Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Winter has finally arrived and it is getting very cold here in Akita prefecture. This season's first snow fell on the 19th of November. Since then it has been snowing on and off amost everyday. I love to see it snowing. But unfortunately I find it difficult to walk on snow. Last year was my first winter in Akita prefecture, and I slipped, tripped, and fell several times on icy and snowy roads during my evening walks or while walking to the nearby supermarket. This year, to avoid or minimize such painful falls and embarassing accidents, hubby purchased a treadmill. The treadmill arrived home last week and hubby put it together in a matter of few minutes. We are very happy with our purchase as now I can walk on the treadmill while watching the television programs. It is rather convenient and an effective way to workout and walk/run indoors. Now I do not have to worry about the unfavorable weather conditions like rain, snow, and dangerous icy roads. Our exercise equipment has many features like running/walking speed control, step count, timer, distance covered, heart rate monitor, and the amount of calories expended. I am quite excited about our new treadmill.

Our new treadmill

Control panel of the treadmill

Hubby working out and walking on the treadmill

Various poses of hubby on the treadmill

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wildlife protection and nature conservation

On 8th of November, my hubby accompanied me for the evening walk. While we were waiting for the traffic signal to change from red to green to cross a road that is located only about 200 meters away from our home, hubby noted an interesting signboard put up just next to where we were standing. The signboard pole was bent at an angle of about 60 degrees (with respect to the ground) probably due to the fierce windy conditions of Akita prefecture. Hubby had to tilt his head sideways to read the signboard, which read ‘Gun hunting prohibited area’. We walked further for about 1.5 km and noted three more signboards with two of them indicating ‘Wildlife protection area’ and the third one indicating ‘Temporary game preserve area’. We were quite surprised as all these signboards were put up within a two km range from our home. The place where we live, though not a typical urban locale, is surely not a forest area! In fact, officially the place is a city area. Therefore, the presence of these signboards near our home really surprised us. Nowadays during the evening walks I am expecting a wild bear to come down the mountains and show up in front of me! Jokes apart, I was rather curious to know about these signboards. So I went to enquire about it in the City Hall of the place where we live. The complete blank look on the face of the official at the information counter of the City Hall office indicated that she had no idea about it. Later, I looked up the webpage of the Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan to know the answers.

Photos of the signboards

In Akita Prefecture, various development actions have modified the landforms and affected the habitations and the breeding environments of various wildlife. Some of the wildlife have been greatly reduced in number, and some others have become extinct. In order to protect these and to maintain the biodiversity, the Ministry of the Environment of the Government of Japan is responsible for various issues. Some of these issues are Wildlife protection and conservation, Natural Parks, and World Natural Heritages. I will briefly write about these issues.

To protect wildlife and preserve endangered species, it is important to protect habitat, regulate hunting, prevent illegal killing, and implement any other measures necessary for the purpose. The wildlife protection system of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan preserves wildlife by enforcing the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law and the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Protection of mammals and birds is carried out under the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law. Various protection measures include restriction on game species, hunting areas, and hunting periods & methods, establishment of wildlife protection areas, and designation of special wildlife protection areas. Appropriate management includes control of hunting like establishment of temporary wildlife protection areas, designation of gun hunting prohibited areas etc. Protection of endangered wildlife is carried out by regulation for the acquisition and transfer of endangered species of wild fauna and flora, and designation of natural habitat conservation areas.
The signboards that we saw were put up under the Wildlife Protection and Hunting Law.

Natural Parks
Various National Parks, Quasi-National Parks, and Prefectural Natural Parks are included in Natural Parks Law. National Parks are locations where development and other types of human activities are restricted in order to protect the superb natural landscapes that are representative of the best that Japan has to offer. A part of Towada-Hachimantai national Park, a part of Kurikorna and Chokai quasi-national park, and Oga quasi-national park are located in Akita prefecture.

Wilderness Areas and Nature Conservation Areas
The Nature Conservation Law protects and manages natural resources and natural ecosystems aided by other related laws. The Nature Conservation Law makes provisions for the establishment of the following areas
(a) Wilderness Areas are areas that preserve and maintain the original ecosystem and are free of human influence.
(b) Nature Conservation Areas are natural areas that preserve and maintain the natural ecosystems like alpine and sub alpine vegetation, outstanding natural forests, natural phenomena, valuable wildlife of rivers, sea coasts and lakes, and marine areas with valuable wildlife.
(c) Prefectural Nature Conservation Areas are areas other than marine areas that preserve and maintain valuable natural environment at the prefectural level.

Zoning is done for the protection of the ecosystem.
(a) Wilderness area: Activities that negatively impact the ecosystem are strictly prohibited. Entry into this area is restricted and regulated to protect the ecosystem.
(b) Nature conservation area has three zones. They are special zone where activities approved by the regulations are permitted, wildlife protection zone where the capture and collection of designated species are regulated in principle, and ordinary zones where prior notification is required before carrying out designated activities.

The district of Shirakami Sanchi of Aomori and Akita prefectures is natural forest and is the largest natural beech forest in Japan with valuable flora and fauna, e.g., Black woodpecker. This area comes under the category of Nature conservation areas. Prefectural Government of Akita has designated all the areas of Akita as Special Zones and Wildlife protection zones. The signboards we saw during our evening walk falls under this category also.

World Heritage: Shirakami Sanchi
The Japanese beech (Fagus crenata) forest in the Shirakami-Sanchi World Heritage Area is unique among world forests because of its high purity, preservation of very old trees, and diversity of plants and animals. The Heritage Area represents the new beech forests that appeared in East Asia after the Ice Age. The management plan aims for the appropriate and efficient management of the Heritage Area through fostering close relationships among the Ministry of the Environment, the Forestry Agency, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Aomori and Akita prefectures.
The basic management framework of the Heritage Area is divided into two major classifications. The Core Area has especially high-grade vegetation and has not been significantly affected by human activity. The Core Area is protected by the strict enforcement of conservation regulations under the jurisdiction of several rules: as a Special Zone and a Wildlife Protection Zone in the Nature Conservation Area, as a Special Protection Zone in the Quasi-National Park, and as a Preservation Area in the Forest Ecosystem Reserve. The area surrounding the Core Area serves as a Buffer Area. Conservation measures in the Buffer Area are under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary Areas of the Nature Conservation Area and the Conservation and Utilization Zones of the Forest Ecosystem Reserve. Parts of the Buffer Areas are included the Quasi-National Park and Prefectural Natural Parks.

Nature Conservation Area: These areas must specifically conserve the natural environment and must have extraordinary natural forests. The core of Shirakami-sanchi was designated as the "Shirakami-sanchi Nature Conservation Area" in 1992. It comes under the Special Zone category where special conservation measures are implemented. This Area is also designated as a Wildlife Protection Zone. The areas not within the designated Special Zone are in the Ordinary Zone of the Buffer Area.
Natural Parks: The Natural Parks Law makes provisions for the designation of three types of parks, i.e., National Parks, Quasi-National Parks, and Prefectural Natural Parks. The Parks have two distinct zones: the Special Zone and the Special Protection Zone. The Heritage Area includes the Kimimachizaka-Fujisato-kyo Prefectural Natural Park which is designated and managed by the Akita Prefectural Governor based on a prefectural ordinance.
Forest Ecosystem Reserve: These areas are established and managed by the Forestry Agency in accordance with National Forest Management Rules. The entire Heritage Area overlaps the Forest Ecosystem Reserve, where the Core Area coincides with the Preservation Area and the Buffer Area coincides with the Conservation and Utilization Zone.

So we can conclude that there is a lot of overlap in the laws and policies of various government agencies. The purpose of these laws and policies are to deal with various issues like wildlife protection, nature conservation, and management of world heritage like Shirakami Sanchi and preservation of its flora and fauna.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In the afternoon of November 01, hubby and me went to Akita city to do our weekend shopping and purchasing. Hubby was in a mood for long car drive and therefore he took a slightly different and a longer route to go to Akita. He drove the usual way following route no. 7 Akita-Minami bypass upto a place called Araya. In Araya, he took a left turn and drove on route no. 65 Hamanasu Road, which we rarely use. On our way while passing through this road, we saw many enormous towering windmills. Although Araya is located in Akita city limits itself, I never noticed the windmills until that day as we usually take a shorter and more convenient route to go to Akita. Or probably because I usually doze off during the car rides! I was really impressed by the sight of these power generating windmills which are 60-80 meters in height.

Photos of the windmills

With the soaring oil prices and the environmental issues taking center stage, communities and industries in Japan are nowadays looking to wind power to help out with the energy needs. Wind power is also viewed as a way to help Japan fulfill its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, amid the growing interest in renewable energy, especially in wind power generation, various companies, including large trading firms are now entering into 'green energy' businesses.
Akita prefecture is an environmentally friendly prefecture and promotes the use of new type of energy that utilizes wind power. Akita Araya Wind Farm is located in the defunct Akita airport vacant lot in Akita city. There are ten windmills in this farm that were installed by Akita Wind Power Laboratory and the maker of these windmills is a company named NEG-Micon. Initially only two windmills, each with a rated output of 400 kW, were installed in 1998. These windmills were very effective in electric power generation. Consequently, eight additional windmills, each with a rated output of 750 kW, were installed in the year 2000. These windmills are used for the purpose of business of selling electric power.
Power generation using windmills is a very effective use of the wind energy of the cold Akita prefecture. The prefecture is situated in a latitude band where migratory low and high atmospheric pressure passes in groups except during the summer-time and it is especially under great influence of continental high atmospheric pressure. Consequently, in winter there is heavy snow and strong winds from the west. In Akita prefecture, which faces the Japan Sea, there are stronger winds than in other prefectures, especially those on the Pacific Ocean side. Therefore, power generation by using wind energy can be very effective in this prefecture.

Photo of one of the windmills

Hubby enjoying the picturesque view of the windmills

Hubby posing with a windmill

Although the efforts of Japan in power generation using wind energy are still in their infancy, it is a field that is rapidly expanding.

The following scientific research paper and website (in Japanese) are interesting and gives information about the windmills and power generation in Akita prefecture.
1. 'Practical running of windmill in cold northern district' authored by K. Kikuti, J. Ito, and N. Yoshimura in the journal 'Antarctic Record', Volume 84, (1985), pages 80-98.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

International marriage and legal documents

On 13th of October, hubby and me went to a photo studio in Akita city to have professional portraits of us taken together in ethnic Indian wear. It was our third marriage anniversary and we realized that we did not have any formal photo of us together for keepsake. I could not make this blog post in October as I wanted to upload the portrait photos, which we got just a few days back.

The anniversary day brought back happy memories of the day when we decided to get married about four years ago. However, it also reminded us of the requirement of many legal documents from India and various legal formalities to be completed for an 'international marriage' (kokusai kekkon in Japanese) like ours in Japan. I remember that we started the procedure of collecting the required documents in June 2005 but could register our marriage only in October. I had to make a trip from Japan to India for procuring, attestation, and authentication of many of the documents. In India, I had to go to the city (municipal) hall of my hometown, Home Department of Maharashtra state located in Mumbai, Registrar office of birth and death in New delhi, and Ministry of External Affairs of India located in New Delhi. I have lived in Japan for almost a decade and therefore the procedure of procuring and authenticating the documents served as a shocking, painful, and shameful reminder of the bureaucracy and blatant corruption existing in almost all levels of the government offices in India. Or may be it was just my bad luck that I had to deal with corrupt officials in all the offices that I went. Thankfully, my parents accompanied me to most of these offices and helped me to deal with the officials. After returning to Japan with all the precious(!) documents, hubby and me made a few trips to the Embassy of India in Tokyo to get several more documents, and ultimately we could register our marriage in the city hall of Tsukuba on the 13th of October, 2005. By the time we finished the registration of our marriage, hubby and me were really tired of all the legalities. Our reaction after getting married was not of happiness but rather a sense of relief. When we came out of the city hall premises, hubby exclaimed "Oh! finally we are married." But that was not the case. Next, we had to register our marriage in the Embassy of India in Tokyo. For this purpose, we required a few documents from the city hall of Tsukuba and their authentication from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in Tokyo, and it took us less than half a day to get the documents. Procuring the documents in Japan was that simple! However, there were several more procedures to be completed in the Embassy of India that officially required about 1.5 months. Here I would like to thank the staff of Indian Embassy who went out of their way and helped us in dealing with various procedures. Finally, we could complete the marriage registration process in the Indian Embassy by the end of December 2005. We were physically, metally, and emotionally exhausted after dealing with all the procedures and legal documents for almost seven months! And therefore we had absolutely no mood or feeling to have a wedding ceremony or even a marriage party with friends or relatives. Also, we had spent a lot of money just in procuring various documents from India. Now after three years, the shock and weariness of dealing with the government officials in India is gradually wearing off and we can even make fun or laugh at several incidences that occurred during the trips to those offices in India. We realized that registration of 'international marriage' is not that easy!
So this year on 13th of October, it was the first time that hubby and me took some professional portraits of us in a photo studio. We wore traditional Indian clothes. Hubby looked very smart and handsome in Sherwani suit. I wore a Salwar-Kameez suit. We enjoyed posing for the photographs. Both of us are a bit camera conscious and the professional photographer probably had a hard time to make us smile and relax during the photo session. The photographer, being a professional, did his job well. We are really happy that we took the professional portraits this year on our marriage anniversary. Below are the photos that hubby took of the portrait photographs bound in hardcover.