Tokyo Harmony and Hope

Monday, April 11th, 2011

There is a beautiful park in my neighborhood.  There are cherry blossom trees, a manmade hill that children slide down of pieces of cardboard, jungle gyms to climb on.  It really is a nice park.  But there is a little secret about the park.  The only reason that there is a park there is because of the huge power lines that are running over the park.

So rather than run from the power, and the man made I have decided to embrace the harmony.  The blossoms working in harmony with their man made wires.  The seemingly random fractal growth of the branches, intertwined with the straight and designed power lines.

On the one month anniversary of the great Tohoku-Kanto earthquake we were reminded with an aftershock of 7.1 magnitude that the power of the earth has not yet settled.  However, let us look to spring as a reminder that there is beauty outside.  There is manmade and there is the beauty that only the creator can make.  Sometimes the most thrilling of them is when they work in harmony with each other.

Stay safe

Stay blessed

Stay positive

Nature and Manmade in Tokyo Harmony

Sunday in the Park with my Neighbors, and the Cherry Blossoms

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

After a cold and rainy Saturday, the weather warmed and I decided to stroll over to my local park to see the cherry blossoms and see if my fellow neighbors would too.  I was astonished to see how my people were crowded into the park.  Families had spread plastic sheets all over the park.  Couple strolled hand in hand snapping pictures as they went.

There are some possible reasons why so many ventured out this year to our neighborhood park.  Metropolitan Tokyo but a damper on the hanami (flower viewing) parties in their parks, but our park is run by Edogawa ward.  There were no lanterns hung this year, but there were many more people.  Maybe they came out to the local park rather than hopping on the train to a bigger Tokyo park.  I also truly feel that with all the tragedy and stress people have been under today was a chance to escape it, and to welcome the beautiful little things that the Japanese take so much pleasure in.

It again gave me a lot of hope to see so many people out and enjoying the weather.  There is still a long way to go, but we are going there together, and Japan will overcome.

Packed Park Flower Garden

Picnic on the Hill with Cherry Blossom Row

Tulip Row

More to Come, Cherry Blossom Buds

Spring is the Time for Change

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I have been going through a lot over the last several weeks, as I am sure many of my fellow expats and Japanese have been going through with the after effects of the earthquake, tsunami and the ongoing nuclear situation.  I have been reasoning deeply with myself what is my position in all of this.  What should my reaction as a human and an artist should be?

I have been in this situation shortly after 9/11 in NYC.  My images I was creating were so overwhelmingly negative that it was beginning to make me ill.  But, I knew I had to capture these raw emotions in order to start the healing process within myself.  I find myself in a similar situation now; however, I do have 10 years experience since NYC.

And I have decided that the side that I must show is the positive.  I need to balance those sides in my artistic creations.  There is so much evil in the world, and the media over covers that so much that it makes me sick to my stomach.  I want to, I need to create work that is positive, showing the hope and the beauty in the world.

Spring is springing here.  The passover is coming.  A time to renew my relationship with the creator.  As a jew it is important to renew the self.  I see the flowers blooming.  I see the new recruits in their crisp justly bought suits.  These are the seeds of change that the world needs in a sea of despair.

Seek out the light.  Put your faith in higher places.  Do not let the hype paralyze you from action. Set this spring as a chance to renew yourself, and create the world that we all want to live in.

Much respect to double you from flickr for seeing the change in my images before I even could consciously.

Stop and smell life.

peace and much love from Tokyo, Japan.

Flower Stars, Edging of Hope

Time for a Change, Seasons, Life, the Earth

Pink Beauties and Asphalt, Tokyo

Studying Ability

Windy Strewn Cherry Blossoms

An Unprecedented Time at the Tokyo American Club: Lecture on Radiation

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Stepping into the Tokyo American Club (TAC)  is like stepping into the Ritz Carlton.  I went to hear a lecture sponsored by the American Embassy on the radiation situation in Fukushima, and it’s effect on Tokyo.  As I waited in the second floor basement of the TAC there were probably over 200 people in attendance at the 1 p.m. lecture.

There were three large projection screens, and I having arrived just before the start took my seat in the second row in the middle of the auditorium.  There were people of all sorts filling up the seats.  Men dressed in fine business suits, mothers with infants in tow, and people like myself dressed in jeans and simple olive hoody.

The air was filled with a quiet cacophony of English that I hadn’t heard since leaving the sunshine state of Florida.  As the first speaker took the podium all eyes focused ahead and listened to what Janet from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had to say.  She introduced the panel and gave a very brief power point presentation that she made a joke saying, “They never let us leave without one.”    She stressed that the situation in Japan in unprecedented and that the Japanese are the first society to have to face a triple disaster.

The first speaker was Dr. Norman Coleman of the National Cancer Institute.  I will write a brief summary of what he said.  First, that radiation is all around us.  There are three types of radiation: Alpha (which can be blocked by a sheet of paper), Beta (which can be blocked by clothing), and Gamma (which takes lead, or several feet of concrete).  He continued that cells have a built in mechanism for dealing with radiation and that cells communicate with each other when they are bombarded with radiation. Also talked briefly about how Potassium Iodine can block harmful radiation from collecting in a persons thyroid.

The next speaker was Captain Mike Noska of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  He talked first about background radiation that most humans experience  about 6 mSvs (600 micro rems) of radiation a year.  Different locations in the world have various levels of background radiation.  His main point was stressing by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards the Japanese tap water is safe to drink for all.

The last speaker was Dr. Steven L. Simon a specialist in Radiation therapy and it’s effect on humans.  He stressed that frequency of exposure to risk was a large determiner of outcome.  He started off his lecture talking about other risky behavior, such as driving a car, mountain climbing, and smoking.  He said that there is no line in the sand for a level that becomes a guarantee that someone will get cancer from exposure.

He said that in this room 25% of us would get cancer without any exposure to radiation.  In an odd twist of fate the researchers who have studied radiation have learned the most about it from the after effects of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  He continued to say that in the studies of those that developed cancer after Atomic bomb they were only an additional 800 cases above the baseline 25%.  The amount of radiation that is being experienced in Tokyo at this point (< 0.1 mSv) in time would increase the baseline rate of 25% cancer by 0.0008% which he stated as a scientist is statistically insignificant.  He, as a scientist could not distinguish the increase from the baseline.  In the Q&A segment a gentleman asked him what amount of radiation would it take to increase the 0.0008 to 1%.  After jotting down some computations on his notes he answered about 2000 times the levels that Tokyo is experiencing today.

After Dr. Simon finished the floor was opened for about 1 hour of Questions and Answers.  I will put some of the ones that impressed me the most in note form.

As far as a worst case scenario, which they were rather reluctant to discuss they said the farther away from the initial incident the less likely for a worst case happening.  Dr. Coleman did make a point of stressing that this is an unique event and that the models are changing because of the data being collected.  He said that you cannot model your way out of this situation, but you have to measure your way out.

A young mother asked about some things people could do to make things worse.  He did say in some circumstances evacuating could be more dangerous than staying put.  The mother said that the press and Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) were saying that children should were polarized leaded sunglasses and rain ponchos to keep the radiation off the children.  Captain Noska said that they would have no needed affect, and the leaded sunglasses are only used for very special applications in the nuclear sciences.

Another question asked was there any difference between background radiation and radiation from the power plant. They clearly stated that “radiation is RADIATION”  The body knows no difference between them.

One lady said she lived through the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and asked to compare the Fukushima one to Three Mile Island.  They said they are rather similar and that the studies that have been conducted after the incident found little to no increase of cancer.

Radioactive Iodine and Radioactive Cesium attach themselves to dust, and water in the atmosphere and that is how they are spread, and or ingested.

Someone asked could a Brita Water Filter remove the radiation from the tap water.  The answer was yes it could help in removing some of the radioactive particles from the water.

One husband asked a question from his 7 month pregnant wife if she should leave Kanto (Tokyo) and head for Kansai (Western Honshu) to escape the radiation.  Dr. Simon’s reply was that the anxiety of separation could be much worse  than the actual exposure to radiation.

Now my thoughts.

I was rather impressed with the lectures, and in the end I feel good that I took the time to attend.  The overall feeling that I walked away from the lectures are to be prepared for more earthquakes, but at this point in time the radiation being found in Tokyo is so negligible that it should not worry about it.  That does not mean to ignore the situation, but to be kept up to date on changes and make informed decisions on what to do.

We as human beings take risks everyday.  There are often risks that we take that we have no control over the situation.  This is unfortunately one of those situations.  I for one plan on staying put.  I will keep up to date on all the information, and if God forbid things get worse, I will make changes.  We are all under a lot of stress whether it is acknowledged or not.  Japan and its people have not have the time to mourn.

We need to all breathe deeply and be thankful that we are alive.  We need to reach out to those in the northern areas that are suffering from the earthquake, tsunami and the radiation in the evacuation area.

So in conclusion after listening to the lecture and mulling it over on the train ride home.  The key things are:  Japan is removing the dangerous food from the market place, the tap water in Tokyo is safe and I probably learned more about the situation as it effects us in Tokyo from the two hours of discussion than from the countless hours of TV and internet news.

for good up to date information

health information from the US Tokyo Embassy

Stay informed.

Don’t Panic

feel free to comment or ask me any questions.  I will do my best to answer.

An Unprecedented Time at the Tokyo American Club

Descending into the Tokyo American Club

Spring Continues Springing

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

The weather was gorgeous today.  The sun was high in the sky and the cool air blowing in from Tokyo Bay.  As the residents of Tokyo continue to return to normal the flowers only know that it is time to spring forth.

The blooming has begun across all kinds of plants.  Rose bushes are starting to unfold their lovely petals.  The cherry blossom trees that line my park are continuing to open up.  Small groups of mothers with their children are gathering under the cherry blossoms to celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring.  This year the hanami (cherry blossom watching parties) will be a bit subdued.  I do not see scores of new recruits staking out blue tarps for company parties after the work day has finished.  Tokyo has banned large parties this year and has posted signs that if you are to gather to keep it quiet and cut back on the drinking.

Even though the large parties will not happen, I will be happy to see families out and about enjoying the spring.  With all that Japan has suffered in there 3-11 the bonding will be beneficial for all.

I have, we have, no choice but to be optimistic.  We have to think towards a better day.  We are all trying to cut back on our electrical use.  We are all trying to get back to our so called normal lives.  I sincerely hope that Japan will continue to be thrifty with their energy consumption after learning to make do with less.

No matter what we do, we cannot stop spring from springing; therefore, we should embrace the spring with open arms like long lost family.  Hey there spring!  It surely is fantastic to see you again.

Mailbox Rose

Cherry Blossom Bud with Powerlines

Can't Stop Springing

Snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I had a chance to go down to Key Largo’s John Pennekamp State Park with my family to do a bit of snorkeling.  I hadn’t been snorkeling since my wife and I had been on the Hawaii’s Big Island.  The water was a bit cold, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.

The focal length on my little disposable camera, was a bit longer than I thought; therefore, a few of the photographs came out rather blurry.

I look forward to being under the sea again.

Coral Reef Fish, John Pennekamp, Key Largo Florida

Coral Reef Sea Floor, John Pennekamp, Key Largo Florida

Snorkler, John Pennekamp, Key Largo Florida

Coral Reef Fish, John Pennekamp, Key Largo Florida

Coral Reef, John Pennekamp, Key Largo Florida

A New Hope with Cherry Blossoms

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I have been back in Tokyo now for one week.  It has been a bit of a roller coaster since leaving the warm sun drenched suburbs of Miami, for the cold spring of Tokyo.  As the communities in Japan struggle to return to normalcy, I awoke Friday morning in an inexplicable good feeling.  It was as if some worries of mine had been plucked out from my heart.

As rode the darkened Tozai Line I started thinking that we all are in this together.  We all must do what ever we can to help Japan.  For some us that just means, taking care of our families and continuing to work.

I have decided that the best way for me to acclimate to my odd surroundings is to continue to do what I do best.  Use my camera as means of expression.  Trying to show my community and the world the side of Japan that I see.

These cherry blossoms that are starting to unravel their petals are a sign of good things to come.  This not to say that there are not going to be difficulties, but humans are crafty and together we can overcome.

Anticipating More to Come

Blossoms with a Water Tank

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