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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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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...
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Zoned Out – Day 6

Zoned Out – Day 6

Today in Kyoto we had cloudy humid weather, light traffic around town and a radiation reading of — oh, wait, Kyoto isn’t even in the “zone”.   Every day in the Japan Times, on the second page I think, there is a map of about 1/2 of Japan with concentric circles radiating out (ha!) from Fukushima.  Today’s reading for Tokyo was .064 microseiverts per hour.   Today’s reading for Sendai was .074.   Today’s reading for Nagano was .041.    Today’s reading for Shizuoka was .040.   And that’s as far west as the circles go – they don’t go past Shizuoka (about 95 miles from Tokyo) to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Ise, Naoshima Island, Hiroshima, Miyajima and basically, over half of Japan to the west of Shizuoka.    The readings themselves, for the parts of Japan that are shown, with one obvious exception, are apparently the same or lower than many parts of the US; certainly lower than Mexico City and probably Denver, which have altitude. So instead of spending our days outside the zone, we spent today zoned out… at the Kamo Odori.   I would love to post a picture of this too, but cameras and videos are strictly forbidden.  So all I have is a picture of the curtain which I took before the performance started.   The Kamo Odori is one of several dance performance series put on by maiko (apprentice geisha); this one in May.   The other one is the Miyako Odori, which is in April.  If you’re in Kyoto during these months you can go to one of the shows. There were two parts to this event for us – the most hysterical part was the “tea ceremony” that preceded the show.   Our tickets included the “tea ceremony” – there is a reason I put it in quotes a lot.   This was the fastest tea ceremony ever – we laughed the entire time.   We were ushered onto an elevator, up the elevator to the fourth floor of the theatre building, into a room with about 5 long bench-like tables with small stools lined up in front of them.  In the front of the room sat a young maiko (I guess), perfectly made up with tea implements around and a second one doing something (don’t recall what, no time to observe).   The ushers pointed to us to sit down, one attendant went down the table placing a piece of paper, a small ceramic dish and a mochi with red bean paste inside on it.  Then out came another attendant and dropped a bowl of whisked tea in front of each person.   Then all the people around us either wolfed down the sweet or pocketed it, gulped down the tea, wrapped the dish in the paper and stood up and rushed out of the room.   We were just trying to figure out what to DO and the next group of people were rushed in and seated.   In the meantime, an attendant was scurrying along picking up the empty tea bowls – I’m sure I upset the plan when I didn’t finish my tea.  David ate the rest of my mochi…    All the while, the young ladies at the front sat motionless in some odd living still-life of a tea ceremony. After we were shooed out of the “tea room” they sent us down a flight of stairs, past the first shop of souvenirs.  Then down another flight of stairs, past another shop, this time with food souvenirs.  Then through a big...
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Travel to Beloved Japan

Travel to Beloved Japan

Right now we have been receiving outpourings of support for all of our colleagues and friends throughout Japan.  There are challenges to be faced in the north with the devastation from the earthquake, tsunami and reactor situation.  In the south, the Japanese are activity supporting their beleaguered friends and families to the north.   While travel to Japan in normal times is an opportunity to experience a culture first hand, we find comfort in knowing that the world is having an opportunity to see the Japan we know and love from afar right now.  The amazing resiliency and steadfastness of the Japanese cannot be underestimated.   They are already moving into an incredibly high level of societal support.   The people throughout the country are reducing their power usage to free up resources for those in need.   They are seeking out the help needed in areas where they do not have expertise and they are working within their well-formed systems to take care of each situation as it arises.    Each individual knows, at a deep level, how he or she can contribute to the needs at hand and takes action – whether it is by going about their jobs, waiting patiently in situations that would frustrate a westerner in short order or by gently bowing to the reality of what has occurred. The purpose of this blog has always been to bring forward the opportunities that travel to Japan affords for those willing to let go of their preconceptions and reach out to find out more about this unique culture.    We know that the people of Japan will recover and we are proud that we are able to contribute to them by encouraging you to visit, to learn and to encounter what is so special about the Land of the Rising...
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Exquisite Food

Exquisite Food

On our November trip to Japan we had a chance to stay at Oyado – The Earth – a fabulous ryokan on the Ise Peninsula that overlooks the sea and rests in quiet isolation far above the pounding waves.  The views are amazing, the rooms wonderful contemporary ryokan rooms with updated furnishing, the internet connection one of the fastest we encountered and the food topped it all.   Look closely, apparently we weren’t the only ones taking pictures of the food…