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Japanese Firefighters Ceremony

5 Jan

Every year in January there are 出初式 (Japanese New Years Firefighters Ceremonies) around Japan.

Every January 6th, the 「東京消防出初式」 (“Tokyo Fire Department’s New Year Ceremony“) is held. Today is 2016 January 5th, so it will be held tomorrow.

I have been to this (and a few other Japanese Firefighter Ceremonies). Click here to see my post (with photos) about it.

The 「横浜消防出初式」 (“Yokohama Fire Department’s New Year Ceremony“) is on the second Sunday of January every year…so it will be held on January 10th this year.

If you’re unable to attend one of those festivals this month, there is a similar one in the Asakusa area of Tokyo in May every year.
It’s not as grand as the New Year’s ceremonies. And it’s actually a memorial ceremony for fallen firefighters.
It’s called the 江戸消防慰霊祭 (Edo Firefighters Memorial Ceremony).

I watched this ceremony a couple times. Click here to see photos I took of it almost six years ago. (There are also photos of the Tokyo Sky Tree under construction in that post because it’s near where the ceremony is held, and it was being being at that time).

Here are some videos of last year’s 「横浜消防出初式」 (“Yokohama Fire Department’s New Year Ceremony“):

Tokyo with kids…

4 Feb

I’m often contacted by parents in various countries who are planning to visit Tokyo with their children…and ask me for suggestions for places to take them in this city.

So I thought it would be helpful for people who are planning to visit Tokyo with kids if I wrote a post with some places that are popular with kids in Tokyo.

So, in no particular order, here is a brief list of places in Tokyo to take kids:

Tokyo Disneyland and/or Tokyo Disney Sea

KiddylandOne of the giant toy stores in Tokyo. In Omotesando, near Harajuku.

Yamashiroya – Another giant toy store. Near Ueno train station.

Hakuhinkan – This giant toy store is in Ginza.

Odaiba – A driverless train takes you to this part of Tokyo.  Has a shopping center, cat-cafe, bicycle rental, a Statue of Liberty like the one in New York…but smaller, and a life-sizeGundam” robot.

gundam

Children’s Castle

Zoos and/or Aquariums – There are many excellent zoos and aquariums in and around Tokyo. This site tells the government-owned ones in Tokyo limits…there are more than these.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Sky Tree – At 634 meters tall, it’s the world’s tallest tower. It’s within walking distance of Asakusa.

I also sometimes give inexpensive (not much more than the cost of my train fare) walking tours of Tokyo to foreign visitors, when my schedule allows.

Feel free to contact me with this form if you need more information:

The biggest earthquake in Japan’s history

11 Mar

Today at about 2:45PM I was outside and I noticed the telephone wires overheard begin to swing wildly. It was a nice sunny day and not windy at all, so I was wondering why the wires would suddenly be moving like that.

And then as soon as it dawned on me that it was probably due to an 地震 (earthquake)…I felt the ground shake. I’ve been in a number of earthquakes here in Japan but this was the strongest I’ve felt the ground move. It gave me a queasy feeling.
It lasted a few minutes…which is quite enough time for an earthquake to do a lot of damage…and it got stronger. The buildings in front of me began to sway.

For the next few hours there were many aftershocks. Some of them quite strong.
It’s now 7:00PM and the most recent aftershock was about thirty minutes ago.
Maybe it’s finally over. I hope so! It was quite scary.

Actually though, we were lucky. A lot of things fell over in our house…but no serious damage—and most importantly, none of us were hurt.

Unfortunately, many people weren’t so lucky. At least nineteen people have been confirmed dead.
This earthquake, which has already been named—「2011年東北地方太平洋沖地震」 (“2011 Tohoku-Region Pacific Earthquake”), registered a 7 on Japan’s 震度 (Shindo) earthquake scale at the epicenter in Sendai, Japan!
“7” is the highest rating on that scale!
In Tokyo, it was rated as “5” in parts of the city and “6” in others.
On the western “Richter” earthquake scale, it was rated at “8.9“.

 

Tsunami warning map of Japan

A 津波 (“Tsunami” tidal wave) caused by the earthquake hit Sendai and swept up cars and boats and caused casualties and damage.

Boats upturned by the Tsunami. (photo ©Yahoo News)

In the Tokyo area, the earthquake caused a couple large fires.

A building in Odaiba, Tokyo caught fire in the earthquake (photo ©Yahoo News)

An oil refinery in Chiba, Japan near Tokyo caught ablaze in the earthquake (photo ©Yahoo News)

The 「2011年東北地方太平洋沖地震」 (“2011 Tohoku-Region Pacific Earthquake”) is officially the biggest earthquake on record in Japan’s history. And it’s in the top ten of the world’s biggest.
The said on the TV news that today’s earthquake was 180 times more powerful at it’s epicenter in Sendai, Japan than the 「関東大震災」 (Great Kanto Earthquake) that flattened Tokyo in 1923!

Even after over twenty years

7 Jan

I have been living in Japan for most of my life.
I came here when I was twenty years old…and that was over twenty years ago now.

I think Japan is the most beautiful country in the world and Tokyo is the best city.

I wanted to show some scenes that I see regularly in Japan and I may have started taking for granted but they are a part of what makes Japan so special.

Rather than go through the photos in my camera’s memory cards, I decided to be a bit lazy and see what I could find online.
I found a website called Getty Images that has many stock photos…some of them of Japan.
The people who take these photos must have cameras that are much nicer than mine because they took some really nice photos.

I use photos that I took myself in most of my blog posts, but the following photos are from Getty Images.

Every January, when the "Tokyo Stock Exchange" reopens after the New Years holidays, the female staff wear kimono.

A"bird's eye view" of Tokyo

A traditional Japanese breakfast.

A Japanese garden.

The symbol of Japan: 富士山 (Mount Fuji).

Tokyo's "Rainbow Bridge".

Japanese "Green Tea".

The Shibuya area of Tokyo

The Shinjuku area of Tokyo.

新幹線 (Bullet trains)

Tokyo Tower

By the way, today is the seventh day of the New Year.
On this day it is Japanese custom to eat 「七草粥」 (“Seven Herbs Porridge“) for breakfast.
I will have it for breakfast today as I usually do on January 7th.

Click here to see my post that explains this tradition in more detail.

スイカ祭り

1 Jul

At the DECKS shopping area in お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo), they’re currently having a 「すいか祭り」 (“watermelon festival“) until 2010 July 19.

They’re selling all types of food, drinks and desserts made with スイカ (watermelon).

A great way to cool down from the summer heat in Tokyo!

History timeline

21 Nov

By no ways a complete list, but here is a timeline of some highlights of world history.

Japan-related dates are written in red.

  • 1281: Mongolia was conquering most of Asia. As the Mongolian Navy was heading to Japan to invade, a giant typhoon sunk their entire fleet. Thus saving Japan.
    That typhoon was called 「神風」 (“Kamikaze“), which means “Divine Wind“, in Japan.The World War 2 Kamikaze pilots were named after this typhoon.
  • 1346: The Black Plague started and eventually killed nearly half of Europe’s population.
  • 1492: Christopher Columbus lands in America. But he believed he was in India and called the inhabitants “Indians“.
  • 1603: 「江戸時代」 (The “Edo Period“) begins in Japan.
  • 1680: The 将軍 (Shougun), Tsunayoshi, loved dogs and enacted a number of laws protecting dogs and making harming them a criminal offense.He is therefore often called “The Dog Shogun”.
  • 1776: America declares it’s independence from England.
  • 1789: French Revolution began.
  • 1804: Napoleon became the Emperor of France.
  • 1854: U.S. Naval Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to open to trade with the West.At first Japan resisted and the island of Odaiba was built in Tokyo Bay to defend Japan from the American forces. But Perry’s fleet of black ships were too intimidating and Japan enacted law to allow trade with the West in general and America in particular.The resulting influx of American goods and culture sparked Japan’s “Westernization”.

An Ukiyoe portrait of Cmdr. Perry. His name is written as 「ぺルリ」 ("Peruri") because that's what it sounded like to the Japanese when Perry said his name with his American accent.

  • 1859: Charles Darwin published his book “The Origin Of Species“.
  • 1861: The U.S. Civil War began.
  • 1868: 「明治時代」 (The “Meiji Period“) started in Japan. This was a period of modernization.
  • 1876: Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone.
  • 1904: The Russia-Japan War began. Russia underestimated Japan and lost the war.
  • 1905: Albert Einstein published his “Theory Of Relativity” (E=MC?)
  • 1912: The “unsinkable” RMS Titanic sunk.
  • 1914 – 1918: World War 1.
  • 1937: The zeppelin Hindenberg exploded over the U.S. state of New Jersey.
  • 1939 – 1945: World War 2.
  • 1941 December 7: Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • 1945 August 6: America dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of 広島 (Hiroshima).
  • 1945 August 9: America dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan. This time on the city of 長崎 (Nagasaki).
  • 1961: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space, starting the “Space Race” to the moon between America and Russia.
  • 1964: Tokyo, Japan hosted the Summer Olympics. The first Olympic games hosted in an Asian city.
  • 1969: U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first (and so far, only) man to walk on the moon.
  • 1972: Sapporo, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics.
  • 1990 October 17: I (“Tokyo Five”) came to Japan.
  • 1995 January 17: 「阪神淡路大震災」 (Hanshin-awajidai-shinsai), (“The Kobe Earthquake“) destroyed the city of 神戸 (Kobe, Japan).

    A collapsed overpass after the Kobe Earthquake; 1995 January.

  • 1998: Nagano, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics.
  • 2001 September 11: Both of the World Trade Center in New York City, USA and The Pentagon in Washington D.C. are attacked by commercial airplanes hijacked by terrorists. Both of the towers in NYC were destroyed completely.
  • I know that I left out many important dates. Feel free to write any that you can think of in the comments section of this post.

    And did you witness any historic events?

    花火

    11 Jul

    梅雨 (The rainy season) will be over soon in the Tokyo area and then the rest of summer will be filled with hot, humid, sunny days.

    In Japan, (summer) means スイカ (watermelon), (festivals), (the beach), 小鳥線香 (mosquito repellent coil)…

    kotorisenko

    and 花火 (fireworks)!

    hanabi

    宮島水中花火大会 in Hiroshima.

    In the evenings of July and August (usually on the weekends), there are summer 花火大会 (fireworks shows) all over Japan.

    If you go to a fireworks show in Japan,
    – you should bring a picnic style food and drinks for yourself and your group…there’s no BBQ grilling done at fireworks shows in Japan,
    – bring a plastic tarp sheet for your group to sit on…but, although many people do it, you’re not supposed to use the sheet to reserve a spot for yourself ahead of time,
    – if you want to use 線香花火 (sparklers), don’t wave them around…it’s considered dangerous in Japan,
    – you can wear 「ゆかた」 (summer kimono) or 「じんべい」 (Japanese traditional summer shorts / shirt outfit) if you want to,
    – and Japanese people call out 「たまや!かぎや!」 (“Tamaya! Kagiya!“*) when the fireworks go up…you can yell that out too, if you want. (* Long ago, Tamaya and Kagiya were competing fireworks companies in Japan. Fireworks spectators began to call out their names to egg on their competition to make bigger and bigger displays. Today it remains popular to shout it out at fireworks shows.)

    There are too many fireworks shows around Japan to list them all, even just in the Tokyo area there are too many to list.
    But here’s a list of the main ones in the Tokyo area and the date of the summer 2009 shows (also you can click here to see a list of some of Tokyo’s Fireworks shows on my “Festivals in Tokyo“):

    • 宮島水中花火大会 (Miyajima Suichu Fireworks Show) in 広島 (Hiroshima) – Friday, August 14
      (It’s far from Tokyo…but this show gets special mention. The photo in this post above is of this fireworks show. (The rest of the shows on this list are in Tokyo.)).
    • 調布市花火大会 (Choufu-shi Fireworks Show) – Saturday, July 18
    • 葛飾納涼花火大会 (Katsushika Nouryou Fireworks Show) – Tuesday, July 21
    • 足立の花火大会 (Adachi Fireworks Show) – Thursday, July 23
    • 隅田川花火大会 (Sumida River Fireworks Show) – Saturday, July 25
    • 飯田橋花火大会 (Iidabashi Fireworks Show) – Saturday, August 1
    • 江戸川花火大会 (Edo River Fireworks Show) – Saturday, August 1
    • 青梅市納涼花火大会 (Oumeshi Nouryou Fireworks Show) – Saturday, August 1
    • 昭島市民くじら祭夢花火 (Akishima-Residents Whale-Festival Dream-Fireworks Show) – Saturday, August 1 – Sunday, August 2
    • 江東花火大会 (Koutou Fireworks Show) – Tuesday, August 4
    • 日刊スポーツ主催2009神宮外苑花火大会第30回記念大会 (30th Nikkan Sports Shusai Shrine Outer-Garden Fireworks Festival 2009) – Thursday, August 6
    • 東京湾大花火祭 (Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival) – Saturday, August 8
    • 八丈島納涼花火大会 (Hachijyoujima Nouryou Fireworks Show) – Tuesday, August 11
    • 第五回せいせき多摩川花火大会 (5th Performance Tama River Fireworks Show) – Tuesday, August 11
    • 世田川区たまがわ花火大会 (Setagawa-Ward Tama River Fireworks Show) – Saturday, August 22

    If you want any more information about these or other 花火大会 (Fireworks shows) in Japan (such as how to get there, the times of the shows, etc), please feel free to post a comment (click here), or contact me with this E-mail form, and I’ll help you as much as I can: