August 5, 2016: National Park and Shibecha High School

When we first stepped onto the wet soil of the National Park of Kushiro, I was blown away by the view – before me was a wide piece of wetland thriving with life and some human settlement from park visitors. There were cabins and recreational vans for the use of these visitors, most of which were families. Further down the green pastures was the lake itself, which covered the horizon with a beautiful azure blue along with some green lilies and water chestnuts floating about. The jigsaw view of green and blue was truly an amazing sight.

Despite the firsthand look of this innocent looking river, there was a lot of problems underlying it. The park rangers explained how the national park wasn’t completely government owned – there are some pieces of land that are privately occupied as logging sites or other uses, making the conservation of these wetlands more difficult to uphold.

Another problem is the over accumulation of water chestnuts in the river. These are vegetation that feed upon the organic matter in the water, most of which are coming from the sedimentation of fertilizers upstream. Due to this, these water chestnuts have overpopulated the river and are coaidered invasive. The rangers are devicing ways or programs for the removal of this vegetation through its local community. Their ideal is not to rid of the water chestnut but rather for its cohabitation with endangered species.

After the talk, we went to the forest nursery at the back of the park. These tree sapplings are fertilized by organic sedimentation and are planted back to the forest surrounding the area. We had a good look of the forest’s flora and fauna – going so close as to looking at the beetles.

Our next stop was at the Shibecha High School, where we were warmly welcomed by the students and faculty members, who had prepared for our arrival for three weeks. We felt immediately at home when they greeted us with big smiles and informative tour. They toured us around their school, wetland and farm. I was amazed at the facilities and curriculum they had which tackled on the main industries of Eastern Hokkaido – farming, fishing and dairy.

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