Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Google Street Views goes inside a Fukushima school

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

As everyone knows, Google Street Views lets you wander around 3D visualations of remote locations, giving you that You Are There sort of experience. Last year, the Street Views team traveled to Fukushima’s Namie-machi, making it possible for everyone to experience Japan’s no-go zone.

Straying from the usual Street View approach, the Google team actually went inside a building for this expedition. One of them is Ukedo Elementary School, and the images of its abandoned school rooms are heartbreaking.

"We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back"

“We love Ukedo elemantary School and we will be back”

Namie-machi was evacuated right after the explosion of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The location, which suffered heavy damage from the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, is now a ghost town.

Fortunately, all 77 students Ukedo Elementary school, located 500 meters from the coastline of Fukushima, were evacuated safely.

"You guy can accomplish anything"

“You guys can accomplish anything,” reads the whiteboard.

Messages, probably written by students or teachers before leaving the area, can be seen written on the school’s whiteboard.

On the stage it says"Congratulations to the New Graduates "

“Congratulations to the new graduates.”

This last photo shows the school gym with a banner hung to to celebrate graduation day.

If you want to explore the no-go zone yourself, head over to Google Street Views.

Today’s J-Blip: Safecast iOS app

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Screenshots of Safecast’s new iPhone application, showing the area around Fukushima Dai-ichi with different filters

In Japan, cute bouncy mascots are often relied on to raise awareness about campaigns or officious entities. We have our doubts, however, about whether the new mission of Kibitan — to steer kids clear of potential hotspots in Fukushima — will have much of an effect. Call us cold-hearted, but when it comes to radiation, we prefer data — reliable, independently gathered data.

For bringing peace of mind to residents of post-3.11 Japan, or travelers thinking about coming here, nothing has come closer than Safecast. We reported on Safecast Japan shortly after last year’s disaster, when the team of volunteers with Geiger counters was building up their operations at Tokyo HackerSpace.

Comprised of radiation experts, industrious hackers and citizen data-collectors, Safecast is still tirelessly cataloging radiation readings and transforming the raw data into user-friendly maps. They’ve come a long way: From an initial Kickstarter campaign, the group is now funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation.

Safecast recently launched an iOS application. Its most attractive feature is the “virtual Geiger counter,” which shows you their collected radiation readings, plus readings from the U.S. Department of Energy, for your current location. It’s strangely addictive. There is also a bunch of filters to play around with, which allow you to look specifically for, say, Cesium 137. Best of all, it’s free.

Apparently you can also hook up your own Geiger counter to the app and send readings back into the Safecast system.

Kibitan, we suggest that you download this one now.

Safecast and U.S. Department of Energy readings for the greater Tokyo area as seen on the Safecast iPhone app.

2012 trends: consumer ‘neta,’ relocating and regional flavors

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

On Jan. 10 Recruit, a corporation that has its fingers in a number of different pies, including tourism, recruitment, real estate and publishing, published its trend forecasts for 2012. Though Recruit has a vested in fulfilling its own prophesies, a few predictions really did seem on the mark. Here’s the best of the bunch:

  • Free word of mouth: The rise in the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter during 2011 obviously brought more young Japanese closer together, and more than ever, marketing divisions wanted to tap into the consumer posses that make recommendations. Recruit’s free magazine R25 predicts that the big thing this year will be companies finding clever ways to provide netizens with opportunities to write neta (amusing stories). The shy consumer on the social network will have something to post, sans that nasty self-promotional aftertaste, and the company gets a free, natural-tasting word-of-mouth plug. Sounds like super-stealth marketing to us, but we’ll see.
  • Relocating: When the earthquake occurred, many of those working in Tokyo were unable to get home after train services were cancelled. Being stranded in Tokyo was that bit more stressful for working couples who had children. In light of this experience, Recruit’s real estate website SUUMO predicts that double income families will be looking to either relocate to locations closer to work, or seek employment closer to home. Centrally located compact apartments for those who can’t change jobs but want to cut the commute may prove popular in April (the busiest month for real estate agents in Japan). For added peace of mind and extra childcare support, many couples will also be considering moving closer to their parents, or even moving in with them, and that might mean that large apartments that can accommodate three generations could be in demand.
  • Gotouchi-ism: According to Jalan Research Center (a subsidiary of Recruit), the quake in 2011 sparked a resurgence of pride in all things Japanese, particularly in the unique charm of different localities. Gotouchi means “your home town” and has been a buzzword used particularly in connection with the b-kyu gourmet boom: a trend for simple regional cuisine. Last year as well as gotouchi gourmet, there was a rise in interest in gotouchi idols — pop groups who promote their localities. Following on from this it’s predicted that tourists taking holidays within Japan in 2012 will be seeking a gotouchi experience: to connect with the everyday lives of the locals by paying to participate in activities that offer a taste of the local lifestyle. Though Recruit don’t specify what this might exactly entail, we think it could be making crafts, or even going out into the fields and working alongside farmers.

2011 trends: Social media in Japan comes of age

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

2011 was the year that social media came into its own in Japan. When phones went down on March 11, Japan connected with Twitter, mixi and Facebook in record numbers. Social media went from being a curiosity to a lifeline. Connecting online wasn’t just for the users, either; in 2011, the social media sites started friending each other.

Mixi and Twitter announced a partnership in November, possibly to shore up against a rapidly growing Facebook. With growth spurred by the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook was named the no. 2 “hit product” of 2011 by Nikkei Trendy magazine. While earlier in the year it looked like Facebook was getting left behind by Japan’s own social media sites, a November Nielsen report showed Facebook pulling ahead in the last quarter to surpass Mixi for the first time with some 11 million users. However, Mixi quickly issued a statement saying it actually had about double the 8.4 million active users that Nielsen had reported, since many people access the site from their cellphones, which the Nielsen report didn’t track.

As before, mobile remains a major access mode for online content in Japan. Whether or not Mixi actually feels threatened by Facebook, the tie-up with Twitter suggests it’s watching its back.

In another partnership, Google+ partnered with pop idol juggernaut AKB48 and its regional versions, for a total of almost 90 individual accounts. The performers have swamped the top 100 most popular users list in Japan, leaving only a handful of spots for other idols and Japanese tech gurus.

Two of the largest social networks in Japan are mobile gaming sites. GREE and Mobage Town have over 20 million users each. Mobage Town’s parent company DeNA has been making acquisitions in international markets including China, the U.S. and Chile, again showing the importance of collaboration for social sites.

Continue reading about social media in Japan →

Japan’s top 10 buzzwords of 2011

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Nadeshiko Japan, with head coach Norio Sasaki (center) and captain Homare Sawa (center right), show off their Women’s World Cup trophies. (Kyodo photo)

The news in Japan in 2011 was dominated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the Tohoku region (and proved the worth of Tokyo’s earthquake-resistant architecture). It’s only natural that words related to the disaster and its aftermath made up a good portion of the top buzzwords of the year as chosen by Jiyu Kokuminsha, publishers of an annual book of new and newly important words. However, the mundane and the downright silly mix with the serious in this list, whittled down from an initial 60 nominees, as life did go on for most of Japan, albeit with a new sense of gravity. In descending order, here are the top 10 buzz phrases of 2011 in Japan.

Grand prize-winner: Nadeshiko Japan (なでしこジャパン Nadeshiko Japan): This name for Japan’s women soccer team actually made it into the 2004 list of buzzword nominees, but it was the team’s amazing and inspiring victory at this year’s World Cup that brought them into the lexicon. Even the losing U.S. side was moved by the down-to-the-wire win just three months after the quake. Nadeshiko Japan was the first sports team to receive the People’s Honor Award from Prime Minister at the time, Naoto Kan, for the “fighting spirit” they showed against a better-ranked team and the joy they brought the country with their victory. It’s worth noting that the phrase “yamato nadeshiko” conjures up images of self-sacrificing wives of soldiers, and appropriately, Team Japan really did have to hold down days jobs while working to become the No. 1 team.

Continue reading about top buzzwords of 2011 →

Just in case: Retailers urge customers to buy ahead

Friday, September 30th, 2011

You may never look at those cute Muji handkerchiefs again. Muji’s new emergency awareness campaign encourages people to stock up on everyday “itsumo” basics and to think about how they might be used in a “moshimo” emergency. A temporary display at Muji Atelier (through Oct. 5)  in the flagship shop in Yurakucho presents the “itsumo no moshimo” idea in a space that lies somewhere between a retail space, a gallery and a subtle first-aid class.

A Muji pamphlet urges consumers to think ahead

Simple items from the store are presented in spare Muji style with illustrations that suggest specific, somber uses for them. A black marker and a piece of packing tape become a simple system for leaving a message on your door telling people where you’ve evacuated. A sheet of plastic wrap over your clean plates means that you can eat from the plates and discard the wrap so you don’t have to wash the dishes when water is scarce. (Is that restricted to emergencies?) And those handkerchiefs. Not just handy for drying your hands in the train station bathroom, they also make handy dust masks or tourniquets, or a large one can be wrapped around, say, a small fold-up umbrella to make a splint.

Panasonic has seized onto the same itsumo/moshimo concept with a tagline that could be translated as “convenience any time, preparation for that time.” Their compact solar lights save energy in the good times and could save your evening if the power goes off. Products include a flat solar-paneled light that can be used as a charger for other cellphones and other small electronics, a tabletop lamp that turns on its side to be used as a flashlight and a rechargeable lantern that can stay lit for up to 20 hours.  Their waterproof portable TV that uses OneSeg technology to play broadcast TV over the cellular network can be a simple time killer in the bath or a life line to emergency information.

Weekend volunteering just got easier

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

“Have you been up north yet?” is a common question, six months after the compound disasters of March 11. Over 700,000 people have not only seen first-hand the devastation wrought by the tsunami in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, they have volunteered.

Tohoku Walker's volunteer directory: Let your fingers do the clicking

While volunteers may have met with confusing and even contradictory information at first, there are now quite a few online resources to help match potential volunteers with work that still needs doing. Different government offices are running sites with volunteer information, including the graphically appealing Tasukeai Japan from the Cabinet Secretariat’s Volunteers Coordinator Office, which has general information about how to help and which towns are accepting volunteers. The NPO umbrella organization Japan Civil Network has information about buses that can take groups to the affected areas. Saigai VC has links to government stats and info on volunteer activities as well as links to local volunteer centers.

On the commercial side, Tokyo Walker has set up a site that makes planning a volunteer mission as easy as planning a weekend at a hotspring. The Tohoku Volunteer Yellow Pages lets potential volunteers seek work by clicking on calendar dates and then refining their search by location and by type of  labor. There are buttons for heavy labor like clearing rubble, scraping mud and moving furniture and for less physically demanding work like cleaning and caretaking.

The site provides some things to keep in mind when volunteering, like the importance of making an informed decision about where you’ll go and what you’ll do and leaving emergency contact information with a local volunteer center. It gives the general order of things you need to do, like getting volunteer insurance, double checking that planned transportation routes are accessible and packing your trash out with you. And would it be complete without a sorta cute illustrated guide to the gear you need to bring?

Continue reading about weekend volunteering →

Campaigns urge foreigners to pleeease visit Japan

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Japan’s tourist industry is in dire straits. In May, figures collected by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Association) showed that the number of foreign tourists visiting the country had dropped by 50.4 percent compared to last year. Though that’s a slight improvement on April, during which numbers were down by a massive 62.5 percent, it’s not as if foreigners are flocking back to Japan in droves. Fears of seismic activity, tsunami and, of course, radiation, are all keeping the numbers of overseas visitors down. So what’s it going to take to lure visitors back to the land of the rising sun? Here are few of the current “pleeease visit Japan” campaigns.

To increase the numbers of bums on airplane seats between Japan and Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific launched their “We Love Japan” campaign last month. Giving away 500 flights between Hong Kong and Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo, the company hoped to boost numbers of tourists as well as restore the confidence of Hong Kong citizens in Japan.

Another way of getting people back into the country is to demonstrate how safe it is, and that’s the modus operandi of the “Travel Volunteer in Japan” campaign. Created by Magellan Resorts travel agency, the competition offers the chance for one lucky winner to travel the length and breadth of the country for a total of 100 days. Reporting back on the experience to the world, the traveler will hopefully show just how safe Japan now is for tourists. Open to all non-residents, the closing date is July 31.

Though these campaigns by private companies really seem to be on the right track, Japan’s own tourism agency appears to be at a bit of a loss when it comes to bringing the tourists back. A campaign video titled “Message From Japan” (see above), which was shown in over 133 countries at airports, embassies and even in New York’s Times Square, features boy band Arashi extolling the joys of their native country. Japan Probe quite rightly pointed out that Arashi, while well-known in Asia, are completely unknown in other parts of the world. We agree that choosing native artists with an international profile, or at reasonable handle on English, might be a better approach. Luckily, last month Lady Gaga flew into Japan to lend her support, which probably did a lot more good than this this costly Arashi promo.

What do you think? Are you ready to visit Japan?

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