Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Success & Honey Bees

-- Quote of the Day --

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”

~ Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

--The Ginza Honeybee Project --

I have taken excerpts from a very long article about an amazing and inspiring project happening with honeybees to share with you today.

*Source: - original article written by Yuriko Yoneda

Ranked with the Fifth Avenue shopping district in New York City, Japan's Ginza district in Tokyo is one of the world's leading downtown districts, complete with high-class department stores and designer shops. Today, bee honey collected from hives there is starting to attract people's attention. Ginza honeybees are nicknamed "Ginpachi" (short for "Ginza bees" in Japanese), and recently they have become somewhat of a new mascot for the district.

This outstanding project is administrated by a non-profit organization called the Ginza Bee Project, which is run by volunteers of Ginza Shokugakujuku, a group that regularly holds seminars on food sources and diet, and those of the Ginza Town Study Group, a group focused on studying the history and culture of the area.

The aim of the project is to interact with the local environment and ecosystems in Ginza through beekeeping. Although Ginza, which is located in the middle of Tokyo, has some small green areas, these groups are trying to learn more about how a sustainable society and the local
environment operates by working with honeybees and using the honey they produce.

At the beginning of the project, in late 2005, some people had concerns that it might be dangerous to keep honeybees in the densely populated urban district, because they thought the bees might attack people, but honeybees are generally gentle creatures, and they never attack unless suddenly surprised. After thoroughly explaining the nature of honeybees to the tenants of the building where the hives were to be installed, in March 2006, the project members placed three hives on the building's rooftop, and the bees began flying into the sky above Ginza.

Is it really possible to keep honeybees and collect honey in an urban area such as Ginza? Many were suspicious. Honeybees are said to fly within a three- to four-kilometer radius from their hives to collect nectar. Fortunately, parks rich in green space are located within two kilometers, such as the Imperial Palace, Hibiya Park, and Hama-rikyu Gardens. Furthermore, many roadside trees are also good sources of nectar. The amount of honey collected has been increasing steadily, growing from 160 kilograms (kg) in 2006, to 290 kg in 2007, 440 kg in
2008, and over 700 kg in 2009.

The honeybee is said to be an environmental indicator species because it is extremely susceptible to pesticides, which are used on vast areas of farmland in Japan, and are causing the survival rate of bees to drop. Meanwhile, in Ginza, which is in the central part of metropolitan Tokyo, the use of pesticides is avoided because of the growing number of people with allergies. So Ginza has ended up being a bee-friendly environment, and the high-quality honey-producing Ginza bees have made people aware that the district has a rich natural environment.

Since the bees were brought to Ginza, cherry blossoms that had previously not been pollinated began to produce cherries. People began to see birds eating the cherries, and small insects began rejuvenating the environment around the area.

The extraordinary combination of Ginza and honeybees has attracted attention from the public and media since the start of the project, and more and more people are enjoying Ginza honey. People began thinking of not only the bees and the honey they produce in Ginza but also the
natural environment around the whole region.

The project's objectives are not only to produce honey but also to reduce the negative impacts of the urban heat-island effect, by which concrete and roads retain heat from the sun and increase local temperatures. The aim is also to realize a "grow local, eat local" ethic in the true sense by collecting the honey that Ginza bees produce from local nectar sources, and making food and sweets using the honey harvested from the rooftop plot. It also aims to encourage
person-to-person relationships among people who many have otherwise been complete strangers.

Today, 30 employees from Matsuya and its partner companies are helping with the rooftop garden as after-work volunteers. According to spokesman Yukio Oki, employees other than members are also starting to care about how the vegetables are growing, which proves the company's success in raising environmental awareness. Matsuya often gets words of encouragement from its customers about its activities on the rooftop, which is open to
the public. The company plans to sell sweets and bread using the herbs grown on its rooftop to achieve the goal of growing locally and eating locally.

Japanese honeybees have generally been considered to be pests, and are often exterminated when they build beehives in street-side trees or in residential areas, but in 2007 the Ginza Bee Project started an initiative to conserve Japanese honeybees by rescuing them from extermination and raising them in Ginza.

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