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An International Adventure in Japan
Cnidarian Tree of Life Project
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Cnid ToL
Week 2, July 31-August 6

Allen, little guy, Cheryl and Jen visit Hokkaido with HIRANO, Yakko
Meg and Tim visit Hokkaido with YANAGI, Kensuke
Alvaro and Luciana hold down the fort in Shirahama with KUBOTA, Shin

July 31
We have not mentioned this yet, but we have made a few troubles for our hosts. Last night we failed to show up to a dinner party that was apparently thrown for us by the graduate students of the station. Communication has been a bit challenging! And we missed the boat on this one. Needless to say we felt VERY bad when we found out this morning and owe some people an appology. But our appologies have to wait because Cheryl, Allen, Jen, and LittleGuy are headed to Hokkaido.

We got to the airport at 9am. Little did we know that our expected travel plans would be turned upside down.

Ready to head to Hokkaido
Shirahama Airport While waiting for the flight that never took off, we enjoyed looking at all of the wonderful foods at the airport store.

We ended up buying a very tasty box of lemmon cookies.

The expected travel plan: 1. Plane to Tokyo. 2. Plane to Sapporo 3. Car to the station with Yakko, the wonderful Stauromedusae expert.

What really happened: 1. Waited for the plane but learned it was broken. 2. Took a taxi to Shirahama Train Station. 3. Train to Osaka Train Station. 4. Bus to Osaka Airport (the millionth time Cheryl has been there on this trip). 5. Plane to Sapporo. 6. Car ride to the station with Yakko.

Shirahama Airport
Here is Cheryl working with Japan Airlines (JAL) to figure out our new route. JAL took great care of us, finding our alternatives and paying for the needed transportation in cash. This is in striking contrast to how Tim and Alvaro were treated by United when their plans were interupted by technical difficulties. The service here in Japan is on a different level. It feels so civilized, the way things should be.
At the train station there was a guy with a huge cage of Rhinocerous Beetles, which he let us hold. These ones were bred to sell as pets. Rhino Beetle at the Train Station
King Noodle Before boarding the train, we stopped to have a noodle lunch. The dishes were huge and we managed to eat almost all of it. Here is Allen looking very pleased with his selection.
Apparently there has been a rise in sexual harassment on the trains so these types of signs have started becoming more common at train stations. During commute hours, women can choose to ride in an all women's compartment. Women Only
Bottoms Up Once on the train, we all sipped a liquid of choice. For Cheryl it was plum sake. Definitely deserved after a rough morning of learning we offended people, then having to coordinate new travel plans. LittleGuy had peach juice (and a bite of the plum that sat at the bottom of Cheryl's glass).
Allen sipped on Glamorous Body, a coffee drink. We noticed a change in him immediatley, and Jen got water (those darn itchy spots). Getting Glamorous

Jen and her water

Waiting at the airport Once at the Osaka airport, LittleGuy found a really cool sign. He also played at a a little play area set up by the Japanese airline company. It was really cool. Parents could drop their kids off, or stay watching as a JAL employee played with them.
Once we arrived in the Sapporo airport, we were in good hands. Yakko Hirano was there and set the tone (fun and efficient) for the rest of our trip right away. As friendly as can be, Yakko helped us get some food and then on the road to our first destination, the Muroran Marine Biological Station. Allen had been looking forward to meeting Yakko for many years. Though they had corresponded by email a number of times, this was the first time Allen had the chance to meet the world's most knowledgable Stauromedusae worker. Welcome to Muroran
August 1
This is the Muroran Marine Station. What an incredible setting! It is the only building at the end of a narrow, windy road to the ocean. We were very successful here, met lots of really nice people, and had great fun!
Welcome to Muroran
Researchers at Muroran The next morning after our arrival, we were greeted by the researchers at the station, including the director Motomura-sensei, over coffee and goodies. The entire lab works on algae, a great choice given the tremendous diversity we saw in our short stay. They were all incredibly helpful and seemed very happy to have us stay with them.
This is just one of the species of kelp we found along the rocky beach while waiting to meet the group.

Upon close inspection, we found two anemones (our first collection in Hokkaido) living attached the stipe.

Beautiful Kelp Kelp Anemone
Diveristy of kelp found along the rocky beach Look at this diversity. And this is just the begining.
The weather was much colder than in Shirahama and the ocean much more active. For the two nights we stayed here, we could hear the waves crashing against the rocks all night long. Beautiful and peaceful. A View from our bedroom
Boots for work We had only one full day to work in the area. This associate professor, Nagasato-san, gave us a tour of the station and helped us gather some of the equipment we needed for collection.
Yakko had been here 10 years before and knew the perfect locality to find stauromedusae. This is a view down on the fishing area where we entered the water to collect.

You can just make out Yakko collecting in thigh deep water in the second picture.

Muroran Locality Muroran Collecting
Getting Ready to Work

Manania uchidae

Here are Yakko, Allen, and Jen getting ready for working. Yakko and Allen snorkled, primarily looking for stauromedusae but keeping an eye out for hydroids. Jen swam with the plankton net to gather small jellies. Cheryl and LittleGuy searched the shores looking at snails.

The water was a bit cold (17 degrees Celsius) so wet suits were worn. Close to shore there was a lot of sea grass and kelp, making it a challenge to get further out. Since stauromedusae cling to this type of substrate, it was the perfect habitat. Where Jen swam it was much deeper, though impossible to tell how deep because it was very murky, and the current a bit strong.

Cheryl is not much for cold water so she did not take up the offer to borrow a wet suit and snorkle. However, she did put on her gear and search the rocks for stauromedusae.

All and all, it was a great haul. Not only did we collect the two species that Yakko knew would be there, but we (Yakko actually did the bulk of the finding) also managed to get two (perhaps three) more. The confusion about the number stems from the fact that two species are very difficult to distinguish. Yakko is hoping that our genetic work will sort that out.

Cheryl Searching for Stauromedusae Haliclystus borealis
Friendly Fisherman

Crab Feast at Muroran

As we were leaving the locality, this fisherman and his wife came out to see what we were doing. They remembered Yakko from her visit almost 20 years ago. Back then, they let her warm up in their home after she went collecting at 2am in the winter! They were so kind! They gave us 5 steamed crabs, which we took home and used to host a late night feast with the lab.
Back at the lab we looked at the animals we found. Yakko and Allen were particularily excited because they found all four species of Stauromedusae (and maybe 5) in the area. The plankton tow resulted in about four different species of hydrozoan jellies, and a couple of hydroids to boot.
Yakko brought an amazing camera and photo tank. Yakko and Allen got some amazing pictures of the animals. Allen finding lots of jellies
We had a fun time trying to figure out the identities of the jellies and hydroids that we picked up. Some were easy, like Cladonema pacifica, and others proved to be a challenge. We packed up some to keep alive until our return to Shirahama. Certainly Shin Kubota and Alvaro Migotto could figure them out.
We also had a good time looking closely at the structures of the Stauromedusae. Click to bring up the larger version and you can see labels indicating Manania's primary tentacles (these grow when it is a juvenile polyp) between two of its arms. Each arm is topped with a set of capitate tentacles. Running below the primary tentacle and extending completely around the animal (in this species) you can see the coronal muscle. Those wavy things extending down the body are its gonads. The mouth is hidden behind the outer wall of the animal and you can just barely make it out. Manania Close Up
Here is the station boat launch on the side of the hill. Can you imagine heading down there in winter weather?
On the beach we found a perfectly cross sectioned sea urchin. Revealed were its fantastic set of teeth, a structure known as Aristotle's Lantern. Way cool! Aristotle's Lantern
August 2
After finishing up our identifications and preservations, we hopped into the rental van and drove across the southern part of Hokkaido to Oshoro. This beautiful old wooden building is the Oshoro Marine Biological Station, the second oldest marine station in Japan.
Oshoro Research Station

Oshoro Research Station

Shibazaki-san In the door you can see the very able station attendant, Shibazaki-san, who within the hour was taking us by boat to our first locality.
More Stauromedusae! At this locality we recovered two species of Stauromedusae, one of which we had collected on the other side of Hokkaido, in Muroran. Haliclystus tenuis
We finished this great day by taking a hike over a hill to wind up at a wonderful little beach. There, we met some new Japanese and Jamaican friends!
We also enjoyed the sunset and had a great little feast. There were a bunch of people camping out on the beach, and we walked back to the station about the time that several groups started launching fireworks. Fireworks seem to be a big hit with the Japanese! Haliclystus tenuis
Hidden Among the Leaves

Sasakiella cruciformis

Gonionemus Hiding

Gonionemus oshoro

August 3


We went out to three different localities to search for Stauromedusae (and other cnidarians). Hidden among the algae, Stauromedusae are kind of difficult to find. Can you spot one in this first picture?

Shimazaki-san first took us out in a boat at a tiny beach where Allen and Yakko found more Stauromedusae, including the unusual Sasakiella cruciformis shown here. Jen did a plankton swim that resulted in some new jellies. Other cnidarians, unfortunately ones packing powerful stings, are also nestled in the algae in Oshoro. Spot a couple of jellyfish by the name of Gonionemus oshoro in the third picture to the left. Hard to believe that it is the same animal featured in the fourth picture, eh? One of these guys got a little too friendly with Yakko, "kissing" her on the lips. She suffered lip pain, achy joints, a bit of difficulty breathing. But, trooper that she is, she kept on hunting for Stauromedusae.

Shimazaki-san then picked us up and drove us to another beach where this time Cheryl did some searching with Allen and Yakko. The last locality was close to the station, and Allen and Yakko waded/walked there, some 300 meters. Sadly, the one last species of Stauromedusae that was possible to find in Hokkaido escaped their eyes. :-(

After a hard days work of collecting and identifying, we were treated to Sushi dinner by Yakko. Everyone really enjoyed the meal, except Jen who tried her hardest to play along. LittleGuy enjoyed eating urchin, squid, salmon eggs, and much more. We all split a bottle of wine that was given to us as a gift by one of Yakko's friends who stopped by the station earlier. It was a meal to remember! Sushi in Oshoro

Sushi Chef in Oshoro

Last Night in Oshoro Oshoro Marine Biological Station August 4

Our last day in Oshoro and we are sad to be leaving the place. It is a wonderfully quiet town with beautiful scenery and a lovely station. After packing up and talking with more friends that stopped by to see Yakko, we got into the rental van and headed towards the Sapporo airport.

We stopped at a Takkubyn a door-to-door delivery service to get the specimens, which included several live samples, shipped to Shirahama. The people there saw LittleGuy looking at all of the toy trucks they offer in exchange for shipping stamps, that they gave him one for free! He is one lucky dude.

We had time for an hour of sight-seeing at Otaru, which is famous for its glass work. We had great fun looking at all of the tiny glass animals and dishes. Allen and Cheryl tried lavender ice cream, another specialty of the region. Yes, that is lavender ice cream! Lavender Ice Cream
August 5

We spent much of today getting reorganized. Luciana and Alvaro filled us in on their adventures, which included SCUBA diving in shark infested waters. They of course were too busy looking for cnidarians to notice any sharks. Cheryl and Allen met with Shin Kubota to discuss potential future travel to different localities. They are meeting with a travel agent to see what is possible. Jen did a plankton swim early in the morning but it only resulted in organisms already collected. This afternoon Shin Kabota is taking Luciana and Alvaro to look for a photo tank since nothing suitable is available in Shirahama. LittleGuy got a ride on a jet ski. And Allen and Jen updated this web log.

Web Update

We had a minor "Oh no, we are not in Kansas any more". We shall protect the names of the guilty, but here is what happened...

Our head chef, the one who has lived in Japan and is fluent in the language and cooking style, went with two other members of the team and Shin to a town not too far away for some shopping. Our head chef left cooking instructions with one of the remaining team members (we will call this person Y) before departure since it would have been impossible to read the directions from the packages of Ramen noodles that were to be prepared. The second person staying back (who we will call X), began to prepare the meal.

Because X has been watching and assisting our head chef on previous meals, knew that there were 2 different ways to prepare the noodles. X asked Y if any instructions had been given by our head chef. Y said "no". Y was obviously not listening to X. So, X took a guess as to which method was required. Unfortunately X chose the wrong method. Instead of cooking the noodles in 6 cups of water before adding the cooked vegetables, X added the noodles to the vegetables along with a cup of water. Needless to say what resulted was a dish that few could describe.

But here is the kicker. The shoppers invited Shin to dinner! It was a disaster, even though our head chef tried to turn the meal into a soup. Shin was very polite, but we all knew he was probably wondering what in the world was wrong with our ability to cook!

August 6

Once again, the day started early with a plankton swim by Jen. Several new organisms were found by Alvaro and Allen who searched the sample!

After breakfast, Shin Kubota took us all of out to a great tide pool area to find hydroids. Here you can see the exposed area we walked across to get to the collection site. It was beautiful.

LittleGuy hurt his finger on a prickly barnacle so he and mom spent the morning swimming in this area instead of tide pooling. After about 2 hours of swimming, they found a hidden staircase and tunnel to explore.

Tide Pooling for Organisms

Tide Pooling for Organisms

Tide Pooling for Organisms The rest of the gang had huge success in the water! They found tons of hydroid species and came back extremely happy.
Here is Alvaro hard at working trying to spot different hydroids. The trick is to spot a hydroid, then use a small diving knife to cut off a portion. Sometimes this involves cutting out a bit of rock or other substrate they are growing upon. Be careful though. Hydroids have nematocysts (stinging cells that all cnidarians posses) and many can deliver a painful sting. Allen got a taste of this on today's snorkeling adventure, and Alvaro has a swollen spot on his elbow from an earlier experience here in Shirahama. The specimens then get put into a collection bag or bottle and brought back to the lab at the conclusion of the snorkle. Alvaro At Work
Some of the diversity of organisms in the water Just some of the cool stuff they saw! Though the area is right between the other two localities in front of the lab, it was more diverse.
Alvaro and Allen got very excited about this find, a black aglaopheniid. Below are a couple of pictures of Pennaria disticha, a very common species. But, isn't it beautiful?
We keep discovering more and more of Luciana's talents! Not only is she a very good biologist, she can play ping pong well! We discovered this talent while waiting for everyone to appear for our lunch adventure. In this shot, she is playing Shin Kubota's friend who is known for his ping pong skills. Luciana held her own though!
This is the cute little restaurant in Shirahama where we ate. Luciana and Alvaro had eaten here with Shin before. Where we had lunch
A Great Meal You pay 700 Yen (about $7.00) and get a set meal that includes a wide variety of food. Today's menu included: fish sections (all fins and head included), fried pork, rice, pickles, soup, a tofu dish, spagheti-type noodles, salad, and of course tea.

We all really enjoyed the feast...but then again, have you ever heard us mention that we did not enjoy the food...

We had our own private room, and get this...if you run out of something, or need something, there is a call button in the room. Someone appears almost immediatley and takes care of your needs. Great Company
An update from Meg and Tim!

From an email Meg sent: "We are staying in Hakkodate this evening because there are no hotel rooms in Aomori, the town we are going to be in for the next 2 days, and our rooms are not yet ready at the marine lab. Hakkodate is on the southern tip of Hokkaido, and is a famous port and fishery. When we arrived, we were joking and marveling at the ubiquity of the town mascot, the squid (we thought of you, annie!).

When we left our hotel to do a little sight seeing, we were stopped by a parade. Kensuke asked the police man what was going on, and we discovered that today is the "squid festival", featuring their famous squid dance.

The parade lasted for about 4 hours, and featured brigades of workers from local businessess dancing and wearing costume, young children twirling batons, and the usual floats, excpt the floats were mostly squid themed! We moved in and out of the parade route, timing our dinner so that we would be finished in time for the join-along part, the squid dance fnale.

The squid dance consists of a crowd of people clapping and shouting and flailing in unison as he names of various squid dishes are chanted (I swear, I am not making this up). The clapping gives way to a dance where you jog on one foot to the right, then hold both hands in a triagle above you, then run to the left, then run to the right, then left, then right, then jump up and shout "hai" (imagine the "chicken dance," but for squid). After several rounds everyone waves their hands left, right, left, right at increasing speeds, then does the wave forwards, then backwards. The crowd danced and chanted its way through the town, and included grandmotherly women, salary men on their way hime from work, children, drunk college students dressed in drag and as cartoon characters (one kid dressed as a mushroom), and 3 cnidarian biologists. We danced the whole route (about an hour), making the motions and chanting "Hai" when the food was mentioned."

Photos and more text here!

Alvaro and Luciana Held Down the Fort in Shirahama!

They collected quite a few specimens.

Photos coming soon!

2006 -- All images copyright by Cheryl Ames, Allen Collins, Jennifer Collins, Meg Daly, Luciana Gusmao, Antonio Marques, and/or Alvaro Migotto and may not be copied or re-used without explicit permission.