Oysters!!

 

IMG_6104.JPGAkkeshi, a beautiful small town located on the East side of downtown Kushiro, is a well-known place for its seafood (especially oysters!) that even I have been to this place before. The picture above is a picture that I took a year ago during the winter.. it was really really cold.. I remember when I first came I went to a restaurant where you can pick what you like and then you can grill it yourself.

It kinda looks like this

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Today we went to the Oyster Hatchery Center to have a tour on how the oysters are grown here. Akkeshi’s most famous kind of oyster is called kakiemon which I thought was very cute.

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We visited the center and there were two foreigners there wanting to join us. Apparently they met here? and are on their honeymoon trip. Anyways we started our tour and never knew that oysters could be grown like this! We learned about how they add a kind of powder and make the shell grow, and luckily I got to touch the power and it was so amazing how it is even possible! They also explained to us the reason why the shell has a layer-like shape, and I realize that often times we do not pay attention to little things in life, especially to animals or the food we eat. Life is just so amazing..

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It was sad that I could not get on the boat and join everyone for the oyster bar trip due to my car sickness, however, I stayed on the bus and talked to the bus driver about his life living in Kushiro for his life and about his kids and grandkids 🙂 I love Hokkaido and its people, they are just too sweet ❤

After that we left Akkeshi and head towards Kayanuma. Although we had only stayed for a day, I will always, forever remember this heart warming place.

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Sumidagawa fireworks festival

Simidagawa fireworks, an annual fireworks festival held on the last Saturday in July, is one of the most popular fireworks festivals in Japan. It is held in Sumidagawa (Sumida River) in Asakusa, and it started way back from Edo period.

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On 7/29 I went to Asakusa with friends to go see the fireworks. This is the first time me going to a hanabi taikai in yukata and I was sooo excited! However, it started to rain from 4pm, and since the fireworks starts at 7pm, my friends and I had to stand in the rain for 3 hours just to make sure we have a good enough spot to see the show.

 

Me sitting in the rain

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Some facts about Sumidagawa:

Sumidagawa is a branch from Arakawa, separates at Iwabuchi watergate, and its tributaries include famous river such as Kandagawa. Many marine organisms live in Sumidagawa, including freshwater fish such as the common carp, goldfish, as well as Brackish water fish such as the Japanese scaled sardine.

The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival mainly has its fireworks above Azumabashi, the most well-known bridge of Sumidagawa.

View from Azumabashi that day

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Surprisingly, Sumidagawa does not stink at all, and there are many boats (mainly for tourism?) on the river as well, so I thought that the river is not as polluted as Kanda river.. (There is a cafe literally on Kanda river in iidabashi, and it was terrible).

Sumidagawa and its fireworks festival is probably one of the best experiences I have ever had in Tokyo, although it was very very crowded  (Around 957,000 people went this year apparently) and was raining. Definitely going next year:)

 

Time to say goodbye

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From 4pm we started to have our own little bbq party. Many people who helped us out throughout the trip was invited, including Takeda san, the owner of 民宿あっけし who I talked to a lot during the first day. During the BBQ, he told me about how next march in Akkeshi there is an event going on and I should go visit! I thought about it and it since I should be free that time, I am thinking about visiting Akkeshi and Kushiro again next year 🙂 He told me how he went to Taiwan last year and it was such a nice experience for him which I am so glad to hear! It was so fun to have the BBQ party because this time we can not only just learn about ecology salmon and river, but also every single person, their background, and their story. We had Syfia in our table who I did not really talk a lot to, and since we were sitting at the same table we got to talk and I got to learn more about being a Muslin and her eating habit…etc. I love social hours.

Some good food that we had

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I think I ate too much today since I had more than 20 slices of watermelon and countless pieces of fish.

After the BBQ party, we shared our watermelon with the group sitting next to us. I asked the parents where they are from and they told me that they are from Obihiro and they do baseball! The kids got so excited and they told me that they have never seen a foreigner before. They started asking me so many questions such as what is in Taiwan? How do people look like there? What do you eat? It was fun talking to them and sharing what I know to them. Then we got fireworks from the parents and I think we could say that it was the best part of the night.

This little guy over here asked me to take a picture of him. I asked if I can share it with my friends and he said ok!

 

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I talked to the parents during bath time and one of the moms told asked me what I want to do in the future. I told her I still do not know yet and she told me to not to think too much and when I am lost, come to Hokkaido! Life motto learned.

Hokkaido is truly the best place that I have ever visited. The people, the food, the view, the nature… I am so glad that I came on this trip with the right group of people. I learned to love the nature in a way that I was never taught before.

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Don’t fall!

8/5 today is the last full day that we’ve got for this trip. In the morning, we all went canoeing! It was the first time me trying canoeing and since in the class, professor Watanabe was trying to tell us about how when you fall into the river you should not swim… the river is still but deep… I thought everyone was going to fall so I went, sooo prepared to fall and just be wet.

Anyways, here is a picture of me

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I was on the canoe (not really a canoe though.. it was so fast I totally loved it!) with Nomoto san and he told me about how he was from Kansai but chose to come live in Hokkaido and create a family here. He told me that in Hokkaido it is 住みやすい and people are generally nice here, which I totally agree with him! He brought a few nets for me and we were trying to catch fish while canoeing. Eventually, we caught 0 fish 1 shrimp and 4 ザリガニ. There is so many crawfish in this river and I finally learned how dangerous invasive species are.

 

Here is a crawfish that I caught

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After canoeing, we found out that we had more time than we thought we had, so all of us started playing games (ninja). Born and raised a city girl I never really had played with friends outdoor before. Being able to come to Hokkaido with this group of people really has turned me into a new person, a person who is more patient and a person who can enjoy every little thing in life, even just playing ninja 🙂

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Thank you everyone from Kushiro salmon society for preparing everything for us and being so kind and understanding, and also for trying to communicating with us!

Akkeshi vs the anthropocene epoch

On the first day of the trip, we had a symposium with several local actors of Akkeshi. What interested me the most was the talk given by the head of the Environmental development of the local state. He would explain how this town would take part in environmental efforts since 1993. The main fields of study which were examined were: pollution, waste & Forestry. Improving these areas would achieve what he called the “ecotopia vision”. Indeed, he gave the impression that they do something about the environment. For the field of waste, they implemented more waste categories than the 4 we would find in cities – that is if we even find the trash cans. As a result, I think people become more aware of what their products are made of than if they didn’t need to intensively sort their trash. In addition, people become more connected since they would learn from those who do know how to sort it correctly. Another great example which gave me some soap, I mean hope, was the subsidization of soap to discourage individuals to use detergent as it degraded the environment.

Moreover, Akkeshi promoted these environmentally friendly ideals to local schools. For example, school students were involved in a reforestation project which took place every 6 months and over 600 people participated.

Consequently, hearing about these projects & state-led subsidies, it was great to see that small cities/towns participate & play a role in living in a sustainable, environmentally caring space. I was surprised by the local efforts to promote such and gave me hope to try my best to do the same wherever I am. Finally, I felt that since towns like these depend on the environment for the sustenance of their industries, they develop a deeper connection with their surroundings -much more at least than major cities such as Tokyo. It reinforced the idea that by having programs that change mentalities, people become connected to what they use & consume and begin to care more about it.

Salmon Aquaculture in Norway as a Model for Japan

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We had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Bjorn Baurlaup present on salmon aquaculture in Norway, to which he has dedicated thirty years of his life studying. According to Dr. Baurlaup, the aims of salmon aquaculture in Norway are responsible management and sustainable use. Currently, institutions, managements, the industry, local governments, national government and even the EU are communicating and cooperating in order to achieve these two aims. Communication and cooperation, as emphasized by Dr. Baurlaup, are essential in the management of salmon aquaculture, and seem to be lacking in the town of Kushiro and the rest of the Hokkaido region. The lack of communication and cooperation was apparent in how the farmers at the salmon farm we visited (who apparently were unwilling to open their farm for viewing to locals last year, believed to be for secrecy) seemed to be unsure of certain questions raised, such as why the number of returning salmon has decreased significantly over the years. I believe that better communication and stronger cooperation with other institutions specializing in salmon aquaculture would allow for the transmission of knowledge to the farmers to ensure better management.

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Morita-san, from the Hokkaido National Fisheries Research Institute, said that he was envious of the support salmon aquaculture in Norway receives from various groups, including even the national government and the EU. If only they had such backing for salmon aquaculture in Hokkaido, Morita-san believes that salmon aquaculture could be better managed to ensure sustainable use. Willingness of salmon farmers to cooperate and open their minds to new ideas, such as the feedback control management, in which the number of fry released is adjusted based on the number of returning adults, would especially be ideal. 

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Like many students, I came into the symposium worried that I would have too little knowledge on the topics of discussion. To my surprise, however, I was able to follow the presentations and even recognize many of the terms relating to salmon aquaculture from our readings in class. I left the symposium with a better understanding of the complex issues concerning salmon aquaculture in Hokkaido. Though it appears that Japan has yet a lot to learn about salmon aquaculture, it can draw inspiration from the model of salmon aquaculture in Norway. There are already groups of individuals interested in preserving salmon aquaculture in the region— all that it is missing are better communication and stronger cooperation among the groups, and the support of the national government if it wishes to follow the steps of Norway.

A Look Back: Top 3 Moments

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Canoeing with Kosugi-san

3. Canoeing in Kushiro River 

Canoeing with the Kushiro Salmon Society was definitely one of my most favorite moments from the trip. I rode with Kosugi-san, who told me stories from his seventy plus years of living in Kushiro. Aside from hearing about local life in Kushiro, it was interesting to see the river from our point of view in the canoes, paddling upstream and then downstream. The river was full of life, from the plants to the small fish inhabiting the river. Though I have canoed in the past, it was my first time canoeing not as a tourist for leisure, but as an observer for academic purposes, allowing me to view Kushiro River (and rivers in general) from a whole new perspective.

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Group picture with our special guests from Norway and various organizations in Kushiro

2. Symposium 

It was my first time attending and presenting at a symposium. Though we had a limited amount of time to prepare and practice for our presentation and though our knowledge was limited compared to the speakers, I think that our class did a very good job. It was interesting to hear the visions and current projects of the speakers and the groups they represent, providing us with a deeper understanding of the complex issues concerning salmon aquaculture. One of the questions that came up during the open discussion was: how can we improve communication among the various groups involved, such as social scientists, local governments, fishing cooperative and other members of the community? I agree with Professor Yu that by holding a symposium like ours, though small in size, already places us one step closer to solidarity, providing us with a common space to speak a common language. I deeply believe that through increased communication and an effort to understand each others’ perspective, issues would be resolved. 

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A spread of Hokkaido’s freshest vegetables and seafood

1. BBQ Night 

Good food with great people— barbecue night with the inspiring people we had met during our time in Hokkaido was, by far, the most memorable of all. Not only were we lucky enough to try some of the region’s best seafood, including oysters and crabs, but we also had the opportunity to talk more with the local people about their vision and their current projects. Kosugi-san, who seemed to be very curious about other countries’ efforts in solving environmental issues, and I talked about river restoration in other countries. It was clear to see how much he cared for the salmon and the rivers, to which he has dedicated most of his life, thus serving as an inspiration for us all.