Showing posts from April, 2012

Blue Trains To Run During Golden Week

Revival of the sleeper train, the Blue Train, during Golden Week? You bet. While I like trains a lot and have done my fair share (I think) of train travel, I never had the pleasure of riding this classic one - it was in service for some 50 years until 2 or 3 years ago. Lots and lots of tetsudo fan showed up for its last run from Tokyo Station, which was covered live by TV stations. Tetsudo Fan 鉄道ファン (Railroad Fan) is also the name of a magazine here that covers all kinds of train-related issues. This is the magazine (and website) that all true train spotters you see on weekends with their huge cameras read.

Today, in 2012, two sleeper Blue Trains remain in operation: Akebono (from Ueno to Aomori) and Hokutosei (from Ueno to Sapporo in Hokkaido).

I'm very tempted!

Here is a nice video of a Blue Train, Izumo, as it heads from night into dawn going from western Japan to Tokyo...

Asahi Shinbun had a great article about the special revival of the Blue Trains during Golden Week, the l…

Paul McCartney - 2012 Grammys

This brings back good memories. I went to see Sir Paul at Tokyo Dome back in March 1990, I had a seat at the very far back but it was terrific.

And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make...

While John Lennon and George Harrison are no longer with us, in 2012, you still get treats like this: 

Paul McCartney Grammys 2012 - Abbey Road Medley

Cat Power- Keep on running


Lady Gaga In Seoul, Korea

Huge event with 45,000 attending in Seoul, and a massive Christian backlash "perverting our youth" that was covered by the media. Only people over 18 years old could attend. Still, isn't it amazing how youth will attend events like this?

The concert was held yesterday at the 1988 Olympic Stadium near the Han River. I went past there last year. Massive ugly concrete block of South Korean dictatorship architecture. Glad that Lady Gaga brought some light to that particular part of East Asia.

May 10th she arrives at Saitama Super Arena, here in Japan!

Glad also that Lady Gaga tries to raise awareness of issues that are not so much debated, but she could do better.

Japan and South Korea, so far away, yet so close... If you don't know anything about hard core Christians in South Korea, let me tell you, they have a lot of very hard core evangelist baptist whatever churches that we don't have here in Japan. Thus, their missionary seal may be difficult to comprehend…

Food Safety Updates: BSE, Pesticides, Etc. Etc.

Japan continues to enjoy a very high level of food safety. Recent news from California that a new case of a mad cow (technically diagnosed with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) was found has not really had much impact here, as the rules stipulate that meat from old cattle cannot be imported. BSE is more likely to develop in cows that are over 30 months old. Meanwhile, Taiwan and South Korea, that allow import of meat from younger cows, are more concerned.

Washington Post notes that "The United States is one of the few beef-producing countries that does not have a mandatory animal identification system that enables it to trace a cow from birth through the slaughterhouse and beyond, though a proposal has been in the works for years. "If we discover that this case was part of a larger outbreak, we might not be able to find all the animals in that cohort that were exposed to the same feed," said Sarah Klein of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "If t…

Miho Museum, Meeting Remarkable Men, Mr. I. M. Pei

Sometimes in life, you get lucky, and you get to visit great places. You feel at peace with all things in the universe. Then, you get to meet unusual people, like in the classic film by Peter Brook from 1979.

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part 1 of 11)

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part 2 of 11)

Then you get to just by chance meet someone who has designed the very building you are in, a museum in Shiga prefecture, the Miho Museum. I go there from time to time, I like the place a lot, it has a special concept of "beauty" and the viewpoint is "from East Asia" which makes it distinct from a lot of other ordinary museums. Art history, viewed from Japan, and also with a very feminine touch. We tend to ignore that perspective, but a woman with an artistic sense, like at Miho, can change everything around. The female touch has been a very important part of art in Asia, since ancient times. The English website does not quite explore this connection to Grandmother, who initia…

TPP At Public Citizen Website

If you want to read more about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) I recommend the Public Citizen website. More here: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1% Have you heard? The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement is a stealthy policy being pressed by corporate America, a dream of the 1 percent, that in one blow could:

offshore millions of American jobs,free the banksters from oversight,ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy,decrease access to medicine,flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products,and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.
Closed-door talks are on-going between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam; with countries like Japan and China potentially joining later. 600 corporate advisors have access to the text, while the public, Members of Congress, journalists, and civil society are excluded. An…

TPP Protests In Tokyo: Lost In Translation?

Thousands of people protesting in Tokyo against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is virtually unknown in the US, according to the Wall Street Journal blog?

One of the reasons it "gets no press" could be that the entire text of the negotiations is kept secret, and even elected legislators (that get to vote "yes" or "no" once the negotiations are finished, but have no access to the actual negotiation process) and others are kept in the dark about the details. Only corporations are allowed access, which of course is not OK.

We heard the same complaints against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Free Trade Agreements (FTA) some 10-15 years ago, seems the people with hidden interests that want to change the rules for global trade have moved on to the TPP. If it gets no press, shouldn't journalists in the US (and editors) try a little harder? Most of us have of course lost any confidence in main stream media, but that blog post just takes the c…

Dust In Shikoku

I'm just back from Shikoku, the central part of the island, which has the most amazing rivers and steep gorges anywhere in Japan. The roads and railways must have been built by the most dare-devil fear-loathing kind of guys. This is where Nobel Prize laureate Oe Kenzaburo was born and raised. I love this part of Japan, which is not so very Japanese; it has all kinds of features from ancient past, like rope bridges that connected the Heike clan as they escaped from Kyoto... Also, Shikoku has the 88 henro pilgrimage trail.

In these parts, you cannot but sense that you are on the edge of the world. Shikoku is that island that connects Japan to Hawaii, miles away. You get a sense of being on the edge.

If you want to get a taste of that world, here is Dust, with dramatic scenes from Oboke, Shikoku.
Visit our Kickstarter page to help us reach our funding goal by May 5, 2012. Filmed in Japan, this sci-fi fantasy immerses viewers in the rapidly changing world…

Alaska soccer ball traced to tsunami survivor

A Japanese teenager who lost his home and belongings in last year's tsunami will get one thing back -- a soccer ball he received as a farewell gift from his classmates.

NHK: The soccer ball washed ashore on Middleton Island in the US state of Alaska. David Baxter, an Alaska resident found the ball during a visit to the island last month.

The ball carries messages dated March 2005 to Misaki Murakami, a third grader at a primary school in Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture. The owner is now 16 and still lives in the city. The ball was a gift from his homeroom teacher and classmates when Murakami was transferred to another school after finishing the third grade.

Murakami says he was astonished to hear that the ball had been found. He also says he is happy because he has lost everything else in the disaster.

He thanked Baxter for taking the trouble to find out where the ball came from.

A lot of debris will be floating towards the U.S. and Canada, I hope it will be taken…

Japan: Energy Crisis? What's New?

As we all wonder what happened to spring, with chilly weather this weekend, I enjoyed the Earth Day Market in Yoyogi today Saturday. Do visit again on Sunday and you will be amazed by the creativity and positive vibe in Tokyo, Japan.

So many people with great ideas for the future, making a point of being positive almost to the limit of what is possible... Best of all, none of it is fake, in a city that just a year ago was turning down its neon lights while the aftershocks still rattled the northeast of the nation. From eco tourism to organic food (and cotton) and solutions to all kinds of problems you have probably never heard of, the Earth Day Market in Tokyo has grown into a massive event. If I may be just a little grumpy, it is due to the lack of space on the walk in front of NHK and the Olympic Stadium. It was pretty noisy too, for my liking, but no one else seemed to mind.

Tokyo Earth Day Market

The amazing thing about Tokyo and Japan is that we are all doing all right. With the …

Kyoto Tachibana High School Band

Freak storm today, just as I was going to enjoy Kyoto... Yesterday was nice though, with early spring weather, 16 C, false hopes as it were. Massive delays with canceled flights and delayed Shinkansen trains.

Speaking of Kyoto, did you know that the High School here, the Kyoto Tachibana is among the world's best? They got standing ovations at the Rose Parade in California in December last year, with a terrific performance. Other bands from Sweden, Canada... Here is a preview:

Enjoy the longer show: