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White ‘Flags’ Shield Saplings from Deer in Shimonoseki

The Yomiuri Shimbun
White covers are seen on the mountainside in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

An array of white flags appears to blanket the mountainside in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, startling passersby with its resemblance to the ancient military camps of feudal warlords or grave markers.

Upon closer examination, however, these are not symbols of battle or death, but rather an ingenious method of plant protection. They are cylindrical polyethylene covers, employed to protect young hinoki cypress and kunugi oak from being ravaged by deer.

Each about 1.7 meters long, the covers were placed over approximately 20,000 seedlings by workers from the local forestry cooperative in February. The seedlings are planted across approximately seven hectares of land, and each received one cover.

The seedlings will continue to grow undisturbed until they are large enough that new shoots are no longer at risk from deer, about four to five years later. At this point, the covers will be removed.

The cooperative has been doing this for about 20 years. However, this year, because the site is visible from National Route 435, it has garnered more attention than usual.

According to the prefecture and the city, deer in Shimonoseki caused about ¥75.9 million in damage to agriculture and forestry in fiscal 2021.