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!

It's about time...

Good morning everyone!

It's looking like it's going to be a gray day out there today. We can expect some rain overnight and then to continue most of tomorrow before turning back to mostly sunny for the rest of the week. Tomorrow is looking at a high of 19C and the rest of the week will see highs in the low 20s.

The season for sakura-flavored treats in Japan may be over for the year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other new yummy treats to try out there — like the McShake Kiwi that will be on sale from McDonald’s Japan starting April 26 this week.

While there have been numerous McShake flavors offered over the years, this is the first kiwi-flavored shake that McDonald’s Japan has come out with, and they’ve used fully-ripe kiwis from Ehime Prefecture located on the island of Shikoku.

Ehime is the largest kiwi producing prefecture in Japan, and they’ve used only select kiwi fruits with high sugar content to make the shake, so you can be sure that you’re in for  a sweet treat!

They’ve actually started offering the shake in Ehime starting April 21, ahead of the rest of the country so if you're in or off to Ehime you can try it before the rest of us...

They’ve also shared on their news release page some images from the TV commercial set to start airing very soon.

▼ Mmmm… that kiwi smoothness looks delectable!

The McShake Kiwi will be available at McDonald’s locations across Japan starting April 26 until mid-May at a price of 120 yen for a small cup and 200 yen for a medium-sized cup.

The tangy flavor of kiwi should make for a refreshing shake, and combined with the lovely green color, the McShake Kiwi should be a delightful way to quench your thirst as the weather becomes warmer. But it's too early! I still haven't had a chance to try the Cherry Pie drink at Starbucks yet! Ha ha! I'd better go to Starbucks today on the way home from work and then I'll go to McDonald's tomorrow...I'll let you know later this week which one is worth actually trying out.

Have a great day!

Are you a virgin-killer?

Good morning everyone!

Well, will it rain on Wednesday? It still looks like it will, but who knows? They are still saying that we can expect highs all week around 20C or so and mostly nice weather will last till the middle of the week.

Have you heard of the 'virgin-killing sweater'? Apparently, it's so sexy and revealing that if a virgin guy sees a woman wearing one, he'll die from a heart attack. Although, when I saw the pictures, I would guess that it would probably work on fathers if they saw their daughters wearing these sweaters too. Roughly two months after discovering the “virgin-killing sweater,” Japan’s fascination with the revealing garment is as strong as ever. Helping to extend its time in the spotlight are the numerous cosplayers and models, of both genders, who have taken to sharing photos of themselves wearing the sweater, which have been met with much appreciation from those who didn’t collapse and die from the excitement of so much exposed flesh.

▼ Popular model Jun Amaki wearing the virgin-killing sweater

But while the virgin-killing sweater has struck a chord with Japanese fans of fashion and/or breasts, the earliest example came from China, and had to be ordered through Chinese online marketplace Taobao. But, fear not those of us who are living in Japan!  Japanese novelty retailer Village Vanguard  recently let Japanese shoppers know that it would begin selling Taobao’s virgin-killing sweater through its online shop.

▼ The virgin-killing sweater, as seen on Village Vanguard’s website

Priced at 5,000 yen, Village Vanguard’s virgin-killing sweater isn’t prohibitively expensive, but the bigger question was whether or not the minimal coverage of the sweater might lead to limited sales-everyone knows Japanese women are too shy for that sweater, right? Wrong! That turned out to not be a problem at all, though. Word came that Village Vanguard would be selling the sweater on March 23, and on the very next day, March 24, the online store’s stock was already sold out.

Not wanting to leave its customers’ fashion needs unfulfilled, Village Vanguard says it will be restocking the sweaters. As such, shoppers can’t currently place an order for the item through Village Vanguard’ site, but they can request an email notification of when new shipments come. There’s no indication of when said shipments will come in, but considering how quickly the first batch sold out, interested shoppers who are timid about placing an order once the restock becomes available may be left without one of the bold sweaters once again-and this time in a variety of colors, you know, just in case you wanted to wear those sweaters every day...I might get one for myself...ha ha!

Have a great day!

Details about the Emperor's abdication decided on

Good morning everyone!

There's still no real change expected in the weather over the next little while. We can expect mostly sunny weather to continue till Wednesday, when they are calling for a chance of rain. Highs for the whole week will continue to be in the low 20s.

A government advisory panel finalized Friday its proposals on Emperor Akihito's abdication including one-off legislation enabling the 83-year-old to become the first living emperor to relinquish the throne in around 200 years.

Reflecting the proposal and an agreement reached last month by Diet members, the government will craft a bill applying only to the present emperor and submit it to the parliament possibly as early as May 19 so it can be passed during the current Diet session through June 18.

The government plans to allow the emperor to abdicate on the day the law enters into force, within three years after it is promulgated, the sources said. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne.

The government has already started negotiations behind the scenes with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior collation partner Komeito as well as the main opposition Democratic Party, showing them the outline of the bill, mirroring the government's aim to have the bill passed in a smooth manner by forming a prior consensus.

Debate under the government-commissioned panel began last October, two months after the emperor, citing his age, signaled his wish to relinquish and hand over the throne to the crown prince.

The panel suggested using the title of "joko" for Emperor Akihito after his abdication. "Joko" is an abbreviation of "daijo tenno," a title that was given in the past to an abdicated emperor.

For the 82-year-old empress, the panel suggested creating a new title, "jokogo," which means "wife of joko."

The panel also recommended the emperor give up all of his duties conducted as a symbol of the state but suggested the continued use of "heika," which means "Your Majesty" as their honorific title. It also proposed the establishment of a new office to support the couple.

With regard to concerns over a possible dual power structure between a retired emperor and reigning emperor, the panel judged it is appropriate for the present emperor to hand over all of his duties to his son.

Regarding the title of Prince Akishino, the second son of the imperial couple, the council did not see the need for a new one, as it has been used and widely accepted for nearly 30 years.

However, it indicated some options, such as "koshi denka," "Akishinonomiya Koshi Denka" or "Koshi Akishinonomiya Denka." "Koshi" means the one who is first in line to the throne and "denka" stands for "highness." The 51-year-old will become the first in line to the throne after the crown prince ascends to the throne.

In light of his new role, the report suggested a threefold increase in the annual budget allocation for the private expenses of Prince Akishino. Currently, 30.5 million yen ($279,000) is allocated to him based on the Imperial Economy Law.

Against the backdrop of a decline in the number of imperial family members, the report highlighted the need to take measures to reverse the trend but did not suggest any concrete steps.

How to legalize the emperor's abdication has been debated by the six-member panel chaired by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation, as only posthumous succession is allowed currently, as the Imperial House Law lacks a provision regarding abdication and only allows succession following the death of an emperor.

While the timing of the abdication has not been formally decided, the government is considering December 2018, apparently having in mind the emperor's 85th birthday on Dec. 23 that year, government sources have said.

Have a great day!