[Report] Press Tour to Chiba, The Natural Resources Producer (Oct. 2015)

International Exchange

[Report] Press Tour to Chiba, The Natural Resources Producer (Oct. 2015)

Press Tour Planned and Operated by Foreign Press Center Japan

This press tour was sponsored by Chiba Prefecture with planning and project support by the FPCJ, and visited the Sotobo area of Chiba Prefecture. It is the location of the largest deposit of natural gas dissolved in water in Japan, which also includes large quantities of iodine. The press tour covered Chiba Prefecture’s natural resources, the industries based on them, and the daily lives of people that use them. Five journalists participated in the tour, from China, Singapore, and the USA.

Click here for further details on the tour

Click here for a log of real-time updates from during the tour

1. Current State of Production of Iodine and Natural Gas

In the morning, the tour visited the Godo Shigen Co., Ltd. Chiba office. The journalists listened to a briefing by Dr. Osamu Kazaoka, Chief Researcher at the Chiba Prefecture Environmental Research Center, on the characteristics of the Minami Kanto Gas Field in Chiba Prefecture, and how iodine and natural gas can be extracted from groundwater. Next, the journalists were told about the current state of production of iodine and natural gas, including the method for manufacturing iodine, uses of natural gas and iodine, and the iodine recycling business which the company has been focusing on in recent years. In collaboration with Kanto Natural Gas Development Co., Ltd. and another company, they developed a mask taking advantage of the antibacterial properties of iodine.

Afterwards, the group went outside to see facilities where natural gas and iodine are extracted from groundwater that is pumped up, and a plant where iodine is manufactured and processed. Journalists asked questions such as “What measures are in place to prevent the ground from sinking due to groundwater extraction,” and “As a company that provides 7% of the global iodine supply, are you considering expanding your business in the future?”

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2. Utilizing Natural Gas Wells in People’s Daily Life

The group then went to Isumi City, where they visited Brown’s Field, a hotel and café where they serve food using rice, vegetables, soy sauce, miso, and other self-grown and self-made ingredients. After lunch, Mr. Masayoshi Kimizuka from Isumi Lifestyle Laboratory, an NPO, gave a briefing focused on the system for drawing natural gas to people’s homes. The tour also saw a stove using gas from a natural gas well on the property, and learned about the lifestyle using locally available energy. Questions by journalists included “Are there any initiatives in place in Isumi City to encourage the use of natural gas wells,” and “How many houses in the city have natural gas wells on their property?”

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3. Dark-Colored Bath Containing Iodine, Warmed by Natural Gas

The tour concluded with a visit to Footbath Yasuragi in Yoro Valley. The footbath’s water is dark and contains iodine, and its operator Mr. Okitaro Shikura warms it using natural gas from the natural gas well at his home. The journalists had the opportunity to experience the footbath while filming and taking photographs. They also visited Mr. Shikura’s home, where he uses natural gas from the gas tank in his yard for his kitchen stove, hot water for his bath, and heating in the winter. The journalists were surprised at Mr. Shikura’s lifestyle free from the need to pay for gas. They had questions such as “Is it safe to have a natural gas well and gas tank in your own yard,” “What efforts were necessary to be able to use natural gas, and have you had any difficulties,” and “How much did it cost to build this natural gas well and tank, and is it worth it considering that initial investment?”

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