Why We Plant Trees in Hokkaido (the Corner of the World)

A sprout is coming out of a acorn on the ground.
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For whom the wedding bells toll

There is a famous expression that says “We can be the star only three times in the life: the moment we were born; at a wedding; at a funeral. It’s only a wedding when we are conscious.” In this sense, I can understand many people go crazy over a wedding ceremony. On the other hand, the special divorce rate (the annual number of registrations of divorce against marriage) is always over 30% in Japan. In fact, we may be able to be the star more than three times, though I never say this to people just before marriage, of course.

Japanese wedding ceremonies are not closely related to religions nowadays. It’s more like an entertainment event. According to the market principles, wedding companies introduce every mean to entertain guests, but surprisingly enough, as far as I’ve searched, a bouquet toss is not so popular especially among women. Some comments found on the Internet say “It’s too embarrassing if it makes me look so needy and desperate for marriage.” Entertainment is always difficult. By the way, as you can see from the title, today’s subject is not wedding ceremonies, not entertainment. The introduction of these two paragraphs leads you to the unpredictable ending as always. Please read on!

We plant trees as long as there is a hope for the future.

Another activity in a wedding ceremony, which is popular in Japan recently, is tree planting. The bride and groom are supposed to plant and water a small young tree (olive tree in most cases) in a pot together, wishing to create a loving family in the future. Tree planting itself has been common as a celebration ceremony in Japan. For example, it takes place very often to celebrate building completion. Aside from whether or not it’s fun to see, it seems like tree planting makes people have a positive feeling at all times and places.

Why do you think tree planting can give such a positive impression? I think it’s probably because it takes a long time for trees to grow, sometimes longer than human life. In other words, we can’t plant trees without hope for the future, and this is why tree planting is suitable for happy events to celebrate the beginning of something, such as a wedding, building completion ceremony, etc. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” As it is in the above words of Martin Luther (there is a theory that they were not his words though), hope for the future is always the only driver for us to go forward even in a tough situation.

Tree planting by wooden furniture makers for future generations

We, people working in the wooden furniture industry in Hokkaido, plant oak trees every year. Last Sunday was the day of tree planting, and about 300 people were gathered and planted 2,000 oak trees. It takes about 100 years for oak trees to grow enough as a material for wooden furniture. Some family members including kids joined the tree-planting event, and even those kids can’t see furniture made of the trees planted on the day. It may be a little sad, but we all enjoy the tree-planting event every year not because a barbecue party is always held after tree planting but because there is a hope for the future.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


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