FEAST bee team together with Nakagyo Ward Office, RIHN PR Section and Open Team Science Project organized the 23rd RIHN Regional Community Seminar “Towards bee-friendly cities – co-creating urban futures” at Nakagyo Ward Office on November 4th. Kyoto Branch of Wild Bird Society of Japan and Public Interest Incorporated Association Kyoto City Greenery Association also played a vital part in this event as partners, and Japanese-Bee Weekend Beekeepers Club, NPO Citizens Environmental Foundation, Horikawa Midorino Machizukuri Kai (Horikawa re-greening club) and Rakusai Shizen Nouen (Rakusai natural farm) as supporters.
When the participants list filled up quickly during the registration period, we already got a hint that alike many other cities around the world, also in Kyoto the seminar’s topic of ‘a future with bees’ has gained greatly in public interest. Consequently, more than 100 attendees were willing to learn about bees, beekeeping and honey, observe a rooftop beehive, taste honey, and exchange with knowledgeable local community leaders at their booths and in the panel discussion time. As organizers we could not be happier with the outcome.
Just prior to the event, the hashtag #38やさしいまち (‘honeybee-friendly city’) had been created to collect in social networks all kinds of infos and examples on what makes cities livable for bees in Japan. Leading then with good example, we tweeted live a summary of the event and we hope to find more contributions from other actors and places following in the future.
The Regional Community Seminar started with a tour to the Nakagyoku Rooftop Garden offered by the volunteers of the Miyako Mitsubachi Beekeeping Club and the Nakagyo Flower and Rooftop Greening Club. The seminar was then opened by Mr. Teruo Matsuda, Nakagyo Ward Mayor, and Mr. Tetsuzo Yasunari, Director-General of the Institute for Humanity and Nature. In their speeches, Mr. Matsuda introduced their rooftop greening and beekeeping activities, and Mr. Yasunari emphasized how bees play a role in agriculture and the environment and also touched upon how Japanese bees are sensitive to the environment, which could be possibly employed as an index for global warming.
Rika Shinkai, RIHN Visiting Researcher, followed with a presentation introducing the situation of beekeeping and honeybees in Japan. With the support of the RIHN’s Director’s Young Researcher Fund, we carried out a survey with 700 citizens in Kyoto City and had found among many other aspects, that there is an increase in hobby beekeepers especially among retirees, younger generations would like to consume more honey, and there is a general openness for greening cities and organized urban beekeeping projects.
The event’s keynote lecture was delivered by best-selling author Ms. Kyoko Maeda. She introduced the medicinal value of honey as prevention of cold, nutritional supplement, treatment for chapped lips, skin protection and as such, and illuminated the fact that not many were aware of – that certain types of honey are designated as a medical product. She then practically taught on how to take in honey most effectively, and explained if you felt a bit burnt on throat when swallowing it down, your throat was already irritated/inflamed. She also emphasized that we should be fully informed of its producer, production site and source of nectar or honey plant when purchasing honey just like when purchasing vegetables.
During the break time, all participants had the chance to mingle, ask questions to the presenters directly and interact at the booths in the back of the venue with the various, aforementioned civil society partners and supporters of this event, that are already actively working on a green, bee-friendly city. Furthermore, we displayed bee related books and provided four kinds of honey (Domestic apple, buckwheat, New Caledonia’s Pink Pepper, Kyrgyzstan’s White Honey) from Au Bon Miel in order for the participants to experience the taste differences directly.
The last part of the event was the panel discussion of four speakers that at first each introduced their own roles as bee-stakeholders:
-Mr. Isamu Nishimura (Director, Nakagyo Flower and Rooftop Greening Club) on measures on beekeeping at the rooftop of the Nakagyo Ward Office,
-Ms. Ayano Terada (Wild Bird Society of Japan, Kyoto Branch) on insects including bees and city from the perspective of a bird lover
-Mr. Saeki Masakazu (Organic farmer / JA Kyoto Shujakuno Branch Chief) on urban agriculture,
-Mr. Taisuke Tanaka (Greenery Promotion Section Chief, Greenery Policy Promotion Office, Kyoto City Construction Bureau) on park greening and improvement projects that Kyoto city had been working on.
This was followed by a round of questions collected from the floor such as “How can we keep bees at a housing complex such as apartment?”, “Are vegetables not being stolen in urban farm?”, “How can I participate in greening activities?”. And, Christoph Rupprecht, FEAST Senior Researcher and the facilitator, mentioned the possibility of having bee supporters, like the street tree supporters.
Lastly we are happy to announce that we successfully gained research funding to continue working together with the gained insight from this RIHN Regional Community Seminar. This means several participatory/action research style activities to be organized in which we can work together with stakeholders and discuss how to concretely move towards a bee-friendly Kyoto.
(The original post written partially in Japanese and English. Translated and edited by Yuko K.)
Please find the visual recording of the seminar from the link below (Japanese only):