Makanai Makanai

A Soil-Less
Sunagoke Sheet

Green’s Green

Business operator: Green’s Green Co., Ltd.
Project manager: Ryuta Ishikawa

Since ancient times in Japan, the term koke (or goke, meaning “moss”) has appeared in waka short poems, literature such as the Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets and even the national anthem of Japan. It is thought that moss started to grow on earth some 400 million years ago. Japanese people have an inherent affinity with moss, a characteristic behind the Sunagoke sheet, developed using a revolutionary method in which the moss is formed into a sheet without the use of any soil.

There are more than 30,000 kinds of moss, with most requiring humidity to grow. Sunagoke moss is rather unique in that it is dry resistant. That is why Sunagoke has been in the spotlight as vegetation that can even be cultivated in climates overseas that differ from Japan and in regions facing severe dryness or water shortage.

The Sunagoke sheets offer a diverse array of application. They can be cut up and used for gardening. The moss can be removed from the sheet and transplanted into the ground. They are even great as art or decoration. Niigata, the birthplace of Sunagoke sheets, has had a thriving history as a major horticultural zone, spawning advanced techniques to grow bonsai and saplings. The fusion of two of the region’s enduring features—horticultural and moss sheets—opens up new possibilities for moss, a movement that has taken root in Niigata.

Four Sunagoke Applications and Highlights

  • Gold-Leaf Cosmetics Developed Together with Academia

    Growing without soil

    Seeds are sprinkled on a special sheet of non-woven fabric, and the moss is cultivated inside a nursery box. A special meshing process is used between the fabric and moss so that the “rhizoids,” or roots of the moss, can more readily take hold. The patented sheets were developed over a period of three years and enable the growth of Sunagoke moss without using soil.

  • By-Products in the Gold Foundry Used as Raw Materials for Beauty

    Cutting the sheets to suit

    A good example of an application for the moss is gardening. One handy point is that it can be used in sheet form and cut directly with scissors to the desired size and shape. The pieces can then be lined up any way the user wants. As the Sunagoke grows, the edges between the sheets become undetectable and the section looks just like a carpet made of moss, making it a great candidate for simple yet stylish gardening.

  • Konnyaku Gains Global Attention

    Grabbing a chunk and adding elsewhere

    Another application of the Sunagoke sheets is “patching.” A chunk of the moss can be grabbed from the sheet and added to an area to patch it up and make it look beautifully green again. As an example, it can be added to a spot where the soil is showing in a section of moss in a garden. It is a simple procedure to replace areas partially.

  • All Eyes on Japan's Unique Washi

    Using as wall art

    Sunagoke is perfect as an art piece on account of its strong life force. To give an example, the sheets can be framed and hung as aesthetic wall art in a part of the house that doesn’t receive much sunlight and without worrying about giving it water. A sheet can be cut out and used as is. The moss can therefore be incorporated into one’s lifestyle in the form of interior decoration or art.

INTERVIEW

Mayumi Tachikawa

Yasunari Sato

Yasunari Sato is vice president of Green’s Green Co., Ltd., a farming corporation. He is engaged in planning and design for traditional industries in the Niigata region with a focus on the overseas market. He has been involved in the branding of the Akiha region of Niigata Prefecture as a horticultural zone for around 10 years and is helping to develop a moss business that aims to maintain, revitalize and make effective use of the natural area.

Giving Back to the Community by Making the Most of a Unique Feature of the Region

Yasunari Sato, vice president of Green’s Green Co., Ltd., talks about his desire to promote the potential of moss to the world. He has been involved in the branding of Niigata City as a horticultural zone for the past decade while running his own design company. He develops biomass energy with the aim of revitalizing the region through local resources. He also started a moss-growing business using abandoned fields and rice paddies. There is high demand for Japanese moss overseas, especially short Sunagoke moss.

Against this backdrop, the company wants to take the moss sheets global by using the long-established horticultural technique of the region. Sato speaks of his ambitions to further maximize the potential of agriculture, give back to the region economically and provide employment for new agricultural workers. “We want to make effective use of the resources and characteristics of the region in sustainable actions that enable us to give back in new ways to the community,” he says. The project is being touted as a way to make Sunagoke sheets a new strength of the region.

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Dried Sunagoke leaves (photo at left) spread out like a blooming flower when water is sprayed on them (photo at right). That’s because Sunagoke builds up moisture in the core section when the cross-section of the leaves loses its moisture. Research in recent years into this property has revealed that moss absorbs not only carbon dioxide but also inorganic ions and unpleasant odors to purify the air. In the future, moss is expected to have a role to play in environmental activities, not just for use as decoration or in gardening.

LOCATION

location

Niigata-shi, Niigata

Frequent flooding made it difficult for agriculture to take root as an industry in Niigata-shi even though it has traditionally flourished as a horticultural zone. Meanwhile, advanced horticultural techniques have taken hold in recent times for cultivating bonsai, which supports the growth of the moss business, and saplings. The moss business also takes advantage of the technology and resources unique to Niigata as a thriving rice-growing region. For example, the nursery boxes for growing moss are old hegi boxes that had been used by rice farmers.

CORPORATE DATA

corporate

Green’s Green Co., Ltd.

Established in 2015, Green’s Green is a special farming corporation that takes advantage of the deregulation appropriated for Niigata-shi as a national strategic special zone. The company produces moss in abandoned fields and rice paddies in the Akiha region of Niigata-shi, one of Japan’s foremost sapling-producing areas, and actively promotes a product that combines saplings and moss to the world under the moniker “JAPAN GREEN.”