Somei-Yoshino blossoms

The most favored Japanese cherry tree is the hybrid known as Somei-Yoshino, for the fantasy and romance of their cloud-like blossoms. Almost always, the trees bloom in Tokyo just in time for school entrance ceremonies in early April.

Why is it that all the trees in any given geographical area tend to bloom at the same time?

Answer: because they share the same genetics.

Somei-Yoshino is a hybrid tree, propagated by cuttings, not seeds. Recent research indicates that every Somei-Yoshino alive today originated from one ancestor. One branch of ancient lore suggests that the beautiful tree resulted from combining the best of two beautiful trees from rival districts in Japan. Another source suggests that Korean and Japanese trees were combined.

Joining forces to create something new and beautiful! At least in the world of cherry trees, there is a lot to be said for making love, not war.


A New Plane

Investment can be fun. Want to fly in this?

JAL's debut Dreamliner arrives in Narita

Japan Airlines Co.'s first Boeing Co. 787 landed Tuesday evening at Narita International Airport, ending more than three years of delays for the second Dreamliner operator.

"Taking delivery of the 787 was like meeting the love of a lifetime," JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki, a former pilot, told reporters after the plane landed. The carrier officially received two 787s from Boeing earlier this week.

JAL will begin flights to Boston with the 787 on April 22 as its takes advantage of the plane's fuel efficiency to serve destinations that would be unprofitable with larger aircraft. The carrier, which has ordered 45 Dreamliners, also plans to start serving San Diego and Helsinki, as well as using the planes on flights to Beijing, Singapore, New Delhi and Moscow.

All Nippon Airways Co., JAL's biggest competitor, last year became the first carrier to fly the 787 commercially.


An Idea Whose Time Has Come

This is a policy that Japan should adopt:

"The university entry exam will be scrapped and that the thousands of private teaching centers that prepare students for the exam would be closed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“Those centers will either turn themselves into high schools or will be shut down. We do not want people to spend their scarce [financial] resources on that,” Erdoğan told reporters accompanying him on a flight to Seoul on the weekend."

(the above is from the Hurriyet online edition)

Prep schools in Japan cost as much/more than universities. Universities are turning themselves inside out hoping to attract foreign students. Why? There are plenty of high school kids in Japan who would like to do their studying in the university, not in the prep school.


Girls Just Wanna Feel Safe

Cyndi Lauper, who arrived in Japan on a concert tour last year on that fateful day March 11 is back in Japan for more concerts. But first, she visited Fukushima, site of the devastated nuclear energy plant.

As today's Japan Times online reminds us: "Many residents of Fukushima are concerned about the effects of radiation, especially on children.

Lauper said the government "should come clean with what the real deal is" so people know the truth. "When you don't know, you are fearful, and you feel powerless. Information is power." "


Word Power Saves Lives

Yesterday I saw a video interview with Dr. Kitada, a counselor whose "It's OK to save yourself" campaign is credited with saving lives in last year's tsunami.

"Nigeru" is the word most often used to describe escaping from a disaster scene. But the word also has the negative connotations of running away--abandoning responsibility, cowardice. When Dr. Kitada counseled junior high kids in a tsunami-prone town, kids said things like, "Grandpa says he would never run away, and neither will I."

So, the counselor realized his battle was to reframe the word "nigeru". But how?

First, he helped the junior high kids understand that they were at the age where they could use their strengths to protect others instead of being the ones who were protected. The next step was the realization that, to protect their mothers or grandmothers or little kids or whoever needed help, they needed to be alive. So, "nigeru" wasn't about running away. It was about staying alive to be available to help.

Still, there were kids who said, "But if I run away, I'm still a coward."

Dr. Kitada's reply was that the one who is brave enough to do what others don't have the guts to do is not a coward. Just the opposite. When everyone is standing around, unable to move, worried about what everyone else is thinking about them, the one who is brave enough to go first--to pull others along the road to safety--is the hero.

Sometimes, the battle isn't against the forces of Mother Nature. It's a battle against the barriers we build in our own minds.


Listen to the Waves

This was on the Yahoo news board, and the reason I find it fascinating is because I had a character in my novel Katsuren predict that this would someday be possible. And now it is:

Scientists have taken the seismic waves from last year's massive Japan earthquake and converted them into audio waves.

The new audio waves allow experts and general audiences to "hear" what the 9.0-magnitude earthquake sounded like as it moved through the earth and around the globe on March 11, 2011.

"We're able to bring earthquake data to life by combining seismic auditory and visual information," said Zhigang Peng of Georgia Tech. "People are able to hear pitch and amplitude changes while watching seismic frequency changes. Audiences can relate the earthquake signals to familiar sounds such as thunder, popcorn popping and fireworks."


Time to Give a Little Back

No man is island, no one is alone. Japan can heal, the world can heal. And the UN is helping it to happen.

Here is a recent happening at the UN headquarters in New York:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tohoku artists perform at U.N.'s HQ
NEW YORK — A group of mostly traditional artists from Tohoku put on a show Monday at the U.N. headquarters to display solidarity with disaster victims around the world.

The event included performances of the "wakumizu kagura" dance from Tono, Iwate Prefecture, and "wadaiko" drumming by the Ondeko-za group.

The Japan Foundation jointly organized the show and said the performances ahead of the first anniversary of the March 11 quake and tsunami were dedicated to victims of disasters and conflicts around the world.

The event also was intended to express Japan's gratitude to the international community for its postdisaster support and to demonstrate that the nation is on the way to recovery.

The show was held at the world body's headquarters because Japan's mission to the United Nations participated in its planning.

"We have to use the experience of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident to become stronger, more resilient and more united," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said.

"Tonight's performance demonstrates (Japan's) powerful resolve. . . . Let us draw inspiration from tonight's performance to conquer tomorrow's challenges."

The audience seemed impressed by the power of the traditional music and performances.

"I just think that the show completely encompassed Japan in its state right now, incorporating the old and the new," said Jeannette Raymond, a 19-year-old spectator who works for a nongovernment organization.

"I was definitely blown away by the sheer power of the drummers," she said.

"It is impressive to be here," said Sebastian Carreau, a 27-year-old student at Columbia University, noting the sounds and tension of the drums were reminiscent of natural disasters.

The show, which has also been held in Los Angeles, is now scheduled to move to Paris, Beijing and Shanghai.