Tag Archives: 2008

Anniversaries

8 Jun

Today and tomorrow are the anniversaries of a few events in Japan.

One is happy and two are tragic. The bad ones are first. 😦

  • Today (2009 June 8 ) is the one-year anniversary of the shocking 秋葉原通り魔事件 (Akihabara attack).
    One year ago today, a 26 year old man drove his truck into a crowd of people in busy 秋葉原 (Akihabara, Tokyo) and then he got out of his truck and stabbed people with a knife.

    A number of people were killed or seriously injured by him. He is currently in prison on murder and attempted murder charges.

  • Today is also the anniversary of another tragic event in Japan.
    Eight years ago today, on 2001 June 8, was the 「附属池田小事件」 (Osaka School Massacre).
    A man in 大阪 (Osaka, Japan) went into an 小学校 (elementary school) and stabbed children at random.

    He killed eight children and injured fifteen.

    He was convicted of the crimes and executed five years ago.

  • Tomorrow (2009 June 9) is the sixteenth wedding anniversary of the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan.

    On 1993 June 9, 浩宮様 (Honorable Hironomiya*) married a commoner named 小和田雅子 (Masako Owada**), who was a diplomat who graduated from Harvard University.

    (* Overseas, the Japanese prince is often called by his birth name (Naruhito), but in Japan, he is only refered to by the respectful 「浩宮様」 (Honorable Hironomiya).)
    (** 小和田雅子 (Masako Owada) is now refered to as 雅子様 (Princess Masako).)

I came to Japan in 1990, so I was in Japan for all of these events and I remember them all well.

Kanji Of The Year

14 Dec

漢字 (Kanji) is one of the three type of Japanese written characters. They’re the characters that Japan originally borrowed from China…(Japan’s original characters are ひらがな (hiragana) and カタカナ (katakana).)

(This post isn’t about explaining Japan’s written characters. But, if you’re wondering, basically Chinese uses 漢字 (Kanji) exclusively…but the Japanese language is different and needs ひらがな (hiragana) and カタカナ (katakana) also.
For example, a sentence like “Canada is a large country” uses kanji, hiragana and katakana and would look like: 「カナダは大きい国です。」).

Starting in 1995, every year on December 12th Japan chooses a 今年の漢字 (Kanji Of The Year).
It’s a character that is chosen by popular vote that represents the biggest events of the current year and is written out in a large 習字 (Japanese calligraphy) character in a ceremony by the lead monk at a temple in 京都 (Kyoto).

In 1995, there was a large 地震 (earthquake) in 神戸 (Kobe, Japan), and a sarin gas attack on the subways of 東京 (Tokyo). So, that year 「震」 (tremor) was the 今年の漢字 (Kanji Of The Year).

This year (2008) saw alot of major good and bad changes such as the Japanese Prime Minister changing suddenly, a historical American election on a campaign of “change”, and major changes in the world’s economy.

So, last Friday (December 12), this year’s 今年の漢字 (Kanji Of The Year) was announced as 「変」 (“change“).

(Here’s a picture of this year’s character (“change”) being written by the lead monk):

2008-kanji

A few News items

15 Nov

A few stories from the recent news that I found interesting…

  • A アシカ (sea lion) named 「ななみ」 (“Nanami”) at a zoo in 愛媛県 (Ehime, Japan) was unable to compete for food with the other sea lions in her pen. So she began leaping over three meters (9 feet) and holding onto the wall to eat fish held by the zoo’s visitors.

    She has become a very popular attraction.

    nanami

    (Photo from the Japan Times).

  • There was an explosion in a warehouse in 東京都渋谷区 (Shibuya, Tokyo) last Wednesday. It was initially reported that the owner of the place escaped the burning building…but his wife and mother died inside the building.

    It was reported yesterday that the man didn’t escape on his own. He was rescued from the building by a famous Iranian celebrity* who happened to be nearby. (*His name is Rahim Arvanaghi, commonly known as “Randy Muscle“, and he’s famous in Japan).

    He ran into the burning building and pulled the man out. But he was unable to save the man’s wife or mother.

  • The 2009 edition of the Michelin Restaurant Guide will be out soon. And once again, Tokyo has more four and five star restaurants than any other city in the world.

    As I mention in this post, Tokyo had the most stars in the 2008 edition as well.

    Tokyo is the capital where there are the most restaurants, more than 160,000, and also excellent cuisine.

    Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin director

It’s Been 18 Years!

17 Oct

Today is October 17, 2008.
I came to Japan on October 17, 1990…eighteen years ago today! Almost half my life.

When I came to Japan in 1990, I was twenty years old and knew basically nothing about this country.
When I first stepped foot alone off of that airplane when it landed at 成田空港 (Narita Airport, just outside of Tokyo), and I suddenly couldn’t understand even one written or spoken word…the culture shock began.

The food, the fashion, the trains, the language, the general atmosphere…everything was so different from what I was used to at that time.

But it wasn’t long before I became accustomed to Japan and began to feel at home here.

Alot has changed in Tokyo during these past eighteen years. Some of the differences between Tokyo then and Tokyo now:

When I came to Japan in 1990, there were no IC Cards, like SUICA, for the trains and buses (see my post about SUICA here).

And signs in Japan, even at the train stations, didn’t have any English written on them. I couldn’t read Japanese back then, so I would have to ask the train station staff how much the fare was and how many stops to the station I wanted to go to.
Ironically, now the signs with the train station names are written in both Japanese and the English alphabet…but I don’t need the English anymore.

The train stations in Japan didn’t have elevators or escalators…only stairs. When our kids were small and we used strollers to take them out, I had to carry the strollers up and down the stairs everytime we’d change trains or exit or enter a train station!
Parents of babies today don’t realize how lucky they are…there are escalators and elevators all over Japan!

The automatic ticket gates at train stations (that you put your train ticket into) didn’t exist when I first came to Japan either.
The stations had attendants who sold the train tickets and attendants at the gates with hole-punchers to punch the train tickets of everyone entering the station…and they collected the tickets from the people when they exited the station.
If someone’s ticket wasn’t enough to cover the fare, they’d stop them and tell them how much was owed…they were able to do this even during Tokyo’s rush hour!

Of course, there were no 携帯電話 (cellular phones) back then…so there were payphones everywhere. And most everyone had a phone card in their wallet.
If an announcement came on at a train station that said the trains were delayed, everyone would rush over to a payphone and stand in line to use the phone to call their boss!

Payphones and phone cards were so popular that it was common to see people (often illegal immigrants) selling unofficial (illegal) phone cards at a discount.
Everyone has a 携帯電話 (cellular phone) now so payphones aren’t all over like they used to be and phone cards don’t sell as well as they used to.

A few other changes I’ve seen are many banks have merged and changed names, イトーヨーカドー (Ito-Yokado stores) changed the logo on their signs, Halloween is becoming more popular (read my post about Halloween here), and the number of foreign visitors to Japan has increased alot.

Everything in Japan is just normal to me now. It has become home.