Tornado in Japan ・日本で竜巻: 1 killed, 40 injured.

Earlier today — May 6, 2012 — a tornado (竜巻 – Tatsumaki) tore through Tsukuba (つくば市), Japan. Here are a couple vids of it, via YouTube:



The Japan Times Online is now reporting 1 killed and 40 injured.  I’m sure this will be updated over the next 24-72 hours.  Excerpt from article:

“A teenage boy died, around 40 people were injured and up to 500 houses were damaged Sunday after apparent tornadoes hit Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, north of Tokyo, prompting Ibaraki Gov. Masaru Hashimoto to ask the Self-Defense Forces to be deployed for disaster relief. . . .”


Kyodo News Photo: Tornado Damage in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Tsukuba, home to Tsukuba Science City and Japan’s space agency, JAXA, is just Northeast of Tokyo.  It’s in Ibaraki Prefecture, which is also home to the city of Hitachi, Birmingham, Alabama’s Sister City.  Metro Birmingham’s been hit by tornadoes again and again over the past year or so.

Tsukuba, Japan.

I’ll update as I get more news…

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As LetsJapan.Wordpress.Com readers may know, we’ve some history with tornadoes here in the U.S. Deep South, too.  Much of that quite personal for me:

+  March 1, 2012:  Tornado rips family property, my mom’s safe.

+  April 27, 2011:  Tornado devastates my college town, lumbers within a few miles of my house.


This Week in the Less Conventional News (15 April update)

It’s rare that I do a “News Roundup,” but the past several days have produced stories from Asia that just beg to be shared.  Some important, some interesting, some disturbing. . .  Judge for yourself.

Cleaning Crew. Shibuya, Tokyo. 2007.


+  Police Investigate Ibaraki Prefecture Man Killed by Python

This one’s sad, and a bit eerie to me I’ve been with a python in Ibaraki Prefecture before.  It was under adult supervision at the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi (an Ibaraki Prefecture city).  In fact, zoo officials sort of insisted.

Ben & Jerry’s Opens Flagship Store in Tokyo

Excerpt:   “The Tokyo store includes digital menu boards in Japanese and English, to inform customers about the popular U.S. flavors, as well as those exclusive to Japan.”

+   Kyocera to Build Japan’s Largest Solar Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture

Excerpt:  “[The plant] will provide enough electricity for roughly 22,000 households annually and, if replacing power generated from fossil fuels, will offset around 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide. . . .”

Policeman in Schoolgirl Uniform Arrested for Flashing  (some cops are bad, others weird, some combine the two).

Excerpt:  “Reports say the 37-year-old man was dressed in a sailor-style schoolgirl uniform at the time of the offense.”



Taj Mahal Tourist. Agra. 2007.

+  Bollywood Start Shah Rukh Khan Detained Again at U.S. Airport:  India NOT Happy

Excerpt:  “The actor was detained for over two hours by immigration officials after he arrived from India in a private plane with a group that included Nita, wife of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, to address students at Yale University.”

    +  Joy of Electrification Lights Up Homes in These Remote Tribal Hamlets

Excerpt:  “Like the radiance from the new solar powered compact fluorescent lights (CFL) in his home, M. Ganesamurthy’s face shines with glee. His dwelling amid the jungles of the Western Ghats near Papanasam has received power connection, something which was beyond the imagination of the tribal population.”  



Market in Anshan, China. 2005.

+  China Deletes 210,000 Online Posts Over “Rumors”  (let freedom ring).

Excerpt:  “‘Actions of creating and spreading rumours via the Internet disrupt public order and undermine social stability, and will never be tolerated,’ the report quoted Liu Zhengrong, an official with the State Internet Information Office, which controls the web, as saying.” (gad)

Shaolin Kung Fu Museum Celebrates Groundbreaking Ceremony  (from 2 weeks ago, but worth mentioning)

Excerpt:  The foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu Museum was laid Thursday in Shaolin Tagou Kung Fu School, three kilometers northeast away from Shaolin Temple in central China’s Henan province.



O.K., here’s a weird & creepy bonus:  North Korea’s (the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s) OFFICIAL website.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to vomit when you get done browsing the site of this Nightmare Disneyland.

“The DPRK is the Juche-oriented socialist state which embodies the idea and leadership of Comrade Kim II Sung, the founder of the Republic and the father of socialist Korea.”

Sure.  Whatever.

Here’s a little vid I made about 18 months ago, not long before new crazed, creepy dictator, Kim Jong-Un took over after his dad, Kim Jong-Il, kicked the dictatorial bucket.  Jong-Un was “heir apparent,” then.  Now he’s just Dynastic Dictator No. 3.

*               *               *

Everything’s Connected


This dirt road. South Alabama. March 2012.


This South Alabama dirt road takes me back to Japan.  Countless times during the first three weeks of July 1990 I walked up and down this road with notes, or a well-highlighted BarBri book, in hand, studying for the Alabama State Bar examination.  This road runs in front of the family home. On the back side there’s a paved road that, just a few miles further south, crosses into Florida.  In fact this road eventually crosses into Florida.  About a week after my last study session on this road I was on a plane headed from Atlanta to Japan, the Bar Exam behind me.  It was a hectic week.

I graduated law school in May of 1990, from the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa.  I had a job lined-up in Japan (with the “JET Program“) that was to begin in August, with me scheduled to fly over, the last weekend of July.  In between lay the Bar Exam.  So by mid- or late-June I had packed up all my things and moved from Tuscaloosa back down to my family’s South Alabama homeplace.  And there — I should say, “here,” because I’m here right now, for another few hours —  I cloistered myself for about five weeks, doing nothing but studying for the upcoming Bar Exam, having virtually no time to think about the move I would make to Japan (Tokyo*, to begin with) within 72 hours of completing that 3-day testing marathon.

I studied in this room I sit in right now, my old bedroom, which had become my father’s study after I graduated high school years before.  And, when I became stir-crazy, I would take my notes or one of my study guides, leg it up to that dirt road, and walk up and down it, back and forth, over and over again, reading and reciting my notes, like an actor learning his lines.

That’s how this road lead to Japan.  Where this particular story ends is pretty much where the story “Etsuko” picks up. I’ve been down here visiting family for a few days, but have to get back on the road, as mentioned above.  As soon as I post this I’ve got to respond to an email just received regarding a business matter, an email from Japan.  Everything’s connected.


*Noting that those images were from this past August, 2011. Not from 1990.

Two Views from the Westin Miyako, Kyoto

The two photos below were snapped with a little “smartphone.”  The first on July 31 and the one below it on August 3, 2011.  They were both taken from my little balcony, attached to my room at the Westin Miyako Hotel in Kyoto.  I’ve posted them, or versions of them, before, last year near the times I took them.  I offer them again because they’re somewhat peaceful and calm-making, I think.

Looking towards Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto. 31 July 2011.

Looking east, towards Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto. 31 July 2011.

I took this in the afternoon, after arriving at the hotel.  The sun’s behind where the camera’s pointing, beginning to go down in the west.  You can see large main gate (yes, that’s a “gate” — the Sanmon, completed in 1628) of Nanzen-ji Temple on the left.


Looking north towards Okazaki District. Kyoto, 3 August 11.

I took this in the morning.  The sun’s to my right.  The green roof on the left, towards the foreground, is the International Community House.  Lots of memories there.  In the background, against the last green hills, you can see several of Kurodani-dera’s buildings (Kurodani Temple).

I hope you like these photos. . .

One Year Ago: March 11, 2011.

Ganbarou Nihon - Hang in there, Japan. Tokyo taxi, Aug 2011. These bumper stickers were on taxis all over Tokyo, distributed by the local Taxi Association following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

I decided not to post any of those horrifying videos of the tsunami.  Just wanted to mark the day that almost 20,000 people lost their lives.  A terrible day.  But Japan continues on.  I saw much of that spirit all around me back in late July and August when I was in Japan on business:  the disaster reverberated in the hearts of everybody, but a steadfast determination to go forward and work through the shock and destruction and loss dominated.  That was down in Tokyo, and further south in Kyoto and Osaka.  Up north of Tokyo, in the Tohoku Region that was so devastated, things are much tougher, but they’ll get through, as long as people around the world don’t forget them and continue to support the slow rebuilding process, a process that will take years and years.  A friend in Tokyo just sent me an email and I think this excerpt from it sums up things, a lot of things:

The first year of rebuilding is not enough, and so many issues, but the nation has made progress.

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More Media Fail in the wake of 3.11 . . .

LESSON 1: Fukushima, Japan is not All of Japan.

Over the past year I’ve noted several occasions where the American (generally Western) Media has put its proclivity for boneheadedness on display when covering the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 (and accompanying tsunami and Fukujima Daiichi nuclear disaster).

Well, it’s happened again.  As I traveled through the Deep South this past Monday, March 5, 2012, I listened to a National Public Radio talk and news show called “On Point,” produced and broadcast out of Boston’s WBUR (I won’t link to that show).  The hour-long segment I happened upon promised to be interesting:  interviews with Yoichi Funabashi (who lead an independent investigation of the government’s response to triple disaster for the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation) and Tokyo-based reporter Kenneth Neil Cukier.

Let me get to the nut of the matter.  On Point host Tom Ashbrook (@tomashbrooknpr), in discussions with his guests, took several opportunities to display his shocking ignorance of Japan’s geography by pumping-up the narrative that farms and farm products throughout Japan bore the risk of radioactive contamination (!).  There’s zero doubt that crops and livestock in the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima Daichi plant have suffered contamination.  There is and has been apprehension among farmers and families in the general area of the disaster and, certainly, throughout Japan about rice and other products coming out of Fukushima Prefecture, about potentially unsafe levels of contamination may have been reached or exceeded and that the danger persists.  This is true. There are, and should be, continuing concerns, even serious ones, about products coming out of the the area around the Fukushima Daiichi.

I Go National

However, although Japan is not a large country (by, say, U.S. or Canada or Russia standards), neither is it Belgium or Rhode Island or Vatican City.  Ashbrook’s breathless excitement about — so it seemed to this listener — discovering that virtually all the rice and milk throughout the length of Japan glowed with radioactive goo was too much for me to take.  I called-in to the show when Ashbrook invited people to contact On Point, “if you have a comment or question.”  I got on the air.  I made a point not to jump on Ashbrook personally, but, rather, said that I was very disappointed in the lack of geography acumen displayed by the American Media.  That while areas around and near the Fukushima Daiichi plant certainly have been contaminated, down into the Kanto Region and certainly Kansai (areas well south of Fukushima and Tokyo*), and certainly down in Kyushu (Japan’s southernmost island) and Sapporo, up in Hokkaido (Japan’s northernmost island) were not near the plant and that it’s irresponsible to imply that they are.   Well. . .

His On-Air Indignation

Ashbrook sounded like I’d just killed his pet gerbil or made fun of this paperclip collection.  He was indignant and sputtered words to the effect that one of the guests, Ken Cukier, had reported that there had been some danger of contaminated milk from Fukushima getting out into other parts of Japan.  Ashbrook had missed my point by a country mile.  I never stated or argued that this or that product had not entered the distribution chain.  I merely pointed out that Fukushima is not all of Japan and that it’s a disservice to farmers in other parts of Japan to imply that their products were at risk.

I didn’t get to the point that Fukushima is not exactly “Japan’s Dairyland” — Ashbrook cut me off before I could.  I had spoiled his narrative, to wit:  that Japan, all of Japan, from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Kyushu, and down into Okinawa, lay ankle-deep in fine, gray, radioactive powder.  No, he didn’t say this, but Ashbrook’s almost giddy narrative to this effect left little room for people not familiar with the lay of the land in Japan to imagine otherwise.  He went on to the next caller immediately, without asking Mr. Funabashi or Mr. Cukier if I had raised a legitimate point.  So it went.

Is It Too Much to Ask?

Is it too much to ask of radio show hosts and reporters to actually take 5 minutes to look over a map of the country they may be talking about before an interview?  Is it too much to ask of radio hosts that they resist the temptation to construct dimwitted syllogisms (Fukushima’s in Japan, Japan is a country, Fukushima’s got problems, therefore, farmers all over Japan are growing radioactive rice.  I mean, sheesh)?  Is it too much to ask that NPR radio stations expect their hosts to conduct themselves with a modicum of professionalism?  In this case, it seems the answer it, “Yes, it’s just too much to ask of Ashbrook and WBUR.”  Gad.


Currently not all is o.k. in Japan regarding agricultural products affected or potentially affected by contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster of March 11, 2011, and succeeding days, weeks and months.  However, those affected areas, even the region, is not all of Japan.  Here’s an excellent summary of many of the frustrations and challenges involved regarding local agricultural products.  Excerpt:

In [neighboring] Ibaraki prefecture, radiation tests on milk are conducted on a biweekly basis. Milk is trucked from various farms to cooler stations. Samples are taken from every truck and mixed together. If the mixed samples fails the safety test, shipments from the entire region will be banned. On the day that the TV crew visited one cooler station, no radioactive contamination was detected in the milk. ( The safety limit for cesium in milk is 200 becquerels per liter – the testing machinery is capable of detecting cesium if it exceeds 20 becquerels per liter.)

After the report, the anchors discuss the issue in their news studio. They mention how prefectural governments have been frustrated by the national government’s instructions, which do not go into minute detail about the types of food that need to be tested and how often the tests need to be conducted. Consumers would obviously prefer that every shipment of every type of food be tested, but that is not realistic. Many of the machines used to test radiation are imported, and there is now a huge worldwide demand for the equipment. Japan may want to buy many more testing machines, but it won’t be able to get them soon.

Protestors outside of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power) Headquarters. Tokyo. August 3, 2011.

By the way, here are some distance comparisons (approximations), in case Tom Ashbrook wants to bone-up before his next Japan segment:

Fukushima to Osaka:  348 air miles, 560 kilometers.

Fukushima to Hiroshima:  504 air miles, 811 kilometers.

Fukushima to Kagoshima:  705 air miles, 1134 kilometers.

Fukushima to Sapporo:  370 air miles, 595 kilometers.

London to Paris:  213 air miles, 343 kilometers.

Washington, DC to New York City:  204 air miles, 329 kilometers.


*Tokyo’s at the top, north end of the Kanto — Central Honshu Island — Region.

What (Japanese) Women Don’t Want.

Heart-shaped Ema (prayer/wish plaques) at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Nara, 2008. A favorite Shinto Shrine for lovers and the love-lorn.

Happy White Day:  ハピーホワイトデ

Most Westerners don’t know and don’t really “get” that Japan has two Valentine’s Days.  There’s the traditional Valentine’s Day, imported from the U.S. decades ago, on February 14.  Thing is, in Japan women give gifts to the men in their lives.  I kid you not.  But hold on — there’s a follow-up:  on March 14 there’s “White Day,” where the giving is reversed and men give gifts to their girlfriends.  The consensus is that this was merely an ingenious marketing ploy by Japan’s retailers.

A recent survey in Japan (Japan’s very big on surveys) found what women didn’t want, what they didn’t like receiving, on White Day.  The Top 5 out of 20 listed disliked-to-not-so-disliked gifts were:

     1.  A gift obviously cheaper than the one given to the guy back on Valentine’s Day.

     2.  A towel, handkerchief I don’t like.

     3.  An accessory I don’t like.

     4.  Undies.

     5.  A small item with a character design I don’t really know.

Here’s the whole survey.  A word to the wise:  study it, men.