Archive for May, 2011

Antinuclear march in Ginza

May 27, 2011

A few minutes before 8:00 this evening, I was walking through Ginza when I stumbled across an antinuclear protest march.

To say that the meltdowns and ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant have been a major source of public worry would be putting it mildly. I have heard about quite a few protests against nuclear power in the past few weeks (like this one), but tonight’s was the first I’d seen in person.

I am a lukewarm supporter of nuclear power (and yes, I know I’ll have to explain that at some point), so this is not a protest that I was tempted to join. Nonetheless, it did my heart good to see it.

Japan is a democracy, but for a long time it was a very passive one. When I see people who are motivated to take their opinions to the street (peacefully), I see it as a healthy sign of political energy.

The police who escort big protests in Tokyo tend to divide them into segments to avoid impeding ordinary street traffic. I saw two segments tonight. The first segment engaged in a lot of cacophonous shouting, but the second, larger group were repeating a catchy chant of “Stop nuclear power; decomission the Hamaoka plant.”

You don’t think that sounds catchy? Then try this: Translate it into Japanese, have the marchers repeat after a leader, and add drums:

Gem-patsu yame-ro!
           Gem-patsu yame-ro!
Hama-oka hairo!
           Hama-oka hairo!

See? It has a nice beat, and you can march to it.

How tall is Tokyo Sky Tree, again?

May 23, 2011

Tall enough that most of it was hidden in the clouds yesterday, even while nearby skyscrapers remained clearly visible well below the cloud ceiling. To put a number on it, the Sky Tree is 634 meters tall, which is four-tenths of a mile.
To see how tall that is when viewed from the middle of Tokyo Bay (on a clear day) go here.

Psst! Wanna buy a swamp?

May 1, 2011

Tokyo Electric Power Company is looking to sell off some assets to help pay for the array of expensive problems it has faced since its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant went haywire after being hit by the March 11 tsunami. Those assets include a beautiful tract of alpine marshland in Oze National Park.

I visited that park last year. In the photo above, I am standing next to a sign at one of the entrances. The kanji characters for “Tokyo Electric Power” are carved into the wood next to my hip.

According to an article in The Daily Yomiuri (which you can read here), TEPCO owns about 16,000 hectares, or about 40 percent of the park. For the nonmetrically inclined, that’s 40,000 acres or 62 square miles.

If you wonder why a power company would own land in a national park in the first place, read the article.

If you wonder what an alpine marsh looks like, scroll down for more photos.

The park’s infrastructure, to the extent that I saw it, was admirably minimal. Its main feature was a two-lane wooden boardwalk that was just big enough for people to walk single-file in each direction. This made wide areas accessible to visitors who are willing and able to hike a good distance while also minimizing the impact of those visitors on what seemed to be a delicate environment.

But the very factors that make Oze an attractive place to visit also make it an unattractive place to buy. As a practical matter, to “develop” this kind of land would be to destroy it. As a legal matter, its status as part of a national park means that many types of development would be prohibited – and rightly so.

Still, if you happen to have a few billion yen to spare, it really is a beautiful piece of property…