Tokyo Notebook

-・- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -・- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.

30 2011

Growing Sense of Compassion for People in Fukushima

I feel very much that I want to do something for Fukushima other than monetary donations. My thoughts grow stronger every day. I wrote about people in Fukushima the other day. Electricity produced from the nuclear plant was used in Kanto region, and we, people in the capital sphere, have inflicted the unreasonable risk on them. Now the victims of the earthquake and tsunami bear an extremely large burden of the nuclear accident: the forced evacuation, the limitation of outdoor activity, the radioactive pollution, and harmful rumor of Fukushima’s and neighboring prefectures’ products.

The other day, I found Minato Ward, my hometown that is one of the 23 special wards that make up the core part of Tokyo, collects several kinds of aid supplies, as requested by Iwaki City, from inhabitants of the ward from March 23rd to 31st. I didn’t know that, but the ward has a sister city relationship with Iwaki. Two towns also conclude an agreement for mutual assistance in natural disasters.

Iwaki City is located in the southeastern corner of Fukushima Prefecture, adjoining Ibaraki Prefecture to the south. It’s affected by the tragic disasters and the nuclear accident.

I visited Iwaki City’s HP and found they especially lack retort-packed and canned food. The hysterical townspeople bought up these items just after the earthquake, and they are still sold out at many supermarkets. I scared up them in the picture by going from shop to shop.

Some of foods I brought in

A Yamanashi-based bus company running community bus in Minato Ward cooperates with the aid: the bus lines are available free of charge if we tell a driver that we are on the way to or from sports center, a collecting site of the supplies. My sister suggested I pay bus fare by myself, but I thought I’d better accept the offer because the company wants to work in complete solidarity with the inhabitants and support Iwaki City.

Iwaki3 Iwaki4
I gave the word and took a free trip to and from the collecting site.

City officials of Iwaki deliver the supplies to their town every day.


Every little bit helps. I think it’s important to join hands with each other.
I ought to check it out this kind of activities frequently.


Posted by Kinakinw | 18:15 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

29 2011

Sakura, Same as Usual

On March 28th , the Meteorological Office declared that someiyoshino (染井吉野, the most common type of cherry trees in Japan) had opened in Tokyo. The cherry tree in this photo is a fastest blooming tree, which isn’t someiyoshino, in my neighborhood. It’s blooming beautifully this year, too.

cherry blossoms1

Saigyo (西行, 1118 - 1190), a Buddhist monk, was a famous Japanese poet.
Here is his cherry-blossoms-related Waka poem, which fits this year's cherry-blossom viewing.

"花にそむ 心のいかで 残りけむ 捨てはててきと 思ふわが身に"

I wonder why I’m still impressed with cherry blossoms. I think I gave up my attachment to earthly concerns.(花に感動する心がどうして残っているのだろうか。世俗への執着を捨て去ったはずのこの身なのに)
Translated by Kinakinw

It was a beautiful sunny day in Tokyo on March 28th, 2011.

cherry blossoms2

Posted by Kinakinw | 01:44 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

27 2011

World Figure Skating Championships 2011 that Never Took Place


It's school graduation season in Japan where the new term begins in April.
Though many universities called off a ceremony because of concern about an aftershock and cost savings (they will make donations to afflicted people), I see some female students wearing Hakama (袴, skirtlike trousers that are worn over a kimono) on the street. Hakama are popular costume for a graduation ceremony among female college students.

During this period, I was supposed to enjoy watching the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo. As you may know, JSF (Japan Skating Federation) declined hosting the Championships in Japan, and it’ll be held in Moscow/Russia, on April 24-May 1, 2011.


I think it was impossible for JSF to host the Championships in Japan and they should have given up sooner. Even without the nuclear accident in Fukushima to add to scary emotions, this is no time for the sporting event. The cataclysmic catastrophe is still going on. What's happening now is that some victims of the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake staying in temporary shelters still cannot get enough food and medical care because of extensiveness of the afflicted areas.

I was so stoked about the event and very well prepared for watching it’s live broadcasting, but since the catastrophe occurred I haven't been able to think of it. Even so, I checked ISU’s (International Skating Union) HP and saw what was going on, and I felt, I must say that, ISU seemed only interested in their business. Then now I’m losing interest in the Championships itself.

The skaters are working hard and getting ready for the Championships, so I hope I’ll have a feeling of figure skating by the end of next month.

Posted by Kinakinw | 14:21 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Figure Skating

24 2011

Haneda International Terminal


My sister and I visited my cousin in Yokohama yesterday, and then, on the way home, we made a short visit to Haneda International Airport being motivated by its international terminal that was completed in October 2010.

Though main international airport is Narita airport that is about 60 km away from an inner urban area, now 18 airlines operate international flights arriving and departing at Haneda. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have just started to operate flights to New York and Detroit, respectively, since last month. I can get to it within 40 minutes from home, so I’d like to use this neighboring airport next time if there is an appropriate fright.

What I wanted to see was an area called Edo Komichi (江戸小路) , a life-size re-creation of a street from the Edo period (1603-1868) that contains restaurants and shops, on its fourth floor. There are shops selling Japanese-inspired nifty gadgets other than practical items, so it’s a perfect place to get souvenirs before a flight.


Haneda3 Haneda4

Anyway, there weren’t much people there.
I think this isn’t only because number of flights is limited, but also because many Japanese refrain voluntarily from overseas traveling at this time and there are few foreign tourists.

I hope someday the terminal will be crowded with tourists again in the near future.

Posted by Kinakinw | 11:06 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

22 2011

Congratulations on Getting Married


Yesterday (March 21,2011) I attended a wedding held at Kandamyoujin (神田明神, a Shinto shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan). The bride and groom are alumni of my university and graduate school.
昨日(3.21, 2011)は神田明神で行われた友人の結婚式に出席しました。新郎、新婦とも大学、大学院の同窓生。

They discussed whether to have the wedding as scheduled or not until the last minute. It’s in the immediate aftermath of the great earthquake and tsunami, which are still destabilizing our country. That was understandable because though the aftershock activity has settled down, it might not be a good timing to invite people from various regions in Japan unfavorable timing to get the people together.

However, I was glad they have it.
Especially in a time like this, I was happy that I could celebrate the beginning of their new life.

An attendance, a native of Iwate Prefecture, said it was delightful to be able to gather for the celebration and now that we gathered, we had to enjoy ourselves.

I felt the same way and enjoyed the marriage ceremony and subsequent party.

Kandamyoujin that has a history of nearly 1,300 years was the tutelary god of Edo (the former name of Tokyo) during Edo period (1603 – 1868), and now it’s the protectorate god of Chiyoda area.

During the Shinto-style wedding, I asked Kandamyoujin to protect not only Tokyo but also the whole country.

Posted by Kinakinw | 18:50 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

20 2011

People in Azabu, Regular Life

On March 20,2011, it was such a beautiful sunny day in Tokyo.
Now is in the middle of Higan (お彼岸, a week-long Buddhist ceremony in two periods of seven days with the middle day falling on the spring or autumn equinox). My town in which there are many temples was full with people visiting their ancestral graves. That was a common Higan day even if transients (foreign residents) and sightseers disappear or not.

Our family grave is one of temples in Azabu, and my sister and I visited it with my aunts and cousin and then had lunch at a well-established soba noodle shop, Sarashina horii, on the way home.

Higan1 Higan2
I ordered thick-sliced soba (buckwheat noodle), but I recommend regular one….

Walking through my hometown, I noticed something.
Locals live a decent life without making a fuss: getting to a supermarket as usual, going about business as usual, taking a dog for a walk as usual.
Locals, including me, communicate with each other more closely than ever before. We cheerfully say hello to each other and catch up on each other's news after the earthquake on a street corner.

In the unexpected way, I come as a fresh reminder that after all, people forming Azabu called a “fashionable town” ARE NOT some residents who scrambled to escape or fashionable customers at fashionable restaurants but locals who are everyday people.

Posted by Kinakinw | 20:56 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

18 2011

Starting to Make Myself Continually Able to Support People

What I bought today

Today, a full week after the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake (The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Eart), I’m taking another voluntary furlough day.

I went to the post office in Azabu-juban around noon and found that foreign residents, mainly Caucasian people, disappeared almost entirely. Usually, two or three out of ten of people on the street here in Azabu are foreigners. I think they’ve got out of the city or become a shut-in. Given that they live in the distant foreign country, I won't be surprised if they provoked these excessive responses to the critical incident, the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep my feet firmly on the ground for long-term support. I go about my day and will restart working at my own pace early in the new week.

Last evening, I felt tears welling up when I heard warning of an unpredictable massive blackout in Kanto area, which was avoided. Then, I thought of my grandfather, father, and relatives who brawnily went through wartime as common citizens in Tokyo.

I think I had a nervous breakdown due to the chain of extraordinary happenings. At first, I have to improve my mental state because people who did not suffer damage from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident should carry on this country.




Posted by Kinakinw | 16:51 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

17 2011

Things Haven't been the Same since Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake

It’s a cold night, and the snow is falling thick and fast in afflicted areas.
My house is also cold because we don’t turn on the heat for saving on electricity. Now, All nuclear plants Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has carried out a planned power outage, few-hour rolling blackouts in rotation by regional blocks, in the Kanto area except the main part of Tokyo due to nuclear plants shutdown.

My district, Azabu, isn’t a geographical area of the outage, and we have a gas heater, too. However, we don't feel like using them thinking about a great number of people spending freezing night in shelters, engaging in sleepless supportive activities and desperately coping with the nuclear accident in Fukushima. My sister and I wear down jackets, gather in the living room and spending time with the minimum light.

Since the disaster of earthquake and tsunami happened, I’ve felt as if I relive the experiences of victims, beyond sympathy. I’m there for them and their hearts loaded down with grief. I inwardly hug each one of them on TV. I surprise how deeply I have a deep sense of empathy for them.
Then, I have been doing a lot of thinking about subsequent abnormal occurrences and people involved in them.

I think the hardships put us to the test.

gasoline line
Who really needs gas now?

empty rack
Who really needs food now?


Posted by Kinakinw | 03:45 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

15 2011

Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima, Pray for Fukushima

Though I’ve written all posts only in English since I started this blog about a year ago, I’m going to write in both English and Japanese for a while.

On the 5th day from the Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake (The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake), Tokyo is seemingly-peaceful. I found that magnolia, camellia and a precocious cherry tree have pretty blooms on the way home from a station that I went to to see my friend off (the friend stayed in my house because of cancellation of train services).
Spring is come.

pray for Fukushima1

pray for Fukushima2 pray for Fukushima3

When I was in the warm sunshine, I had fleeting thought that it doesn’t seem like reality we are confronted with these big, huge, incredible hardships here. However, returning to my home, news updates about Fukushima nuclear plant dragged me back to the bitter reality, at once.

I deeply and profoundly feel for residents living near the accident site.
At the same time, I’M TERRIBLY SORRY, from the bottom of my heart, to have had imposed this unreasonable risk, which is also life-threatening, on them.

Now you may know, electricity produced from the plant was used in Kanto region.
I wonder how many people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area had ever thought of Fukushima nuclear plant that supported our comfortable life, in some cases, unnecessarily highlife.
I knew of the plant, but I'm ashamed to say that I HAD NEVER been aware of that. However, now I leave people in Fukushima, victims of the earthquake and tsunami, worse off of my life.

I’m at a loss for words for my irresponsibility and indifference.

I'm not trying to discuss pros and cons of nuclear power generation and the responsibilities of the business owner (Tokyo Electric Power Company), the government and relevant ministries and agencies in this post.

For now, I pray for that all reactors will be cooled with minimum damage.
I also pay tribute to all the people at the scene.
Hang in there!


Posted by Kinakinw | 20:35 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

12 2011

The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake, 2011.3.11, 14:46

I stayed at home yesterday, as I had a cold.
When horizontal oscillation started, become bigger on some level and lasted longer than expected, I thought a major earthquake struck faraway place. Many Japanese know by experiences that if there are big succussatory movements, a hypocenter is close. I turned on TV and since then stared at the TV screen for over six hours.

The most destructive shaking here in Azabu, Tokyo was smaller than that I experienced before, but it was simply extraordinary that after the first one, earthquakes, which were slightly smaller, continuously struck. I'd never been in a situation like that. Several tens of seconds after live footages of aftershocks from a local TV station, my house started shaking. That situation lasted few hours. It was so extraordinary.


Maybe most of you’ve already known that.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake (8.8-magnitude earthquake: the epicenter was Sanriku, offshore seabed of Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures) rocked the Tohoku region coast yesterday. Subsequent aftershocks seemed unusual: Along with Japan trench (crustal plate boundary), the epicenters of subsequent earthquakes (around 7-magnitudes) went southward. Each aftershock could be called “a major earthquake.”

The death toll is likely to surpass 1,000, which I'd hate to think.
Major cause of the death wasn’t earthquakes itself but the major tsunami waves of a once-in-a-century 5-to-10-meter scale. I was shocked to watch live footages from a media’s helicopter. The tsunami wave came with debris and engulfed fields, houses and cars. That occurred in Natori City located in the south of Sendai City, where one of my cousins lives (the cousin and her house is OK).


As a citizen of this quake-prone country, I’d been prepared for such a catastrophe on the TV, but the overall toll is way beyond my preparation. The tsunami attacked expanse of the Pacific coast of northern Japan's main island. What I saw on the TV was a small fraction of the real figure. Not negligible cities along the coast literally vanished.

I’m at a loss for words not because of the shock or fear, but because of sympathy for afflicted and killed people.

I don’t like thinking of “It's a shame that I can't do anything against something.”
Yes, we can do many things.
At the beginning, I’ve been saving on electricity at home, not make a non-emergency phone call, not get into a panic, stayed home and donated a small sum of money.

Effects of the earthquakes have now widened in various ways.


Posted by Kinakinw | 19:05 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

09 2011

Bessho Hot Spring Resort

My friend and I visited Bessho Onsen (別所温泉, Bessho hot spring resort) at the end of February.

It’s one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Nagano Prefecture, which appears in Makura no Soshi (枕草子, The Pillow Book written during the 990s and early 11th century). It’s in Ueda City, and it takes about 2 hours from Tokyo Station (about 90 minutes by Nagano Shinkansen and 25 minutes by Ueda Dentetsu Bessho line).

Bessho Onsen1
Open 6:00 – 22:00 except the first and third Thursday, 150yen per person

The resort has had a reputation for spring quality (Simple sulfur spring) for a long time, and some earliest springs are still used for communal bathhouses in the village. The picture above shows one of the bathhouses, Taishi-yu (大師湯) located in the central part of the resort area.

All customers at Taishi-yu except us were locals. I often visit communal bathhouses in hot spring resorts and sometimes make an effort to be respectful to locals because of a clubby atmosphere. But they were friendly, so we could relax and enjoyed the water. When I left, the front desk person, an elderly man, stuck his chest out in a proud manner and said, “Our water is great, isn’t it? We pour it directly into the bath. It’s 100% fresh hot spring water.” Well, the most famous bathhouse in Bessho Onsen recycles water. He meant that. When I told him I knew that, so I chose Taishi-yu, he nodded in satisfied fashion.

Bessho Onsen2

Bessho Onsen has been developed by the help of Kitamuki Kannon (北向観音, a temple of Tendai founded in 8th-9th century). Kitamuki literally means facing North, and its hall is facing North for real, which is a rare construction style for a sacred hall. According to Bessho Onsen Tourism Association, it is said that if people visit Zenkoji Temple (善光寺, one of the most famous temples in Japan located in Nagano City) which faces south, to pray for their future and happiness after death, and do not pray for the present by visiting the north-facing hall, their devotions will be unbalanced.

Because of people visiting Kitamuki Kannon (it’s rather minor) along with the famous Zenkoji Temple, there is an endless line of visitors to the resort.

Bessho Onsen3 Bessho Onsen4
Chouzu (手水, the water that purifies hands before visiting a shrine or temple) is the hot spring water!

There are traditional Japanese inns with atmosphere in the resort. We stayed in Uematsu-ya (上松屋旅館) founded in 1869. The rebuilt building doesn’t have a traditional atmosphere, but the water is really great!
Bessho Onsen5 Bessho Onsen6

Indeed, in Japan there are excellent hot spring resorts as abundant as stars.


Posted by Kinakinw | 01:14 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

06 2011

Slow-moving Chorus Train

I fell right asleep after transferring to a two-car local train at Ueda Station (上田駅, in Nagano Prefecture) last weekend. Then, after how long time I don't know, a soothing chorus woke me up.
I took a look at the back car where the singing voice came from and found this scene.

Chorus Train1

Until the train arrived at the terminal, Bessho Onsen Station (別所温泉駅, Bessho Hot Spring Station), the people who appeared to be members of a tour group sang golden oldies in the Showa Period (1926 – 1989) to the accompaniment of a harmonica a man in white uniform played.

I didn’t know that but, the man, Haruhara Sadayoshi (春原貞良), is the stationmaster of Ueda Station on Ueda Dentetsu Bessho line (上田電鉄別所線) and well known as the “harmonica stationmaster.” According to a local newspaper, he sometimes plays it in the train and on the platform since 2006. His harmonica and chorus of passengers have gained popularity, and now there are tours including this chorus train. I came across one of them that day in the course of my trip.

Chorus Train2 Chorus Train3

Participating tourists in my parent’s generation seemed happy and sang songs of their youth. I was caught in a timeslip to Showa for a while in the train running through idyllic towns, and I thought if my parents were still alive, they could enjoy such a tour, too.


Posted by Kinakinw | 16:13 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Travel & Hot Spring

03 2011


March 3rd is Hina-matsuri (ひな祭, Doll Festival Day or Girls' Day), the traditional Japanese festival expressing the hope that girls will grow up healthy.

Full set of ornaments including dolls representing the emperor, empress and their servants, and miniature furniture

In the Heian Period (794 - 1192), people used to float dolls down the river to wash away bad luck. Then, in the Muromachi Period (1338 - 1573), wealthy families started to displayed the dolls. Later, in the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), the celebration spread among ordinary people.

Although fewer people display the full set of ornaments in recent days, most families with girls celebrate the day.

My sister and I had festival meals.

Chirashi sushi (ちらし寿司), vinegared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables arranged on top


Posted by Kinakinw | 23:20 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

01 2011

Nikulin Circus

Few weeks ago, I had a sudden desire to go to the circus, not Cirque du Soleil but a traditional one. I wish I could go to Japanese one. Do you know that there are only two, Kinoshita (木下大サーカス) and Pop (ポップサーカス) in Japan? Unfortunately, Both of them are performing in a local city now.

One of horses in the feat of horsemanship (ジギト, 曲馬) of the circus

I recognized an ad of Russian circus on the train in recent days, so I took a look at the Web and found Nikulin Circus (ニクーリンサーカス, The Moscow Nikulin circus on the Zwetnoi boulevard), which is being held at Tokyo Dome City (東京ドームシティ), an extensive entertainment city located in front of Suidoubashi Station.

Nikulin2 Nikulin3
Nikulin Circus, from February 11th through March 21st at Tokyo Dome City
Premium View (arena): 9,000yen, Standard View (S class): 6,000yen, Top Level View (A class, day-of-performance tickets): 3,000yen

I had a lot of fun! With 15 minutes of the interval between first and second acts, I enjoyed a two-hour spectacular show: acrobats, clowns, jugglers, the bear show, the flying trapeze, the tightrope walking, the dog show, the feat of horsemanship and so on. We could see the ring very well from A class seats. It was so nice that we could savor the superb entertainers for only 3,000yen! It was also a good refreshing change.

I liked the feat of horsemanship the most.

Nikulin4 Nikulin6

Nikulin7 Nikulin8

It was my second time to go to the circus as long as I can remember, and the first one was Bolshoi Circus (ボリショイサーカス, The Great Moscow Circus on Vernadsky Avenue). The Bolshoi is/was held somewhere in Japan every year and quite familiar, but I heard Nikulin Circus (it named for Yuri Nikulin 1921 – 1997, a well-known Soviet and Russian actor and clown) for the first time.

Now, I went to the two major circuses in Moscow.
I should go to Japanese circuses next time.


Posted by Kinakinw | 11:50 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Tokyo Life

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