Great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami

I actually have a lot of articles planned right now, all lying dormant due to a momentary dip in language-studying momentum and real-life happenings. Yet all those things pale in face of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami which has rocked northern Japan.

Last Thursday I went to bed at a decent time, for once. At that point, all I had heard was of a relatively light earthquake in Japan a day or so earlier, which I hoped to be the most of it (I thought something big had already happened). I would wake up and see a frantic Twitter and news of a much bigger earthquake at hand, destruction in Sendai and nearing areas abounding; friends worrying about family; movie-like images streamed and posted on Youtube which were, in fact, real.

Japan is basically on one giant fault, so they're pretty prepared for things like this, but STILL.

Nature was taking a big toll on Japan, with aftershocks left and right, and even a volcano erupting, and in the meantime some seriously idiotic things have been said (I just want to be clear — I don’t tolerate this; these people should be branded for life for their brazen stupidity). In the wake of it all, nuclear happenings at the Fukushima nuclear plant as a result of the quake/tsunami are getting everyone tense; some say it’s really bad, and others say it’s not nearly as bad — no one’s quite sure who to believe. (Though, I think since I began writing this, the Japanese have kind of gotten angry with the sensationalistic news reporting.) At this moment, the nuclear topic is still being discussed fervently. It has even gotten the Emperor to address the people directly on TV for the first time.

I didn’t blog about all this right away because honestly, I have no idea what to say — many Japan bloggers, news outlets, and others have been relentless in their coverage and are doing the best they can for it, and amazingly so. The news gets out there, quickly and in a big way (dominating all top trending topics on Twitter on the 11th), and surely I can do no better to spread news or add anything than English speakers in Japan themselves. All I could do was sit at my computer gawping; here I was making sure some of my newly-acquainted friends residing in Japan were okay (they are, for the most part), which didn’t take long, and watch various news streams throughout the day on Friday and parts of Saturday, checking in on them whenever I could afterward. Others were panicking about friends and family, JETs and others in Japan. Though, for my own reasons, I, too, was very shaken. I watched Obama address the situation on TV, wondering how it would all pan out.

My main Twitter account’s dashboard is still abuzz with news, for which I am thankful; the Twitter dashboard for this blog’s account is still running with news, so much so that it’s hard to discern immediately what is accurate when something is immediately reported (many tweets without source links). I had never seen information roll out quite like this before, and especially not for a country like Japan.

I don’t like making reactionary posts. It’s against my nature, and doesn’t fit with what I do (I could never be a news reporter). So, I’ve been sitting on this article for over a week. I feel as though I can’t continue blogging until I at least acknowledge what happened. And I wanted to do that justice.

One good thing is that this earthquake really isn’t as bad as it could have been…but it’s still pretty awful. I actually admire the preparation involved and the resolve of the people over there. Even more, another good thing is how forthcoming people have been in donating, even in hard economic times. I feel I owe a lot to Japan; besides just loving the culture, it has shaped a good chunk of my life, even indirectly. I was playing Japanese games before I even realized it, games which made an impact on my life and the way I think; Japanese comics opened me to a world where comics were, in fact, not niche in and of themselves. Such creations, culture, and more have inspired me in a powerful way, as they have many others. It’s undeniable, something I embrace openly. It’s really the kind of inspiration I certainly can’t shake off and leave neatly in a boxed past. So, I feel as though I should do something.

What I can do, at least, is link to some of the best sources of news/resources/visuals that I keep referring to over the past weeks.

Resources relating to this incident

Gakuranman

How to help without donating (Tofugu)

Google Person Finder

KeyHole TV for live Japanese television

BBC News

Al Jazeera English

Also, my lists on Twitter follow accounts with lots of information still coming up.

Charity Considerations

Charity Navigator

How to give DIRECTLY to Japan

GlobalGiving caught my eye early on, both because it accepts Paypal as a payment method (a big factor for me, as I avoid using credit) and because its founder is Japanese. It has given updates on how the money’s being used so far.

Art for Japan, in which I will be participating, and will probably make another post about soon.

Aftershock: Artists Respond to Disaster in Japan

CFSL Tsunami Project

Streams

NHK

TBS

Yokoso News

Al Jazeera English

I would advise against watching the American all-day news networks. Any of them. Ever.

Images

Before/After Quake

Aftermath

Big Picture

Artists of JUMP send messages of hope

 

Other

Badass of the Week – Hideaki Akaiwa (for diving into a tsunami to save his wife)

Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival: now the Nashville Cherry Blossom Japan Relief Event, where you can donate directly to Japan through the Tennessee Tomodachi Fund. It’s this weekend, and I’m going to it. (More info here, too.)

Information about how radiation works to help quell fears related to any lack of knowledge/rumors you may have

Video (under cut)

Continue reading Great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami

Jun Seba and Satoshi Kon

In February, Jun Seba passed away — accidentally, in a car accident (caused by an earthquake?). Most people didn’t know until about a month later. People like you and me knew him as Nujabes, and perhaps started listening to his music more after seeing Samurai Champloo for the first time. For everyone, it was amazingly sad; you’re never prepared to hear about someone with influence in your life, someone still so young, just up and leaving this world, and you’re never sure what to do afterward. You don’t think of such people as invincible, but you do think things like “someday I may meet them, even briefly.”

Nujabes

With his record label, Hydeout Productions, he collaborated with people from all over, music that could touch souls from all the way across the sea. He produced music like no one else had. His enlightening hip hop beats helped me get through a rough patch in my life… not all music can do that.

It’s people like him I look up to — real innovators, with real passion, inspiring all who hear his music. People like that are of real value to the world…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qU2MXeAz1E[/youtube]

…which is why it comes as a shock to most of the world, especially the creative world, that now, just Wednesday, Satoshi Kon has also died. Prevalent in the famous director’s work was a real unconventional approach to heady topics in animation, much different than anime and movies in general.

Director Satoshi Kon

His last words, posthumously publicized, have been unofficially translated. I cried…I felt emotional for a good part of the day. No one knew about the nature of his condition until nigh the very end; understandable, as he had his reasons… I especially respect someone who admits his own flaws, who obviously has reverence for other people, with maturity in coming to terms with things. I want to cry again…

This has lit a fire under me to finally see more of his works. I’ve been intending to see the rest of Paranoia Agent for ages… Kon’s work is intriguing in a way that snags me, questioning the perspectives of characters, of viewers, of people, probing the mental, the subconscious, the emotional. I watched Paprika with friends the other day, and I can recommend it to anyone.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERaLC28EaQo[/youtube]

Thanks for doing what you did, Kon and Seba. We’re all glad you did what you loved and enjoyed it. Your influence will be seen in the world for ages to come.

Kobayashi Not Allowed to Put Other People’s Hot Dogs in His Mouth

News about this is EVERYWHERE. Takeru Kobayashi, famous Japanese hot-dog-eater, wasn’t allowed to eat in this year’s Coney Island Fourth of July hot dog eating contest! According to THE NEWS, it’s because he refused to sign an exclusivity contract with Major League Eating, the major leagues of eating contests…because there’s more than one, apparently.

On that, I’m with Kobayashi, but not so much on the crashing-the-competition-and-then-getting-arrested part. It’s not a good idea to resist the police just because you want attention, either. I’m sure this will all be worked out eventually. Don’t compromise your hot dog eating freedom, Kobayashi!

While I’m at it, here, watch this commercial featuring two hot dog champions going at it in a convenience store. I couldn’t even remember what this commercial was for until I watched it again just now:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMTfYRpbyAA[/youtube]

Ambassadors of Kawaii

Kawaii is more than just a word meaning “cute” to be thrown around by 14-year-old manga fans on deviantArt. In Japan, it’s an entire culture, one that has captured the hearts of many and slowly creeped its way westwards to claim others as well. Good thing, too: I’m weak to adorable and tiny things. Very weak.

Sweet lord.
Sweet lord.

Japan has pretty much cornered the market on cute. And since Japan appointed a cartoon ambassador of anime last year, it stands to reason that the next step would be appointing (non-cartoon) ambassadors of cuteness.

They're so cute it's killing me
They're so cute it's killing me

It’s no surprise they’re already popular in Harajuku. They look like they stepped right out of anime. They might start glittering and undergo a magical transformation at any moment…and then giggle innocently, completely unaware of why you gape and stare.

Foreign Ministry head of cultural affairs Tsutomu Nakagawa said this:

“We want people abroad to know these kind of people exist in Japan and to feel close to them.”

I think what would surprise us more is letting us know that people other than this exist in Japan. Because, let’s face it — all these foreign otaku and other sorts obsessed with Japan abroad would like to think one out of every two Japanese people they would encounter would appear to be this way.

Anyway, I like it. I’m all about style, and “kawaii” never dies. Japan already has huge cultural appeal, but still seems aloof to many. This will help.

SMAP Member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi Runs Around Naked at Night; Fangirls Miss Out

Yes, it’s true; the only people to have seen Kusanagi’s nude (and drunkenly disgraceful) glory the other night were policemen and people legitimately concerned for their own well-being.

Hinokicho Park. 3 AM. Kusanagi, drunk, just feels like being naked in a park. Is that so wrong? Arrested while chilling on the grass, I see a surreal humor in this. He’s the least-outspoken member of SMAP and certainly looks the part.

Party boy. KYODO PHOTO
Party boy.

In everything, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy; then again, you realize what a discomfort it is to everyone else when someone is drunk, even more when someone is drunk and wants to take off all his clothes right next to you.

And to say this guy was drunk is a vast understatement: dude was pissed out of his mind. Ten rounds of sake will do that to a fella.

This presents a problem: his face is everywhere. Companies commercially associated with him are considering blacklisting him (or already have). For a little drunken mid-night nudity, it seems harsh, yet may very well be justified, as I can’t imagine him appearing anywhere anymore without someone bringing up his “scene”. Now all his planned appearances and TV commercials have been canceled. You’d think he killed a guy.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m affected as a fan (flash back to when I discovered Daishi Kajinaga was arrested for possession of cocaine and measure my reaction against this – basically, I was heartbroken); I’m not much for pop, and the only song of SMAP’s I’ve ever heard was one in Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2, in which I liked the female cover more than the actual song.