’ forest management and for municipalities to implement a new “business management system”.

About 60% of the area of Kanazawa City (approx. 28,000ha) is occupied by forest. 75% of the forest is occupied by natural woods of broad-leaf trees and 19% is covered with artificial woods of Japanese cedar and cypress trees that were planted to produce timber. Kanazawa City manages about 2,000ha of woods, which contain many trees that have grown enough to be cut down. However, felling has been postponed by 40 years. Normally, forests have a cycle comprised of planting, growing, felling and using trees; however, this cycle has been disrupted in Kanazawa, since no trees are being planted or felled at present.

The city’s review committee has proposed that the forest environment transfer tax apply not only to artificial woods but also to the natural woods that exist in abundance in the city. They have proposed a different cycle for natural woods; the arrow in the cycle does not return to the starting point but rises gradually in a spiral according to the growth of the woods and the changes in society. Thus, we can hand down various types of forests to future generations.

In order to realise this vision, we should continue to take actions to activate the cycle of protecting, using, enjoying and learning about woods.


Growing forests for constructing a future city: what is needed for the present wooden culture city

Kanazawa has an extraordinary plan regarding the use of the forest environment transfer tax. The plan takes various factors such as people’s spirit and culture into consideration. However, it is really difficult to implement the two projects of forestation and city planning simultaneously. Tetsuya Yasuda of NPO Sound Woods, who has been engaged in many architectural and city planning projects, gave us his thoughts about it.


Based in Hyogo and Osaka, we are working to coordinate the balance of forestation and city planning to maximise the results.

By the way, why do you think timber is attracting attention now? I suppose there are three reasons: compared to fossil resources, wood materials are at hand and obtained more easily in Japan; they need less energy to be processed for use; and they can be recycled in a shorter period. Wood can be reused in cycles of 50 or 60 years, and it absorbs greenhouse gases. Therefore, wood is a resource that can help realise SDGs and support future society.

In artificial forests, wood’s advantages can be retained by using it while maintaining its circulation cycle; however, artificial forests in Japan have two big problems at present. Firstly, although 70 years have passed since the war and the number of trees in artificial forests that need to be cut down are increasing, they are left untouched. Therefore, wood is not used, and new forests cannot be produced. Secondly, although the timber’s self-supply ratio has increased from 20 percent during the worst period in 2002 to 40 percent now, the forest owners cannot earn enough income due to the low price of cedar and cypress timbers. As a result, they cannot invest in new forests or maintain the forests after cutting down trees. Securing forest owners’ income is an important task that is required in order for subsequent generations to inherit the forestry industry.

Furthermore, unfortunately no one buys thick timber, since there is no practice of using it in the current manufacturing and distribution processes. Thick timber can be used for the construction of buildings larger than ordinary houses and for public architecture constructed as a result of city planning.


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