Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 17 (pp.2 & 50–51)

Running through Green Woods—Railway Forests in Japan (1)

The Tohoku Line started full operations between Tokyo and Aomori in 1891, marking the opening up of the deep hinterland to modern travel. But travelling in this region in winter by rail was sometimes a harrowing experience. Trains were frequently delayed, or even trapped for days in the wilderness due to snowdrifts. Dr Seiroku Honda, a young professor of silviculture at the Imperial University of Tokyo, suggested afforestation to protect tracks from blowing snow, marking the birth of the Railway Forestry System. This System, which was the railways' first use of forestry to benefit train operations, became a nationwide programme shortly after the first efforts on the Tohoku Line proved remarkably successful.
Since those early days, the railway network has reaped the rewards of wayside forests as protection against various natural hazards including snowdrifts, avalanches, sand drifts, rock falls, wind, floods, fire, droughts, etc. Although modern tracks might be able to withstand many of these natural hazards without the protection of woods, we value them as helping our technologies coexist in harmony with the environment.
Makoto Shimamura

Photo: Ranru Forest—The forested Soya Main Line is protected against snowdrifts. The woods have a typical mature mixed stand structure. Young trees take over the role of mature trees after they are harvested.
(G-1 Studio)
Photo: Kamimena Forest along the Hakodate Main Line.
(G-1 Studio)
Photo: Hirafu Forest—The wooded Hakodate Main Line with Mt Yotei in the background.
(G-1 Studio)
Photo: Bibaushi Forest—Woods prevent snowdrifts along the Furano Line which passes through one of Japan's most popular winter resort areas.
(G-1 Studio)

Running through Green Woods—Railway Forests in Japan (2)

Photo: Seiroku Honda, the founding father of the Railway Forestry System, was also the designer of Hibiya Park, the first westernstyle garden in Japan, and the grounds of the Meiji Shrine, both in Tokyo.
(Transportation Museum)
Photo: Shigegura Forest—The once bare slopes along the Joetsu Line suffered frequent avalanches, but are now safe under a cover of dark green cedars.
(G-1 Studio)
Photos: Sekine Forest—The Yamagata Shinkansen running on the Ou Main Line provides one of the most spectacular views of a snowbreak forest from a shinkansen.
(G-1 Studio & Asahi Newspaper Co.)

Running through Green Woods—Railway Forests in Japan (3)

Photo: Michikawa Forest—The coastal Uetsu Main Line is protected against sand drifts by deep pine forests.
(G-1 Studio)
Photo: Kameda Forest on the Uetsu Main Line.
(G-1 Studio)
Photos: Okaya Forest—These woods along the Chuo Line are designed to compensate for the negative environmental impact of railway viaducts.
(G-1 Studio)