Three years later – Remembering 3.11.11

10 03 2014

Anniversaries serve as a time for reflection on, and celebration of, the passage of time.

Three years ago Japan suffered a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a massive tsunami, and a nuclear crisis which devastated a large region of east Japan.

Over 15,000 people died. Another 2,600 remain missing. Countless families were evacuated from their homes, and three years later many remain displaced.

In the face of such horror, the spirit of the Japanese people never wavered. Communities came together, cleaned up, rebuilt. Life goes on and the beauty of our humanity shines through.
On this (nearly) third anniversary of such a truly awful disaster I want to share a few stories of how good-hearted people are continuing to do wonderful acts of selflessness in the region.

This article from the Japan Times features a project to restore and scan photos found in the rubble.

This article, also from the Japan Times, features caring people who are feeding and caring for the animals abandoned in the mandatory evacuation areas around the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant.





Reminiscing about Japan

29 03 2013

A year ago today I was on a flight to Japan.

In the last year I never managed to write a single blog post about my time in Japan. Perhaps I needed time and space to reflect on the experience. A year later, it’s still hard for me to know where to start. Little Ninjas

Going through my many hundreds of photos I’ve begun to categorize them:

Natural Splendor
Historic Cultural Sites
Contemporary City Life
Tasty, Tasty, Food
Amazing Warning Signs
Manhole Covers and Street Art

Categorizing my photos has helped me see that it’s not possible to post about my time in Japan in just one post, it deserves more than that. So, over the next weeks (maybe months) I’m going to write about each category. I’m excited about it! I hope you’ll stay tuned to find out more about my time in Japan. I hope it might prove helpful, even inspirational.

 





Reflecting on Sakura

25 03 2013

This time last year I was madly packing and preparing for our holiday in Japan. I was anxiously following Japan Guide’s Sakura reports,  hoping we timed our stay in Japan to coincide with the ethereal blooms. We did.

It was magical. Every where we went, even bustling Tokyo streets (as seen above), we were surrounded by the beauty of Sakura. We incorporated Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) into our plans in each city, but one of my favorites was sitting under then cherry trees on a sunny afternoon, eating green tea ice cream, on the Moore Overlook at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Hiroshima. This overlook has a collection of Henry Moore sculptures leading up to the overlook itself, and gives you a great view of the entire river basin the city sits in.

Another of my favorite Hanami spots was the weeping cherry in Nakanoshima Park, Kyoto (as seen below). We went back at least 4 times to see this spectacular tree in different lights! The Japanese are ingenious: they’ve built a cone of wires to keep birds from landing on the tree and disrupting Sakura.

This year, I’m following Japan Guide’s Sakura reports out of a sense of nostalgia. This year much to the surprise of forecasters, the peak bloom has hit Tokyo 12 days early. Had we planned our trip with the same timing we would have completely missed Sakura this year. It’s an important reminder in the ethereal nature of Sakura, travel, and life. Enjoy every moment knowing that it will never be just as it is now!

Ps- The Washington Journal asked readers to Instagram photos of Sakura with #wsjsakura. You can see the images here!
#wishingIwasthere





Two years later – remembering 3.11.11

11 03 2013

I want to take a moment today to remember the 3.11.11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that greatly affected the eastern coast of Japan. If you follow my blog then you already know that I have a deep affinity for the country of Japan, its history, and its culture. Unfortunately, now that the international cameras are gone we seem to have forgotten just how devastating these natural (and man-made) disasters were and continue to be. There’s still work to be done and too many lives continue to be affected.

I came across this article over at the Guardian a little while back and today seems the appropriate time to share it:

Imagehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/24/divorce-after-fukushima-nuclear-disaster

My wishes for peace and good health to all in the area – may we never forget the tragedy of 3.11.11.





15 Tips for Traveling in Japan

15 02 2013

I was fortunate to travel to Japan in 2012. My husband and I opted to explore Japan the first two weeks of April, during hanami. I learned a few things and thought someone out there might benefit from them.

15 Tips for Traveling in Japan - Overtly Optimistic

  1. Traveling to Japan during hanami is definitely worth it! The whole country revels in the fleeting beauty of the sakura (cherry blossoms). You come across families and groups of friends sitting under the blossoming trees at all hours of the day and night. Take a good camera, and take a cue from the Japanese – slow down and enjoy the beauty around you.
  2. It is still a bit chilly at this time of year, especially if you decide to travel to higher elevations like Koyasan or Nagano so be sure to pack a couple sweaters and a wind breaker. And you’ll be happy to have gloves too.
  3. You will feel under-dressed. I did. As a traveler I like to travel light, so I didn’t think about outfits so much as ease of packing when I selected what clothing to take. That’s not to say that I look like a slob when I travel: I am anti-sweatpants, anti-sweatshirts, anti sneakers, and generally look pretty good for living out of a suitcase. However, the Japanese people like to look great, and they do. All the time. Within a couple of days I felt compelled to stop in at the H&M in Osaka to pick up a suit coat to throw over my outfits. I felt better after that.
  4. You will need an umbrella. Do not pack one. Pick up a super tiny umbrella once you get to Japan – they are the most well designed and effective umbrellas I’ve ever seen.
  5. Eat street food. All kinds. Japan has this thing about restaurants having plastic displays of the food they serve so you’ll always know what you’re ordering, and many restaurants have English menus posted outside the entrance. I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time we were there. Try ramen in each city, it varies by region!
  6. Explore the big cities. Get a little lost wandering the side streets. You’ll discover delightful little shops, eateries, cafes, etc. Yes, you’ll read about ‘sketchy’ areas of Tokyo – avoid them if you want but they’re still safer than most US cities. I never felt unsafe in any of the cities. I can’t say the same about most other country’s major cities.
  7. Get out of the big cities. Seriously. We made a day trip to Iga (my husband insisted we see the Ninja Museum there) and it’s a completely different experience. People may not speak English, the pace of life is slower (the trains run once an hour), and the countryside is amazingly beautiful. We saw the most incredible sunset on the train from Iga to Nagoya, it was brilliant red setting over fields of rice. I will never forget it – and I would never have seen it in the city.
  8. Stay at a variety of types of accommodations. We stayed at a businessman’s hotel in Osaka, a historic ryokan outside of Osaka, another traditional ryokan in Nagano, and we rented an apartment one block from Takashita Dori (the main street in the Harajuku area) in Tokyo. We had equally great but very different experiences at each. If nothing else, spend at least one night at a traditional ryokan. You’ll be glad you did.
  9. Take a shinkansen. Go south, go north, go west, just do it. In fact, you should probably get a JR pass – but be careful to plan to use it most effectively. The Trip-Advisor Japan forum is a great resource to help you with planning you rail travel.
  10. Go to onsen! Go to as many as you can. It’s a deeply rich part of Japanese culture, partake! And don’t be ashamed, nudity is not a big deal. That said, you may find small children staring at you but it’s just because you look different than they do.
  11. You will get “temple fatigue” at some point. Your eyes will cross, you’ll get light-headed, and your feet will feel like they weigh a ton of bricks. Don’t give up on all the other historic sites on your list, just take a break from temples, shrines, and castles for an afternoon. Try a pachinko parlor, an arcade, or a shopping district as an escape from all of the temples.
  12. Look down. Every Japanese city we visited had different designs for their manhole covers. It’s so cool! Also, Japanese streets are the cleanest you will ever see. No joke.
  13. Speaking of clean: Japanese bathrooms are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. I would never consider using a public bathroom on a train platform in any other country, but Japanese public bathrooms are immaculate. Ladies, you will encounter traditional Japanese toilets in many public restrooms: they require you to squat. Don’t be afraid,  it’s not as weird as you think it is. You should try it at least once. You should also try some of options on the high-tech toilets you’ll encounter; the heated seats and sound effects will amaze you! Most bathrooms do not have paper towels to dry your hands. You can use the blowers or you can buy a hand towel to carry with you like the Japanese do. I did, and I still carry it in my purse – it comes in handy all the time!
  14. Make peace with the reality that you CANNOT see everything, and enjoy what you CAN see during your time there.
  15. Try to immerse yourself in the culture – you’ll take more away from your travels if you can immerse yourself rather than viewing the culture as an outsider. Pay attention to where the locals eat, and eat there. Shop where the locals shop. Ask the locals for tips, you’ll be glad you did.15 Tips for Traveling in Japan - Overtly Optimistic




Eye Candy Apology

27 04 2012

It’s been a whirlwind month of April and I’ve been remiss in my blogging!
I recently returned from an incredible tour of Japan and will post about it soon.
It’s also gardening season; I’ll post about my planting progress soon too.
And there’s never a dull moment at the Museum!
Stay tuned for more fun, but in the meantime here’s a little eye candy from our trip:





March 11: A moment to remember

11 03 2012

In honor of the one year anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami, today’s post is inspired by the determination and incredible spirit of the Japanese people. There’s not much more to be added to the conversation, but I will say: when disaster strikes, may we all be as strong and spirited as the Japanese.

This article from The Atlantic captures the awe-inspiring recovery effort in Japan.

Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture








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