I love harbors and I love big ships and if there is one place to really see them up close it is at the International Port of Yokohama, the Osanbashi Pier. Last year I saw the gigantic MS Asuka II (飛鳥II) at port. It is the largest passenger vessel in Japan right now, at 241m. It has a crew of 545 and can take 960 passengers. I usually use this site to track the position of large ships but I already knew that the Asuka II is currently in port at Hakata/Fukuoka on the north coast of the island of Kyushu, in southern Japan, where it arrived about half a day ago.
The ship was launched in 1989 and is currently sailing under Japanese flag (which is unusual in this day and age of “Flag of Convenience” maritime traffic.
At the Shinagawa Shukumatsuri a couple of weeks ago I happened by chance to be right at the spot where the police parade was assembling. One of the members of the parade was the famous TV announcer and show hostess Yuri Takami (高見侑里). She has quite a fan base and there were photographers and autograph hunters everywhere! I was the only foreigner in the crowd and still managed to get the best spot and even a mention in one of the speeches. She is currently on two famous TV morning shows, the Mezamashidoyobi (on Saturdays) and the Mezamashi Terebi Akua (めざましどようび, めざましテレビ アクア). You can see her in a Nissan Commercial here.
Why the police uniform? In order to promote the police and fire brigades here in Japan their PR departments have invented a “Police officer for a day” program where celebrities and notable locals (almost always young ladies) take part in parades and various performances as an honorary police officer for a day. It seems like a nice project to take part in and one of my friends who did was happy to show me the memorabilia she received as thanks, quite cool stuff. Of course it is all in good fun and none of the participants are given any real police power. In this case Ms. Takami got to ride in an open care with the local chief of police and just look smashing in her uniform.
The first bus to ever run in Japan in was in Kyoto, on the 20th of September 1903. The busline ran from the street crossing near Horikawa Nakatachiuri over to Shichijo and ended in Gion. To commemorate this important development in Japanese civic life, September 20th has been named Bus Day (basu no hi). On this days buses are decorated with special flags, like these buses I saw in Tokyo’s Nezu district last year. There are also many special bus events taking place around the country. If you are interested in buses, or more likely, you have kids that like them, today is your busy day!
By the way, photographing the “displays” of the buses is really difficult, as the lights of the displays flutter at a speed that looks good to the eye but looks terrible in digital photograph. You can trick it by using a very slow shutter speed, but then you get a blurry photo if the bus is moving or you shoot without a stand or tripod. The second photo is a montage of a slow and fast photo. Sorry for ‘shopping!
Japan has any numbers “days” to commemorate something, some of them are annual, some are even monthly! I used to be surprised at the number of special days but not anymore. Personally I enjoy October 1st as it is Coffee Day. It also happens to be the day to celebrate Stamps (the ink kind, not the letter one), Sake (the Japanese kind), Glasses, which relates to Design and also Assistive Technology, International Music, and finally the perfect combo of Perfume and aftershaves, and Septic Tanks!
If you can read Japanese, you can enjoy checking out what is celebrated on your birthday for example!
And for activity tips, there are festivals in Nezu Shrine and Akagi Shrine this weekend.
If there is one thing that Hiroshima is more well known for than the special Hiroshima Okonomiyaki, it must be the hodgepodge fleet of streetcars servicing the city day in and day out. Unlike other cities of similar size in Japan, it was not technically possible to build an underground railway here due to the myriad streams and rivers crisscrossing the city and the poor soil conditions of the relatively few patches of dry ground. Instead the city for a long time relied on a system of streetcars operated by the Hiroshima Railway company, Hiroden for short. The streetcars are slow and not very comfortable but they do the trick of transporting people from one end of town to the other economically and conveniently. Theses days a couple of lines even go quite far out of the city into the neighboring towns and villages.
The Hiroshima streetcars are especially well known by streetcar lovers all over the world for the myriad of makes and models that traffic the system to this day. The oldest cars are almost a century old and the newest just a few years young, making for a very interesting mix of vehicles. You never know what kind you will be riding until it turns up at your stop! About half the cars are articulated, double-cars, while the rest are ordinary single cars like the ones we sometimes see in other parts of Japan.
During the war electricity was rationed and very few of the cars were running on that faithfull day of August 6th, but all of them suffered considerable damage. Most amazingly, the plucky 651 which was very close to the nuclear bomb detonation is actually still in service! When the bomb dropped, all 81 people onboard were killed instantly and only one person survived, but it wasn’t long until the 651 was repaired and put back into service. I missed getting a shot of it myself, mostly because it is only occasionally put into use in the morning rush hour traffic, but if you are in Hiroshima on August 8th, you will be sure to see it as it is always put into traffic on that day. I have borrowed a couple of photos of it from Wikipedia, which you can see at the end of this post.
Sorry for the terrible photos, it was raining almost my entire visit to Hiroshima. I hope for more sunshine the next time I visit!