Friday, 21 October 2011

Shitamachi - Ueno to Komagome

templetunneltunneltop of the gatesgatesgates
templeOmikujiClockssignold housegateway
Funeray stavesold local pumpwallold local pumpemergency water supplyold grave markers
sereneold grave markerslocal family planningEnglish and what?stepscrest

An afternoon wander from Ueno north to Komagome, Tokyo

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Noda - the first few weeks...

So the new boy wonder is in the hot-seat and what has he come up with to save Japan from fiscal, environmental and demographic catastrophe…?

Well, fuck all so far, it seems. The new kid has been keeping his head down and grafting, I know this because the media types have been bemoaning the fact the kid keeps his head down and doesn’t do interviews or press conferences. The old boys used to have at least 1 press conference a day, sometimes 2, with all that pressing going on you would think they didn’t have much time to do anything, and you’d be right (expect back-stabbing, mud-slinging and, in the case of (The Man Who) Kan, standing stock still in panic induced paralysis at the shit in front of him). But Noda has said “No, da won’t be many press conferences from now on” (apologies for the forced pun there), and those that he will do will be at ad hoc in locations the press will be told about with 2 minute’s notice (cue Keystone Cops-style charging about Kasumigaseki by the press corps whilst Noda chuckles to himself in Roppongi Hills/a rice field/Washington DC etc.)

But like most recent Japanese PMs, I can’t really think of much he’s done. I suppose he has overseen the indictment of the crook that is Ichiro Ozawa, who is still protecting his innocence, deriding the legality of the court and accusing the prosecutors of fraud, thereby acting like the supercilious, arrogant tosspot that he is; I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if he had shouted ‘don’t you know who I am!?’ several times already.

Sorry, back to Noda – er… There’s been a bit of talk about the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), a sort of free trade agreement with the US, but that will be wrapped up in the Futenma base shenanigans that are *still* going on. Then there are the proposed tax hikes, which will put my tax up in the not too distant future through a combination of increased income and sales taxes (yes, I can see they are needed but no, I don’t want them if all they will do is go towards more a) useless, anti-competition hand-outs for rice farmers/fishermen (for example) to keep them voting the right way b) ridiculous pork-barrel construction projects (there are enough real construction projects needed in Tohoku) c) bureaucrats d) semi-public institutions still bankrolled by govt. through my tax (JAL, Japan Tobacco et al) e) anything else that promotes waste and that I don’t agree with. Jesus, I sound like a Republican!).

I’m sure there is other stuff he’s done, but I can’t remember much about it. I’m sure he is doing great things to start the rebuild of northern Japan which will be, in the main, unsung, so maybe he needs to start blowing his trumpet a bit more.

Radiation news

The thing about having a nuclear power station going into meltdown 250kms away is that it makes everyone really paranoid about radiation. The first accusation is that the govt. and TEPCO aren’t telling anyone anywhere near enough about what’s going on at the plant. This was undoubtedly true at the time and though I suspect the flow of information is now much better, after the general panic has dissipated, I’m sure there is more they are not (or maybe not able) to tell us yet.

The second accusation is only possible after the general panic has dissipated and people can get back to living their normal lives, this is the paranoia that radiation is everywhere and the government aren’t telling us about it. The idea is that large amounts of radiation fell on Tokyo in very specific areas, creating radiation hotspots that will, for example, give your child incurable radiation sickness and/or cancer the second he/she goes near the aforementioned hotspot. There is no way the govt. can counter this unless it takes radiation readings from every street corner in Tokyo every 5 minutes for the next 10 years, and even then certain people, like some parents at the school I work at, will not believe the readings are real.

What makes matters worse are completely unrelated, random events that ratchet up the panic. For example a bunch of ‘concerned residents’ got hold of a radiation meter (another really, really bad idea as these are sensitive instruments with which it’s easy to pick up false readings unless you know what you’re doing) and started measuring bits of Setagaya-ku in west Tokyo. Somehow they managed to get an accurate reading and found a really quite large spike in radiation in one spot on a road outside a slightly rundown house. Cue local hysteria so the real boys were called in and, interestingly, found the same readings. Cue national hysteria and calls for the government to resign en masse for lying to the public (actually I made that bit up, but I’m pretty sure someone was saying it). Anyway, what the big boys found was that the radiation was coming from the house and, after getting permission to go in, found several bottles containing radium 226 (the stuff they use as luminous paint for watches) under the floor of the house. The woman who owned the house but no longer lived there said her (now dead husband, died if radiation poisoning…?) might have used the stuff but she really had no idea. So in the end it was all completely unrelated to Fukushima, but the paranoia goes on. Also, the level of radiation just above the bottles was 600 micro Sv/h, about the amount you would get from a stomach x-ray; so not exactly lethal though you wouldn’t want to stand there for too long, so outside the house on the street the level was around 3 micro Sv/h, so no one was going to get anything nasty just walking by the house every day, not that you’d think that listening to some of the comments that came out.

The Rugby World Cup

It’s almost over and I haven’t written anything about it. So, some musings…

- England were pretty rubbish on the field (looking good against Romania and Georgia does not count)

- Off the field England were not saints, but a large section of the media did seem to have it in for them from the moment they arrived in NZ (Mick Cleary and Mark Reason in the Telegraph spring to mind)

- I feel sorry for Wales but Sam Warburton should not have made that tackle as he did, whilst James Hook and Stephen Jones should have done better than 1 from 6

- I feel slightly sorry for South Africa, but they should have been a lot more savvy in realising that Bryce Lawrence had given carte blanche at the breakdown for anyone to do anything

- Japan played well, very well, at times but lacked composure when it really mattered

- No one put 100 points on any of the “minnows” – this was a great improvement and will only get better the more opportunities they are given to play the ‘big’ nations

- I now want France to win on Sunday, just because everyone is writing them off and saying they are the worst team ever to grace the final. Allez les Bleus!

- Stop blaming the refs and start looking at you team’s shortcomings

- Roll on 2019 when it all comes to Japan

And Dan Wheldon, R.I.P.

Lastly some pictures of cars from La Fest Mille Miglia in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago

Bugatti T37ABugatti Brescia T22Bugatti T43Bugatti Brescia T22 #7BNC 527 MonzaBentley 3L Speed
Austin SevenAston Martin International Le MansAlfa Romero 6C 2300Bentley 3.5LCisitalia 2041950 Healey Silverstone
...and what a backside!DB6_1DB6_2DB6_3DB6_4DB6_5
DB6_6Lotus 17Fiat 501SErmini 1100 SportFiat Farina MMHealey Silverstone
La Festa 2011, a set on Flickr.