As I will be completing my nine-and-half year term with the UNU-IAS at the end of this month, I like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to all friends, colleagues and residents of Ishikawa Prefecture for making my research journey in Noto such a rewarding experience of lifetime.
I recall my first visit to the Noto Peninsula. It was the summer of 2011, and “Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi” was just designated as one of Japan’s first Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). I was serving an internship with UNU-IAS OUK then, taking my summer holidays off from my master’s studies at the University of Tokyo. I was intrigued by the proximity of satoyama and satoumi, and enchanted by its rustic scenery, fascinating architecture, and beautiful crafts. Needless to say, the great food and warm hospitality also instantly captured my heart.
Never did I imagine at that time that I would have the honor and opportunity to make Noto my research field. After my graduation, I joined the UNU-IAS Tokyo office in 2012 to work with the research team to promote GIAHS in Japan and have technically assisted with the applications of every Japan GIAHS designation ever since. Building on my experience working with GIAHS in Japan and overseas, from 2013, I also started working closely with our UNU-IAS OUIK colleagues in Kanazawa to find policy research relevant and contributes to the lives and livelihoods of the people in Noto. Residing and based in Tokyo, I have to be honest that I was not sure what I could do for Noto, or if my understanding of Noto would be superficial. But on every opportunity of my visit to Noto, I made my best effort to learn, remembering every sight I saw and every story shared with me. I drove around Noto sometimes, but I also took the local buses to navigate around just to remember places and their names. Every step of my research journey here, farmers, fishers, ryokan owners, residents and Noto people from all walks of life have been so generous to share their candid views and imparted their knowledge to a foreign researcher like myself.
Touched by their kindness and impressed with what I have learned, I wanted more people to know about this rich knowledge and stories of Noto. I then initiated the OUIK’s “Noto Satoumi Movement” in 2015 because many people in Noto have told me that while more efforts to conserve satoyama have increased after the GIAHS designation of “Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi”, most people did not know how they can contribute to conserving satoumi. A series of “Noto Satoumi Seminar” was conducted in Nanao city, Anamizu town, Suzu city, Noto town, Hakui city and Wajima city from 2015 to 2017, exploring a range of themes relating to Satoumi with national experts and local stakeholders. We explored topics from seaweed, traditional fisheries, shellfish, satokawa, blue tourism to ama women diver. Yet, these seminars just barely touched the surface and have yet to unravel the richness and diversity of Noto’s remarkable satoumi.
From 2018 the Movement focused on outreach efforts beyond Ishikawa Prefecture and Japan. From 2020 to 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a new series of Noto Satoumi Webinars exploring the linkages between Noto’s satoumi and SDG 14 “Life below water” was organized. I genuinely thank all experts, speakers, and stakeholders who had helped us with this Movement. I am proud to say that now many researchers in Japan and overseas are starting to relate “satoumi” with the Noto region, and I hope this interest continues to thrive.
Researchers like me will have nothing to tell if no one shares their knowledge and experience with us. I am truly grateful to be blessed with the kindness I received over the years in Noto and Ishikawa Prefecture. Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your GIAHS even as a foreigner residing outside Ishikawa Prefecture. Noto will always have a very special place in my heart and will always be a lifetime supporter of Noto’s GIAHS. Thank you for letting me experience the true meaning of “能登はやさしや土までも”. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.