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Typhoon 101

What to do when there’s a typhoon coming your way

So you have just found out that there is a typhoon heading your way while in Japan. What do you do? Panic? Scream? Wait…why is no-one else around you panicking?

IF you are in Japan for either the rugby world cup or the Olympics, welcome to a very diverse and beautiful country. This is a what if guild, so if here, please note.

Firstly advice, it’s mostly likely nothing to worry about- I’m happy to say that the monstrous devistation you see in movies is usually played up- that’s not to say they can’t happen the same way. You need to be prepared.

Firstly, what type of typhoon is it? On the Japanese meteorological agency website (in English) there are the following categories for typhoons:

  • TY: Typhoon
  • STS: Severe Tropical Storm
  • TS: Tropical Storm
  • TD: Tropical Depression
  • LOW: Extra-tropical Low

My advice is be careful about anything over TS, the others are more than likely not to be cause for concern (they can become stronger).

Additionally, have you ever heard of “PPPPPPP”? It means:

Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performace

There’s a disaster coming so what have you done about it? Do you know where the local refuge areas are? Have you prepaired anything in case it becomes a level 5 emergency? No, well let’s make a start.

The where- Refuge areas

There are different types to be aware of. The most basic is a temporary evacuation site- which is often organised by the local community. It is a good place to meet up for ‘smaller’ disasters in order to assess the situation.

Open evacuation sites are designated places by the ward or city that people will go to if the temporary one is either dangerous or inaccessible. There is often help available here and they are either in Tsumani or earthquake resistant buildings- expect to be here for around a day.

Finally, evacuation shelters- this is for the longer stay. This is used if a persons’ home is unsafe or non-existent.

Please note, in coastal areas there are more specialised Tsunami evacuation areas, please take note of what disaster is heading your way (if for some reason you do not know).

One last thing on the where, mate sure you know where the where is or in other words where is your nearest refuge area and how far do you have to travel on foot/ bike. There is no carparking at emergency facilities and there is a possibility that the roads would be unusable anyways.

The what- belongings

I would recommend preparing a bug out bag and keep it in a safe place. Inside should be 3 days of emergency food and water (think calorie mate for food) and at least 6 l of water per person (which is a lot I know). Additionally, there should be a change of clothes, toiletries , important papers (passport and residence card), a flash light, batteries, a wind up radio, mobile/cell phone charger, a knife, and money at a minimum!

More could be packed (and should be if you have a real need for it) but remember space at a shelter is at a premium and you may have to run while carrying everything you need.

The time- what to do when leaving

So, all the warning signs have proven true- DO NOT PANIC. What to do when leaving?

  • Collect emergency info from JMA/ TV/ radio to see what has been recommended (caution, standby, evacuation etc)

If leaving, please note the following

  • Turn off all gas
  • Protect yourself from falling objects internally and externally
  • Keep away from large objects that may fall on top of you.
  • Gather everyone one in one place with the bug-out bag
  • calmly go to the refuge centre (if needed)

If evacuation has not been recommended

  • fill the bathtub with water
  • have an emergency light source to had
  • keep everyone safe
  • prepare in case of evacuation

The type of warning

Finally, the type of wanrning. You may have noticed that I refer to warnings in English and not Japanese, alas in Japanese it is sightly different. But at the base level, there are: advisory, warnings, and emergency warnings. If there is an emergency warning, there will be a broadcast over the emergency warning system, updates on that ward/cities website declaring an emeergency and usually warning messages sent out by text.

No matter the level, be cautious- they are NOT sent out for the fun of it.

No matter what, please be safe and happy exploring.

For further reading, please check out the JMA website in English at:

https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Global views on being eco-friendly

A quick summary of some countries positions on being green

At a macro level, what importance do different countries and cultures put on being eco-friendly and what does the media in those countries report on this topic?

As there are visible changes to global weather patterns, increased plastic waste (or at least increased visibility) and a visible consequence of human actions on the wider environment, the question as to how much do different countries care about the environment must be asked.

I know the introduction sounds very report like and official; but the main focus of this article is to get you to ask the question which is simply: does my country care? What is my country doing? and perhaps mostly importantly, do I care?

Let’s start with the powerhouse of Energiewende- Germany. Germany is one of the more advanced countries in trying to be eco-friendly. They are getting rid of nuclear power and placing more emphasis on being green. They have signed the 2015 climate pack and are committed to reduce their CO2 emissions. So very forward facing.

However, one third ofbtheir power is still reliant on coal and there is still a preference for fast cars (they do have the Autobahns). But the umweltwelle is affecting this as well, with promises by 2030 that there’ll be over 10 million electric cars on the roads (Spiegel Online).

Now for a culture and country change- the USA. In recent times, the USA has had image of not caring for the environment and being almost environmentally callous. One reason for this could be cultural. In the USA, bigger is always better- bigger cars, homes, availability of technology etc, but each process does generate CO2– and when so many Americans also follow this policy, it creates problems.

But we must also consider the actions of the government as to a culture’s stance on the environment. For America, under the current administration, the environment is no longer a priority. The EPA has been scaled back and there is more emphasis on economic growth, while not a bad thing, it comes at the cost of the environment- which will cost a lot more to alleviate later. Also, every international policy that the USA was a part of, is now seen to be a burden to industry and is to be scrapped.

It seems as if the dollar, not the environment is king in America and as the saying goes “In God we trust, all others must pay”, but what will be the final price?

While there are more countries, and more cultures to explore, it is important to highlight the two extremes in the western world- the country riding the wave and the country trying to ignore the problem. Finally, the country where I reside: Japan.

There is a certain meticulous way of soring rubbish/trash in Japan which differs from city to city and is always complex and mistakes are commonly made. According to the council for PET bottle recycling (I wonder is there is any bias here???), in 2014, about 94% of PET bottles were recycled. But the Japanese relationship with plastic is slight ridiculous.

When buying a bento (弁当), there is usually a small piece of plastic grass contained within for decoration in addition to the plastic box, the plastic seal, and the plastic bag that it comes with. Multiply this across many other items in Japan and you can understand why it  was highlighted at the G20, various international media sources and on daytime TV in Japan. Even with this attention, it has been (mostly) ignored by the Japanese.

Looking at the 3 countries, Germany is winning the eco race, Japan is half way, and the US comes last. Looking at all of this, if scientists are wrong and we do nothing, all we have done is reduce go global pollution and help many endangered species survive. But if scientists are correct and things continue the way they have been going, at the very least many people will die either due to extreme weather patterns, low lying countries being flooded, and food becoming a scarce resource. So perhaps doing you part (even just a little bit) will make a difference.

I will write more on being ecologically friendly in other countries in the future- it is vital to explore this as the effects will affect everyone.

Thank you for reading and please consider what I have written. As always, happy exploring.

Want to do something? Don’t know where to start?  please check out the link below to sign a petition

http://chng.it/HCyMWMvQ7X

Japanese Halloween

Happy Halloween…wait what?

It is always amazing to see the different culture another country adapts. For the UK, like Japan, we adopted Halloween but at the same time, the US template was not Japanese enough.

Interest in Halloween in Japan has exploded in recent years and so has the commercial aspect! What many people use to experience was nothing. No costumes, no cosplaying, no decoration, nothing. But that has changed.

There are more people dressing up, more people trick or treating and more hype surrounding this once purely American holiday.

Please note, I said more people ‘rick or treating’ but not many more. One important part of Japanese culture is 迷惑をかける (めいわけをかける   or annoying/ being a bother to others) and it is that feeling that will stop most.

But times are changing (as I hear the older generations complaining at the gym), and what once was taboo, may not be much more- more about that to come.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Nabari lake

Time for a bike ride, I have the spot to go to

Occasionally finding something to do in small town Japan is hard- you have no interest in the arcade, there is some tourist sites but you may encounter tourists, and if you go to the supermarket again, people might start to think you work there.

The answer to your problems is a bike rider, either type will do (but I do like to challenge myself with the hills!).

The next problem is where to go? If you’re in Nabari, try going to the lake, it’s a wonderful challenge.

A bit of background information, Nabari is an extremely hilly city- no matter where you go you’ll come across a hill. Going to the lake from the train station, there are 5 large hills to climb. But once you have made it- the views are wonderful.

The picture was taken at the viewing area near the start of the my journey- in front of a wonderful little café.

The entire course around the lake is 15 km and it goes into Nara-ken as well. Along the way, there are several viewing areas and picnic areas that would make a wonderful day out- and it is extremely popular with Japanese families.

On the way back, you’ll come across Nabari dam- quite an impressive piece of engineering where there is a road on top. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day (I may have broken the speed limit cycling downhill though).

As always, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: milk bags are fine but yoghurt bags….

When shopping takes a weird turn

When going to a supermarket, you generally know every product in a store and where it’s located. In addition to this, you know the best day and times to buy the products. For me, I have this down to an art.

But occasionally, out of nowhere a weird product comes your way. Introducing the yoghurt bag….

I will say that I did not buy it- the eagle eyed among you would have already seen the price 797 JPY (or 7 USD for 800 g) which is day light robbery.

In addition to this, its in a bag- if dropped the resulting explosion would mean I don’t have to repaint my walls. With this, I personally had 2 problems: a. I travel by bike (trying to beep this in one piece wouldn’t have been fun) and b. I know the Japanese are not keen on reducing plastic waste but having additional plastic to strengthen the product seems like over kill.

Perhaps this is commonplace, and I simply need to get out more.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.  

Ninja 101

What’s in a name?

Ninja have not always been known as ninjas- it has differed due to time and place. But first what makes up the name Ninja?

Ninja or 忍者 is the on-yomi or Chinese reading of two kanji- 忍 meaning to hide, steal, endure, self-restraint and 者 meaning person or practiser. The name dates back to the 6th century with the kun-yomi 志能便-the original kanji for Shinobi, another name for a ninja written today using the following kanji: 忍び. But Shinobi was a shorting of the phrase 忍びの者, which when is reduced to the kanji reads 忍者 or Ninja.

But what about place (are you ready for the Japanese?) The following table lists all the different places that have either used a different name or have used the same names but with different kanji

京都・奈良  水破(すっぱ)・ 伺見(うかみ)・ 奪口(だっこう)・ 志乃比(しのび)
Kyoto/Nara Suppa, Ukami, Dakkou, shinobi
青森県   早道の者(はやみちのもの)・ 陰術(しのび)
Aomori Prefecture Hayamichinomono, Shinobi
宮城県   黒はばき(くろはばき)
Miyagi Prefecture Kurohabaki
神奈川県   草(くさ)・ かまり 物見(ものみ)・ 乱破(らっぱ)・ 突破(とっぱ)
Kanagawa Prefecture Kusa, Kamari, Monomi, Rappa, Toppa
東京   隠密(おんみつ)・ 御庭番(おにわばん)・ お庭番(おにわばん)
Tokyo Onmitsu, Oniwaban, Oniwaban
山梨県   透破(すっぱ)・透波(すっぱ)・三ツ者・出抜(すっぱ)
Yamanashi Prefecture Suppa, Suppa, Mitsumono, Suppa
愛知県   饗談 (きょうだん)
Aichi Prefecture Kyoudan
福井県   隠忍術(しのび)
Fukui Prefecture Shinobi
新潟県・富山県   軒猿(のきぎる)・郷導(きょうどう)・郷談(きょうだん)・間士(かんし)・聞物役(ききものやく)
Niigata Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture Nokigiru, Kyoudou, Kyoudan, Kanshi, Kikimonoyaku

In addition to this, different names appeared at different times and changed at different times. From the Asuka period (飛鳥時代) where Shinobi and Shyoutokutaishi (聖徳太子 the list above was not exhaustive), to the Nara Period (奈良時代) where Ukami was predominately used, to the Sengoku period where most other ones were used and finally to Edo period- the twilight of the ninja- where Oniwaban was introduced.

So, what’s in a name, as it turns out rather a lot. Each of the reading given (and there are further ones!) could be analysed, but not everyone would be interested in that so I’ll stop here.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Iga-city, the ninja city

If you’ve got it flaunt it…well you can stop now. No, please…

The Ninja train at 伊賀神戸駅- Iga-kambe station

I travel to Iga a lot and I always enjoy visiting- mostly for work though. But there is one think that new visitors always take note of upon arrival- the city is very Ninja heavy. There are ninja dolls dotted around, souvenirs (a really good one located next to the train station- turn right as you exit and you’re there),  and even signs saying that you can explore the historic city while dressed as a ninja.

Iga is traditionally thought of the birthplace of Ninjas and as the train station would tell you- it’s the Ninja station (or Ueno as everyone else knows it). But don’t worry, to highlight this face, there is the Ninja train or the Iga-tetsudo. Even if the paint work is to be ignored, there are ninja dolls at several stations along the way.  Don’t forget city hall with its “welcome to Ninja city” sign. So I may be a bit jaded having been annoyed by tourists this summer…

But the amazing thing is that the Ninja city is also not quite true. While Ninjas do come from Iga, all initial training was done in Akameguchi, just outside Nabari (very beautiful area). This was during the foundation of the ninja- it did move later.  

So while you ‘got it’ just be aware of the small print- originally it was more Nabari rather than Iga, even though Iga became the true centre of the ninja- if we overlook Koga.

There will be more on ninja in the future including everything that you didn’t know you wanted to know, and a ninja travel guide for Iga city.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The plague of Japan: Tobacco

The old cool pastime is an outdated one- everywhere but Japan?

As an ex-smoker, I do struggle with my old daemon- tobacco. I have parted ways, no longer stay in contact and yet it still bugs me.

My fight had been made easier with most train stations on the Kintetsu lines and the Iga-tetsudo lines now being smoke free but there is but one place that does still haunt me- convenience stores.

In Japan, tobacco is sold out in the open- with even special offers and prices at times- showing you just how cheap it is- the cheapest one being just 350 JPY ( around 3 USD)- which never mind being cheap for Japan, it is cheap full stop. Even with the UN tobacco recommendations, Japan still mostly ignores them.

There are smoking areas inside restaurants (separated from non-smoking areas), smoking areas in train cars, in the street, outside convenience stores, outside clinics and hospitals and inside so many businesses- it hard to escape them and it is still socially acceptable but nor as much as drinking (to be looked into later).

However, there have been more laws brought in especially in Tokyo in the run up to the Olympics next year to become more anti-smoking, but this seems to be confined to places a tourist may see.

So, for those who are anti-smoking or have given up, be vigilant- Japan seems like a smoker’s paradise and is still tempting for those who have quit. For smokers, please respect Japan and be aware of other’s opinions.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring


Smoking in Japan

I do not condone smoking, but if you visit and would like to smoke please note the following:

  • You may only smoke in designated areas or face a fine
  • Not all convenience stores have smoking ash trays
  • Some major cities- Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya etc have districts where smoking is prohibited. If you want to smoke, you need to either exit the district or find an indoor one.
  • There are smoking rooms on limited express trains and on the Shinkansen- all other trains are non-smoking.
  • A pocket ashtray is not a free licence to smoke
  • most tourist places including moutains are completely smoke free

Hibiki’s bakery, Nabari

A little bread slice of happiness

A lovely baker in Nabari, Mie

As part of my work, I travel around Mie a lot and I live in Nabari city- small town Japan. One thing that many don’t realise is that small town Japan is a different world to ‘tourist’ Japan.

If you have heard of Nabari, perhaps it is because it is the big station before Yamato-Yagi on the Kintetsu line, but regardless of this, Hibiki’s bakery is a little gem located 1.5 km from the train station and down the hill from city hall- near the MOS burger.

Why am I pushing for this place? Because it is delicious, reasonably priced and the best bread I have had in Japan. Additionally, to always seems quite and I want it to stay in business!!

In addition to this, the coffee is really good and they sell fresh sandwiches, cakes, macha muffins, and so much more. If you can and you’re in the area- check it out, its worth both the time and money to get there. Don’t worry it’s not an expensive place either.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: emergency coffee stat

You forgotten to get coffee, now what?

As with any coffee addict, I need coffee to function in the morning, noon, night, any other time I have missed. But what do you don when the coffee jar is empty?

First: DONT PANIC. Convenience stores in Japan have you back, there is usually a coffee machine or pre-done coffees in a hot fridge- the perfect drinking temperature.

As there are many opinions as to what constitutes a perfect cuppa, there are as many options available in pre-done form- I would always go for fresh though.

What would my recommendation be? I hear you didn’t ask, well it would be the black strong coffee from Family mart- it strong, good tasting and cheap.

The only problem you’ll have now is wanting another one- you’re welcome.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.