Forest Medicine Salon

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Last Updated: December 28, 2010

INFOM: History and Future Goals

The Forestry Agency

During this time in 2001, the Forestry Agency initiated its campaign to promote greater understanding of the medical care, treatments and preventative medical potential offered by forests. It also sought to provide medical and scientific explanations for the health benefits seen while relaxing in forests that included a measurable decrease in the stress-relieving hormone, cortisol, and the activation of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the blood stream. Research in this area has yielded consistent results, providing valid explanations for the claimed health effects and thus led to the establishment of 'The 3 forest-project plans for an aging society'. (See note A)

In 2004,based on the work of these early researchers, aided by the development of new forms of medical testing equipment and funded by the MAFF's "Upgrade Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries research projects utilizing cutting edge technology" budget, scientists began work to provide an 'Explanation of the physiological effects forest environments can have on human beings'. In the same year, government, academia, and private corporate sponsors all collaborated to establish the 'Forest Therapy Research Group®'.
This research group was formed to help develop health products based on the proven results of experiments then being conducted by researchers. In addition it aimed to formally approve and then certify great regional forests as part of the Therapy Road® project. Qualifying forests would be experimentally verified as generating marked physiological, psychological, and chemical differences in test subjects, who walked, sat and gazed in the forests under observation, compared with a city environment base-line.

An area can be designated as a Forest Therapy Base if people involved in the local service industry (lodgings, restaurants, hot springs and other services ) along the Therapy Road areas understand the health benefits of Forest Bathing (prevention of disease, lifestyle illness, and psychiatric conditions) and if they co-operate with the research group. Business generated in this way has been helping to stimulate regional economies.

The Research Group

In 2007, the research group was dissolved and the Forest Therapy Society NPO was established in its place. However, while it was active from 2004 to 2008, the research group successfully held a number of symposiums including a 'Research Group Establishment Symposium' and every other month it held other education and training seminars. Other symposiums held by the research group include the 'Forest Therapy Symposium', the 'Forest Medicine Proposal Suggestion Symposium', the 'Forest Medicine Kick-off Activities Symposium' and the 'International Symposium'. A nationwide 'Forest Therapy Summit' was also organized. In addition to certifying suitable forest locations and authorizing selected forest products, the group was also responsible for the publication titled 'Forest Medicine'.
Although The Forest Therapy Society NPO nominally took over all activities of the Research Group, undertakings related to forest medicine research were largely delegated to the Japan Society of Forest Medicine (established in 2007 as part of the Japan Society of Hygiene). The Forest Medicine Society has been left as a separate legal entity.

The Forest Medicine Study Group

The Forest Medicine Study Group, in addition to formally recognizing Bases and their associated Roads, functions as the administrative office for meetings of the nationwide network of locations. In order to assist in the training of those who require knowledge of the Roads in order to become Forest Therapists or Forest Therapy Guides, the Group has even published textbooks in its own right, such as 'Forest Therapy/Forest Therapist Training and Examination Text' and the 'Forest Therapy Examination Supplementary Reader, Field Guide, and Health Care Guide'. As well as conducting examinations, in order to increase national awareness of forest therapy and also as a guide for the general public, the Group has also published 'Forest Medicine II' and the 'Forest Therapy Guidebook'.
As of 2010, there are 42 forest therapy base 'Roads' located nationwide. The group plans to increase this number further.

Purposes of the Therapy Bases and Roads

The four essential purposes of Therapy Bases and their constituent Roads are  as follows:

  1. to assist patrons in maintaining and improving their health with the guidance from a trained therapist, as well as to prevent the development of lifestyle illnesses, psychological conditions, and other ailments by taking advantages of the proven benefits of 'forest bathing'.
  2. to help alleviate the existing illnesses and disorders of patrons through the process of walking the Roads accompanied by a trained therapist, under the overall guidance of their physicians and based on relevant medical and physical examinations, together with appropriate 'forest therapy health checks ' performed on the Roads or in nearby medical facilities.
  3. to promote the revitalization of regional economies, through the increased usage of local lodging, dining, shopping and hot spring facilities, as well as other activities of forest therapy participants.
  4. to ensure the continued preservation of both natural and planted forest environments in the areas where forest Roads are situated and to ensure the forests maintain their official status as suitable for Forest Therapy use.

We are currently actively pursuing the practical application of all of the above points. Even so, it is vitally important that we strive to continue and extend our research in order to build a society that recognizes the benefits of 'forestification' and that allows people to benefit from the scientifically verified effects produced by the forest environment, while at the same time sharing and promoting these benefits to the world through the implementation of our ideals.

INFOM

In pursuance of these goals, INFOM was founded. The many vital subjects INFOM intends to pursue include: the development, structure and diversity of forests, scientific research on the ability of forests, mankind's relationships with other plants and animals, medical research to provide an explanation of the physiological effects forests can have on people, environmental co-ordination as well as air and water pollution. In addition, INFOM will also need to consider how these topics relate to both society and the economy and will need to coordinate further research, as well as deal with other matters such as legal examinations and accreditations of efficacy. To take on these diverse issues successfully, while still performing its more basic functions, it is clear that INFOM needs to develop beyond being merely an academic organization and become a true inter-disciplinary group.

To give an example: Restaurants and shops on Therapy Roads are now actively providing 'Therapy lunch boxes' and meals, using locally grown organic ingredients. These are nutritionally balanced meals that are both low in calories and highly nutritious. In order to make such meals, detailed scientific knowledge is applied to even the smallest details, such as choosing mushrooms that boost the immune system or that are high in Vitamin D and improve the absorption of bone-enriching calcium. In this way we can utilize the knowledge and expertise of a broad spectrum of mushroom experts and dieticians.

With the aid of many people participating worldwide, INFOM intends (1) to protect and promote the growth and development of the world's great forest environments, (2) to revitalize regional economies with the forests as the central focus and (3) to spread awareness of the power of forests to improve human health.

Note A : The 3 forest- project plan for an aging society

  1. Forests for medical care and welfare
    For general care and nursing to help fight disease or lessen the effects of aging
  2. Forests for treatment and recuperation
    For necessary treatment and assisting patient recuperation during convalescence
  3. Forests for lifestyle disease prevention
    For promoting good health by preventing lifestyle- related illnesses

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World's Forest Medicine Base

World's Forest Medicine Base