Spark that ignites a new passion for Japan?

I have to be completely honest, before this trip I had no real interest in visiting Japan or Asia at all for that matter.  At Bucknell I study Biology and Spanish.  The majority of my cultural and traveling experiences have revolved around Spanish speaking countries and my proficiency with the language.  If you had given me the choice before this trip to travel anywhere in the world I would have picked ten other countries before I picked Japan.  I’ve never had any negative feelings towards Japan or Asia but also never had any really strong desires to visit.  If it were not for the gracious funding from the Japan Foundation I might not have ever realized that I really loved Japanese culture and language.  After visiting Japan I have already decided that next year I want to take Japanese 101 and 102.  I also have hopes of returning to Japan.  The people there were so nice and genuine.  I loved being there and could not see my future without visiting again at least once.




One of the key aspects of a culture is its customs with food. Luckily we had PLENTY of opportunity to try all sorts of culturally typical Japanese foods.


“Parent and Child” Chicken and Egg over rice with Soba Noodles


A typical japanese fast food breakfast – Miso, rice with raw egg, beef and tea!



Sushi and Sake for Lunch!



Shrimp Tempura Soba



Bento box for dinner on the Shinkansen



Spicy three cheese tofu in Kyoto


Japanese Omelet






Matcha (Green Tea) Ice cream


I think he best way to learn about another culture is to completely immerse oneself in it.  One way of doing this is through a cultures food.  Luckily in Japan we got the opportunity to try many different foods.  I felt like by experiencing the food of Japan and the customs surrounding food, I better experienced the ancient Japanese culture.




“Americans” in Japan


On Thursday we visited Lake Biwa in the Shiga Prefecture – an ancient lake that is estimated 1 million years old that is also the largest lake in all of Japan.  We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Katsuki Nakal, a research biologist and curator as a guide thru the tour.

IMG_2724              240px-Lake_biwa

Lake Biwa is home to around 1700 species of plants and animals.  Around 50% of the animals in Lake Biwa and its surrounding tributaries are endemic species – meaning that they are unique to this region.  Endemic species are greatly important in terms of biodiversity because they are often not found anywhere else in the world.



Unfortunately 83% of the endemic species in Lake Biwa are endangered.  This is in large part due to invasive species. Invasive species are species that are naturally found in an ecosystem that have a survival benefit over native species (usually due to lack of natural predators).  Two such species that are wreaking havoc in Lake Biwa are largemouth bass and bluegill sunfish – both hailing from America. In the 1980s there was a large increase in largemouth bass populations and a subsequent decrease in littoral (close to shore) fish populations.  The 1990’s saw a decrease in largemouth bass populations but an increase in bluegill sunfish populations.


The introduction of these foreign species is disrupting the natural ecosystem of Lake Biwa and in turn threatening the existence of endemic species of the area.  Government agencies from both the national and prefectural level have implemented programs and laws to protect and preserve the threatened species of Lake Biwa.  One program encourages both commercial and recreational anglers to catch and NOT release any largemouth bass or bluegill sunfish, offering a bounty for capture.  While this program seems to be helping and is a good short-term response, it is not a sustainable solution.  The bounty is directly paid for by taxpayers and is not feasible as a long-term program.  Hopefully the financial incentive will bring the invasive species populations to a manageable level and the program can eventually be phased out saving both money and endemic species!