I’m typing this while staring outside the window of my bedroom at Pension Porch (quaint little pension, with fantastic food and a landlord who’s quite a character). Where I am geographically is more or less here. I’m in a little town called Hamanaka in Hokkaido, so remote that my Japan Lonely Planet guide mentioned the wetland, but not the township itself.
The entire area feels a little surreal, a place that is slightly out of sync with Japan as we know it. The industry around the area revolves around dairy farming, fishing, general agriculture and eco tourism, with the surrounding marshes being a huge attraction.
Apparently in summer and winter the tourists come in droves. In winter for a spot of bird watching, particularly for the famous Japanese cranes as they perform their ballet like mating dance. In summer, the area is covered with flowers for a good month before a quick autumn comes around.
Right now, it’s so quiet that it’s difficult to believe that tourists would come in drove into this sleepy little town. Though as I woke up everyday, new shoots are turning up more and more each day, bringing a late spring to the area.
This is the first time that Kiritappu Wetland trust has the fund and connection to organise a group of oversea volunteers to come and collaborate with the local team and work on conservation projects together. Part of the incentive for the project is to promote the area’s natural asset internationally, as well as provide an example to other similar sites in Japan. As it is the first time, the amount of coverage is somewhat crazy. We have a full-time cameraman and video man watching our every move and two TV stations have turned up following us for the past few days, not to mention the newspaper journalists that dropped by.