Since global warming came to the forefront as an environmental issue of great concern, the establishment of a low carbon society (LCS) has been a pressing task throughout the world. However, urbanized societies with their massive demand for energy and economic growth are struggling to find feasible solutions. Japan is an example of such a society.

At the G8 Summit held in Toyako, Hokkaido in 2008, the participating countries including Japan agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 % by 2050. To meet such an ambitious target, the Japanese government has developed several visions and action plans for implementation of appropriate countermeasures (Onishi and Kobayashi 2011).

The Japan Low-Carbon Society Project was undertaken under sponsorship by the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, and a report was released with two narrative scenarios: Scenario A (“active, quick-changing, and technology oriented”) and Scenario B (“calmer, slower, and nature oriented”) (NIES et al. 2008, p. 5).

This research focuses on Scenario B by linking it with the study of “Satoyama,” the traditional rural landscape in Japan. The term Satoyama is derived from the Japanese words “Sato (Village)” and “Yama (Mountain)” and refers to the second­ary forest attached to agricultural villages, which in the past provided wood, charcoal, and organic fertilizer to every household. From an ecological point of view, “Satoyama” recently came to be regarded as a collective unit of secondary forest and its surrounding elements such as cultivated land, grassland, small rivers, ponds, and reservoirs for irrigation that were once connected with the traditional agricultural system.

The collective body of work on Satoyama has revealed that constant human intervention in the past formerly provided great diversity in habitat for native Japanese species (Washitani 2004). However, these reports also signaled alarm at the shrinkage of rural populations and the loss of traditional agricultural practices, which have led to the danger of loss of biodiversity and traditional landscapes. The role of Satoyama as part of a low carbon society has not been a major strand in the discussion.

The reasons for this exception include the continuous decline of rural populations and the agricultural, fishery, and forestry sectors. Also, there is not enough evidence that the lifestyle in contemporary Satoyama leads to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.