Education in Ambient Lighting, ne?

Today we visited the aquarium.

I honestly think it was a more educational experience (species wise) than the zoo. We did a quick aquarium round with our very own guides, Julian and Michael first, but then we really got to meet an expert: Mr. Ota. The first order of business was to go to the Tuna exhibit and draw “in great detail.” I really enjoyed this exercise, because it was hands-on and engaging. Even though I thought I did my best at capturing the tuna’s detail–I inevitably missed some of the key aspects for the tuna’s survival. The most surprising thing for me was the size and smoothness of the fish. We all know that fish have scales and would maybe feel tough to the touch. But, the Tuna’s scales are so small that it feels smooth which is great because it allows for faster swimming speed (essential for this “voyager of the sea”). YES, WE TOUCHED A TUNA FISH! (well it was dead—it had been dead for three years! Rather than eating it, the tuna’s body has been continuously used for educating groups like us).

Mr. Ota really went over the other features that make the aquarium an educational place. Certain informational blurbs are posted at different eye-levels to catch the attention of both children and adults. They also have sets of programs for student of all ages (they are arranged in a way that would interest students according to their age)-however he has noticed that high school and college students are the least frequent visitors. The aquarium has thought of ways to capture their attention, which of course is coffee and food!

It really seems that Tokyo Sea Life Park is trying its best to capture the attention of the Tokyoites. Through these programs as well as summer events.

Like zoos, aquariums have come a long way in trying to replicate habitats, however, they haven’t truly reached perfection. Mr. Ota attempted to answer the question of the ethics of animal captivity…Although sometimes he feels the habitats are not appropriate or too small (this aspect causes him grief), he feels that education is worth it, because education can rally up the cause for conservation of animals and the environment.

Blue Fin Tuna Sketch

I also want to thank Emi-San (Selinger Sensei’s life friend) for inviting us to her house for dinner. The food was delicious and the karaoke was extremely fullfilling. Thank you for preparing a night of yukata and fun for us!


Pandamonium at Ueno

Its been a while since I set foot inside in a zoo. Although I picture a zoo as a humongous space, Ueno Zoo was a little smaller than what I had in mind (but, that could be because Ueno Park also houses three amazing Museums amongst other national treasures).

Our reading mainly focused on the world-wide infatuation of pandas. Although I do admit Pandas are cute I was not expecting the Panda exhibit to be as crowded as it was. It was right next to the main gate with a line trailing well into other exhibits…There he was… A large male panda by the name of Li Li munching on bamboo shoots. According to the article, Panda’s flat face, round cheeks, and fat body remind us of children and babies which triggers paternal/maternal instinct in humans. We can’t help but to take care of them. In today’s world, Pandas cannot survive without the aid of humans. They rely on humans for the their most basic needs shuts food to reproduction. In a way… they have become our babies. However, Humans have done much damaged to the pandas’ natural environment which maybe have caused their evolution from independent bears to dependent cubs. We nearly drove them to extinction, I’d say it is our responsibility to keep them alive, ne.

In the middle of the Zoo, we encountered an image of the zoo a few years after its opening. As a class we picked out the features in which we could see the Zoo’s transformational claim from a place that portrays human dominance over nature to a place of education and conservation and other differences:

  • Animals used to be kept in cages. Unlike today’s zoo, animals habitats were not personalized or tailored to their needs beyond steel bars.
  • Like today, the animals were grouped according to either geographical compatibility or scientific classification of animals via the Linnean System.
  • Zoo buildings were built in the style of Japanese houses, which is unlike today
  • Linguistic observation: The signes in the earlier zoo were posted in Hiragana rather then Katakana (which was the main form of script encountered in today’s zoo).

Struked by the Pandemic or not, I do like cute food, so like all the other zoo visitors, Gerlin and I ended our trip with Panda stamped bread 🙂

Panda Bread


ASNS:2252 FinalExam Pt.2

Luckily we got to sit on the train toward Kamakura, because what was awaiting us were a thousands of stairs and steep slopes…

Our first stop was a Zen Buddhist temple which featured a three-claw dragon (apparently it was a trend for some period for dragons to be painted in this fashion and there are only a few of such kind). Also featured in this temple were representations of the monks who are responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism to Japan, one of them which was Dogen…

and so the second part of my final exam for Professor Christmas’s “Culture and Conquest: Intro to Japanese Pre-modern History” (a course I took this past spring semester) began. Learning about the Kamakura shogunate as well as other eras of Japanese pre-modern history really helped me appreciate the hike through Japan’s medieval city…

Even though the very nature of the Daibutsu (Big buddha) over powers the rest of the the places n Kamakura, my favorite part of the hiking pilgrimage was the Inari Shrine, which was hidden in the woods. With Noto-San (see Trip Day 5) we leaned the basics of Shinto, in which we learned the what the Torii Gate symbolizes. While there were two theories of surrounding the origin of the kanji for Torii the one I prefer translates to “Bird, stay.” Because birds navigate the sky, the are seen almost as messengers of kami. Having the Torii gate at the entrance invites the kami to stay. What is special to Inari Shrines is that they have multiple consecutive Red Torii gates, which just looks gorgeous…

Torii Gates at the entrance of the Inari Shrine.
Inside the Inari Shrine there are MANY Kitsune (fox) figurines.

The Kitsune shrine appears in Kamakura because, as legend has it: it was this deity this particular deity that appeared to Yoritomo and encouraged him to rebel against the Taira regents and establish what is now known as the Kamakura Shogunate (the first shogunate ever!); the establishment of the the shogunate would forever change the course of Japanese history and culture.

Throughout the various stops along the hiking tour a series of oral pop-quizes on Japanese were issued…  After learning Japanese Pre-modern History from Professor Christmas and about the fantastic with Professor Selinger in a classroom setting, it was fascinating to learn from them in their state of excitement as they explain and tell on their field of expertise…

FUN Fact: Naruto (an anime series that I really like) integrates much of Japanese ancient history and shinto symbols in its plot line and characters.

Daigo Fukuryumaru

Lucky Dragon Incident:

I have encountered The Lucky dragon’s story twice before reading the assigned readings and attending the museum today: once in Professor Selling’s Fantastic and Demonic literature course in context with Godzilla, and a second time in Professor Christmas’s Modernity and Identity: Japanese History course in context of American Occupation after WWII. I came in knowing the basic narrative to the grim event, but the museum was a source of enrichment and the detail gaps were filled.

  • The Lucky Dragon was only the first of many incidents in which nations (mainly the United States and Russia) tested out their nuclear weapons. Testing was conducted allover the world, mainly in desserts. People all over the world: Japanese, Native Americans and other societies suffered from the fallout of these testings.
  • Science is often equated with objectivity and facts, which inspires belief from the people; but this is a prime example in which the data maybe manipulated to fit one’s agenda.
  • With confronting political agendas, Japanese doctors and American doctors were drawing distinct conclusions from each other. The media covered the story, but the difference in findings caused distrust on part of the Japanese citizens toward doctors and government officials.
  • The uprisings that emerged due to this incidents were the beginning of the anti-nuclear movement that would then be revived in 2011 after Fukushima.

Side NOTE:   I was sort of surprised at the grounds on which the museum was housed, but I really liked these stone steps which we found outside the museum.

表参道:Meiji Jingu

Side note: I am writing this post early in the morning the next day because last night  I went to straight to bed due to a food induced coma…食べホ代はとても良かったです。ごちそうさまでした

Noto-san’s brief introductory lecture on shinto was easy to understand an extremely helpful for an outsider very much like ourselves. Living in the United States for most of my life, I struggle with the idea of Kami (神), which in English we roughly translate as god. Noto-San used a quote from Motoori Norinaga that explains what Kami is:

“Whatever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence and virtue and inspired a feeling of awe…” that is Kami.

In ancient Shinto, these kami were associated with nature, such as mountains, waterfalls, great stones, etc. It is all about recognizing and worshipping the immense power of nature.

However, people who demonstrate the “quality of excellence and virtue” can also be kami, so that is why there are people from history that are enshrined.

We learned about the basic components of the shinto shrine through lecture but it was a whole different experience being able to see the shrine.  When we got to the shrine I was so impressed at the size of the main Tori-gate, my mouth literally fell open. (:O) After passing through the Sake offerings we were deep into the Chinju no mori (鎮守の杜) which is specifically a “man-made forest” to protect and invite the kami in.

Meiji Jingu: Sake Barrels
Meiji Jingu

At the end of Meiji Jingu tour, I found little treasures: Bonsai Trees!!! I really enjoy admiring these tiny yet majestic trees. These Bonsai Trees are offerings to the shrine. Some of these trees were incredibly old (over eighty years) and they were all unique.

Bonsai tree (Meiji Jingu)
Bonsai Tree (Meiji Jingu)