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Exhibition Heritage Heroes at the 39th Session in Bonn


Heritage Heroes – Japan

Tessei Shiba

Shiba on the beach of Nagata, Yakushima.
Photography: Michael Schaab

Masaharu Hyodo

Hyodo at the fishing village of Isso,Yakushima.
Photography: Michael Schaab

Japan, Yakushima
(Natural World Heritage *1993 )

"Only by moving back to Yakushima were we able to ensure the true protection of our island." (Masaharu Hyodo)

Since 1969, Masaharu Hyodo and Tessei Shiba have engaged in an organisation with more than 100 members to save the special ecosystem of Yakushima Island. The forest and its Yakusugi cedars, that are up to 3000 years old, have been massively threatened by logging since the 1960s.

Hyodo recognised the danger and mobilised universities in Tokyo, the media and the parties convincing them of the urgent need to save the island. When he and fellow campaigners finally decided to move back from Tokyo to their home area, they succeeded in gaining the support of the local population and in carrying on this aspiration together.

In 1982, the government stopped the excessive logging and thereby paved the way for the region to be recognised as a natural World Heritage site by the World Heriage Committee in 1993.

Shiba points out the new challenges for the island’s eco-system. While the fauna of the island had been regulated by the island inhabitants and their rituals over millenia, now other methods have to be found to regulate the over-population of the fauna.

It is therefore vital that Hyodo and Shiba not only relentlessly convey their knowledge but also their commitment to this natural World Heritage with the island’s inhabitants, especially with the younger generations.