A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Fair Weather Friends: Tsukuba’s Solar Cooking Enthusiasts Enjoy The Taste Of Nature While Promoting GREEN Lifestyle

You never know what surprising encounters await you when you stroll around Tsukuba City. Last weekend, on a perfect October day, I stepped out of the Ars Library to stretch my legs and get a little fresh air when I spotted something unusual on the lawn of Tsukuba’s Central park (Chuo Koen). There was a small group of people fiddling excitedly with what looked like satellite dishes, or even more like large flowers with petals made of shiny steel. Never being very good at resisting the pull of curiosity, I walked right over for a closer look. As I approached I noticed various types of food being prepared and then placed into the strange metallic contraptions which glistened brightly in the sun. A small placard revealed what it was exactly that I had stumbled upon: Tsukuba’s Solar Cooking Club!

Arranged in a dense cluster on the southern edge of the park were about a dozen solar cookers of various design, some ordered from companies and others homemade. These sun-powered ovens were being used to cook up a feast. First the popcorn started popping, as that only needs five minutes of solar cooking. We would have to wait 15 more minutes for the stewed apples, 35 more minutes for the rice and about an hour for the steamed chicken and potatoes. But on a day like that, with plenty of good company, who would mind the wait.

Yuko Tomioka, of Niconet Tsukuba, gave me a little tour of the cookers, which can be ordered over the internet for about 30,000 yen. I also saw pictures of the Japan Solar Cooking Association‘s visit to Tanzania, where they showed local villagers how to build their own cookers.  I was also lucky to meet and have the chance to talk with famous Tsukuba solar energy researcher Tadashi Nemoto (read < a href="http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080831x2.html">a recent Japan Times article).

It was all good people, great fun, and a worthy cause: reducing dependence on gas and electricity. It seems that these gatherings can be called for whenever weather conditions are favorable, so if you are interested in taking part in any future solar cookouts you should contact Niconet (niconet[at]niconet.org).

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