Date: May 24, 2012
Special Thanks to: Pasona Inc.
Because we at 47 Japanese Farms are always planning and thinking about our upcoming rural adventures, it is easy to forget that in our own backyard, here in Tokyo, there is some amazing agriculture going on. Last week, we were invited to an event at Pasona Inc., a human resources firm that is also ground zero for a host of innovative projects conceived by its creative CEO, Mr. Nambu. Upon entering Otemachi, we were wondering whether we would have trouble fining the Pasona Inc. office building, but as you can see from the above photo, the green cover of roses creeping along the sides of the building make it hard to miss. According to the a Pasona Inc. employee, the green cover on the building’s exterior reduces energy costs, specifically cooling costs during the endless Tokyo summer, by approximately 30%.
The inside of the building was equally impressive. After listening to a classical music concert performed by members of Pasona’s “Music Mates” program, we got a quick but breath-taking tour of the building’s “farm”, which includes everything from pumpkins to passion fruits, all grown on space-efficient shelves which run along the ceilings and walls of the building. Most of the produce is grown hydroponically, using no soil, and a special room tucked off in a corner produces a variety of hydroponic lettuce. Pasona previously maintained a rice field in the basement of one of its offices, formerly a bank vault, but it ended the energy-intensive project after last year’s Fukushima accident and ensuing energy concerns. Nevertheless, the use of meeting spaces as mini-farms was also fascinating. For example, the “Tomato V.I.P Room”, a formal meeting space with office furniture and a conference table had a healthy canopy of tomatoes growing from its ceiling.
The produce grown at Pasona is served in the the Pasona cafeteria at very reasonable prices, and employees who stay late working overtime have the option of eating there for free. Printed material on the lobby wall informed us that studies have shown the presence of greenery -even common houseplants- in the workplace cuts down on reported illnesses and on absenteeism, perhaps due to better air quality and better morale. Overall, the well-designed and impeccably maintained greenery added a vitality to the workplace that was a stark and welcome contrast to the grey concrete jungle of Otemachi.
Fresh from our trip to Toyama prefecture, where we learned about the cost-effective use of moss as a energy efficient green cover on buildings, hearing about Pasona’s green cover and its associated cost savings made us wonder why more companies in Tokyo have not leaped at the chance for a simultaneous energy savings and morale boost, and “greened” the exteriors of their buildings.
Kanji: Perhaps it is an overused term in English, but Pasona’s attention to energy-efficiency and practicality in designing its indoor farm were admirable. The responsible management of resource use was evident in everything from the judicious use of space in the building, to the careful attention to the project’s effects on energy use and costs for the company. Thus, a fitting kanji for this trip is 持続可能、which means sustainability