South of Mount Fuji, along Japan’s central eastern coast, sits Shizuoka Prefecture. Home to green tea plantations, hot springs resorts, and Yamaha pianos and motorcycles, Shizuoka Prefecture is a vibrant agricultural, tourist, and manufacturing region. It is also home to Katsunori Hirano, a current Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC).
Hirano was born and has lived most of his life in Shizuoka Prefecture, and has worked for the prefectural government for nearly 20 years. He specialized in energy and environmental policy while pursuing a master’s degree in urban affairs and public policy at the University of Delaware (UD). His research explored ways to apply watershed management framework concepts to forest resources management in Japan. While at Stanford, he is studying biodiversity conservation and enhancement while also seeking to re-envision the path to a clean and safe sustainable future.
Last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has inspired him to explore ways for Japan to reduce its dependency on nuclear energy. Under the direction of political science professor Phillip Lipscy, Hirano is currently researching incentive mechanisms for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy in place in the United States.
At the very beginning of his UD program, Hirano learned about the distinction between “economic growth” and “development.” “People tend to use the Japanese-language terms interchangeably,” he says.
He is currently exploring case studies from Costa Rica and Bhutan—two countries that have been successfully managing biodiversity—in his search for sustainability models. He says the United States also offers a variety of practical examples of environmental and social sustainability. This year, Hirano plans to study the lifestyle of Amish villagers in Pennsylvania.
Hirano also actively participates in Shorenstein APARC-organized visits to local companies and government organizations such as Facebook and San Francisco City Hall. He says that such site visits help broaden his thinking about innovation and sustainability.
Hirano will continue taking Stanford courses related to his research, attending on-campus workshops and seminars, and speaking with the many people he meets through his campus activities. “Stanford’s extraordinary breadth of teaching and research resources is just wonderful. To me, the learning opportunities that Stanford offers are limitless,” he says, adding that the value of in-person learning far outweighs book-based knowledge.
As Hirano pursues his research at Stanford on energy efficiency and renewable energy and searches for a redefinition of sustainable development, he hopes Japan will begin to pursue social-based development. “I believe that the challenges posed by the Fukushima experience will help inspire Japan to lead the world in creating a sustainable future for generations to come.”