Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

The weather was cold in Japan. It was rainy most of the days. However, we were lucky enough to see some cherry trees blossoming. Their magical pinky colour attracts people from all around who pose in front of them for pictures or gather at nights to eat and drink beer underneath them. We as tourists took a nice picture in front of them 😛

Japanese women gathering to take pictures with the blossoming cherry tree (Photo: Layla Hashweh)

The course we attended at Tokyo University was a combination of field work, lab work and theory to get a hand on the APSIM model in specific and crop modelling in general. This included but was not only limited to:

Plant sampling (the sample was picked from the side yet not on the border). Neuman, a PhD student and our student tutor was kind enough to allow us to use his PhD trial field. The wheat was cut at the soil level. The leaves were separated into dry and fresh and away from the stem. The whole weight was taken and a ¼ representative. The leaf area was measured. The samples were placed inside an over for 72hours. The dry weight was calculated.

Environmental parameters were measured (radiation).

Professor Okada demonstrating the soil profile (Photo: Layla Hashweh)

Demonstrations using Drone for biomass estimation and plant phenotyping assessment were implemented. Agricultural machineries were also presented and explained in details that included: non-till planter, combine harvester.

Soil observation (a one meter soil profile was already dug for us). We took samples of the different layers using an auger. Measurements of the three phases of the soil was conducted. Observations of soil water moisture content were demonstrated.

Finally, the data measured in the field was summed in a sheet and was used in the APSIM model. Not only did we learn new techniques and implement them, we got the advantage to experience the day to day changes in the agricultural sites in Tokyo.

Students from ZEF and IPADS working in the field (Photo: Dr. Günther Manske)
Students from ZEF and IPADS working in the field (Photo: Dr. Günther Manske)
Explanation on agricultural machines to ZEF and IPAD students (Photo: Dr. Gunther Manske)


One of the days we went around Tokyo to see as much of the city as possible. Here I would like to thank the hospitable IPAD students who took us around and welcomed us in Tokyo! We started by going to Shinjuku, to the city hall top to see Tokyo. Lots and lots of houses, of all different shapes, really adjacent to each other and extending all the way across the horizon. We were told that people in Tokyo need to rent plots for parking their cars as there are no spaces or gardens in between houses. The public transportation offers an easier and cheaper solution for the people inside Tokyo. It is quite convenient, reliant, and punctual.

View of Tokyo city from the government building (Photo: Layla Hashweh)
View of Tokyo city from the government building (Photo: Layla Hashweh)

 From there we headed to Godiva bay and took an automatic driven tram above the human made Island (Odaiba). We grabbed lunch after walking around the sides of the ocean and took a very fancy glass covered boat. The area was full of huge skyscrapers, and factories.

Our last stop was Sensoji market that was full of tourists and locals. Shops selling gifts, food products and sweets as well as swords and traditional material covered the roads. The end was a beautiful big red temple (Senso-ji temple) Japan’s oldest temple and one of its most significant ones. We were instructed on how to perform some of the rituals that included blowing and waving the ash and smoke from a huge fire like a “bon fire” to any part of our body to improve it (heal, or get it better). We walked up the stairs to the shrine and clapped our hands twice after bowing. We threw some money in and made a wish then bowed again and left. The gold covered bells and dragons as well as monuments were breath taking and different than anything we had ever seen.

The view from Sensoji Temple to the market area (Photo: Layla Hashweh)

We then withdrew a paper with a number that said which drawer of a big cupboard we opened. A letter indicating our luck and fortune was written there. Whoever got bad luck was directed to hang the paper on a rope to leave their bad luck behind them. You can imagine how we felt as kind of in a movie or a story with our wishes and or beliefs.

We came across lots of girls wearing the traditional clothes in the streets. Again as tourists we stopped some and asked them to take a picture. They happily accepted and asked for more pictures!

ZEF students stopping locals with traditional clothes for a picture
ZEF students stopping locals with traditional clothes for a picture


Something that captured our attention was the ease with which women wore heals up to 15cm high.

One thing that you will definitely notice is the mask use in Japan. They come in all different shapes and even colors. I had always assumed that people wear them to protect themselves from the pollution. As an eager girl, I went around asking and got multiple reasons; pollen and allergies, fear of catching a flue/ cold, trend, getting used to wearing them, not wanting to show your face on a certain day (mood related).

The places are quite far from each other in Tokyo but we dropped by Akihabara the center of technology! The advertisement! The music! This is what I call life and a city!

We then were invited to Tokyo University welcoming dinner with a huge delicious buffet. The people were so humble, nice and welcoming. The drinks were quite tasty as well.

Shibuya area (Photo: Layla Hashweh)
Shibuya area (Photo: Layla Hashweh)

We decided that we could not leave Tokyo without visiting the Hachiko monument so we headed to Shibuya area to the famous Shibuya crossing. The area was packed with shoppers and red lights as cars stop to allow pedestrians to pass… the pedestrians cross from all sides, and that is an adventure of its own where you try to find your way through to the selected determined side. I felt so small in those big streets surrounded by these huge crowds somewhere so far away from home!

Hachicko’s monument was standing there, and people were gathered around it. Hachicko the remarkable loyal dog who continued waiting for his owner’s return years after his death! This was the original statute but a new Hachiko monument is currently in Tokyo University and unlike the earlier one the dog is united with his owner in the new one. This apparently was done in the name of the guy who owned Hachicko, Hidesaburo Ueno, who as well was a professor in Tokyo University.

Words will fail to describe our gratitude to professor Okada who organized our entire trip. He made sure that everything went according to plan, and joined us in the activities in addition to teaching and running the classes!

I am very thankful to having been selected as one of the students to start this collaboration between Bonn University and Tokyo University. I see a bright future for this collaboration that includes exchange of knowledge and education, and even extends to personal ties with students. I hope this opportunity will be available to many more students after me!

Check our coming post about the 2 last days spent in the outskirts of Tokyo in the hot water springs and amongst the nature…

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