Thursday, 29 November 2012

Japan Trip Update - Week Three

Kyoto Botanic Garden

Ginkgo biloba at Kyoto Botanic Garden

Tom & Ben with staff from Kyoto BG

Makino Botanic Garden

Herbarium vouchers at Makino BG Herbarium

The view from Makino BG across to Kochi

Lagerstroemia subcostata

Kochi National Park

Our third week has seen Tom and I travel down to Kyoto, then onto Kochi, which is situated on the island of Shikoku.  At Kyoto, Mr. Nagasawa and his team met us, and had kindly put together an itinerary for the next couple of days. This allowed us to assess the collection sites for next year and establish some important contacts that will hopefully aid us in our permit applications.

The Botanic Garden was established in 1924, and despite a period of disuse between 1946 & 1962, showcases an impressive collection of plants, with almost 12,000 species.

Out in the field, it was great to have the support of Mr.Nagasawa and his team guiding us through some fascinating sites and assisting with the identification of some of the local flora.

For the next leg after Kyoto, we visitied Kochi, home to Makino Botanic Gardens. This visit was greatly anticipated as everywhere visited previously, had commented on how this was the best Botanic Garden in Japan.

Named after the eminent Japanese botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino, the Garden was opened to the public in 1958. Within the 6 hectares, over 3,000 species of plant are on display, one of the reasons the Ministry of Education, Culture & Science recognized the Garden as a statutory Research Institute in 2003.

Dr. Tanaka kindly gave up his weekend to show Tom and I around the locality, where we visited a range of flora from sea level to almost 2,000m. The Sunday was slightly hampered by 4 hours of incredibly heavy rain, but this did not deter our enthusiasm!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Japan Trip Update - Week Two

Our second week has seen Ben and I travel from Hokkaido to Honshu and the city of Niigata on the western seaboard. Here we were greeted by Dr. Kurashige, Deputy Director of the Niigata Prefectural Botanic Garden. Three days were spent botaninsing the flora of the Niigata region in some breathtaking locations. The most exciting and memorable being a trek to find the most northerly population of Sciadopitys verticillata in Japan (the Japanese Umbrella Pine). It was a wet day with the mountain cloaked in mist, making it difficult to navigate and assess our progress. Finally however, at 700m we came across a single mature specimen of Sciadopitys, clinging to the steep slope just below the mountain summit. What made it all the more exciting was that it was displaying ripe cones full of seed. On closer inspection, five other semi mature specimens were seen, as well as a small number of juvenile saplings.

Taiga Kuhara - Guide Extrordinaire
Ben Jones next to Sciadopitys verticillata 

Tom, Ben & Sciadopitys - Mission Accomplished!

This species is endemic to Japan, and listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List. Seeing it in the wild was an experience that neither Ben or I will ever forget. Taiga Kuhara, of Niigata Prefectural Botanic Garden, was our guide and made each day an adventure.

Tom & Taiga heading through the forest

We then travelled on to Toyama, further south on the western seaboard, where we were welcomed by Dr. Godo and Mr. Shiuchi. Further field sites were visited including a trek through high altitude Fagus crenata forest. Bells were worn by all to alert our presence to any bears that may have been lurking nearby! Fortunately, none were encountered.

Ben with bells on!
Some of the other forest inhabitants

Our final evening was spent with the Toyama BG management team discussing our plans for next year over traditional Japanese fayre, including sashimi, black squid and some other 'unmentionable' dishes. The project is generating wide interest and support across Japan. Ben and I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality received and with the eagerness to collaborate.

Evening meal with Toyama BG Staff
One of many amazing plants at Toyama BG

Our journey now continues to Kyoto in southern Honshu, Kochi on the island of Shikoku and finally Tokyo and the Kanto region.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Japan Trip Update, Week One

Meeting with project partners at Koishikawa Botanic Garden of Tokyo University

Gingko biloba 
Our first full week has seen visits to Koishikawa Botanic Garden of Tokyo University, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, followed by a flight up to Sapporo where we visited Hokkaido University Botanic Garden and Tokyo University Forest, Hokkaido.  The visit to Koishikawa Botanic Garden gave Tom and I a chance to meet with other project partners, representing the Ministry of the Environment, Niigata Prefectural Botanic Garden, Tokyo University Botanic Garden and the University of Bonn Botanic Garden.

 Of the plants encountered so far, two stand out in particular. Kalopanax pictus and Tilia japonica. Kalopanax pictus is grown as an important timber tree along with Betula ermanii and seeing it as a large tree, growing in a stand of Picea jezoensis and Abies sachalinensis was quite a sight!

L-R Tom Price, Hirofumi Stubano, Dr. Daisuke Sakue & Ben Jones
The second, Tilia japonica was encountered in a less obvious location – a local noodle bar! The seats were made from this tree, which we hope to encounter in its more usual context as we travel across Japan.

Kalopanax pictus
Bench in noodle bar made from Tilia japonica

At the meeting with other project partners, we gave a presentation, detailing the aims and objectives of the trip over the next two years, and where the outcomes of the project help us deliver the core activities of the University, Garden and Arboretum. The response was very positive with offers of support in the form of guides to accompany us in the field, permit applications, collaborative collecting trips into the field and other logistics. 

View from University of Tokyo Forest, Hokkaido