Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Looking Back (via National Geographic Articles on Japan) - #1"

I bought "The Complete National Geographic - 110 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM" about ten years ago or so, and other than playing around with it a bit when I first got it, the set of disks has been sleeping in its box all these years - until last weekend, when I pulled out the disks, and did a search for articles on Japan. Just the titles explain what they are for the recent articles, but the older they get, the more the summary was important to understand what the article was about. (That said, I see the second most recent article (of the set of disks that I have anyway), from June 1997, needed the summary, but mostly the titles worked. For example:

July 1997

Just like it says - the article is about sumo. In contrast with the old days, long-long ago, back when Japan was an exotic largely unknown country, a couple of weeks away (was it more? less? I think more for sail; less for steam or diesel) over across the vast ocean, now most people have some picture in mind when they hear "sumo", so the report is explaining the known, rather than introducing the unknown.

Okinawa: Claiming Its Birthright
June 1997
Summary: Japan's southern outpost has hosted the U.S. military for five decades. Some argue that's long enough.

Okinawa comes into the news from time to time, and then there's a long silence, followed by some incident or other that puts it back into the news. For a small island, it really does have a large military presence though. The last I heard, some of the US forces there were being moved to other locations - some to Guam, some to other bases in Japan.

Storm Watch Over the Kurils
Oct. 1996

Four of the islands above Hokkaido are in the news here on and off - I haven't heard anything about them lately. They were in the news a lot more in the eighties and nineties.

The Great Tokyo Fish Market: Tsukiji
Nov. 1995

Tsukiji - billed as the largest fish market in the world (in general, maybe also in this article, I haven't read this since it came out in 1995) is slated to move to a new location in a few years. There was a recent news story that they have found toxins in the new land that the fish market is to be on! Doesn't sound like a good idea to me, but space is hard to come by in Tokyo and apparently they're working to clean it up more before the move. Still, I'll probably have an uneasy question floating around in the back of my mind when I eat fish in Tokyo after the market moves there.

Oct. 1995

The word "geisha" basically just means "entertainer", although the modern word for entertainer in Japan (TV personalities, etc.) is "geinojin". It's either a complicated topic (tradition, complicated customs, etc.) or a simple one (modern women wearing ancient clothes and make-up) - but there is something timelessly interesting about it either way. I seem to remember that this particular article irritated me at the time, but I can't remember why. I've have to have a new look at it in 2009 and see what I think of it now.

Up From Ground Zero: Hiroshima
Aug. 1995

I visited Hiroshi myself in 2007, and my comments and pictures are here:

Kobe Wakes to a Nightmare
July 1995

The Kobe earthquake was instrumental in showing that no one is immune to the destructive power of earthquakes. Some of the more bloody-minded politicians had gone on TV after the January 17th, 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles (magnitude 6.7) and said that the destruction to bridges and buildings couldn't happen in Japan, since Japanese construction was superior. Then, lo-and-behold, exactly one year later, on January 17th, 1995, Kobe experienced an earthquake of nearly identical intensity (6.8 by the same scale that labeled the LA quake 6.7) and there was widespread destruction of property and loss of life. After the BM politicians' boast that Japanese construction was superior, and there was nothing to worry about, the death toll of around 6,434 in Kobe didn't stack up very well against the death toll of 72 in Los Angeles. I remember an angry taxi driver I spoke with saying "Their lies have been exposed". The way the numbers lined up (exactly one year later; nearly the same magnitude; 72 LA deaths; 6,434 Kobe deaths), I think some people may have come to the conclusion that there was some "bachi-ga-ataru" (divine retribution) in play here for the over-the-top bloody-mindedness of the politicians.

Well, enough of this for now!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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