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.