Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Host of Golden Daffodils

I think spring heard me complaining and decided to head our way! Lovely flowers are starting to bloom here and there. And daffodils are definitely a favorite of mine.

I majored in English Literature but poems were never my forte. Every time a professor would challenge us to try to understand a poem or what the poet was trying to express, a part of me would always be thinking, "how should I know?"

But these bright cheerful daffodils remind me of a famous poem by William Wordsworth...and I think I understand exactly what he was saying!

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Than Winning

Today the evening newspapers were all about the Tohoku High School Baseball Team.

No, they didn't win their game today at the national high school tournament. They unfortunately lost 0-7. But the front page of the newspapers read "Good game, Tohoku!" or "Thank you, Tohoku!"

The baseball team of Tohoku High School (Miyagi Prefecture) were practicing outside when the earthquake hit. With the devastation that followed, many assumed they wouldn't make it to the tournament. The team's practices were halted in order to help out at rescue shelters, even as many of the players who lived in dorms went without water, electricity, and gas, too. But with the safety of all the player's families confirmed and through the support of many of the people in shelters, they were able to make their way to the tournament the following week.

These high school baseball tournaments we have twice a year is very special in Japan. People of all ages watch this tournament to root for the team representing their prefecture or just to see the young players hit, run, and shout their hearts out in every game.

Although the Tohoku High School Baseball Team weren't able to make it to the next round, the fact that they fought to the very end was an inspiration that lifted the spirits of many who watched.

And as one of the newspapers said, "...all of Japan applauded."

There's a really great article on high school baseball here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fishing For More

This is a Tai-yaki, the ever delicious fish-shaped cake that is usually filled with sweet beans. But this one is even better (in my opinion)'s filled with purple yam!!!

I really wanted to show you how purple the yam is inside...but it was so good, I forgot to take a photo before eating it all. Oops. Well, you'll have to take my word for it...the sweet and munchy fish was delicious!

A lot of high school kids buy it on their way home with friends or little kids beg their mom to stop and buy some on the way back from the grocery store. The Tai-yaki is really popular with everyone.

As for me...I can't wait to get another one to snack on while taking a walk around Shinjuku with my camera!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Hard Day's Night

It's been very cold these last few days...feels like spring is retreating again.

Thought I'd stop for a cup of coffee here. But "Coffee Re-To-A-Ru" seems to be closed. Actually "closed down" is probably more like it...they don't even have a doorknob! 

Unlike this coffee shop, many of the stores in Shinjuku are now open and running. Some are operating full hours in dimly lit stores while others are cutting back on power usage by shortening their operating hours. Store owners must be having a hard time trying to operate while cooperating to conserve energy. I hope none of the stores end up like the one in the photo.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Walking the Dog

Things seemed much more normal this week.

The trains are operating and we haven't had very many big earthquakes or aftershocks lately. People are out walking their dogs and it feels like there is a sense of calmness in Shinjuku. Those of us who work are starting to get back to our regular work schedules.

It's the end of the fiscal year end for most companies here in Japan and it's also a time to start planning for the new fiscal year starting in April. It's going to be a very different year than the last. But it could turn out to be much better in the never know!

Hope all of you have a lovely weekend!

Take a look at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

I've been asked by a couple of friends and fellow bloggers how they could help Japan. If you'd like, take a look at this blog post at Todd's Wanderings. He has a really great list of Japanese organizations you can contribute to. I very much appreciate you keeping all of us in Japan in your thoughts. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Marguerite Daisy

This pretty pinkish purple flower is the Marguerite Daisy.

Found this a few days after the earthquake when seeing and hearing about the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear power plant all over the news just got to be a bit too much for me to handle. It's selfish of me, I know. But I needed to pretend for just a minute that everything would be okay.

Always surprises me how a small thing like this can cheer me up. Praying the people in Tohoku will see many flowers blooming soon, too.

*As of today, 9,408 people have died and 14,716 people are still missing. There are also approximately 261,000 people who are currently living in shelters (mostly school gymnasiums). Although the news is mainly focused on the nuclear reactors (bless those men and women working to control the situation)...many Japanese are more worried about the missing and sheltered people in Tohoku, where it is currently very cold. Many of the shelters still do not have water, electricity, or petrol and time is starting to run out for many. I hope you will keep them in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

This is a photo looking towards the east side of Shinjuku, where there are shops and bars and all kinds of entertainment. The exciting side. The flashy side. The bright side.

That is, until now. 

Due to the earthquake, some of the nuclear reactors were damaged/shutdown and there has been a power shortage throughout eastern Japan. Although Shinjuku is not part of the mandatory blackouts that TEPCO has issued, many businesses have been conserving energy voluntarily.

It's easy to see the difference at night. No neon, no displays. There haven't been many people around at night either because mandatory blackouts also meant no trains running. Some people would have to leave work at 2 p.m. because their trains were only going their way for an hour that afternoon or others would have to wait past 8 p.m. for their trains to run again. It was really hard figuring out the train/subway schedule last week.

But things seem to be a lot more organized this week. The mandatory blackouts still continue and offices and stores are still conserving energy but there haven't been sudden blackout scares like last week (which had all of us rushing back home before the city stalled...only it didn't happen), so I'm hoping this state of calm will continue. 

I have to admit, I do miss the lights. I miss our heating system at work, too. But while TEPCO is doing a whole lot of apologizing these days...I actually want to thank them for giving me a chance to see all the things I took for granted. And until electricity has reached all the areas in the Tohoku region which were devastated by the earthquake/tsunami, I can do without lights and heating systems.

(Shinjuku before energy conservation)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Often Shake But Rarely Topple

For many of us, when we say Shinjuku, these skyscrapers come to mind. 

This is the business district, located on the west side of Shinjuku Station, where many people go to work everyday. It's a view I've come to love and on a sunny day like this I always end up taking photos of the skyscrapers, even though I know I have hundreds of the same angle.

I actually saw these skyscrapers after the first earthquake hit on March 11 and they were all weaving back and forth. Now this may seem scary (no doubt it was for the people who work there) but it is actually intentional, a way to alleviate the shock through flexibility.

My building sways as well and for the past week it has felt like we're all working on a boat with all the new earthquakes and aftershocks. But I know that I'm safe and it makes me very proud of our engineers and the well constructed buildings. No doubt the strict building codes saved many lives for the people of Japan.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Journey

Hello everyone! How are you?

It's been quite awhile and I have been a lazy bum about starting a new photo blog. But on this lovely Sunday afternoon here in Tokyo, I decided that I wanted to start today. So here it from Tokyo, more specifically Shinjuku ward (or Shinuku-ku, as we say it in Japanese), a place I now call home.

I would also very much like to thank everyone who left comments on my other blogs or sent me an email directly, inquiring about my safety after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last week. I was overwhelmed by it all and I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping me and everyone in Japan in your thoughts and prayers.

The earthquake came as quite a shock, but it was nothing compared to the devastation of the tsunami that hit the eastern coast of Japan. Tokyo is, at the moment, doing fine. There's a lot of news about blackouts, radiation, and lack of products in stores...but even that doesn't seem like much when I think about the many many people who've lost their loved ones and homes in the tsunami.

This may be a really odd time to start a new blog...but I wanted to share with you the photos of Shinjuku because it's such a wonderful city filled with interesting people and places. And in this time of need, there have been so many acts of kindness everywhere, it has really warmed my heart. I hope you'll let me share these stories and join me on this journey though Shinjuku.

Much Love,