Archive for May 29, 2011

Typhoon Songda hits Japan

Typhoon Songda hit southern islands of Japan on Saturday affecting the Okinawa Prefecture. The typhoon sped up to more than 60km/h changing from a typhoon to a tropical depression with severe wind warnings when it struck the southern and central parts of the Japanese main island, Honshu. The typhoon is very unusual in that typhoons almost never venture further north than Taiwan until late July early August. Honshu usually is hit by one maybe two typhoons annually, but usually only in September or early October.

Given this history, the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant was apparently unprepared to be hit by the tropical storm raising fears that radioactive material from exposed parts of the plant could be spread widely across land and sea (BBC, NHK).

Sumo trouble

The last day of the “Technical Examination Tournament” was held in the wake of match-fixing and other scandals. This tournament was held in-place of a regular tournament due to a very large number of wrestlers being forced retired (they don’t fire people in Japan), so they don’t have rankings to organise a tournament properly. Hakuho, who is usually undefeated, when faced against lesser opponents seemed to find it tougher to clinch victory. Today he lost against the oldest wrestler who is ten years his senior (extremely unusual). I’m sure there’ll be a few raised eyebrows in the next tournament due to be held here in Nagoya in July. The tickets were due to go on sale on the 19th of May (today’s the 22nd), but are yet to be released, perhaps in anticipation of canceling yet another tournament?

nuclear disaster at no.1 reactor

I’m not too clear on the details, but it was reported on NHK (now known for not being reliable and independent) that the nuclear material in the number 1 reactor at Fukushima had in fact gone through melt down within the first 16 hours of the disaster beginning on 11th March, and had indeed breached the floor of the reactor. It would seem that this may explain why there was an inexplicable amount of radioactive material released into the atmosphere, and why adding water for cooling to the reactor failed to see water levels rise sufficiently, and why there is highly radioactive water in the basement. It seems that TEPCO is unable to locate the precise location of the molten (or melted) nuclear material. If this is indeed the case, we’ve experienced a China Syndrome and didn’t even know it until today: sixty-six days after the start of the nuclear disaster. Of course, my understanding of NHK’s report could be wrong, so if there is a correction, or an update, I’ll do my best to publish it here as soon as possible. For the time being, this is the most up-to-date report published on the English section of NHK’s website:

UPDATE (16th May): No melt through, just a blob of molten mess, apparently:

Nuclear Spring. A play on the words ‘Nuclear Winter‘ and ‘Silent Spring‘.

Tado Horse Festival

Another annual event was run today. Essentially, they run a drunken youth rider, on a drunken horse, up a drunken mountain (and over a mound). If the horse and rider make it over (preferably together), then that heralds a good rice harvest this season.

In previous years, animal rights groups and the Mie Prefecture Board of Education (concerning especially youth affairs) have complained about this event. Horses are forced to consume alcohol, and the youth who ride them are about 17 years of age, and are drunk themselves. Horses are forced to run over a mound at the top of a steep slope, and there is a risk the horses could get hurt. Often the horses are frightened by the 120,000 spectators cheering the horse and rider on. At the mound that rider’s team try to help or force the horse over by pushing and pulling on the horse. Whilst there is risk to the horse, there are perhaps more risk to the people who have been carried or rushed to hospital in previous years. Furthermore, the animal rights group (I haven’t been able to attain their exact name yet) and the Education Board seem not to be so concerned for long standing cultural rights and traditions.

In any case, it seemed that this year the horse was not frothing at the mouth from too much sake, and the riders didn’t seem drunk at all. The teams standing either side of the track didn’t seem very drunk either. It appears that the fizz had been drained this year; perhaps creating a threat to the sense of community surrounding this event? Time will tell.

News: This year the mound at the top of the slope didn’t appear to have been broken very well, and so it was, as one person put it: ‘ambitious’. On this first day, most horses failed, but only one horse made it over, so there should be a good harvest this year. The horse that made it over was called Ganbare Tohoku (roughly translated as ‘keep trying / keep striving Tohoku’, a reference and call of encouragement to the people of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear stricken region).

For photos taken in previous years, see my Asia Photo Connection and PhotoShelter portfolios. This year I used black and white film (as I’m getting tired of digital), so new photos will be added to this post and my portfolios later.

Tado Horse Festival – Images by Andrew Blyth