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.