April 09, 2012
Revenge of the trees
In chapter 21 of Serpent of Time, Ryô notes that "the area around Mt. Kôya had grown quite wild in the intervening years."
As a recent NHK documentary pointed out, one of the ironies of modern Japan is that it's more heavily forested now than at any time in the past 400 years, despite having four times the population density of California.
A burst of castle building during the Warring States period of the late 16th century, and the fuel and construction demands of oil-starved Japan during and after WWII, led to widespread deforestation and destructive hillside erosion.
The Tokugawa shogunate launched reclamation efforts in the 17th century, and significantly pruned the number of allowed castles. Similar programs following the devastation of WWII met with remarkable success.
Then foreign lumber imports priced domestic producers out of the market. Now untended tree farms, mostly comprised of Japanese cedar, are the problem.
The unharvested trees crowd out themselves and other species, causing the erosion they were supposed to prevent. The whole country is allergic to cedar pollen, which descends from the mountains like a horror movie monster.
|Courtesy Andy Heatwole.|
And we all thought Japan was going to be destroyed by Godzilla. Maybe the trees will save Japan by giving Godzilla a bad case of hay fever.