KANSAI Close-up

[Columns]Unusual growth of bamboos annoys Kyoto

Bamboos have been growing abnormally in forests in Yawata City and other cities and towns in the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture, threatening to harm other plants. Concerned about the adverse effects of the bamboo proliferation, the Kyoto Prefectural Government has begun taking measures to deal with the situation.
Bamboo trees, particularly those produced in Yawata, are famous for their high quality and known as the material used for the filament of an incandescent electric bulb invented by Thomas Edison. The abnormal growth of bamboos in southern Kyoto is attributed to the fact that bamboo forests in the region have been left uncared for due to increasing imports of bamboo shoots and shrinking demand for bamboo ware.
There are 6,700 hectares of bamboo forests in Kyoto Prefecture, 1,400 hectares of which are located in 14 cities and towns in the south, including Yawata, Kyotanabe, Kumiyama and Uji. According to the Yamashiro Regional Promotion Office of the Kyoto Prefectural Government, bamboo forests in the 14 municipalities account for 3.8% of all forests there. The ratio is more than double the 1.6% for other parts of the prefecture.
Bamboos in Kyoto are mostly ""moso-dake""(a species of thick-stemmed bamboo) which are used as building materials. The region administered by the Yamashiro office had 232 hectares of bamboo shoot farms as of 2003. Bamboo-shoot production that year totaled 1,904 tons, of which 1,602 were shipped to the marketplace.
However, bamboo forests have been left unattended due to worsening profitability, coupled with labor shortage, resulting from rising bamboo-shoot imports and stagnant demand for bamboo products. The area of abandoned bamboo forests has been steadily increasing.

Projects by local citizens
Bamboos have a short lifespan of about 15 years, but grow and proliferate quickly. The number of bamboo trees increases rapidly unless they are thinned out or properly cared for. The roots of bamboos in unattended forests spread to neighboring afforested areas and impair the water-preserving capability of forest soil. In addition, the bamboos spreading to neighboring afforested areas grow and block the sunlight and wind, which in turn prevents the growth of shrubs and lay waste to wooden resources.
Efforts to prevent the expansion of unattended bamboo forests and enhance the utility value of bamboo forests would be the only way to remedy the situation. The Yamashiro Regional Promotion Office thus has launched a bamboo forest preservation initiative, calling on local citizens to participate in the project as volunteers. Staff members of the office and civic volunteers undertook bamboo preservation activities in two designated model forests in Yamashiro in May and June, and in a 10-are model bamboo forest in Jindoji, Yamashiro Town, on December 4.
The last event brought together staff members of the town office and local residents as well as 35 volunteers. The event activities included cutting old bamboo trees and making bamboo charcoal.
Besides, the promotion office has held various other events aimed at having citizens deepen their knowledge of bamboo, including a workshop in Otokoyama, Yawata City, in which citizens experienced the making of charcoal with bamboo trees, and a bamboo fair in Joyo City. Yamashiro officials say that these events helped heighten local residents' interest in bamboo, as reflected in the inauguration of a volunteer group called ""Yawata Bamboo Club"" which engages in various activities for the revival of bamboo culture such as the holding of a bamboo ware workshop.

High-value-added commodities
According to the Kyoto Prefectural Federation for the Promotion of the Bamboo Industry, there are about 200 companies in Kyoto Prefecture doing bamboo-related business and they are striving to reinforce the Kyoto bamboo industry by developing high-value-added commodities using Kyoto bamboos highly rated as a building material and as craftwork material.
The problem of devastation of bamboo forests will hopefully be settled before long by increased dem