Report of My Visit to TUFS
Travel is often thought of as shaping us and enriching many aspects of our personality. In 2021, I had the opportunity to live this experience, breaking away from my Cameroon's roots and immersing myself in a new academic, social and cultural world in Japan. I arrived at Tokyo on September 2021 at the invitation of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), and I enjoyed four months stay full of academic activities (teaching, seminars) and sightseeing.
Before arriving Tokyo
My travel to TUFS has been postponed for several times because of the COVID-19 situation. I was happy that this time it finally happened. Before arriving Japan, I was very impressed by the careful and methodic preparation of my travel. Natsuko Midorikawa has been quite communicative and professional in handling every step of this process. Because of the COVID-19 situation, the first two weeks of my arrival at Tokyo were not easy because of the quarantine period. There was no way to go out and I had to report daily about my health conditions, to receive daily anonymous calls to report my location.
I started my teaching activities online, and face-to-face classes after my quarantine period. Concerning my teaching activities, I taught two courses, one on "Forest, Human Health and Development in Africa" for undergraduate students; and the other on "the State of the art and future perspectives of ethnobotanical science in Cameroon", for Master students.
The first course for undergraduate students was designed to help students understand the forest sector in Africa and its relationships with health and wellbeing of people living in/around the forest. It provided a critical approach for understanding the major health problems in forest dwelling communities, the socio-economic importance of forest, the effects of deforestation and forest degradation on the health of people living in and around the forests in Africa, and basic information on forest policies and economics in Africa. The students were very interested in learning about the forest-human health nexus. Through discussions about some case studies in Japan, they understood that the benefits of forest are global though they showed a lot of interest in knowing about forest environments in Cameroon, their potentials and conservation policies.
The second course for Master Students was an introduction to the diversity of Cameroon ecosystems and to the fascinating world of the diverse and complex interactions between people and plants. It also offered insights on some important innovations based on plants, measures and challenges of the conservation of biological diversity and on how the study of plants from an ethnobotanical perspective can contribute in addressing most of the current environmental and social challenges of this century.
Besides teaching, the academic life at TUFS was also full of scientific events.
The symposium organized on the occasion of the ASC-TUFS 5th anniversary held from November 3 to November 6 at TUFS has been an important scientific event. Together with Dr Takanori Oishi and Dr Hitomi Kirikoshi, Dr Denis Sonwa, Dr William Kamgaing and Dr Papa Saliou Sar, we were able to run a scientific session on ecology. This gave me an opportunity to share with participants our research findings on the spatiotemporal dynamics and environmental geopolitics of the Bakassi peninsula, post-conflict ecosystem at risk of deforestation and degradation, threatened by unsustainable use of its natural resources and inadequate governance.
I was also speaker at the 65th ASC seminar, together with Dr Ryo Kohsaka of Nagoya University, where I was able to share our research findings on biodiversity-based value chains in the context of the Nagoya protocol on access and benefit sharing in Cameroon.
Life at Fuchu
The Fuchu area where TUFS is found was a pleasant place to stay. Traveling from one place to another was quite easy thanks to the well-organized train and bus transport system. Downloading and installing the "Japan Transit Planner" application in your cell phone makes it easier to find the way and plan any travel.
It was quite easy finding places to eat as there are so many restaurant offering diverse dishes ranging from Japanese, Chinese, Nepal, Indian, Malaysian, Vietnamian, ...etc. In general, there are many vegetarian dishes offered and I really enjoyed. African dishes were quite difficult to find. Visiting restaurants around Fuchu area you will have to deal with the language issue, as everything on the menu is written in Japanese language and most often, it is difficult to find someone to translate. I often select only based on the visual picture of menus. I also tried cooking some food by myself. There are several vegetable shops around Musashisakai area where one can find a diversity of tropical food staples like banana, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoe, rice, meat (pork, chicken, cow), fish and several other vegetables.
The Fuchu area exhibits good harmony between economy, culture and ecology. I was amazed by the importance given to trees in the city architecture. Besides tree bordering roads, there are several parks and botanical garden. Together with Dr Takanori Oishi, Dr Makiko Sakai and Dr Kweku Ampiah and some students, we visited the Jindai Botanical Garden, a nice place of botanical diversity including several species, some originating from the tropics. There are also several shrines and temples that are very important component of Japanese spiritual life. I had the opportunity to visit so many of them, with the arrangement of Dr Chihiro Kumashiro, Dr Oishi and Natsuko Midorikawa.
Probably because of its geography and volcanic history, there are so many natural hot springs that are very popular in the Tokyo area. Either in-doors or out-doors, bathing in these hot springs gives an amazing relaxing effects.
Visit at Kyoto University
On the way to Kyoto I was able to enjoy heavy snow fall that significantly delayed our travel.
At CAAS, Kyoto University, we had interesting discussions on the issue of agrobiodiversity and its challenge for ensuring food security in forest dwelling communities in south eastern Cameroon. This was my topic of talk during the 14th KU-TUFS seminar jointly organized by the Center for African Area Studies (CAAS), Kyoto University and African Studies Center - TUFS. I was also able to share with scientist at the Research Institute of Sustainable Humanosphere (RISH) about our research activities on wood material science and engineering. The visit of their laboratories was quite inspiring to me and made me learn a lot about their approach for research in this field.
Prof Shigeru ARAKI arranged for some sightseeing with me and CASS researchers and students. We enjoyed visiting the Kyoto Aquarium, the Kyoto Railway Museum, the Golden Temple and the dragon temple adjacent to a bamboo forest.
Visiting the Imabari Island city, Ehime Prefecture
My friend Dr Takanori Oishi arranged for a visit at Imabari. We spent good academic times and scientific presentations with Prof Daiji Kimura, Dr Yujie Peng, Prof Kohske Takahashi and Dr Masaki Shimada. I enjoyed the beautiful nature and landscape of this island. The panorama park on one of the highest mountain in this island gives a good and marvelous view of the entire island. I enjoyed eating mandarins, one of the specialty crop of this area, and several products from mandarine including drinks and cakes.
Finally, I was very happy of my stay in Japan. The kindness of people and their legendary hospitality makes this country a nice place to stay.