Aim for Effective Use of World Heritage Pines ~Shizuoka Prefectural Shizuoka Agricultural High School Pine Needle Study Group~


On February 13, 2016, a contest for environmental activities by high school students “The First National Presentation of Youth Environmental Activities ” was held. The high school which won the Minister of the Environment Award, the top prize, was “Circulating Coexistence with the Pine Grove with the Aim to Create an Environment of Miho no Matsubara (Pine Grove of Miho) Project” by Shizuoka Prefectural Shizuoka Agricultural High School (hereinafter called “Shizu Nou”). Miho no Matsubara in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture is one of the components of the UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage site “Mt. Fuji, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration.” And it is also one of the three great pine groves in Japan. There had been some issues such as raking of falling pine needles of Japanese red pine groves had not been carried out and some of the trees had been wilting. To conserve the pine grove as World Heritage, local agricultural high school students are studying the ways to make use of pine needles and trying to involve the local community in spreading conservation activities.


In 2011, a proprietress of a hotel in Miho told a student of Shizu Nou, “The pine trees of Miho no Matsubara have been cut down. Is there any way to make use of them?” Withered pine trees have become a problem in Miho no Matsubara. Measures against withered pine trees are great financial burdens for the local government and pine needles had been thrown away. The student thought it was a waste to throw away pine needles and wondered if there were some ways to make use of them.

The students who heard this at that time wondered if they could do something. They examined documents and held hearings. Then they heard a story that pine needles had been used like herbal medicine. They conducted various analyses of pine and they found out that pine needles contain a lot of quercetin, an antioxidant material. By making use of these useful components, pine trees can be used as resources instead of being disposed spending money.

The main courses Shizuoka Agricultural High School has are “production,” “environmental,” and “food.” The students are learning scientific methods of analyses. Taking advantage of these strength, as part of the curriculum of food science, they examined ways to add pine needles into food and take them into human body as a nutrient. First, they decided to develop breads containing pine needles as a kind of food to take quercetin into human body on a daily basis. Since too many pine needles make bread taste bitter, they explored the consistency that can gain a balance between flavor and effect. They succeeded in decreasing the unique bitter flavor by shredding pine needles as small as possible and drying them.

Through these processes, the activities of “Pine Needle Study Group” started in 2011. The activities aims at conducting both study for effective use of pine needles and activities to revitalize the local community.

Operational Methods

・Develop and sell products derived from pine needles

Not by treating pine needles as nuisances, but by utilizing them as resources, the use of them will be accelerated. Therefore, Shizu Nou is trying to expand the use of pine needles by developing products derived from them. Processing technology developed by Shizu Nou to crush pine needles into powder was provided to local companies. The companies processed pine needles into breads and powdered tea. Shizu Nou has found out that pine needles also have vasorelaxing effect. Therefore, bath additives were developed and have been sold.

As for breads, a local bakery “SUCRE” started assisting the activity and is producing original breads named “Matsuba (pine needle) Sliced Bread” and “Miho no Fuji (Mt. Fuji of Miho).” Pine needles as ingredients are gotten from cut down pine trees in road constructions in Shizuoka City.

Products developed in cooperation with local companies are sold at stores in souvenir shops in Miho no Matsubara. They are also sold at events produced by Shizu Nou students in Miho no Matsubara several times a year. The products are sold to visitors including sightseers from abroad and they are well received. 10 % of these sales are donated to conservation of Miho no Matsubara.

・Participate in activities to rake falling leaves

Pine trees are pioneer plants that can grow even in rough ground such as seaside sandy soil. It is said that ability of pine roots is expanded by coexisting with fungi called mycorrhizal fungi and they can take nourishment efficiently even in an environment other plants cannot grow. Matsutake mushrooms and truffles are also a kind of mycorrhizal fungi. Before fossil fuel came into use, woods had been used as fuel. Especially pine needles were flammable since they contained oil and fat content and it was best suited for making fires. Therefore, people collected pine needles. In accordance with the spread of gas and electricity, people stopped using local forest resources. Wooded areas and pine groves depended on people’s visits became devastated. As to pine groves, since people stopped picking up pine needles, soil nutrients were increased and mycorrhizal fungi ebbed away. The more soil nutrients are increased, the environment gets more suitable for trees other than pine trees to grow and vegetation starts to change. Pine trees are pioneer plants, the pine groves kept maintained precisely because people used pine needles as fuel and the groves had been kept oligotrophic.

After that long introduction, local civic organizations are collecting fallen pine needles and Shizu Nou Pine Needle Study Group participates in these activities on an irregular bases. The students place importance on actually going into the pine grove and verifying the current situation of them rather than collecting ingredients for processing.

・Environmental education for pupils in an after-school day-care center

The students also provide environmental education to pupils in an after-school day-care center. When they asked the pupils about Miho no Matsubara, pupils seemed to have less interest in it. Since Miho no Matsubara exists too near to them, pupils seemed not recognizing its value. Therefore, the students plant trees and rake falling pine needles with these pupils. It is an activity to grow “feelings to conserve” than conservation itself. The students asked the pupils’ parents to participate in an activity to rake pine needles with a local conservation organization. A lot of parents and children participated in the activity and they realized the current situation of the pine grove.

Implementation Status

The activities have now entered their sixth year. The activities built up by seniors have been passed down to juniors.

The current situation is that the amount of collected pine needles is much greater than the amount of pine needles used for production. Therefore, the students are seeking for more various ways to utilize pine needles. They are continuing food product development and they are developing Matsuba Udon (pine needle wheat noodles) and Matsuba Soba (pine needle buckwheat noodles). Since Shizu Nou is a high school which has students specialized in food production and specialized facilities, buckwheat noodles are made at the school with the help of students other than students specialized in food science. As to wheat noodles, the students are developing them in cooperation with a nearby college.

They sell these products on a regular basis. It is said that the students are learning a lot from planning and operating sales events from scratch. They also devise sales methods.

In order to promote bath additives, they hold footbath events. These days, a lot of sightseers from China participate in the events and they buy more bath additives than Japanese.


It is difficult for local NPOs to analyze components, develop products, etc., by themselves. Studies taking advantage of the characteristics of agricultural high school are greatly contributing to the local community. The students are also holding sales events. There are not so many schools that are conducting both studies and local community development events as agricultural high schools.

On the other hand, there are some issues. For the people in Miho region, Miho no Matsubara exists too near to them. They settle for the current situation for the time being and do not have enough momentum to take action. They seem to have a sense of crisis about wilting pine groves in some vague way, however, they neither have any idea what to do nor opportunity to take action. There are some organizations to rake pine needles, however, they are operating individually. It is good that some of the actors become the core of the activities and it forms a cohesive whole, it is impossible for a high school to become the center since it gives priority to schoolwork.

Mr. Sakurai, the teacher who trains the students said, “Sightseers visit Miho no Matsubara for only 30 minutes. It is good that products related to pine needles become ‘specialties’ which cannot be purchased without visiting Miho and visitors spend a lot of money in the local community. To conserve the pine groves as a component of a World Heritage, it is good that momentum to conserve grows.”

To maintain the scenery of the pine grove as a component of a World Heritage, the fundamental measure is to collect as many fallen pine needles as possible and to make use of them. We anticipate that the activities of Shizu Nou become the core and conservation of the pine grove spread to the entire region.

The members of Pine Needle Study Group to whom we interviewed this time.
Ms. Kimura, Ms. Suzuki, Ms. Yuka Mochizuki, Ms. Shibazuka, Ms. Masuda, Ms. Momoko Mochizuki, Mr. Sakurai


・Project cooperation/project accord


・Social business/CSR ・Forest preservation ・Waste/’3R’ principles (reduce/reuse/ recycle) / resource cycles ・Town/City planning ・Lifestyle ・ESD/environmental education

People involved (Actor and Partners)

・Shizuoka Prefectural Shizuoka Agricultural High School Pine Needle Study Group

・Shizuoka Prefectural Shizuoka Agricultural High School

Reported by Hirotaka Ito (KANTO Environmental Partnership Office)
March, 2016