Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami

Japan Earthquake

Sendai after the tsunami

Early Friday afternoon, Japanese time, a huge earthquake struck the coast the Japan, east of Sendai. It measured 8.9 in magnitude, several thousand times more powerful than the one that ravaged New Zealand last month, and was one the largest quakes every recorded. A devastating tsunami soon followed. My thoughts, sympathies and best wishes go out to everyone affected by this awful catastrophe.

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Surviving Earthquakes and Typhoons in Tokyo

I’m certainly having an exciting holiday in Tokyo this year. Sunday saw me experience my first ever earthquake. It happened about 8pm when we were eating dinner in a restaurant in Roppongi Hills. It occurred off the eastern coast of Japan and was magnitude 6.9. Japan has it’s own scale for measuring earthquakes and in Tokyo we felt what was known as level 4, described as the following:

Many people are frightened. Some people try to escape from danger. Most sleeping people awake.
Hanging objects swing considerably and dishes in a cupboard rattle. Unstable ornaments fall occasionally.
Electric wires swing considerably. People walking on a street and some people driving automobiles notice the tremor.

So reasonably hardcore. I wasn’t scared though. No sir, not me. Weaker men might have crumbled but not I. My nickname in the office is Mr Norris after all. I’m THAT tough.

Earthquake Levels - 9th August 2009 -

Earthquake Levels - 19:56 9th August 2009 -

When the quake started, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was some heavy machinery being used or something but then it kept going and going and climbing in magnitude until eventually the whole building was shaking. I was totally dumbfounded until my wife told me it was an earthquake (she barely blinked). When it ended, an automated message came over a speaker system informing everyone that there had just been an earthquake. Fun stuff.

I thought that quake would’ve been the end of my holiday adventures but then at 5am on Tuesday morning we were awoken by another one. Again, it was of similar magnitude as the one on Sunday but I think because it occurred in the middle of the night it was especially freaky. It didn’t help being on the 35th floor of a skyscraper and hearing all of the earthquake proof mechanics squeaking behind the walls either :) I remember lying in bed wondering how long it was going to last as the whole building kept shaking. Eventually it passed and all was well. Then came the typhoon.

If you’ve been following the news you’ll have seen the passing of Typhoon Morakot over Taiwan and China and Typhoon Etau over Japan. Fortunately the latter one was relatively minor (comparatively in the grand scheme of things) and by the time it hit Tokyo it had been downgraded to a tropical storm. We weren’t sure how severe it was going to be for us but it turned out to barely have any effect on Tokyo life. I feel kinda bad saying that because several people were killed when it struck the western coast of Japan so my thoughts and sympathies go out to all of the families effected by it.

One thing that was very interesting me to me was how the different news networks covered the events of the typhoon. The American news (CNN) seemed to go ape-shit about how dangerous Etau was and reported the events in a fast paced, adrenaline filled manner that would’ve freaked any viewer out completely. Comparatively the Japanese news was reported in a very calm, precise and informative manner. They told us exactly when the typhoon would be passing (and I mean the exact times of each stage) and how it would effect people. I can’t stress enough how calm it was dealt with compared to CNN who seemed to be hyping the entire thing up into the mega-storm of the century. Goes to show the power of the media and the effect it can have on the public.

So that was my fun with natural disasters in Tokyo. Don’t let it put you off having a holiday here. At least we didn’t experience one of the dreaded and highly infamous “Godzilla Attacks”. I hear one of those can cause serious delays on the subway.

Enter The Gundam

Something I love about the Japanese is there undying love for awesome stuff. I mean, they do cool things just for the sake of doing cool things. Take this for example – a giant replica 1:1 scale RX78 Gundam robot that they built on the man-made island of Odaiba, Tokyo. 59 feet tall and utterly awesome, it’s a site to behold.

Gundam Odaiba

Gundam Odaiba

Looking sexy in front of the Gundam

Looking sexy in front of the Gundam

If you want some hi-res photos or photos of it at night check out these posts over at Danny Choo and Shibuya 246.

Japanese Urban Dictionary

Seeing as I’m kicking in Japan at the moment, I figured you might like to know about some of the terminology that I may use in future posts.

Otaku (おたく/オタク)

The geeks of Japan, but more extreme. Much more extreme. I often joke to my wife that I’m otaku because I’m, well, a big geek but she says that I don’t even come close to their definition of it. Japanese people are renowned for their ability to (quote the Last Samurai) “devote themselves to the perfection of whatever their pursue” and if you pursue animi, manga and jail-bait dressed in a maid’s outfit then you’re likely to be an otaku.

Hikikomori (ひきこもり)

Otaku gone extreme, hikikomori are geeks who have become so obsessed they have withdrawn completely from society and never leave their homes, apparently even some having never left it in decades. It’s my ultimate ambition to become a MMORPG hikikomori.

Yanki (ヤンキー)

The delinquent of Japan, yanki’s are exactly what their name suggests – a Japanese person dressed to look like the Fonz, usually with light brown dyed hair. They often wear tight black jeans and a ’60s leather jacket and are famous for their rolling ‘Rs’. Gotta see it to believe it.

Cosplay (コスプレ)

Cosplay In Japan

Cosplay In Japan -

If you like to dress up as your favourite manga character and hang around subway stations on a regular occurrence then you’re probably into what’s known as cosplay. Fun loving and imaginative, cosplayers are also known for giving out free hugs.

Salaryman (サラリーマン)

A salaryman is basically every and any man who earns a salary, usually by working long hours in an office. And I’m not kidding about the long hours part. 12 – 13 hour days are generally expected without question as is a drinking binge after work with your boss. Nothing amuses me quite like seeing a group of drunk business men staggering around Akasaka at 11pm at night trying to find the subway home.

Office Lady (オーエル)

Always abbreviated simply to OL, office ladies are the equivalent to salarymen, except without the long hours part (they are usually allowed to finish work around 7pm) and the excessive drinking. Aside being incredibly homogeneous and xenophobic, Japan is also very chauvinistic and OLs are usally assigned to pink collar jobs. Trends are changing now though and women are starting to become accepted as “salarymen” if they so desire.

Heading To Japan

Chances are that when you read this I’ll be flying over Siberia on my way to the Land of the Rising Sun. What crazy foreign adventures await me? Hopefully nothing too crazy as I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of sun, rest, good food and ultimate geekery as I drag my wife around Akihabara, forcing her to translate my geek speak into Japanese so I can communicate with the local otaku. Of course, maybe something cool will happen to me, like getting into a fight with a ninja. Not a real ninja mind, cause they’d kick my ass, maybe just a small child who’s dressed as one. Yeah, I reckon I could kick a kid’s ass and earn the respect of my parents-in-law as I do it. Karate chop!

Adventures In Japan Await

Adventures In Japan Await

I have every intention of continuing to post articles when I’m away (I’ve even set up a few pre-written ones on timed delayed release to keep you folks entertained) but chances are they will be a bit less frequent than I usually manage. They will also likely be a lot more orientated towards funky things in Japan and I’ve already got a few ideas for articles about the more geeky side of the country that I hope you will enjoy. じゃあね!