NIPPONIA No.24 March 15, 2003
Special Feature*
Listening to trees
Iwatani Minae, tree doctor
A tree doctor cares for old and majestic trees, examines the condition of urban trees, and devises remedies to improve their health. The key to treating a tree "patient" is to make the most of its ability to cure itself. This can involve giving it nutrients, digging holes to aerate the ground, or softening the soil. It all depends on what the tree needs.
The Japan Greenery Research and Development Center certifies tree doctors, and about 900 of them are now using their skills in the field. One tree doctor, Iwatani Minae, says that trees never give up trying to stay alive, no matter how severe the conditions. They spread their roots even in very hard soil, and send up sprouts from cracks in pavement.
"A tree doesn't speak, so we have to listen carefully to what it is saying in its own quiet way."
What can we do for a tree that cries out for help? We have to think like the tree would, instead of considering what is most convenient for us. Iwatani says this is the first step to protecting the tree and helping it grow.
For more information:
(Japanese-language website)
According to Iwatani Minae, we can get a general idea of the health of a tree by looking at the shape of its branches, the condition of its bark, and the types of parasitic fungi growing on it.

Trees as a source of life
Minami Kenko, Coordinator of Rainforest Foundation Japan
The Amazon tropical rainforest is being attacked by the spread of pastureland and mining. This was the message of the "Save the Amazon" world tour of the British rock star, Sting, in 1989. When Minami Kenko helped manage the concert in Japan, it was her first chance to learn about the Amazon.
Since then she has used her own money to finance her efforts to protect the rainforest and offer assistance to Brazil's indigenous people. For three or four months every year, she goes into the jungle in central Brazil.
"If you live with the indigenous people, you'll understand how important trees are for all humans. The forest is the source of life. When I'm surrounded by trees, I eat well and sleep well, and my digestive system works well, too. It's strange, but true."
Minami has participated in a number of support activities in the Amazon basin — planting trees, bringing medical care to the indigenous people, providing education opportunities, and more. One persistent problem is financing.
"Two years ago, the Brazilian government decided to provide official development assistance (ODA) to grass-roots organizations." The group she belongs to, Rainforest Foundation Japan, applied right away, and it looks like they will receive funds this year.
For more information:

image image
Left: Minami with the leader of an indigenous group,
examining trees planted in a forest in the state of Pará Brazil.
Right: Minami Kenko says she feels a burst of energy whenever she enters the Amazon jungle.


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