On April 21 the Japanese government declared the 20 km zone around the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant a no-go zone, forcing volunteer animal rescue groups that had been working in the area to halt their efforts.

Before the no-go zone was enforced the groups had been working to rescue the cats and dogs left behind by their owners who fled after the nuclear crisis broke out. After being denied special permission to enter the area several of the groups appealed to the public to pressure the government into taking action. Read More

Ramen is perhaps the most beloved food in Japan, and certainly the most experimented on. From ice cream to frog it seems like Japanese are always enthusiastically throwing things in their ramen in the pursuit of new and exciting flavors.

There is a food stand in Yoyogi Park that has taken a different approach to ramen innovation and changed the form of ramen itself. Moreover, they chose a method of delivery that challenges instant ramen’s title of most convenient noodle dish: the hamburger. Read More

Takeshi’s 7-Step “Relief” Program

During an April 23 live television broadcast of the program Jouhou 7-Days Newscaster and renowned filmmaker Takeshi Kitano urgently appealed to provide “more detailed assistance” to the disaster area.

Takeshi, who co-hosts the program, outlined seven measures that he believes could improve the quality of life for those displaced by the disaster. In true Takeshi fashion most of the suggestions are very bold and even lewd, making it easy to brush them off as another one of his comedic stunts. However, considering that the shelters provide very little in the way of privacy and entertainment, Takeshi’s proposal could sound much more relevant to those actually living in them.

The proposed measures follow below: Read More

Rilakkuma Pancakes Too Cute To Burn, I Do So Anyways

Last week I introduced you to the relaxation-loving Japanese character Rilakkuma and my rice-filled tofu pouch interpretation of his face. This time, I decided to try and see what else I could mold into that cute little face and pancakes seemed like a natural choice. Read More

Operation Arigatou: One Man’s Mission to Say ‘Thank You’

In the days following the Great East Japan Earthquake the United States Armed Forces mobilized to aid Japan’s disaster relief efforts and launched ‘Operation Tomodachi’ (lit: Operation Friend). It has since become a large scale operation with the United States committing roughly 20,000 personnel, 20 ships and 160 aircraft to date.

Efforts so far have included distributing supplies to the disaster area, searching for missing persons off the Sanriku Coast, cleaning up rubble and debris, and restoring a landing strip at the disaster-struck Sendai Airport. The United States also provided a specialized unmanned aircraft to photograph the area around the Fukushima I reactor as the nuclear crisis unfolded.

Moved by America’s compassionate response to Japan’s situation, an anonymous former member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and resident of Miyagi prefecture began making plans to personally express his thanks to the United States personnel involved in Operation Tomodachi. He named his plan ‘Operation Arigatou.’ Read More

Collection of Earthquake-Themed Illustrations to be Auctioned and Compiled in Book For Charity

On March 16 several members of the French artist community café salé launched Project Tsunami, a website showcasing a collection of earthquake- and tsunami-themed illustrations. Read More

Videos Show Citizens Stranded On Roof By Tsunami As Fires Spread

Most of the video and imagery shown by the media since the Great East Japan Earthquake were taken from the air. For example, the most commonly used footage documenting the sea of fire that spread across the city of Kesennuma in Miyagi prefecture was taken from helicopter by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and provides us with a clear image of the scale of situation.

Today we would like to share a series of five videos that were taken by phone from the roof of the Kesennuma City Community Center documenting the same fire. They were taken by the YouTube user ono999dera and show how the dire situation unfolded before the eyes of those stranded in Kesennuma City. Read More

An Edano Odyssey, Part 3: Kan Can

During a visit to Fukushima on April 21 Prime Minister Naoto Kan made an inspection of several shelters to listen to the demands of refugees directly and assure them of the government’s continuous support as the nuclear crisis continues.

Unlike Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who visited four days earlier, Prime Minister Kan stayed out of the 20 km no-go zone during his trip. He did, however, follow Mr. Edano’s lead in keeping the trip short. Perhaps this was due to the inhospitable atmosphere: wherever Kan went he was met with voices of anger from refuges who suggested, “Bring all the cabinet ministers here and try living here yourselves. Try and see what we’re going through.”

It seems that, like Mr. Edano, Prime Minister Kan may need to try harder to convince the Japanese of his selfless dedication in pulling the country out of this crisis. Read More

Fukushima: (UPDATE) Cattle on Abandoned Ranch Starve to Death, No-Go Zone Leaves Volunteers Helpless

For the latest information on the situation, please check here (May 5th)

In early April we accompanied an animal rescue team formed by several animal protection groups working within the 20 km evacuation zone around the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. In our first article, we reported the shocking scene of a ranch where the cattle had been abandoned by their owners who had fled after the outbreak of the crisis.

This time, we’d like to follow up on the report with updated information and unreleased photographs and video from the scene. Read More

While many Japanese rappers freely mix English in to their lyrics, it’s probably much less common for American rappers to do the same with Japanese.

Enter Kokujin Tensai (lit: Black Genius), who is trying to break ground by making Japanese his language of choice when busting mad, phat or otherwise sick rhymes.

From his alias, you might be given the impression that Genius is all wind and no game, but the moment you hear his raps you’ll know his shit is real.

Read More

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has become something of a running joke among Internet forms in Japan after donning conspicuously large protective gear during an in-the-car, on-the-ground inspection of the 20 km evacuation zone in Fukushima on April 17.

Mr. Edano is also being criticized for rushing the inspection and leaving Fukushima too soon despite being more heavily outfitted than the workers who visit the area daily. Consequently, when Mr. Edano called for people to “stop overreacting” over Fukushima during a press conference two days later, some snidely responded with, “You’re one to talk.”

Our resident political analyst has informed us that, to restore his image, Mr. Edano is secretly preparing a new outfit for his next visit to Fukushima that is sure to be received much more favorably: Read More

On April 17 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano made his first visit to the earthquake disaster area, attending a conference with the mayor of Minamisōma city and making an inspection of the missing persons investigation with the 20 kilometer evacuation zone.

Surely it is tempting to laud Mr. Edano, the man overseas media has branded the ‘Jack Bauer’ of the crisis for his hands-on attitude. However, the conspicuously heavy-duty gear worn during the inspection and the surprising swiftness with which he left the scene has made Mr. Edano something of a running gag on Internet forums in Japan. Read More

An independent investigation conducted by a citizens group based in Fukushima has detected radioactive iodine-131 in the breast milk of several women living in areas around Fukushima. Read More

“We’ll make this a better town than before”: Series of Posters Show Resolution of Japanese

Japan’s Sanriku Coast is a 600 km stretch of coastline on the northern Pacific side of the island well-known for being an area of significant seismic activity. The irregular shape of the coast line is said to amplify the severity of tsunami, and the 15+ meter waves that hit Sanriku after last month’s earthquake were no exception. There are many regions along the coastline where entire villages were washed away, and recovery seems to be nowhere in sight.

Despite this devestation the people of these regions are doing what they can to rebuild their towns. A photographer from Morioka City in Iwate Prefecture, which lies along the middle of the Sanriku Coast, has created a series of posters that capture the unrelenting spirit and determination of these people who have sworn, “We’ll make this a better town than before.” Read More

Rilakkuma is a bear who likes to relax. He is also currently one of the most popular ‘cute’ characters in Japan and can be found lounging on anything from stationary to condoms. 

Indeed, Rilakkuma is so darn cute you just want to fill a dozen of his absentminded little faces with rice and devour them, and I’d like to show you how you can do just that. Read More

Oh, it’s you again, friend.

Let me tell you, you’re not the first to return here after hearing my tale of the Great Mountain of Curry and Rice. Come now, you must be tired from your long journey. Please, have a seat.

Well then, I think today I shall tell you of the time I stood beneath the shadow of the Five-Storied Pagoda of Hamburger.

Read More

Earlier this April we made our way to Fukushima to do some investigative reporting of the current conditions in the five- to ten-kilometer area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In part 1 of this story we reported on the efforts of several animal protection groups to rescue dogs left behind by their owners. In this next part we would like to shift the focus to the cats left in the same situation. Read More

Earlier this April we made our way to Fukushima to do some investigative reporting of the current conditions in the five- to ten-kilometer area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

We traveled with an animal protection group as they visited the town of Namie and the Otaka district of Minamisoma city, both of which fall within the designated 20 km evacuation zone.

While we were there the workers were able to rescue around 20-30 cats and dogs. They were transported to a safer area and placed under the care of volunteers until they could be adopted, or their real owners found.

Yet, despite their best efforts, there are few other groups willing to put their health on the line to rescue these animals, and the shelters are limited in resources and capacity. The grim truth is that some animals will be left behind.

Luckily, there are some people who, unable to forsake these abandoned animals, are staying behind as well. On major Internet forum 2channel, hype is surrounding the post of one such user who continues to live in Namie and look after abandoned pets. Read More

Japan’s Most Historical…Starbucks?

Starbucks Coffee is known worldwide for having stylish stores with a comfortable atmosphere. But in Kobe there is one store that is secretly rumored to perhaps be the most stylish of all. Being the Starbucks regular that I am, I made my way to Kobe to check it out. Read More

A little over a month since the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Northeast Japan, the disaster-stricken areas continue to receive support in a variety of forms from across the country. Even so, the full extent of the damage remains unclear. There are still over 15,000 people unaccounted for, and heavily crippled infrastructure has caused a scarcity of supplies, slowing down reconstruction efforts. It seems there is still a long away to go before the disaster victims will see a return to normalcy in their lives.

Staying true to their “mission as a convenience store,” major chain Lawson has announced that they will begin mobile retail operation to deliver their products to areas suffering from supply shortages.

Read More

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