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Train runs for one kid

11 Jan

CityLab website ran this story about a train in a very rural area of Japan that makes only two stops—one when a lone high-school student leaves for school and the other when she returns.

For years, there’s only been one passenger waiting at the Kami-Shirataki train station in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, Japan: A high-school girl, on her way to class. The train stops there only twice a day—once to pick up the girl and again to drop her off after the school day is over.

It sounds like a Hayao Miyazaki film. But according to CCTV News, it was a decision that Japan Railways—the group that operates the country’s railway network—made more than three years ago.

At that time, ridership at the Kami-Shirataki station had dramatically fallen because of its remote location, and freight service had ended there as well. Japan Railways was getting ready to shut the station down for good—until they noticed that it was still being used every day by the high-schooler. So they decided to keep the station open for her until she graduates. The company’s even adjusted the train’s timetable according to the girl’s schedule. The unnamed girl is expected to graduate this March, which is when the station will finally be closed.

People are tipping their hats to the Japanese government for making education a top priority. “Why should I not want to die for a country like this when the government is ready to go an extra mile just for me,” one commenter wrote on CCTV’s Facebook page. “This is the meaning of good governance penetrating right to the grassroot level. Every citizen matters. No Child left behind!”

Others, like the creator behind this YouTube video, grieve over the struggling railways of rural Japan. With the country’s record-low birthrate, aging population, and the threat of losing a third of its population by 2060, Japan faces a number of crises including a surplus of vacant housing and a shrinking workforce. The nation’s railroad system is being hit by these shifts.

The train's time-table. One train at 7:04AM and another at 5:08PM.

The train’s time-table. One train at 7:04AM and another at 5:08PM.

Japan’s impressively efficient high-speed rails have continued to expand to the outskirts of the country, rendering many of Japan’s older, low-tech railways obsolete. Kami-Shirataki station, for example, sits in the town of Engaru in the rural part of Hokkaido, which lost at least 20 rail lines in the past few decades, according to Fortune.

But if this story of a young girl and her special connection to the Kami-Shiratki station is any indicator, Japan’s disappearing rural railroads will be remembered for their service to even the most remote parts of the country.

 

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2015 in review

22 Dec

In ten days, this year will be over.  Time flies!
Google have compiled the biggest news stories for each of the past twelve months by country, according to the most popular internet searches in each country.

All links below are to related posts that I’ve written. By all means, click the links and read (and comment on) my posts!

The Biggest News Stories of 2015 in Japan:

  1. (December 2015) – Star Wars
  2. (November 2015) – Paris attack
  3. (October 2015) – Rugby World Cup / Water on Mars
  4. (September 2015) – Volkswagen emissions scandal
  5. (August 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)
  6. (July 2015) – Women’s Soccer World Cup
  7. (June 2015) – Japan’s Constitution change
  8. (May 2015) – Respiratory Syndrome that started in South Korea and killed 36
  9. (April 2015) – Nepal earthquake
  10. (March 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)
  11. (February 2015) – “The dress”
  12. (January 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)
"The dress"

“The dress”

The Biggest News Stories of 2015 in America:

  1. (December 2015) – Star Wars
  2. (November 2015) – Paris attack / The Royals won the baseball World Series
  3. (October 2015) – Water on Mars
  4. (September 2015) – The Pope visited the U.S. / Volkswagen emissions scandal
  5. (August 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)
  6. (July 2015) – Women’s Soccer World Cup / Cecil the lion / Iran nuclear deal
  7. (June 2015) – Caitlyn Jenner
  8. (May 2015) – Mayweather vs Pacquiao boxing match
  9. (April 2015) – Nepal earthquake / Same-gender weddings legalized
  10. (March 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)
  11. (February 2015) – “The dress” / The Oscars awards show
  12. (January 2015) – (nothing was listed by Google)

Tokyo supports Paris

15 Nov

The Tokyo Tower (which was modeled after France’s Eiffel Tower) is illuminated the colors of the French flag to show solidarity with France in the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris.

image

So is Tokyo Sky Tree:
image

And 東京都庁 (Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building):
image

(Photos from @naokiss )

Little League World Champions…again

31 Aug

The 2015 Little League World Series just ended. As it is every August, it was played in Pennsylvania, USA.
Many times the champion game has been played between USA vs Japan…and it was this year too.

I’ve written a post about the 2010 World Series that Japan won against America. (Click here to read it.)

Japan won the 2015 World Series, too.  The final score was Japan (18) – USA (11).

Japan are the 2015 Little League World Series Champions.

Congratulations to all of the teams from every country! They all played well!

The Japanese team celebrating their victory.

Did you watch the game on TV?  Even better…were you there at the stadium in America to see it?

2014 Kanji of the Year

15 Dec

Every December, a kanji (Japanese (Chinese) written character) is chosen that represents the biggest news of the year that is just ending. It’s called 「今年の漢字」 (“The Kanji of the Year“).

Last Friday, the kanji of the year for 2014 was chosen. It’s 「」 (zei) which means “tax“.

Every year, when the 「今年の漢字」 (“Kanji of the Year”) is chosen, it’s presented to the public at a special ceremony at a temple in Kyoto where the head monk writes the character and it’s broadcast on TV, newspapers and the internet.

The Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字) for 2014 is 「税」 (“tax”).

The reason that this character was chosen to represent 2014 is because the sales tax in Japan was increased this year for the first time in years.

When I came to Japan in 1990, the sales tax here was 3%. (Until just a couple of years before I came to Japan there was no sales tax here at all!)
It stayed at 3% until 1997 when it was raised to 5% (that year, a law was also passed that the after-tax” price must be shown on all products).
Japan’s sales tax was 5% for seventeen years. It was increased to it’s current 8% last spring (thus the Kanji of the Year is “tax”).
The Japanese government plans to increase the sales tax again next year (in 2015) to 10%!

Japan’s Batman

2 Sep

In the Chiba area of Japan, near Tokyo, is a superhero who looks identical to “Gotham City’s” Batman.

The Japanese counterpart is called 「千葉ットマン」 (“ChiBatman“).

chibatman

He has been cruising the streets of the Tokyo area, not fighting crime, but bringing smiles to people since the March 11th 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake…but wasn’t famous until a junior high school boy noticed him and took a photo and tweeted it.

That photo was re-tweeted thousands of times (including by me). Of course, with that many re-tweets the international media noticed. And there have now been reports about ChiBatman in many countries’ news sources…such as the BBC.

Man on the moon

20 Jul

Today (2014 July 20th) is the forty-fifth anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969 by American astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin.

30th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Mission

Click here to read a Huffington Post article about this anniversary and to see a video of the Apollo 11 rocket that carried the first men to the moon.