Preservation of ‘Totoro’s Forest’ threatened as volunteers age

The Yomiuri Shimbun
“Totoro’s Forest #1” acquired by the Totoro no Furusato Foundation in 1991 in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

SAITAMA — The Totoro no Furusato Foundation faces a growing challenge preserving Sayama Hills, known as Totoro no Mori (Totoro’s Forest) that stretches across Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo, due to its aging volunteers and the expansion of the conservation area.

The foundation, based in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, has been preserving the lush nature of Sayama Hills for more than 30 years.

The vast Totoro’s Forest woodland area is known as the real-life location of director Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed animated feature, “Tonari no Totoro” (My Neighbor Totoro.)

The foundation working to preserve the nature in the areas held a meeting on Nov. 23 at Kurosuke’s House, a traditional folk house in Tokorozawa, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their activities. They lauded their achievements and presented plans for conserving and restoring the nature.

The foundation, which began work to preserve Totoro’s Forest in 1990 under its predecessor, the National Trust of Totoro no Furusato, has acquired 56 sites covering a total of about 10.5 hectares in five cities and one town in Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A meeting to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the foundation’s activities is held at Kurosuke’s House in Tokorozawa on Nov. 23.

They also noted the results of conservation work to protect plants such as gentian, small animals, and insects such as fireflies.

“We have received a certain level of appreciation and understanding from landowners and local people for our work over the past 30 years,” said the fund’s executive director Yutaka Ogino.

He also raised some practical issues, such as the aging volunteers and the expansion of the conservation area, which has hindered the maintenance of the forests and grasslands, with some woodlands not receiving enough sun light.

“It is important to pass on our activities to the next generation, but it is also difficult,” Ogino said.

They also announced plans for the next about 10 years until 2030, with aims to improve the quality of management of acquired land by adding new ideas; formulate a master plan for the conservation of the entire Sayama Hills; and establish regulations to support national trust activities and an ordinance on the sharing of roles with local governments.