August 18, 2023

Seaside Hayama gets businesses, citizens working for environment

Mayor of Hayama, Takahito Yamanashi | Hayama

The town of Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture won the Satoyama Excellence Award in the fourth Sustainable Japan Award organized by The Japan Times last year for its environmentally friendly activities engaging local residents and business operators.

Home to the Hayama imperial villa, a beachfront residence owned by the imperial family, the town of 32,400 is known for its picturesque townscape and natural setting. Located on the western coast of the Miura Peninsula, the seaside town is blessed with a mild climate, surrounded by mountains that block the southerly winds in summer and the northerly winds in winter.

Hayama Mayor Takahito Yamanashi said in a recent interview with The Japan Times that residents are proud of the town and its history, and younger generations grow up with a love for their hometown. They have always been passionate about contributing to it.

This civic pride and awareness have helped the town take environmental actions involving the entire population, most of which are more aggressive than what other municipalities do. One of the first was to ask all households to separate garbage into 27 types. Taking a step further, in September 2019 it launched the Hayama Clean Program, which included installing water stations in public facilities and promoting the use of personal water bottles as part of its efforts to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

“At this point, I felt that the entire town was willing to work together to make a difference. That realization led to our announcement of a climate emergency declaration in March 2021,” Yamanashi said. Starting with over 100 jurisdictions in Australia in 2016, declarations had been announced by 2,339 places across the world as of July. Hayama is one of the 135 municipalities in Japan that have done so.

Blue Marble members conduct a regular beach cleanup activity. | Hayama

In 2022, Hayama Ethical Action was launched to introduce businesses and organizations that contribute in various ways to the preservation of the natural environment of Hayama, the well-being of its people, and society. Publicist Julie Tamura in the town’s Policy Division said the project shed light on people who had been contributing to the community and the environment without being noticed and it helped companies and organizations learn from each other and think about what more they could do. “When we visited business owners in our town to promote the project and asked for their participation, some of them said hesitantly that they were not doing anything special. But actually in their usual business practices, they had already been doing many things that contributed to making society more sustainable without fully realizing that their actions were benefiting the community,” she said.

Yamanashi said the first step is to certify and promote companies, shops and restaurants that are making sustainability efforts, and the next step will be to build stronger partnerships between the town government and such business owners to collaborate on creating and expanding good practices.

This year, the town organized the first annual Hayama Ethical Award and Hayama Ethical Symposium to recognize companies and organizations in the town that are making outstanding efforts to improve the environment and society and to share insights and experiences from such efforts. Tamura said, “One of the greatest achievements of the symposium and the award was that participating companies started to communicate with each other and to work together to accelerate their efforts.”

There are also collaborations beyond municipalities. Over 80 students in a volunteer club at Yokohama Hitorizawa High School, located about 20 kilometers north of Hayama, participated in beach cleanup activities in Hayama over the last two years. “Those students are feeling the impact of climate change and the need to act for their future. I feel sorry for them, as a member of the older generation that is responsible for the current state of the world, and the least we can do is to support their actions. But at the same time, their actions encourage and motivate us to do more,” Yamanashi said.

There is also an organization called Blue Marble, consisting of town children 7 to 13 years old, which was invited to the symposium to give a presentation and participate in a panel discussion. The group conducts regular beach cleanup activities and research on environmental awareness among local residents. Yamanashi showed a picture of the Blue Marble members with big smiles that made the cover of the town’s monthly newsletter and said: “They are truly enjoying what they are doing for the town and the environment. That’s the beauty of it.”

Hayama will celebrate the 130th anniversary of the establishment of the imperial villa next year, followed by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town. “Ahead of these commemorative events, we are committed to accelerating our sustainability efforts with and for the next generations,” Yamanashi said.

The Sustainable Japan Award commends individuals, companies and organizations who have made advances in sustainable efforts. To learn more, visit

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