Alternatively natural

After rounding off our first week at the Asian Rural Institute and taking a short break from farm chores to explore other parts of Japan and reflect on our experiences thus far, I feel as though I have a decent sense of the happenings at ARI. In dramatic terms, we got...

A Warm Welcome from Nagawa-Machi

A week ago our two classes had the amazing opportunity to visit the beautiful town of Nagawa in the Japanese Alps. We were hosted by Tateiwa-sensei, his students from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and the...

There is no Distinction between Body and Soil

Something I have really been grappling with throughout our time thus far in Japan has been the extent to which agriculture can really be 'natural.' We started off the trip reading the book The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka in which he preaches "do-nothing,"...

One Bowl Club

Konbawa! Since our arrival at ARI, I have been participating in what is called the “One Bowl Club” (OBC). It means that for each meal the only kitchenware we use individually is a single bowl and a utensil of our choosing. The idea was created by Nate Mitka, a St....

Abandoned Spaces

On the way to Nagawa-machi, the issues of Japan's aging population and depopulation of rural areas came to mind, as it has many times during this trip. These issues were only slightly familiar to me as I had seen articles and statistics demonstrating the demographic...

Finding Comfort

I have never traveled out of the country for so long before. Being someone who thinks a lot, arriving late due to illness, and not knowing a whole lot about Japan I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I arrived to ARI on day five of our course feeling...

Art and the Environment

During our free days I decided to go to Tokyo with a few others in the class. While in Tokyo, some of us decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art also known by the English acronym:...

An icy adventure in Nikko

This is a joint post, authored by Kate and B! After arriving in Nikko intending to frolic through the wilderness for our free days, we checked into our hostel, Guesthouse Sumica (10/10, would recommend).  After a short moment of confusion involving the workings of the...

What is Good Food?

The Question Our first day in Tokyo provided insight into the various ways in which people are able to connect with their food. We were tasked with trying to answer the difficult question; “What is good food?” A vexing question to say the least, we explored two...

Baking Up A Storm At ARI

Today marks my sixteenth day in the wonderful country of Japan, and to date the most unexpected experience has been my participation in a multinational team of wedding cake bakers assembled to prepare the cakes for a wedding held on...

Protecting what is important

On January 11th we took our class field trip up to Nikko, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site with the national park as our main focus for the day. The park was very aesthetically pleasing to be in, and with a pretty park and a sunny day, t’was very crowded...

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.