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New Year Fire Drill

5 Jan

Every year on January 6th, the Tokyo Fire Department has 出初式 (New Year Fire Drill).

image

Tomorrow is 2014 January 6th, so it will take place tomorrow.

It’s a great event! You should see it if you have a chance!

I have been to this event a couple of times … I wrote a post with photos and video four years ago:

Click here to see it.

Water-throwing Festival

20 Aug

I am a member of group that carries a two-ton 神輿 (portable shrine) every three years in the 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).

This festival occurs in Tokyo on the third weekend of August. The festival is held every year…but the big, main festival is only every three years.

It was last held in August 2008 and was due again in August 2011 (last year)…but after the 2011 March 11th earthquake in the Tohoku area of Japan, the 2011 festival was postponed a year.

So, it was held eight days ago (on 2012 August 12th) and will be next held in 2015.

In 2008, I wrote a post about the festival with many photos and videos that my wife took. (Click here to read it.)

Anyways, this festival is nicknamed the 「水掛け祭り」 (“Water-tossing Festival”) because all along the 6km (3.8 mile) course, people vigorously throw water on the people carrying the portable shrines.


Also, the Tokyo Volunteer Fire Department sprayed us with fire hoses!

When we “carry” the 神輿(portable shrines), we don’t simply “carry” them…the teams often turns them around and around…and also toss them up and catch them!

From start to finish, it’s a ten-hour day! I was very sore and tired the next day…but it was fun.

One big thing that made this year’s different from previous years was that a team from the earthquake-stricken area of Tohoku joined the festival…and the Emperor and Empress of Japan came to watch!

The 神輿 (portable shrine) from the earthquake stricken area of Tohoku, Japan.

The Emperor and Empress of Japan (天皇皇后両陛下) at the festival! 

The Emperor and Empress of Japan (天皇皇后両陛下).

Were you one of the estimated 50,000 spectators at this festival? Were you, like me, one of the 3,000 participants?


Does your country have a festival anything like this?

Anniversary of one tragedy and another around the world

11 Sep

Today is the tenth anniversary of the 2001 September 11th terrorist attacks in America.
No one will ever forget the two jumbo jets that were crashed into the World Trade Center towers and brought them down. It was a shocking and tragic event.
2,753 innocent people were killed in the attack on New York City.

But less often mentioned are the other two planes of the September 11th attacks.
American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into The Pentagon in Washington DC, killing 184 innocent people.
And United Airlines Flight 93 was also hijacked and most likely headed for another high-profile crowded target to be crashed into. But this flight was different. The hijackers of United 93 had their cowardly plan foiled by the heroic passengers and crew of that flight!
The passengers and crew of that plane called their loved ones on the ground and told them that they understood what had to be done…and then they overtook the terrorists and forced the plane to crash into an empty field rather than another building.
Tragically, 40 innocent people lost their lives from that flight…but if it wasn’t for their selfless actions, the death toll most likely would have been much higher.

Memorial to the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93

Some of the phone calls weren’t disconnected and a telephone operator heard the voice of one of the passengers named Tom Beamer as he led the revolt against the terrorists with rallying cry to his fellow passengers of “Are you ready? OK, let’s roll!

Shortly after the events of 2001 September 11th, the American heavy metal band “L.A. Guns” recorded a song about the heroes of United Flight 93.

The song is titled “OK, Let’s Roll!”.  Here are the lyrics:

United Airlines Flight 93
Left 8:01 from Gate 17
Victims of a war they never knew existed
Hell looked them in the eyes and still they resisted

Lost brave souls, your courage we remember
Sacrificed your lives that September
We still hear your battle cry
Are you ready? Okay, let’s roll
Are you ready? Okay, let’s roll

So began the massacre at twenty thousand feet
Red devils lead the charge and pulled the captain from his seat
They watched them cut and slash at anyone left standing
We knew deep in our hearts this plane would not be landing

Never once were they ever in control
Lives were lost, but they never took a soul
We still hear your battle cry
Are you ready? Okay, let’s roll
Are you ready? Okay, let’s roll

Skies of Pennsylvania became a battle ground
Two hundred miles away, the towers had come down
One last chance to say goodbye, he called her on his phone
Said he knew what must be done, “I am not coming home.”

Are you ready? Okay, let’s roll

–”OK, Let’s Roll” by L.A. Guns

You can listen to it here:


—-
Today is also the six-month anniversary of the 2011 March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku area of Japan.

There are still many people there living in evacuation shelters. And, just like the 2001 September 11 attacks, there are many heart-breaking stories of people who lost their loved ones. And there are stories of courage and people helping each other.

Both the events ten years ago in America and six months ago in northern Japan were terrible and shocking.  I hope we never have to see such tragedies ever again.

東京消防出初式

6 Jan

Today I went to the 2010 「東京消防出初式」 (“Tokyo Fire Departements New Year Drill“).

チラシ (Flyer) for the 2010 「東京消防出初式」 (Tokyo Fire Dep't New Year Drills) show.

This is an event that takes place at the 「東京ビッグ・サイト」 (“Tokyo Big Sight“) near お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo) on January 6 every year.

The "Tokyo Big Sight" venue.

Modern art near the "Tokyo Big Sight".

I mentioned this event in my “Festivals In Tokyo” page.

At this event, a number of firefighters from fire stations all over the Tokyo area come for a day of fire drills. It’s also a day to teach the public about fire and earthquake safety and to let people look and the fire trucks and fire-fighting equipment.
There are also hands-on things to try…such as practice fire extinguishers, trying on a firefighter’s uniform, and an earthquake simulator.

But the highlight of the event is definitely outside the venue.

First, the Tokyo Fire Department band plays and an official opening ceremony commences.
Then, there’s a parade of firefighters wearing various Japanese firefighter uniforms, rescue dogs, and all of the various fire trucks, fire cars, motorcycles, super-pump trucks, firefighting cranes, 救急車 (ambulances), super-ambulances…and in the water, the fire department boats, and in the sky, the fire department helicopters!

And then, some firefighters, dressed in traditional Japanese fire-fighters garb perform amazing aerobatics on traditional Japanese bamboo ladder. Long ago in Japan firemen had to be able to climb these ladders and hang on with their legs while they fought fires.
Japanese firemen still practice this skill for strength and dexterity.

And after that, another amazing show began.
Two buildings on either end of the court were set ablaze, “civilians” were in one of the buildings and needed rescue, an “earthquake” toppled telephone poles and cars, and other “civilians” were in need of rescue at sea!

Firetrucks, cars, motorcycles, cranes, ambulances, firefighters, rescue dogs all rushed to the scene with sirens wailing!

Rescue workers rescued the civilians from the burning building, rescue helicopters pulled people from the water, rescue dogs found “people” in the earthquake rubble!
Meanwhile, cranes lifted the telephone poles and the toppled truck!
And at the same time, hosemen fought the blaze in the burning buildings!
It was quite a show! So much action…I was swept up watching it and forgot to take many pictures!

In the closing ceremony, the fire boat and fire trucks sprayed water into the air and the ladder trucks all lifted a fireman each as high as their ladders went straight up…and then the firemen dropped streamers of flags down.

It was alot of fun to watch this event.

If you’re in Tokyo on January 6 in the future and you have a chance, I recommend checking out the 「東京消防出初式」 (“Tokyo Fire Departements New Year Drill“).

There were a number of news outlets there.
Here’s ANN News report on this event today:

And click here for information about the 2010 「東京消防出初式」 (“Tokyo Fire Departements New Year Drill“) from the 「東京ビッグ・サイト」 (“Tokyo Big Sight“) website (in Japanese only).

Airplane crash

23 Mar

At 6:48AM JST this morning (Monday, March 23, 2009), a Federal Express (FedEx) cargo plane arriving at 成田空港 (Narita (Tokyo Int’l) Airport) from Guangzhou, China crashed and burst into flames.

Image from TV of the plane crash in Japan's Narita Airport.

Image from TV of the plane crash in Japan's Narita Airport.

This was a cargo plane, so there were no passengers on this airplane…only the American pilot and co-pilot were onboard. They both died.

Just like yesterday, it is very windy in the Tokyo area today. At the time of the crash, the wind was blowing up to 72Km / hour (about 45 miles / hour).
The wind is being blamed for causing the airplane to bounce on the runway and burst into flames.

Here is a YouTube video of the news report showing the tragedy:

出初式

2 Jan

A number of years ago I went to the 東京消防出初式 (Tokyo Fire Department New Year’s Demonstration).

dezomeshiki-chirashi_09

(Click here to see what I wrote about it on my “Tokyo Festivals” page.)

I had been wanting to go again, but never got around to it. I should’ve went last year because the event’s on January 6th every year, and last year January 6 was on a Sunday. Oh well.

This year the event will be next 火曜日 (Tuesday)…January 6, 2009. It’s at the 東京ビッグ・サイト (Tokyo Big Sight) near お台場 (Odaiba).
It starts at 9:30AM.

I was disappointed that it will be on a weekday this year, and I was thinking that I’d have to wait until January 6, 2013…which will be a Sunday and the next time that date falls on a weekend.

But I think I may be able to swing by there for a short time before work next Tuesday! :)

It’s an excellent festival. The firemen put out a real fire in a mock building, parade their fire-trucks and fire-boats, and a popular point is when they do the traditional Japanese firemen acrobatic demonstrations.

dezomeshiki01

This is something that firemen in Japan have to be able to do. It’s done nowadays partially for tradition, but mainly for physical training…it was done centuries ago because that was how firemen in Japan used to fight fires—by climbing on bamboo ladders.

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