Tag Archives: Hokkaido

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.

 

Father gave his life for his daughter

6 Mar

Unlike down here in Tokyo, where the weather has been very mild recently…there was a snow blizzard in northern Japan a couple of days ago.

I watched a heartbreaking story related to the storm on the television news here in Japan yesterday.

I edited an article from The Telegraph about it:

Father freezes to death protecting daughter from blizzard in Japan

A nine-year-old girl has been found weeping in her father’s arms after he froze to death sheltering her from a blizzard in northern Japan, it has emerged.

(Policemen try to dig out a vehicle in Nakashibetsu, Hokkaido (photo: AP))

 Mr. Mikio Okada died as he tried to protect his only child, Natsune, against winds of up to 109 kilometers (68 miles) per hour, as temperatures plunged to -6°C (21°F).

Mr. Okada’s body was uncovered by rescuers looking for the pair after relatives raised the alarm. Natsune was wearing her father’s jacket and was wrapped in his arms, newspapers and broadcasters said.

The pair had last been heard from at 4PM on Saturday, after Mr. Okada, a fisherman, picked his daughter up from a school where she was being looked after while he was at work.

Mr. Okada called his relatives to say his truck had become stranded in the driving snow, which was several meters deep in places. He told them he and Natsune would walk the remaining kilometer.

The two were found just 300 meters from the truck at 7 am on Sunday.

Mr. Okada was hunched over his daughter, cradling her in his arms and apparently using his body and a warehouse wall to provide shelter.

He had taken his jacket off to give to his child.

Rescuers said she was weeping weakly in his arms.

The young girl was taken to hospital where she was found to have no serious injuries. Her father was officially pronounced dead by doctors at the same institution near their home at Yubetsu in Hokkaido.

Natsune’s mother had died two years ago from an unspecified illness.

Neighbors said that Mr. Okada had been a doting father who would often delay the start of his working day to enjoy breakfast with his daughter.

His death came as families all over Japan celebrated Girls’ Day.

He reserved a cake for his only daughter and was looking forward to celebrating Girls Day together,” a neighbor told the “Yomiuri-Shinbun” newspaper.

Melon Kuma

2 Jan

In Japan, cute mascot characters are very popular to help promote many stores, restaurants and merchandise.

Even the Tokyo police, fire department and Japanese military have mascots.

Also, cities and prefectures in Japan have cute or funny mascot characters that are related to some local food or animal.
They are used to help promote tourism to the area.

These characters are normally cute … or at least try to be.

So, the new mascot for the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido was on the news recently because not only is the character not cute… but it’s actually on there scary side!

Hokkaido is famous for the wild bears (熊 (kuma) in Japanese) and the cantaloupe (メロン (melon) in Japanese)… so the character is 「メロン熊」(“Melon-kuma“).

image

It’s a bear with a Japanese cantaloupe melon for a head … and has angry eyes and huge teeth!
It’s also fond of trying to bite people!

Quite different from the usual mascots in Japan!

Here’s a video of the melon-kuma trying to bite people and promote tourism to Hokkaido:

A “Sonic Boom” will hit Japan

27 Feb

First of all, as I mentioned in this comment, the “2011 Tokyo International Marathon” was held today.

30,000 people from Japan and other countries ran the 42.195 KM (over 26 miles) course through the streets of Tokyo.
For the past five years now, the Tokyo Marathon has been an annual event held at the end of February.

++++++

Anyways, my friend has just informed me that the American rock band KISS will be coming to Japan this April to play seven shows around Japan to support their “Sonic Boom” album.

(I did an interview with the artist who designed this album cover, by the way.)

The dates of the shows that KISS are scheduled to play in Japan are:

2011 April 13 – Nagoya, Japan at the Aichi Prefecture Gymnasium
2011 April 14 – Yokohama, Japan at the Pacifico Yokohama
2011 April 17 – Saitama, Japan at the Saitama Super Arena
2011 April 18 – Kobe, Japan at the World Hall
2011 April 20 – Tokyo, Japan at the Nippon Budokan
2011 April 21 – Tokyo, Japan at the Nippon Budokan
2011 April 23 – Sapporo, Japan at the Makomanai Indoor Stadium

Tickets for the shows in the Tokyo area (which are Yokohama, Saitama and Tokyo) will go on sale on 2011 March 12th.

I have seen KISS play in Japan in both Yokohama and Tokyo before. In Yokohama, I saw them at the “Yokohama Arena” (not the “Pacifico”, where they’ll being playing this time). In Tokyo, I saw them at both the “Tokyo Dome” and the “Nippon Budokan”.

An interesting thing about this tour is that KISS will play a show in Sapporo, Japan. KISS has played many shows in Japan since their first time here in the 1970’s and they’ve never played northern Japan before. I’m sure that KISS fans in Hokkaido are happy to hear that there will finally be a KISS concert in their area!

The name of the 「日本武道館」 (Nippon Budokan) in Tokyo means “Japan Martial-arts Hall”.
Traditionalists don’t really like the idea of musicians playing pop music in this “sacred” hall. The first pop band to play there were The Beatles when they first came to Japan. The traditionalists protested their concerts. But The Beatles drew huge crowds to the Budokan…and they held the record for the most consecutive sell-out shows there. They played four sold-out shows in a row at the Budokan.
But KISS beat The Beatles‘s record when they played five sold-out shows at the Budokan on their first Japan tour in the late ’70s.

Since then it’s become quite normal for musicians to perform at the Nippon Budokan. Even with the bigger and newer “Tokyo Dome” not far from the Budokan, upcoming Japanese pop stars still consider it a sign of success to play at the Nippon Budokan…not unlike American musicians playing at the “Madison Square Garden”.

The famous "Nippon Budokan"; Tokyo, Japan

Have you ever seen a KISS concert? If not, you’re missing out on the best live show by any band. Their shows are quite exciting…fire-breathing, blood, flying guitars, flying musicians, outrageous costumes, kabuki-style face paint.

To get an idea, watch this music promotion video for the single “Modern Day Delilah” from their most recent album “Sonic Boom”:

And, in a more good news for us KISS fans…the band has announced that a new KISS studio album of brand-new songs is due out later this year (2011)!

A number of newspapers in Japan had articles about the upcoming KISS tour here.
I bought today’s copy of 「夕刊フジ」 (“Yuukan-Fuji“) evening paper:

Here’s a close-up of the article about KISS:

 

The headline says: "Hell's group" KISS return for a Japan tour after four-and-a-half years!

Headlines

5 Feb

Just a few stories that were in the news that got my attention:

★ In 1985, many of the biggest pop stars in America, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen, recorded a song together titled “We Are The World“.

The aim of the song was to raise money to help Africa. In fact, the group of singers were collectively known as “USA For Africa“.

And now, twenty-five years after the song was recorded, the producer of the song, Quincy Jones, has assembled another group of today’s most popular singers in America to sing a remake of the song.

This time the song is being used to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti…and the song is being called “We Are The World 25 For Haiti“.

Asashoryu, the sumo champion is Japan has retired.

Asashoryu is from Mongolia

He’s a great sumo wrestler and earned the rank of 「横綱」 (Yokozuna…”Grand Champion”)…but he’s constantly gotten into trouble both inside and out of the ring.

His latest scandal was when he recently went out drinking and seriously injured a man when he went into a drunken rampage.

★ The annual 「札幌雪まつり」 (“Sapporo Snow Festival“) in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan starts today and goes until 2010 February 11.

I went to this festival in 1992 and I can tell you the huge, elaborate snow sculptures are amazing! If you have a chance, you should go see this festival.

Earthquake

18 Jan

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the 阪神淡路大震災 (Kobe Earthquake).
It was a level 7 earthquake that flatten the Kobe area of Japan and killed over 6,000 people.

Click here to read the post that I wrote about the fourteenth anniversary of this quake last year.

And one year earlier, in 1994, an earthquake hit southern California in America.
Both the California earthquake and the Kobe earthquake happened on January 17th…only a year apart.

Of course everyone knows about the recent earthquake in Haiti last Tuesday.
Hopefully that country can recover from the damage soon.

I hate earthquakes but they’re a fact of life in this part of the world.
Growing up in Florida I never experienced an earthquake until I came to Japan.

The fifteenth anniversary of the Kobe, Japan earthquake and the sixteenth anniversary of the California one…as well as last week’s quake in Haiti made me remember the major earthquakes that happened around the world in the twenty years since I came to Japan.

Do you remember:
△ 1990 June – a level 7 earthquake killed about 50,000 people in Iran,

△ 1991 October – a level 6.8 earthquake killed about 2,000 people in India,

△ 1992 December – a level 7.8 earthquake killed about 2,500 people in Indonesia,

△ 1993 September – a level 6 earthquake killed about 9,700 people in India,

△ 1994 January 17 – a level 6.8 earthquake killed about 60 people in California, USA,

△ 1995 January 17 – a level 7 earthquake killed about 6,000 people in Kobe, Japan,

△ 1996 February – a level 6 earthquake killed about 300 people in China,

△ 1997 May – a level 7 earthquake killed about 1,500 people in Iran,

△ 1998 May – a level 6.6 earthquake killed about 4,000 people in Afghanistan,

△ 1999 August – a level 7.6 earthquake killed about 17,000 people in Turkey,

△ 2000 June – a level 7.9 earthquake killed about 100 people in Indonesia,

△ 2001 January – a level 7.7 earthquake killed about 20,000 people in India,

△ 2002 March – a level 6 earthquake killed about 1,000 people in Afghanistan,

△ 2003 September 25 – a level 8.3 earthquake killed zero people in Hokkaido, Japan,

△ 2003 December 26 – a level 6.6 earthquake killed about 31,000 people in Iran,

△ 2004 December 26 – a level 9 earthquake killed about 228,000 people in Sumatra,

△ 2005 March 28- a level 8.6 earthquake killed about 1,300 people in Sumatra,

△ 2005 October – a level 7.6 earthquake killed about 80,000 people in Pakistan,

△ 2006 May – a level 6 earthquake killed about 5,700 people in Indonesia,

△ 2007 August – a level 8 earthquake killed about 500 people in Peru,

△ 2008 May – a level 7.9 earthquake killed about 87,500 people in China,

△ 2009 September – a level 7.5 earthquake killed about 1,100 people in Indonesia,

△ 2010 January 12 – a level 7 earthquake in Haiti (death toll currently unknown).

Have you ever experienced an 地震 (earthquake)?

Kameda vs Naito

30 Nov

Yesterday was the long-awaited boxing matching between challenger 23 year old 亀田興毅 (Kouki Kameda) and defending champion 35 year old 内藤大助 (Daisuke Naitou).

Daisuke Naito vs Koki Kameda promo poster

Before I talk about yesterday’s match, a little history.

Daisuke Naito made his professional boxing debut in 1996 at the age of 22.
After five years of professional boxing, he was undefeated and challenged the then-flyweight champion of Japan (Sakata Takehumi). He lost that match.
But he went to Thailand and fought for the world flyweight championship. Unfortunately, he lost again.

In 2004 (just before his 30th birthday), he finally became the Japan Flyweight Boxing champion.
And when he was 32 he became the World Flyweight Boxing Champion.

Daisuke Naito with the World Flyweight Champion trophy and belt, 2007.

And then there’s the controversial Kameda boxing family.
Koki Kameda and his two younger brothers (Daiki and Tomoki) have all been trained since they were very young to become professional boxers by their father.

They are infamous for making rude comments to opponents before and after matches (in Japan, such antics aren’t common at all) and for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In 2007, Daiki Kameda challenged Daisuke Naito for his World Flyweight Championship belt.
Naito retained his championship due to Daiki Kameda‘s misconduct during the match.
With encouragement from his father and older brother Koki, Daiki Kameda elbowed Daisuke Naito in the face and the picked him up and threw him to the mat.

Daiki Kameda throwing Daisuke Naito to the mat, 2007

After that match, the Kameda brothers’ father was banned from training his sons forever and Daiki Kameda was banned from boxing for a year.

Daiki Kameda shaved his head after the match to show his regret and he showed up unexpectedly at the home of Daisuke Naito and apologized in person.

The Kameda brothers have since toned down their attitude and became more respectful.

As for Koki Kameda, he wasn’t in the same weight-class as Daisuke Naito before.
In 2006 (at the age of 20), he became the World Lightweight Boxing champion in a match that some have said was fixed.

Koki Kameda, World Flyweight Champion 2006 hoisted by Sumo Yokozuna Asashoryu

But Koki Kameda recently moved up to the Flyweight class and yesterday he challenged Daisuke Naito for the championship.

Koki Kameda (23才) vs Daisuke Naito (35才) on 2009 November 29.

I won’t put a YouTube clip of the match in this post because it wasn’t a very exciting match.
But the challenger, Koki Kameda won in an unanimous decision.

The new World Flyweight Boxing champion (2009), Koki Kameda after the 2009 Nov 29 match.

So now their records are:
Daisuke Naito (former World Flyweight champ)
wins 35 (22 by KO)
loses 3
draws 3

Koki Kameda (current World Flyweight champ)
wins 21 (13 by KO)
loses 0
draws 0