Sakura Project at Yurakucho Lumine

During March 22-25, 2012 in Yurakucho Lumine, they had a giant vase of cherry blossoms from all 47 prefectures. The “plant hunter” gathered all the cherry tree branches and either refrigerated them or heated them to have them all bloom at the same time. The giant vase was written with handwritten messages. Each sakura branch was tagged with the name of the prefecture where it came from. The flowers were at Yurakucho Mullion’s Lumine Passage, a shopping complex. A large crowd constantly surrounded the early sakura.

Post-quake Japan travel advice (Updated)

Updated: April 8, 2011

I know people are understandably canceling trips to Japan left and right. It’s unfortunate since the cherry blossom season is here.

Obviously, any travel plans to northeastern Japan (Tohoku) should be cancelled, but other parts of Japan are unaffected such as Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Shikoku, and Kyushu.

People must understand that the earthquake/tsunami/radiation disaster is limited to northeastern Japan (Tohoku). What you read in the news makes it sound like the entire country is in peril, which is not the case.

Life is normal in the western half of Japan with absolutely no increase in radiation levels nor blackouts. Kyoto, Osaka, etc., are perfectly safe for tourists.

Here’s my advice for ordinary tourists planning to visit Japan:

Do not try to travel to northeastern Japan (Miyagi, Fukushima, and Iwate) affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Let the military troops and professionals complete search-and-rescue and body-recovery operations first. Aftershocks, tsunami threats, and radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear power plants are still ongoing. Note that any leaked radiation dissipates the farther away you are. Even if the radiation level is dangerous to humans at the source of the leak, if you are far away enough, the potential harm greatly decreases.

Tokyo is safe enough to visit, but beware of aftershocks. Unpredictable rolling blackouts may occur and train runs have been reduced. Shops and businesses are drastically cutting back on power consumption.

You might be most affected by the much fewer train/subway runs within central Tokyo. Trains will come much less frequently and they will be overcrowded. So you may end up waiting for a train for a longer time. Urayasu, where Tokyo Disneyland is located, suffered major liquefaction on reclaimed land.

Be careful in Nagano, Niigata, and Shizuoka Prefectures where earthquakes occurred soon after the Tohoku quake and aftershocks are likely. I really hate to say this and no offense to these prefectures which have major sights and attractions, but the recent earthquakes there are disturbing.

Hokkaido is okay. But avoid the beaches. Tsunamis caused by aftershocks are still possible.

Osaka, Kyoto, and the rest of western Japan and southern Japan (Kyushu, Okinawa) are okay. They have not been affected. No tsunami damage, no major earthquakes/aftershocks, no radiation increase, and no rolling blackouts.

Thus, you can still fly to Japan and go sightseeing as usual in most parts of Japan. Just avoid the hazardous and difficult areas and you’ll be fine.

Of course, keep in mind that Japan has earthquake faults all over. An earthquake can occur wherever you are in Japan at any time. Whenever you go out, take something to drink and eat. Energy bars would be good. (In Japan, Calorie Mate is popular and sold everywhere.) Carry a map and essential contact info (hotel, embassy, etc.). Have fun, but be prepared.

Safe from earthquake

Northern Japan got hit with a major earthquake today on March 11, 2011. We felt it in Tokyo as well, and it was the worse earthquake I ever experienced. I was at home and rushed out as soon as it became clear it was a big one. We had a few aftershocks and it was hard to return home, fearing more aftershocks. But it settled down, and my books, flat-panel TV, stereo speakers, etc., toppled over. Fortunately, no real damage except for a few scratches on the TV.

Anyway, I’m alive and well.

Philbert Ono

Japan Blog revamped

After 3 years of neglect, I’ve finally revamped this Japan Blog and hope to start writing here again. The previous blog system was so cumbersome to use, and upgrading it to a major version update was way too much trouble. So I’ve installed a new blogging system and ported the old entries (not very many) to this new system.

I plan to use this blog to fill the gap between my big online photo gallery (PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix/) of 36,000+ photos and my Japan Articles collection (PHOTOGUIDE.JP/txt/) of full-length, magazine-like articles and book-like chapters.

Sometimes I wanna show only one or a handful of images or sometimes I wanna write shorter articles or opinionated commentaries about something. Japan Blog is where I’ll do this.

Japan Blog entries will all be about Japan, by someone who has been living and working here for a long time and who can speak, read, and write (with a computer) Japanese quite fluently. By someone who loves to travel around Japan and visit places and see things for the first time (or maybe second time). By someone who loves to take pictures and videos to help people better understand Japan. And by someone who is old enough (but not that old) to give advice and tips to younger and less experienced folks.

I also maintain two other blogs:

Our online gallery’s new look and features

Our online photo gallery at PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix/ has undergone a major makeover upon the upgrade of the software that runs it. It now has a new look and feel even though most things remain familiar.

And it’s not just a cosmetic upgrade. New features also make it easier to use and more friendly:

  • YouTube videos are now embedded right inside our photo gallery. You no longer have to leave the site and go to YouTube in order to watch our videos. When you see the YouTube Embedded Video thumbnail image above, you can click on it to see the video within our photo gallery. (I’ve waited for this feature a long, long time.)
  • The single-image (full-size) display page now has a filmstrip below it, showing clickable thumbnails of adjacent images. It makes navigation easier and faster to view another image.
  • Commenting system has been incorporated, one that uses captcha to prevent spamming robots. You can now insert comments for any picture. (All comments are subject to approval before they appear.)
  • Go ahead and look at PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix/ and see the improvements for yourself.

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