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.
OUIK Biocultural Diversity Series #5 Restoring Kinship with Nature through Japanese Gardens -The Challenge to Achieve a Sustainable Commons in Kanazawa
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.
OUIK Biocultural Diversity Series #4 [Learning About the Satoyama and Satoumi of Hokuriku Region from Maps]
At present, over 180 companies, organisations and individuals are registered as partners of IMAGINE KANAZAWA 2030, and are studying each other’s activities through workshops and exchange meetings.
The theme of the 19th SDGs Café was “how are partnerships developing in Kanazawa?”. The participants revisited the meaning of partnerships, going beyond their own framework, from the perspective of “collective impact”, which refers to joint initiatives with shared visions.
Examining the change in people’s awareness toward the ideal partnerships realised in 2030
Our guest this time was Hiroki Uda, a pharmacist working for Kanazawa City Hospital and the president of Yaku-yaku Renkei SDGs Kanazawa (pharmacist partnership). He became interested in the SDGs when he attended a lecture by OUIK office manager Ms. Nagai, and he started to explore partnerships aimed at solving the problem of unused medicine.
Yaku-yaku Renkei SDGs KANAZAWA is intended for all people involved in medicine who are working to secure health and welfare, including pharmacists working for pharmacies and hospitals. In the field of medication, a cross-sector partnership such as this is truly groundbreaking.
The preamble of their bylaw declares that “all the activities aim to solve social problems in order to attain SDGs”. At present, the two projects of “saving children from COVID19” and “eliminating unused medicine” are underway. Unused medicine refers to medicine that is left unused in homes. It is estimated that 10 billion ~ 874.4 billion yen worth of medicine is left unused annually. Most of the cost for such unused medicine is borne by social insurance expenses (taxation); therefore, this is a serious problem for the whole country. We are now developing an app in collaboration with Code for Kanazawa to solve this problem.
How has people’s awareness of the SDGs changed? First, I would like to talk about the change in my awareness. I did not know anything about the SDGs one year ago. I realised the SDGs are issues of relevance to me when I attended a lecture by the OUIK office manager Ms. Nagai in the Sightseeing Course of Kanazawa Volunteer College. A period of uncertainty began for me, and I was asking myself what I could do toward the SDGs in my life and work.
Then, I listened to Mr. Hiroishi’s keynote speech titled “Linking SDGs to local innovation” at the Hokuriku SDGs Future City Forum (click here for the report) held online in January 2021. I recognized that I could create business and jobs by applying the SDGs concept to local innovation, and started to think with excitement about trying it. Two months later, I organised an online workshop, inviting my friends. 11 participants agreed with my proposal and became facilitators of the initiative. In this way, I recognised the SDGs as my own issues and changed my awareness, and then I started to take action.
Partnerships can resolve not only pharmaceutical problems but also regional challenges
Next, Takuji Hiroishi, President of Empublic and an advisor to the Kanazawa SDGs, gave a speech on partnerships from a professional point of view:
In talks about partnerships, we often hear the concept of health promotion by local public health nurses (a way of seeking possibilities to improve people’s health through management, advocated by WHO). The idea that medical professionals such as pharmacists and doctors should care for local people (patients as clients) is called “community as a client”. However, this concept has already been recognised as ineffective for health promotion through past experiences. Thus, the new concept “community as a partner” appeared. Although it shares the same purpose of making communities healthy, this concept aims to increase the number of healthy people as partners. When this concept is applied as a solution to regional problems, all the processes such as information collection, assessment and planning are implemented through collaboration between local people and professionals, instead of a one-way approach by professionals.
He also referred to the problem of unused medicine, which Mr. Uda’s partnership initiative focuses on. When the British Royal Pharmacist Association examined the reasons why patients did not take medicine as directed, they found that patients had not been complying with directions in the first place. The patients lied to their doctors that they were taking medicine. The doctors and patients did not have sufficient communication. As a solution to this problem, they adopted the idea of concordance, which means to find appropriate treatment methods through partnerships and discussions on an equal footing. In other words, professionals should respect and listen to patients’ opinions including objections; i.e. professionals should accept patients’ right to not take medicine.
This kind of joint decision making regarding medicine can be applied to approaches in regional revitalisation and the SDGs. Bilateral, continuous dialogue between professionals and local people will produce harmony and mutual understanding, thus leading to effective, viable decisions and a better life for the community.
The will of each individual advances partnerships
In the latter period of the meeting, Mr. Uda, Mr. Hiroishi, OUIK office manager Ms. Nagai and the audience of the meeting held a discussion to deepen their understanding of partnerships.
Mr. Uda introduced his experience, saying “patients became motivated when their right to not take medicine or not undergo treatment for their disease is accepted, i.e. when they were sympathised with”. Mr. Hiroishi said, “medical professionals do not know as much about patients as they think. The same thing can be said for businesses”. He proposed that in order to improve sustainability, business people should start by realising that perhaps they do not know their clients at all. In response, Ms. Nagai talked about her experience when giving a speech about the SDGs at companies, saying “they sympathised with my opinion if I performed thorough research in advance and talked from their point of view”.
The Kanazawa SDGs will create partnerships with various companies and organisations. Lastly, Ms. Nagai asked Mr. Hiroishi for advice regarding an effective way to advance partnerships. He advised her to continue to create places for exchange, such as the SDGs Café, in order to facilitate learning through teaching other people and thereby revisiting our own understandings.
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.
The central area of Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, still retains firefly habitats. In Kanazawa, the number of fireflies had once decreased due to urbanisation and the increase of housing land since the Showa period; however, fireflies are returning to the city due to improvements in canal water quality thanks to sewerage development. Citizen organisations in Kanazawa have conducted surveys on firefly inhabitation for over 30 years. They are working actively to preserve the local nature and its living things, to hand them down to future generations.
On July 2 (Fri), as part of the Sustainable Urban Nature Project (SUN Project) of the United Nations University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Ishikawa Kanazawa Operating Unit (UNU-IAS OUIK), research associate Juan Pastor Ivars implemented a study tour for citizens to participate in the survey of firefly habitats in Saiwai-cho and Kikugawa. They walked around the areas and examined the banks along the Kuratsuki canal (constructed in the Edo period) and nearby gardens. The tour was aimed at examining firefly biology, while letting participants enjoy the sound of the stream at night and urban nature.
About 15 people, including residents of Saiwai-cho and Kikugawa, participated. During the tour, they were taught about the biology of fireflies by Mitsuhide Shinmura, Vice President of the Kanazawa Firefly Society and Chief of the Ishikawa Firefly Society Secretariat, and Koji Nakamura, Director of Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History.
Although there are about 2,000 species of fireflies living in the world, we often hear of the Genji firefly and Heike firefly in Japan. These two species have been found in Kanazawa City as well. The participants examined the number of each species living along the canal, based on their size and flashing pattern, which are different for each species.
It is difficult to find flying fireflies on rainy days, since they hide behind the leaves of waterside plants. It was raining a little on the day and the participants could not find fireflies at first. However, by carefully checking over 10 observation points, they were able to find dozens of Genji and Heike fireflies. Also, thanks to the kindness of a participant, they were able to examine the Japanese-style garden of a machiya house in the area. The participants learnt how Japanese-style gardens contribute to the biodiversity and ecosystems of cities, while enjoying the fantastic view of fireflies flying in the garden.
Fireflies have different preferences for food and habitats according to the species. We need to consider various elements in their waterfront living environments: the food such as freshwater snails and river snails, the dirt for making cocoons, and the moss for laying eggs on. Many Kanazawa citizens participate continuously in grass-roots firefly surveys such as this study tour. We hope to continue considering fireflies’ living environments together with citizens while enjoying urban nature next year.
Please read the 30-year Kanazawa Firefly Survey for details on firefly biology and the history of firefly surveys in Kanazawa City.
SDGs Café #17: Learning about green bonds, which help facilitate regional economic circulation and the reduction of CO2 emissions
The theme of the first SDGs café in 2021 was “green bonds”, a cashflow mechanism based on a new concept. Money is an important factor in the realisation of a sustainable society. This mechanism can not only solve environmental problems but also promote economic growth, and it might also contribute to the resolving of other issues.
Most large-scale green projects are implemented by large enterprises; therefore, money and jobs created by the projects often flow out of the relevant regions. However, a revolutionary project was born through collaboration between Kanazawa City, local financial institutions and other local companies. Bonds were issued to invest in the switching of city gymnasium lights to LED lights, in order to create monetary circulation in the regional economy. In this seminar, we learnt about the mechanism and possibilities of green bonds through this project.
Overview of green bonds and the project
We would like to explain the relevant technical terms first.
◆What are green bonds?
Green bonds are bonds issued to fund green projects (global warming countermeasures, recyclable energy projects, etc.) by companies or local governments. They are also called social bonds or SDGs bonds. The proceeds from their issuance are to be used for the specified types of projects.
◆What is the project to switch city gymnasiums’ lights to LED lights?
At present, about 3,000 mercury lights, which are controlled by the Minamata Convention on Mercury of the United Nations, are used in the 81 gymnasiums of elementary and junior high schools in Kanazawa City. This project intends to switch all the mercury lights to LED lights, thus reducing electricity usage, CO2 emissions and electricity expenses by two-thirds.
◆What are ESCO projects?
In these projects, energy service companies (ESCO) help reduce utility costs paid by clients (a local government in this case) and receive rewards for surpluses due to the reduced costs.
How can public-private partnerships based on private funds change Kanazawa by 2030?
President Hiroshi Sawada of Hokuriku Green Bond Co., Ltd. (the name changed to LGP Lab) talked about the establishment processes of his company and its tasks, and gave his thoughts about a society where public-private partnerships based on private funds prosper. (The following is a summary of his presentation.)
Despite the energy saving trend in companies, promoted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, energy saving in local governments has not progressed well. Therefore, in June 2017, the ministry began to discuss PPP (public-private partnership) project models aiming for the improvement of the environments in local governments. However, local small and medium-sized companies were not proficient at comprehensive environmental management in spite of their advantages in specialised fields, which worked in the favor of large companies, causing money to flow out of regional communities. As a matter of fact, this has been one of the major reasons for the weakening of regional bodies following the period of Japan’s economic growth.
We visited the Ministry of the Environment to ask for advice regarding measures to make the most use of regional resources (people, products and funds). They recommended we construct a project scheme (a plan with a framework) and apply to become a green bond issuance model project. Thus, we established Hokuriku Green Bond Co., Ltd. in March 2018. In our system, a special purpose corporation (SPC), which connects local companies, governments and financial institutions, has been established for each project in order to issue bonds, obtain funds and implement the project.
For the first project, we decided on the task of switching lights in public buildings to LED lights, since the public sector was behind the private sector in this regard. This project was adopted as a green bond issuance model project by the Ministry of the Environment.
Then, we held a seminar for municipalities of the three prefectures in Hokuriku, and many of them attended the seminar. We found that the project had a market worth dozens of billions of yen. However, when it came to the point of negotiations with the municipalities, they would start saying “we don’t have enough money to do that” or “we don’t have to do that in a hurry”. In the end they always said “it is unprecedented”, and our negotiations ended.
However, in fiscal 2020, Kanazawa City advertised publicly for an ESCO project to switch gymnasium lights to LED lights. We applied for the project in consultation with local construction companies and a financial institution (Hokkoku Bank) and entered into a contract in September. Since all the parties involved are related to Kanazawa, this project was highly evaluated as an excellent example of a Regional Recreation SDGs Public-Private Partnership Platform by the Cabinet Office.
Local governments have many projects to implement, such as countermeasures for deteriorated facilities and natural disasters, as well as earthquake-resistance reinforcement, even though these public projects produce no profits. I think green bonds can be a solution to funding these projects.
Support for a regional PPP project from a financial institution
Yuki Bessho from the Solution Group of Hokkoku Bank talked about how they could realise this scheme.
Local governments are faced with difficulties in implementing countermeasures for deteriorating facilities constructed during the bubble economy period. Due to a decreasing number of employees, municipalities are unable to construct sustainable cities alone. We participated in the project of switching gymnasium lights to LED lights in response to consultation for funding from Hokuriku Green Bond. The reasons why we accepted their application were, firstly, the project was implemented through firm collaboration between public and private sectors, and secondly, it was led by local companies. The project cost was borne by the city, and the money became revenue for the participating local companies, providing stimulus. If the local economy is activated, it will result in an increase in taxation and a gain for local governments. This project is an excellent model for monetary circulation in communities and sustainable economic activation. I think local financial institutions should be actively involved in this kind of project.
Municipalities in the Hokuriku Region have their individual challenges. I hope that municipalities will share their troubles with local people and that local companies will speak out about what they can do to help. Then, this kind of partnership will increase, leading to sustainable city planning.