My first day back in Japan….video of my hotel’s street (Warning: This is a boring video.)

Every time I return to Japan from the United States, I wake up very early due to jet lag.  This video is taken outside my hotel. I was fascinated by the crows getting into the garbage. We have crows here, too…..but I’ve trained ours to not get into our garbage. They know I’m the boss.

One reference I make in the video is to the American movie “Lost in Translation” with Billy Murray. I watched it, for the first time ever, on the flight. The opening scene is his character being driven in a limousine (he’s an actor getting paid to film a commercial) and he’s looking out at Tokyo, unable to understand the melange of Japanese words around him. It’s a really depressing movie that focusses on two characters who were already depressed before they came to Japan (Hey, not Japan’s fault.)

In reality, most people would be thinking, “Cool! Wow! I’m getting two million dollars for this! For the opportunity to visit Japan!” I’d hope most people would think that.

I want two million dollars.

Recycling (in the U.S.)

Before the triple disaster of 2011 in Japan, I was concerned about the environment. However, after the meltdowns happened–and seeing how this affected not only my family, but all of northern Japan (especially those nearest to the power plant)–I became more actively concerned.

The reason for the existence of nuclear power plants is to supply electricity. (There are other ways of supplying electricity and each has its own issues.) Thus, it is people’s consumption of electricity that is wreaking havoc on the environment.

Other consumptions, like of plastics, are also wreaking havoc.

Being a nation of islands, Japan has always (even before 2011) been stringent about recycling. People here know that recycling is expected and thus routinely do it.

I think the U.S. is catching up with Japan’s mentality regarding recycling. Slowly, but surely. (The U.S. has a lot more land area than Japan which is probably one of the reasons it is more complacent about recycling. America seems to almost have unlimited space for landfills….seems to, anyway.)

These were the recycling bins in the Minneapolis International Airport. I was very pleased with them.

In Japan, I often carry around my thermos (filled with water, only.)

When I travel from Japan to the U.S, I make sure the thermos is empty when I go through security. (Liquids are not allowed to pass through security, except in very small amounts.) Then when I get into the terminal, I simply fill up my thermos at a water fountain. I see so many people purchasing the (EXPENSIVE!) bottles of water that I sort of feel like I am one of the very few people who carries around a thermos.

However, the Minneapolis International Airport supports travellers with thermoses!

Look at the photo above. There is a place to fill up one’s thermos!!  Way to go, Minnesota!

I helped eliminate waste from disposable plastic bottles. Yay me!

 

The bottom photo is the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas:

Texas hasn’t yet built in a water filler for thermoses. That’s okay, though. I just filled up my thermos using water fountain.


I’ve never seen a thermos water filler in Japan, either. However, Japanese people frequently use thermoses. (They also loved to use plastic bottles–of water, tea, juice, soda.) But thermoses are super common.

I do love my thermos. For me, the most important factor is that it doesn’t leak when I shut it. Also, that it’s the right size. (You may just want a very small one to slip in your purse.)

The reason I only use water (or very light tea) is that I find it can be difficult to get strong smells out of a thermos. So I simply don’t do coffee in my thermos.

Thermoses are cool!

 

And so are canteens!

(Photos of thermos and canteen come from Coleman’s site: https://www.coleman.com/coleman-coolersandwaterjugs-drinkware/  This is NOT a paid promotion.)

 

I’m back! My sweet niece got married…..

so I went to the U.S. to celebrate! Congrats, A & J!

It was a very cool and rainy May for Texas.

Here’s a video:

(To understand why I say in the video that I don’t like it if they call the dog “Joe,” it’s because my human son is named Joe. I wouldn’t be happy about the potential confusion of two family members having the same exact name.)

 

Fuel being extracted from power plant…

I’ve been showing a lot of photos of the cherry blossoms and I’d like to get back to discussing the situation at the nuclear power plant (Fukushima Daiichi.)

Since the meltdowns in 2011, there has been nuclear fuel that has been sitting there inside the plant. Pardon me. I’m a writer. Let me rephrase that:

Since the meltdowns in 2011, a soup of nuclear fuel has been burbling in its tureen located deep inside the labrynth of Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. Incredibly dangerous to us mortals, only robots have ventured in, wheeling themselves through corridors of debris, swimming through dank water-filled rooms. Each robot has failed. Finally, the smallest robot declared that she wished to be sent on the mission. No! It is surely a mission of death! But she insisted: I’m the smallest, the bravest. I will reach the deadly nuclear fuel soup! 

And she set out, winding her way through the building’s empty shell, not giving up. Exhausted, she climbed the last bit of her journey, and then she made it! She took a photo. Click. And a video. She hit the send button.

She had succeeded. Now we humans have information about the nuclear fuel. Her mission is complete.

Here is the robot’s video:

https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/news/library/archive-e.html?video_uuid=f4i7ojxp&catid=61795

Now news is coming in that TEPC is transferring the fuel to a different location for better storage and management.

This is a link to TEPCO’s site. https://www7.tepco.co.jp/responsibility/decommissioning/action/spent_fuel/unit3-e.html

Now keep in mind that TEPCO owns the plant and is responsible for the accident. So looking at their site is like looking at whitehouse.gov to find out what’s going on in the United States of America.

Nevertheless.

Here is a news source (Mainichi) article: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190423/p2g/00m/0na/060000c

I was wondering: how much nuclear fuel is it, anyway? Like, more or less than a cup of coffee?

According to this article from 2011, Reactor Number Three has 88 tons of nuclear fuel. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-fuel-fukushima/ So more than a cup of coffee. A lot more.

I hope you have a nice week.

My “Hanami” at Bentenyama

I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, the man who develops my photos. He’s very nice and I’ve known him since the first week I arrived in Fukushima City back in April of 2006. We were discussing Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) sites. I said I’d been to Hanamiyama and I’d been to Shinobuyama. He said, “How about Bentenyama?” I knew that Bentenyama was just a short bike ride (about twenty minutes) from my home, so I thought, Yes. How about Bentenyama?

That’s Bentenyama in the distance in the above photo. It’s a hill in the south part of Fukushima City.

“Yama” means mountain. But Bentenyama is really more of a big hill. Although in Kansas, it would be considered a mountain. I guess it depends on your point of view.

I was alone. I goaded a passerby into taking this photo. The place I am standing is actually on the left side of the map (NOT the part my finger is at.) My goal was to do the roughly thirty-minute climb up to an area with a shrine.

Fukushima City–My home is in that direction.

Pointing my camera over to the east.

At peak flower season, both Hanamiyama and Shinobuyama are very crowded, whereas Bentenyama was definitely not. In fact, I was the only human on the mountain. (Notice I said human.)

It was fun taking photos. It was so quiet. I wasn’t making noise at all.

Early April in Fukushima City! (These photos date from April 8th.)

 

I was being a little too quiet…….because—–

….as I walked up the stairs, I heard a sound to my left! I looked and it was an animal!

My first thought was “It’s a donkey!” But then I thought, “There aren’t donkeys here. Maybe it’s a dog (No) or a wolf (No) or a wild boar (No.)”

Wild boars can attack humans, so after I snapped the photo above, I stopped climbing the mountain. I went down, lest I be eaten by a boar or a bear. I had NO idea there were wild animals (big wild animals) on Bentenyama! It’s a hill in the city. Not exactly the true wilderness.

After I reached the bottom of the mountain, I continued home. I saw a man standing in his yard, so I asked him, “Are there wild animals on Bentenyama?” He said No.  So then I showed him the photo above on my camera. He said the animal was a kamoshika.

Here’s the deal. Nobody thinks that there are kamoshika on Bentenyama. But this photo is proof.

I myself didn’t really know what a kamoshika was, but when I googled it, I saw that it was indeed the same animal that I had seen with my own eyes, and that it had the same familiar lope. In English, a kamoshika is called Japanese Serow. It’s only in Asia. I think mostly in Japan, and maybe Taiwan?

The following video is a random video I found on youtube:

So there it is. It was running away from me (having heard me approaching.) I’m pretty excited because I can add it to the list of authentic Japanese animals I’ve seen in the wild: monkey, hakkubishin (civet), kamoshika (serrow)

I have not seen: tanuki, wild boar, bear, crane and so on. (I doubt I will ever see a crane as it migrates only to very specific areas, neither near where I live.) If you see a white bird in Japanese, it is likely either a heron or swan. I’ve seen both herons and swans quite often.

 

Cherry Blossoms in the Snow (Fukushima City 2019)

Today (April 18th , 2019) is warm, but last week it snowed! Amazingly, the snowfall happened when our cherry blossoms were in full bloom!

I’d seen that combination of cherry blossoms and snow only once before, in 2010. Obviously, snow is rare in April (especially a heavy snow) here in Fukushima City.

These photos were taken…..I think Wednesday last week? Or maybe Thursday. I don’t remember. Anyway, I left very early in the morning (about 5:45 a.m) to take these photos. I knew that the snow would melt soon.

 

This cherry blossom tree is in another part of Fukushima City. It’s later the same day, when I was riding my bike on an errand. The building in the background (left side) is the City Hall.

The above photo was taken a few days after the snowfall. You can see that the branches that are almost in the center of the photo were damaged by the snow–they’re hanging directly downward, instead of springing outward.