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A Thankful Nation

A Thankful Nation

Here’s a lovely video of the natural graciousness and gratitude of the Japanese as they are continuing to recover from last year’s earthquake.   It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 months, but this video shows the hope that has come out of the...
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Tokyo vs. the World – Radiation Reports

Tokyo vs. the World – Radiation Reports...

Graphically presented information is often a lot better than just the numbers.  One of the most difficult situations that the Japanese have been trying to overcome is the perception that the entire country is living in a cloud of radiation (with Godzilla running through the streets we guess).   We were recently forwarded this graph showing the different levels of radiation on a given day in major cities around the world.   Note where Tokyo is falling…   below New York, Hong Kong and Berlin.   I investigated the source of the data, just in case you want to know.  It’s JNTO, the Japanese National Tourist Organization.  And they specifically listed each source for the various cities in a comprehensive list here, including the New York source, which is a streaming detector that you can follow.   You can find the raw data here. So check out this chart, check out the data and perhaps it will help to overcome the perception of the radiation fog and convince you that Godzilla is not running amok in the streets of Tokyo...
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Boaring… :It’s Just Different Here

Boaring… :It’s Just Different Here...

AWWWWWK, AWWWWK, AWWWWWWWWK – a high-pitched screeching blast of sound broke our hurried silence as we were rushing to get to the theater for the Kamo-odori.   I looked around to see that someone was taking their “pet” out for a “walk”.  Apparently wild boars are all the fashion – regardless of the fact that your apartment is the dead center of a busy city.   Here’s a shot that I managed to get as she tried to steer her wild boar down the street by shuffling it between her legs.  Frankly, the boar was getting away from her, screeching the entire time, and I understand from our guide that this one wasn’t even near its adult...
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Thank you for Coming – Day 8

Thank you for Coming – Day 8

In Las Vegas, where I live, when we see tourists arriving we say to each other “Thank you for paying our taxes” since LV is a tourist town.  It is designed to cater to tourists and the more there are, the better it is for the economy.  But in Las Vegas, when tourism turns down and visitors stop arriving in droves, they let go of thousands of workers and staff is reduced throughout the industry. Japan is different.   When tourism drops, the Japanese continue with their strong history of full employment and keep on their staff.  They figure out how to make it work; maybe reduce hours a little, maybe reassign duties, maybe catch up on work put off for just these times.   But they don’t fire their staff and they don’t further drive down their economy. So now that Japan has been struck with a devastating blow to their country, their economy, their land and their people, they have also been dealt a blow to their tourism industry as well.   Visitors from abroad have dropped dramatically; hotels in areas of the country totally unaffected by the disasters are empty; restaurants are empty; the nightlife on the tourist streets are empty and the flights are empty. Yet everywhere we go, we hear the happy echo of “Thank you for coming” in the particular sing-song intonation that anyone who has heard it in a Japanese restaurant or shop cannot forget.   The thank you is deep and heartfelt. They thank us for coming.  They thank us for taking care of them.  They thank us for donating toys to relief efforts.  They thank us for sending our military. It’s not a general thank you – it’s a personal thank you that we receive from everyone we talk to, delivered genuinely and with sincere gratitude as if by thanking me they are thanking all the millions of people who have been holding the Japanese in their hearts and prayers. And so I think that perhaps it is time for westerners who are of a heart and mind to travel to Japan, to experience the culture, to reach out and meet this remarkable and resilient people and to see for themselves how a strong and peaceful nation recovers from unimaginable disaster need to start returning to Japan – so they can thank you for...
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Children go to School – Day 7

Children go to School – Day 7

The Japanese play it safe a lot.   It’s one of the things that makes travel here so refreshing.   The streets are safe from most crime, the building codes are strict, the food is clean and carefully marked, the people are polite and there is a general social cohesion.  That means there are a lot of things about Japan that the occasional visitor may not notice – especially when the visitor is a member of the media looking for “news”. This comes to mind since there had been some reporting about Japan that, as a somewhat frequent visitor, I found disingenuous at best.  For instance, there were some reports that the people of Tokyo were wearing cloth face masks due to fear of radiation.  The Japanese have been wearing face masks for decades – to protect both themselves and others from germs, dust, pollen, etc.  One of our guide wears one all spring due to allergies.  In a society where blowing your nose is frowned upon, a face mask is a way of dealing with all sorts of physical discomfort while still keeping with the Japanese tendency to put the good of the group over the individual. Another example is that they are supposedly only “now” labeling food with its place of origin due to fears about food from Fukashima prefecture.   I remember being in Japan last year and seeing a very large apology posted in a department store because they had advertised chickens on sale as being from one prefecture when a few that they sold came from some other prefecture.  Food origination information is NOT a new phenomenon in Japan – it’s part of how they work and think.   Food quality is highly valued and each area has specialties.  These are displayed proudly and are used as reference points – one buys abalone from this place and turnips from that place. So with all that concern for safety and hygiene as practically inbred into the culture, it brings to mind a question about the children.   If you think that Japanese are vigilant about their personal health and safety, it’s nothing compared to the health and safety efforts they take for their children.   Little hard hats immediately available in case of earthquakes, regular drills, special foods and vitamins, and on and on.   So with all this concern, it got me thinking – how are the people of Japan protecting their children from the disasters that have just befallen the country? Well, it seems from a casual observation over the past 7 days that they are going about their business as usual.   During our touring we saw many large groups of school kids – in a range of ages and at a range of sights and events.   Unlike in the US, where it seems there are far fewer field trips and, when they occur, the kids all take a bus to a nearby farm and are back for lunch – the Japanese seem to travel quite long distances in groups from a young age.   We saw lots of kids on field trips on public transportation – whole classes of children, of all ages, in their uniforms or cute matching hats, accompanied by their teachers, patiently sitting on the station floors, lined up for 1/2 hour before their train departs, filing onto the trains and into their seats.  And this wasn’t just subway trains; it was Shinkansen trains across half the country.   And it wasn’t 16-year olds – we saw...