Into the Forest

Today was a bit of a shorter day, but really good discussions nonetheless. It was also a little sparse, since Christmas-sensei, Aridome-sensei, and Anna-san were all ¬†out today. We had presentations and discussions led by Karen and Michael. Karen presented first on a reading she did called “Fukushima in Light of Minamata.” This reading made the case that, although Minamata Bay (and Minamata Disease) is seen as a “man-made disaster” and Fukushuma is traditionally seen as a “natural” disaster (though, see our discussion on Satsuki Takahashi’s “Four-fold Disaster”), there are a lot of similarities between them. Karen also brought up the idea of whether “disasters” such as these can ever really be over. Instead, she suggested, disasters can be thought of as a beginning; that is, what’ll become of things in the wake of these disasters?

Following Karen’s presentation, Michael presented on the role of women in Japan’s environmental movements. I thought he did a really good job of setting up our understanding of activism in Japan in general prior to his discussion of mother’s and women’s activism. There was a lot I didn’t know or had been exposed to, so it was definitely a really interesting discussion today!

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We closed the day by watching an NHK documentary on Meiji Shrine, with live “play-by-play” translations courtesy of Michael and Selinger-sensei. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a documentary on the shrine itself, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself watching a documentary on the ecology of the forest surrounding Meiji Shrine. Although supposedly this is an “Eternal Forest,” meant not to be disturbed by humans, apparently it was artificially constructed or planted about 100 years ago. What I find fascinating is that the planners of this forest were able to accurately project how succession might occur in the forest based on planting a certain composition of coniferous, evergreen, and deciduous trees. For the 100th year anniversary, the Meiji Shrine Forest was opened to researchers of various disciplines to document the astonishing biodiversity in the forest. What I’d be really interested to know is, were animal species added at the beginning with the planted trees or did they colonize there on their own?