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木育(mokuiku) Nature it is [ 2012.11.08 ]

[NewsJapan.net] The chance to feel nature close-up

On the rooftop of the Keyakizaka Complex in Roppongi Hills (Minato-ku, Tokyo), there is a calm green space with the bright sun shining through trees, which makes you forget for a moment that you are in the middle of a big city. The “Memories of the Summer Holidays – Mokuiku by parents and children,” a workshop for kids, was held at the rooftop green space toward the end of August. This project was organized by Kumamoto Prefecture, which aims to achieve “living in harmony with forests,” in cooperation with the Roppongi Hills business owner Mori Building Co., Ltd., to give an opportunity to learn the importance of forests and trees through the prefecture’s wood. A lot of publicly-recruited parents and children experienced the feel of the wood directly for about two hours.

The word “木育 (Mokuiku)” was born in 2004 in Hokkaido. The word means “an educational activity to teach citizens and children the good points of wood as a material and the meaning of using it, with a view to deepening their familiarity with wood and their understanding of wood culture” (*1). Behind the promotion of such educational and social activities is the fact that compared with their parents, the present generation has got so used to a life style that makes no use of wood because of the diffusing Internet and household game machines, or the changing dwelling environment, that they have fewer opportunities to get involved with wood from childhood. In recent years, however, more parents want their small children to get to know the aroma and warmth of the natural wood and the importance of nature, and casual events for such parents and children are getting popular.
Kumamoto Prefecture has 463.334 hectares of woodland, occupying 63% of the whole prefecture. Kumamoto is one of the leading forestry prefectures in Japan; it formulated the “Kumamoto Basic Plan for Forests, Forestry, and Lumber Industry” (revised in March 2012), the basic policy of which is to promote the use of lumber in the prefecture and utilize its forest resources.

Mr. Nobuyuki Mori, who is involved in Mokuiku as he makes wood products in Amakusa City in the prefecture, was invited as a lecturer and talked about the importance and roles of the forest, by using a picture-card show for children. The participating parents and children worked together and polished roughly finished spoons, chopsticks and forks, all of which are made of Japanese cedar in Kumamoto Prefecture. They finally came up with smoothly finished “treasures of the forest” of their own making in the aroma of woodchips. In the “wood block” corner, small children enjoyed playing wood blocks with “Kumamon,” Kumamoto’s popular costumed character.

In addition to Kumamoto Prefecture, which planned this workshop, Hokkaido, another leader of Mokuiku, designated October 8 as “Wood Day,” because the Chinese character for ‘wood’ is a combination of the characters for ‘ten’ and ’eight.’ It has been very eager for Mokuiku, and is conducting Mokuiku festivals in various places in the prefecture. As interest in Mokuiku has been growing, apart from municipal governments, a variety of attempts involving households, local communities and experts are taking place positively and steadily in various parts of the country to nurture children’s and young people’s love for nature and wood.

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