Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Highways in Japan

Japan has one of the most advance highways system in the world. With creative engineering and modern technology, Japan has manage to marvel the world. What makes the Japanese infrastructure so great is its comeback after most of it were destroyed and bombed in World War II. In just a short period after the war ended, the rejuvenation process became faster than ever, catching up with other already developed country and in many cases surpasses them too. Such is the marvel of Japan and it's only part of it.

Take a look at these amazing pictures.

Ken Ohyama has made it his mission to chronicle some of the more striking Japanese roadworks in a Flickr series called Interchange and a book of his photos available from Amazon. One of the more outstanding examples is The Hokko Junction shown above - a part of the Hanshin Expressway near Japan's second city, Osaka.

Higashiosaka (East Osaka) Loop of the Hanshin Expressway. The photographer's technique gives the sweeping curve of the roadway an almost tubular appearance:

When engineers have space to work with, they take full advantage. This wide field view of the Higashiosaka interchange shows the almost organic complexity of a busy cloverleaf, resembling a living creature's circulatory system with the vehicles acting as blood cells.

One interesting feature of Japanese elevated highways: they often run above rivers or sea channels, using the available space above the water. Here are some of these "highways on the sea" -

The incredible Japanese road infrastructure really took off in the 1960s - check out the vintage photo on the right:

Some sections of the Hanshin Expressway suffered severe damage during the 7.2 magnitude Great Hanshin Earthquake which hit the Kobe, Japan area in January of 1995, killing over 5,500 people and costing over $200 billion.

On the bright side, the affected sections of the highway did not "pancake", as happened in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, but instead slipped sideways and tumbled over. Either way, one doesn't want to be driving through a highway interchange or junction when a big quake hits!

Which came first, the highway or the building? The question is moot as both have learned to accommodate one another. The Hanshin Expressway takes a shortcut through the 5th to 7th floors of Fukushima's Gate Tower building, also known as the Bee Hive.

The story goes that the original building's owner wanted to knock it down and rebuild, but was told by city planners that the space was being allocated to a newly planned exit of the expressway. Both sides refused to budge, and the compromise was completed in 1992.

Tokyo residents can easily avoid using the highways and expressways which crisscross the city, thanks to one of the world's largest and most efficient subway systems, but when traffic is light they can be a pleasure to drive. The view can be pretty intense, as in the time-lapse photo below:                      (image credit: Vladimir Zakharov)

Simply beautiful!

The Rainbow Bridge and the longest suspension bridge

Dark Roasted Blend has been covering some rather fascinating bridges before. Here are a few more - a spectacular sample from Japan. The 570 meter (1,870 ft) long Rainbow Bridge spans the northern (inner) part of Tokyo Bay and has been a city landmark since it opened in 1993. Two roadways, a transit line and pedestrian walkways all use the bridge, resulting in a seemingly chaotic tangle from certain angles.

It's at night, however, that the Rainbow Bridge comes alive with signature colour! Spotlights mounted at strategic locations bathe the bridge's superstructure in prismatic glory. Best of all, the lighting is solar powered with energy stored during the day powering the light show at night:                                     (image credit: Gussisaurio)

Announced in 1969, the massive Kobe-Naruto highway route project stretches 81 kilometers to connect Japan's main island of Honshu with the much smaller island of Shikoku to the south. The jewel in the crown is the 4-kilometer long Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, which cost $3.6 billion to build over the ten year period between 1988 and 1998:

Of course, any discussion of Japanese highways wouldn't be complete without mention of Mount Fuji. The mountain's iconic snowy peak is visible from Tokyo - on clear days, at least - but though it's certainly possible to reach the dormant volcano's doorstep via highway, taking the Shinkansen bullet train is a better bet.                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                  (image credit: fui)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Creative Japanese Inventions!

A natural oxygen mask directly from the plant. Perfect to escape the air pollution.

A very easy way to spread butter evenly on your slice of bread. Just do it like pasting a piece of paper.

A camera with an umbrella attached. Japanese already have ideas to prevent camera from becoming wet on rainy days with this simple tool before the water-proof cameras are made available.

A very convenient way to clean your floor when you are feeling lazy. Just let your cat do it.

A portable fan attached on the chopsticks to cool your hot noodles fast while you eat.

A creative way to feed the babies for the men in Japan.

A roll of tissue attached on top of the head like a hat solves the problem of running out of tissues.

A pair of eye funnels for the lousy aim. Very convenient.

An easy way to brush teeth.

A giant 10-in-1 gardening tool for multipurpose use.

A grass cover for the toilet seat to give the user a good feeling of nature.

An umbrella that collects water for free.

A chin hanger to help those without a seat in the train to sleep.

A helmet with a sign asking others to wake the user when arrive and a sucker to help stabilize it. 

A necktie with the function as an umbrella.

A head-to-toe umbrella to prevent getting wet in heavy rain.

A giant elephant machine that helps to clean the urinals.

Shichi Go San Matsuri

Since it's still in the month of November, I would like to write something about a national festival called the Shichi Go San (七五三) meaning seven five three literally. It's not a holiday and is actually a festival for the three and seven year old girls and three and five year old boys. The date of the festival is 15th November and generally observed on the nearest weekend.

It is said to be originated from the Heian Period among court nobles who would celebrate the passage of their children into the middle childhood. The ages three, five, seven are consistent with East Asian numerology  which claims that odd numbers are lucky. The practice was set to the fifteenth of the month during the Kamakura Period.

Over time, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of rituals. Children—who up until the age of three were required by custom to have shaven heads—were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. By the Meiji Period, the practice was adopted amongst commoners as well, and included the modern ritual of visiting a shrine to drive out evil spirits and wish for a long healthy life.

The tradition has changed little since the Meiji Period. While the ritual regarding hair has been discarded, boys who are aged three or five and girls who are aged three or seven are still dressed in kimono—many for the first time—for visits to shrines. Three-year-old girls usually wear hifu (a type of padded vest) with their kimono. Western-style formal wear is also worn by some children. A more modern practice is photography, and this day is well known as a day to take pictures of children. In some cases, families observe the rite based on the traditional way of counting one's age, or kazoedoshi, where you are one-year-old at birth and then add a year on each succeeding lunar new year.

Chitose Ame (千歳飴), literally "thousand year candy", is given to children on Shichi-Go-San. Chitose Ame is long, thin, red and white candy, which symbolizes healthy growth and longevity. It is given in a bag with a crane and a turtle on it, which represent long life in Japan. Chitose Ame is wrapped in a thin, clear, and edible rice paper film that resembles plastic.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Ah... Japan, a heaven!

I remember the first time when I fell in love with Japan. It was when I was watching a documentary of a tour to Japan. They were showing videos of Tokyo and I was amazed. As a kid, I'd never seen any city in any country having giant billboards with the image of Ultraman nor had I ever seen giant electronic screen promoting Godzilla's toys. It was something really special to me back then. All I thought was that societies don't pay any attention to toys.


However I found out that Japan is actually a society that cares about toys. Popular series of action heroes
such as Sentai Rangers and Kamen Riders were originated from Japan too. Earlier I thought they were from America because I watched the English version. Knowing these facts made Japan cooler!

Then all of a sudden Dragonball became a big hit on TV. Every Saturday morning, I would watch it. Love all those actions and battle scenes of Goku. And maybe that was my first encounter with anime - another cool factor of Japan!

After sometime Pokemon was a worldwide hit. I love that series too. The best thing about it was the whole concept and storyline and of course, it's from Japan again!

I became more interested in Japan afterwards. All the video games I liked back then such as gameboy, tamagotchi, playstation 2 were all from Japan. I always had this thought that all cool things are from Japan. As I research more of this topic, I found out that I was right. Japan is such a cool country.

My first impression of Japan was that it looked very futuristic. It has got all kinds of cities and sky scrappers with giant TV screens and billboards all over the city. At night neon lights light up and the whole place becomes a glowing scenery - very beautiful indeed. 

A look into the Japanese Samurais and the Ninjas will also tell you that their outfits are very cool. Even in the past, Japan has already got a sense of what's cool! 

Speaking of outfit, Japanese have a very good taste in fashion. Whether its for school, casual or tradition. They are all very gorgeous and cute.

Japanese people love children too. They have big celebrations for them on Children's Day!

Japan, also known as the land of rising sun may have a significance. It was the country that receives the sun light first, thus land of the rising sun. Perhaps it is a fate for them to be one of the leading countries in the world. Land of the rising sun is indeed a powerful symbol. This is just the beginning. More about Japan to come.