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Arigato in London

12 Jul

To show gratitude to the people of many countries around the world for supporting and helping Japan in the aftermath of the Great Earthquake in Sendai of 2011 March 11, Japan will host a special event in London, England that will be called “Arigato in London“.

This event will feature many aspects of Japanese culture including photos and a movie of the Earthquake affected area that will also include many Japanese children expressing thanks to people around the world, Japanese food, beer and 日本酒 (Japanese sake alcohol), Japanese tradional games and traditional arts and music.

To allow many people from many different countries to attend, this event will be held in London from 2012 July 28 until August 11 to coincide with the Olympics that London will be hosting then.

Click here to visit the “Arigato in London” website.

昨日は・・・

12 Feb

Yesterday, February 11th, was the anniversary of a few things…not all of them good.

For one, February 11th is a holiday in Japan. 「建国記念日」 (“National Founding Day”). (Click here for my short FAQ about it.)

It was kind of a waste that February 11 was on a Saturday this year because most people already had the day off and the holiday wasn’t observed on another day. If it was a Sunday, then tomorrow (Monday) would have been a day off.
Oh well.

February 11th also happens to be my father-in-law’s birthday.

Those two are the “happy” anniversaries of February 11th. The following two are more somber ones:

Yesterday, February 11 (2012), was the eleven-month anniversary of the 2011 March 11 earthquake / tsunami in north-eastern Japan.

The other sad event happened exactly twenty-four years ago yesterday. On 1988 February 11. At my high school in Florida.
It was many years until I was finally able to talk about this. Maybe it was post-traumatic shock.
But at lunch time on 1988 February 11, I was a senior-year high school student (in the final year of high school) and when I went into the lunch room I witnessed two students in a struggle with some teachers and then suddenly one of the boys drew a gun and shot the assistant principal Richard Allen fatally in the head!
All of the students in the lunch room began screaming and running but I suppose I was in shock because I just stood there staring. Everyone seemed to be running past me in slow-motion.
The memory no longer wakes me in nightmare but I will never forget that day.

A memorial photo of Richard Allen at my former high school in Florida (Pinellas Park HS).

If you click here, you can read a newspaper article about the tragic shooting at my former high school that was written four years ago on the twentieth anniversary.

Richard Allen, R.I.P.

Hideyo Noguchi’s birthday

9 Nov

野口英世 (Hideo Noguchi) was born 135 years ago today…on 1876 November 9th.

Hideyo Noguchi, 1876 Nov 9 - 1928 May 21. RIP

He was a doctor who died in Ghana when he contracted Yellow Fever, which he was doing research on.

In 2004, the Japan government changed the design of the ¥1000 and the ¥5000 bills. For the twenty years until then, the face on the ¥1000 note was of famous author 夏目漱石 (Natsume Soseki), but ¥1000 bills issued since 2004 have the face of 野口英世 (Hideyo Noguchi).

When I first came to Japan, ¥1000 notes had the face of 夏目漱石 (Soseki Natsume) on them. (The bill in this image has 「見本」 ("sample") print across the center).

But since 2004, 「野口英世」 (Hideyo Noguchi)'s face has been on the bills.

I learned that today was the birthday of 野口英世 (Hideyo Noguchi) when I checked Google today and saw the logo:

"Google" logo for the birthday of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi.

Other facts about Hideyo Noguchi:
-He was born in Fukushima (where the nuclear plant that was hit by the 2011 March 11 tsunami is).
-There is a statue of him in 上野公園 (Ueno Park) in Tokyo.
-His lived and worked in America for many years and married an American woman.
-His grave is in America.

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.

Night Zoo

15 Aug

From last Friday until tomorrow (2011 August 16), Tokyo’s 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) is having a “Night Zoo” special program where guests can stay in the zoo until 8:00PM and see the animals’ behavior at night.

I took a picture of this sign at the zoo's entrance. It says "So, let's go to the zoo at night. August 12 - 16 until 8PM (last admission is 7PM)"

We went to the “Night Zoo” yesterday. It was fun to go to the zoo at night especially in the summer when it’s sweltering everyday in Tokyo now…because the temperature goes down a bit.

Before we went into the zoo, I mailed a friend of mine a summer postcard from the panda mailbox that I wrote about in this post.

Back of the "panda mailbox". The tail and ears can be seen.

Panda Mailbox

Near the entrance of the zoo, close to the panda house, the zoo was collecting donations for the victims of the 2011 March 11 earthquake.
Anyone who donated at least ¥100 (US$1.30 at today’s exchange rates) was given a special うちわ (paper fan).
We got a couple of them.

Ueno Zoo "Night Zoo" fans...proceeds go to help the earthquake victims.

The front has many pandas and stars and says "midsummer night's zoo"

The back shows the back of seven pandas whose tails spell "Ueno Zoo" and it says 「がんばろう!日本」 ("Never give up! Japan") and 「手をつなごう、子供も大人も動物も」 ("Hand-in-hand...kids, adults and animals")

My camera isn’t so good at taking nighttime pictures, so I didn’t take many photos of the animals.
But we had a good time there. We’ve been to many zoos around Japan many times, but this was our first time to go to the “Night Zoo”. Ueno Zoo only has the “Night Zoo” once a year in the summertime…tomorrow is the last day for this year’s “Night Zoo”. So, if you’re in Japan now, you should consider going!

Does you local zoo have a “Night Zoo”? Have you ever attended it?

Japan brought back the steam locomotive

22 Jun

Have you ever visited Japan? Even if you haven’t, maybe you’ve heard about Japan’s excellent, clean, safe, affordable, extremely punctual and high-tech public transportation system.

Especially in big cities such as Tokyo, there are train and subway stations and bus stops all over the city.

The trains, subways, and buses are on time to the minute. They’re very comfortable…upholstered seats, air-conditioning in the summer and heated in the winter.

The fare can be paid with the swipe of a convenient IC-card.

And, of course, the trains and subways are electric. It’s been that way for decades. Japan hasn’t used the steam locomotive (SL) for a long time.

But, for something fun to do this summer (especially for families with young boys) and also to show support to Fukushima, Japan Railways (JR) will offer the chance to ride on a steam locomotive train.

This is only temporary (for the summer of 2011) and also the trains will only run in the countryside area of 群馬県 (Gunma Prefecture), north of Tokyo.

Have you ever ridden on a steam locomotive? If you’re able to visit Gunma, Japan this summer, this is your chance.

Live from Tokyo…it’s Saturday Night!

5 Jun

What to write this blog post about…??

Well, yesterday (Saturday, 2011 June 4), the Japanese version of the long-running American late-night comedy sketch TV show called “Saturday Night Live” debuted on Fuji TV here.

"Saturday Night Live, Japan"

I watched it and it’s similar to the U.S. version. Just like the American “Saturday Night Live”…it’s nothing special enough for a blog post.

Also, I was reading this month’s issue of the Japanese heavy metal magazine Burrn!

In the back of the magazine, there was an ad for a charity album for the earthquake / tsunami victims in northern Japan. It will be titled 「ワン・フォー・オール,オール・フォー・ワン~東日本大震災チャリティ・アルバム」 (“One For All, All For One…Sendai Earthquake Charity Album”).
And it is due to be released on 2011 June 22.

I couldn’t find a picture of the album cover online…but the picture in the magazine ad was of the Japanese flag. A similar album cover to the earlier Sendai charity album titled “Song For Japan“.

But, unlike that album, the “One For All…” album will have songs by heavy metal artists such as Sonata Artica, Fair Warning, Gotthard, Edguy, Soilwork, Riot, Harem Scarem and others.

Not enough info about that album is available yet to make an interesting blog post.

Better than either of those stories is seeing my very cute turtle 「ルンルン」 (Lun-Lun) leaning on her favorite concrete block to dry off after a swim in her pool yesterday afternoon:

Isn’t she cute? She’s a 「草亀」 (“Chinese Pond Turtle”).

Do you have a pet? Have you ever had a pet turtle? If you want a turtle, I recommend the 「草亀」 (“Chinese Pond Turtle”)…they are very friendly and easy to care for.

Treasured items after the Sendai Earthquake

22 Apr

The 「毎日新聞」 (“Mainichi News”) Japanese newspaper interviewed some of the survivors of the March 11 earthquake in the 東北地方 (Tohoku Region) who lost loved ones and most of their possessions and asked them to show something that has become a treasure to them in this difficult time.

Some of the replies were very touching. Here are a sample of them (all photos in this post are ©毎日新聞 (Mainichi News)):

This 11-year-old boy, who lost his grandfather and great-grandmother in the earthquake, treasures his school bag that his teacher found in the rubble of his elementary school.

This man treasures the wrist-watch that was found on the body of his son, that was a firefighter who died in the disaster

This 4-year old girl's family lost all of their possessions. She treasures the donated toy that was given to her at the shelter her family's staying at.

This woman lost her husband in the tsunami. She treasures her family photos.

This eldery man's wife has been missing since the tsunami. He put his hand on his heart and said that he will always treasure his memories.

Towers around the world to be illuminated for Japan

4 Apr

Towers and skyscrapers around the world will be illuminated in white and red to show their country’s support for Japan’s recovery from the disaster of 2011 March 11.

At sunset tonight (Monday, 2011 April 4) in each country’s local time, the Empire State Building in New York City, America, the Sky Tower in New Zealand, the Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower in Malayasia, the North Tower in South Korea, the CN Tower in Canada, the Macau Tower in China, the John Hancock Observatory in America and the Spinnaker Tower in England will all be lit up in the colors of the Japanese flag.

the Empire State Building in NYC, America illuminated in the colors of Japan's flag.

Do you live near any of these towers? Did you know they will be illuminated in white and red for Japan today?

The U.S. military are Japan’s “friends”

29 Mar

Since the 2011 March 11 earthquake that struck 東北地方 (the Tohoku Region of Japan), the overseas media have reported extensively on Japanese manners and the excellent rescue and repair work conducted by the Japanese…especially those willing to risk their lives.

But with a disaster of this scale it goes without saying that Japan needs help. And people from all over the world have been extremely kind and generous. Immediately after the tsunami destroyed the lives of so many in the Sendai area, rescue teams and donations came to help from many countries.

I saw a news report on TV here in Japan that focused on the U.S. military’s relief assistance in Sendai and Fukushima.

The U.S. military has a number of bases in various parts of Japan and the Japanese people understand the sacrifices that those in the military make and most of the Japanese people appreciate the protection that the U.S. military gives to Japan by having bases here.
But it’s a bit of a perennial problem in Japan. The U.S. bases take up valuable land in this small country, there have been a number of crimes, sometimes violent ones, committed by American servicemen stationed here, and some of the bases are for the Air Force and have noisy jets flying overheard all day everyday which greatly disturbs the people who live in the vicinity.

But since America has sent over 18,000 American service-people from the bases around Japan to help with the rescue and rebuilding of the Sendai area and also helping to cool down the nuclear plant in Fukushima, the people of Japan have seen the U.S. military at their best.
And they’re quite good!

The U.S. military has named the work they’re doing 「友だち作戦」 (“Operation: Tomodachi”).
「友だち」 (“Tomodachi“) is Japanese for “friends“.

They have a patch on their sleeve of the Japanese flag with the Japanese character 「」 which says “friend” in Japanese. And 「がんばろう日本」 which means “We can do it, Japan!“.

The TV news program I saw showed the U.S. Marines giving bottled water, food and blankets to the people left with nothing since the tsunami. But it also showed them giving American candy and toys to the children who lost everything they own. Toys and chocolate may seem unimportant…unless you saw the big smiles of those children. It was very heartwarming and thoughtful of the Marines to remember to bring something for those kids.

But the most impressive things I saw the U.S. Marines do in that report was when they quickly restored electricity to a town that was without power since the earthquake two weeks ago. And also, the Sendai Airport was such a mess and covered with so much debris since the tsunami that the Japanese authorities believed it would take too long to clear the runways for the airport to be of any use to bring much needed relief to the city…but the Marines got busy clearing the mess as soon as they arrived in Sendai and later the same day, the runways were cleared enough to be used!

Even the people who would like the U.S. military to not be stationed in Japan are extremely impressed and grateful for their help!
Thank you U.S. military. You really are a 「友だち」 (tomodachi)!