150,000 Honey Bees Descend On Central Tokyo

bees in tokyo photo

Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved. Photo by Joel Olives

150,000 honey bees descend and ascend in central Tokyo, and generally fly about. So, OK, I admit it, no horror story or freak-of-nature side effect of global warming here, just a fascinating example of grow local, eat local in the middle of the most populous agglomeration in the world.

In the Ginza commercial district of Tokyo, the location of the first street lighting and subway in Japan and now Japan's primary consumerist holy site with the world's largest Gucci flagship store and the headquarters of many of the major advertising agencies (and thus also the headquarters of many consumer goods manufacturers), a humble experiment in honey production has begun to show startling success.

harvesting honey in tokyo photo
In 2006, the "Ginza Hachimitsu (Honey) Project", a cooperative effort between a food study club and a local historical society, placed a hive of roughly 30,000 bees the on the roof of Ginza's Phoenix Plaza, also known as "Paper Pulp Hall", often used for various business association meetings by the captains of industry. However, it is the increasingly frequent meetings of the bees which are arguably becoming the Plaza's main function. As of July, 2007, the bees had increased in number to an amazing 150,000 bees, providing a harvest of 260 kilograms of honey. Talk about captains of industry...

How is this possible, you ask, in such a heavily built up commercial district? According to the Ginza Hachimitsu Project, the typical bee has an airborne range of approximately four kilometers. As you can see from the green bits in this Google map in Japanese (centered on the Plaza) there are actually quite a few parks in the area hosting a variety of bee accommodating trees such as the Yoshino Cherry, the horse chestnut, and the tulip or yellow poplar which came to Japan in the 19th century. Apparently, this is more than enough to supply ample work for the 150,000 bees, and that work further triggers a positive domino effect for the trees and the avian wildlife that rely on them.

The harvested honey is portioned out to local Ginza shops, bars, confectionaries and other establishments who support the aims of the project and adhere to the strict rule that "we won't let you eat Ginza honey unless you come to Ginza". The honey is used in cakes, Japanese sweets and even cocktails in the high class bars.

So if you happen to be in Tokyo and have a free Sunday to stroll the wide boulevards (closed to traffic on Sundays since 1960), keep your eye out for anything honey-ish, and, if your Japanese is lacking, repeat the mantra "Ginza Hachimitsu" until you are rewarded with an expression of recognition by the shopkeeper, thus doing your part in this fascinating experiment. Just remember not to forget your protective headgear in the hotel room.

Brought to you by Chris @greenz.jp

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