National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Shikotsu-Toya National Park

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!

***

This is all in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

There is a clear blue sky above.  In the center of the picture we see a conical mountain with streaks of snow running down in and a cloud cutting across it horizontally.  On the right we see a pine tree, and at the bottom of the picture we see a green forest.

Yoteizan, also known as Makkarinupuri (Ainu name) and Ezo-Fuji (‘Ezo’ is the old Japanese name for Hokkaido, and ‘Fuji’ … I think you can figure that one out), as seen from Nakayama Pass.

We look into an abandoned building which has a layer of volcanic silt covering the floor, with broken windows, appliances, etc lying around.  In the foreground we see a little grass.

This building was busted by the 2000 eruption of Mt. Usu.

wWe see a clear blue sky above, with some clouds hanging just above the land.  In the distance, we see some green hills rising out of the lake.  In the foreground we see a railing and a yellow-leafed plant running in a diagonal from lower right to upper left, framing the view of the lake and the islands.

There is Nakajima, the set of islands in the center of Lake Toya.

We see a clear blue sky above, with some low lying white clouds in the distance.  In the center we see forested islands in the lake.  The bottom half of the picture is all blue, blue lake.

A close up of the islands in the lake.

There is a blue sky above, and a concrete building to the left in the shade.  We are on a brick walkway, with people dressed as various anime and manga characters walking by.

This park is famous for being one of the last wild habitats of a rare endangered native species known as the cosplayer (okay. there was just an anime and manga convention at Lake Toya that day).

We see a blue sky above, with some low lying white clouds.  We see some islands in the center of a giant lake.  On the left is what is left of the sun, illuminating the left side of the picture with warm yellow light, with the right side of the picture immersed in blue shadows.

Sunset at Lake Toya.

In the upper left we see some forested hills in the distance, but in the near upper left we see orange and white mounds of exposed bared slopes, with various jets of steam rising up.  In the center a little blue stream runs through the white mounds.

This is ‘Hell Valley’

We see a landscape which looks like a forested hill was ripped open, and orange and white minerals came out the gash like pus in a wound, with a little grey-blue stream flowing through it.

Panorama of Hell Valley (Noboribetsu Onsen)

We see a blue grey pool of water with steam rising out, with little clumps of iron ore building up at the edges of the pool.

This is the iron pool – as you can see, iron ore is building up on the side. (Noboribetsu Onsen)

Above we see a cloudy sky.  To the left we see a hill, and in the center we see a white gash in the hill with a grey pool of water right below, all surrounded by green forest.

This is Oyunuma, which is 50 degrees Celcius at the surface, 130 degrees at the bottom (this lake is 22 meters deep), and it is the largest body of hot water in all of Japan. (Noboribetsu Onsen)

On the right side we see a green hill with a white and orange gash in the side.  Below we see a wide shot of a grey lake with steam rising out, all with greenery at the edges.

Oyunuma, Again

In a bright gree forest, we see a small waterfall of grey-blue water.  In the foreground is a little bamboo platform, with two people sitting on a little bench, with their backs facing the viewer.

This is the BEST FOOTBATH IN JAPAN! And it was made by nature – this stream flows from Oyunuma, is naturally hot, and you can just dip your feet in. It is way better than artificial footbaths.

Continue to the next post: “Shiretoko National Park”


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Kushiro Wetlands

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!

***

This is the Kushiro Wetlands National Park.

Note: Some of these photos were taken at the Tsuru Nature Park, which technically is not part of the national park, but considering that the tancho tsuru are the symbol of the national park, and the nature park is very close to the national park, I decided to include it here. The Tsuru Nature Park rescues tancho tsuru which can no longer survive in the wild (due to broken wings, broken beaks, etc.), provides them with a home, and helps tancho tsuru have more chicks.

We see a tall tancho tsuru, with its neck curving up to the left, its profile on the right, with its left leg standing and its right leg slightly lifted and poised to move.  It has a red bald spot on the top of its head, with a black head, neck, beak, legs, and tail - the rest of its body is covered with white feathers.

This is a tancho tsuru; there are only about 3000 alive in the world today. They once were common throughout Hokkaido, but due to habitat loss and hunting, they were believed to be extinct until about 10-20 birds were found in the Kushiro wetlands in the 1920s. All of the tancho tsuru in Kushiro – and thus Japan – are descended from that small flock.

There is a tancho tsuru standing, with its head/neck on the left side of the picture.  Behind it is the head of a two-month old tancho tsuru.

Who is hiding behind the big bird?

This is a grassy wetland environment, on the left we see an adult tancho tsuru bent down pecking at the ground - the head is not visible - and on the right we see a two-month old tancho tsuru standing up, with long legs, a short peak, and very small wings.

Tancho Tsuru: Parent and child

We see the profile of a big bird standing on one leg which apparently has not head - in fact its head is buried within its body while asleep.

This is how tancho tsuru sleep.

There is a green and brown train at a train platform.  The sky above is white.  A few people are getting off the train and using umbrellas.

This is the tourist train which goes extra slow so you can see the river.

The sky above is white.  We can see that this photo was taken through a window with raindrops on it.  There are trees and greenery around a wide river making a bend towards the left.

This is the Kushiro river as seen from the train.

We see a light grey building that is about a hundred and fourty years old with some trees behind it and a lawn in front and some cars off to the side.

A historic building in the village of Toro.

Above is a white sky.  Far away are some forested hills, and we see a lake with reflections of the hills in the water.  Closest to the viewer is a weedy plain.

This is Lake Toro. It is a saltwater lake, since it used to be connected to the ocean.

In the upper left we see overhanging tree branches in the foreground.  Far in the distance is the bottom of a forested hill.  In the center of the photo we see a long pool of water with some green stuff growing on it, reflecting the white sky above.  Closer to the viewer is a group of broadleaf trees.

One of the swamps.

It is a mostly cloudy sky above, but a sliver of blue sky is seen.  In the distance are green forested hills, and beneath is a lake.  Closer to the viewer is a train platform amid the greenery.

One last look at Toro train station.

Continue to the next post: “Shikotsu-Toya National Park”


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Akan National Park

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!

***

These photos are all from Akan National Park.

We see a crystal blue sky spotted with long white clouds.  In the bottom half of the picture, we see a conicalgreen mountain on the right side, and below the mountain is a big blue lake.

A view of Mt. Oakan (male-Akan) over Lake Akan.

On the upper right and lower left we see branches with green leaves.  In the lower right we see the diagonal (lower left to upper right) of a nearly white lakeshore, with some rocks at the edge of the lake in the center of the photo.  In the upper left we see sky and clouds, and far in the distance wee see a small green hill above the lake.

This is Lake Akan.

We see greenery surrounding a place in the center which looks like it is full of boiling mud.

These are pools of hot spring water and steam coming out at the side of the lake.

We see a wide view with blue sky and clouds above, a green hill to the right, rolling forests below, and brush pine forest near the viewer at the bottom of the photo.

A view while ascending Mt. Meakan (female-Akan).

Wee see a slope on the left side of the picture covered with volcanic rock and brush pine.  Near the viewer at the bottom is a clump of brush pine and rocks.  Far in the distance, in the upper center, we see a patch of a blue lake surrounded by green forest.

A view of Lake Onnetto from above.

In the upper part of the picture we see a sky filling with clouds.  Below that, we can see through the haze Lake Akan and Mt. Oakan, which will soon be overtaken by clouds coming from the right.  Below that, we see a volcanic cone on the right, and a pit full of volcanic gas and steam amid white and reddish-brown rock.  Closest to the viewer is brownish-red crumbly ground.

Far in the distance is Lake Akan and Mt. Oakan about to be smothered in clouds. But there is an ACTIVE VOLCANIC CRATER in between!

At the viewer's feet is reddish brown rock.  Beyond that, in a depression, we see a circular little blue lake.  There is a jet of steam curving above the lake.  Above and beyond the steam, we seen a conical dark-brown mountain rising, with clouds in the background.

Here is the little lake within the Meakan crater, a jet of volcanic gas/steam, and Akan-Fuji.

In a green forest, we see three pink azalea flowers with three azalea leaves around them.

Some azaleas.

In the upper part of the picture we see the far shore with green trees.  Below we see a green-blue lake, with the reflection of the trees and the white sky.  Close to the near shore, there are some trees and branches sticking up out of the water.

And here is Lake Onnetto close up.

In a tank with a blue background, we see white pebbles at the bottom, spherical balls of green algae called marimo in the center, and three small silvery fish above the algae balls.

The famous marimo of Akan lake – I did not want to pay 1900 yen to go see a few marimo bobbling in the lake, so I took this photo at the admission free eco-museum instead.

At the top of the photo we see lots of white fog, and just under it is a wide blue lake, with a little island visible in the distance.  In the foreground to the left is a yellow clump of little flowers sticking up, with the green plant underneath, and on the far bottom right corner we see a pink flower.

This is Lake Mashu, which some people say is the most beautiful lake in Japan. You can see what it looks like on a less foggy day at this blog.

In the far distance we see two hills, with the right one being taller, and a vent of steam coming out from between them.  In the foreground we see two broadleaf trees on either side, and a path on the ground heading towards the hills.  Above is a white sky.

The sulfurous mountain!

There is a white sky above.  Near the top is a dark rocky hill, and below we see yellow mounds of sulfur which are giving off steam going in a diagonal direction - lower right to upper left - within a field of grey rocks.

Smell the sulfur!

On the left the viewer looks down at two legs, with the feet immersed in sand in a puddle of hot water.  On the right we see the edge of the lakeshore.

After all of that running around, I am ready to stick my feet into sand full of hot spring water right next to the second biggest lake in Hokkaido.

Continue to the next post: “Kushiro Wetlands”


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Rebun Island

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!

***

This is Rebun island, part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.

We see close up at the bottom of the picture a bunch of purple and white wildflowers.  In the top half of the photo, we see a big blue bay, beyond the bay is a cape with green hills, and beyond that is a clear sky.

Looking towards Sukai Cape, on the northwestern end of the island

In the lower-left there is a yellow hill, and in the lower right there is a green slope going downwards. There is a cape curving around a blue bay like a hook.  Past the cape, there is a very small island.  Above the island, we see the sea, and a clear sky above.

A view of Sukoton Cape and the small island to the north.

This is a close-up of some bell-shaped purple wildflowers which have an inner white part and outer purple petals radiating outwards.

Wildflowers on the island of wildflowers

From the top of a 490 meter high hill, we see rolling green lower hills, which finally give way to the sea.  Beyond the sea, we see another island with a tall mountain.  Beyond that, there is the whitish-blue sky.

A view of Rishiri-Fuji from Rebun Dake, the highest point on Rebun island.

We see in the shade a delicate white flower with hints of lavender delicately hanging downwards.  There are little lavender-color hook-like things going upwards, the outer petals radiating outwards, and a white-bell-shape-thing hanging down.

Another wildflower on the island of wildflowers

We see a big open blue sky with lots of white clouds streaking along it. Below it, we see some green hills in the shade forming a valley. Closer to the viewer are some yellow hills in the sun. Closest to the viewer, at the bottom, are various bushy plants.

Along the path from Sukai Cape to Uennai

Closest to the viewer, we see a closeup of three orange lily flowers. The one in the center is open and facing skywards, while the two on the sides are closed. Further away, we see more such flowers. Beyond that, in the upper-left, is clouds, and in the upper-center and upper-right is a blue sky.

More wildflowers on the island of wildflowers.

At the top of the picture we see clear blue sky.  Below is the blue sea, with tall, rocky, black cliffs forming a diagonal line going from the lower-left to the upper-right.  At the bottom of the picture is a slope covered with green plants.

Looking down at the west coast of Rebun.

In the lower-right corner we see some kind of leafy plant. Above it, in the far right, is a tree without leaves. Just to the left of the leafless tree is a pine tree rising up. In the upper-left, we see a clear blue sky with some clouds. Below that, there is some kind of bushy plant.

Near the western coast of the island.

At the saddle of two brown-grey hills, in the lower-left corner we see a little waterfall in the crack between the hills.

While descending the steep slope to the rocky beach, I saw this waterfall.

In the upper left there are tall brown cliffs, and in the upper right there is a clear blue sky.  We see a rocky beach on the left, and the ocean by the beach is a dark blue, while over to the right it reflects the blue of the sky.  In the center we see some pointy rocks coming out of the water.

On the rocky beach heading towards Uennai

In the upper left we see a green hill with a gash of a brown cliff in is.  Above is clear blue sky.  Below the cliff is a thin line of a fishing village in the distance.  In the lower left we see the rocky beach form a upper-left to lower-right diagonal with the water, which has a few rocks and reflects the blueness of the sky.

The small fishing village of Uennai does not have a road – access is by foot and by boat only.

There is a clear blue sky above.  On the right is a green slope in the shade.  In the center left, we see a few hills in the sun in the distance.  Right at the bottom of the nearest hills is a small house.  Coming towards the viewer in the bottom half of the photo is a slope coming down towards us - mostly green with some white flowers.

This is right behind the village of Uennai

We see the profile of a purple flower with three petals drooping down.  The center of the flower has white streaks, and at the base we is a bit of yellow.  The background is green plants, with a bit of white sky in the upper right corner.

Another wildflower on the island of wildflowers

In the upper left we see a bit of blue sky and the deep blue sea, and in the upper right we see clouds coming in.  The lower part of the picture shows the convergence of two green slopes dotted with colorful wildflowers.

This is a slope on the popular trail around Momoiwa.

At the top of the picture is blue sky.  Below we see distant green hills closely covered by a layer of white clouds.  In a upperleft to lower-right diagonal comes a sliver of deep blue sea, blocked the the green hill closest to the viewer in the lower left.  At the bottom of the picture is a close-up of grass in the shade.

Looking down at the coastline around Motochi.

Continue to the next post: “Akan National Park”


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

National Parks in Hokkaido Photo Week: Rishiri-Fuji

I recently traveled around Hokkaido, and wish to share the photos I took in the national parks, complete with alt-text descriptions for the visually impaired. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. Enjoy!

***

This is Rishiri island, part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.

We see a clear blue sky above.  There is a green mountain with thin streaks of snow running down it.  The summit is in the center about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the picture.  There is a thin layer of clouds right around the summit, like a thin white gauze veil.  At the bottom, we seen a forest of trees right at the foot of the mountain.

Rishiri-Fuji Mountain, as seen from Ponyama.

We are in the shaded understory of a forest, with little patches of yellow sunlight reaching through to the green plants covering the ground. In one patch of sunlight in the center of the photo, a chipmunk is cautiously poking out its cute little head. We see its profile, with its nose facing the left of the photo.

I found this chipmunk very close to Himenuma lake.

It is a clear blue sky, with rays of sunlight heading to the upper left corner of the picture.  There is a thin line of a cloud in a diagonal running upper-left to the center of the picture.  On the upper right is the peak of the mountain, which is green with streaks of snow running from the upper-right to the lower-left.  In the bottom left, we see a closeup of some alpine shrubs.

This is Rishiri-Fuji as seen from the 8th station (climbing up the mountain).

There is a green mountain ridge sloping from the bottom-left of the picture to the center-right of the picture.  Below the mountain ridge, in the flatlands we see a green forest which meets with a lighter green fringe right at the coastline, with a small airport visible.  Beyond the coastline, there is the ocean, and we can see the thin line of Rebun island in the center-left of the photo.  There are many clouds hovering above Rebun island, but at the very top of the picture, we can see the blue sky.

Here is another shot from the 8th station, looking at the coastline between Oshidomari (largest town) and the airport, with Rebun island visible in the distance.

We see a bunch of short plants.  In the center, there is a cluster of two yellow flowers with a bit of a vase shape.  In the far upper-right corner we spy yet another little yellow flower.

An alpine flower spotted near the 8th station of Rishiri-Fuji.

To the left, the mountain rises up with the summit just out of view. In the center, there is a tall pointy rock sticking up. To the right, we see a layer of clouds blanketing the green mountain ridge below. Right below pointy rock, to the right, we also see a pocket of snow.

This is a photo taken very close to the summit of Kita-dake.

At the bottom we see the perch of volcanic rock that the photographer is standing on.  Beyond the rock is a sheer drop, and a verdant valley of sharp volcanic rocks covered with little patches of snow and lots of greenery, all about to be coated by the clouds floating in from the top of the picture.

Another shot from near the summit of Kita-dake.

We see a blue sky with some white clouds hovering below.  On the center-left, we see a small Shinto shrine at a diagonal, with the left-front corner facing us.  A guy is lying down on volcanic rock between the viewer and the shrine.  To the right of the shrine a group of people are sitting down, with one standing up, relaxing and eating lunch.

Here is the shrine at the top of Kita-dake (North Peak).

At our feet are some short shrubby plants.  A little further away are a couple of snow patches among the greenery.  Beyond that we see a mountain ridge descending down to the flat area.  To the far left we see the port town of Oshidomari, a little right of that is Himenuma lake, and then an expanse of green forest which almost reaches the coast.  Beyond the coast, at the top of the picture, we see the blue sea.

Looking at the sea from the summit.

Among the short, leafy plants, we see a very close shot of an iridescent blue/black butterfly.

A butterfly I spotted on the trail between Ponyama and Himenuma lake.

Continue to the next post: “Rebun Island”


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Making Veganism about “Health” Is a Distraction from the Ethics

Well I say that I am vegan, I often get reactions like:

“But you look so healthy, how can you be vegan?”

“People need meat to stay alive”

“People need to eat meat to do athletic things”

And I often get reactions like:

“So that is why you are so healthy/thin” (many people conflate health and thinness)

“Oh, so you do it for health reasons

“Wow, your diet must be so healthy”

So there are people who are under the impression that veganism is inherently unhealthy and that all vegans must be sick or dying or dead (I have asked people to explain the last one since I am a living vegan, and they have no choice but to acknowledge that their argument is absurd), and there are people who think veganism is inherently healthy.

The thing is … I do not think veganism is inherently unhealthy or healthy.

Obviously, it is possible to be healthy and vegan – every vegan who is in good health proves that it is possible. It is even more obvious that it is possible that is possible to eat meat/dairy/eggs/animal products and be healthy, since there are even more examples of very healthy people who eat animal products. There is so much variety in both vegan diets and omnivorous diets that I do not think it is even possible to judge that one is healthier than the other.

I think it is possible that vegans in the United States, Europe, and Asia are healthier than their omnivorous counterparts, but that would be because vegans have to be more careful about their food. It is being careful about food, not the veganism itself, which might lead to better health.

However, I think people want to make veganism about health or religion (the religion part comes up a lot in Taiwan), because if it is not about health or religion, then it must be about ethics.

I have spent all of my life in parts of the world where animals suffer horrible abuse. The vast majority of people are a) ignorant b) in deep denial or c) both with regards to the horrors they support by eating animal products. Either way, they are uncomfortable talking about it – people generally do not like having their ignorance pointed out, and are even more touchy about denial. If I am being vegan just for health, then it means that I am not challenging their (un)ethical stance on eating animals. If I am doing it for ethical reasons, and say so, even if I am super polite and never directly comment on the fact that they eat animals, they understand that I am challenging them on ethical grounds.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

An Observation About Ryukyu Culture…

I am writing this on February 16th, 2014, in Naha, Okinawa, though this post will not be published until May (EDIT: July).

So, what represents Okinawan/Ryukyu culture? Karate? Awamori liquor? Sanshin music? Goya (bittermelon)? Shisa lions? Yes … these are outward symbols.

I spent 7 hours the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. I feel like I just went through a crash course in Okinawa-gaku (Okinawan studies), and my head is swimming with historical, geographic, scientific, archeological, and cultural facts about the Ryukyu islands. Yesterday, I visited Shuri castle, which has a mass of detail about the Ryukyu royalty.

And yet, all of this I feel misses an important facet of Ryukyu culture – which I did manage to get a glimpse of in the Shuri District.

I ran into an American who has been living in the Shuri district for four months. He`s married to a woman born and raised in Shuri, and all of his neighbors know everything. As he put it “They know what’s in my mail” (the same mail carrier has been working on that street for 20 years, and he talks to everyone). Everybody knows everyone else, and they are all a part of a close-knit community.

One of the most touristy islands in the archipelago is Taketomi, mainly because of its well-preserved traditional village in a relatively convenient location. The top tourist activity is riding around in a ox-driven cart. I of course refused to do this because I am against animal exploitation. However, I also noticed many signs around the village protesting against the ox-cart tours. My Japanese is not good enough to understand their grievances, but they are angry enough to put signs up all around the village complaining about the company which runs the tours, and I noticed many different organizations signed the signs, including the Citizen’s Hall and the local PTA.

Speaking of the PTA, even though Taketomi has less than 500 residents, it has a school, and … I saw at least ten schoolchildren, which would be quite high in rural Japan. Well, the Ryukyu islands are not rural Japan … the American in Shuri commented that Okinawa has a much higher birthrate than Japan, and that while Japan’s population is in decline, Okinawa is experiencing a population boom.

And why is Taketomi’s village so well-preserved? Because the residents decided collectively that they wanted to preserve their traditional way of live, and saw to it that their coral-sand roads would not be covered with asphalt.

I think this is the single most noteworthy feature of Ryukyu culture. People cultivate close personal relationships and work cohesively together as communities, forming citizen groups, etc. I had read before that one reason Okinawan people live so long is that they develop this tight set of meaningful social relationships – which also turns also to be a force to preserve a village, take down the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, among other civil acts.

This is something which is not mentioned in the museum exhibits or tourist brochures.

EDIT: After writing this post, I found a tourist brochure with this sentence in a section called “Island of Longevity”:

“If you want to live long and well, eat healthy foods used for Okinawan dishes, exercise effectively, slow down to Okinawa time and get the ‘yuimaru spirit’ by weaving a supportive web of friends and family.”

So I guess there is a tourist brochure which mentions the dense personal relationships of Ryukyu people, though it does not mention the connection between the ‘yuimaru spirit’ and, say, organizing the reversion movement.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.