Tag Archives: Japan

Japan considers burying damaged plant while threat level rises

Explosions in the Fukushima nuclear plant (Picture by daveeza)

By Edoardo Zandona’

The last resort to stem the radiation leakage in Fukushima damaged nuclear plant may be to bury it in sand and concrete, Japanese engineers suggest. This method was similar to the final solution used in Chernobyl to contain the catastrophe, and it is now being considered as the ultimate resource to deal with the nuclear crisis in Japan. This suggestion comes immediately after the threat level for the accident has been raised from 4 to 5 on a 1-7 scale. Continue reading Japan considers burying damaged plant while threat level rises

Further updates on the Japan disaster

Weather map of the Japanese Tsunami

By Emily Glass

Following this morning’s fears that a nuclear meltdown is imminent after temperatures continued to rise in Fukushima’s second reactor, a government spokesman has released a statement saying another major explosion is unlikely. With the cooling water having evaporated, sea water is being reinjected into the plant to regain safer temperature levels.

Continue reading Further updates on the Japan disaster

Emergency relief fund set up for tsunami victims.

(Image courtesy of: YouReporter.it)

A relief fund has been set up by the GlobalGiving organization to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan last night. The aim of the project is to collect $90,000 to “disburse funds to organizations providing relief and emergency services”, and it is meant to be the first step of a series of international actions for support.

If you wish to contribute to the cause, you can access the project’s webpage here.

Latest Tsunami Updates

  • More Tsunami warnings are coming in. Over 53 Countries  including the entire West Coast of the U.S. , Russia, Kenya, Canada, Indonesia, Central America are now on Tsunami Watch.
  • Although alerts have been lifted for some countries, including Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The Tsunami has struck the Hawaiian Island of Honolulu and it set on a path of destruction.
  • President Barack Obama has sent condolences and has stated that the U.S. stand ready to help on his Twitter Page. He has instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. states & territories that could be affected.
  • The US State Oregon emergency management has advised coastal residents to evacuate before 7am PST due to tsunami risk.
    More than 200 dead and several hundred missing after Earthquake and Tsunami strikes Japan.
  • The UN Secretary General, has stated that the UN will do anything to Help Japan and that 30 International Rescue Teams are ready to be sent out.

Tsunami hits Japan

Japan Earthquake Epicentre. Source: BBC News

By Susannah Radford

An earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale shook Japan at 2.46pm local time near Sendai.  The earthquake which is the largest for 140 years, was centred  20 miles underground about 250 miles from Tokyo.  While aftershocks have continued, the tsunami is of immediate concern reaching up to 10 metres in height. At least 29 people have been reported dead. Continue reading Tsunami hits Japan

‘Japan: high tech image, low tech reality’

By Jen McClure

Still going strong in Japan… Courtesy of Sony pictures

Robots, high speed trains, electric cars, and cutting edge electronics; you know what country I’m talking about, right? Japan. But, move away from the bright, hi-tech lights of Tokyo, and you will find none of the above anywhere to be seen.  Shocked? This is Japan’s low tech reality.

Japan is very good at exporting its hi-tech image to the world.  The Japanese have crafted a very clever image for themselves in their electronic paradise.  It is true that Japan has contributed technological advancements to the world, but Japanese technology should come with a warning label, “For Export Only.” In reality, everyday Japan is far from cutting edge.  Image this scenario: a place where the ATMs close at 9pm, offices without computers, fax machines in wide use and most homes without central heating.  Hard to believe? Yes.  But, this scenario is all too real in modern day Japan.

Two years ago I left Scotland and went to teach English in Japan.  Stereotypical images of Japan were imbedded in my mind: hi-tech gadgets, heated toilet seats, vending machines and high speed trains.  This stereotype was not incorrect, but once you move away from Tokyo, reality starts to kick in and you begin to wondering if you have travelled back in time…

Everyday life

I moved into my apartment in August 2008.  My immediate observations were: there’s no oven, how can I cook without an oven?  The stove looked like it belonged on a camp site.  The apartment came with a VHS video-recorder. What was I ever going to do with that?  There was a Discman in one of the drawers.  I found cassette tapes.  There was no central heating, just kerosene heaters that give off toxic fumes.  This apartment was not even 10 years old, but already its contents were sadly out of date.

Everywhere I went there was some object or technology from the recent past still living a happy existence in Japan.  Walkmans, Minidisc players, fax machines, you name it, they still have it.  Trying to settle in, I was often overwhelmed by Japanese and frustrated with not being able to read or understand anything.  My next door neighbour, a fellow foreigner helped me out by taken me to our local DVD rental shop.  I thought DVD, music and video game rental was recent history –apparently not.  In the UK people no longer use such establishments.  You can order movies online instantaneously or buy cheap DVDs from Amazon.  DVD rental is big business in Japan.  I wonder if that is because DVDs, CDs and video games are expensive to buy in Japan and most people would rather rent them than buy?  I rarely used Amazon.co.jp but when I did I thought it was great as you could place your order online but pay for it at your local convenience store in cash.  The number of Japanese people I knew who used Amazon.  Zero.  Did I mention that Japan is a cash society?  You can pay for pretty much anything at a convenience store.  Airline tickets, concert tickets, your gas bill…and so on.  You can also do “cash on delivery” in Japan.  All this is very convenient but I missed not being able to use my flexible friend.

Bank cards in Japan do not even resemble their UK counterparts.  They are quite possibly the most ‘budget,’ ‘un’ hi-tech cards you have ever seen in your life.  Sure, your name is embossed on the card but that’s about it.  There is no magnet strip so I have no idea how the machine reads your card and you can rarely use the card in an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank.  In my case, my ‘bank’ was a regional bank which only operates in the prefecture where I lived.  If I wanted to travel to Tokyo or anywhere else, I would have to bring with me all the money I needed for that trip.  And forget about paying for anything by card or easily using a foreign credit card.  Convenient?  I think not.  On the plus side, ATM’s in Japan accept coins and the cartoon characters on the screen bow at you before and after your transaction.  What they lack in convenience, they certainly make up for in politeness.

The world of (Keitai’s) mobile phones in Japan would leave some people baffled.  Your stereotypical view that all things must be miniature could not be further from the truth.  Mobile phones maybe larger, but they can do so much more than your average UK phone.  Japan has had a 3G network for years which puts us to shame.  The amazing thing about mobiles in Japan is that you can send long emails directly from your phone.  Any basic phone can do this, not just your flashy iPhone or Blackberry.  You have your own personal email address for your phone, e.g. jenmcclure@softbank.ne.jp  and you can send an email to any address including other people’s computers anywhere in the world from you phone.  Text messages are so limiting in the UK and quite frankly seem rather primitive in light of this technology.  Another amazing thing about Keitai’s is the ability to pay electronically for just about anything.  Infra-red sensors on your phone are placed over a pad at cash points in convenience stores so there’s no need for a cash transaction.  Smart, but why not just use chip n’ pin bank cards?  Brendan Jenkins an English teacher in Japan commented about internet use on mobile phones in Japan: “This is one aspect of Japan that is interesting; I would say that a lot of the younger generation are more comfortable using the internet on their keitai than on a computer.”  I think this statement is very true.  And finally, in the interest of safety, Japanese phones send a message warning of an imminent earthquake just a few seconds before they hit –clever.

At the Office

The high school that I taught at was paying homage to everything “old school.”  Blackboards with chalk, wooden desks, no technology in the classroom –there was barely any electricity.  In the average classroom there was no chance to use a laptop as there was no overhead projector.  The amount of technology I could use in a classroom amounted to a CD player.  There was no central heating and in the winter, students sat at their desks with blankets around their laps.  I lived in Northern Japan and it gets extremely cold and snowy there.  And my school was not the worst, in fact, it was pretty much the norm.

Paper and chalk is the tradition at Japanese schools which means that IT skills are at a bare minimum.  There doesn’t seem to be the same focus on learning basic IT skills in Japan compared to the UK, which may explain why people are so resistant to embracing new technology.  Forgot about pupils for a second, teachers were poorly trained in IT skills, many of whom could not perform simple tasks, such as making a graph or adding a picture to a document.  The computers at my school were old and slow and in need of an upgrade.

The internet is barely used at school even by teachers.  This is a quick anecdote from a recent survey of foreign residents in Japan.  Here’s what one foreigner wrote: “When I ask a question to a colleague in the workplace and they can’t answer it, they ask others in the office, then it goes as far as family members, neighbours and friends.  In America we would just say, lets Google it.”  Google, Gmail, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube are not widely known or used in Japan.

Interesting, a fellow English teacher, Andrea McGovern was asked this question by a Japanese friend: “Do you think Japanese students are way behind western countries in using computers and technology?” and she said in a word, “Yes.”  Her friend said that he never used a computer until university.  And he’s not ancient, he’s 27.  This discussion about technology circulated around other foreign English teachers and they shared their views about the school they worked at.

Here are some of the revelations:

“The library has only 2 working computers and I have yet to find a computer room. Recently my 2nd years were asked to research an aspect of Japanese culture in order to teach a foreigner about it on their school trip. The students turned to books, some older than I am for information.”  Anonymous

“My Junior high school students seem to barely interact with any technology other than their TV’s and DS consoles.”  Andrea McGovern, NZ

“When I first arrived here 7 years ago I was amazed at how old and out-of-date the junior high schools seemed to be.  Only 1 out of 4 junior high schools that I go to even now has a western toilet, all have paraffin heaters in the classrooms which cause massive amounts of condensation, but none have air-con in the classrooms despite the heat and humidity in summer -only wall-mounted fans.”  Edmund Fec, UK

Schools in Japan are definitely lacking technology but slowly they are receiving more money for IT.  Japan spends a very small proportion of its GDP on education compared to other Organisation for Economic and Co-operation for Development (OECD) countries.  Until recently there was very little co-ordination of IT policy at schools even at a municipal level.  But not every school is stuck in a time warp, newer elementary schools that I went to have fantastic computer rooms and other good facilities.  Recently, every elementary and junior high school in Japan got a new large (over 40 inch) TV per classroom.  Ironically, a lot of them aren’t being used because they are too big to fit into the rooms.  My guess is that the schools had no say as to what size of screen they wanted.  Sounds like the Japanese government just bulk ordered TVs from China.

In the UK you’ll find “Wi-Fi” almost everywhere but in Japan there is virtually no “Wi-Fi” connection.  Internet at home is mostly connected from the modem by ethernet cable.  How backwards and limiting is that? In researching this story, so many people have reiterated this expectation of Japan: “I always thought of Japan as an amazing tech savvy country and found it quite the opposite living there.” Alexandra Robilliard, Australia. Alexandra also commented: “My senior high students were so fascinated when I told them that I keep in contact via Skype. I was a little surprised that none of them had ever heard of Skype whereas kids that age in Australia knew all about it.”

According to http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm Japan has a high percentage of internet users, a massive 78.2% but I think I can quickly tell you that most of that internet usage takes place on a mobile phone not a computer.  One interesting quirk about Japan is how anti- Apple they are.  Apple computers are scarce in Japan.  I was surprised to hear that Apple has not managed to infiltrate the market in Japan.  Back in 1996, Apple was keen to put their computers into Japanese schools but the answer from the Japanese Education Minister was a curt “No, Thank you.”  For some unexplained reason the Japanese are anti-Apple.  I knew people who had constant problems with their Macs in Japan.  Edmund Fec commented about his employer’s reaction to his Mac: “In Sakata city, I’m not even allowed to connect my Mac to the school LAN because Macs aren’t supported by the computer service company.”  When it came to setting up the internet in your apartment and you had a Mac, you were in for a long wait.  Alexandra Robilliard commented about the Internet Service Provider’s visit to her apartment: “They all arrived, see the Mac and there is the horrible intake of breath/sucking of teeth that makes me realise it will be a mission.”  Japanese people just can’t deal with Macs.

A quarter of Japan’s population are over 65 years old and they are not very IT-literate.  In the work place, superiors of an older generation haven’t come to grips with the technological advancements of the last 20 years.  Japanese offices are usually oversubscribed in manpower as this is seen as the traditional way to run a business.  You’ll find many people in jobs that have been obsolete in the UK for years.  There are people who still happily work calculations out on paper and store data in paper files rather than on a computer.  The offices I went to in Japan were all wall-to-wall jam packed with files and documents from the past couple of decades.

This bureaucratic nightmare became all too evident in July 2010 when an astonishing story hit the headlines in Japan.  The police found the mummified body of a man believed to be one Japan’s oldest at 111, but that’s not the alarming part.  The man’s 81 year old daughter had been collecting his pension for over 30 years.  She left his body in a room of their house and didn’t notify the authorities of his death.  This shocking revelation sent local authorities all over Japan checking up on their elderly.  The results were not favourable.  To date, Japanese authorities have not been able to find more than 280 citizens who were listed as being over 100 years old.  Once this story came out, many more followed; a Tokyo woman of 113 who had been last seen in the 1980’s,  a woman believed to be one of Japan’s oldest at 125 is also missing.  Authorities tried to find her at her last known address but when they got there, they discovered that the site had been turned into a park in 1981.  The New York Times wrote about the questions on everyone’s lips: “Is the country witnessing the results of pension fraud on a large scale, or, as most officials maintain, was most of the problem a result of sloppy record keeping? Or was the whole sordid affair, as the gloomiest commentators here are saying, a reflection of disintegrating family ties, as an indifferent younger generation lets its elders drift away into obscurity?” From my experience of the Japanese workplace, sloppy record keeping and non computerised records are the main culprit in this instance.

Japan was an advanced, tech hungry country 20 years ago but with its aging population and economic decline it seems that Japan has lost its sparkle.  Indeed, it still has many things that would blow your mind: a visit to Tokyo’s electric town or a trip on a bullet train, but your average visitor doesn’t see the real Japan behind its glowing neon lights.  They don’t see the bare classrooms, the old computers, the out of date technology clinging on for dear life, which has been long dead in the rest of the world.  But, the amazing thing about Japan is that it really has refined and polished so many wonderful everyday items.  Toilets, appliances, cars, navigation systems, TVs, trains, karaoke machines, vending machines, interactive restaurant menus, robotics.  None of these items were invented in Japan, but they glow with the aura of Japan; functionality and practicality.  All Japanese people should be proud of that.

Japan and Russia clash over island dispute

By Jen McClure

The disputed islands

Russian President, Dimitri Medvedev on Monday became the first Russian leader to visit the disputed Kuril Islands that lie north of Hokkaido, Japan. 

Medvedev’s visit has sparked a fresh debate over the ownership of the disputed islands. The Kurils are part of an archipelago that stretches from the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia to Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido.  The remote islands are home to only around 20,000 people, but grant access to prize fisheries and promising oil and gas fields.

Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan called the trip “regrettable.” Separately, Japanese Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara had previously warned that any visit would “hurt the feelings of the Japanese people.”

The islands were seized by Soviet troops during the aftermath of World War II and  have been cause for diplomatic concern ever since.  Japan’s dispute with Russia has divided the two countries for more than half a century, preventing them from signing a formal peace treaty to conclude World War II.

During the trip, Medvedev visited a kindergarten, a power station and a fishery, promising greater investment in the region.  He said, while visiting a family on the island, “We want people to remain here. Development is important here. We will definitely be investing money here.”  Later, Medvedev commented ,“There are so many beautiful places in Russia!”on his TwitPic page, under a photograph he had taken during his visit to the island.

Medvedev on the island

Diplomatic ties between Japan and Russia have been temporarily severed as Japan  recalled its ambassador from Moscow.  In response to the Japanese recalling their ambassador, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, claimed Tokyo’s “strong reaction was unacceptable.” He continued, “I don’t think we plan any steps on our side because we never undertook anything that would worsen our relations with Japan,” 

Russia has been left confused by the Japanese response. “It is our land,” said Mr. Lavrov, who promised to summon Tokyo’s ambassador to a personal meeting in Moscow “to once again confirm our position with all clarity and lack of ambiguity.”

Medvedev’s visit comes only weeks before the Asia Pacific Economic Co-Operation summit being held in Japan.  Medvedev is due to meet Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan.  When asked if this meeting will still go ahead, Japanese foreign minister, Maehara commented, “We will say what we ought to say, but our intention to aim for settling the territorial dispute with Russia and conclude a bilateral peace treaty to boost our two nations’ economic ties remains unchanged.”

Economic ties could be at stake over the dispute.  Japanese Economic Minister, Banri Kaieda commented, “Japan and Russia have deep ties when it comes to energy and natural resources development”.

Russia has no plans to succeed the territory and Medvedev has promised the region future visits.   The visit has shown Medvedev’s strong domestic agenda and his approval ratings are, for the first time, equal to those of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ahead of the country’s 2012 Presidential election.

Diving row hits Scotland

By Phil Turnbull

The Scotland versus Wales friendly match tomorrow is threatening to be overshadowed by the continuing row over diving.

In a week where Liverpool striker David N’Gog dived to win a penalty in a Premier League game against Birmingham, the diving row has now reached the international scene.

While Scotland hitman Kevin Kyle conceded he personally would take a dive in attempt to influence the outcome of a game, national team-mate James McFadden yesterday hit back, saying: “No way, I couldn’t dive”.

James McFadden (picture credit: skysports.com)

Birmingham striker McFadden said: “You try to play as fair as you can. You can foul for tactical reasons but I don’t think you can get away with a tactical dive.”

“I would not deliberately do that and try to con a penalty or to get a benefit because in the end you look stupid.”

Earlier in the week Kilmarnock striker Kyle admitted he would dive in a match if it helped Scotland to win.

Asked if he would take a tumble in the box, Kyle said: “I probably would because you go out on a Saturday afternoon just wanting your team to win at any cost and you take every opportunity that’s available to you.”

Kyle’s views are at odds not just with McFadden, but also SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith.

Smith has been at war with FIFA over players diving ever since Arsenal star Eduardo dived to win a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League Qualifiers, eliminating the Glasgow side in the process.

It is not known how SFA bosses will react to the conflicting points of view from their star strikers.

Meanwhile Scotland captain Darren Fletcher has been passed fit for the clash in Cardiff.

Darren Fletcher (picture credit: independent.co.uk)

The Manchester United playmaker had missed training on Wednesday, but has now been given a clean bill of health by the Scotland medical staff.

The decision will come as a relief to manager George Burley, who is already without Old Firm quartet Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thompson, Scott Brown and Shaun Maloney.

Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon also misses out due to a broken arm.

Scotland’s last friendly match, against Japan in Yokohama, was dogged by call offs that entered into double figures.

While the Scots have no such problems this time round, Wales have been hit by a raft of withdrawals.

Eight players, including £14 million Manchester City star Craig Bellamy, have pulled out of the Welsh squad, forcing manager John Toshack to select Swansea City centre-half Ashley Williams as his new captain.

Williams will be Toshack’s 11th skipper used in his five-year tenure as national team manager.

Wales versus Scotland kicks off at 3pm tomorrow at the Cardiff City Stadium, and is live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm.

Get Some Bottle: Dolphin Slaughtering in Japan

Dead dolphins after hunting
Dolphins after slaughter - photo courtesy of wendmag.com

By Rahsian Parris

With the new movie The Cove due to hit UK screens this month, the riveting depiction of the horrors surrounding Japanese Whale and Dolphin slaughtering has come at an ideal time. The beginning of hunting season.

Under the light of the warm summer sun herds of small children and adults alike pour into dolphinariums, theme parks and marine mammal parks to get a small glimpse of these spectacular creatures in action. The applause crescendos into a roar of happy cheers, a sea of smiling faces, as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet performs an array of playful tasks. Swimming backwards? Check! Balancing a ball on its nose? Check! The benevolent mammals seemingly have no qualms about jumping through hoops for their superiors, but when the sun starts to set, the doors begin to shut and the chill of the night air sets in, the only reminder of the joys of the day are the empty candy floss sticks stuck to the concrete floors.

Fast-forward a few months and in the small fishing town of Taiji, Japan, Dolphin hunting season has begun. Select fisherman of the 3,500 populated town, are poised in position, watching with stealth and trained eyes for a pod of dolphins. When the group are identified they are debilitated by fisherman who bang metal rods together in the water, disorientating the mammals and effecting their ultra sensitive sonars. The crippled animals are quickly driven into a cove blocked off by other boats and nets, trapped, they are left overnight to calm down. The next day the Dolphins are individually captured and then killed one by one. A sharp metal pin is driven into the neck of the Dolphin. It dies almost instantaneously. This method of killing is said to be less brutal than the previous method which has been made illegal in Japan, where after the Dolphin is separated from the other captives, its throat is slit and the Dolphin is left to violently convulse before its imminent death.

The hunt starts at the beginning of September, with the first day bringing in at least 100 Bottlenose Dolphins and maybe some Pilot Whales, but Japan’s annual quota is approximately 20,000 Dolphins. Aquariums can pay up to £90,000 for one of these Dolphins, but most of them are killed, their meat being sold for about £330 per carcass. Tickets for a show at a dolphinarium can cost as little as £20.

It has been argued that Whale and Dolphin hunting is part of the Japanese tradition, that the meat gathered during the hunts becomes part of  the local dishes, which are part of the culture, which is paramount to the identity of the nation, however, after capture, the slaughtering takes place very much under wraps, behind (several) closed doors (barriers), as far away from prying eyes as it is from patriots. Although there are several organizations that continuously strive to put a stop to the slaughtering of Dolphins and Whales in Japan, and on a smaller scale, in other places, drive hunting, as it is known, continues to be a serious, global, animal welfare issue.

One activist in particular has been making a stand for over three decades. Ex-Dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry is a dedicated campaigner against the atrocities of drive hunting, saying “I’ve been working with dolphins for most of my life. I watched them give birth. I’ve nursed them back to health. When I see what happens in this cove in Taiji, I want to do something about it.” In his new film The Cove he seeks to uncover the truth surrounding the multi-billion dollar Dolphin entertainment industry that he himself use to endorse (O’Barry captured and trained all 5 Dolphins that were used in the television series “Flipper”). The movie seeks to expose, educate and inspire people into action, showing the reality of the blood thirsty industries that hide behind sugar coated notions and sun kissed dreams.

Over a montage of breath taking clips of Dolphins swimming out at sea, coupled with grim, savage scenes filmed on hidden cameras by O’Barry’s team of activists, we hear the voice-over “If I destroy anything in nature, I’m taking it away from myself and the human race has to wake up to that, because we’re losing it all and we’re losing it at a horrifying rate.” and suddenly you are taken back to those fond, sun drenched, childhood memories where the summers are extra long and the future is a certainty, yet the in the back of your mind an image lingers and in this image there are no hoops, no beach balls, no tomorrow.

The Cove is in cinemas from the 23rd of October



Of Whales and Men

by Aly Fraser- 8th October ’09

Sea ShepherdsThe Institute for Cetacean research in Japan recently released its kill figures for the 2008/2009 Antarctic whaling season. Of the quota of 935 Minke whales 679 were caught and only 1 of the desired 50 endangered Fin whales. However this was not the fault of nature;

This season’s catch was reduced as a result of the interference by protesters,” said Japanese Fisheries Agency Spokesman Shigeki Takaya.

Japan has come under fire from a whole host of nations concerning their whaling industry. They maintain that a requisite number of whales must be killed each year for ‘Cetacean Research’ and for the general health of whale stocks. Many authorities, charities and organizations feel it is just a thinly veiled cloak for Japans fervent commercial whaling industry.

For a number of years the two biggest charities involved in anti-whaling, Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, have tried their best to hinder and stop Japanese factory boats from whaling in the Antarctic seas. They claim whaling is wrong, unnecessary, cruel and inhumane. They use a number of methods including physical contact with Japanese boats, boarding vessels, throwing a number of deterrents at the boat and crew alike. Part of the Sea Shepherds mission statement reads;

“Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas”

Recent releases on the Japanese Whaling Association website has reported of dangerous terrorists attacks on a number of vessels in its fleet by Greenpeace and the Australian-backed Sea Shepherd. President of the Japanese Whaling Association Mr Keiichi Nakajima has warned of the dangers of such actions;

“Past activities of Greenpeace have been responsible for vessel collisions that risk the lives and safety of our researchers and crew and are illegal under international maritime law”.

If someone came into your workplace or office and starting throwing stink-bombs at you if they didn’t agree with your source of income would you would have right to complain. Rightly so. It has been argued that this terrorizing of working men trying to make a living is unjust. However many believe that this is a necessary evil that will help the survival of all the protected whale species in the Southern Seas.

A Christmas Carol

by Otis Shaw

dcp_0022As I sat in the Senso-ji Temple gardens in Tokyo, desperately trying to find a plausible connection between the colonial adventures of Lord Jim and the `inconvenience` of Japan`s homeless. I was startled by the sounds of reindeer bells. I closed the chapter on Lord Jim and looked up to see a short, swollen, women, dressed in ill-fitting clothes. The bells were embedded in the tinsel that bound her dress. Layers of nylon and wool protected her from the winter chill, held tight against her body like the layers of an onion. Her body armour displayed colours only to be found in a children`s department store. The size 8, hooded top was adorned with green men from outer space. The word “alien” held aloft in a speech bubble. Her lime green woollen hat, identified her as `one of them`.

Struggling under the weight of her garments, her buckled feet, squeezed into abandoned trainers, the old women rocked to and fro, as she weaved in and out of the temple benches. An imaginary maze set up to constrict her daily routine. From her dry, chapped lips, she delicately whispered a prayer. The words were repeated over and over, like a sweet Christmas carol, closing the doors to all those others and protecting her from harm.

japanese-homeless-stylish-homes2Those unfortunate people who awake from their cardboard hell every Christmas, hidden away amongst the maze of shopping malls in Asakusa, seek refuge during the day in the Senso-ji Temple grounds. Japan`s aristocracy stroll past these vagrants, their eyes filtering through these woollen outcasts and focusing on the many food stalls encroaching the entrance to the temple.

Thousands upon thousands of visitors pour into the main hall in order to catch a glimpse of the sacred Boddhisattva Kannon statue and whisper a prayer to themselves before disgarding any loose change into the offerings box.

As I sat in the corner of the hall, visitors, local and foreign, bounced of each other, never really experiencing physical or eye contact, finally departing through the exit. I couldn`t help but think of the giant pinball arcades, filled with erogenous slot machines, that line every major city in Japan. A plaque at the side of the inner sanctum was almost completely ignored by thirsty revellers. It read;

Over the years, Buddhism, which originated in the fifth century B.C.E., diverged into two main branches: Hiinayaana which holds that adherents should faithfully follow the teachings of founder Buddha Shakyamuni, to reach enlightenment themselves, and Mahaayaana, which teaches that the faithful should not only seek their own enlightenment, but also help the suffering … Believers in Buddhism gave these figures concrete forms, creating sculptures of them, which they worshipped. Boddhisattva Kannon is one among many Bodhisattvas, and since early times has been widely worshipped by Japanese in particular. Bodhisattva Kannon is also the most merciful of the Bodhisattvas, sent to relieve human misery on Earth.


Many Japanese believe that their hopes and pleas will reach this deity. In particular, the Bodhisattva Kannon worshipped at Senso-ji has been an unparalleled source of benefits and miracles over the centuries, and has saved and protected countless people since its appearance in this world. Faith in the Bodhisattva Kannon, which has supported Senso-ji and drawn many people to this temple, consists of opening one`s heart and living by the merciful spirit of Bodhisattva Kannon and at the same time showing mercy to others in daily life. We hope that visitors to Senso-ji will join their hands in prayer, receive the merciful spirit of the Boddhisattva Kannon into their hearts and pray that they can bestow that mercy upon others.

On that note, the popular front, continuing to overspend at Christmas, pray that Santa has slipped another blank cheque-book into their stocking. As the world economy skates on thin ice, shouldn’t we be building more cardboard boxes before we fork out for another plasma television?

Arigatou gozaimasu.

Cosmetic Surgery Creating Closer Links Between East and West

 By Melissa Wong

For oriental women, the ability to access cosmetic methods to enhance a more western look has reached another level as they embrace eyelash extensions.

In Japan, women have become fanatical with the new craze.  The painstaking specialist salon procedure involves a hair by hair attachment of synthetic lashes taking at least 45 minutes to apply.  This has become the latest beauty fad for Japanese eyelash-extension_1202231cwomen as they attempt to adopt a more western look. 

The new cosmetic procedure has become widely popular with women of all ages. For the 20 somethings, this is the chance to emulate their manga heroines and for the middle-aged, a more sophisticated appearance.

Asuka Miyajima, 24, who works for a fashion firm said: ‘I do it for fun. Your eyes look so much wider and bigger.  It looks like mascara but lasts about two weeks. And you don’t have to put on too much make-up.”

The common interpretation of the oriental facial feature has been frequently manipulated by many beauty crazes. Women are already undertaking other cosmetic procedures such as painful operations to lengthen their legs as well as skin peels or laser treatments to adopt a paler feature.  Now, with the new  phenomenon of permanent eyelash extensions to make eyes look bigger, it can be anticipated that other options to make an oriental person look more western will appear in the market.

It appears that this paranoia to disguise oriental features has become a common thing within the oriental community and it can be argued as to how far women will go to look more ‘westernised’.