BISEI TOWN, Ibara City, Okayama Prefecture, Japan — Bisei Town of Ibara City is now certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a Dark Sky Community. This certification is the third Dark Sky Place in Japan and the first Dark Sky Community in Asia.
Bisei Town (literally ‘beautiful stars’) is as its name suggests, a town where you can enjoy the beautiful starry sky. From long ago, there have been legends regarding shooting stars in the area, and many areas have names related to stars, reflecting Bisei’s strong connection with the night sky. Bisei is situated in the western Okayama Prefecture on the Kibi Plateau, which is an area well known by astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts today as a good place for stargazing due to the darkness of the night sky, the high rate of clear skies, and the stability of the atmosphere. This intrinsic connection to the night sky led to Bisei enacting Japan’s first light pollution prevention ordinance in November 1989. Over the past 30 years, Bisei has worked diligently to raise awareness surrounding light pollution and forming a sustainable future.
Recently in January 2020, Ibara City partnered with the lighting manufacturer Panasonic to produce a dark-sky friendly product that is now certified by IDA’s Fixture Seal of Approval program. With this partnership, all public outdoor lighting in the town has been replaced with lighting fixtures that meet IDA’s standards, dramatically decreasing light pollution in the town. This project was funded through crowdfunding and attracted donations from all over the country. This also attracted a lot of media attention, making Bisei a new model for town development.
These commendable efforts were recognized by the IDA, which was formally announced by Ashley Wilson, Director of Conservation. “It is my greatest pleasure to inform you that the Dark Sky Places Committee has fully endorsed the nomination for Bisei Town with the International Dark Sky Community Certification! Congratulations on this incredible achievement that will embody the commitment and dedication of your community to preserve your night skies. I am sure everyone involved will be delighted to hear of this good news and that their hard work paid off. This certification will truly be a monumental milestone not only for Japan, but for all of Asia.”
“I am very proud and happy to have Bisei Town certified as the first Dark Sky Community in Asia, and I want to share that happiness with the residents of Bisei who have worked hard to create an environment which protects the beautiful starry sky,” stated Oshita Isao, Ibara City Mayor. “From now on, I hope we can be a model for others, and continue to protect the starry sky for generations to come.”
Ochi Nobuaki, International Dark-Sky Association Tokyo Representative and Associate Professor at Toyo University added, “I think that due to the continuous hard work of Bisei’s citizens to reduce light pollution, Bisei Astronomical Observatory’s astronomy promotion activities, and the beautiful starry sky called the stargazing holy land by astronomy enthusiasts nationwide, it is only fitting that Bisei Town is named a Dark Sky Community. I hope that the wonderful starry sky, and Bisei’s townscape being wrapped in warm lighting, will continue to be the identity of Bisei Town for years to come.”
Currently, Bisei is working to further support star tourism. By starting the ‘Town of Stars Development Consortium’ held by residents, organizations, and businesses, Bisei is developing a dark-sky friendly environment to welcome tourists.
About the International Dark-Sky Association: The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view and connection to the universe. Bisei Town now joins more than 180 Places that have demonstrated robust community support for dark sky advocacy and strive to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.