Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tokyo, the Megacity That Works

See, it's so not so bad living here. I hope everyone is having a good day.

Tokyo, the Megacity That Works

by Frank Zeller
Wed Jun 22, 3:48 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – On a satellite image of the Earth at night, there is no brighter spot. Greater Tokyo, home to an astonishing 35 million people, is by far the biggest urban area on the planet.
The most amazing thing about it, say its many fans, is that it works.


Although Tokyo dwarfs the other top megacities of Mumbai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and New York, it has less air pollution, noise, traffic jams, litter or crime, lots of green space and a humming public transport system.

American writer Donald Richie, who first came to Tokyo in 1947 and recently published the coffee table book "Tokyo Megacity", has dubbed Japan's massive capital and primary city the "livable megalopolis".

Many visitors marvel at the politeness and civility that, along with the nation's wealth, have helped Tokyo avoid the pitfalls of other big cities that have become polluted, noisy and dangerous urban nightmares.

Amid the neon-lit street canyons, thoroughfares for millions every day, small shrines and quaint neighbourhoods survive as oases of tranquility, largely shielded from blights such as graffiti and vandalism.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Understanding Cultural Identities

     As the semester begins its last half here in Japan, papers are being written. I've mentioned before the classes I'm taking in a previous post, but this is a paper, intended to be a short response of 300 words, that was to ask the question below. The question's response quickly ballooned into a much longer answer, but I feel I answered it better with 850+ words than I would have with 300. I've included links in the transcript below, so I hope some of you will watch the videos my response is referring to. They are all available on YouTube, and worth the energy.

Nerd In Japan

    What does it mean to be Japanese (and/or American), when these national identities form around an international component?

    Various forms of media have been used as a tool, and a means, to cross-culturally pollinate understanding and self-reflection between seemingly opposite cultures of the world. Media affords us the ability to use satire, comedy, opinion and various other formats to question the different perspectives that make up our understandings of ‘truth’ concerning the differences between cultures arbitrarily divided into ‘East’ and ‘West.’

    What it means to be of a particular culture depends on what parts of that culture you value, see as a valid demonstration of that culture, and understand as being vital for that cultures existence. Very few definitions of a single culture will adhere to all individuals living within, and identifying themselves as a member of the culture. The examination of an opposite culture (or a perception of an opposite nature) from your own has the ability to allow self-reflection on how you understand the supposed different culture from which you come. By approaching a cultural concept you feel as opposite of your own, you immediately begin to relate to the culture as being the things you are not, if it is truly opposite.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Building a solar energy economic zone along Japan’s east coast

     I stumbled upon an article on the possible future of energy in Japan. Let me know what you think. A direct link to the article can be found here.

    In the wake of Japan’s 11 March disaster, a solar energy economic zone should be constructed along the east coast of the Tohoku region.

June 15th, 2011 — Author: Haruo Shimada, Chiba University of Commerce

Photo AAP
Local firefighters look at debris in Rikuzentakata city, Iwate prefecture on March 29, 2011. (Photo: AAP)

    The damage to the Tohoku region is extensive and profound in so many areas and aspects. To recover from all this devastation, reconstruction of the most severely damaged areas of Tohoku should aim to provide hope for the future, presenting a new direction for Japan to the international community, re-empowering the region and providing employment opportunities to people in the afflicted areas.

    Solar energy economic zones, centring on the devastated east coast of the Tohoku region, should be established. This zone would produce five types of energy: (1) solar energy generated by solar panels using sunshine, (2) wind power energy generated by windmills, (3) geothermal energy generated by geothermal power plants, (4) biomass energy generated from unused wood, grass and seaweed, and (5) tidal energy generated by tidal power plants. Essentially, these energies all stem from solar energy. One could also add hydropower as a natural energy source, although this should be derived from technology other than dams, given the detrimental effects to ecological balance brought on by dam construction.

    The construction of a solar energy economic zone in the Tohoku region would be meaningful in several senses: it would help Japan establish an optimal energy mix for the near future; it would represent the right direction for a new Japan to extend to the international community by reducing CO2 emissions and the risk of radioactive leaks; it would provide hope and a pride-building objective for afflicted residents; it would provide substantive employment opportunities in the region; and it would contribute to the development of new industries and more robust R&D foundations.

    From this, two aspects deserve special consideration: an optimal energy mix and its international implications, and the construction of a solar energy economic zone in the devastated areas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Last Month, Part 1 of ???

     I could start by saying, “it’s been awhile…” But, I don’t really want to dwell on the absence. Things are, if not ideal, certainly busy for my life in Japan. I almost forget everything that has happened. Furthermore, this blog (as I knew it would be) is a lot of work to do, in addition to the classes. Speaking of classes…ouch. It is amazing just how difficult it is for me to learn the Japanese language. Though, I will continue to try. I will not give up, but I might take really long breaks from time to time.

Budokan Surroundings
The above photo is a view of the surrounding area of the Budokan, to be explained further down.

     I find that the hardest bits for me, in becoming more proficient with the language, are the acquisition of new vocabulary. I do not have the type of mind that associates one word/sound with the meaning of another. I can however understand and quickly process/learn kanji. I think it is the pictoral nature of kanji, paired with my way of visually learning. I might not be able to read aloud a Japanese sentence, but I can at least gleam some kind of meaning from them (sometimes), even if I couldn’t tell you the actual word it depicts. I am curious how many other people have the same trouble in learning Japanese, or any other language for that matter.

     I do hope that people understand that I am not trying to be modest of my Japanese ability. I really am not that good at this whole “learning-a-second-language” thing. I might figure it out one day, but it will be very slow moving till then. I am happy to report, however, that my frustrations with learning Japanese have not hurt my love of Japanese culture and learning more of it. I am able to understand some things with a new lens, while realizing things about Japanese culture I don’t think I could learn in a book, or by watching a movie.

     Now, about my experiences here. I have started Aikido (ish) and have become an official member (I think) of the Aiki Budo club on the TGU campus. I’ve explored much more of my area around my dormitory. I’m cooking more exciting things, with the purchase of a grill. And… I’ve lost weight.

     Aikido first. I have attended a month’s worth of classes. So far for this month I have been unable to attend, due to finances and time concerns. I feel that it is a shame that the reason stopping me from doing things while here in Japan seems so petty. I had known that things wouldn’t be cheap here, but I failed to plan for some other costs. Shoganai (Japanese meaning, “nothing can be done,” or, “it cannot be helped”).