Today was probably my favorite day of the trip! I really liked the tour given by the rangers, because I realized that I didn’t really know anything about National Parks management in Japan. I also liked their philosophy, namely that the wetland, agriculture and fishery are not separated from each other, but rather all taken into account as much as possible. It is indeed the feeling we had yesterday when we were told that a part of the canal river wasn’t entirely restore to avoid floods on a local farm. Another philosophy that the rangers shared with us and that I greatly appreciated was the fact that they don’t ban people from cutting trees because they would just go somewhere else. It seems indeed that it is the wisest thing to do, but I thought they would try to “move” the problem in order to keep a better scenery of the National Park and to show to outsiders that they respect the land. This way of thinking shows they can really feel a sense of responsibility outside of their own “frontier”, which is something I greatly appreciate. We then had an overview of the water chestnut issue, and I was really surprised to know that the view of the wetland covered with green leaves is in fact not very natural. It seems indeed that there is an overpopulation of water chestnut resulting from the flow of excessive nutrition from the mountains. Therefore, the view of the wetland which I thought was one of the most natural landscape we could see there turned out to be also impacted by humans.
Finally, I was amazed by their “tree nursery, and I realized that I greatly underestimated the task of replanting trees! I would never have thought that rangers needed to grow the trees inside a greenhouse, plant them, and then take them in again for winter! I tough that since trees are supposed to survive without human intervention they would be able to grow without problems, but I guess they need to apply this method for a good reason, like for instance because of the snow in winter.
After this tour to the National Park, we headed to the most amazing school I have ever seen in my life! I wished I had the same kind of high school when I was younger… When I heard in the bus that on the top of having a farm they have a MOUNTAIN on their property….! And a wetland! And a river!! No matter how many wonderful landscapes I was seeing in this school, my brain could never understand that I was in a school property and not in another wild place of Hokkaido. And the students were absolutely adorable, so welcoming, and they seemed very happy to see us. I felt like I was Obama on an official visit! We started the tour to their “mini wetland”, and even though I have talked to a teacher for 10 minutes thinking he was a student (his first impression must have been terrible haha), it was a wonderful tour that made me feel like I was stepping into wonderland! After this walk we went to their school and we had the opportunity to have a group discussion and to know about how students of Shibesha feel being in this special environment. I was sometimes a little bit surprised that many of them seemed to know less about dairy farming than us who have spent only a week in Hokkaido, but overall it was pretty interesting. The fact that the teachers asked them to emphasize what they dislike about their position and situation was an excellent opportunity to hear some opinions that they would probably have kept for themselves. For example, a student in my group talked about her worries regarding the future of young people in Hokkaido since more and more people leave for big cities, and they have less job opportunities than in other parts of Japan. I really appreciated that they felt comfortable enough to talk about their personal feelings whereas we just had met. Their presentation was also very interesting and we could see how much they prepared for us. It was so touching to see how they welcomed us, with their tour, their presentation, the food that they made, the deer skin accessories… When it was time for goodbye we all felt really sad and no one wanted to get into the bus…
It was only few hours, but I will never forget their warm welcome and I wish they will all accomplish their life goal!