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New Year ’13 Station

1 Jan

In Tokyo, there is a subway station named 「辰巳駅」(“Tatsumi Station”).

The Japanese kanji characters that spell “Tatsumi” are the characters for “dragon” and “snake”.

So, for that reason, every twelve years … including this year … that station is a kind of unofficial New Years station.

This is because 2012 was 「辰年」(“the Year of the Dragon “) and this year (2013) is 「巳年」(“the Year of the Snake “).

So, for this New Years, Tatsumi Station changed the signs in the station to read:

辰 → 巳
(Dragon → Snake)

image

It’s great!

Truman’s grandson visited Hiroshima

7 Aug

Yesterday (2012 August 6th) was the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 9th will mark the same anniversary of Nagasaki).

Harry Truman was the U.S. President in 1945 who ordered the atomic bombings of Japan.

Every August, there are ceremonies in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to remember those who died in the bombings…and to try to ensure that no other nuclear weapons are dropped on any other city in the world.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, a member of former U.S. President Harry Truman’s family attended the ceremony in Hiroshima.

Harry Truman’s grandson laid a wreath of flower at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima.

Harry Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, is an anti-nuclear weapons activist. When he attended the ceremony in Hiroshima, he said ““I’m two generations down the line (from former President Truman). It’s now my responsibility to do all I can to make sure we never use nuclear weapons again.”

A special sky over Tokyo

22 May

Yesterday a 日食 (solar eclipse) could be seen over Tokyo and a few other parts of the world.
Did you watch the eclipse? To look at it, you needed to wear special glasses otherwise you could risk serious eye damage.

I got a (cheap) pair of the glasses and watched the eclipse. It was visible in Tokyo at 7:30AM.

I took a few photos of it with my cell-phone camera. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a very good shot of the “ring of fire” (when the moon was directly in front of the sun and a perfect ring was visible around the dark moon)…this one is probably the best of the pictures I got.

Solar eclipse over Tokyo, 2012 May 21

Another “sky-related” event in Tokyo is the grand opening of the Tokyo Sky Tree today (2012 May 22).

It says “Tuesday, 2012 May 22, Tokyo Sky Tree grand opening”

Personally, I don’t plan to go inside the Tokyo Sky Tree at least until the “novelty” wears off because it’s going to be very crowded (for awhile, a reservation is required to go inside) and also, the admission cost is expensive—¥2,000 – ¥3,000 for adults (depending on which level of the tower you want to go up to).

The tallest tower in the world

1 May

Two days ago (April 29th) was the Japanese holiday 「昭和の日」 (“Showa Day”). It was a Sunday so the holiday was “observed” yesterday (April 30th).

It was the unofficial start of Golden Week.  Many people, like me, have to go to work today and tomorrow but had a day off yesterday and next Thursday til Sunday (May 3rd – May 6th) will be days off, too.
But some people get a full nine-day Golden Week holiday from April 29th – May 6th. A lot of those people take an overseas trip.

Click here to read my short FAQ about this holiday period…and also how some of the holidays changed names a few times fairly recently.

Anyways, as we had the day off yesterday and the weather was warm, we went to a 藤まつり (Wisteria Flower Festival) not far from the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Here are some of the photos I took:

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Pictures of Hiroshima in autumn

20 Nov

Last Wednesday to Friday, my second daughter took a three-day field trip with her high school class to 広島 (Hiroshima).

Hiroshima is on the other side of the country from 東京 (Tokyo). I imagined that they’d go there by 新幹線 (bullet train)…but they took an airplane flight.

Here are some of the photos she took. (She took many more photos, but I’m not including any of the pictures that have her or her classmates in them.)

This is a famous landmark and symbol of Hiroshima. Before 1945 August 6th, it was an industrial exhibit hall.
The atomic bomb dropped in WW2 detonated directly above it, killing everyone who was inside…but the building was still standing.
It remains exactly how it was after the bombing but the name was changed to 「原爆ドーム」 (“Atomic Bomb Dome”). It’s now a peace memorial and a World Heritage Site.

「原爆ドーム」 ("Atomic Bomb Dome")

This (below) is a statue of Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia when she was twelve caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (her hometown).  While she was in the hospital, she tried to fold 「千羽鶴」 (1000 Paper Origami Cranes) which are a symbol of health and luck in Japan.
She died before she could complete them.
Click here to read a post that I wrote about her story (and another young Japanese girl with a big story, too).
(Some of young Sadako’s paper origami cranes are in the WTC Momument in New York. Click here to read my post about that.)

"Children's Peace Monument" with statue of Sadako Sasaki.

The 「広島平和記念公園」 (“Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park”):

In the Peace Park, there is the “Peace Flame” which will remain lit until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world, “Peace Bells” which can be rung be visitors to the park in a wish for world peace, and the “Cenotaph (empty tomb) For The Atomic Bomb Victims”…this monument lists the names of all of the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima and has the words 「安らかに眠って下さい 過ちは 繰返しませぬから」 (“Rest in peace, for we will never repeat this mistake”).

The "Cenotaph For Atomic Bomb Victims"

Looking through the Cenotaph For Atomic Bomb Victims, the "Peace Flame" and the "Atomic Bomb Dome" can be seen.

My daughter’s class took the ferry to nearby 宮島 (Miyajima), which is called the “resting place of the gods” and is another World Heritage Site.

The ferry to Miyajima that my daughter's class took.

There are deer on Miyajima.

Miyajima is most famous for 「厳島神社」 (“Itsukushima Shrine“) and it’s wooden Torii gate in the water:

Another landmark of the area is the wooden 「錦帯橋」 (Kintaikyou Bridge) with it’s five arches:

My daughter’s class also got to visit a cave. When they exited the cave, they saw this magnificent view:

All of the photos in this post were taken by my daughter. Please do not use or duplicate any of them without her express permission (which can be obtained through me).

New page

30 Oct

I just made a new page on my blog.
It’s titled “What’s that?“, and I made it to answer some of the questions that visitors ask me about “mysterious” things they’ve seen in Japan.

Check it out and if you have any questions about Japan (things you’ve seen, where places are, recommendations for places to visit, etc.), feel free to contact me. And, of course, comments in any of my blogs pages and posts are always appreciated!

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?

Rainy day in Nezu

23 May

It was forecast to rain today but my wife and I decided to go to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

I’ve written posts about this shrine before when we’ve gone there on sunny days and during festivals.

When we left our house the weather was sunny and warm. It was hard to believe that the TV weatherman said it would rain in the afternoon.

At lunchtime the weather was still nice, so we stopped at a convenience store and bought some beer and sandwiches and ate lunch in a park not far from the shrine.

After lunch we headed to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine) as the sky was turning dark and the temperature began to drop.
It was a good thing that we brought our umbrellas because it began to rain hard as we were leaving the shrine.

Here are the photos that I took:

These turtles were cute…but our turtle is cuter! ;)

I think this bird was a type of 「白鷺」 (Egret).

The torii at the entrance to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

Japanese lamp.

Sign says 「根津神社」 ("Nezu Shrine")

A row of over 150 "torii".

Click here to see my post with a video I took while walking through these.

The zoo is free today

4 May

In Japan, April 29th, May 3rd, May 4th and May 5th are public holidays.  Collectively they are known as 「(ゴールデンウィーク」 (“Golden Week“).  Technically only those days are public holidays and therefore only the May 3-5 period is “Golden Week”, but many companies allow their employees to have a Golden Week holiday from 「昭和の日」 (“Showa Day”) on April 29th until 「子供の日」 (“Children’s Day”) on May 5th.

(Click here to read my FAQ that explains a bit about the Golden Week holidays.)

Today is May 4th…「みどりの日」 (“Greenery Day“) in Japan.

This is the day to appreciate nature.  Every year May 4th is one of three days that all of the public 動物園 (zoos) and 水族館 (aquariums) are open with no admission charge.

So you can go to the zoo or aquarium in Tokyo for free today…if you don’t mind the crowd.

Of the three days that Japan’s zoos are open for free, May 4th is the most crowded because it’s the day that is a national holiday.
Tokyo’s 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) will be particularly crowded because in addition to the zoo being open for free on a national holiday today…Ueno Zoo recently got new pandas.

The three days of the year that Japan’s public zoos and aquariums are open for free are May 4th (“Greenery Day”), 都/道/府/県民の日 (Prefecture Residents’ Day) (each prefecture’s “Residents Day” is a separate day), and the anniversary of the day that the zoo / aquarium first opened.

So, for Tokyo’s public zoos, the days that they’re open for free are as follows:
-May 4th 「みどりの日」 (Greenery Day)…which is today.
-October 1st 「都民の日」 (Tokyo Residents’ Day)…as for the Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, 千葉県民の日 (Chiba Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on June 15th, 埼玉県民の日 (Saitama Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on November 14th, and 神奈川県民の日 (Kanagawa Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on March 19th—so Chiba Zoo, Tobu Zoo, Yokohama Zoo, etc. will be open for free on their respective prefecture’s Residents Day.
-And the other free day is the anniversary of the zoo’s grand opening…so, for each of Tokyo’s public zoos and aquariums, that day is:

Ueno Zoo...open for free every March 20th (first opened on 1882 March 20).

Tama Zoo is open for free on both (May 4) today and (May 5) tomorrow (both are national holidays). Tama Zoo first opened on 1958 May 5th.

Kasai Seaside Aquarium...open for free every October 10th (first opened on 1989 October 10).

Inokashira Zoo...open for free every May 17th (first opened on 1918 May 17).

Ooshima Zoo is always opened to the public for free.

Do you like zoos and aquariums? Which is your favorite zoo? Have you seen any of Japan’s zoo?

If you want any information about these zoos and aquariums in Tokyo (or the ones in the neighboring prefectures), feel free to ask in this post’s comments or e-mail me…I’ve been to them all.

(Images in this post are from the Tokyo Zoological Park Society website).

Is it right to cheer?

3 May

It was reported on the news yesterday that the self-credited mastermind of the 2001 September 11 terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in America, Osama Bin Laden, was killed by the American military.

Without a doubt, anyone responsible for crimes against humanity such as Bin Laden was should be brought to justice.

But I’m not sure I agree that the celebrations and cheering across America that was shown on the TV news yesterday is appropriate.

A crowd in Washington DC cheered the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a firefight with the U.S. military.

The Americans crowds that were shown on TV were chanting “USA! USA! USA!” and singing pro-America songs such as the American National Anthem.

It reminded me of the images of the reaction in some Middle Eastern countries about ten years ago after the WTC attacks on America.
There were some anti-American crowds in some countries who were cheering America’s loss.
It was quite offensive to see!

I certainly wouldn’t compare a villain such as Bin Laden to the innocent lives lost on 2001 September 11th…but seeing Americans cheering may fuel “anti-American” feelings in some countries.

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