Be a hero in Hirakata

Good morning everyone,

This week is looking gorgeous-daytime highs in the mid 20s and mostly sunny weather. What else could you ask for?

Though it’s been in business for over 100 years, most people would probably say that Hirakata Park, located in Osaka, is one of Japan’s second-tier amusement parks. It can’t boast the instantly recognizable animated characters of Tokyo Disneyland, the Wizarding World of Universal Studios Japan, or the Hello Kitty performances of Sanrio’s Puroland.

But what Hirakata Park can do is make you feel, and look, like a hero. Starting next week, the park will be offering a chance to participate in what it’s calling “new-style flash mobs,” in which you play out a scene that starts when park employees suddenly approach you and start the scenario.

For example, you and your girlfriend could be strolling through the park, arm in arm on a blissful date, when some yankii-style thugs roll up and try to snatch her away, as shown in the video below.

Hey, your girl is looking fiiine,” says Black Sunglasses, as he roughly grabs the young lady by the shoulder. When Boyfriend demands “Get your hands off her,” Black Sunglasses tries to sucker punch him, but that just causes Boyfriend to unleash his fists of fury. He makes short work of the ruffian, who quickly flees, along with his quivering crony.

“I’ve fallen head over heels for him all over again,” says Girlfriend at the video’s end. Oh, and if you’re a woman who’d like to show off your own fighting skills to your beau, that seems to be an option too, as there’s no official gender specification for participants.

Hirakata Park is offering a total of four scenarios, described as:

● Protect your beloved, who’s about to be dragged off by a pair of thugs! Your sweetheart will be totally impressed!
● A bomb is about to explode! Time is running out! The only one who can stop it is you!

● A member of the opposite sex comes running up, you crash into each other, and…what’s this? You’ve switched bodies! Could this be…the beginning of love?!?
● The doctor is ready to give up. The situation is desperate. But now, a miracle is about to happen thanks to your rare blood type.

The flash mob service is being offered on weekends in May and June, with a start time of 1 p.m. No additional fees are required, but would-be heroes will have to apply for a time slot through the Hirakata Park website.

While the flash mob scenarios are designed to let you feel like a hero (or perhaps like the stars of anime hit Your Name, in the case of the body-swapping option), the whole thing is being presented in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, right down to the exaggerated delivery of the dialogue in the preview video. Rather than a legitimate deception, the whole thing is intended to be a fun, and funny surprise, and Hirakata Park recommends keeping the plan a secret from your date, friends, or family that you’re going to the park with.

The fact that the performance is public, and thus other guests can watch the story unfold, means that you yourself get to do a bit of acting. If that sounds like more fun than waiting in line for a roller coaster, applications for Hirakata Park flash mobs can be made at their website.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like way more fun than standing in line for 3 hours to drink 'Butterbeer'...

Have a great day!

Death by stupidity

Good morning everyone,

It looks the beginning of Golden Week (for some people) will be warm and sunny. They're calling for mostly sunny skies and daytime highs in the mid 20s all week. I'd like to go running every day, but I hurt my back at the gym last week, so I'll be laid up in bed most of the time. How did I hurt it, you ask? Well, basically I was working out and forgot that I'm not 20 anymore...ha ha! It's nothing serious, I'm still planning on running in the race on Thursday.

It's annoying, but it's not fatal or anything...

Death is inevitable: we will all experience it eventually. Yet, certain deaths are more frustrating than others. Here are some things that kill too many people every year.
Slide 8 of 20: <p>In the beginning, the accounts of deaths caused by having taken a selfie seemed anecdotal. A tourist was electrocuted after extending his selfie stick during a lightning storm, a young Russian fell to her death while trying to take a selfie on a bridge, and a Cessna pilot died in flight while trying to take a selfie. In 2015, the Telegraph estimated that selfies had caused more deaths than shark attacks.</p>

Premium Friday incentive?

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like this week will be getting nicer and nicer. Tomorrow's high will be 21C and by the time May 4th rolls around, daytime highs will be 26C...which is great...unless you're me and have a race and hate running in hot weather.

Do you remember me writing about Women's lingerie maker Triumph International (Japan) Ltd before? They've done themed bras for all kinds of occasion and now they are doing their bit to promote the government-sponsored initiative, Premium Friday.

Premium Friday is a campaign that started in February, in which the government urges people to leave work at 3 p.m. on the last Friday every month in the hope that it will boost consumer spending.

On Wednesday, Triumph unveiled a special Premium Friday Bra. The Premium Friday bras feature built-in purses in the cups and an alarm clock that sounds at 3 p.m. to remind the wearer to get out of the office and into the shops.

What do you think? Are you tempted? There not the sexiest bras I've ever seen, but I wouldn't complain if someone showed up wearing them...ha ha! I'm just glad that they didn't make an alarm clock for men's underwear, that would feel pretty weird if it buzzed while I was still at work...ha ha!

Have a great day!

Revamping the Peace Park Museum

Good morning everyone,

Did you survive the wet trek to work yesterday morning? Luckily, today and tomorrow are looking nice with mostly sunny skies and highs in the low 20s. Then, it should warm up even more and they are calling for daytime highs in the mid 20s for the start of Golden Week. Do you think it's possible that it won't rain at least once during the Flower Festival. I've been in Hiroshima for about 10 years and I swear it has rained at least one of the three days of the festival every year...ha ha!

As part of an ongoing renovation of Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum, the installation that has been part its exhibition since 1973 will be removed from public display on April 26.

Three plastic figures, of a mother, her child and a female student, stand in a diorama titled Hovering between life and death. Attempting to flee the burning city, arms outstretched, their clothes are tattered and skin hangs from their badly burnt limbs the figures are an attempt to visually represent survivors of the A-bomb blast about 2km from the spot above which the bomb exploded on August 6, 1945.

The debate about and the 2013 decision to remove the installation has been covered widely in local, national and international media. Although 91 year old Sunao Tsuboi, chairman of Hidankyo (The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Suffers Organizations) stated during deliberations, "From the viewpoint of a survivor, they do not reflect the reality of the disaster and are just toys." However, there has been strong support for continuing the exhibit and over 10,000 signatures were collected and submitted to the Hiroshima Municipal Assembly to asking the museum to retain it in the renovated exhibition, due to open in July 2018.

In the early years of the museum, archived items of clothing that had been worn by people exposed to the bombing were displayed on six simple wooden mannequins – representing two housewives, two high schools students and two soldiers.

These wooden mannequins are featured in the opening scenes of Alain Renais’ 1958 film Hiroshima Mon Amour.

In 1972, Hiroshima City Council decided to replace the wooden figures with the three wax figures in an attempt at a more realistic representation of the effects of the atomic bomb on its victims and what survivors had to endure in its aftermath. Originally placed against a background of an enlarged version of an artwork by A-bomb survivor Yoshiro Fukui, the figures of two women and child were later placed in a diorama which depicted a specific location in the Kannon area. The Peace Memorial Museum, called the shiryokan in Japanese (a place which collects and displays documents and other materials, or in this case material data) grew out a collection of A-bombed relics picked out of the rubble of the ‘burnt plain’ by local geologist Shogo Nagaoka who became the museum’s first curator. The fact that these objects were been subjected to the A-bomb blast imbued them with great meaning and they were elevated to the status of ihin, “not simply a leftover from the past, but a legacy and therefore and obligation… By representing those who were no longer present, the ihin demanded that the dead should not be forgotten.” (Shafer)

At a time when a new generation that had never experienced the war was coming of age, Hiroshima Mayor Setsuo Yamada, who proposed the introduction of the figures said

"The current arrangement is not in accordance with the actual situation after the bombing."

Care was taken to make the new figures as realistic as possible. Specialist craftsmen were brought from Kyoto the who created the wax figures out of “medical material” based upon interviews with doctors who had treated A-bomb survivors. Kazuharu Hamasaki, who was the museum curator at the time, recently recalled

"The creators wanted to recreate the figures down to the finest detail, even paying close attention to the condition of the skin of the victims right after the bombing."

Nagaoka was opposed to the idea from the start. For him, the ihin alone, “provided the only legitimate access to the ‘truth of the atomic bombing’”. Presaging Sunao Tsuboi’s comment quoted above, the then chairman of Hidankyo, Ichiro Moritaki said

"The burnt clothing is sufficient. No matter how hard we try to reconstruct, artificially, the situation of that day, we can never represent it”, describing what the city government called “realistic” as “artificial. "

Nonetheless, the new exhibit went ahead. In a 1991 renovation (when fuller historical context to the bombing was added), the wax figures were replaced by plastic figures, this time a mother, child and a female student, said to be between 1.5 and 2km from the bomb’s hypocenter. The display area was darkened and red lighting introduced to allude to fires raging in the burning city.

Issues around authenticity and realism still divide opinion, but many visitors have commented that the figures do help convey a sense of the aftermath of the bombing, allowing them at least try and visualize the unimaginable. Others find them crass, some a little hokey, inappropriate in a world-renowned museum in the 21st century.

One person’s sideshow is another person’s trauma. Akihiro Katsube, the 43 year old leader of the signature campaign to preserve the exhibit, has asserted

"The dolls make a strong impact on children and are necessary as a way to convey how horrible the bombs are.

However, you do meet many people in Hiroshima who tell of being terrified by the figures as young children, and were then put off from engaging with issues surrounding Hiroshima’s history and wider peace activism."

Yesterday, the main section of the Peace Memorial Museum closed for the final stage of the museum’s renovations (the east wing reopened on the same day) and when the entire facility reopens in July 2018, the figures will be gone. The Mainichi Shinbun reports that the museum plans to exhibit “more of the A-bomb victims’ possessions and other artifacts rather than items like the reproduction figures, to focus more attention on the people whose lives were changed or ended by the bomb” and that a representative of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum stated that images of the figures will continue to be shown on the museum’s web page. The museum also stated that they may be featured in another way, such as in a separate exhibit.

If you are wondering, you can put me in the group that found them a bit hokey and I am happy that they will be replaced by items that were damaged during the bombing as they have a far greater impact for me than any mannequins would. How about you?

Have a great day!

This year for Mother's Day, I'm getting my mom these...

Good morning everyone,

We're definitely going to get rained on this morning on the way to work, but it should ease up and stop raining sometime around noon. The rest of the week is looking nice, with daytime highs in the low 20s and mostly sunny skies.

Japan celebrates Mother’s Day on the same day as we do back home, which this year will be May 14. With just a few weeks left between now and then, loving children are thinking about what to get mom as a present, and one company has a very…unusual suggestion.

While carnations are associated with Mother’s Day in other countries as well, the connection is iron-clad in Japan. So for those who haven’t gotten a gift for Mom yet, Kyoto-based Wacoal suggests these.

Elegantly and individually wrapped, what mother wouldn’t be deeply touched to receive these from her son or daughter? Actually, that’s not a rhetorical question, and the answer is “Any mom who doesn’t want her kids buying panties for her.”

See, Wacoal isn’t a florist. It’s a lingerie maker (the same one that recently polled women about their “showdown lingerie”). So while those may look like carnations, they’re actually carefully rolled, folded, and packaged panties.

Officially called the “Pants Flower” series, some solace can be taken in that Wacoal chose a decidedly conservative, non-sexy design for the lineup. If you absolutely feel the need to give your mom some intimate apparel as a present, well, this is probably the most appropriate style to go with.

And if giving panties isn't awkward enough, it's going to get really, really weird when she stops to read the packaging, which has “UNDERWEAR is LOVELETTER” written across it.

Aside from folding the panties to resemble carnations, the fabric is actually colored with dye extracted from the traditional Mother’s Day flowers, adding just a tiny bit of logic to this rather unorthodox gift idea.

The Pants Flowers series is priced at 1,296 yen a pair, meaning that even if you baffle your mom with your present selection, you at least might be able to impress her with your frugality. All three colors can be ordered here directly from Wacoal, in medium or large sizes (apparently the company is confident your mom isn’t svelte enough for a small).

Ahhh...look, I try to think that I'm open-minded-'different strokes for different folks', right? But seriously, can anyone name one mother in the world who would be happy to receive underwear from their children for Mother's Day? That is about as awkward of a present as I can imagine...

For me...yeah, I think I'll be sticking with the gift of boring, but safe, flowers this year.

Have a great day!