Obviously everyone in Japan and around the world, is still waiting to see what the full impact yesterday's earthquake and ensuing tsunami will be. My heart goes out to those affected by the disaster. Given the shear size of both the quake and the tsunami I would say that it is a miracle there weren't more casualties, except it wasn't a miracle at all. Japan's strict building codes did a huge amount to mitigate the disaster.
However, there are still a huge number of people who need help. Fortunately, there are many different ways you can do so. Before I get to them, I just want to give two brief reminders. First, please only give to registered charities. As sad as it sounds some people do try to take advantage of situations like this to exploit people's good nature. Second, if at all possible please send money rather than other items. Charities generally speaking have a better idea what the people on the ground need. Not only can other items be useless, they can slowdown or even prevent the delivering of needed supplies. To understand this a little better please refer to the economist's article, Too Much Of A Good Thing.
I know it has been a really long time since I have posted anything. I still need to post the amazing pictures my wife took during our honeymoon in Japan almost 8 months ago. In the mean time here is a really great short film about the life of a salaryman:
Last month I got married and my wife and I decided to spend part of our honeymoon in Japan. This was the first time I had been back in Japan in almost 3 years and while most of it was the same a few things seemed different. So I decided to do, what many lazy bloggers do, and write a list of the similarities and differences between Japan today and the Japan I remember of 3 years ago.
First the things that were pretty much the same.
5. The Trains/Public Transportation
I was very happy to see that the trains still ran on time and that Japan still has some of the best public transportation available anywhere in the world.
4. Level Of Service
Overall, the level of service still seemed very high (with one or two notable exceptions). It still amazes me that I can get better service in a restaurant in Japan than almost anywhere else on earth and I don't have to tip for it. Read the rest of this entry »
The decision by the United States to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II remains one of the most controversial topics in Japanese history. People both inside and outside of Japan continue to ask, were the bombings justified? As their 64th anniversary approaches and news this year revealing the existence of a double a-bomb survivor, I thought I would share my opinion on the subject.
To start, let's review the main argument for and against using nuclear weapons in Japan in 1945. The main argument in support of the bombings is that they saved not only American lives but Japanese lives as well. The main argument against their use is the fact that the bombs were horrific weapons that largely targeted civilians. Read the rest of this entry »
I finally got a chance to watch Departures (Okuribito) a few weeks ago and I highly recommend it. For those of you who haven't seen it, Departures is about Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), a cellist in a Tokyo based orchestra, who loses his job and returns to his home town with his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) to become an encoffineer. It was directed by Yojiro Takita. I won't go into more plot details here because Wikipedia offers a pretty good summary.
Surprisingly, this is the first Japanese winner of the Academy Award For Best Foreign Language Film, since the award become permanent in 1956. It also upset Waltz with Bashir, which had widely been expected to win the award and is in my opinion a far more original movie. More surprisingly, Departures did extremely well at the Japanese box office, earning more than the equivalent of $60 million USD. The reason this second point is surprising is due to the subject matter of the film itself.
Death is always a difficult subject to deal with, no matter your racial or cultural background. And from my experience, this is epically true in Japan. Departures shows in great detail, the ceremony that can go into Japanese funeral arrangements. For those off you who don't know, ceremonies typically include (among many other things) putting chopsticks straight up in rice, which is why you should never do this at a restaurant because it is a reminder of funerals and death. Read the rest of this entry »