Japanese Beech Forest on Hiba Mountain
Ranging from northern Saijo-cho (Shobara City) to Hiwa-cho (Shobara City),
Hiba Mountain rises in former Hiba-gun, northern Hiroshima Prefecture. It is
a part of the Hiba-Dogo-Taishaku Quasi National Park. Here on Hiba Mountain,
there is an excellent Japanese beech forest, which is rare in southwest Japan.
Hiba Mountain, which stands 1,256 meters above sea level, is in the Chugoku
Mountains and the Japanese beech forest is located in the vicinity of an Imperial
mausoleum where tradition has it that Izanami no Mikoto (a deity in Japanese
mythology) was buried. In particular, there are typical evergreen shrubs of
Japanese beech forests such as Daphiphyllum humile Maxim and var. nana
Rehder on the Japan Sea side.
Japanese beech forests are typical of temperate forests of the mountain
districts extending from the southwest part of Hokkaido to Takakuma Mountain
in Kyushu and growing in Chugoku Mountain districts with altitudes over 800
meters, but they are rarely natural forests.
Japanese beech forest, where time passes slowly (Photograph taken circa 1994)
Many foods, such as nuts, edible wild plants and mushrooms, and many animals that can be utilized as food and clothing inhabit the deciduous, broad-leaved forests of the temperate zones in which mainly Japanese beech and Japanese oak grow. This type of forest also fulfills an important function as a water resource.
These forests were important areas supporting daily human life in the Jomon era before rice-producing agriculture was fully developed. A vast amount of Japanese beech was cut down to use as fuel for iron manufacturing from the Edo to the early Meiji era.