Noyaki (open burning) (野焼き)

Noyaki (open burning) means burning the vegetations in the hills and fields. Noyaki is done to maintain the partially artificial vegetation most of the times, but in some cases it is done to make semipermanent farmland.

Noyaki in Japan

In Japan, noyaki is done to burn the dried grass in early spring before the grass plants start to sprout. It is also called yamayaki (burning the dead grass off a hill).

In the natural circumstances in Japan excluding fierce cold areas, grassland transitions to forest (based on the principle of biology). By doing noyaki, these transitions stop and the grassland is maintained. Also, it may have the effect of fertilizing the newly sprouting grass by reducing the accumulation of organic substances and turning them into inorganic salts. Noyaki also has been considered to have the effect of killing insect pests. Noyaki has been traditionally conducted by Japanese people for the purpose of continued use of hills and fields as grassland.

Famous places for noyaki

Yamayaki on the Wakakusa-yama Mountain

Noyaki on the Mt. Aso

Yoshiyaki (reed burning) in the Watarase retarding basin

Yamayaki on the Mt. Omuro (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Yamayaki on the Akiyoshidai plateau (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

Noyaki in the Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture)

Yamayaki on the Sengokuhara plateau (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Legal restrictions

According to the Forest Act, when doing Noyaki of forests (in legal terms, 'intentional burn'), approval from the mayor of the relevant city, town or village must be obtained.

Also, noyaki is prohibited except when burning waste materials is necessary to comply with the manners and customs or to perform an religions event, or when it is imperative in order for the operation of agriculture, forestry or fishery, in accordance with 'the Wastes Disposal and Public Cleansing Act' enforced in 2001 and the enforcement order of 'the Wastes Disposal and Public Cleansing Act.'
Violator of the above act shall be imposed up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine up to 10,000,000 JPY, or both.

Accident

On March 25, 1977, the noyaki conducted in Hiraodai, Kokuraminami Ward, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, caused a forest fire due to the strong wind, and burned 207 hectare of the forest and field, and 5 firefighters trying to distinguish the fire died.

On March 17, 2009, at the noyaki conducted in a field in Yufuin-cho, Yufu City, Oita Prefecture, 4 participants were burned to death and 2 people sustained minor and serious injuries. Although an intentional burn was prohibited on that day according to the city ordinance since a warning was issued, the city and the fire department quietly condoned the violation of the ordinance by following the customs. According to the witnesses, a firestorm was observed at the site of the fire.

Noyaki around the world

In tropical countries, swidden agriculture in which tropical forestland is burned is widely conducted.

In the small-scale open burnings that have been conducted by the native inhabitants, the land will be left as is after the use for a short period of time, and the land regrow. In this way, it is renewable like noyaki in Japan.

However, modern open burning is conducted to use the field as semipermanent farmland. Therefore, it is unrenewable and seen as an issue from the viewpoints of environmental protection and CO2 emissions.