Exhibition Hall 1

The Natural World Around Us

What kind of natural environment are you living in right now?
1. An urban environment largely converted by humans;
2. A rural environment of field and village forests shaped by the activity of both humans and local flora and fauna;
3. A pristine environment untouched by human hands.

The natural environment around us can be roughly divided into these three stages. While long and extensive human activity has significantly transformed the natural world around us, there are many creatures that have adapted to the new environment and continue to thrive. Let's take a look at what kind of creatures that exist in the diverse environments of the Osaka area.

1 Alien species around the ports in Osaka

As Japan is an island country, creatures living on land or in fresh water can hardly enter the country from other countries. The only way that would make this possible is via floating on the seas or flying in from the skies.
However, as humans started to travel in and out from the country with their luggage, seeds of plants, insects, spiders, scorpions and the occasional big lizard may hide in these luggage. Many of them are found during the strict inspection process but some would nevertheless remain alive, slip through the cracks and survive in Japan. Marine creatures such as barnacles and shellfishes stick onto the surface of the bottom of the ships and are carried into Japan.

2 Urban nature

With the development of economy, the Japanese population has increased and towns are transformed into big cities. This comes with a price: nature is continuously destroyed or lost and only man-made nature such as parks and gardens remains. Osaka may very well be a typical example of this early urbanization.
Organisms that can live in a harsh environment are only those with vital power and is tough. Many of such organisms are immigrant organisms such as feral pigeon, black rat, fall webworm, European dandelion, etc. Animals that can live in such situation should be animals that has high fertility and prefers living close to human. Even modern kitchen still have cockroaches. The number of pests inside our homes have been increasing as heating is becoming more common. The nature of the city changes with the lifestyles of humans.

3 Rural nature

After the extensive spread and use of agriculture, human lifestyles became more sedentary based on rice cultivation and this changed the surrounding nature where humans started to build rice fields, irrigation channels and reservoirs. They also built vegetable fields and bamboo forests around the villages to harvest bamboo, and copses and woods to harvest firewood.
The rich biodiversity of the agricultural villages is made up of a mixture of species that has been there all along and newly arrived species due to the creation of this new environment. These organisms make use of the complex environment of the agricultural villages and most of it adapt and thrive accordingly to the cycle of four seasons of agricultural farming.

4 Nature of country forest

The majority of the forests in the Osaka prefecture are deciduous broadleaf trees and "Akamatsu" (Japanese red pine trees). These forests were not the original natural forest but specially created for human use. Humans used the forests around the villages to collect fuels, building materials, fertilizers, and wild, edible vegetables necessary for survival. They periodically cut down trees and rake leaves every year, which resulted in bright forests with many deciduous broadleaf trees. People call these forests "Satoyama", which means "village forests" in English.

5 Virgin forest of ancient Osaka

The evergreen trees grow thick with vines entwining around them. These evergreen trees that make up the forests have deep green, thick and glossy leaves where they reflect the sunlight. This is the reason why these trees are called "Shoushou-ju" in Japanese, which stands for "shinny leaves tree" in English. In Osaka, most of these forests have been cut down and only a few trees remain in shrines and temples.

6 Endangered habitat and life

As civilization developed rapidly in recent years, many species are now in danger of extinction. While some species have gone extinct without human involvement, human activities have significantly accelerated the extinction rate. It is important t consider the entire habitat/environment for conversation purposes. We have decided to showcase and introduce forests around temples, grass fields, fresh waterfronts as these are the environments where many species in danger of extinction can be found.

7 Insects in the forests of Osaka

The main forests remaining in the Osaka Prefecture are climax forests, the Shii (Japanese Chinquapin) / Kashi (Japanese Oak) forest and beech forest, and secondary forests, the Kunugi / Konara (both are Japanese Quercus) forest and Akamatsu (red pine) forests. The rest are planted forests such as cedar forests and hinoki (Japanese cypress) forests. Different insects can be found in each forest. In climax forests, the number of insects has remained stable with various species.
On the other hand, in secondary forests where humans have intervened, the number of insects changes drastically year to year and the characteristics of these forests are unstable. Very few insects live in these planted forests.

8 Foods of prehistoric man in Osaka

It goes without saying that not just in the Preceramic Period, but even in the Jomon period, our ancestors did not know how to cultivate rice and vegetable fields or raise livestock. So they naturally went into the primary forests to hunt animals, forage for fruits from grass and trees, and looked for fish and shellfish in nearby seas and rivers to survive. Our ancestors relied on and lived with Mother Nature for their entire lives such as clothing, food and housing from the forests and the seas. We can learn about the food that people in the Jomon period living in the Osaka plain ate and the rich nature then from the Morinomiya shells and artifacts excavated from underground ruins of the alluvial plains.

9 Impact of foreign organisms

Whether intentional or not, the living organisms brought into Osaka from their original habitats through human activity, which later started to grow and thrive, are called "foreign organisms. Organisms brought in from overseas are also foreign organisms. The bringing in of foreign organisms can be divided into three categories:
1. With personal goods in the luggage unintentionally: Currently, people bring in/import large quantities of things from afar every single day. Many organisms are being brought into Japan in these luggage.
2. Organisms brought in for breeding or cultivation purposes that escaped or were released: Plants being cultivated may spread their seeds into the external environment or pets may escape. There are also cases where the number of imported animals/pets was too much to handle and the owner released it into the wild.
3. Brought into with the purpose of releasing it into the environment: Foreign organisms/creatures may be released outside for hunting, fishing, to be fished, to serve as the natural enemy of pests, or as plants/trees for greenery purposes.

The local ecosystem may be at risk when these foreign organisms are brought in. Bringing in these foreign organisms is a way of destroying our local nature that one can do on an individual basis. Please pay attention and not destroy our ecosystems."

10 Life in Osaka Bay

The Osaka Bay is an inland bay with gentle waves that is shaped like a stomach. It is connected to the Kii Channel through Kitan Strait and also to the Harimanada Channel through Akashi Strait, where the bay waters are influenced by the warm ocean currents that flow in from the Kii Channel. Also, a large amount of fresh water containing nutrients and pollutants flows into the Osaka Bay from rivers such as Yodo River. Therefore, the water quality of Osaka Bay is rather complex and large differences exist depending on the location of the bay.
In recent decades, the pollution of the bay waters has worsened and the shallow sea is disappearing from reclaimed lands and landfills; many species have been driven out from the bay. We must not allow this situation to continue and lose the organisms that have grown in the rich, natural environment of Osaka Bay.