Water in the city as a portal to “nature”

During this course we have, of course, spent a lot of time discussing rivers. One thing that’s remained in my mind is the pollution of the rivers of Tokyo and the fact that these are no longer suitable for humans to be in. Playing in the water mixed with waste from the sewers after a heavy rainfall could be harmful, and so the rivers are there, but not interacted with by the average citizens. You might walk along the river, maybe even dip your feet, but you cannot jump into it, spend you summer days floating in the water and playing in it, swimming and diving. This is very different from my home city Stockholm. Like Tokyo, Stockholm is a city with plenty of water – being built on 13 islands – but unlike Tokyo, interactions with the water (rivers, lakes, brackish waters) are common. Especially in the summer.

In the summer in Stockholm, many spend their days by the inner city bodies of water. These are relatively clean and thus safe to be in, and there are very few children who do not swim in these. Smaller children run along the beach shrieking with excitement whenever they find some kind of creature or a shell or a plant they haven’t seen before, while the older children swim and the grownups lay basking in the sun, occasionally cooling off in the water.

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Summer in the middle of Stockholm

I think this is one of the first experiences many city children have with “nature” in a more or less uncontrolled form. It doesn’t take long for them to get over how “icky” the lake bottom might feel, or how scary water creatures are at first. They get used to it and can enjoy the water together with them.

So I think it is a shame that Tokyo children miss this wonderful opportunity to emerge themselves, quite literally, in nature while still in the city. If you spend time in nature when young, it seems to me you’re more likely to enjoy it and feel at home in it as an adult. It creates an awareness of the fact that nature is in fact not absent in the city, but is actually part of it and part of our surroundings wherever we are. I believe this creates a bond with nature, a feeling of closeness that might lead to greater care for nature at an older age.

If the rivers of Tokyo could be made available for humans to submerge themselves in again, I think we could all have a lot to gain.

Sofia

 

Comparing Two Rivers: Tamagawa vs. Kanda

Every day, as I travel to and from Yokohama to Tokyo, I pass by two major rivers. One is Tamagawa River, which borders Kanagawa prefecture and Tokyo prefecture and the other is the Kanda River near school. I decided to choose two rivers to talk about in this blog post because they are complete opposites and I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast these two rivers that I see twice a day, every day. The Tamagawa River is surrounded by green fields on both sides with flower beds and trees everywhere. You can see joggers, kids and old couples taking a walk and enjoying the view. The water is blue and overall it is a very scenic and nature area. The air is clear, there’s nice wind and you can feel the nature surrounding you. There are quite a lot of wildlife living in and along the Tamagawa River as well, from carp to herons, it is filled with nature’s creatures.

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The second river I would like to talk about is the Kanda River. In comparison to the Tamagawa River, the Kanda River is not visually pleasing, polluted and no signs of wildlife. The color of the water is probably the biggest difference between the two rivers. The Kanda River is as green as the trees that surround it. It shocked me the first time I saw this river because of its mossy green color, I have never seen anything like it before. Besides the trees that reside on top of the concrete walls, there is no other sign of nature. The concrete walls make it look more like a canal rather than a river. I cannot imagine any form of life living in or around it. The river is tightly between a row of buildings and the Chuo line. Because this river runs through one of the most urban parts of Tokyo, I understand why it looks the way it does. It looks more manmade than a natural flowing river like the Tamagawa River. Because of this urban setting, the air that surrounds this river, the overall feeling is eerie and dull. Though mostly negative, the Kanda River actually has its moments. During the spring time, when the cherry blossoms start to bloom, the river is lined with beautiful cherry blossoms. This view takes away from the green and mossy river, but cherry blossom season is only a few weeks, so most of the year the Kanda River remains gloomy and sad.

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Trip to the Zenpukuji River

In 2011, I used to have an experience in a life with water surrounding my house in Bangkok. People have been suffered from flood crisis many times which has a huge impact and expanded into a wider range. This disaster made me feel nervous and the longer it took, the more I knew that this situation is more problematic than I thought. However, this issue is still unable to be solved in Thailand.

I have never realized that every infrastructure should be established in a very critical way since it can widely impact other elements. This trip to the Zenpukuji river is kind of changing my perspective towards the environment in the city. I had done research about the Zenpukuji river before I visited to the river on that day and I found out that most of the information on the internet is about sightseeing. Nevertheless, to become this attractive place like the Zenpukuji river, there must have someone who works behind the scenes with the requirement of the education to develop and solve problems.

I am so impressed how they can manage this huge crisis within a small group. They also create some communication with other people trying to cope with this issue. In my opinion, it is a very good idea to let the participants walk along the river and explain problems so that they can see the whole picture of the flooding issue. In the afternoon, the group had a session which everyone could gather their ideas to solve the problems. As professors told in the class, studying requires theoretical and practical aspects. Now I can deeply understand how it works in real life.

It is one of the best experience as an exchange student in Japan. Since I thought Japan is such a well-organized place, it still has some problem that requires the collaboration from everyone. They are trying to develop and take the community as one of their responsibility which I am very appreciated from joining this trip to the Zenpukuji river.

 

A River Walk

It was my experience during walking along the Sengawa river. Sengawa river is located at Seijo. I’m search it on the internet how long this river and found that it’s around 20.9 km and originates in Chofu city and located at the west of Setagaya City. I walk along the river to feel the fresh air there. The Soshigaya Park was so green and and there is so many Cherry Blossom tree along the rivers.

The river bed is made by concrete and you can walk near to the water but can’t touch the water. The water was so clean, I wonder how Japan treat the rivers because most of the rivers in Japan are so clean not like the rivers in my home country.

I found that people here are using this park to walking, Jogging, cycling, and do some activities because they have some facilities like the play ground and the field to play baseball or something. I walk here during the cherry blossom are full bloom and found that there’s so many people are enjoying the views. Japanese call it Hanami. I also found that some kind of fish in the river and also the Spotbill duck are swimming in the river.

Sengawa river gives so many means for the people around here. The place is so beautiful and this place are so peaceful. In general, my walk along Sengawa river was very relaxing and I can have some fresh air from that.

Visiting a River: Ootagiri River

This past weekend I visited my hometown, a small in village called Komagane  in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan. I, being born in but not raised in this area, know little about Komagane and the surrounding mountains. However, there is one place that I have never not visited every time I visit: that place is Ootagiri-kawa, a river that gets its water from the Kiso Komagatake mountain.

Ootagiri-kawa is a beautiful river that in which you can watch the water flow underneath you from a bridge (komakusa-bashi). Once you cross the bridge, there is a concrete-based stairs designed to look like rocks, that leads you to the edge of the water. On a hot day like the day I visited, you will usually find children playing with their friends as their parents watch from the shade under the trees. I also noticed that those who were old and strong enough to cross the river would set up a small picnic on top of a boulder to fish. The foot of the bridge, under the shade and hidden by tall grass, is usually where young couples would come and enjoy some peace as a date-spot. Recently, there has been an increase in tour buses stopping by this area. The small cottage-like shop has become a business that sells souvenirs of Nagano’s famous food, as well as the popular Suzuran milk ice cream. This year, a new section of the store had become popular especially among younger visitors: the gelato station that sells gelato made out of the famous Suzuran milk.

The air is fresh, trees tall, the wind keeps the area breezy, and not too hot even when the sun is out. This year, because of the delay in tsuyu or rain season, the river had significantly less water than previous years.

Nevertheless, everyone that visited seemed to have fun while submerging their feet into the clear, cold water. I noticed that the shallow edges of the river had a mix of human-placed stones as well as natural stones that were originally here. According to my father, the stones were put in at some point in his high school years so that children can cross to the middle land of the river in order to get to the boulder in the middle of the river. However, walking deeper into the river one would notice that the rocks are much heavier, larger, and the surface rough. My dad a few of these rocks, and showed me the type of creatures that hide under the rocks.

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Small creature on the top left part of the rock

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same creature, larger in size and on the surface of the rock

 

 

However, I cannot help but to notice the decreasing amount of water that flows downstream every year. I am not sure if it is because of the timing that I visit, or because of another cause. Yet each season, I go and take photos just to notice how much water is lacking, and how much the grass has grown and the rocks gone dry. I truly hope I have just been visiting on unlucky days when the river is not at its best state.

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2016, February 

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2015, August

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2015, August

 

A River Expert for a Day

I have to admit– being a Political Science major, I don’t know much about rivers. Coming into the workshop, I wasn’t sure if I could contribute to the discussion at all. When we were first given the challenge, I (along other students) was completely lost and let the other group members who were more knowledgeable of and experienced in the field take the lead. As the discussion went on, however, one idea followed the next and, before we knew it, we were able to draw out a detailed plan.

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Using the limited knowledge we have on rivers, from class and the walk through Zenpukuji river, we composed a plan for collecting and turning rainwater into usable water. We combined our ideas of using green roof technology, water tanks, drain pipe systems and sloped roofs to produce our plan. What we thought we couldn’t do became something we could do.

It definitely helped that everyone was supportive of each other’s ideas; we felt more confident to pitch in our ideas, even in a group with professors from prestigious universities. Overall, the workshop was challenging, yet strangely fulfilling. In a way, I felt as if I was an expert on rivers, working with experts in the field and having contributed to a future project in my own little way. It was also inspirational to see a group of people of different ages and from different backgrounds, some of whom are professionals and some enthusiasts, gather and work towards an issue they feel passionate about. Not a lot of people recognize the amount of planning and work that goes into rivers like the Zenpukuji river; not many would learn of the names of the individuals who played a significant role in their development, and yet these people continuously devote their time and effort to a cause they believe in, making working with them truly an honorable experience.

Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park; is it make sense to have the park in major city?

I think it is really nica to have such a wild park in Tokyo. I have six reasons for that. First of all, to have such a park in the city can increase access for people to nature. As the park can access easily, (about 20 minutes by train from Tokyo station) people who do not usually have chance can enjoy these nature. It is good to get touch with nature because if people get to know how it is fun to touch with nature, people may get interested in about environment. Secondly, the park can be used to invite foreign people for sightseeing. Because there are so many wild birds close to the city, people can get knowledge of what kind of birds are in Japan. Thirdly, as to maintain the wild park, people can get knowledge of birds habitat; how to protect environment which birds likes, when they are arrive, how to make place to rest for the bird. That kind of knowledge can be used to protect bird’s environment in other part of Japan. For example, in the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park, the staff try to invite a bird called Sterna albifrons sinensis and tried hard to make the nice environment for them. What they tried to invite the birds are; make the invitation place like island to protect them from enemy; prevent grass to grow because they habitat sandy place and so on. They wanted to invite the bird because they are in red list of Japan. It is listed in 絶滅危惧II類(VU), which means same stage as Vulnerable in IUCN’s list. Fourthly, the effort to protect environment for birds can increase the habitat for birds even though it made by humans. To quote from the Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park, “Every year, shorebirds, ducks, waterfowl and songbirds can be seen here. Since 1990, 226 species of birds have been recorded in the park (as of March 2015).” Even if it is made by humans, it is good to increase bird’s habitat.

In conclusion, it is good idea to have such a wild park even though it is artificial because; people can touch with nature easily; the park can be interesting for foreign people; people can get better knowledge about wild birds; the effort to maintain park can increase birds’ habitat.

 

Citation

[1] 林英子、森本幸祐、深町加津枝ほか『生物多様性と造園学―東京港野鳥公園におけるコアジサシの誘致を事例として』http://ci.nii.ac.jp/els/contents110004305543.pdf?id=ART0006476902
Visited in 2017.5.18
[1] 環境省 『レッドリスト 鳥類』報道発表資料 哺乳類及び鳥類のレッドリストの見直しについて 平成10年6月12日http://www.env.go.jp/press/files/jp/1767.htmlhttp://www.env.go.jp/press/files/jp/1767.html visited in 2017.5.18
[1] WWF Japan 『レッドリストについて』https://www.wwf.or.jp/activities/wildlife/cat1014/cat1085/
Visited in 2017.5.18
[1] Tokyo Port Wild Bird Park http://www.wildbirdpark.jp/en/index.html
Visited in 2017.5.18