Tonight, my seven-year-old made origami cranes for the children of Japan. Tomorrow, at school is a bagel breakfast to raise money for those in need, following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
It is also cherry blossom season, here in San Francisco, in our nation’s capital and of course in Japan, a rite of spring and a life-affirming, annual natural event. As I wheeze through the days full of blooms and pollen I stop to think about the brutality and generosity of what we call Mother Nature.
Traditional custom this time of year in Japan is to picnic under the cherry blossoms with friends and family. Sake, poetry and karaoke often accompany a spread of bountiful treats. This year though, as the country mourns, many are avoiding conspicuous consumption and opting to forgo the annual ritual, or to tone it down considerably. The elderly mayor of Tokyo has erected signs to ask residents to avoid the spring fun as a show of solidarity for those suffering in the northeast of the country. Mother Nature, or the force in nature, whatever you want to call it, can be so cruel and so glorious. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting, and fragile…like life itself. There is poignancy this year, but certainly the pink blossoms offer a small glimmer of hope, that life goes on.
I am sort of an Olympics geek. I love the games, both the summer and the winter. My mom actually took my sister and me and two friends to the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. We had tickets for the Women’s Downhill Skiing event, but if you remember, the Games were a bit of a mess and transportation to the venues was a fiasco. We never made it to the mountain and got Compulsory Ice Dancing tickets as compensation; still it was an amazing experience.
Tomorrow the host city of the 2016 Summer Games will be announced in Copenhagen, Denmark. The front-running candidates are Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. President and Michelle Obama will be there to forward the Chicago bid, which because of their star power is leading Rio as the top pick. Continue reading »
Japanese Bullet Trains or Shinkansen are modern marvels: sleek, fast and on time. These trains are magnificent, and a testimony to Japan’s resurrection from the ashes of World War Two. The first-ever Bullet Train made its last run today, 44 years after its debut for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The original model, the zero-kei (zero-series), was called the “dream superexpress.” The symbol of the nation’s recovery, the train attracted many fans and holds a special place in many Trainspotter’s hearts. The lighter and faster bullet trains today, carry millions of passengers and tourists around the island nation. The latest N700-series travels at nearly 200 MPH. There is a new line in the works; the maglev line will transport passengers from Tokyo to central Nagoya at more than 300 MPH! This train is expected to be in service by 2025.
You’ve seen it on postcards, in photo galleries, in museums, and in Hokusai’s famous woodblock art, 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. The elegant perfect cone of Mount Fuji, only 60 miles from Tokyo, is a national symbol, a near mythical place for the Japanese, and one of the world’s most popular mountains to climb. As the official climbing season winds down the numbers are in: a record 247,066 people scaled the peak in July and August. Think about it: over two months that’s 3,985 people per day! If you want to experience the Japanese culture in all of its variety, be there with all of your Tokyo neighbors, and no doubt have a spiritual experience, climb the mountain next summer.