Thursday, June 30, 2011

Light the Way

Hello everyone. I'm finally back in Shinjuku and my suitcase is once again waiting to be unpacked...again.

The sky was this glorious pinkish color a couple of days before I left last week. The roof you see is part Saisho Temple (最勝寺).

Well, some of you may know that I was in Miyagi prefecture last week. I was volunteering in a small town called Yamamoto-cho.

This small town, which had a population of about 16,600 in February of this year, lost over 650 people in the tsunami following the earthquake. That's about 4.0% of the population. That number is so unreal. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose that many people in my city.

The tsunami also swept over 40% of Yamamoto-cho, which covers about 60% of the livable land in this town and over 2,000 houses were completely destroyed. There were also over 1,000 houses that were mostly or partly destroyed.

But hearing about all the numbers and actually seeing the destruction was a whole different matter. Seeing the areas that the tsunami swept over was hard to take in. (You can see pictures of the town a few days after the earthquake on Yamamoto-cho's website here.) The area I saw, there was really nothing left. It was just dirt and grass all along the coast with an occasional building that had hung on. Much of the large rubble that the tsunami left behind or swept back in had already been removed.

There was a feeling of horror and sadness as I looked across the open land. But for me, it's part of the devastation that I saw on TV after the earthquake. And I know for sure that doesn't even come close to what the people of Yamamoto-cho, who grew up along the shores, who walked through the streets, and enjoyed life with family in their homes, would feel when seeing the bare area where their houses used to stand. There really were no words.

And yet this small town is already trying to move forward. The town hall employees have been working non-stop, a volunteer center has been set up at the town hall, where many people come from all over Japan, and even overseas, are able to register to help, and the town has been busy building temporary housing for the people who have had to live in various evacuation shelters around town.

This was my first time volunteering for disaster relief so it was all a new experience. I'm hoping to share a bit of the experience with you in the next couple of posts. (Alerting you of looong posts in advance!) But I'm actually heading back to Yamamoto-cho again this weekend to help out in a different project so my posts may be sporadic, especially since I actually forgot my camera there (silly me!).

I'm trying to figure out if I may have subconsciously just left it there so I'd have a reason to go back. Haha. Well, I'm hoping to get back to regular posts by next week.

So how are you all? Can you believe June is almost over? I hope you're all having a fabulous day!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rainy Season Brings Pretty Flowers

Okay, I couldn't stay away. I'm back in Shinjuku and it's raining. And I couldn't go off for another week without showing you a photo of this gorgeous hydrangea. So many of them are blooming around town and no wonder with all the rain that we've been getting.

Also wanted to show you a bit of Osaka and Kyoto, which is really close to Osaka, as they are both very interesting places.
- people in Osaka stand on the right side of the escalator
(in Tokyo we stand on the left)

- newly opened Osaka Station

- handbags in Kyoto

- random houses in Kyoto

- small creek in Kyoto

- torii of Heian Shrine in Kyoto

- part of the roof of the Heian Shrine entrance

- rabbit-ear iris blooming in middle garden of Heian Shrine

- bridge crossing over Seiho Lake inside Heian Shrine garden

- Shobi-kan standing in the east garden

- main sanctuary of Heian Shrine

- bench outside of a library in Kyoto

- school kids sitting along the Kamo River in Kyoto

- Japanese rice crackers sold in Kyoto

- white clover flowers on the grounds of Osaka castle
(so wanted to make wreaths)

- Osaka Castle

- peeking out the cannon hole of the outer wall

- Otemon Gate, the front entrance of Osaka Castle

- on my way back to Tokyo

So that's a few of my photos from the weekend in Osaka. It was really great just being home with family. I'll be away for a little over a week but will be back at the end of the month. Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rise Up

These are the two buildings that are waiting for tenants to move in. The one of the left is the Shinjuku Front Tower I posted about on theme day and the one of the right is called Nishi Shinjuku 8-chome Project, which obviously is still a tentative name. I think it's scheduled to be completed at the end of this year.

I liked how the sky reflected on to the building's windows.

On a personal note, I'm heading down to Osaka to see my parents for an extended weekend today. Then after a couple of days back in Tokyo, I'll be heading north this time to spend a week volunteering in an area still affected in the aftermath of the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami. So I may not be able to have new posts ready for about 2 weeks but will try to go see all your lovely photos when I have the time! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

See other wonderful reflections from around the world at Weekend Reflections hosted by James.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Salt, Miso, or Soy Sause

I'm sure when you think of Asia, fun and tasty food vendors come to mind.

Well, we actually have them in Shinjuku, too! This is a portable ramen vendor right in front of Shinjuku Station. The night is still young so there's no customers yet. But I'm pretty sure the stools will be fully occupied later at night.

There's nothing like eating noodles outside at night! Have you ever tried it?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eco As Can Be

Energy conservation is a big theme in not only Shinjuku, but pretty much all of Japan these days. And vending machines are also part of this.

This sticker shows that no lights are used at anytime in order to save energy. What's interesting is that this vending machine was already environmentally-friendly, as it used a solar panel to power the lights at night. But apparently even that wasn't enough.

Many of the companies in Tokyo are also expected to cut approximately 15% of the power consumption from the previous year. So this week my company has also started in on it's energy conservation plan, such as less operating elevators, lights out during noon hours, less lighting in all rooms, higher temperature for air conditioning, and no desk lights. But it's really not so bad and something we'll be getting used to soon.

I'm just thankful they're letting us use the air conditioning again. It's been really hot the last couple of days and although it's only 23C's already 35C inside the office sometimes. Crossing my fingers for an unusually cool summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunny Afternoon

I've been eating lunch on this bench lately.

It's inside the grounds of Jo-enji Temple and a perfect spot to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Especially since the bench sits right under the big cherry tree, you can enjoy a nice breeze in the shade.

Friday, June 3, 2011

We Stand United

Our Shinjuku skyscrapers looming above the city.

From the left is Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (newly built in 2008), Shinjuku Center Building (the tallest of the four buildings at 54 stories), Shinjuku L Tower (closest to the station), and Sonpo Japan Headquarter Building (also called "bell bottom bldg" because of its shape).

Even though I really like seeing this view...I was glad to leave all this behind and head home to start my weekend. Happy Friday to you all!
Enjoy looking at more beautiful skies all around the world here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chanoki Inari Shrine

This is one of the guardians of the Chanoki Inari Shrine. This shrine is located within the Ichigaya Kamegaoka Hachimangu grounds, which is the main shrine. If you look at the photo below, you can see red lanterns on the top left corner, which is where this shrine is located.

Chanoki Inari Shrine is said to be the first shrine that was made by Kukai, a famous Japanese monk, when he first came to the Kanto area about 1,000 years ago. There are many tea bushes around this shrine, which Kukai brought as medicine from China.

It's said that this shrine has the power to heal eyes. The legend day the white fox, one of the guardians of the shrine, accidentally poked its eye with a branch of a tea bush and hurt it. When it washed its eye with the water from the holy spring, it was healed. And although this spring is no longer in use, many people come here to pray for healthy eyesight to this day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Theme Day: Under Construction

It's June time flies. I'd actually forgotten about it but today is theme day, which is perfect because I was planning on showing you this newly built office building anyways!

This is Shinjuku Front Tower, a 35 story office building which is scheduled to complete this month. I think they're just putting on the finishing touches. Like the trees planted along the street that are still wrapped up. But you can see in the first photo that people are already looking around inside.

Looks like another tall building is joining the many skyscrapers in Shinjuku!

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