Warm reunion in Japan

© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

10 May 2018

Tara left foggy China and arrived 5 days (and 750 miles) later in Japan. After her last visit one year ago, Tara returns to the land of the Rising Sun where the welcome is as warm and enthusiastic as always.

Tara began her stay in Japan by docking at the Nio Marina in Mitoyo where several hundred people gave her a welcoming ceremony with true fanfare, in the literal sense of the word. After a welcome speech, the Mayor and the director of the City Assembly presented the crew with local treats. Then a group of young girls from Mitoyo gave a superb performance of rhythmic gymnastics.

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Hibino, during Tara’s stopover in Mitoyo -  © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation 

 

The sea, source of inspiration

As in each one of Tara’s scientific expeditions, education and art mingle here. The sea has always been a source of inspiration for artists. Hibino, a visual artist from Tokyo, well-known for his installations at the Center Pompidou in Paris and at the Venice Biennale, embarked for a few days aboard the schooner. He has had ties with Tara for over 20 years.

Hibino served as a guide for us to discover the island of Awashima where he has established an artists’ residence. On Awashima, clocks no longer indicate the hour: time has stopped, leaving its mark on the 208 inhabitants. The average age is high and most young people have left the island. Still, the houses are surrounded by flowers, as in the old days when the tiny island had a merchant marine academy that trained many long-distance travelers across the world’s oceans.

The painter Maki (former artist-in-residence aboard Tara) joined the adventure again. She celebrates the sea in her paintings and has created a marine universe populated by strange and fantastic creatures.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

More than 30,000 species depend on coral

The schooner’s passage last year in Japan allowed Tara’s scientists, accompanied by researchers from Japanese universities, to study the effects of temperature changes and the impacts of increased water acidity (pH) on marine ecosystems. Japan has a great wealth of coral reefs, due in part to the Kuroshio current that favors the transport of coral larvae to northern Japan, just above Tokyo. The Kuroshio carries warm water, which explains why the temperature here is higher than in other places of the same latitude. Coral even grows in the bay of Tokyo! In the long term, researchers believe there could be a shift in population distribution: some coral species could migrate north, as they disappear from southern Japan. The Kuroshio has its source in the Coral Triangle, so it connects Japan to a “nest” of biodiversity. Last year Tara partially explored this region of the Pacific which represents only 1% of the Earth’s surface, but concentrates 30% of the coral reefs. The Coral Triangle – cradle of a very rich biodiversity – is one of the main breeding grounds for tunas, blue whales and sperm whales.

During Tara’s passage through the Solomon Islands, Papua-New Guinea and Indonesia, we collected over 25,000 samples. Analysis of these samples in Tara’s partner laboratories has already begun to deliver lessons for a better understanding of coral reefs, their state of health and ability to adapt to the environmental changes threatening the planet. After this trip to Japan and completion of our educational outreach among young Japanese, Tara will resume scientific missions in Hawaii in June 2018.

Noémie Olive

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