“The planted larch trees are burnished gold. What a wondrous forest they have become.”

  • # House of Sumitomo
  • # CSR
A monument inscribed with this poem stands at Forester House in Niihama City, where the reforestation project in Besshi began.
Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd.

This is one of the sixteen poems that Tomonari composed when the Besshi Copper Mine closed, along with “Revering these mountains as gods—awed and humbled to have mined here for generations.”

The development of the mines led to the sourcing of timber from the surrounding area for mine timbers and charcoal for smelting. The mountains were rapidly denuded. Although Saihei Hirose, the first Director-General, deplored this and experimented with reforestation beginning in 1868, the first year of the Meiji era, it was not until 1894, when Teigo Iba (later the second Director-General) became general manager at Besshi, that reforestation began in earnest. Iba established the Forestry Department (the forerunner of Sumitomo Forestry) and set up an organization devoted solely to the reforestation project.

Trees from all over Japan were planted at Besshi but withered in the high-altitude wasteland. Only larches from the Shinshu region took root and flourished.

The sight of the still-desolate mountains during a 1941 visit to Besshi weighed heavily on the mind of Tomonari, who among the successive family heads was an especially frequent visitor. However, during a visit three decades later in 1972, the glorious sight of the larches in all their vivid autumnal golden hue inspired him to compose this poem, which reveals his feelings at the sight of the mountains, once again covered with flourishing forest, and the emotions stirred in him by the evident success of the long-term reforestation project.