Interview with Dr. Iwao Uehara

Interview with Dr. Iwao Uehara, the man from the pine forest

This summer, NatureMinded & Forest Therapy Today are organizing the first International Forest Therapy Days in beautiful southern Finland. This event brings together practitioners of forest therapy, as well as scientists, health care professionals and natural resource management representatives to discuss and better align their common interests. The seminar is followed by a 4-day-retreat where leading forest therapy practitioners will introduce different forest therapy practices. Participants to the entire event will receive certificates.

One of guest speakers at the seminar, and a guide at the retreat, Dr. Iwao Uehara, is a professor of Silviculture laboratory of Forest Science Department of Tokyo University of Agriculture. Dr. Uehara is the president of The Society of Forest Amenity and Human Health Promotion in Japan, a licensed counselor and a Shinrin-ryoho practitioner.

We had a chance to chat with Dr. Uehara about why he does what he does. Here is a short interview with him. Enjoy!


For Dr. Uehara, the foundations for his work within forest therapy was laid at a very young age.

“It was natural red pine forest in my home town, Nagano city. Every nursery and kindergarten children have to hike in the nature. I climbed up to red pine forest. I do remember the day and the smell of the forest”.

red pine tree
Dr. Uehara & the pine forest

His love for the forests became his occupation. His form of forest therapy, shinrin-ryoho, which translates as “forest amenity” is his own mixture to which he has gained inspiration from the book “Japanese forest and nature conservation” by Masataka Oomasa in 1973.  Dr. Oomasa was a professor at the University of Tokyo, who researched forest soil. “But he introduced a small episode about a depressed girl who was in heavy depression condition, but with the help of walking in forests through the seasons, she recovered from this depression condition. This small episode in the book gave me a inspiration about forest therapy”.

Another inspirator was his teacher, Mr. Kenji Sasaki, who was a teacher for disabled students. He took the children to the local forest and taught occupational activities.   Finally, another book that inspired Dr. Uehara, was Momo by Michael Ende in 1973. “Momo, the girl, has no license and only listens to others talking. But clients figure out their problems. She is a model of counselor for me. In the forest, forest and I just listen to the clients talking”.

Dr Uehara enjoys spending time in any forest, but there is one above others: that same pine tree forest in Nagano Prefecture, with which he has been familiar his whole life. In this forest, Dr. Uehara prefers to go to in the morning in every season. “Morning time, the air is clean, it is quiet, and peaceful”, says Dr. Uehara.

His second favorite forest is his own forest. “There are many animals and various species of trees living in my forest. They say nothing, of course, but I feel the words in their minds kindly. It is my peaceful time”.

Lucky for him, he gets to practice what he loves. If Dr.Uehara was not working as a researcher and educator, he would  probably be a picture book writer or a novelist. “But I will publish picture books in this real life!”.

But it does not look like he will need to change jobs any time soon, as there is still much to explore in healing effects of the forests and forest therapy. “We have to keep learning and studying through our lives!”, urges Dr. Uehara.

Food for thought..

Neem eens een bosbad. Shinrin-yoku, het aspirientje van de natuur.  Last van stress, vermoeidheid en een gebrek aan concentratie? Shinrin-yoku, de Japanse kunst van het bosbaden, belooft een oplossing voor alles waar de moderne mens aan lijdt. Nu nog een bos vinden, en de moed om uit die sofa te komen (De Standaard, 28/02/2018)