Moss grows into a popular leisure activity in Japan
Japan Times -- Aug 06
As Kaori Shibo bends her head down and peers at a log through a magnifying glass, she emits a delighted gasp. The object of her adoration? Moss.

With her face almost close enough to kiss the fallen tree, she shouts out, “Oh, this baby’s sporophyte is breaking out! I’ve never seen this before.” Shibo, 41, and around 20 other people on the same hike in a forest in northern Yatsugatake, Nagano Prefecture, are part of a growing community in Japan obsessed with plants known as bryophytes, which comprises moss, liverworts and hornworts.

“When you stare at a tiny piece of green, you find a vast world expanding from there,” explains fellow enthusiast Masami Miyazaki, 42. “It’s like a micro universe.”

The group is exploring the forest just days into Japan’s rainy season, perfect weather for an expedition to spot some of the many bryophytes and lichens that coat the forest’s trees and rocks.

According Masanobu Higuchi, Japan’s leading bryology expert and the hike’s leader, more than 500 varieties can be observed in the Yatsugatake Mountain Range alone. The area his group is trekking through, which surrounds Shirakoma Lake and spreads across the northern Yatsugatake Mountain Range, has become a popular spot for micro-plant enthusiasts.

“I am infatuated by moss not just because of their pretty shapes and colors,” Shibo says. “I am fascinated by the fact that you can find them anywhere around you but never realize how magnificent they are.”

In recent years, moss enthusiasts have increased in number in Japan, with tour hikes catering to those eager to spot different varieties, and shops selling the plants in terrariums to display in homes. The Northern Yatsugatake Moss Association began organizing its moss viewing hikes in 2011, and attracted around 40 people over that year. This year, demand outstripped the number of spots available with 140 people obtaining tickets to the association’s hikes, which are held each month from May until October.

News source: Japan Times
Dec 12
The Japanese government said Tuesday it will offer free rubella vaccinations for three years to men who were unvaccinated in their childhood amid an outbreak of the disease that threatens to dampen demand for travel to Japan. (Japan Today)
Dec 06
Officials from the city of Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture, said Wednesday that a case of classical swine fever has been discovered at a public research institute — the third such case of the virus being reported this year and just over a decade since it was official declared eradicated in Japan. (Japan Times)
Dec 05
Researchers warn that Japan could swelter under extremely high temperature every year due to global warming. (NHK)
Dec 04
Pagers are set to be finally phased out of use in Japan. The last remaining carrier says it will be stopping its service at the end of next September. (NHK)
Nov 30
Cases of syphilis infections this year totaled 6,096 as of Nov. 18, exceeding an annual amount of 6,000 for the first time since 1970, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Wednesday. (Japan Times)
Nov 29
Huge maglev shinkansen emergency exit shaft unveiled in Tokyo (Japan Times)
Nov 28
A patrol robot equipped with artificial intelligence is being tested at a Tokyo railway station. (NHK)
Nov 27
Japan will make companies responsible for explaining decisions made by artificial intelligence software they use, according to a government draft of legal guidelines shared with Nikkei. (Nikkei)
Nov 20
Time seemed to have stopped inside the main control room for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's crippled Nos. 3 and 4 reactors -- that is how Kyodo News reporters felt when they recently became the first journalists to enter the facility since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there.

(Japan Today)

Nov 14
Health officials in Japan say nearly 2,000 people have contracted rubella, or German measles, this year. (NHK)