PRIOR TO THE Meiji Restoration of 1868, much of the mountain forest that surrounds Kyoto belonged to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples, which used the forests as “buffer zones,” to coin a modern term, augmenting the scenic beauty of their sacred precincts. The famous sites (meishōchi) of Kyoto's shrines and temples were unimaginable without their forested mountain backdrop. In premodern times, in return for granting farmers free admission and rights of use in these forests, shrines and temples relied on farmers to maintain them on their behalf. Through such a system of mutual benefit, Kyoto's shrines and temples were able to make a contribution to the preservation of scenic beauty. In modern times, however, land tax reform brought about a new system, in which private deeds to land were issued, and the forests previously managed by temples and shrines were taken over by the state or local authority. As a result, the traditional forest maintenance system collapsed, and the forests fell into ruin.
Compared to other regions of Japan, Kyoto constitutes a special case, given the intimate connection between its fringe forests and famous sites of great historical value like shrines and temples. In the modern period, these forests became linked to Kyoto's administration of so-called fūchi conservation areas of natural beauty. With a view to their touristic potential, Kyoto bureaucrats set about trying to revive the health of the city’s fringe forests under the banner of “preserving scenic beauty.” In the following paragraphs, I focus particularly on shrine and temple forests, but in doing so I analyze the urban fringe forest policy Kyoto developed during modern times. Let us look first, then, at the policy in the early Meiji period.
1. THE MEIJI GOVERNMENT's CONSERVATION OF PRECINCT FORESTS IN THE 1870S
On 23 February 1871, the Meiji Government promulgated the Shrine and Temple Land Confiscation Law (Shaji jōchi (agechi) rei). It is easy to imagine that this law facilitated the demise of the fringe forests, which at the time were considered to be part of the shrine or temple precincts. With the haibutsu kishaku anti- Buddhist persecution that preceded the confiscation of land, the temple-owned fringe forests in fact had already begun to fall into ruin.