Category: Culture

30 Mar

Report From Tokyo 4-Danger of Drinking Water

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments


(This is the 4th report from a Tokyo resident)

It was quite predictable that we would have a problem with the water. Even that, it was just a bad timing.


The situation was calming down after the quake on the 11th of March and the government, AC, the media and the individual level, we were all together trying to stop people buying up foods and toilet rolls. The distribution was also recovering. We were just about to have a fresh start.

water purifying plant

Then… it began to rain in the metropolitan area for three days. The rain absorbed high level of radioactivity in the air and fell over the water purification plants.


Before that, there was a restriction over the shipment of some products produced in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, yet most of the people in Tokyo must've thought it was a someone else's problem.


As to the radiation, the government until then had been saying that there would be no “immediate” effect to human body (what a irresponsible comment). Then suddenly they changed their opinion and told us not to give the tap water to babies and infants. It did arise the panic especially among Japanese young mothers.

At last, Tokyo had realised how serious the problem was.


In general, women are more careful about what they eat and drink than men. If it's for their children, they will be even more cautious and this triggered them to buy up all the bottles of water.

water for kids

The worst thing was this panic didn't stay only in Tokyo but extended to Kansai area and then to Kyushu area.


As a result, now in Japan we are short of water.



It's normal for mothers to protect their own children more than the moral under the circumstances like this.



mothers buying water

One early morning, I heard a noise coming from the supermarket behind my house. When I peeked through the window, there was a crowd of people who came for water, majority were young women with their family members to get a bottle more.


I was watching them from my window of the second floor. A family came out from the supermarket and opened the boot to put the stuff . They must've been various shops already, I saw the boot full of bottles of water and nappies.

water stock

Japan was known as a country where the water was clean and free but not anymore. Now this is one of the country where has the “dirtiest” water in the world. How ironic!


In this connection, CCJ (Coca Cola Japan) has already arranged to import the water from South Korea.


On the contrary, I was in Shibuya in Tokyo for my project and saw groups of high school girls walking down the street without masks, and what's more, gulping a cup of juice from some famous fast-food shop which is made tons of tap water… I was just stunned by such ignorance.


By the way, I'm an alcohol lover and had quite amount of chaser and water stock. So until now, I haven't needed to rush to the supermarket for a bottle. Well, it doesn't mean I can use water as much as I need, and it seems like I need to cook rice with some tonic water tonight, hahaha.

But there is no other choice. I'm really tired of eating packed preserved food. I want some warm rice.


29 Mar

Oshaku is a Japanese manner-Serve beer properly

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

Last month, serving Belgian beer conmetition in Japan was held in Ginza, Tokyo. It was Reiko Tsuchiya who won.

miss tsuchiyaApparently the taste of beer changes depending on the way of serving it and there are 9 points to do it in the right way; way of washing the gless, the angle of the glass when pour the beer, the thickness of the form (about two-finger) etc…

Miss Tsuchiya will participate in the world competition which will be held in the end of this month in London. Perhaps she is already there and serving the beer. Good luck to her.


Japan consumes quite amount of beer a year. Statistics of the consumption of the beer in 2009 shows Japan consumed 5,982,000kl. and came the 7th in the world. (reference from  Kirin Holdings Ltd.)


It's normal in the business scene that younger salary men serve (oshaku-お酌) older salary men. To know how to oshaku correctly is one of the Japanese manners in the society. It was the first lesson I received at the welcome drinking party in the university.

kirin beerThis is the mystique, three step serving.

1. First slowly then lift the bottle highet in order to make foam.

2. Leave for a moment until the foam lows to half then pour beer until the foam reaches the edge of the glass.

3. Leave it for another moment then pour slowly until the foam comes up 1.5cm higher than the edge of the glass. Here you have super creamy foamed beer.

If you learn this and serve beer properly to your boss, you will get respect by Japanese co-workers as a person with a good Japanese manner.


Here, the video shows how to serve beer properly. The movement is beautiful and when it's done perfectly, even a glass of beer looks so dignified.


Now, I have to admit that I'm not a beer drinker, in general not much of an alcohol fun. One, because I've got typical oriental gene that cannot process alcohol and two, because of the experience I had in the first year of Uni had left me a bit of trauma.

In Japan, back then when I was an university student and until recent, it was a sort of tradition that older students obligated new students to drink. Of course as they are poor students, most of the time they drink the cheapest drink which is beer.


My first year in uni I joined a club, we were only 8 new students in this club. As a tradition, the older students took us to an Izakaya. We were sit in a line and in front of us, there were 10 glasses of beer each.

One of the seniors said, "Welcome to our club. We are happy to receive you guys. Now we like to have a little ceremony as our tradition. You will start to drink all the glasses and the last person have to drink this." He lifted a glass of Shochu.

Eh huh. So after drinking 10 glasses of beer all at once (Ikki-nomi) then as a penalty, someone had to drink another at least 25°C of shochu. Great.

new studentsI explained to them that I couldn't drink alcohol but obviously it wasn't accepted.

So I drank the first one.

Within a second, the back of my ears started boiling and I could felt my face was getting hot.

One senior saw me this radical change and stopped me before I reached the second glass. What a relief but the rest of the students continued to drink. Only boy in that year lost and he drank extra shochu glass…. which came out directly from his mouth with everything.


serving sake

In the next three years, I became a care taker of other students. Making sure the person lying on the corner of the room was breathing or not vomitting. Helping a girl trying to go to the loo but couldn't stand up etc..

The problem is when your senior does oshaku you beer (or any alcohol), you have to drink it as a manner. Even though you suffer from it as a junior, the tradition will be repeated in the next year, you as a senior.

I never liked this type of Nomi-kai (drink party) and way of drinking (Ikki-nomi). Since then, I can't drink beer.


This tradition, Ikki-nomi had became a social problem since many young people were taken to hospital because of alcohol intoxication. The data is a little old but in 2009, 9,435 people were taken to hospital because of that. I'm talking about after the society considered this as a serious problem and had a big promotion about it. Just before in 2005, about 13,585 people were taken to hospital because of alcohol intoxication. Some of them die and the majority are young people in their 20's. My counsin was one of them. Someone found him unconscious and took him to the hospital. He was there all night with a drip and survived fortunately.



Cherry blossom has started blooming already in Tokyo and there will be many Hanami nights in Japan.

I just hope no one will suffer from this Japanese "manner" based on the silly hierarchical system.

Say NO to Ikki-nomi!

29 Mar

Report From Tokyo 3 – Manipulation of Information

Juju Kurihara 2 Comments

This is the third report from a Tokyo resident

Since I escaped from Tokyo, the people of Fukushima Daiichi have been working on it so hard to solve the problem and although the situation is still serious, the rectors seem to be under control.


Yet, I'm seeking all the information about the nuclear plant in the net and making reference for my next move.

I would imagine that after the quake, many Japanese people are rely on the net to get information.

Comparing to the time when Hanshin earthquake or Niigata earthquake happened, the importance of the internet has expanded deeply in our daily life.


chain mailCommunication network and social network such as SNS have also spread all over the world.

Maybe many of us don't believe what the government and the authorities say to us.


Or maybe we prefer to get over this situation with other people rather than doing it alone.

The information is a weapon.

For example when the earthquake happened on the 11th of March, there were many short messages and tweeting like

“The cupboard fell over and I'm stuck, anyone in my neighbourhood, please help me” or

“To the people who cannot go home because of the suspension of the train, we open our office and the bathroom to anyone who needs to stay”.


Moreover, people who had radiation monitors cooperated and started reporting the level of the radioactivity voluntarily on Ustream.

The internet links goodwill to goodwill and there are people who are saved by that for sure.

However, at the same time, the information can direct people to the wrong direction mercilessly.

The good example for this is the radiation problem of Fukushima Daiichi which has thrown people into this endless fear.


For instance:

gargleTo get rid of the iodine remained inside the body because of being exposed to the radioactivity, drink gargle”

Then gargle disappeared from the pharmacy.

no gargle




“It's good to eat a lot of sea weeds to get rid of the iodine”

There were no packages of sea weeds and kelp from the supermarkets.

wakameno wakame










Moreover, there were chain mails going around saying,

“A fire broke out in the fuel storage of an oil company in China. Don't go outside when it rains because the rain is contaminated”

cosmosekiyuenjyouchain mail 2







The sad thing is these rumors must have started with the best of intentions at the beginning.

But in the reality, the information is also a threatening.


On top of this, the media kept broadcasting the things which provoked our fear by repeating “this is the XXX times more radiation amount than usual” rather than insisting the safety.


newscasterPerhaps the newscasters themselves were getting numb with this horror. One day, during a report from the devastated area, one of the casters without realising she had a microphone said “That's funny.”


Another newscaster, while they were showing the TV conference of the prime minister made comments like…


“C'mon, nuclear plant again?”

“Hahahaha, it just makes me laugh”


In the last few days, finally the medias started announcing the safety of the situation.

But I think it's not so easy to recover things once you loose them. Such as the people or houses they have lost by the earthquake, or the trust the nuclear plant and TEPCO have lost through these weeks.

Phishing sites asking the donation is one of the phenomenon under such circumstances and there were many in Japan after the quake.

Then so many guessing and rumors have started flying around.

(to be continued)


28 Mar

Give Us That Hosepipe. US Robot Firefighters to Rescue Japan

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

The other day I wrote about my wonder over the robot rescue in Japan. I've read in various blogs and articules people were talking about the same thing. It's just bizarre that none of our super robots have been helping the dangerous operations.

But now, finally! Here comes robots rescue team! Not from Japan but from the US.

They are Packbot and Warrior, both robots are created by Massachusetts based robots maker, iRobot.



Packbot has been working in Afghanistan to detect bombs. 

According to iRobot, they don't know for which porpuse they can use this robot yet but probably it will be used for observation and detection of dangerous objects.




Here, in this video you can see the capacity of Packbot. Wow, how tough it is! This is like Terminator.



Another robot "iRobot 710 Warrior is a powerful and rugged robot that carries heavy payloads, travels over rough terrain and climbs stairs while performing a variety of critical missions" (Ref. from iRobot website)

 As they can carry heavy thing up t o100kg, Warrior may be introduced to Japan to help Japanese firefighters to sprinkle water to the rectors.

Here is the video of Warrior


Up to now, it seems like Japanese super robots have failed. They have pretty faces but are not practical?


In the early stage, it was also American army who flew their unmanned aircraft, Global Hawk to observe the condition and the level of radoactivity of Fukushima Daiichi.

But why? I still don't understand. In overseas, people always talk about robots and technology in Japan and I always wonder if I have ever associated my daily life with robots. Maybe not.

So here comes to rescue us US technology. It's a little shame for Japanese technology team. But hey, I really prefer to sacrifice robots' life than human life.


robo q controllerAlso I think I've found one of the reason for that. I mean if you think about practicality, having this sort of controller can't be good.

This is the controller for Robo Q which I explained in other articule. They work in the devastated area or war scene but not in a exhibition hall.


PackBot_with_game_style_controllerAnd this is the controller for Packbot. With this, they can go any severe sight. This is more plactical.


Japan has abandoned wars but we are always being threatened by natural disasters and we do need robots that work. Those which make amazing ice creams are also fun and pretty but please, Japanese robots engineers, make something that does its role!



24 Mar

Super Robots vs Human – Catastrophe in Japan

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

Itś been two week since this nightmare stated in Japan. Each day less news about Japan on TV in overseas as they've found a new target… Libya, or perhaps it because Elizabeth Taylor passed away. However the problem and the rescue continues in Japan.

A few days ago, it was announced that the water in Tokyo is contaminated and we shouldn't let children to drink the tab water. People rushed to the shops and now all the bottle water has disappeared from Tokyo even from the vending machines. 

Japanese people who didn't shout a word seem to be a little more panicked because it's something to threat their children. Then people wonder "what are they really doing to save us?"


firemen 1Yes, they are working. Tokyo Fire Service is directing the water spraying operation in Fukushima Daiichi. 

This is a mission operated on the 18th and the 19th of March and the video was released by Tokyou Fire Service to Japanese media.

First firemen are at the entrance of the building and having a meeting.

firemen 2Then in the next scene where firemen are stretching the water hosepipe, you can hear them saying

"Now, 70 sievert!"

"Shall we go back?"

"Yes, to where the sievert level reaches the highest!"

And meantime, the radiation monitor they carry is ringing.

The workers in TEPCO also working hard, for two weeks since the earthquake happened, they've been sleeping 1-2 hours a day on the chair. Their families haven't seen their husbands or fathers since then.

tepco workersA wife of one worker of TEPCO had a phone call for the first time since the 16th of March. According to him, the working condition is severe and tense. Only food they are provided is energy bars… They are working there knowing how risky the work is. They are real human heroes.


Yesterday, on the 24th, two TEPCO workers are taken to the hospital because of the exposure to radiation.

exposed to the radiationThen suddenly someone asked me. "Where are all robots in Japan?"

Of course, Japan is known as robots kingdom, full of robots in this island. Then, where are they? In this two weeks, I haven't heard or seen any news about robots rescuing people. I hadn't realised until a foreign friend mentioned it to me. Curious.

We haveca5w78ne this ROBO Q for instance. This is an invention of Tokyo Fire Service for handling dangerous objects and rescue people in devastated area.

It can be operated from 50m of distance with the remote control and 100m with the optical fiber. ROBO Q has robot arms with the camera and the sensor for the gas and the temperature. It also has a radiation monitor on the gripper. Sounds perfect to work in Fukushima Daiichi to check the level of the radioactivity.

monitoring robotThis is another searching robots for disastered areas. This could go to Tohoku region and help searching missing people under the crushed houses.


human robot


And this human robot "Ma kum" is especially made for working in dangerouns conditions and rescuing people. Even heavy rain can't stop this 160cm tall robot to save people. Ma kun has a quite sensitive fingers and can even screw bolts.

Can he not work in the rector instead of sacrificing humans?


yasukawa kun

At the end, this is Yasukawa kun. He is an industrial robot who can manage welding and assemblage work. However because of its sympathetic face and its dexterity, he's expanding the work field.

Now I think that if any of these robots can substitute some work for humans. Just to avoid putting human fighters in the risk. Instead of sending someone into the rector to measure the level of radiation, a robot hero can do the same job. Don't you think?

Or Japanese people are so pround that they cannot rely on robots? I prefer to save people's life even I miself am a fan of ASIMO. Is it meaningless to wait for Atom (Astro Boy) to come to rescue us? It's just curious that robots kingdom Japan is trying to save themselves without robots….


This is a video of  Yasukawa kun. Look his smooth hand movement!

23 Mar

The Sound of the Earthquake by Micah Frank

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

I was born in a country of earthquake. Since I was little I don't know how many earthquakes I've experienced, from the small scale ones to the big scale ones (scale 6).

I hate the quake happens when I'm sleep. I'm so defenseless and there's nothing I can do. If the book shelf falls? If the roof fall down over me? Only I can do is wrap myself with duvet and duck my head inside it untill the quake stops.

A strange thing is that although I'm dead sleep, I always know it's coming. But I can only know that just a few second before the quake and it doesn't give me enough time to prepare.  How?

Because I hear the sound, sound of rumbling of the earth. It also sounds like a tube running down the ground. It seems like quite many people hear the same so it's not because I'm a Princess Mononoke and can talk to the nature. 


Apparently this is the sound of seismic wave. Seismic waves has two body waves, P wave and S wave, and the P wave as it's similar to the sound, with the vibration of the air it can be heard as a sound.

You can hear the sound of the earthquake from this link. Just click the speaker inside the site.


seismographUsing the seismograph, you can create a sound too. From this link, you can hear the sound of the earthquake and it's quite curious although it's very different from I usually hear.


The creator is Micah Frank is a New York based music and sound programmer. Currently, Micah is involved in a series of sonification projects that utilize real-time data to synthesize sound content

22 Mar

Tokyo Report 2 – To Outside of Tokyo

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

This is the  continuation of Tokyo Report 1.

tepco tv

Despite of the huge scar that Tsunami left to Japan on the 11th of March, people in the devastated area and other places in eastern Japan were trying to find out the exit of this disaster.


As if makig sure we had been damaged enough, Fukushima nuclear plant had an explosion.


Some of you may know but there are two nuclear plant facilities in Fukushima prefecture.

ustream radiation level


This nightmare began in three rectors of six in one of two plants, Fukushima Daiichi (daiichi means no.1) although the rest of three rectors neither are in the perfect condition.

I won't discuss much about the condition of the rectors, I had decided to evacuate from Tokyo voluntarily with this nuclear plant accident.

Correctly, the fear for not being informed properly made me decided this option.


According to the announcement from the government at first, only the rector 1 had problem among three. As it was under control, the evacuation had been advised to only the local residents who lived in 10km zone from the plant.


However soon later, the rector 1 had a hydrogen explosion and the radioactivity had spread into the air with the steam.


radiation levelThere are many arguments over this accident that

TEPCO couldn't have made a decision to retire the rectors as once they pour the sea water, the rector cannot be used anymore,

or TEPCO had rejected the offer from the US of the cooler supply,

or the connection between the government officials and the civilian was weak etc..

I have no idea what was the real reason but only I know is that the accident in the nuclear power plants is caused by humans in the end.


The Japanese government later extended the evacuation zone to 20km and also little by little widen the zone where the people should standby inside the house.


I think the right way to do was

1. They should have settled bigger area as dangerous zone to make doubly sure.

2. Evacuate all the residents

3. Start recovery work

4. After the work is done, finally release the evacuation alert.


Did they want to demonstrate that everything was under control and no danger? Or did they want to avoid the panic? Who knows. At the end the government took a strategy completely opposite, which was

1. They have announced much smaller area as a dangerous zone,

2. failed recovery operation,

3. extended the dangerous zone

4. another failure in the recovery operation,

5. another extension of dangerous zone


After seeing two failures in their strategy and founding out that the third rector was about to explode, I made up my mind to leave Tokyo.

I was scared of not only the radiation but also being left behind.

Even after, I have been hearing the TV saying “there is no problem in Tokyo” or “the radiation level is harmless” but I never believed it.


Inronald reagan hajimemashite fact, the radioactivity was blown by wind and detected in Onagawa city in Miyagi which is 100km up north from Fukushima Daiichi or even on the US carrier, Ronald Reagan which was on standby in 180km away from the coast to the east. 

200km of distance between Fukushima and Tokyo meant nothing to me anymore.

Among the information flood, I drew a conclusion.


Fortunately my office made us to stay at home until the situation get settled.

I sealed all the window with the tape and wrapped the duct of the air-condition and the ventilator with plastic then just left the house taking almost nothing with me.

On the 15th of March, at 18:10 hrs. escape from tokyo

At the time my Shinkansen left Yokohama station for Osaka, there was an another hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

On that day, Tokyo was covered with about 30 times higher level of radioactivity.

(Tokyo report from a Tokyo resident)

21 Mar

Botamochi Day on Shunbun no Hi

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

vernal equinox day

Today the 21th of March is Shunbun no Hi in Japan, spring equinox day in English which is the beginning of the spring. In theory apart from today, the winter finishes and the day time is getting longer.


Shunbun no Hi is one of  Nijuushi Sekki and in 1948 this day was decided as a bank holiday in Japan. Supposedly this is the day of "praise the nature and cherish animals". 


amida-all-upIn buddhism during this term the sun settles in due west where corresponding to the east gate of Gokuraku (heaven in Japanese). Therefore praying the sunset is same as praying towards the entrance of Gokuraku. In this sense, the 21st of March is the closest day to the heaven. 


Before and after Shunbun no Hi, about a week period is called Higan means other side of the shore. If I say Nirvana, maybe easy to enderstand but I will explain about in another occasion. During Higan most of Japanese people visit cemetery to pray for the souls of the dead.


ohagiThe most common food to eat for Shunbun no Hi is Botamochi. This is also called Ohagi which is something like sweet mashed rice ball wrapped with sweet azuki bean paste. Sorry doesn't sound so tasty… But look at the photo, now yes, look tasty.

Actually there are two Higan in a year, in spring and in autumn. Somehow this sweet changes the name, Botamochi in spring and Ohagi in autumn. Don't get confused, they are exactly the same looking and taste. It's believed that the red of azuki beans protect us from bad spirits.


kusamochiAfter Botamochi, this Kusamochi is eaten commonly. This green colour is Yomogi leaf (mugwort in English) added in mochi paste. Tastes quite freshy. There is azuki bean paste inside. Caution, don't eat the leaf outside unless you are goat…




gomoku zushiThen Gomoku Chirashi zushi. Gomoku means mixed more than five ingredients. Chirashi is a tpe of sushi.

inari zushi



People also eat Inari zushi. People make or buy these food not only to eat but also to take to the cemetery for their loved ones. 


Shunbun no Hi this year must be a very difficult day for all Japanese people. Probably they are not in the mood of enjoying warm spring days.










In some regions in Japan they have traditional functions.

For example in Motosu City in Gifu prefecture, Komekashi festival (米かし祭り) is held in Kasuga Shrine. 

The day before Shunbun no Hi, men with Fundoshi (Japanese traditional underware/swimsuit) run to the mouth of the flume, go into the frozen river, wash the rice and take some water from the river then all come back to the Shrine.

This function is for to appreciate the people who built the flume and to pray for a rich harvest in autumn. I sympathise with those guys in this cold and promise to eat everything I'm served.    



More about Higan

Atsusa samusamo Higan made

Nijuushi Sekki

21 Mar

Survivors From the Earthquake After 9 Days

Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

Everyday we've seeing terrible images from Japan in the TV and they are painful. In Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture where it had the most severe damage from Tsunami, although the rescue teams are searching the area, it's more for looking for dead bodies than survivors.

It's said that after 72 hours, there is only little chance that people would survive. But on the 20th, after 217 hours later 80 year-old grandmother and her 16 year-old grandson were rescued safely from the wrecked house.


How they could survived for such a long time.

When the quake attacked Tohoku area, they were having lunch in the kitchen on the second floor. Then Tsunami attacked the house.


The water entered the kitcheand knocked the cupboard down. The two were stuck in a small space, they could only crawl. The good thing was they were in the kitchen with food, they had been eating things in the fridge such as yoghurt, candies, milk or coca cola, also they cheered up each other and never lost their hope to get rescued.

They also had been able to find dried blankets although the temperature in Sendai area where is 50km away from they were low at below zero. The boy seems to be frostbitten according to the hospital's announcement. I'm not surprised. 

mapThe boy was on holiday and was in his grandmother's house. The day after the quake his father who lives in Sendai received a phone call from the boy. Soon the father went to Ishinomaki to look for his son but there was no remain of the house. He then applied to the police for his 16 year-old son and his mother but until yesterday they couldn't be able to locate then and that's why it took so long.

It was almost miracle that the two were rescued in good condition. So why the rescue team couldn't find them?

In the map, the little pink rectangle is where the house was and it was washed away about several hundreds metres. Also the house was covered with debris and the voice for a help didn't reach outside.

On the 20th, the boy for the first time escaped the house through a hole in the kitchen and climbed up to the rooftop where a policeman found him. The police then searched inside the house as the boy mentioned about his grandmother.

Both of them are now in the hospital, although they are little weaken, they are in a good condition and reunited with the family.

Everyday more sad and terrible news are delivered from Japan to the world. But I want to repeat, most of Japanese people there, even under this circumstances, haven't given up. "Itsumo kokoro ni taiyou wo" (Have a sun in your heart) is the saying we say, means if you can smile in the worst situation, you can keep going, you won't get defeated. I saw another Japanese spirit today.