7 J.League Teams Assist with LTO 2017Environmental project to create clean oceans begins activities, “Kugi-no-Nai” beach house without nails completed

“Leads to the Ocean” (LTO) is a joint project of The Nippon Foundation and Umisakura, an NGO that removes trash and dangerous items from beaches along the Shonan coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. The project seeks to combine sports with cleanup activities to address ocean-related environmental issues, and is part of The Nippon Foundation’s Umi-to-Nippon Project (The Ocean and Japan Project), which is being carried out nationwide with the aim of passing on clean and beautiful oceans to the next generation. To mark the start of this year’s activities, which began in full from July, a press conference with representatives of seven J.League professional soccer clubs and beach cleanup with local children were held on June 24 at Katase-Higashihama Beach in Enoshima (Enoshima Eastside Beach), in front of the just-completed “Kugi-no-Nai Umi-no-Ie” (beach house built without nails).

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Representatives of the seven J.League teams announce the commencement of this year’s activities

At the press conference, Junichiro Furusawa, Umisakura’s director, explained the LTO project. Umisakura started cleaning the beaches of Enoshima (a small island along the Shonan coast that is popular with beachgoers) in 2005 under the slogan “Japan’s most enjoyable trash collection,” and has been collecting trash once a month, every month since September 2006. LTO began in 2015, primarily as a joint project of Umisakura and The Nippon Foundation, but also with the participation of the J.League’s Shonan Bellmare club. The clubs Cerezo Osaka, V-Varen Nagasaki, and Fukushima United joined the project in July 2016, and this July Yokohama F-Marinos, Kawasaki Frontale, and Yokohama FC joined as well, bringing the total number of participating J.League clubs to seven.

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Team representatives picking up trash

At their 15 to 20 home matches each year, these teams show an environmental message on the stadium’s large screen, reminding spectators to keep trash from going into the ocean. Some spectators even stay after matches to pick up trash left in the stadium, and this is encouraged by the teams’ distribution of tongs and soccer ball-shaped trash bags decorated in the team’s colors – to convey the idea that picking up trash can be enjoyable.

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Participants pose for a photograph in front of the trash collected

Mitsuyuki Unno, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, pointed out that even as pollution in the ocean and changes in the marine environment become more severe, the numbers of young people who feel close to the ocean and people who go to the beach for recreation are declining. He noted that Japan has historically been called a maritime nation, but expressed concern that this may no longer be the case in 30 or 40 years, commenting, “This is why it is important to arouse interest among children and give them opportunities to enjoy the ocean, and is why we launched the Umi-to-Nippon Project in 2015. A clean and beautiful ocean is one of the project’s themes, and LTO is one of the main activities in this area.”

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The Kugi-no-Nai beach house, completed on the morning of June 24

The Kugi-no-Nai beach house was also built with Umisakura as part of the LTO project. Beach houses are temporary structures that operate during the summer season only, and are dismantled and removed at the end of the season. Nails fall into the sand when the structures are dismantled, and a 2010 survey by the Kanagawa Coastal Environmental Foundation reported that large amounts of nails had been found in the five Shonan beaches. In response, there have been increasing calls for a building method where this will not occur, so that children can run barefoot in the sand.

The beach house uses a semicircular tent as an arched roof over an internal structure that houses an emergency aid station and a small lifeguards’ office, and will operate from July 1 to August 31. The overall structure was developed by Hiroto Kobayashi, a professor at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance / Faculty of Environment and Information Studies. The structural portion is made of plywood using wood from thinned mountain forests, with as simple a structure as possible so that no nails are needed. Many plywood manufacturers were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in March 2011, and in response Professor Kobayashi developed a “self-built” construction method that allowed people to use plywood to rebuild by themselves, without the assistance of professionals. Around that time, Professor Kobayashi met Umisakura’s Mr. Furusawa, who expressed an interest in building a beach house without nails, and from this he designed a beach house that does not use a single nail.

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The covering before being painted
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Students divide into groups to paint the pictures
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A sea horse comes to life
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A fish is almost finished

Professor Kobayashi also thought that instead of a plain white covering, this could be a chance for people to participate by writing messages or painting pictures, and he contacted the designer Asao Tokolo, who had previously worked with him on other projects. Mr. Tokolo is well known for having designed the logo for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and was happy to take part. He created a design that combines two patterns – a square and a triangle – to form pictures of sea life. The pictures of large fish and a sea horse were then colored in by roughly 30 elementary and middle school students at a “tent-painting” workshop, held in the gymnasium of a local elementary school on June 3.

At the tent-painting workshop, Mr. Furusawa explained how building beach houses without nails is the only way to get rid of nails in the sand. He also noted that 70% of the trash on beaches comes from surrounding areas, meaning that people need to be conscious of what they bring with them when they come to the beach. Professor Kobayashi then explained how the pictures would be painted and divided the children into four groups to paint the fish, a sea horse, a sea plant, and a jellyfish. The children were free to use whatever colors they wished, and the finished product ended up being completely different from what Professor Kobayashi had envisioned.

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The completed tent covering

Nevertheless, he was pleased with the result, noting that it reflected the diversity of both humanity and sea life, as well as how this diversity comes together to create an overall pattern – just like how people are connected to each other and to the sea, and even how the mountains and the sea are connected to each other. He expressed his hope that this project can be rolled out nationwide, and bring local communities together across Japan.

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Group photo with the completed tent covering

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