Fukushima: Hope and Loss

As we are nearing the end of out month-long excursion in Japan, everything's getting busier. People are writing papers and finishing up their research, but we still have time for one more trip off ARI. Tomorrow, we are heading for a place that almost everyone will...

Onsen: Japanese public bathing experience

  In Japan, it is popular for people to enjoy taking baths to clean themselves or relax after a long day, rather than taking a shower. There are two ways in which people in Japan choose to bathe, either in public or...

What Is ‘Good’ Food?

In addition to writing online blog posts, we students write personal journals about our experiences abroad. We continually find ourselves sharing in unfamiliar cultural practices, and reflection journals help us step back from these experiences and interpret the Japan...

Remembering the Plight of Yanaka Village

One of the many reasons studying abroad here in Japan has been so incredible is that sometimes the opportunity arises to actually visit the locations we’ve been reading about in our textbooks. A few days ago, our class visited the Watarase Basin, the site for much of...

Religion in the ARI Community

I am not religious. I grew up going to church with my family (and still go on Christmas Eve and Easter), and I was a part of a youth group for a couple years. Regardless, Christianity plays little to no role in my world view. When I found out that ARI was a Christian...

Witnessing History at the Watarase Retarding Basin

As if this class has not already challenged and broken down my personal definition of what nature is, today we visited the Watarase Retarding Basin in southern Tochigi prefecture. The Watarase Retarding Basin is an active, industrial flood protection operation. In the...


So for those that know me, I have a bit of an origami hobby. I like to use certain papers for certain models, such as paper with more of soft cloth-like texture for making lotus flowers, thicker construction paper for a...

Fermentation for the Future of Farming

Much to my delight, our time in Japan has revealed to me that the Japanese diet includes a wide variety of fermented foods. Miso and soy sauce are two staples of Japanese cuisine that are both comprised of various forms of fermented soy. Walking down the streets of...

In Search of a Perfect Dessert

During our month in Japan, we have 2 free days where we can choose to travel. We spent our free days in Shinjuku, Harajuku, Asakusa, and Ikebukuro. On the day where we suppose to unite with the group in the afternoon, Hikari and I went to Hidemi Sugino in the morning....

Food Swings

Throughout our time here in Japan we have seen and experienced many foods that are "normal" in Japanese culture, but would be considered strange or even elegant in American cultures. But elegant, strange, or normal, food is food. Everyone eats. Everyone eats to...

Why There’s Still Hope for Us

It's been a while since I posted. The last time I wrote on this blog, I was an excited newbie in a country I had no previous experience. I write to you, dedicated readers, a changed man. My brain has been pushed to the limits with thoughts that are both frustrating...

Free Days in Tokyo

Our free days began with checking into our hotel, Khaosan Samurai Capsule Hotel in Asakusa. Each floor of the hotel had a room with 16 separate compartments, each only a few feet high and just large enough to fit a twin mattress, a small storage space, and a fold out...

January 2-5

Flight. Tokyo food tour. Kahaku.

January 6-12

Asian Rural Institute. Nikko. Kinoshi Juku.

January 13-16

Tokyo. Nagawa-machi. Nōdai. Otaya Matsuri.

January 17-18

Free time!

January 19-30

ARI. Ashio. Watarase. Yotsuba. Fukushima. Farewell!

Greetings, dear reader!

Welcome to thoughts, photos and videos from students tracking the ideas and practices of community leadership around environmental sustainability in Japan. I’ve charged them with considering how local communities meet global environmental challenges, to counter the popular US image that Asia matters environmentally mostly as a source of problems. We learn through field trips, discussion, and symposia with Japanese students, and hands-on participation in daily food life at the Asian Rural Institute.

I hope you’ll enjoy these glimpses of our journey,

Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak
Associate Professor
Departments of Asian Studies & Political Science, St. Olaf College

Follow us on the ESJ 2016 Map

Links to all locations embedded in the map pins

Asian Rural Institute

Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro hostel that’s home for two nights.

Tokyo Central Youth Hostel

2nd hostel home, two more nights.

Unmemory Pension

Ski village hotel in Nagawa-machi.

Kinoshi Juku

Organic farm, consumer-supported ag & art.

Ashio Copper Mine

Notorious copper mine, source of labor movement & pollution tragedy.

Yotsuba Co-op

Tochigi Prefecture consumer co-operative.

Watarase Basin

Artificial reservoir created to protect Tokyo water from Ashio pollution.  Now a Ramsar Convention recognized wetland.

Fukushima University


Nagawa-machi, Nagano Prefecture – town of less than 8000 in the central mountains.

Nōdai (Tokyo University of Agriculture)

山村再生プロジェクト、農大 Mountain Village Revitalization Project at the Tokyo University of Agriculture (Nōdai)

Narita Airport


National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.