Water, which is beneficial to our lives, can also threaten us through acts of Mother Nature. Speaking of water, we should start with an essential element, the forest. While traveling along the routes of water, you can observe how Shonai lives together with nature in harmony and with a vision for the future.
A virgin forest of beech trees tended to by locals.
In the silent and lush forest, we can readily see fine lines of water trickling down the trunks. These are beech trees, which have a distinctive system of water dripping along leaves, branches and stems in order to secure moisture for their roots. A beech tree’s high water-holding capacity results from this system, and they accumulate a good amount of water internally and underground.
“Beech trees are slow growth trees. After WWII, to ensure a large amount of fuel efficiently, beech trees were cut down and cedars were replanted instead throughout the country. So, existing beech tree forests, like here, are declining year by year,” said Mr. Masahiko Manabe from Yamagata Prefectural Nature Museum Gardens. “This is not a man-made site for leisure. This is a place where real wildlife and season transitions can be sensed.”
In the forest, there are a wide variety of plants besides beech trees. However, naturalized plants are not able to flourish here. “This is an obvious difference between a man-made site and a virgin forest. The former requires manpower in order to prevent an invasion of introduced species. On the contrary, the latter, like here, has its own system to maintain and recover by itself,” Mr. Manabe explained.
When ranging through the inner woods, we hit a zone where curved trees bristle. “Heavy snowfall creates these curves,” stated Mr. Manabe. The trees adapt to and survive from the harsh natural environment, such as with a maximum 20 ft of snowfall. “Due to heavy snowfall, Yamagata Prefectural Nature Museum Gardens is closed from the beginning of November until the following April. Once it reopens in May, you would be amazed by the scenery with bright green leaves coming out from a white carpet of snow.”