In accordance with the Land Tax Reform of 1879 (Meiji 12), the Nagata village representative at the time, Maki Shinzō, established the local boundaries between the public and private sectors. As such, most of the mountainous forests of Seibu Rindō, which now form part of Yakushima’s UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, were declared as private property under the jurisdiction of Nagata village.
However, in 1885 (Meiji 18), these forests were on the verge of being sold off. The national government of Japan regarded this potential sale as an act of embezzlement of a national forest. Shinzō, as the indicted party, was imprisoned for seven long months. However, he never once strayed from his assertion that there was a mistake in the government’s appraisal of the forest boundaries. Eventually, he was acquitted by the prosecuting authorities.
“Everything visible to the eye between Mt. Nagata and the sea belongs to the villagers,” Shinzō is purported to have said with a burning conviction. For this, he has since been regarded as the pride of Nagata village. His desire to live in balance and harmony with nature is a light that guides the philosophies and livelihoods of Yakushima islanders to this day.