Representatives from 91 nations attend ceremony on 71st anniversary of atomic bombing of Hiroshima

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Japan Times:

Hiroshima on Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on world leaders to do more to abolish nuclear weapons and to follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the city in May with trips of their own.

At a memorial ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe echoed Matsui’s call and also urged young people to visit to observe the harrowing reality of the atomic bombing. Abe also reiterated Japan’s role in combating nuclear proliferation as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.

In the Peace Declaration read at the city’s annual memorial ceremony, Matsui urged the leaders of all nations to visit Hiroshima, which was devastated by an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, which was obliterated by another atomic strike three days later by the United States, in order to “etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each (leader’s) heart.

Matsui then called on the world to “unify and manifest our passion in action” to proceed toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

 

A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima at an altitude of about 600 meters, killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 that year, and Japan surrendered six days later, effectively ending the war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the importance of maintaining and enhancing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that binds its signatories not to pursue atomic weapons programs.

Abe also said he will maintain his efforts to create a world free of nuclear weapons by asking both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states for cooperation, and by showing world leaders and young people the painful reality of radiation exposure.

During the ceremony, a message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also read out by a representative.

Today, the world needs the hibakusha spirit more than ever,” at a time when “global tensions are rising” and progress on nuclear disarmament is “hard to find,” the message said, adding that nuclear powers “have special responsibility to prevent another Hiroshima,”

Ban urged all nations to “find common ground through inclusive dialogue.”

The ceremony was attended by representatives from 91 nations, including recognized nuclear weapons states such as Britain, France, the United States and Russia. The European Union was also represented.

The number of hibakusha stood at 174,080 as of March, and their average age was just over 80 years old.

Japan Archives: New website looks back on 150 years of modern Japanese history

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RocketNews 24 (by Cara Clegg):

A new website looks back on 150 years of modern Japanese history in visual format.

Japan Archives went live on June 30th and contains a treasure trove of information on modern Japanese history from the Bakumatsu through the Meiji and Taisho eras and up to the present day, covering everything from politics and economics to sport, nature, and the everyday life of the people.

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Who even needs museums anymore when you can now experience the most important events in the country’s history through photographs, posters, postcards, woodblock prints, and other visual media from the comfort of your own home.

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While only available in Japanese, the site is conveniently organized by time period and genre, making it user-friendly and easy to browse.

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There’s a wealth of historical media to sift through, and even if you can’t read the Japanese captions you can still enjoy the nostalgic images which bring the samurai and geisha of the past to vibrant life on your screen. And best of all, it’s all freely accessible!

Follow this link to see more.

Universities plan to build android of Japanese literary great Soseki Natsume

RocketNews 24:

Soseki Natsume: writer, a man long dead. We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was: better, stronger, faster…

With 2016 marking the 100th anniversary of his death and next year celebrating his 150th birthday, this is perhaps an appropriate time to honor one of Japan’s greatest writers, Soseki Natsume. And what better way to pay tribute to the author of classics such as Kokoro and I Am a Cat than by making a robot of him?

That’s exactly what the Nishogakusha University Graduate School is planning. In 1881, a young Natsume was enrolled there and heavily influenced by their teachings of Chinese poetry and Confucianism. And to celebrate the institution’s 140th anniversary they are hoping for his return, only this time as “Soseki Android.”

First, a team of students at Nishogakusha will conduct in-depth research into Natsume’s life, revisiting not only his extensive written works and life story but also gathering information about his physical appearance and size for an accurate android. To help out, major newspaper Asahi Shimbun has agreed to allow them access to their large collection of photos and works of their former employee Soseki Natsume.

▼ Old-timers in Japan may remember Natsume as the guy on the 1,000 yen bill 

Once the necessary information has been gathered, a team at the Osaka University Graduate School of Engineering Science will take on the challenge of building Soseki Android with the assistance of robotics company A-Lab, who made headlines with their Asuna android last year.

The sound of Soseki Android will be extracted from samples of his grandson Fusanosuke Natsume’s voice.

When the robot is complete, they hope to program him to give lectures at universities, high schools, and junior high schools. Understandably, a robotic Soseki Natsume might be a little too intense for elementary school kids.

The aim is to breathe life into his works by allowing the students to witness Soseki Natsume reading and discussing them first-hand. It is hoped this will inspire them to read and write more, improving their language skills.

“THE NINJA” exhibit coming to Tokyo in July!

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RocketNews 24 (by Kay):

Who hasn’t been fascinated by the ninja and their legendary skills? Well, this special ninja exhibit should certainly help you learn more about their mysterious world!

We all love ninjas, don’t we? But how much do we really know about them? Although much about these “secret agents” of the feudal era remain a mystery, the academic world has been busy trying to uncover as much fact as possible about them. Happily for ninja fans, the public will get to share in some of the insights that researchers have gained into the world of the shinobi (literally “stealth”), as ninja are sometimes called.

The exhibit is based on scientific research on the ninja led by Mie University, and the exhibit hall has three distinct areas, each representing the elements of “mind, skill and body” (shin, gi, tai), in which the ninja were highly trained.

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As you move through the exhibit, you’ll have the opportunity to practice throwing shuriken stars, improve your jumping power and learn secret operative skills, such as memory enhancement techniques and special breathing techniques as well as ways to send secret messages. You’ll also be able to see ancient ninjutsu manuscripts and ninja weapons on display. Now, that certainly sounds like a whole lot of secret agent fun!

THE NINJA exhibit will run from July 2 (Sat) to October 10 (Mon) at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in Tokyo’s Odaiba area. If you’re going to be in Tokyo during that time, it could be an excellent opportunity for you to get a glimpse into what the true world of the ninja may have been like. We hope you enjoy testing your stealth skills!

Exhibit Details:
The Ninja
July 2 (Sat) to October 10 (Mon)
Venue: National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)
Tokyo-to, Koto-ku, Aomi 2-3-6 (Access information)
東京都江東区青海2-3-6
Admission: 1,600 yen (about US$14.50) for adults, 1,000 yen (900 yen on Saturdays) for children of grade-school age to 18, and 500 yen for preschoolers  years old  (*Free admission for children 2 years old and under)

Source: THE NINJA exhibit website

“150 Years of Japanese Uniforms” illustrated encyclopedia

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RocketNews 24 (by Krista Rogers):

These gorgeous illustrations of workers’ uniforms over the past century and a half is sure to charm lovers of seifuku [uniforms] everywhere!

“Know its uniforms, know Japan.” That’s the tagline of the new illustrated encyclopedia 150 Years of Japanese Uniforms [日本の制服150年], which captures Japan from its modernization in the early 20th century up to the present through the garb of its working population.

With over 180 illustrations lovingly drawn by Naoki Watanabe, whose work includes uniform design proposals for uniform manufacturers, the book spans over 70 categories of uniforms from all walks of life, including flight attendants, JR train workers, postal workers, doctors, nurses, Shinto priests, miko [shrine maidens], carpenters, chefs, ama[female pearl divers], and convenience store workers, to name but a few. The softcover book was released on April 4 and is published by Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc., headquartered in Kyoto.

Let’s take a look at some samples from the 192-page guidebook:

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Interested readers can order 150 Years of Japanese Uniforms from Amazon Japan, who does offer international shipping for this item, for 2,484 yen (US$23).

Champion figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu to make on-screen acting debut as samurai lord

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RocketNews 24:

Olympic gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu will be making his screen debut as a samurai lord in the Edo period!

Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu captured the nation’s collective heart when he won the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Now, Japan’s sweetheart is set to captivate audiences on the big screen as he makes his very first acting appearance in the movie Tono, Risoku de Gozaru (which roughly translates to “The Interest Please, My Lord”).

The movie is set approximately 250 years ago in the Edo period, during which the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan. The film’s plot centers around nine ordinary inhabitants of a post station town and their efforts to save the townspeople from the burden of the heavy taxes imposed on them by the local government.

▼ Here’s the title of the movie, set against the picture of a Edo Period coin in the background.

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In the movie, Hanyu plays Date Shigemura, the lord of the Sendai Domain, who is apparently sympathetic to the plight of the people under his rule. According to the information that has been released, Hanyu’s role isn’t a huge one but is nonetheless a symbolically key figure in the story. Hanyu, who himself is from Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, reportedly was quite happy to play an actual historical figure from his birthplace, especially as the story is considered to be based loosely on true events.

 

Hanyu filmed his scenes last summer, and in commenting on his first acting experience said that it was a bit difficult to act with spoken lines and accompanying movements, which is  quite different from what he is used to in figure skating. He admits he was quite nervous while filming but enjoyed seeing the process of movie making first hand and meeting so many talented actors. He also said that he was pleasantly surprised to learn of this touching story involving Date, whom he tried his best to portray convincingly with both authority and kindness. Hanyu also added that he hopes the acting experience will add to his depth as a skating performer, not just in competitions but in exhibitions and shows as well.

 

Even fellow actors in the movie were apparently surprised by Hanyu’s appearance, as Sadao Abe, who plays the protagonist, was reported saying that he was stunned to learn that Hanyu would be cast in the film, adding that he was impressed with how the famous skater handled his acting duties.

The movie is scheduled for release in theaters across Japan on May 14. We have a feeling that the film just might attract a whole new audience of people desperately wanting to see the prince of ice on the big screen!

A fun animation covering the complete history of Japan in under 10 minutes

A fast and fun animation by Bill Wurtz covers the history of Japan in under 10 minutes. The animation covers the major events in the country’s history including its economic, governmental, and social developments.