Japan Cycle Tree
Japan Cycle Tree

The mysterious forest circles of Miyazaki

I didn’t happen across these strange circles of trees while soaring over the Japanese landscape but, like many curious folk, I found them on social networks. As these always show the same photos, I decided to check them out with my very own aerial sensors.

Come under my catwings, and we’re off to Kyushu, Miyazaki Prefecture! More accurately to the relatively pretty town of Nichinan. From there, a semi-abandoned track straddles a thickly forested mountainside. A good half hour later, a weathered sign appears. It seems to indicate the centre of one of those agricultural curiosities!

Ha, waddya mean agro what? So a crop circle is an unexpected artificial pattern. You might remember those found in fields in the United States that were attributed to paranormal phenomena, such as spacecraft landing. When in truth it was me! They’re fools anyway (me too).

My drone, freed, flies up to the heights. These images come straight back. Trees, Miyazaki, Japan, meow & curiosity: after smoking a few too many buds I’m wired to imagine these circles are Totoro launch sites! The reality is more mundane: the forest was established in 1973 by the local forestry agency to test plantation growth.

Japan Cycle Tree
Japan Cycle Tree

Seven hundred and twenty trees were planted in a sequence of concentric circles, starting with a central small area and gradually increasing the radial increments to form larger circles, ten trees deep. The objective was to study the effects of forest density on the growth of a local type of wood: Obi cedar (飫肥(おび)杉).

Japan Cycle Tree
Japan Cycle Tree

Fifty years later, the result surpassed the researchers’ expectations when the first drone photos were available! The forest was supposed to be felled in 2011, but as there’s still no exact explanation for the phenomenon, the experiment is extended until 2023.

Japan Cycle Tree
Japan Cycle Tree

I’m counting on the most curious among you to answer these questions in the comments: Why is this formation surprising? Do you know of other similar experiments? And finally, how might Miyazaki use this forest for tourism?