Shimokawa is located along the Nayoro River in the mountains of northern Hokkaido. The Town’s name, which translates to “downstream,” is a literal translation of the indigenous Ainu people’s name for the area. The oldest archaeological sites in the town date back to the last ice age, but the town as it is known today was officially founded in 1905.
90% of Shimokawa’s area (roughly 570 km²) is forest. Forestry and the biomass industry are the basis of the town’s economy.
Skiing is a popular pastime in Shimokawa, and the Town has produced a number of veteran Olympic ski jump competitors.
To aim for the stabilization of local employment and provision of timber, Shimokawa runs a “recyclable forestry management” program for town-owned timber. As a part of this process, Shimokawa installed the first wood biomass boiler in Hokkaido and has been promoting its installation in public facilities. Currently, approximately 60% of thermal energy used in public facilities is produced by wood-derived fuels. Furthermore, in some public facilities and housing complexes, the Town has installed a district heating system. Based on these achievements, Shimokawa has been recognized by the Japanese government as an Environmental Model City (2008), Future City (2011), Comprehensive Special Zone for Local Revitalization (2011), Biomass Industry City (2013), and Local Revitalization Model Case (2014).
Shimokawa has created a vision for the achievement of the “Forest Future City” model. The Town is currently working towards the development of a comprehensive forestry industry, becoming completely energy (heat and electricity) independent, and developing a model for adapting to the needs of a super-aging society.
In the “Ichino-hashi” district where depopulation has been progressing significantly (population approximately 140 of which 50% were the elderly in 2010), requests for support with shopping and snow removal are increasing and the housing stock is deteriorating. To better maintain the local community, the Town is working to develop an energy independent, elderly-supportive community through the development of housing complexes/facilities that use district heating systems from woody biomass, operation of mini-shops or local diners, creation of employment through nursery plant and mushroom production, and provision of “watch-over” services for the elderly by the young.
Moving forward, the Town is hoping to expand the use of its collective housing model and apply the model to its central area in conjunction with plans to power the Town center through biomass cogeneration.
Shimokawa hopes to learn from other cities in the exchange in order to improve its collective housing models and services for the elderly.
In Shimokawa, woody biomass boilers are installed mainly in public facilities and currently approximately 60% of thermal energy used in these facilities is being produced by wood-derived fuels. Furthermore, in some public facilities and housing complexes, the Town has installed a district heating system.
Shimokawa is currently working to develop a system that would allow them to power the Town center through biomass cogeneration. Shimokawa looks forward to sharing its expertise in the use of biomass with other project cities.