Disaster learnings from Japan

This is a L-O-N-G post but I wanted to get everything down in one place.  Prepare a cuppa!

The key reason many of us went on this tour to Japan was due to our involvement with the State Emergency Service in our state of New South Wales.  As volunteers, we help with storm and flood victims, as well as crowd control as the need arises.  Whilst the vast majority of our trip to Japan was site seeing, there were a number of occasions we turned to our (voluntary) work and interests.

Our first exposure to disasters in Japan was through our Sister City program, between Bankstown council and Suita City outside of Osaka in Japan.  This city council arranged for two days of talks and activities, which included visiting a local fire and paramedic station, travelling to Kobe to see the museum there (more later) and many talks and slides from a number of different organisations involved with disaster response.  By and large, Japan has a very formal and paid work force involved with disaster assistance.  That being said, there’s also a very large again population that seem engaged in a number of voluntary capacities in day to day life (guides at sites and museums) as well as in times of crisis.

Kode museum
Kobe museum

In Kobe, where there was an earthquake in 1995 (known as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake) there is the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution.  This modern glass water front building offers a number of museum exhibits as well as auditoriums that show the effects of the 1995 earthquake, with footage taken from about the city.  It was the first time I felt unsettled and chose to look at the ground than continue to see the images of damaged buildings.  I have a strong interest in human disasters (such as the Holocaust) and this is the first time I remember being so moved by something that I can no longer watch.  There was no blood or gore, but my empathy meter was on overdrive, further hindered by not being able to rationalise this sort of event.  It’s natural, and it could and does happen regularly in Japan – where I was.  There’s no one to blame – there’s only preparations that can be made.

Some of the tour group with a guide in Osaka
Some of the tour group with a guide in Osaka

The Kobe earthquake, as I know it better, marks as a great learning point for Japan.  Our guide was clearly impacted by the earthquake, and outlined a number of learnings that came away from it.  “Back then” there was very little in the way of formal reimbursement for the loses suffered, now Japan offers up to 3 million yen per person.  After such an event, people are moved in to temporary housing (which we got to briefly see ‘up north’).  In Kobe, people were assigned homes based on a lottery system, however the guide says that people have learnt that this breaks down existing communities.  He also mentioned that the average stay is 6 months, but the longest stay was 5 years! Can you imagine that?  And that the temporary housing took 3 months to establish.  So where did people take refuge until then?

Interestingly to me, the whole disaster response movement is centered around schools.  When I thought about it, it seemed logical! They are managed by the same government bodies that assist with disasters (the prefecture level, I think, but in Australia, it’d be the state, which also works nicely).  We learnt from our talks at Suita City Hall that schools contain locked sheds full of materials suitable for search and rescue, as well as temporary needs.  So in the event of an earthquake, people head to school halls, and came out in school halls.  Only the Japanese could make this seem so orderly – they still take off their shoes before entering their patch of ground for sleeping!

Tokyu Hands, a department store with stocks for disasters
Tokyu Hands, a department store with stocks for disasters

How did Kobe rebuild?  In many cases, apartment blocks attempt to rebuild a 7 storey building into 10 storeys, to help finance the build by selling to more people.  Obviously this strategy works in earthquake prone areas, but in Takata (north of Fukushima prefecture) the issues with flooding and tsunamis don’t make the solutions as simple.  Nonetheless, this rebuilding takes time, and people do move away.  As a result, shops suffer and close too.

What to do in an earthquake?  We learnt that after a certain year (maybe 1991?) all buildings have been made to earthquake standards, including glass that doesn’t shatter as dangerously.  The advice is to move above the third storey of concrete buildings that are strong enough.  We also saw signage used to denote a ‘safe place’ to evacuate to in the event of an earthquake or tsunami.  Japan is flush with underground shopping malls and countless subways lines (private and publicly owned), which of course are at serious risk of tsunami flooding.  Actually we went in a simulated earthquake ‘lift’ (elevator) which pretended to be in a shopping centre with access to the basement floors.

If I could have bought a version of this...
If I could have bought a version of this…

Whilst in Kobe, we watched a video on the impacts of the 2011 tsunami, and saw the township we would visit later in the trip (though at the time I didn’t know this!).  My notes immediately after the video presentation, showing three years since the tsunami, had me wondering if it was even ‘worth’ rebuilding.  After three years, most things were just flattened, with the debris all cleared, and I know now, a great many building flattened, despite surviving.

I also learnt about liquification, which happens as part of an earthquake, where underground water and sand based soils mix, and water often rises to the surface.  If homes and buildings don’t have sufficiently deep foundations or ‘stilts’ they risk being destroyed by the earth’s movements.  There’s some great (kid friendly) examples of how this happens in most of the museums we went to!

According to myths, this fish causes tsunamis
According to myths, this fish causes tsunamis

It seems the greatest level of education about natural disasters is aimed at children, with most museums we went to (one in Kobe, one in Kyoto and one in Tokyo) having a strong school based focus.  To think there’s a mascot for the tsunami centre in Kyoto!  Seriously – only in Japan!

Osaka tsunami museum mascot!?
Osaka tsunami museum mascot!?

After every earthquake, the government is obliged within three minutes to release a tsunami warning, which includes the suspected ‘height’ of the wave.  In the case of the tsunami in 2011, the models didn’t accommodate magnitude 8 or 9 earthquakes, and therefore predictions were woefully low.  As an engineer, I didn’t buy into the ‘they should have known’ or ‘they should have told us’.  As I discussed with S&A (my mates on the trip), firstly magnitude is a logarithmic scale – it gets bigger fast!  I can totally see which ever bean counters ignoring the possibility of the wave heights with a high magnitude quake being of a level so devastating they couldn’t imagine.  If someone told you a 15m wave was coming, when in recorded history there’d never been a wave this high, then I can imagine the public’s response could have been even more lacklustre.  In the 2011 case, the initial reports were for a 3m wave, later upgraded to 6m, in any case, there was a 5m sea wall, so many people felt that the impacts of the tsunami would be minimal.  It goes without saying the level of devastation that was caused when the true wave came.

Tokyo's museum, but also Control Room for disasters
Tokyo’s museum, but also Control Room for disasters

Whilst in Suita City, we were given a glossy 45 page A4 booklet all about disaster preparation, in English.  Whilst some of the tour ‘wished there was more said and done about natural disasters for tourists’, I thought it was amazing to have this (evidently) costly publication in English, as undoubtedly it’d be in other languages.  Japan, unlike much of the world I’ve travelled to, doesn’t often ‘worry’ about languages of others.  If anything, there’s sometimes Korean, Chinese or English, but even still, many products don’t feel the need to carry any translations (I suppose just like Australia!).

 

Barriers for the water in Osaka
Model of barriers for the water in Osaka

In the event of a natural disaster, there’s a fantastic voicemail system, where you can use a pay phone to leave a message attached to your landline phone.  That way, other people can ring the number and check if other people from ‘home’ have left a message.  I’ve never heard of a system like this, and it just BLEW me away to have this organised.  In Tokyo, we saw a short animation of a disaster, and saw the kids and the parents using this system too!  Even more surprisingly was in a super technical nation, the public pay phone lines are given priority coverage after a disaster.  And yep, we saw payphones all over – much more so than in Australia now.

Phone in a subway - at wheelchair height!
Phone in a subway – at wheelchair height!

In the course of our travels, I noticed little preparedness measures taken.  Exit signage was often on the floor, or knee height in the wall – made sense to me, as you often evacuate on your knees if there’s smoke.  Makes the ceiling and doorway mounted ones in Australia seem nonsensical (though these also existed in parts of Japan).  Every hotel room we stayed in had a torch mounted to the wall.  Not once did I see a torch missing – so tourists are honest (or torches values are decreasing in the smart phone era?)

One example of stuff
One example of stuff

All the museums covered the need for three days (72 hours) supply of food and water.  In Tokyo, there was a collection of different ‘packs’ available around the world.  The smartest (in my opinion) formed the stuffing of a teddy bear (which may have also had backpack straps).  As a souvenir of our time in Suita City, we were given a high nutrition food bar (about one and a half times the size of a matchbox?) and a wind up torch – almost perfect for our purpose.

I think I’ve reached my saturation point for this post – which isn’t to say I won’t randomly realise things I’ve forgotten I wanted to document.  But here it is for now…

Does your city have an evacuation plan?  What makes you ready for a disaster?

Journal of Japan

This is a picture heavy post, where I share the photographs of my journal of travelling – it started slow but once I got into it (on the road) it got more decorative!

Should fire ruin this journal, at least I’ll have it in blog form, and you get to sticky beak!

Day 1 in Osaka
Day 1 in Osaka
Day 2 - still on about Osaka
Day 2 – still on about Osaka
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Suita City
Getting colourful - back in Osaka after Suita City
Getting colourful – back in Osaka after Suita City
Japan sourvenirs 012-Optimized
Golden temple in Kyoto
Japan sourvenirs 013-Optimized
Trip to see SUMO! This crane was made by J2 (on tour) with a caramel lolly wrapper
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From Kyoto and the floating temple, to the day trip to Hiroshima
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Hiroshima day trip – the water colour was painted with the water of the river in Hiroshima 🙁
Japan sourvenirs 016-Optimized
Moss garden in Kyoto in the various seasons. The cranes were from my pillow in the Ryokan, one was from our guide at Hiroshima.
Japan sourvenirs 017-Optimized
Ryokan in Kyoto…! And our menu had the Gion Festival float (bottom left) on it, WAY cheaper than any souvenirs!
Japan sourvenirs 018-Optimized
Left hand side is a trimmed fan handed out in a department store. The right is the business card of our guide in the north, showing the lonely pine tree that survived the tsunami. Top right is the lovely caramel lolly wrapper (again!)
Japan sourvenirs 019-Optimized
Day trip to Hanone to see Mt Fuji (but we didn’t) – the ticket stubs returned for recycling at the end were snaffued for my journal.
Japan sourvenirs 020-Optimized
The right hand side hides map of Japan – where I marked everywhere we went. The decoration on top is Osaka stamps that were in some guide book. Far right is my name in katakana from our Suita City day 1
Japan sourvenirs 021-Optimized
We had a week long rail pass, the green tickets are (free) seating allocations on trains. All our city based rail stuff, the tickets get taken
Japan sourvenirs 022-Optimized
Tokyo’s disaster park, and my last day in Tokyo – with shopping images. The plane stickers were a purchase in Japan too!
Japan sourvenirs 023-Optimized
The hirigana alphabet that my homestay’s cousin wrote out for me – bless her. I was trying to remember symbols that evening, by reading the paper, and pointing to a symbol and checking what sound it was.

Questions most welcome!

Souvenirs from Japan

So what did I buy in Japan? Aside from four tops/shirts for a number of multinational companies (Zara, Uni Qlo, H&M), I also bought a belt from Old Navy.  That’s all par for the course –  I have the time and the funds when on holidays to buy clothing.

Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me
Not incredibly inspiring, but all suit me

However, I also bought

  1. Two packets of the same size of oragami paper – all in blue tones.  I plan to frame some.
  2. A fabric hand towel
  3. An offcut of fabric, and 1m of a fabric I loved – I’m considering using them between the glass and the ‘wood’ of the coffee table.
  4. Maple leaf shaped cakes from Hiroshima, with the limited edition Maple flavour!
  5. Sheets of stickers of Japanese temples, and paper shapes, to add to my travel journal (upcoming post)
Paper to be framed
Paper to be framed
100 yen - an impulse purchase
100 yen – an impulse purchase
Fabric - not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!
Fabric – not even a planned purchase, a happy chance discovery!

I also spent countless money on snacks! My my my, did I try everything and then some.  I feel very unhealthy now! I enjoyed cream/custard filled puffs (three times), small pancakes packages with maple jelly and butter, caramel pop corn, pizza flavoured chips (crisps for Laura ;), strawberry yoghurt drink, little brownie bites, pineapple ring icecream, mango ice block (twice!), alcoholic lemon flavoured icey drink… There was plenty more, I assure you… these are what I remember! That’s right – rice balls (really triangular shaped), though the last one I had, well I was pretty sure it was my LAST one, I got a little over them.

I also brought home a sake bottle, as the glass was blue! It’s now sharing the trolley with a Bombay Sapphire mini bottle. Classy huh?

What’s your favourite of my souvenirs?  Is there something you ‘always’ collect as a souvenir when travelling?

Baths, kimonos and eating with my homestay in Japan

Another email rebadged as a post… this is my first evening with my home stay family – a mum and dad, and a son and daughter, both around 18 years old

So after another hot and sweaty day we went to the baths. Totally get nuddy baths! Insane! Obviously girls and boys are seperate but it’s in a mall with bowling, restaurants, 100yen shop. There’s inside baths and open air ones. Crazy. All ages too! Bulk shampoo and conditioner impressed my zero waste heart.  And little did I know this introduction would be instrumental to others on my trip, when we later went to other baths.  There’s so much etiquette involved!

The entry to the (photography forbidden) baths
The entry to the (photography forbidden) baths
My host family after the baths
My host family after the baths
This made it hard for those with tattoos, thankfully I have none (though the homestay mother never asked)
This made it hard for those with tattoos, thankfully I have none (though the homestay mother never asked)
We went to a traditional tea ceremony during the day, bitter stuff but they give you a sweet pastry thing to have with it. You’re meant to sit with your feet under you bum but we all struggled!! After that three if us got to wear the kimono which was amusing cause none of us were the correct dimensions!! My host sister wears a kimono as a uniform at the restaurant she works at – she’s 18.
Green tea and yummy sweet
Green tea and yummy sweet
The traditional old wooden tea house
The traditional old wooden tea house
Geishas in the garden
Geishas in the garden
One size fits most non westerns...
One size fits most non westerns…
Looking back ;)
Looking back 😉
Not a pool - this was where water was stored to quell any fire in the historic wooden building
Not a pool – this was where water was stored to quell any fire in the historic wooden building
After my host family picking me up we did grocery shopping. Japan are more into milk and sweet & savory pastries than I would gave expected. Meat and most everything is packaged in tiny portions, it’s amazing. Peaches are in protective foam you sometimes get spirit bottles in and plastic wrapped. Conversely you pay for plastic bags at the grocery store but not at convenience stores?! If you say no to a plastic bag you get tape put over the bar code, even in convenience store. They are big into tidiness, the 100yen shop has a bucket on the counter for your unwanted docket. Leaving the airport, there’s a bin especially for printed baggage tags. Every vending machine is flanked by bins too!
Expensive peaches (cause of the labour to wrap them?)
Expensive peaches (cause of the labour to wrap them?)
Meat in the non family size (at least no Aussie family!)
Meat in the non family size (at least no Aussie family!)
Being picked up by my homestay mum and sister
Being picked up by my homestay mum and sister
This tag stops a fdee for plastic bags being added to grocery purchases
This tag stops a free for plastic bags being added to grocery purchases
Prices seem quite reasonable, $90 for five people to have dinner, dad had beer, then baths and some drinks after. I’d love to know what the conversion rates have been in the past!
Japanese table, with bare feet - we left them in lockers?!
Japanese table, with bare feet – we left them in lockers?!
————————-

Slept well though it was hot! I slept on a futon mattress which is more like sleeping in a doona. Had both a fan and air con, but I notice the living room air con is on 27c!!

Japanese style sleeping
Japanese style sleeping
The lantern in my room at my homestay
The lantern in my room at my homestay
This morning I visited the local shrine with the mum, where you wash your left then right hand. Then you ring the bell and pray, after clapping your hands twice. You pay 5yen, which has a hole in it and there is some homophone about seeing friends through the hole. Anyhow you throw this in a slotted container before bell ringing.
Me and the shrine
Me and the shrine
Entry to the shrine
Entry to the shrine
Then we came home to b’fast. There was a salad with cabbage, one cherry tomato and a mini sausage. Then there was a fried egg. Then yoghurt with a fruit sauce an crunchy cereal with dried strawberries. Then I had the bread/pastry I chose yesterday which was maple flavoured. Then there were angel cheeks which are this soft sweet taco with whipped light cream. With iced coffee, which you buy bottled black and add cream or milk. Interestingly full fat milk is more expensive than lower fat milk. An beer is CHEAP, and you can buy single cans at the grocery store.  Suita, the city we’re in outside of Osaka is where the Asahi beer is made, we walked past the factory.
Breakfast at my homestay
Breakfast at my homestay
Another day reported!

Day 1 – Japan

So, laziness, or insanely smart, I’m going to try and ‘recycle’ some of my emails to blog posts.  It has been noted that my email style is a little ‘punchier’ than my blog content… so I suppose we’ll see if it’s loved or hated!!

At Sydney Airport

So… other than bruising my hand on one of the lesbian’s hand luggage falling over (matches her wife’s), seeing my boss and his wife, I’m all good.Had my maccas hot cakes, seen an awesome red/ruby coloured longchamp – checked, it’s made in China, but my blue one I’m carrying is thankfully French made.

The 'traditional' McDonald's hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
The ‘traditional’ McDonald’s hotcakes at the airport! (They filled my bottle too!)
Plane food!
Plane food!
Tour might KILL (or teach me) patience… We’ll see.
New Osaka Hotel
I have wifi. I’m tired and it’s past bedtime and I’ve missed one meal. Room is tiny but private so this (semi) nudist is happy.
Plane was old but from Tokyo to Osaka was shiny and new and as big with first class! Who needs first class for a 45 min journey!?
Not so New - New Osaka Hotel... Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb.  Rookie error
Not so New – New Osaka Hotel… Shin Osaka = New Osaka, as in the suburb. Rookie error
Sat next I 21 year old on way here, annoyed me. Rookie traveller he is!!
Food! I need food! No money in yen though.
Day 2 about to begin, we head to the sister city Suita and stay with home stays for two nights! The lesbians are staying together cause otherwise they refused to home stay.
Little J is the inexperienced 21 yo got left behind in the busy streets of Osaka after seeing the dragon boats . He’s a pretty entitled mummy’s boy so more or less blamed us for losing him not himself for his inability to follow the green fish wind sock that Hiro our guide whips out (definitely gay me thinks!)
G the leader is a bit dottery, so the lesbians and I whipped him into shape so we eat prior to midnight. You should see the gifts he’s got for our homestay families – yikes!!
There’s an older couple, four kids and grand kids called L&G. Apart from the lesbians they seem the most relatable for me. They’ve travelled heaps. She’s a bit disagreeable with big issues, or just contrary (after I mentioned the diversity of fashions the Japanese wear). Greg is far more fun and appreciates my engineer mind!
There’s a whinge-a-belle  who’s a vego cause she can’t chew. She takes 10 minutes of fretting to buy a vending machine drink, worried she won’t like it, and of course in the end didn’t. She should have got water but she doesn’t like mineral water, chose green tea. Anyone would think the $2 decision was mission critical! The lesbians and I split to ensure we wouldn’t enjoy her company at dinner after seeing her lengthy discussion at lunch!
The team - outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
The team – outside the Kobe Earthquake Museum
There’s sisters her, in strata check business, constantly laughing. E’s 27 and definitely the more unhinged one but K keeps her sorted. Thy have locked themselves out If their room more than once already!
Then they Z, a Russian born in Iran who got refugee status in Australia after ww2. She’s a red wine drinker and whilst a little spacey, switched on generally! J is 32 never travelled but it doesn’t show. He has mannerisms and intonation like Teo but far more generous. The twins and I had cash flow problems the first night and Jordan readily volunteered to cover us. That being said despite reports to the contrary, international credit cards works but cash is king!
The tv is all in Japanese but in watching it nonetheless. Puts me in the mood for the day ahead. Sorta sad I couldn’t find a music station at least 🙁
Yesterday we went to a castle/fort in the rain, then to Osaka history museum which was ok but very little English.
Osaka Castle - b picture (blame it on the weather?)
Osaka Castle – bad picture (blame it on the weather?)
Lastly we went to the aquarium which I want enthusiastic about but ended up loving! For a girl scared of swimming with fish, a 30cm Perspex barrier between us is ideal! There were penguins and dolphins but the killer whale was sick and AWOL. There were SO many toddlers there but also young dating couples. Despite this business I saw heaps! There was also the worlds biggest gift store!! (If you care for fish, I have about 10 posts worth of photos!
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
Baby seat in the toliet cubicle
This country is incredibly kid friendly. Most toliet stalls have a wall mounted baby holder to sit there while mum pees. Then most ladies bathrooms have a small low mounted urinal for little boys!  Even sinks are at lower levels. Staks of men’s rooms also show they have baby change facilities too. They are also uber blind aware – Braille on stair hand rails in addition to tactiles everywhere. Even pay phones mounted lower. Every public toliet also has old person rails in the stalls and around at least one sink. I think I recall reading about the aging population: they’ve certainly embraced the changes needed!
Dragon boating - incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Dragon boating – incidentally as we passed over on a bridge.
Ok time to zip up and head to the foyer. Smallest bag in the group for the trip – most will leave the bulk of their stuff here during our homestay but I can take most of mine 😀
There you go – first days of my trip!

Things this trip taught me

A souvenir shop's garden
A souvenir shop’s garden
  • If I pack three pairs of ‘pants’ (one skirt, two pairs of shorts) – then I need the same proportion of tonal knickers (cause I’m like that!).  I didn’t have enough light toned knickers, but Uni Qlo to the rescue…
  • Synthetic pockets in my white shorts – need replacing stat!
Inside the moss garden
Inside the moss garden
  • I had the least luggage, but could have wedged in a few more light/thin t shirts of similar – not that I owned something I ‘should’ have packed
  • I’m incredibly well travelled, and actively seeking to learn and work things out. I did NOT like my discovery being short cut by a friendly helper I’m travelling with, but I love to teach when people are interested (like teaching Japanese characters to the girls)
Moss garden
Moss garden
  • I love to write – I wrote daily emails, AND a handwritten journal, which I bought some great scrap booking stickers for in Kyoto – mighty proud!
  • I’m not the most obsessed about wifi or internet! At least in this group of 12!
Gift shop after moss garden
Gift shop after moss garden
  • Handbags really are the best way for me to day trip – easy to get tickets out repeatedly, small and therefore light, and had a light bag in there for ‘shopping’.  Someone pointed out it was getting rain in it, but seriously, it didn’t, and no zip didn’t worry me in Japan!
  • Runners are way more supportive than $4 canvas slip on runners.
Bamboo
Bamboo
  • The smell of cigarette smoke is pervasive, and smoking is still quite acceptable in Japan (with smoking rooms quite common).  Three nights in a formerly smoking room was a little unpleasant :s
IN THE BAMBOO FORSET
IN THE BAMBOO FOREST
  • You are automatically charged for plastic bags at grocery stores, but at convenience and all other stores, it’s the default way to show you paid for something.  If you mime you don’t want a bag, plastic branded tape is placed over all items’ barcodes!

 

As soon as I hit publish, I’ll think of more things! But that’s ok, blogs are living, I can update it 😉

What did you learn from your last trip?

A selfie a day

I’ve often travelled alone. I’ve often not taken any photos of myself. With the BF back home, and this echo of friends in the past, I implemented a policy of ‘a selfie a day’. In reality, some days there are a few selfies, and other days there are none. But you get the picture:

At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
At sumo tournament. Incidently, I found out after the fact that my cousin was also there!
Floating temple in Kyoto
Floating temple in Kyoto
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Ferry ride near Hiroshima
Me with the O-Torii gate
Me with the O-Torii gate
That's hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
That’s hot work, but shaved ice will fix it!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn't believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Maple flavoured maple leaf shaped cakes. My guide didn’t believe I saw them in the station, but I won that one!
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Me in a kimono in Suita City
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Golden Temple in Kyoto
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Modelling my provided clothing for our Japanese baquet
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Me with the Maiko (apprentice Geisha)
Hello kitty - at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Hello kitty – at the sulphur hills near Mt Fuji
Moss garden in Kyoto
Moss garden in Kyoto
One of many Shinkasen rides!
One of many Shinkasen rides!

Do you have a favourite?

Japan’s differences in dot points

There’ll be many a post on my two weeks in Japan, but I thought I would start with the big difference I noticed and didn’t expect (like, obviously the language and alphabet is different!)

Lining up just so - no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
Lining up just so – no one had to tell them on the loudspeaker, like here in Sydney
  • They are SO tidy – even though there aren’t many bins, you just don’t see rubbish lying around.  I saw someone *clean* the pavers of an ice cream drop or two
  • There’s no paper hand towel in bathrooms, almost across the board.  My eco conscious REALLY like this!  Instead, men and women carry handkerchiefs or what we’d call ‘face washers’ (terry toweling) and use it to dry their hands, or wipe their brow…
  • Japan is HOT! Wow, there was 95% humidity some days
  • They are such obedient people – they line up either sides of the train carriages in pairs.  Just such restraint.
  • Everywhere seems very visually cluttered – some many words in your face!  Negative space in print isn’t something that’s used as much as it could be
  • They certainly love a cute uniform with a hat!
Cute uniforms (there's more photos like this of different women in different places - this one was at an Aquarium)
Cute uniforms (there’s more photos like this of different women in different places – this one was at an Aquarium)

Just a short post for now, but I thought I should break my two week posting drought!

Japan trip in July

Yummo, titled "Salmon Pink" source: Louise Hawson http://52suburbs.com/2012/12/01/kagurazaka/
Yummo, titled “Salmon Pink”
source: Louise Hawson

My apologies, devoted and committed readers (hahaha), it’s been more than a week since my last confession post.  But to break the silence, I have some VERY exciting news (which I alluded to in comment on declutter)!

All the wonderful photographs are directly from Louise Hawson, and brilliantly talented photographer from Sydney who took her daughter Coco around the world last year, visiting two cities that I will.  I was a diligently follower of her weekly posts, and have enjoyed her books thoroughly (52 Suburbs and 52 Suburbs Around the World).  Seeing you probably don’t know her, please take the time to enjoy her site: 52 Suburb Around the World

For my cat loving readers! Source: Louise Hawson
For my cat loving readers! Titled ‘Ginza Cats’
Source: Louise Hawson

An opportunity came up through the State Emergency Service (SES) which I volunteer for to join another area’s group heading to Japan for two weeks in July.  The other unit has a sister city in Japan.  Plus, there are some pretty interesting and unique challenges that Japan faces regarding emergency management.  The tour will only touch on ’emergency’ stuff on three occasions, and the rest of the time, we will enjoy being tourists complete with a tour guide.

I know I’ve said previously and repeatedly, that I’m not a fan of tours.  However, in livetolist format, here’s why I am joining a tour

  1. My high school Japanese is limited to ‘hi, my name is Sarah, I eat cake’
  2. I don’t have a burning list of things I *must* see and do in Japan
  3. However, I’m generally intrigued by Japan and it’s unique culture
  4. I have a passion for disaster recovery, and hope to move my career in that direction
  5. Opportunities like this don’t come up every day (and when you’re without children/ill parents/huge debt)
Titled: snowmen and Sanat:: 1 source: Louise Hawson
Titled: snowmen and Sanat:: 1
source: Louise Hawson

So here’s a brief summary of locations and activities planned

  • 5 nights in Osaka and/or host city
  • Kyoto Gion Festival
  • 4 nights in Kyoto
  • Bullet train to Hiroshima
  • See a Sumo match
  • Stay in a Ryokan (the traditional Japanese matted room with a futon)
  • Meet a Geisha and chat after watching her dance
  • Visit tsunami region
  • Bullet train to Tokyo
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • Visit Disaster Prevention Park
Titled: travel back in time at 300 km an hour Source: Louise Hawson
Titled: travel back in time at 300 km an hour
Source: Louise Hawson

There’s naturally more than this, but these stand out as the ‘cool’ notable items!

I’m so pleased I continue to regularly save money, so that I can say ‘yes’ to things like this without great concern.

Do you want to visit Japan?  Even if you don’t really want to, what’s one things you’d like to see or do whilst you’re there?