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Preservation and preemption in Japan’s Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Area

Robert J Mason (Department of Geography & Urban Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 13 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine developments in Japan with regard to protected-area management. The focus is on ecological protection, citizen engagement, and the traditional users of the Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Area.


The study is based on an extensive review of literature, interviews with key actors, and field observations.


This study of Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Area, an area of ancient beech forest in northern Japan whose ecological integrity was threatened by construction of a forest road in the 1980s, points to a successful case of ecological preservation and an expanded governmental commitment to citizen engagement in protected-area planning, accompanied by a marginalization of the small number of remaining traditional users of the forest’s resources.

Research limitations/implications

This study points to the challenges inherent in balancing civic engagement, ecological protection, cultural heritage, and administrative expediency in protected-areas management. The findings are directed toward researchers engaged with issues surrounding management of parks and protected areas.

Practical implications

Park and protected-areas managers can learn from this experience about balancing ecosystem protection, civic engagement, inclusion of traditional users, and administrative optimization in planning and management of protected areas.


The field elements of the study are original contributions. The paper will be of value to scholars and practitioners involved with protected-area management.



Junko Kato-Miyamoto, Kumi Fukushima, Naoko Gonjo, Yoko Katsuyama, Kumiko Miyamoto, Noriko Nakagawa, Miho Okazaki, Atsuko Tajimi, and Akiko Yamazaki are recognized for their assistance with organizing and conducting interviews, translating documents, and other logistical matters. Temple University and Kobe College are acknowledged for providing funding and teaching release time in support of this research.


Mason, R.J. (2015), "Preservation and preemption in Japan’s Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Area", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 448-465.



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