Collaboration among locals and settlers that creates new Satoyama livelihoods in Atsuma, Japan

In Satoyama Initiative
Non Peer-reviewed Article

Larch forestry has thrived in Atsuma town under a relatively mild climate and clear-cutting operations have been carried out with well-developed forest roads. Besides, a new trend is emerging. It is a trial-and-error process to find diversity in the way people relate to the forest and reflect it in the way they make a living. The horse logging business offers a different value than the efficient clear-cutting by heavy machinery. Rather than cutting down all trees, people are beginning a trial-and-error process to carefully cultivate and use forests by taking care of trees and understanding species, thickness, and condition of each piece of timber one by one. In addition, a movement to create Wagyu culture that coexists with forests over the next 100 years, and to transmit it from Atsuma to the rest of the world, is also gaining momentum.

While the aging of those engaged in forestry is a concern throughout Japan, the number of young forestry professionals is increasing in Atsuma, partly due to the success of LVS. In addition, a generational shift is taking place in local forestry companies, and mid-career staff members are playing a central role in policymaking at the town government. The younger generation of forestry professionals is gathering together and sharing ideas for new challenges.

One young manager from a local forestry company said, “Even if you talk about forestry in one word, no one is doing the same thing. Everyone is different. Talking with others naturally motivates me to come up with ideas, and I start to think about things that I normally can’t work on. Ten years ago, it felt like we were running the forestry business individually, but now I feel that we are connected, and there is a sense that we are all working together to improve the forestry in Atsuma.” He welcomes the new movement. Another young person who moved to Atsuma as a new member of the LVS is now engaged in activities with a vision of creating a natural hardwood forest of about 2 hectares in the near future, producing high-quality large-diameter timber, processing and using it in various ways, and connecting with consumers in Tomakomai and Sapporo. With their own challenges, they are working together to improve Atsuma as a whole through competition and cooperation. Atsuma is heading toward a new era.