First Week in Tokyo, Japan

Hello from Japan!

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!

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