A Hokkaido-based nonprofit organisation established to promote environmental awareness has opened a branch in a western Tokyo park that offers visitors sensory experiences aimed at putting them directly in touch with nature.
The NPO-Furano Field-is based in Furano, Hokkaido. Its president is the famous scriptwriter So Kuramoto.
Located in Showa Kinen Park, which straddles Tachikawa and Akishima cities and is run by the central government, the Tokyo branch offers four hands-on environmental education programs meant to use the senses to raise awareness of the importance of nature and environmental issues.
The Tokyo branch is the NPO's first venue in the Kanto region, and the fifth in the nation.
Participants can join such programs as "Hadashi no Michi" (Barefoot trails), in which they walk on trails of gravel and fallen leaves barefoot to experience nature through hearing and touch, and "46-oku nen: Chikyu no Michi" (4.6 billion years: Trails of the Earth), in which they contemplate environmental destruction since the Industrial Revolution while walking along a 460-meter path that represents the 4.6 billion-year history of the Earth.
During the programs, instructors provide information to participants based on explanations written by Kuramoto.
Kuramoto established Furano Field in 2005. Its activities include planting trees at closed golf courses with the aim of returning them back into forest land. Many primary, middle and high schools participate in such activities on school trips. The NPO offers programs at its branches in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture; Miyazu, Kyoto Prefecture; and Kitakyushu.
Showa Kinen Park was looking for ways to use its rich natural environment to help people learn about the Earth while having fun when it heard of Furano Field. Kuramoto was approached with the idea of opening a Tokyo branch of Furano Field at the park, and the branch opened on June 1.
A director of the park's management centre said, "We hope many people, regardless of age or sex, will experience the programs through school trips and training courses for teachers and company employees and will think deeply about environmental issues."
On May 30, before the opening of the Tokyo branch, Kuramoto visited the park and talked about his feelings about the branch to employees of neighbouring companies and officials of local municipalities in the vicinity.
"We want to change the mind-set of citizens living in the big city of Tokyo," he said. "We'll educate them in a way that will at the same time give them pleasure and move their hearts."
After the talk, the audience members observed three of the four hands-on programs. An official of a local municipality said, "We'd like to utilize the programs by incorporating them into local events and training for our workers."
The hands-on programs are being conducted on a trial basis in June for people who work nearby, and will be open to the public from July 1. The programs, which require reservations, are open to all ages beginning with fourth-grade primary school students.
The fees are 1,700 Yen (S$21) for adults and 900 Yen for people younger than high school age or aged 65 or older.