Visiting Japanese students study Colorado forests, climate

The practice of mutual gift-giving is integral to Japanese culture. During the week of Sept. 4, Colorado State University staff had the opportunity to exchange the gifts of education and cross-cultural fellowship with a group of university students visiting from Japan.

Fifteen forestry students and a professor from the Yamagata Prefectural College of Agriculture visited CSU to learn more about forest management efforts and higher education in Colorado. The visit primarily focused on educational field tours in a state that is similar to the students’ home across the Pacific. Like Colorado, Yamagata is a mountainous region with hot summers, snowy winters and a population primarily residing on the lowland plains.

This visit was the third tour of its kind led by the Colorado State Forest Service for visitors from Japan. Previous visits focused on forest management issues, the state of Colorado’s wood products industry, and the utilization of woody biomass for energy. Kristina Hughes, marketing and engagement coordinator for the CSFS and its Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program, has helped to facilitate every visit.

“The tours provide an outstanding opportunity for the exchange of ideas and stories regarding forestry practices in our respective areas of the world,” said Hughes. “Especially for the students, the tours offer an opportunity to mingle with international peers who are studying the same line of interest, but in vastly different areas.”

Hughes and Megan Matonis, the CSFS’s experiential learning program manager, led local efforts to organize the visit. The Forest Service and Warner College of Natural Resources’ Forest and Rangeland Stewardship staff coordinated the tours with MEM Travel in Denver, which provided interpreters, and with CSU’s Japan Club and College of Agricultural Sciences.

color photo of female forestry student from Japan at Mountain Campus
Visiting students, including Ryoko Sugawara, said that more women seem to work in the forestry industry in Colorado than in Japan. Photo: Karina Puikkonen

During the weeklong visit to Colorado, the forestry students toured the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery, which is located on the Foothills Campus, and CSU’s Mountain Campus, where they helped cut wood for a firewood sale to benefit CSU’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters.

The tours also included visits to a local timber products company, the Boulder County Parks and Open Space sort yard in Allenspark, and Denver-based Meier Skis, which handcrafts downhill skis from bark beetle-killed “blue stain” pine. The students said they were intrigued by how different the forests and climate are in arid Colorado than in their homeland, despite similarities in the terrain and seasons.

“The size of the trees is very different,” said student Takatoshi Suzuki. “A 100-year-old pine in Colorado is much smaller than one in Japan.”

Several students also noted that more women seem to work in the forestry industry in Colorado than in Japan; only one of the 15 visiting students was female.

Hughes and Matonis said that in the future, they hope to help plan a tour in the Yamagata Prefecture.

“After each opportunity to interact with our Japanese visitors, we have had a chance to build our relationship and we have formulated a working relationship that will be long-lasting and mutually beneficial,” Hughes said.