Posts tagged “Japan

[Flashback] Mount Bandai, Fukushima Prefecture 2010

Couple days ago, my Chinese friend had asked me if I had ever been to Fukushima Prefecture as he wanted to get a better sense of what this whole region is like. Chinese media has been covering the radiation levels as much as western media and you could easily find an article or two on the front page of the major news source for the last couple weeks. Putting aside all the talks on radiation, Fukushima to me was a place full of nature and beauty, attracting tourists from all over the country. Last summer, when I briefly visited Fukushima what stood out to me the most was Mount Bandai. Mount Bandai is located in the outskirts of Tohoku’s second largest city of Koriyama and is famous for its “goshoku-numa” or the 5 color lake (see photo below). These lakes were formed with the volcanic  eruption imparting mineral deposits to the Five Colored Lakes giving each of them their own delicate color. In China, there is also the famous Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan Province, which also has these colored lakes in a much larger scale. From what I know, the vast majority of Koriyama residents have not evacuated and are trying to live their lives as normal as possible but it’s just a shame that these beautiful sceneries won’t be seen for some time until the radiation levels lowers in the region. It’s a pity that Mount Bandai and Jiuzhaigou were both located near where the natural disaster had occurred. I wanted to share some of these images since you rarely see any news on Fukushima but the radiation these days. I thank you for your continued support for Japan. Japan still needs friends.

[Photo] With You Japan, Live Strong 2011 March 19

First off, I am thankful for all the new subscribers and readers of my site. Please check out my info page to learn more about my work and photography from Asia. It has truly been an encouraging last couple days receiving numerous messages and tweets from around the world. As far as my current residence in Beijing goes, I was walking around an area around the Drum Tower, when I saw a sign on top of a designer store that read “With You Japan, Live Strong 2011 March 19”.  It was nice to see a store in China thinking about Japan. For the latest updates on Japan’s situation and road to recovery, I am translating Japanese media into English on my twitter feed @gokatayama. Feel free to follow me and join in on the conversation.

[Photos] Ageing Countryside in Japan

When most people think of Japan, they might think of the high-tech flashing lights all over the Tokyo metropolis. But my favorite scenery within Japan would have to be 800 kilometers west from Tokyo in the Chugoku region at the tip of the main island in Japan. What most people would consider the country side has recently become a victim of youths moving out to the larger cities like Osaka and Tokyo for better job opportunities and schooling while the elders keep aging. It is said that Tokyo now makes up one-tenth of Japan’s total population of 120 million. Where agriculture is strong on the country side, it is evident from words such from Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara that “Only 1.5% of Japan’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture and the nation should pay heed to the other 98.5%”. Hence, the country side of Japan has lost its spark, as population continues to decline everywhere but Tokyo and the larger cities. This city of Satosho currently has 30,000 residents and is continuing to decrease year after year.

A typical neighborhood in Okayama prefecture. Mirrors are used instead of traffic lights.

Roads winding down hill through the rice fields.

Rice fields neatly lined up getting ready for harvest season

Scenic view of Satosho and the rice fields at dawn

JR Sanyo Line train passes by. There are usually 3-4 trains an hour connecting Okayama and Hiroshima.

Even during the what should be a rush hour period not too many people are to be seen.

[Photo] Fukuyama, Japan

There’s a saying in Japan “haya oki wa san mon no toku” meaning “Waking early gets you three mon”, in other words “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” So this past break in Japan I tried to get up early enough so that I can capture the start of the day in Fukuyama city in Hiroshima Prefecture. Nothing special as you would see in the metropolis of Tokyo but it’s got a nice vibe to it.

[Reflections] Touring 3 Countries in 12 hours.

What a day. I woke up this morning in the sunny beaches of Guam and checked out of my hotel and headed for the airport. As the plane took off for my second country of the day, Japan, I could see the beautiful ocean surrounding the island of Guam. 3 hours later I arrived to Japan where I was faced with a tough decision to either stay in the Narita Inetrnational Airport for 8 hours before my connecting flight to Beijing or to head out of the airport for a couple of hours. As you may know, Narita International Airport is NOT located in Tokyo. In fact, it’s located in another prefecture: Chiba. A lot of people think that a short lay over in Narita Airport is enough time to check out downtown Tokyo but it takes at least a 2 hours roundtrip from the airport to the heart of Tokyo. The largest city surrounding the airport is Narita city  but again, there’s really not too much to do in this city. But since Narita International Airport Terminal 1 has even fewer options and things to do I decided to head out.
I’ve been in China for the last 6 months and so this was the first time back in Japan since I left. I noticed that there are much more Chinese tourists now in Japan than before. It’s always interesting to observe Japanese people and Chinese tourists visiting Japan interact with one another. The Japanese shopkeepers don’t speak English nor Chinese and the old Chinese man will continue to force his way through his thick Chinese accent. In short, the Japanese vendor tells him to write down which number he wants  but this message does not go through. They spend about 3 minutes just staring at each other and the old Chinese man is getting a bit annoyed and impatient. For the first time in his life no one understands him. I think these kinds of interactions are important no matter what for the future of these two neighboring states. The more Chinese people and Japanese people interact the better for the understanding. Today, I spent a total of 4 hours in Japan just observing these interactions and by the end of it I saw that both sides usually try to help each other to accomplish what they want. I headed back to Narita International Airport and hopped on a plane back to Beijing where pollution welcomed me back home. I still can’t believe I was on an island this morning watching the sunrise by the palm trees on th beach.

Two Lover's Point in Guam.

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Transportation] China has the Fastest Shinkansen (Bullet Train in Japanese)

I’m sure by now you’ve seen posts from all over the web saying that China has the fastest bullet train in the world,  running at a speed of  245mph compared to the 186mph Japanese Shinkansen, which previously was the fastest before China overtook the Shinkansen in 2008 with the opening of the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway. I had the opportunity to ride the Chinese Bullet Train from Beijing to Tianjin couple months ago and I must say I was extremely impressed.  From Beijing to Tianjin is about 117km in distance and it only took about 30minutes. The ride was comfortable as the Japanese Shinkansen, or even better and the interior was spacious enough to take a brief nap but again, 30 minutes wasn’t long enough for my nap.  The total cost one way was about 70rmb (about 10USD) for first class coach. With the record breaking traffic jams in Beijing, it’s nice to see more means of transportation being complete all around China.

The world’s first maglev also belongs to China running at  a max speed of 268mph connecting Shanghai Pudong International airport and the outskirts of central Shanghai. I finally had a chance to ride it couple weeks back and not only the speed but how comfortable it was really amazed me. Japan Railways announced recently that they will also be completing a maglev style bullet train with max speed of 312mph, aiming for commercial use in 2027, which is still a while away. But as an observer, it’s interesting to see how quickly China has caught up and passed Japan in this field. Considering 20 years ago, nobody could compete with the Japanese Bullet Trains in speed, efficiency, and safety.  For more comparision on comparative literature on high speed transportation, the Transport Politic did a great job analyzing “High Speed Rail in China”.

at Beijing South Subway Station waiting for the Bullet Train.

a Bullet Train is ready to leave Beijing towards Tianjin. It runs almost every 30minutes from Beijing South Railway Station

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Japan] 2/3 of Japanese White Collars Don’t Want to Go Abroad

I haven’t written too much about Japan on this blog yet but I was shocked to see this post from the WSJ today. As the title states, “Please Don’t Send Me Abroad. Ever”; this is kind of sad. We all know that globalization is inevitable. Every developing country that I have been to is implementing policies and using their resources to create a much more global state to compete with each other. Here in Beijing, and from my summer teaching experiences, every student dreams or already have gone abroad to say the least. The article states “According to a survey released today, a shocking two-thirds of the country’s white-collar workers said they didn’t want to work abroad…ever”. The reason for this is being that they are not confident with their English abilities and also they don’t think that foreign countries are safe. Being Japanese, I can completely see where this is coming from.

In Japan, students usually start studying Japanese at Jr High School level from ages 12 to 13. In neighboring countries such as China and Korea, the age at they start is much earlier. It’s recently that Japan’s Ministry of Education decided that Japan needed to conduct its’ English classes in English instead of in Japanese.

There’s been a dark cloud over Japan economically and politically these days as the country of the rising sun continues to decline as neighbors like China continue to progress.

I hope that major media sources in Japan cover this statistic so that people in Japan start to feel some sense of urgency to start becoming more global or the future will continue to be dark and Japan’s galapagosization from the international society is going to get worse.

Inside a JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo

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Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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[Photos] Top 5 Photos from Japan

Hey all,thank you for taking your time and visiting my site! As I leave for Beijing, China tomorrow I’m filled with excitement. I want to update this site as much as I can covering wide range of topics that include culture, linguistics, politics and music! Trust me they all come together somehow. But as I prepare for my big day tomorrow, I want to start off this site with some pictures I’ve took so far in Japan in the last 4 weeks that I’ve been back. After graduating from college I finally had the time to just hop on a train and travel within Japan just for the sake of traveling.

Well, here’s my top 5 Favs of June!

“My Grandma’s Old Shop”

During this break I traveled from Tokyo all the way to the southern part of Japan, Miyazaki Prefecture to see my grandma. She told me that she used to run a store, in Japanese called Ara-mono-ten, which sold goods like what you would see at a Crate and Barrel or a William Sonoma. Basic tools that a house wife would need back in the days. She said that this concept was still very new and she sold a lot! I got this throwback photo from my grandma's old photo album from the 1950s.

“Koi Fish at 5 Color Lake in Fukushima Prefecture”

This trip to Fukushima prefecture wasn't really planned but my friend wanted to go here so we decided to hit up the city of Kooriyama. I really don't recommend this city since when night falls, people seem to disappear and the only people on the streets were hookers and hostess bars. It' s quite rare to find a city like this in Japan nowadays. But since we wanted to see the famous 5 color lake in the outskirts of the city we decided to stay. After a couple of hours of taking the train and the local buses we ended up with straight up nature. The 5 color lake reminded me of the World heritage Site in China of Jiuzhaigou. The color of the lake was turquoise, as the sun light creates this magic. The one in China was a lot bigger in size but none of them had Koi Fishes in them! aha! None the less it was beautiful.

“Masamune Date’s Grave

It's not too often in the states to visit historically known individual's graves but in Japan I guess it's a pretty common thing to do. I visited Masamune Date's grave. Masamune Date was a great Japanese Samurai also known as "one-eyed dragon" for he was a tactician who won battles with one eye. This picture was taken around Masamune's grave. Masamune's grave itself was colorful and all but I really like the surrounding environment which gives out a really Japaneezy feel.

“Slam Dunk’s Author, Yasuhiko Inoue’s Exhibit in Sendai

This photo was taken outside the Yasuhiko Inoue exhibition in Sendai. If you guys know who he is you must've read the entire series of "Slam Dunk" and "Real". If you haven't I really recommend you go to Barnes and Noble now and get a copy because this guy is a world wide phenomenon. His art is unbelievable. I like it when art and the city come together in public.

“Don’t Mess with Hiroshima Carp Fans”

As the name of  this picture states, you really don’t want to mess with anything Hiroshima: food, people, chicks, etc.. well especially HIROSHIMA CARP FANS. After getting back to Tokyo I visited a friend over in Chiba prefecture. And what do you know? There’s a baseball game going on. Chiba Lotte Marines vs. Hiroshima Carp. Baseball in Japan is huge. Maybe more popular than soccer and sumo wrestling combined. Well anyways, these cheer leaders or fans or whatever they are, are crazy. In the states if one were to go to a game, one would grab a beer and buy some over price polish hot dogs and sit back and enjoy the game. But when you go to a Hiroshima Carp game, they make you cheer their way.. which usually is a combination of non-stop yelling and standing up and down. They have trumpets and cheers for every single player on the roster. This photo was taken from the outfield and the guys with the red outfits are the intense Carp fans drumming and trumpeting the hell out of the stadium. Fun times.