Tag Archives: Japan

Down and out in Tokyo

Published by Al Jazeera English, Oct. 26, 2014

Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts – and the homeless – beg to differ.

Tokyo, Japan – Minoru Ebata’s living quarters stand out in the upscale Tokyo neighbourhood of Shinjuku. The 64-year-old sleeps on a makeshift bed on the sidewalk off busy Koen Dori (Park Street), a pedestrian overpass somewhat protecting him and a few piles of his possessions from a cool autumn drizzle.

“It’s hardest when it’s raining,” he explained about his two years of living outdoors.

A short walk down the street, beneath the next overpass, finds Kazuo Oka, who makes about 3,000 yen (US$28) a day collecting recyclable cans, and is proud of the sidewalk dinners he makes on a portable stove. Continue reading …

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Demystifying Tokyo’s Train and Subway System

Published by Shingetsu News Agency, Oct. 18, 2014

So you’re coming to Tokyo, and you’ll need be able to get around. Tokyo is amazing as it is, but there is, literally, a lot below the surface. Below the streets are hundreds of subway routes snaking across the city, connecting the world’s largest metropolis.

Take one look at the transit map, and it seems like it is beyond comprehension, a spaghetti bowl of colors and Japanese words. It is a map of one of the most complicated and extensive railway systems in the world.

You’ve seen the pictures of transit workers literally pushing people into subway cars. You may have heard of the horror of the morning rush hour in Tokyo. You’ve heard that many signs are in Japanese only.

Relax. Once you figure it out, you’ll find that Tokyo is not only possible but surprisingly easy to navigate. Continue reading …

Don’t Use the ‘D’ Word

Sneha Bhavaraju photo

From left, Yasushi Yamawaki and Sir Philip Craven of the International Paralympic Committee, and Lucy Birmingham of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
(Sneha Bhavaraju photo)

Oct. 16, 2014

Wherever the Paralympic Games go, life can get easier for people living with a physical impairment. Accessibility improves, and attitudes change.

The Paralympics, which are held almost immediately after each summer and winter Olympic Games, are about ability, and not disability. They are about human triumph over obstacles and limitations, and the competition among athletes as they strive to achieve is an inspiration with the lesson that all of us can be better.

“Paralympians are fighters,” said Sir Philip Craven of Britain, President of International Paralympic Committee (IPC). “If we believe we’ve got to do something, we do it, and we do it against the odds if we have to.”

A five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball, Craven spoke today at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo of the transformative effect of the Paralympics on the places where the games are held, on the people who are inspired to compete, and on social acceptance for people living with impairments. Continue reading

Young and old unite to celebrate 50th anniversary of the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, and look to 2020

(Taku Yuasa photo)

(Taku Yuasa photo)

Oct. 10, 2014

For today’s 50th anniversary of the start of the 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Olympians from Japan’s past and possible contenders for future games came together today to share stories of glory days and hopes for Tokyo’s 2020 summer games.

Scores of Japanese journalists, photographers and videographers turned out to document past and future Japanese athletes discussing the importance of the games before a packed auditorium at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry building.

Kiyoko Ono, 78, a gymnast who won a bronze medal in the ’64 Olympics, said she balanced the demands of motherhood and those of being an Olympic athlete by focusing on her goals and never giving up.

Yoshiyuki Miyake, 69, a weightlifter who won a bronze medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics, said a combination of hope, dreams, and practice is the key to success. Continue reading

Tokyo Unplugged

Oct. 8, 2014

My first night in Tokyo offers a lesson for tourism planners as Japan seeks to vastly increase the number of its visitors leading up to the 2020 summer Olympics.

Wireless access and mobile connectivity are pretty much a given in the world’s leading cities. Plugging into that global connectivity shouldn’t feel like reinventing the wheel.

So why did I spend my first night in a Tokyo hotel room unplugged and out of reach of all of the things we take for granted today? The ability to check my email, read the news, Google stuff I want to know, and talk in real time with loved ones about my arrival in a new city – I couldn’t do any of that with my smartphone. Continue reading

For Tokyo, Olympic success in ’64 and hurdles to 2020

Sept. 30, 2014

In 2020, Tokyo will become the first Asian city to host the summer Olympics twice.

The 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo were the first to be held in Asia, and marked a major turning point for Japan, a return to the international stage for a country still recovering from its World War II firebombing and lingering global resentments.

The 1964 Olympics were a huge success for Japan, and not only in terms of international symbolism or gold medals.

The buildup to ’64 saw the transformation of Tokyo into a sleek, modern and thriving megalopolis, complete with high-speed bullet trains symbolizing Japan’s economic emergence. Highways, expressways, and subway lines were built, and Haneda Airport was modernized. Beautifying the city and keeping its streets clean became a focus for Tokyo that still remains. Continue reading

Tokyo: The 2020 Olympic Vision

Sept. 29, 2014

The 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics: Let the games begin.

The buildup to hosting the 2020 summer games has been under way ever since Tokyo won the bid as host city last fall, beating out fellow finalist cities Istanbul and Madrid.

Now the race is on to get ready, and even with six years to plan, a host city needs to get its act together or suffer the consequences. Just ask Sochi.

As part of the unfolding Tokyo 2020 buildup, I am one of six journalists from around the world who will be spending the month of October in the Japanese capital, at the invitation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The Dateline Tokyo fellowship program will invite a new set of journalists each year heading into 2020. Continue reading