Frog Meetings!

2016-06-14 13.38.37The 3rd symposium for the Zenpukuji River Society was held on June 11th. This society involves people from diverse backgrounds who are keen about restoring the Zenpukuji River in Tokyo. From my impression, many who were part of this meeting lived along the river. They were not only passionate but also devoted in bringing a pleasant environment for the towns people to live.

The meeting began with a few of the society’s concepts introduced.
– In learning we will teach and teaching we will learn
– Be active with hope and fun
– Adults act with responsibility to keep a promise 

There were progress reports on the problems the park around the river is facing – habitat of wild animals are robbed due to cutting down of trees and ponds not being taken care of. PR for workshops to solve these issues were severe as very few people were gathered. One of the main subject was how to reach out to those who live along the river to raise awareness on the natural matter. 

2016-06-11 14.31.15Some students from the local primary school gave a presentation on how they are learning about the river and the environment as well. They’re presentation was very impressive and it seemed that children aged from 9-12 were just as keen about nature conservation just as adults. 

Zenpukuji River team are also open minded on learning from other prefecture and the world. The symposium 2016-06-11 14.40.29invited an architect and a professor from Kyushyu. The use of rainwater and sewage were discussed, and hearing an opinion from both experts were truly educational. The concept of how to separate the drain system and how to ecologically reuse rain water were very interesting. The Raincoat project was introduced as well.

Soundscapes was another topic discussed, as a professor from Aoyama Gakuin University. Restoring the river as well as the park is not only about the scenic aspect but also about the sounds we hear. What was the first sound you hear when you enter a river? What does the Zenpukuji River sound like? The key aspect was that sounds takes no form of shape – they connect across time and space. If a sound is familiar to one’s ear, it creates a place and that allows you to imagine the past. Sound is spiritual, and it could definitely be an interesting view on restoring nature in Tokyo.

 2016-06-11 15.29.38Professor.Watanabe from Sophia University and the coordinator of Human Ecology: Rivers, gave a presentation of his house becoming a rain house. His children take a huge part on this transition of their house and garden. Through a child’s mind, imagination and possibilities grow – their ideas and fascination of what water can bring about to their lives are passed on to the adults who try their best to make it come true. This project not only sounded fun but also educational and helpful for everyone to easily understand how precious water is.

The cycle of water, the use of water and the ways in which they are transformed was fascinating. Every presentation during the symposium were a new light for me and I am sure it was to others.



On the 4th and 5th of June, the 21st Hotaru Matsuri (Fireflies Festival) was held around the area I live. I’ve gone to this festival since I was in primary school and it’s been a big event for the people that live along the Kanda and Tamagawa Rivers.

These fireflies are raised at Izu and (apparently), according to the man I spoke with who is part of the local government that runs this event, are able to continue this festival because he is friends with the people who raise these fireflies. On the day of the festival, he travels to Izu early in the morning to collect the fireflies and brings it back to Tokyo to let them go in the river. Again, he was quite happy with his second purchase of alcohol as well as the other men around him so we shall generously acknowledge his facts. Still, this festival is amazing on how it brings the tow2016-06-05 19.47.42n together.

The stalls and events begin at Kugayama Station and many people gather on the streets towards the Tamagawa River. There are food stalls and booths for games, even the firefighters allow the children to experience how to use a fire extinguisher. All I hear are 2016-06-05 19.47.30laughters and children screaming of excitement. I remembered this was a rare occasion where my parents allowed me to go out with my friends only, and that was a huge thrill for all primary school children. That’s how safe the environment is around here.

After walking up the hill and reaching the river, all the sounds of the city and people fade and there is nothing by silence and darkness. Here and there, a green light softly appears and disappears. It truly feels spiritual and a group of 2016-06-11 11.06.17young girls around me gasped, “FAIRIES!!” which I would completely fall for if I were their age. Secretly, I still kind of did.
It is mystical and a wonderful event where people appreciate nature right in front of their eyes. At this moment, this river is not part of the concrete jungle but a River that everyone has a personal attachment to and a River that has shaped this small town. Here and there, I heard people talking, “Well, I live along the Kanda river, towards Kichijoji” or “I go to the hospital at the end of Tamagawa River, you know, the really big one?” The fact that I understood where they were talking about proved that these Rivers are a landmark for many people.

The River sparks the town to be vibrant and alive once a year, and I was glad to be part of it again this time.



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Become an expert on Oyster and Dairy Farming in Akkeshi!

Akkeshi, Hokkaido is known as a fishing village as it is famous for its Oysters. Historically, Oyster fishing in Akkeshi had has its ups and downs due to several crisis – one of which is due to over fishing. 

Akkeshi is a city of beautiful ocean and mountains and is blessed with seafood and riches from the soil. To promote their tasty food as well as the city of Akkeshi, a Non Profit Organisation – Akkeshi Net, created an exam for anyone to achieve a doctoral in dairy and oyster farming. 

The categories of the exams are divided into:
Cultivation (only for farming)
Dairy Farming (only for farming)
Culture Farming (only for Oysters)
Fishery  (Only for Oysters)

✳︎ Here are some example exam questions!

How many stomachs do cows have?
①4 ② 3 ③ 2 ④1

  • the answer is, ① 4!  Cows have 4 stomachs. The first and second stomachs ferment the food obtained, the third stomach filtrate the larger bulks of food and brings it back to the second stomach. Once everything is fermented, the foods travels to the forth stomach. There are around 200 litres of liquid in an adults cow’s body. 

Which part of the body do Oysters use to eat?
① Mouth ② Nose ③ Gills ④ Eyes

  • the answer is ③ Gills! Unlike clams and surf clams, Oysters don’t have aqueducts. Therefore, Oysters had developed their gills to swallow an abundant amount of sea water and filter the planktons and obtain them for food. 

The wonderf2016-06-06 14.07.10-1ul aspect about this exams is that it includes a study tour where candidates are welcomed and are given a tour of the city. The candidates get an opportunity to visit a farm to learn about farming as well as visit facilities to gain an understanding of wildlife, history and the procedure of Oyster farming. After, not only their brains but also their stomachs are satisfied with local oysters! 2016-06-06 14.10.41

According to a blog by a former candidate, the three day trip was the most rewarding and fulfilling experience. He was astonished by the bond and love the people of Akkeshi had for their home and each other.  As the Oyster Doctorate examinations were popular, Dairy Farming Doctorate examination will begin from this year. After the exam, candidates are invited to eat Akkeshi beef where they will have the opportunity to communicate with the local people. 

These examinations not only brings about economic development for Akkeshi but also is a valuable opportunity for anyone to learn about how one’s food is made, where it comes from and the importance of nature in our lives. Most importantly, it will definitely be an exciting and fun even that overtakes the stress of the examinations!

Professor. Takeshi Ito from Sophia University had contributed to the publishing of the Dairy Farming expert workbook!

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Lecture: Rivers and Wetlands

★ Lecturer: Professor. Tak Watanabe

Reading The River Law with Commentary by Article, Legal Framework and for River and Water management in Japan 
Author –  Supervised by River Bureau, Ministry of Construction Japan. Compiled and Commented by Toshikatsu Omachi

Reading –  Landscape Restoration A case practise of Kushiro Mire, Hokkaido
Author  – F. Nakamura, Y.S. Ahn 

ReadingForced to run straight, a Japanese river must ow twist 
Author –  Norimitsu Onishi

This week, on June 1st, Human Ecology:Rivers had our third class on Rivers and Wetlands. The lecture began with a simple question, “What is a River?” Students answered in many ways reaching to a definition, ‘a body of water flowing down hill.’ Which is very true, but where is the final destination of these rivers? The ocean,  lake or do they ever reach anywhere? Some rivers are seasonal – they could just vanish and disappear perhaps during a dry season.

Hydrological/Water Cycle was a term introduced by our professor as he explained the term with an event coming up of June 11th 2016 – A gathering of the town people of Suginami area to talk about the water cycle. The birth of Rivers were discussed: the rain soaks into the ground, becomes a river, flows ever so slowly to the ocean, evaporates and become clouds. Water circulates and are somewhat controlled by nature so rivers are suppose to flood, over flow and calm itself.

This cycle brought about the topic of Human Beings and Rivers. How does our society use rivers? Many aspects were called by students:
– Irrigation
– Transportation
– Electricity
– Recreational use
– Tourism
– Industry
Yet the highlight was sewage. Rivers are a ready made sewage system and this idea triggered the shift of image for a River.  For example, in Japan, children learned how to swim in a river. Today, swimming pools are built where children learn how to swim. Rivers are now observed as an importance of public health.

Rivers are now transformed to our conveniences as they are more accessible to human society. Rivers are now diverted, artificial waterways are created, aqueducts are built, dams are built and channelisations occur as Rivers are straightened.  The manipulation of Rivers for the convenience of human society is so engrained that in a city like Tokyo, to see a beautiful ‘natural’ River one must travel for an hour or so.

Yet, these Rivers that are changed are also somewhat ‘natural’ as it can bring back its original grace. Today, there are school and projects restore their local Rivers. Rivers had been transformed and given a new purpose in Japan from the Meiji period when the high economic growth sparked. Rivers continued to be controlled by the government through the Olympic games in the 1960’s until today. To restore nature that transformed through decades is of course difficult, but slowly, with lectures like this one, the ways in which we think about Rivers could alter its purpose and character.

So we went back again to the first question, “What is a River?” However this time, the class had to rethink the idea of ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’ what does it mean to for a River to be in its ‘Original State?’ Nature is bound to change itself, as we had discussed it is a cycle of an environment which is very fragile. What is the feature of a River, and what is the best way to comprehend its personality?

Lecture: Akkeshi Fishery

★ Lecturer: Professor.Takeshi Ito

Assigned ReadingCooperation in Common-Pool Resources: Towards Sustainable Governance of River Ecosystem Services in Lake Akkeshi and Bekanbeushi  Wetland
Authors – Takeshi Ito, Kyungil Kim, and Hinako Ueno

This week , Human Ecology:Rivers 2016 had a second lecture class on Fishery. To be specific, Oyster and Shrimp fishery in  Akkeshi, Hokkaido. The reading provided covered many aspects if the River ecosystem and its relationship to human beings. This lead to one of the class’s discussion on Sustainable Governance.

The students were very much involved and curious about the Fishery  industry in Akkeshi. First, Oysters were discussed as the Akkeshi Oyster farming had gone through two 2 specific crisis – 1. environmental  and 2.over fishing. Although it must be noted that the first environmental factor was caused by humans –  through deforestation, the upper stream of the river affected Lake Akkeshi and it’s water temperature. Therefore, both crisis were caused by human activities.
After this massive die off, the fisher persons struggled to raise their oysters due to shift in fishing rights and methods of fishing. Some farmers who challenged new methods of fishing at the lake, did not have “any clear plans or coordination of how to use the lake.” Tragedy of commons are clear in this scenario.
Production of Oysters came back to a rise after the March 11th earthquake in 2011 . This lead to the idea of more sustainable oyster farming which gave a ‘clear lining of fishery rights in Lake Akkeshi.’ The disaster encouraged the Akkeshi Fishery Coop to directly communicate with the farmers.

Shrimp farming is another aquaculture popular in Akkeshi, although it is not as big as the Oysters as there are only 20 shrimp fisherman.  Shrimp also experienced a decline in population. However through the rethinking of shrimp management ,the population grew in a year with and a method was an incredible success. The key of this success was the leader of the shrimp fishermen, as he stepped forward to learn from scholars. This created a huge difference in the understanding of Shrimp and the leader’s determination to halt shrimping for a year lead to a positive outcome.

The connection of one aspect in the environment affects another, and a small activity of humans can be a huge influence to nature, wildlife and habitat. Through fishery, the class observed the importance of the social and ecological system(Ostrom) –   how professionals from all fields interact can make a positive change. Yet, the success stories are not completely positive as fishery is a profession dependant on luck. The class discussed how fishery = economy is problematic and reciprocation might change the ways in which we look at nature and the value it provides in our lives.


Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park – A field trip

The class took the first field trip to the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park located near Haneda Airport. Through the hustle and bustles upon arriving at the park, the change of scenery in Tokyo could be seen – from old fashion city gradually to a futuristic man made land.

2016-05-11 15.12.21The Wild Bird Park was created in 1973, when the bird watchers initiated a movement to make a land filled area a bird park to preserve and protect nature.  In the 1960’s, there was a land reclamation to create a market – sort of like Tsukiji Market (some of you may know, a Japanese fish market) for produce. Due to miscommunications of the government and those in charge of creating the market, part of this landfilled land started to grow nature and birds began to gather, which lead to the assembly for bird watchers. In 1978, The Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park was established.

The Park was full of trees with a variety of plants and fresh water lakes. Many of these were man made, as trees were brought and planted and lakes were dug and filled. It truly looked like heaven to birds who perhaps have more history in Tokyo than humans do. While surrounded by highways and an airport, as we were in the wild park it seemed we were at a country side – until the trucks in the highway and the airplanes in the sky appeared. Apparently, the birds enjoy the sounds of the highway and the airplanes. Perhaps our guide was mistaking of ‘getting used to’ rather than ‘enjoy.’

2016-05-11 15.20.12

Mr.Saigawa, took the students around for a tour of the park. It seemed half a day may not be enough to explore and appreciate the entirety of the wilderness. He had emphasised that variety is very important for nature as they create bio diversity and lead to a healthy life for all. During the lecture, being a nature lover, Mr.Saigawa spoke about how the park could be a great place for tourists to rest in between flights. They will be surprised that ‘nature’ exists in Tokyo, he said. This was part of an idea towards the 2020 olympics in Japan.

In his discussion of the nature as a culture for the Japanese, according to him nature is only enjoyed if controlled. As Japan is an agricultural country, nature and weather are things to be scared of and not only to be enjoyed. If not controlled, it is NOT nature Mr.Saigawa said – it is fearful. Wildlife management is considered scientific, but perhaps it is crucial for us to think of it as an Art/Humanities. That lead to end of our trip as Mr.Saigawa finished is lecture.


Human Ecology: Rivers 2016 First Class

Today marked the first class of Human Ecology:RIVERS 2016. This year will be a wide range of cultures and knowledges coming together as there are students from various backgrounds. The class flourished with discussions and ideas of the lectures. The handful of knowledgable and highly motivated students is what makes this class not only special but also exciting. 

HER 1The lecture topics discussed the idea of Nature from a political science and an anthropological view, whilst there were overlapping matters between the two. 

“Tragedy of the Commons” was a concept first studied. The three points: 1.Nationalise (Government) 2. Idea of Commons (Market) and 3.Privatise (Society) were raised to the topic, ‘How do people avoid the Tragedy of the Commons?’ At the end of this lecture, students were dropped with the question – Under what condition can individuals corporate to mitigate the tragedy of the commons? This was an issue tackled in the reading by Elinor Ostrom with her idea on the Social Ecological System: a concept of professionals from various fields creating policies. Students were challenged to rethink about a variety of ‘commons’ in our daily lives and how that is shared and controlled. 

HER 2The Land Ethic (A chapter from the book, A Sand County Almanac) by Aldo Leopold was studied next. The definition of Ethic was explored in order to understand the concepts of Ethics for the use of nature and Ethics of nature. Since when have we begun to see Nature as an economical value? Are we able to recognise that nature’s evolutionary cycle is uncontrollable to human beings? Is Leopold’s idea on human beings as a citizen (not the conquer) of the Land Community possible? These questions as well as the idea of the pyramid (a concept that all living things as well as what created the earth are all connected) were both thought provoking, as students were challenged to observe nature in both a scientific and almost personified vision. 

This class was an opportunity for students to reevaluate the idea of Nature and the reciprocation of human beings.