Environment Field Note: The Unique Features of the Land of the Rising Sun
What makes this environment special or different?
What makes Japan different is that it is completely surrounded by water and also has a lot of mountains. Therefore, most people have to live in certain parts of the country, resulting in a very dense population in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, whereas the areas near the mountains do not have as many people.
In addition, being surrounded by water makes seafood a large part of their diet. They eat fish that you may have heard of like salmon but also fish you have probably never tried such as “namako.” There were many times when I tried seafood not knowing exactly what it was. My host dad would look up the English translation of the name of the fish and I still did not recognize what it was. I even ate a whole shrimp! Well, I tried to. It was not very tasty. It was very gooey and it still had its eyes and legs! I think cooked shrimp tastes a lot better, but my host mom loves raw shrimp! I was not the only one who did not like the raw shrimp. My host sister did not like it either.
Since Japan is an island, they are known for their seafood and their sushi! Tokyo has the biggest fish market in Japan called “Tsukiji Market.” I went there on my last day in Japan and we ate fresh sushi for breakfast. That was the first time I ate sushi for breakfast and I do not think my stomach liked it very much. I am not used to eating fish early in the morning, but it was very tasty! In the market I saw whole fish laying on tables fresh from the sea, eels laying in a pool of icy water, and seasoned crabs placed on a styrofoam plate ready for sale. One of the crabs even moved when my host dad poked it! They were still alive while they were on the plate! I noticed that many fish were being sold without being cut up or even cooked. People in Japan make use out of every part of the fish and every part of the sea. They use seaweed in their food such as in miso soup and eat a variety of fish that may not be as available in the United States and many other countries.
What parts of this environment help people to live here?
The fact that Japan is surrounded by water helps the people to live there. They have an unlimited supply of seafood. They also have the right weather and environment for rice fields. I have seen many rice fields especially the farther I got from the city.
What challenges do people face living in this environment?
Japan is a very interesting and fun country to live in, but it can be very scary as well. There are frequent earthquakes in Japan and they also have tsunamis which are large storms that are a lot worse than hurricane in the United States. Earthquakes are very scary and I have experienced some myself.
One day I was sitting at my desk in my room doing homework, and I suddenly felt myself moving back and forth. I stopped not knowing whether or not I was really moving. I thought I was imagining it. It is not a very strong feeling and sometimes earthquakes are not even noticeable. I looked around my room, and I noticed my curtains were moving and then I noticed the door was moving as well. I ran out into the living room where my host family was and I asked “jishin?” meaning “Earthquake?” They confirmed that there was an earthquake and that I really wasn’t imagining it! It is a really scary feeling especially for me since I never felt an earthquake before coming to Japan. People living in Japan eventually get used to it and are not as frightened unless it is a large earthquake that can cause harm.
How have people been adapting to this environment?
Japan has frequent earthquakes and has had disastrous experiences in the past such as the 1995 earthquake in Kobe and the 2011 earthquake in Tohoku. Due to events like these, I learned at the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum that Japan has buildings specially designed to keep them from being destroyed during an earthquake. The buildings slightly sway back and forth with the movement of the earthquake so that they do not fall over. This technology keeps earthquakes from causing as much damage and keeps people safe. When I was living on the fourteenth floor with my host family I could feel the building moving side to side which is scary, but it keeps the building from falling over.
In addition, due to the lack of space in Japan, there are many high rise buildings and apartments cramped into one area. Houses are so close together that many times the windows are made so that they are not able to be seen through. It allows for privacy so people cannot see inside another person’s house. The large window in my room was made this way so although I would open the curtains to let in some light it did not feel like I had a window in my room. I only had a very blurry view of what was outside. Also, many businesses are on top of one another. There are malls that are eight floors high and there are buildings with four or five different restaurants on top of one another. It can be a little confusing at first. I was always used to restaurants being in separate and all on the ground floor. However when I was in Japan, my friends and I would have to look up at the many signs to see what stores there were and would have to either takes the stairs or use an elevator to get there. It was a little strange at first, but we started to get used to it after a while.
Even though Japan has a little bit of space, they make use of the space that they have and find ways to fit houses and businesses in the same area. Also, I learned a lot about food while I was there and was able to try things that I never even dreamed of eating before!