THE FIELD WORK
Before this trip, I had never heard about this Island before. Now I know so much that I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where to start. When we got to the Island, we met Ishi-san and Kishimoto-sensei; they would be our guides for the entirety of our stay on Teshima. From them we learned all about Teshima’s rich history and strong sense of community. I will try my best to summarise the 44+ years of history we learned in 3 days.
Here’s a snippet of what I learned i.e the parts that peaked my interest the most.
Teshima is one of over 3000 islands located in the Seto Inland Sea. Once, thousands of years ago, the islands in the Seto Inland Sea and Japan were connected to China. However, after the ice age, melting ice and increasing seal level, the land was covered with water creating the formations we see today. Teshima has a size of 400 square miles and is home to just over 500 people. Over half of this population is over 65. The community is aging which is one of the many problems they have to deal with. Because it is such a small tight knit community, everyone seems to know and support each other. From the peak of Teshima, you can see five other prefectures. Also, this is random, but it took my third trip around the island to realize there are no street light here. It’s so small that my group did and Island tour on foot.
The Illegal Industrial Waste Dumping Site:
This island has been through a 44-year battle to protect itself from the effects of the illegal industrial waste dumping. From my understanding, a businessman by the name of Mr. Matsura began the business of selling soil and sand from Teshima. He ran this business until there was nothing left to sell at the site that he chose. From there, he seemed desperate to find other ways to make money off the land. His bright idea was to bring waste here and store it in concrete in the area that he’s dug out the soil and sand from. This was illegal for several reasons. For one, Mr. Matsura didn’t have permission to dump waste on Teshima Island. Secondly, this was a national park area and so it is illegal to dump waste in it. Thirdly, the permit he was granted was solely for the business of selling soil and sand and so he had no business doing otherwise. So, on December 18th 1975, the people of Teshima began a long tiring fight to protect their island. The story is a long and complicated one with many twists and turns. We learned of all the protests the people held and the way they united together to protect themselves when the Kagawa Prefecture Neglected. We learned how the burning of the industrial waste made the air so toxic that birds would fall out of the sky. People were 10 times more likely to die from an asthma attack and there were 10 times more students in schools suffering from asthma. It is believed that people outside of Teshima never understood the full scope of the issue because they weren’t living in it.
After years of dealing with this issue, the people were able to bring about change in Teshima. The dumping site is now owned by the community and they make the final decisions about everything that goes on there. All the waste – over 80 meters- has been cleared and some of the materials were cleaned and recycled. Currently there is a clean up project taking place at the dumping site to remove the toxins from the earth and water.
The dumping of industrial waste in Teshima is Japan’s biggest industrial waste controversy today.
I learned so much more about the history of this island from the introduction of the art festival to the creation of the old folks’ home, mental institutes and rebuilding of schools by the community. However, it is impossible to cover so many years of history in one blog post.
The highlight of my trip so far was getting to work on the salt farm and make my very own bag of salt. I was there for the whole process. I saw the water get pumped from the ocean into a contraption that uses wind to dry the water and increase the salt concentration. The sea water has a 3% concentration of salt, but once it passes through this contraption a few times it increases to 10%. Then it is put into a heated shed (60 degrees) where the salt is crystalized over either a month (summer salt) or two months (winter salt). I was able to dry, clean and package the salt with bags I made myself. During this whole process we were able to jump into the ocean a few times when we got too overheated.
So far this has been an amazing experience. It is a healthy balance of work and relaxation. I find it fascinating that I spent so much time learning about human centered design thinking with my Enactus club and this way of thinking just seems to come naturally to people of Teshima. They are able to empathise with each and work collaboratively to maintain their lively hood. This is something I will always remember and try to intertwine it with my everyday life.
The food has been an experience and deserves a whole blog itself!
June 22nd– Julia and I working in the field and cleaning the salt after collecting and drying it.