Yahoo! Japan to make disaster relief donation for every person who searches for 3.11 on March 11

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RocketNews 24:

Four years on, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis that befell Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011 have very little effect on the day-to-day lives of most people in the country. The rolling blackouts have stopped. Batteries and bottled water are once again readily available. Trains are running, and whole cities aren’t spending hours walking home from work or school.

But while a return to normalcy is a desirable, and ultimately necessary, part of recovery, it’s also important to remember what happened. To stem the forgetfulness that often accompanies the later stages of coping with tragedy, on March 11 Yahoo! Japan will be making a donation to the Tohoku recovery efforts for every person that searches for “3.11” through the company’s search engine.

The Internet provider and portal conducted an identical initiative last year, supplying a total of 25,683,250 yen (approximately US $216,00) to charitable organizations. This year, Yahoo! will be making its donation to the Tohoku Recovery Support Organization (Toholu Fukkou Shien Dantai in Japanese).

A 10-yen donation will be made for each user who searches for “3.11” between midnight and 11:59 p.m. on March 11. To reiterate, the donation is made per user, not per search. Once you’ve searched once, you’ve done your job, so there’s nothing to be gained by repeating the search over and over again.

Instead, Yahoo! would prefer you took the time to read through some of the results that come up, in keeping with the program’s aim of creating a moment in which to think about the places and people’s lives which were so abruptly changed in 2011. The company also plans to release a video with interviews of people from the disaster-struck towns of Ishinomaki, Yamadamachi, and Soma, which are located in Miyazaki, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures, respectively. Yahoo! will also be creating a visualization of 3.11-releated searches, similar to the one from 2014

▼ Aside from jishin/地震 (“earthquake”), dengonban/伝言板 (“message board”), yoshin/余震 (aftershock), gienkin/義援金 (“donation”), and gasorin/ガソリン (“gasoline”) are all prominently featured.

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Yahoo! Japan’s search box can be found here.

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Asian American history on display at 2015 Rose Parade, including the first-ever Sikh float

NBC News: 

The morning of January first ushers in new year, and with it, the 126th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade, a New Year’s morning tradition dating back to 1890 and reaching 50 million viewers, including many who have camped out all night along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, and many more across the country who will watch on their television sets. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Stories,” and several groups have looked to Asian-American history and cultures for stories and inspiration.

  • The City of Alhambra’s “Go for Broke” float honors the second generation (Nisei) Japanese Americans who fought in WWII, while many of their families were incarcerated. The 41-foot float replicates the black granite monument in downtown Los Angeles and will feature several veterans riding on the float.
  • The United Sikh Mission float, “A Sikh American Journey,” marks the first time that Sikh Americans and their 130 year history in America have been represented in a Rose Parade float. Organizers hope it will help educateand dispel harmful stereotypes. The float depicts the Stockton gurdwara, the first Sikh temple built in America in 1912.
  • The American Honda Motor Co.’s float, “Building Dreams of Friendship,” features two bridges connecting iconic imagery from America and Japan, and will feature Tomodachi leadership exchange students from Japan’s Tohoku region, the area hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
  • China Airlines‘s float, “Inspiring Grace of Cloud Gate,” celebrates internationally renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, and the Cloud Gate which is the oldest known dance in China.
  • Singpoli Group‘s “A Bright Future” depicts a fifty-five foot phoenix, representing hope, optimism, and rebirth. The bird will turn its head, flap its wings, and breathe fire. The Chinese phoenix is often coupled with a dragon, which also appears.
  • The City of South Pasadena’s float, “Still Winning!” shows two Chinese dragon boats racing against each other, shadowed by a giant pink ribbon, representing The Los Angeles Pink Dragons (whose members will also be riding on this float), the first dragon boat team comprised solely of breast cancer survivors.
  • Dole Packaged Foods’ Float, “Rhythm of Hawaii,” celebrates the natural and cultural wonders of Hawaii with two twelve-foot outrigger canoes, jumping dolphins, pahu drums, hula dancers, a waterfall, and two active volcanoes, which will actually erupt with flames and smoke.

In addition, the parade featured the Hawaii Pa’u Riders, the Maui High School Saber Marching Band and Color Guard, and the Koriyama Honor Green Band from Japan.

Giant statue built into station in northern Japan is historical, terrifying, and awesome

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RocketNews 24:

The major train stations in urban Japan almost seem like small cities, packed with restaurants, hotels, and shopping space. Things are usually pretty different out in the countryside, though, where many rail stops are little more than an awning with a short bench to sit on while you wait for the trains to roll in.

We say rural stations are “usually” simple, though, because in one town up north in Aomori Prefecture, you’ll find a station guarded by what looks like a massive alien.

Actually, the inspiration for Kizukuri Station’s unique facade didn’t come from outer space, but from below the earth. Archeological digs in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region sometimes turn up clay figures called dogu. While their is unknown, their cultural value is unmistakable, as most were crafted some 2,500 years ago. The town of Tsugaru, where Kizukuri Station is located, was the site where one particularly pristine example, the Shakoji Dogu, was found in 1887.

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Like so many other figures that achieve fame, though, the Shakoji Dogu made its way to the capital, and is now housed in the Tokyo National Museum. Tsugaru does still have a replica in its Karuko Archeological Hall, but given that it’s a modern recreation, the most famous dogu in town is now the gigantic 17-meter (56-foot) example built into the wall of Kizukuri Station.

Built at a rumored cost of some 100 million yen (US$870,000), the concrete figure has been nicknamed Shako-chan. The designers did a through job adding the intricate and authentic textured patterns to Shako-chan’s arms and body, and the giant’s lack of a left leg matches the condition in which the Shakoji Dogu was unearthed.

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Historically accurate and relevant as he may be, though, Shako-chan wasn’t exactly a hit when he was first completed. Particularly after the sun goes down, the statue takes on a certain ominous aura, as evidenced by comments online about passersby’s nocturnal encounter with the town mascot.

Believe it or not, Shako-chan used to have an even more dramatic appearance. Initially, when trains would arrive at or depart from Kizukuri Station, its eyes would flash and glow red as part of something dubbed the “Welcome Beam.” This proved to be more effective at driving people away than beckoning them into town, though, and after complaints that the Welcome Beam was frightening small children, the performances were stopped.

But as we’ve seen before, sometimes the line between creepy and cute is a fine one in Japan. Since his less than illustrious debut, Shako-chan has been featured by various media outlets, and is actually seeing his popularity gradually build up towards planners’ original hopes and expectations. Local sentiment is starting to swing away from embarrassed terror towards acceptance and even pride, with one Twitter saying he feels more secure with Shako-chan “watching over the street in front of the station.”

 

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New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

RocketNews 24:

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The Shinkansen is already a pretty cool way to get around Japan, as it whisks travelers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centers to its more traditional rural locales.

But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.

When the Yamagata Shinkansen Line began operations in 1992, it not only provided citizens of the Tohoku region easy access to Tokyo, it also made it possible for residents of the capital to travel quickly to the northern reaches of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Even in a country that loves its nostalgia, the Tohoku region is particularly traditional, and many still lead the bucolic lifestyles that were the norm in Japan before the surges of urbanization that came in the early and mid-20th century.

JR East is looking to capitalize on this appeal by sprucing up the bullet trains on the Yamagata Line. Heading up the design side of the project is the Yamagata-born, California-educated Kiyoyuki Okuyama, who also goes by the name given name Ken in his international professional dealings. Okuyama served as creative director of Italian automobile design firm Pininfarina from 2004 to 2006, and his designs have been used for Ferrari’s exotic sports cars, as well as other Shinkansen coaches.

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Among the overhauls many points is a new paintjob which replaces the current subdued silver ad green tones.

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The new scheme is much more colorful, not to mention meaningful.

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The colors are officially known as mandarin duck purple, safflower yellow, safflower red, and Zao bianco, in reference to Yamagata’s Prefectural bird and flower, plus the snowy landscape of Mt. Zao, which sits on the border between Yamagata and neighboring Miyagi Prefecture.

Insignias placed on the outside of the train advertise the renowned produce and natural beauty of Yamagata throughout the year, with apples and rice for fall, ice-covered trees for winter, cherry blossoms for spring, and cherries themselves along with blooming safflowers symbolizing summer.

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More dramatic artistic flourishes are found inside, where the passenger coaches’ ceilings and seatbacks are decorated with reliefs once again representing the bounty of Yamagata’s harvest.

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Things start to get really special with the tatami lounge, however. Featuring the traditional reed flooring which can contradictorily be found in both high-class manors and low-rent apartments in Japan, passengers can sit and relax at tables carved from the wood of Japan’s famed sakura cherry trees. Cut-outs in the floor below the tables mean that your rump can enjoy the feel of tatami without the danger of your feet falling asleep from having to kneel Japanese-style and fold them under yourself.

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Best of all though, is the new Shinkansen’s foot bath. Featuring two stone-lined tubs, this is a great way to literally dip your toes into Japan’s bathing culture, without having to disrobe for a communal hot spring soak.

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The new Shinkansen carriages are scheduled to be gradually phased into service on the Yamagata Line starting next month. This means they’ll be just in time for Yamagata’s comparatively late cherry blossom season, and with its onsite bath facilities, travelers can look forward to arriving at their destination with their feet actually feeling better than before they started their journey hundreds of miles away.

Sources: Nari NariJR East

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New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths