Today the class met Mr. Terauchi, a park ranger at the Kushiro Wetland National Park. Mr. Jinma who works at the Kushiro Natural Environment Office was also present, and they guided us on this nature walk. From the moment we started the walk, our surrounding was full of bugs.The trail was not restructured for human convenience; we instead walked around deep waters, stepped over fallen trees, and pushed through the plants that were in our face. I have played in creeks throughout my childhood since I lived in the countryside of North Carolina. However, the creek that I played in was not in any way dangerous. Water flowed lazily and shallow, beaver dams were empty, no encounters with harmful bugs were present, and our parents can oversee the creek from the backyard. This was the first time that I have felt like I was getting a “true” experience of a natural creek.
We started off at the camping ground area where a few families played with their children near the parking lot. This surprised me because the place seemed too man-made compared to what I have imagined to be. However, we learned that National Parks in Japan has certain areas that serve different purposes. For example, while some areas can be owned privately, some others are government managed. Each area has their own regulations according to its classification.
About halfway into the walk Mr. Jinma and Mr. Terauchi handed us small nets to catch fish and the endangered Japanese crayfish. I have only seen the signal crayfish, (which I did not know was an invasive species), but the Japanese zarigani (crayfish) looked much smaller than the signal crayfish. After a few minutes of cluelessly trying to find the zarigani, I observed many of them actually hide under the muddy areas near the water. The class had the rich opportunity to watch a mother zarigani give birth.
At the end of the walk, Mr. Jinma explained to us that the whole trail we had walked actually came from one small source. The stream started off from a very small hole-like area that was continuously pouring water. It is truly fascinating to see that such a small water source that I would consider insignificant actually contributed to the creation of a big creek that serves as a home for animals, water source for animals, and much more.
When learning about the environment, it is crucial that we do not fall into the trap of assuming that we have learned “enough”. There is always more that what we already know of that we can learn from nature. And from this walk, I truly felt that going out of one’s way to experience “nature” is the best way to understand the environment.