The common things to do in Japan for the New Years is, and approximately in this order:
Clean up the house
Go to your parents’ or grandparents’ house. Travel on overcrowded bullet trains (aka ‘shinkansen’), or wait in long airport cues to check in and fly, whilst hoping the poor weather isn’t going to delay your flight. Or travel on overcrowded and expensive expressways along the width of the country.
Watch the NHK New Year’s Eve Boys vs. Girls performance show (as boring and as tired the format is, only about 30% of TV watchers do this)
Go to a temple or shrine just before the turn of midnight to pray and to hear Buddhist sutras read to welcome in the new year. Then ring the temple bell. Go to a local Shinto shrine and have noodles and sake, and gather round a fire to keep warm.
See the first sunrise of the year.
Go to the parents’ or grandparents’ house
Eat rice cakes (aka ‘mochi’) and mandarins, whilst catching up with family
Watch the Vienna New Year’s Eve concert.
Wait until the holidays finish, then…
Return from your parents’ or grandparents’ house. Travel on overcrowded bullet trains (aka ‘shinkansen’), or wait in long airport cues to check in and fly, whilst hoping the poor weather isn’t going to delay your flight. Or travel on overcrowded and expensive expressways along the width of the country.
Wishing you all a very happy New Year, and the best of wishes for 2013. The picture below (without text) and others like it are available on my agent’s website, Asia Photo Connection by Henry Westheim.
In simple celebration of Christmas and the New Year, here is a seasonal discount offer. For any photo purchase at my portfolio on my PhotoShelter portfolio you can claim a 10% discount by entering this coupon code: MERRYCHRISTMAS Minimum USD$20 purchase for instant digital downloads, products (mousepads, iPad covers, etc), and museum / gallery quality prints (from online digital files). Offer is good until 31st December 2012. Shipping for some products may be completed after Christmas or the New Year.
Again, I haven’t been able to post anything nice so far this new month. An email arrived from Google today with this information. The International Telecommunication Union is having a closed-door meeting today and for the next few days in Dubai regarding, presumably among other things, restricting freedoms and imposing censorship on the internet. Vint Cerf of Google wrote:
I published my opinions on CNN.com last week explaining my concerns — and I am not alone. More than 1,000 organizations from 163 countries have raised concerns about this upcoming closed-door meeting in Dubai. They are joined by Internet users from just about every country around the world — take a look.
The end result could allow governments unprecedented power to gather all our internet traffic data and use it as evidence against us at times of their convenience, and despite whether we are nice good citizens or not. In effect, it would prevent an Arab-Spring like protest against Western governments like ours, and of course stifle the normal democratic discussions society has been able to enjoy in the post-war era. Potential new legislation will also give unprecedented power to large corporations. In the post-Napster era, we’ve seen the music industry pursue teenagers who downloaded music for free and demanded millions of dollars of compensation from teenagers who do not have such future earning potential. The new legislation will seriously curtail any competition against such large companies preventing legitimate small companies from being able to compete.
The Sasago tunnel collapse has triggered many questions that were not taken seriously until now. It was known that much of the transport infrastructure of Japan was built during the post-war period of rapid rebuilding and economic expansion, including the 35 year old Sasago tunnel. Consequently, there are many highways, bridges, and such that are aging and deteriorating (Japan Today). A current hypothesis is that the 16mm bolts that are drilled 13cm into the concrete, which support the one tonne ceiling panels may have deteriorated. The manufacturer said that their testing sees that the bolts may have had a life expectancy of about 30 years, but ‘should’ last about 50 years. However, no questions were asked about the maximum weight these bolts were expected to support.
Since it’s also national election season, inevitably politicians have started to claim that they have been calling for investment into infrastructure maintenance and updates.
Cars lined up at traffic lights by road works, under an overhead express way, Nagoya, Japan
The Nexco owns and maintains many of the toll ways or expressways in the central Japan region known variously as ‘Chubu’ (midlands) or the ‘Tokai Region’, including the highway and tunnel where today’s accident occurred (ABC, BBC, Japan Today). The Nexco gets its income from toll gates, like the ones shown below. Recently, highway companies have been criticised for not properly designing highway barriers linking between the road barrier and bridges, an apparent critical point where a bus crashed a couple of months ago. The tunnel collapse today is indeed significant because the collapse of the ceiling panels is an accident that should have been considered possible, and inspections in September confirmed the structural integrity of the one-tonne ceiling panels.
As at time of writing, NHK reports that a man had been found alive in his truck, and they are now looking to find a way to free him. ‘Several’ charred bodies are still in the tunnel, and news footage showed that it had snowed at some point today. It would seem that the reason for the collapse may relate to the shape or weight distribution within the mountain had changed, thus changing the shape of the tunnel, allowing for freely-suspended concrete ceiling panels to fall, perhaps the cold and contraction of the panels contributed.
Arriving at the toll collection gates on a Japanese Expressway near Nagoya, Japan