JBL Expedition Japan 2019

Japanese culture

Jammed into one day – Japan in fast motion

Even zoological expedition participants want to know about a country’s culture and if you visit Japan without learning anything about its history you're really missing out.

Halfway between Tokyo and the koi breeders in Niigata Prefecture you’ll find the small, rather ordinary town of Nikko. But it can provide a European with a crash course into Japanese culture.

An imperial villa from 1899 with over 100 rooms

Villas like this could be the answer to our current German housing shortage! If you lose your guide, you could lose yourself in the villa’s labyrinth of over100 rooms, some of which have been preserved unchanged for over100 years. Despite the many rooms, almost all of them are flooded with light, thanks to the one-storey villa’s clever construction, and you feel like you’re on a journey through time. The smell of old wood, old paintings and objects from the imperial era only serve to reinforce this feeling. It only takes a real-life family in traditional costume to pass by the window and the illusion is complete!

A traditional tea ceremony for cola drinkers

If you think the changing of the guard in London is a ritual perfected down to the last detail, you should experience a real Japanese tea ceremony! A young woman performed the ceremony under the watchful eyes of an elderly mistress of ceremonies, who had once prepared tea for the last emperor. In fact, there was not a single hand movement or stirring process that was not 100% prescribed and practised. Two of our team were then allowed to try their hand at making tea and quickly discovered that it was harder than it looked.

Crowds of people in the oldest temple complex in Nikko

As it is always the case with real celebrities, everyone wants to see them. And since this temple complex from the Edo period (1603-1868) is really worth seeing and only 150 km away from Tokyo, it attracts more than a few tourists. Yet the whole complex was built by 127.000 craftsmen and is very extensive, so it only gets crowded at certain notable points.

One of these points is the Honjido Hall with its roaring dragon. A monk uses two pieces of wood struck together to demonstrate an unbelievable acoustic phenomenon. From one single position in the hall only the wood creates an incredible sound not normally possible without loudspeakers and sound effect generators. The celebrated three monkeys, who hear, say and see nothing (evil), can be found here in a carving too.

What lives in a mountain stream with a life-threatening current?

When aquarium enthusiasts see water, they automatically start to wonder what kind of fish (and invertebrates) it might contain. In Nikko there is a stream flowing under one of the most famous bridges in Japan (Shinkyo Bridge).

Upstream it flows past another sight: the Kanmangafuchi Abyss with statues dressed in red. Not even massive warnings from our local travel agency could dissuade us from our plan. We wanted to snorkel in the stream and look for fish!

JBL boss Roland Böhme had brought along some climbing gear and a long rope to secure a snorkeler in the water. Expedition leader Heiko Blessin was the first to try it and remained the only one. In the calm area behind rocks some gentle snorkeling was possible. But the closer you came to the torrential part of the river, the stronger the suction became. You could only use your legs to steady yourself a distance away from the current. Only a few centimetres further on and the three belayers on the rocks had real trouble holding on to the safety rope!

Our entire rewards were an ugly goby and the knowledge that life and death can sometimes be only a few centimetres apart.

Water values of the mountain stream (Daiya River):

Water temperature (surface) Conductivity: GH: KH: pH: Potassium: Magnesium: Iron: Oxygen: Silicates:
16 °C 113 µS/cm 1.5 °dGH 2.0 °dKH 6.8 < 2 mg/l 0 mg/l 0 mg/l 10 mg/l > 6 mg/l

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