Internationally recognized night skies of Ishigaki Island
In April 2018, Yaeyama’s Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park. This is an authorization scheme established by the so-called International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) that praises outmatching endeavors to protect and preserve dark night skies where there is no influence from light pollution. It is the first designation of its kind in Japan and the second in Asia.
Since old times, the moon and stars have been treasured in Yaeyama, as people relied on the stars for sea navigation and for deciding when to harvest crops. There are many preserved folktales and songs about the moon and the stars such as ‘Tsuki nu kaisha’ and ‘Murikabushi Yunta’. Unfortunately, also in the Yaeyama region that is blessed with its beautiful night skies, development progressed and now within the city center only Level 1 and Level 2 stars can be seen. I believe that light pollution, which has become a global problem, is a type of pollution where people in Japan are still unfamiliar with, but there are reports in developed Asian and Western countries about the waste of energy, the severe damage on wild life and bad influence on humans as light pollution is aggravates. In Paris and New York, regulations against light pollution and rules for night illumination have been initiated, and it can be said that in terms of countermeasures to light pollution, Japan is lacking behind. It is not about turning off lights that are necessary in daily life, but there is a need to recover the night skies as they are supposed to be by removing excessive, wasteful lighting.
Nowadays, as is said that more than one third of the world’s population and 70% of the Japanese population cannot see the Milky Way at night due to excessive, artificial lights, is it not up to the Yaeyama region as Japan’s first Dark Sky Park to act towards becoming a leading model city for the world, where people’s lives coexist with the night skies?