Fire in Golden Gai April 12, 2016

Update Friday, April 15: On Wednesday, a day after the fire, police reportedly arrested a 66-year-old man for breaking into the building shortly before the fire started.

 

Update 7:25 p.m.: According to this report from The Japan Times, the fire is out with no cause determined. Five buildings damaged and one person injured. I can’t tell much from the picture, so I’ll have to pay a visit sooner than later to see where the damage was…

 

Don’t have any details yet, but a part of Golden Gai – my favourite hang-out spot in Tokyo – is apparently on fire. here’s the news footage: http://www.news24.jp/articles/2016/04/12/07327128.html?cx_recsclick=0

On the one hand, given the 200+ tiny bars crammed into ramshackle buildings in this six-block Shinjuku ghetto, it may not be surprising that a fire has broken out. Then again, there has been a rumour ever since Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 Olympics that Golden Gai is once again being considered for gentrification… http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/2020-olympics-might-spell-end-for-shinjukus-golden-gai

Either way, I may have to update Down the Rabbit Hole, my guide to Golden Gai, sooner rather than later…

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Tokyo Snow Fallout

The morning after…

Ebisu at Dawn
Ebisu at Dawn

Well, Tokyo’s first snow storm of the season has passed, and already the melt has set in. Other parts of the country, such as Hokkaido and the Tohoku region, have more snow in the immediate forecast; here in The Big Sushi, however, temperatures should be back in the double digits by tomorrow – that’s Wednesday, Tokyo time.

Back to yesterday’s blizzard… I have to say, it may not be the worst snow storm I’ve seen in my 13+ years in Tokyo (the heavy snowfall on February 9, 2014 set a 45-year record), but it was the worst commuting mess I’ve ever experienced. I left home as usual around 6am, which normally gets me to work by 7:15 or so. Yesterday, however, what with the treacherous walking conditions and the train delays, I finally arrived at 8:35 – almost 1 1/2 hours late. Even so, I was one of the first to make it in, and as others arrived late into the morning the horror stories only got worse: longer delay times, dangerously over-crowded trains and platforms with no safety barriers between passengers and the tracks below. R. tells me she had to wait 50 minutes outside (by then it was raining) just to get into the station. From there, the express train ride which normally takes 20 minutes took 1 1/2 hours. As the over-crowded train waited at local stations with its doors closed, passengers started to choke in the unventilated cars, causing further delays as train crews had to make extra stops to remove sick passengers – which resulted in further delays and even more sick passengers.

According to the talk at work this morning, Tokyo’s train operators decided to remove trains from service in the event of such a snow crisis as this one as a result of a commuter train crash back in February of 2014. problem is, apparently, they didn’t bother to tell anyone… So it goes.

 

Japan’s Active Volcanoes: Fujisan

Fujisan, from Yamanashi Highlands
Fujisan, from Yamanashi Highlands

At 3,776 meters (12,389 feet), Fujisan’s peak is the highest in Japan.

Is it an active volcano? The best answer to that question may be “Yes, but…”. Apparently, an active volcano is one which has erupted within the last 10,000 years, and is expected to erupt again. Fujisan last erupted in 1707, making it a prime candidate for active status. However, there are two kinds of active volcanoes: erupting and dormant. Ontakesan, the volcano which tragically erupted last weekend, is an example of the former; Fujisan would be an example of the latter.

“Wait a minute,” sez you. “Does that mean Fujisan is expected to erupt again?”

“The short answer is, ‘Yes,'” sez I. No-one knows exactly when, of course, but the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps Fujisan on its list of 47 volcanoes to be monitored 24/7. at least one volcanologist, a retired professot at Ryukyu University, predicts that Fujisan will erupt by 2015.

Dusk, FujisanFujisan-2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mount FujisanFujisan TrailView from FujisanFujisan SummitFujisan SummitFujisan Summit CraterView from FujisanView from FujisanView of Fujisan

Ontakesan Eruption

Ontakesan, Japan’s second-highest volcano, erupts in Nagano prefecture

Many hikers were on the slopes this weekend to view the koyo autumn leaves.

According to the news reports we saw on TV this morning, no-one was killed though several people were injured. Rescue workers were making their way up-slope even as some stranded hikers had started to make their own way down.

However, a more recent story from CNN reports that rescue workers have found 30 climbers “in cardia arrest” on the volcano, meaning they have no pulse but have not been declared dead by a doctor.

R. told me later in the day that hikers caught out couldn’t breath because of the gas, and that many started to write their wills.

Again according to those news reports, this may be the beginning of an active cycle for Ontakesan.

Cool Flick: “Hafu” (Japan is Changing)

Missed this documentary when it was in the theatres last fall. Too bad: looks like an interesting take on a sensitive subject here: what it means to be Japanese and, for some people at least, who is Japanese? These are questions many of my students live with every day. Still, the tone of the movie is hopeful and that, I hope, bodes well for the current generation Japanese and foreign and everything in between.

Way to Go, Tokyo!

Nishi Shinjuku Looks like 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for The Big Sushi. First, Singapore surpassed Tokyo for dubious distinction of being the world’s most expensive city. Next, it was named “World’s Smartest City” for its innovation, sustainability, and quality of life by the IESE Business School in Spain on their Cities in Motion Index. Now TripAdvisor reviewers have apparently deemed Tokyo “Best Overall Experience” according to this article on the Tokyo Weekender website. According to the same TW article, we came on top for Best Taxi Service, Cleanest Streets, Best Public Transportation, and Most Helpful Locals. Sadly, Toronto, my other home, doesn’t make a notable appearance on any of these lists.

Way to go, Tokyo! Knew there was a reason I chose to live in the Big Sushi…