On June 1, Hokkaido Diocese assisted in a tree-planting event organized by the town of Toyako, which will provide the venue for the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July when the heads of the world’s eight leading industrialized nations will discuss global environmental concerns, among other issues.
Toyako saw the tree-planting project as an opportunity to send a strong message about the environment just five weeks before the summit. This town–famous for its beautiful natural setting, including Lake Toya and Mt. Usu–was chosen over other candidates as being the most appropriate venue in Japan for the summit expected to focus on the environment.
The event brought together about 300 local residents and 280 followers from Hokkaido Diocese–including members of its Disaster Relief Hinokshin Corps–who together planted 1,869 trees of about 10 local species such as cherry and Yezo spruce. Mayor of Toyako Yoshio Nagasaki and Director-in-Chief of Tenrikyo Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi conducted a commemorative planting of trees.
The relationship between Toyako and Hokkaido Diocese goes back to 1977, when Mt. Usu erupted, covering much of this town in a thick layer of volcanic ash. The Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps was among the first to come to the aid of the affected communities where no heavy machinery could be used. The corps managed to clear 480 homes of volcanic ash and debris in four days. The corps also provided help after the volcano erupted again in 2000.
In the hills where the trees were planted, the layer of volcanic ash made it necessary to dig as deep as 50 cm (1.6 ft) in order to enable the trees to take root. Members of the Hinokishin Corps handled much of the digging, after which local residents planted tress.
The day before the tree-planting event, Hokkaido Diocese performed a ceremony to pray for world peace and brotherhood, with both Mayor Nagasaki and Director-in-Chief Iburi in attendance. Rev. Iburi, in his speech at the ceremony, referred to two aspects of Tenrikyo’s attitude to tackling the environmental issues. “One is the understanding that global warming is attributable to human arrogance and conceit, which means that we all need to engage in serious self-reflection,” he said. “The other is that, if we are to reverse the environmental crisis, it is important to maintain our resolve to overcome the attitude that ‘all is well if the present is well for oneself alone.’ . . . Based on Oyasama’s teachings, we will work tirelessly to help establish world peace for all human beings, who are equally brothers and sisters.”