It’s been an exciting second week! We started the week off with a trip to Asakusa, a part of the Tokyo prefecture. We visited Sensōji, an ancient temple from around the year 645 and learned that it was initially built to provide spiritual protection from northeastern invaders. The temple itself was absolutely massive and the whole site altogether was very impressive. I went and saw the Tokyo Tower by Roppongi Hills. This was my first solo trip and completing it successfully really boosted my confidence in navigating public transportation. One day after work this past week, I took the train past the office and went to the National Garden in Shinjuku. This garden was really pretty and massive, but it felt too big. It definitely wasn’t as cool as the one I saw the week before, but still very glad I experienced it. I’m beginning to learn that oftentimes the really popular tourist attractions are not worth the money or time when compared to sites that are less known. A lot of the famous restaurants are often crowded, expensive, and not worth the high price. I’ve been enjoying going to the local family owned restaurants a lot more, and the food is just as good or even better than the famous restaurant chains. On Saturday night I went to Shibuya to experience the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The crossing is this giant intersection right in the middle of Tokyo where a bunch of roads meet. It’s estimated that about 2.4 million people pass through that intersection every day. I came out of the station and saw an endless sea of people waiting to cross the road. The neon lights from the advertisements and the crowd of people really make it an energizing experience. Then the next day I went to the National Art Center in Tokyo for another very impressive display of Japanese art. I enjoyed learning the different styles of calligraphy and seeing beautiful art from a variety of time periods. The Art Center itself was in a beautifully designed building and had a couple of restaurants and cafes throughout.
For work this week, I continued my research project and gave my presentation on the previous research I’ve done. It was really encouraging to get curious, positive feedback after the presentation. At the beginning of the week I attended an online conference organized by the Renewable Energy Institute, a non-profit think tank organization located here in Tokyo. The focus of the discussion was the potential of Japan’s ocean space to be used for offshore wind energy production. Maritime Spatial Planning, or MSP, is the term used to describe the factors and planning taken into consideration when configuring offshore wind projects. Some factors in Japan’s favor are that the oceanspace that Japan solely occupies can be considered a closed water system. This means that there’s a large degree of control that Japan has over that water space. However, there are quite a few factors that are not in Japan’s favor when considering offshore wind development. For one, there’s a lack of science communicators; people that can articulate scientific reasoning for projects such as offshore wind development from a politically neutral and logical perspective. There’s also a lack of interest among members of the public in seeking employment in offshore wind development. Suggestions to address this issue were to add courses in colleges throughout the country about offshore wind development so that students can hopefully become interested in the topic and choose to pursue a career in it. Educating students at young ages about the importance of living environmentally-conscious lives was another suggestion, one that the U.S. could benefit from as well. With maritime spatial planning, I learned that there’s a large international relations component where countries often collaborate on the planning and construction to ensure effective use of the oceanspace. The locations of fisheries, for example, will likely need to be considered when planning the location of the wind turbine platforms so that the fisheries can remain healthy. But, it was mentioned that the sea itself is changing so to outright designate certain ocean territory for certain purposes is unrealistic. Addressing this challenge will likely require a platform design that’s able to support marine life and allow for inevitable ocean life changes to occur. Overall, it was very interesting to learn about maritime spatial planning. I will continue to learn about this topic and follow Japan’s progress in pursuing offshore wind energy.
I can’t believe I’ve already been here for a week days! Time is moving way too fast, as I’ve been loving every moment here in Japan. I’m so grateful to be staying with such a supportive and caring host family. I’m also thankful for the work of IES staff who’ve helped to make the transition to life in Japan very seamless. We spend the first part of the week getting adjusted to the time and touring the areas around our orientation center. It also took some time to get comfortable with using the train, our main form of transportation. Over the weekend we explored Tokyo Station (absolutely amazing), Kitte Mall, and the Imperial Palace.
Thursday, June 15th, was my first day working at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. I got acquainted with the staff and other interns over an amazing lunch at Genyo, a popular seafood restaurant in Yotsuya. Then I decided on some points of interest for my research work for the next couple of weeks. Building off of recent research completed on the economic implications of artificial pollination in comparison to natural pollination, I chose to focus on the economic and political implications of another technology likely a part of the global push towards sustainable living: agrivoltaics. Japan is a global leader in sustainability and a role model of agrivoltaics use. ISEP conducts a decent amount of research on agrivoltaics in Japan, making for another reason I’m interested in the topic. Agrivoltaics is essentially a more biodiversity-friendly and efficient form of large-scale photovoltaic use. When constructing solar fields, destruction of surrounding vegetation often occurs, and shadows are cast over surrounding vegetation throughout use. Recent research has shown that the shadows cast on vegetation by the solar panels negatively impacts biodiversity. Agrivoltaic systems differ from conventional solar fields because they have minimal harmful effects on surrounding vegetation, lessening the harm on overall biodiversity. For a second research topic, I’m considering exploring the impacts of wind turbines, solar fields, and hydropower on biodiversity in the United States to complement my first research topic.
In addition to continuing my research, I’m very excited to continue learning about Japanese culture. I have only been here a short time and am already deeply amazed and inspired by it. One of the first things I noticed was how people seem to function in harmony with one another. For example, nearly four million people use the train for morning and evening commutes every day. Even with a lot of people there’s order and harmony, and the train is very rarely late. On the train, it’s very common for people to give their seat to someone who might need it more. Another thing I noticed was how safe Japan is. On one of the first days here, the director of the Tokyo IES Office was showing us around the city and when pointing out the police station, he mentioned that the police in Japan are often bored because of how little crime there is. Young children are safe enough to walk home from school, often great distances, unaccompanied by adults.
I’m looking forward to elaborating on other amazing elements of Japanese culture and my exciting research in future posts. Thank you for reading and goodbye for now!
Hello! My name is Joelle McMillan and I’m beyond excited to be interning at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo, Japan this summer! I’m equally as excited to share my journey with you all. Stay tuned, it’s going to be an amazing adventure!