Tag Archive for japan

Moving season in Japan

It’s moving season in Japan. Especially for company employees and their families, and some university students, it’s that time of year when a portion of the nation packs up and relocates. Moving companies and furniture store companies are booked out from about mid March until mid to late May, and I guess car rental agencies get busy too. Moving companies are very organised. You don’t have to pack a thing. For a one-person studio apartment (aka “1DK apartment”) they can just turn up, pack things in specialist boxes, and have your place empty within a couple of hours. You jump on the train, and meet your stuff at your new apartment. See the video below for more on this.

Removalists working in front of a condominium in moving season in Japan.

Removalists working in front of a condominium in moving season in Japan.

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Japanese real estate agents have a code system for describing apartments and condominiums. The number means the places to sleep; D is Dining; K is kitchen; L is Living room. So you could get a 3LDK place, which is a large, three bedroom place with a living area, dining area, and kitchen. These are typically the open plan style. Most single people live in a 1 DK, which can be likened to a shoe box with a bathroom. These are kind of cheap, but ok.

There are typically condominiums and apartments. Condominiums are typically owned by the occupants, and apartments are typically rented. Condominiums have solid concrete walls, whilst apartments have less sound-proof walls.

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#POTW Exploring a Japanese castle

This Photo of the Week is of a model I’ve recently had the pleasure to work with, Allyce, and we shot at Nagoya Castle. It was her first visit there, and mine for many years. Nagoya Castle was originally built in 1610 and destroyed in May 1945 during the second world war. What you see here is a concrete keep, with air conditioning, electrical lighting, toilets with heated seating, elevator, a museum, and gift shop all inside. On the other side, and hidden from view is a reconstruction of the palace, known as the Honmaru Palace, which is much smaller than the military donjon you can see behind Allyce. The original was built in 1615, and the reconstruction began in 2009 and is due to be completed in 2016. More photos to come in the near future.

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A young lady using a guidebook in Japan.

A young lady using a guidebook, whilst travelling in Japan.

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International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day (Wikipedia). Japan isn’t exactly the symbol or beacon of gender equality, but there are some highlights. Over fifty years ago, women in Japanese universities were extremely rare or not even allowed in, however, they are now making up over 50% of university entrants. I have read somewhere that Japan probably has the world’s best educated housewives. Women are taking up an increasing number of office jobs, though some struggles remain. Sayaka Osakabe recently won an American award for promoting women’s rights in the workplace (on 7th March 2015, Japan Today). The number of women in Japan’s parliament has doubled in the last twenty years, and Japan has moved up 14 places in world rankings; albeit from 127th to 113th (6th March, 2015 Japan Times). There will surely be more achievements in the future, however, what is needed? What is the highest priority now?

JapanesePhotos.Asia wishes for a great day to all women everywhere, and a hope for fortune and happiness to all people.

An American and a Japanese women on the street in Osaka

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Street & tourism model call in Osaka or Kyoto

NB: The shoot is in Japan, and only open to anyone (aged 20 and older) in the Osaka area. The shoot can be scheduled for the afternoon or evening of the 23rd or the morning of the 24th January. Please note that the payment is in yen, not US dollars or other currency. This is reposted from the Model Mayhem model call.

Wanted: male and female models or couples (gay and straight) for (outdoor) traveller / tourist type of photos, and candid-like street portraiture. Clothing should be nice, simple, but of tourist-like appearance. Photos will be similar to this and further below.

Theme: Candid street portraits and traveller / tourism
Location: Streets and tourist areas of central Osaka (TBA), or Gion Kyoto.
When: 23rd Jan (afternoon or evening), and 24th Jan (morning only)
Required: Models will sign a model release to allow the photos to be used for commercial purposes.
For general model call information, see Model Call or Contact me here or via JapanesePhotos.Asia for more information.

General advice: Please where full length heat-tech or thermal underclothing, and no clothing with brand logos or print designs. Please do not bring large or heavy bags; you can keep them in a train station locker.

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News: CitiBank Japan uncertainty for customers

It has been reported by various Japanese media outlets that CitiBank Japan was for sale to the highest bidder. Many Japanese banks wanted the Japan subsidiary to acquire the mainly wealthy customers and their money. Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (aka MUFG) has apparently been the winner about two weeks ago. This apparently is the final week of business of CitiBank Japan as a CitiBank subsidiary, next week it becomes the property of MUFG. However, CitiBank Japan customers have heard nothing from CitiBank, and all the information they’ve so far received has been via Japanese newspapers. One expat customer asked staff at the Nagoya branch about his accounts. Apparently his ATM and credit cards may not work internationally from next week, which comes at a time when he will be travelling in Taiwan. CitiBank Japan has already ceased over the counter foreign exchange, and it is said that other services will cease this week.

The main attraction to CitiBank Japan for expatriate customers was the fact that all services, in branch and on the internet are bilingual and available in English and Japanese. In contrast, MUFG does not provide services for international customers, except for basic ATM functions. MUFG ATMs provide a wider range of functions in Japanese, but not in other languages. This is in contrast to Korea and Taiwan, where I have always been able to use bilingual forms and speak to English speaking staff. MUFG staff refuse to use English, and all forms are in Japanese only, and many essential financial services are refused to people who cannot read Japanese. Consequently, many expats may be looking for friendlier services, as MUFG’s reputation may sour their shiny new acquisition. The little known Shinsei Bank, appears to be the only retail bank that provides English language support left in Nagoya, one of the riches cities in the world.

CitiBank Japan was bought by Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) ahead of uncertainty for account holders.

CitiBank Japan was bought by Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) ahead of uncertainty for account holders.

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5 Things about typhoons in Japan

As yet another typhoon approaches (number 18 for 2014), I thought this information might be timely for many people. I’ll keep it brief, mainly because there isn’t that much to say. For current typhoon information see http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/. For current and general weather warnings (including snow and other), see http://www.jma.go.jp/en/warn/. For rainfall and radar maps see http://www.jma.go.jp/en/radnowc/. For news, see http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/.


1. There’s nothing to see here

Typhoons are not that dangerous… any more, at least. If you’re super rich and live in a good neighbourhood in a sturdy house, or like most expats, live in a very sturdy apartment or condominium building, there’s nothing to worry about. Basically it’s just a windy, rainy day, and it has no effect on you, whatsoever. However, if you live in a low-lying area, near canals or rivers, in an area with storm-surge barriers near the sea, then you might have something to worry about (think New Orleans). Furthermore, if you live in Taiwan (with dodgy illegal rooftop structures all around you), or other places with flimsy building construction, then you shouldn’t stay too long near the windows or on your balcony and definitely don’t venture out. In countries like China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and others there will be a lot of debris flying about.

An office worker with an umbrella walking in a typhoon past a canal that is about to breach.

An office worker with an umbrella walking in a typhoon past a canal that is about to breach, in 2011. He probably was allowed to return home halfway through the day because of a change of JMA advisory.


2. Employers expect you to go to work

That’s right. Even if your home is at risk, and your family too, you’d better have a good reason not to come into work. Fortunately, most companies allow their employees to either stay home or return home when the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) says that their is a “Warning” level for “storms” (or red on the JMA maps, but listed for “storms”). That means that the slow response the JMA has in updating their websites, and the near server crashes they experience from hundreds of thousands of hopeful employees means that when the information finally comes through, many employees could be in the brunt of the typhoon as they are travelling home. In contrast, Taiwan is much, much more organised. When the government announces closures of government offices either the night before or before 7am on the morning of an expected landfall, all businesses follow suit, so no-one is in harms way unnecessarily. I’ve seen news reports in Japan of children at a school sports day being killed by a marque blowing over in the middle of a typhoon. Japanese do tend to deny nature exists. It is a country of engineers and bureaucrats, not humanitarians.


3. Japan Meteorological Agency website is a problem to itself

I guess the JMA doesn’t quite understand that itself is a small natural disaster. Their information does not appear useful to non-Japanese people who are in Japan. On their Japanese version of the website, their typhoon probability circle times are in Tokyo time, but the English side it’s in GMT, a fact I didn’t know for the first eight years I lived in the country (I hadn’t heard of “UTC” until recently). I always wondered why there were such discrepancies in the expected arrival times. Furthermore, the language is not descriptive enough to adequately communicate the level of threat you face. They did bring out a new level last year. So there are now (my translation in parenthesis):

  • Grey: No warning or advisory (no danger)
  • Yellow: Advisory (moderate danger)
  • Red: Warning (high danger; risk of injury and damage)
  • Purple: Emergency Warning (extremely high danger; expected loss of life and serious damage to property in some places)

Furthermore, they still use Japanese and Japanese-English terms on their English website that no-one else understands. Here are some that you’ll see with a translation (republished from September 2012 JMA Information blog post):

  • Ku: Ward (like a suburb)
  • Cho / Mura: Town
  • Shi: City (like “Nagoya-shi” is just a city called “Nagoya” in regular English)
  • Hokubu: Northern areas
  • Nambu: Southern areas
  • Tobu: Eastern areas
  • Seibu: Western areas
  • “Storm”: Extremely high danger winds
  • Gale: Very strong wind, but only moderate danger
  • JST: Japan standard time, though the English website quotes everything in UTC (Greenwich Mean Time). Use TimeAndDate.Com Meeting Planner to convert.

That’s right, the word “storm” refers to strength of wind, not the normal English definition of violent weather that includes thunder and lighting.

One more thing on this point, JMA doesn’t give names to typhoons, but they count them. The one that is bearing down on me as I write this is “number 18 of 2014”, as you can see here, http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/141824.html The English version of the website does include the international name of the typhoon. However, all the local news services refer only to the number, not the name.

Japanese Meteorological Agency website screenshot from September 2013.

Japanese Meteorological Agency website screenshot from September 2013. Click on your area of the JMA map on their website, and it’ll take you to information for your specific city or region.


4. What is actually dangerous about them in Japan?

Some simple facts. The slower the typhoon moves north, the more energy it has. Also the slower it moves, the more rain will pummel the storm area. The more rain in an area, the greater the risk of run-off overwhelming flood barriers, and the greater the risk of land and mud slides in hilly areas. A slow moving typhoon might track between 8 to 15km/h. A faster moving typhoon might move from about 20 to 25km/h. From about 30km/h it seems they start to loose organisation and fall apart. Also, from eye-balling the JMA satellite imagery, if you can easily and very clearly see a large hole in the centre, the eye, then it’s a seriously strong typhoon (see below). In my experience, the central pressure of typhoons is in the 900-1000hPa range. If it drops quickly, that means it’s getting stronger. I think I have seen typhoons under 900hPa, which is seriously strong and quite dangerous. Wind speeds or gusts over 200km/h is considered strong, but speeds over 300km/h are extremely rare and would make international headlines for weeks to come. The most dangerous or wild part of the typhoon is usually the northern arc, not so much the southern for some strange reason. Rainfall of anything over 150mm (I think in a 24hr period) is expected of almost all typhoons, over 200mm is more normal. However, rainfall in the range of 300 to 400mm is a lot. I think rainfall of 50 to 80mm/hr is a lot and expected in the centre of typhoons.

Typhoon season in Taiwan is typically in July and August. In Japan it is typically in August, but mainly September and October. It’s rare to get one in May, June, or July, but not unheard of. I’ve seen typhoons approach and hit South Korea in August.

A satellite image showing a very well formed super typhoon, on 9th October 2014.

A satellite image showing a very well formed super typhoon, on 9th October 2014.


5. Blue skies afterwards

Usually after a typhoon all the pollution in the skies have been blown away and you’ll see the most amazing blue skies. Also, it’ll be a hot day, too. I’m not entirely sure why. Typhoons tend to follow the warm or hot ocean currents, but warm air or rather, warm days follow typhoons.

Clear blue skies are usually seen after typhoons have past.
Expect clear blue skies and very warm or hot days after typhoons have past.

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New photos from Vietnam

JapanesePhotos.Asia has photos from other countries, and Vietnam is the latest on the list… or rather, the new gallery in the portfolio. Many photos of Vietnam are already available for immediate purchase, and more are still being processed as you read this. Other galleries in the portfolio include Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam (Bella Vu & Hieu), and even England and some European countries are in the archives. Genres include art, cityscapes, landscapes, model release photos, portraits, rights managed photos, seasons, transport, and more.  In all honesty, I just realised that I have a load of Taiwanese film-based photos that I haven’t migrated to this decade. Hmm… I’ll have to get the scanner out and get to work in this winter’s rainy days. In any case, my photos are available at my agent’s website, and my PhotoShelter portfolio.

A young lady in a cafe in Saigon, Vietnam.

A young lady in a cafe in Saigon, Vietnam.

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#POTW The Nagoya Domatsuri (street dance competition) 2014

It was on this weekend, but I didn’t go (I was preparing for the Vietnam trip I’m currently on). The Domatsuri (dance festival) is a great spectacular to watch, where typically 200 teams of between 30 to 50 members (it’s a big event) do a highly synchronised dance. The dance is performed on a stage, and a second routine is performed progressing along part of a road in the trendy Sakae shopping district. Many of the dance teams are community groups who enter every year, and typically these teams don’t vary their routines or costumes, which is why I’m a bit lukewarm about the event this year. But there are some teams that are in it to win, and they are truly worth watching. The link to this Domatsuri photo: 20110828_DSC5362.jpg. Past Domatsuri posts, and videos on the YouTube page.

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#POTW Photo of the Week: Summer fireworks

Each and every summer, all over Japan, there are fireworks festivals. Each town or city has their publicly funded display, and tens or hundreds of thousands or more people flock to see them. The fireworks are held in the early evening, and Japanese people say the explosions somehow helps them feel cooler, and less hot from the day. I quite get the relationship, except to explain it away as the cooling evening and getting out of the house helps them cool down. Anyway, here’s the first photo of the week in a long time.

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