Tag Archives: news in Japan

Mr. Panda Postman

1 Aug

To celebrate the new pandas that came to 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo last February, the design of the public mailbox just outside the zoo has been changed to resemble a panda starting today.

The mailbox even has "panda ears" and a "panda tail".

To publicize the new 「パンダポスト」 (panda mailbox), the zoo had a ceremony with children from a nearby 幼稚園 (pre-school) drop postcards into the mailbox after which a “panda postman” came to collect the cards.

The "Panda Postman".

Many Tokyo TV stations had news crews there to film the ceremony.
Here is Tokyo Broadcasting Station (TBS)‘s news report about the 「パンダポスト」 (Panda mailbox):

You can see the kids from the pre-school putting their postcards into the mailbox. But, as is Japanese manners, the first child says 「パンダポストマンさんよろしくお願いします!」…which isn’t easy to translate into English, but it’s close to “Thank you, Mr. Panda Postman!“.

All mail deposited into this “panda mailbox” will be delivered with a special panda postal cancellation mark over the stamp.

The zoo is hoping that many people will make a special trip to mail letters from this mailbox…and then visit the zoo.
It is now summer vacation in Japan. Many people, especially families and couples, like to visit places such as amusement parks and zoos during this time. And also, many people in Japan send 「かもメール」 (summer postcards) to friends and relatives…and I’m sure many people will use the panda mailbox to send them from now.

Live from Tokyo…it’s Saturday Night!

5 Jun

What to write this blog post about…??

Well, yesterday (Saturday, 2011 June 4), the Japanese version of the long-running American late-night comedy sketch TV show called “Saturday Night Live” debuted on Fuji TV here.

"Saturday Night Live, Japan"

I watched it and it’s similar to the U.S. version. Just like the American “Saturday Night Live”…it’s nothing special enough for a blog post.

Also, I was reading this month’s issue of the Japanese heavy metal magazine Burrn!

In the back of the magazine, there was an ad for a charity album for the earthquake / tsunami victims in northern Japan. It will be titled 「ワン・フォー・オール,オール・フォー・ワン~東日本大震災チャリティ・アルバム」 (“One For All, All For One…Sendai Earthquake Charity Album”).
And it is due to be released on 2011 June 22.

I couldn’t find a picture of the album cover online…but the picture in the magazine ad was of the Japanese flag. A similar album cover to the earlier Sendai charity album titled “Song For Japan“.

But, unlike that album, the “One For All…” album will have songs by heavy metal artists such as Sonata Artica, Fair Warning, Gotthard, Edguy, Soilwork, Riot, Harem Scarem and others.

Not enough info about that album is available yet to make an interesting blog post.

Better than either of those stories is seeing my very cute turtle 「ルンルン」 (Lun-Lun) leaning on her favorite concrete block to dry off after a swim in her pool yesterday afternoon:

Isn’t she cute? She’s a 「草亀」 (“Chinese Pond Turtle”).

Do you have a pet? Have you ever had a pet turtle? If you want a turtle, I recommend the 「草亀」 (“Chinese Pond Turtle”)…they are very friendly and easy to care for.

Mu-sa-shi

18 Mar

On the news today they said that the construction of the 東京スカイツリー (Tokyo Sky Tree) reached a height of 634 meters tall at 1:34PM this afternoon.

That means that they are finished building it upwards because it was designed to stand at 634 meters tall.
This height was decided upon for two reasons…first, it is now the world’s tallest free-standing tower, and also in Japanese “6-3-4” can be pronounced as “Mu-sa-shi” which sounds like 「武蔵の国」 (“Musashi“) which is the old name for the area of Tokyo that the towers stands in.

Even though the Tokyo Sky Tree now stands at it’s full height, there is still construction yet to be completed on the tower which isn’t scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2011 December.

The tower is due to open to the public in the spring of 2012.

Last October, they did a test of the tower’s lighting, so we had a preview of what the Tokyo Sky Tree will look like when it’s illuminated every evening.
It’s quite beautiful.
Click here to see the post I wrote with a few photos of the lighting test and a preview of what it’s expected to look like completed and illuminated.

One week later

18 Mar

It’s now 2:47PM on Friday, 2011 March 18th. The biggest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history struck at 2:46PM on Friday, 2011 March 11th…exactly one week ago.

The giant tsunami that was triggered by the earthquake

I wrote this post at 2:47PM and not at 2:46 (the time the ‘quake struck) because at 2:46PM, all of Japan offered one-minute of silence to honor the victims of the tragedy.

It’s one week later and of course too soon for there to have been much significant improvement or recovery from such a major disaster.

Boat left on a house by the tsunami.

Between the search for survivors, rebuilding the intensely damaged areas, and getting the nuclear power plant back under control…Japan is facing a huge challenge. All the while earthquake aftershocks are still occurring…even down here in Tokyo.
But I’m confident life will be back to “normal” soon enough.

Winter’s back

7 Mar

Yesterday (Sunday, March 6th) was a nice day and it was pretty warm. My wife and I went to 上野 (Ueno, Tokyo) and walked around (my kids stayed home and studied for their final exams this week).

Ueno train station (Tokyo, Japan)

It was so warm that I began to think that spring has come. But this morning I saw the weather forecast on TV that said it would be a cold and rainy day today…and from about 9:00AM – lunchtime, it would snow!

Tokyo's weather forecast for 2011 March 7 - 14.

The weather forecast was exactly right. It was quite cold today and it snowed all morning starting at about 9:00AM.

I’m happy to see that it’s not forecast to rain or snow anymore for the rest of the week. It’s be sunny most days…and start getting warmer again. Next Monday is forecast to have a high temperature of 16°C (about 61°F).

How’s the weather in your city now?

A real-life “Tiger Mask”

13 Jan

Maybe you know that Japanese school students wear a uniform to school.
But did you know that they wear the uniform in junior high school and high school only?

In Japanese 公立小学校 (public* elementary schools), kids wear their regular “street clothes” to school.
*(Japanese 幼稚園 (private kindergartens) and 私立小学校 (private elementary schools) have uniforms that their students wear).

Even though students at Japanese public 保育園 (nursery schools) and 公立小学校 (public elementary schools) wear street clothes to school, they still have some mandatory things that they must wear…for example, a school hat while walking to and from school (it’s almost always yellow so that drivers in cars can notice them easily), gym uniform, and a uniform school bag.

The school bag that kindergarteners carry is small and light but Japanese elementary school kids are given a ランドセル (Randoseru bag) from their parents or grandparents just before they begin the first grade.

These bags are high-quality hand-stitched genuine or synthetic leather and are designed to last for at least the six years of elementary school. Usually though they last much longer.

Most schools allow the students to use a ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags) of any color they like…but the majority of girls choose a red one and boys choose a black one.

When my daughters were in elementary school they each had a red one.

Since ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags) are hand-made and very durable, they’re also pretty expensive. About ¥30,000 (US $360) on average.
Because of it’s high price many lower-income families have to give their children used or hand-me-down ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags).

ランドセル (Japanese elementary school "Randoseru" bags)

Well, it was on the TV news here last month that an orphanage in Japan received an anonymous donation of ten brand new ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags) around X-mas time.
Without this donation, worth about ¥300,000 (about US$3,300), the children in the orphanage who will start first grade this April would have had to use hand-me-down school bags from older kids.

The anonymous donation had a note that that they were from 「タイガーマスク」 (“Tiger Mask”).

「タイガーマスク」 (“Tiger Mask”) is a Japanese マンガ (manga (comic)) from the late 1960s – early 1970s about a professional wrestler called 「タイガーマスク」 (“Tiger Mask”) who wears a mask that looks like a tiger.
The 「タイガーマスク」 (“Tiger Mask”) character was an orphan who gives large anonymous donations to the orphanage where he grew up.

 

Due to the fact that the 「タイガーマスク」 (“Tiger Mask”) comic is over forty years old, the news media has begun speculating that the donor of the ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags) must be middle-age and that he might even have grown up in an orphanage.

Also, this news has inspired numerous “copy-cats” recently. Other orphanages around Japan have recently received anonymous donations of ランドセル (Japanese elementary school “Randoseru” bags) or money with notes from “Tiger Mask” or other famous Japanese fictional characters.

The “Japanese Schindler”

31 Dec

Today is the last day of the first decade of the 21st century. And New Years is Japan’s biggest holiday. But this post is unrelated to that. Click here if you’d like to read an post I wrote about New Years in Japan.

This post is about a man who risked his career and even his life to help save thousands of Jews from Nazis in Europe during World War II.

杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune),
1900 Jan 1 - 1986 July 31.

His name is 杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune) and he’s often called the “Japanese Schindler” because his courageous actions were similar to the German Oskar Schindler whose story was made famous by the movie titled “Schindler’s List” by Steven Spielberg.

杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune) was a diplomat for Japan in Lithuania during the war.

While stationed there he issued thousands of visas to Jews to enter Japan and transit to America, Canada or other countries.
He issued the visas without proper approval from Tokyo and without even requiring proper application paperwork from the people he gave them to.

If he was discovered by the Japanese government he would have be striped of his diplomatic credentials, removed from office and probably prosecuted.
If he was discovered by the Nazis, his fate would surely have been much worse.

When asked why he risked so much, he replied:

It is the kind of sentiments anyone would have when he actually sees refugees face to face, begging with tears in their eyes. He just cannot help but sympathize with them. Among the refugees were the elderly and women. They were so desperate that they went so far as to kiss my shoes, Yes, I actually witnessed such scenes with my own eyes. Also, I felt at that time, that the Japanese government did not have any uniform opinion in Tokyo. Some Japanese military leaders were just scared because of the pressure from the Nazis; while other officials in the Home Ministry were simply ambivalent.

People in Tokyo were not united. I felt it silly to deal with them. So, I made up my mind not to wait for their reply. I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future. But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people’s lives….The spirit of humanity, philanthropy…neighborly friendship…with this spirit, I ventured to do what I did, confronting this most difficult situation—and because of this reason, I went ahead with redoubled courage.

— 杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune)

There are monuments dedicated to 杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune) in America, Europe and Japan.

 

Monument to 杉原千畝 (Sugihara Chiune) in "Little Tokyo", Los Angeles, California, USA.