Japan News Politics

On Japanese Earthquake 2011.


(Thanks to CNN for the Original Map)

On this blog I post quite a bit of quirky information about Japan, so I thought it would be good for me to post about something fairly important. Unless you have found residence on the underside of a rock you are aware of the situation in Japan right now. If not, here is a quick synopsis. On March 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. The worst in Japanese history and the 5th largest in the world. I want to write this for a couple reasons: to preserve this so people don’t forget and because there is so much misinformation flying around. 24-hour news networks are sensationalizing the effects of the quake or at the very worst providing patently false information. I will try my best not to get into the politics of the matter, but just try my best to help people understand what is really going on as well as what should be focused on. I have modified a map from CNN with some pertinent information about the disaster.

A large tsunami was created following the quake which is what happens when you have sea floor that is moved due to an earthquake and that created a large wave which moves inland. This caused thousands of people in northeast area of Japan to relocate due to their destroyed homes and businesses. If you can picture a wave washing up on shore and destroying a sandcastle it’s like that but on a bigger scale. It’s devastating when it rolls in as well as when it recedes back into the ocean. Probably the biggest city hit the hardest during the quake was Sendai, which I pointed out on the map. It has a population of over 1 million. Tokyo was minimally affected despite many claims. It did experience an extended quake, but it was most likely around 6-ish on the Richter Scale, a far cry from 9.0 in the northeast. It is about 200 miles from Sendai and about 230 miles from the epicenter, a pretty sizable difference. Most of my friends in Japan are situated in or around Tokyo and everyone has said that while it was scary, life is relatively back to normal. The really terrible damage happened in the northeast.

Now to the most mis reported part of the whole disaster. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. First, I’ll give a pronunciation because it is important to a certain extent. Foo-koo-shi-ma Die-itchy. It’s not proper, but you can say it now! Here’s the scoop on what’s going on. Due to the earthquake and how close to the shore the plan was it experienced some heavy damage. This damaged the facility and cooling systems. The concern is that not being able to cool the spent nuclear fuel rods will cause radioactive spills. The situation as of this writing is that they have sent firetrucks with water canons to shoot water to cool the fuel rods down until the cooling system can be restored. Power has been restored to some of the cooling systems and from here it appears they are starting to gain the upper hand in containing the reactors. An area of 20 kilometers has been evacuated around the plant. The concerns are talking about how this is the next Chernobyl and how people in Tokyo are receiving all this harmful radiation and how everyone is now a zombie. Not true. Chernobyl was a meltdown and far older technology. Nothing has melted down and it seems to be contained. While there is more radiation in Tokyo and in Japan, it is about 4 times background radiation. Which to put that into perspective. You receive more that while in an airport and on an airplane. It’s nothing to be concerned about.

The current dead or missing toll is over 21,000 as posting this. If you want to help I will put a link to donate. It is really the northeast who needs help as they are running low on supplies and medication for the people who require it. Anything you can donate can help, too. Sorry, for so many please donate posts, but this one should take precedence now, obviously.

Donate to Japanese Red Cross

Again, anything you give will help out in this horrible event.

I am providing a video from a guy I have been following for a couple years who lives and works in Tokyo. He is a bit crass, but he does a good job explaining what is happening.


Here is some photos from people on Twitter showing people in Tokyo following the quake. The ones with the bare shelves are a day after, due to panicking people. They were fully restocked the next day and are currently stocked. I urge you to watch the video above for some good insight. Thanks to @johntv @tokyocooney @cvxfreak and whoever else I took pictures from. If you want most accurate news coverage about the disaster you should go to the NHK world website and watch their free English stream. It is the Japanese governments broadcast and is in my opinion the best source.











Japan Personal Video

On Rodger Swan.


As a preface to this post I would like to say this has taken me far too long to write. I have started and stopped writing this four or five times now and I really don’t know why. Pleas excuse any disjoints you see throughout. This is an important post and deserves your consideration despite my inability to form coherent sentences.

To the surprise of no one who knows me or reads this blog I have a propensity for Japan. It’s not something I try to hide. Everything from the language to the culture. It has lead to some really great discoveries and places I never would have even considered.  Just a little over a year ago while doing some Japan research I landed on some YouTube videos that were live accounts of life in Japan. Up until this point I viewed YouTube as pretty much a novelty with very little socially redeeming value. This changed things. This new medium of live action was so much more engaging than just words and pictures. With how connected we are now, sometimes a person can affect your life with you even knowing them personally. I know this concept is a little strange and can be completely foreign to those who are outside of generation Y/Z (or whatever letter we are represented by now). This is about one such individual named Rodger Swan.


I discovered Rodger’s videos through another YouTube Japan vlogger named Kevin Cooney. His videos showed the little intricacies of life in Japan and I after I watched all through his (twice) I was looking for something different. I saw Rodger’s through related videos and found out that he was inspired to do his videos because of Kevin. Rodger’s style mimicked Kevin’s, but also added his own personal touches to it. Vlogs or video logs can really give you a window into a person’s life if they allow it. They can become incredibly personal and through watching them you can befriend this person, even if it is only one-sided. That is what happened and from what I have seen around the internet I am not the only one. You could tell that Rodger really enjoyed life. He always seemed to be smiling. There was a video where he and his friend were caught in the rain and still he was toothy. He came across a a genuinely nice guy, in a world with so few, it was very refreshing.


Rodger started his videos when he was studying abroad in Tokyo. His aptly named videos, Tokyo Swan, lead us through a young man’s journey through the strange place known as Tokyo. You could really see Rodger grow up in these videos. Comparing the first and last of the Tokyo Swan series you can not only see, but hear the difference in him. After leaving Tokyo and going back to finish his degree at Western Michigan University he still put up a few videos here and there mostly of Japanese Horror movie reviews. Shortly after graduating he was accepted to the JET program and was off to film more adventures in Iwate, Japan. His new series, Iwate Swan, thrust Rodger into a completely new, small-town environment. While different than the city it was still fun to watch him discover a completely new place with completely new people.

As I was eagerly awaiting the next Swan video I saw some Rodger Swan tribute video’s come up in my YouTube subscription feed. I had only discovered Rodger’s videos a few months before, but apparently Rodger had died, suddently, of internal bleeding in the abdominal cavity caused by acute pancreatitis. His friend Rupert was visiting him from Korea during his death. It was a surreal feeling. How could he be dead? I just saw him a little while ago, and he looked fine. He was only 23. I know this sounds incredibly sappy, but it was like losing a friend. I remember telling a lot of people who had no connection to him about the incident. This was someone I never met, but felt I personally knew. I found this statment and it does a great job of summarizing the feelings of not only myself, but of all the lives Rodger touched.

If you’ve ever seen the Truman show, then you may be able to understand Rodger’s existence, and its importance to everyone that knew him. He was that normal guy that was on video–all the time. He was that normal guy that everyone watched grow up. We saw him turn from a boy into a man. We saw him grow! And those of us who began watching, be it out of friendship or even a sympathetic curiosity, we all became hooked and hypnotized by Rodger’s complete lack of ego.

via Dogen Tricks by Kevin


Rodger died on January 26, 2010. So, why am I so late to the game? Well, this was originally slated to be written and released on January 26th, 2011, one year after his death, but time got away from me as it often does. Really I wanted to write this for no one, but myself. It is guys like Rodger who inspire me. He was following what he loved and sharing it with the world. Something, I one day hope to accomplish. That is reason two why I wanted to post this. Rodger’s family in conjunction with Western Michigan University has started a fund to help students studying Japanese to go abroad. The website states:

Donations to the fund will help support the study of students who, like Rodger, are working on Japanese language or planning to travel to Japan.  Through the fund, they hope to keep alive his eagerness to foster a love for Japan in others, as well as keep his name a part of the activities of the department for years to come.

Every year I like to pick one organization or person to give whatever little money I can to it. This year I am picking the Rodger Swan Memorial Fund. I hope to give at least $100 by years end. I urge you to give to. I know it’s not the peace corps, but if it can help to make more people like Rodger. I think it will be completely worth it. I will put a donate button in this post as well as in the sidebar of my website for the whole year and probably longer. Please, anything you give helps.


Rodger’s family recently put up some videos from left over footage he had and they were great. I will post the first video of Tokyo Swan and Iwate Swan. They are both great vlog series and will totally hook any Japanophiles reading. The theme songs are also totally original and have been posted thanks to the band who made them, Keterol.

Tokyo Swan 1

Iwate Swan 1

The songs used in the videos plus a special bonus can be found here:

Here is his obituary for anyone interested.

Rodger Jeffrey Swan Battle Creek Rodger Jeffrey Swan, 23, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 in Hanamaki, Japan. Rodger was born in Urbana, Illinois on December 19, 1986 to Randy and Roberta (Lunsford) Swan. Rodger graduated from Lakeview High School in 2005 and received his Bachelors Degree in English with Honors from Western Michigan University in 2009. For his junior year at W.M.U., Rodger received a full scholarship to attend Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. Rodger was currently employed as an Assistant English Teacher instructing beginning English for Japanese students at three separate High Schools in Hanamaki. While living in Japan, Rodger produced a series of YouTube videos on everyday life in Japan. This series was named Iwate Swan for the district in Japan where he was currently assigned. Rodger was also currently working on a translation of Japanese short stories which will be published this summer with the aid of his former Professor at Western Michigan University. Rodger enjoyed a variety of music, especially his favorite band, Depeche Mode. He was also interested in Japanese literature and other forms of Japanese culture, and had a great love of movies. He is survived by his parents Randy and Roberta, brothers Brenden and Erik, grandparents Elvin and Marilyn Swan all of Battle Creek and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He is also survived by his fiancée, Rebecca Makas of Dearborn. Services will be held 2:00 p.m. Monday at the Richard A. Henry Funeral Home with The Rev. Robert F. Creagan of St. Joseph Catholic Church officiating. The family will receive friends at the funeral home one hour prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Rodger Swan Memorial Fund for Japanese Studies. This scholarship was established to support students at Western Michigan University who are studying Japanese and traveling to Japan from W.M.U.


Blog Day 2011 Japan Media

On Cartoons and Subsequently Anime.

I am a pretty big fan of cartoons. I am 23 now and I feel if I haven’t outgrown them yet I probably never will. I am going to let my nerd spill out a bit here. I want to discuss Anime or Japanese Animation. It is a pretty taboo topic because the people who are usually attracted to this, at least in America, are total dwamboos. The picture it conjures up is an unshowered, bepimpled high schooler ensconced in black. Unfortunately, this isn’t untrue. This scares a lot of people off, but there is a lot that Anime offers that does not find it’s way into American cartoons. For one, Anime deals with more adult themes such as death and loss. Anime can deal with love in a more real romantic sense than just boy likes girl. The art, in my opinion, is far superior. It’s more sharp lines. I know a trademark of Anime is that they use less frames for talking which seems like a lazier art style, but to me each frame contains far more detail. Look at something like a Miyazaki film. Gorgeous.

If you are leery of Anime because you think it’s too childish or weird I can point you into some directions that you most certainly should watch.

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)

Sprited away

My favorite Miyazaki film far and away. It is gorgeous, fun, and couldn’t have better design. It has a lot of themes that relate to Shinto, but an understanding is not required to enjoy this movie. Honestly, if you have never watched Anime. This is the one to get started with.

Gundam ZZ


This is probably my favorite anime series. I wrote about it prior, but in short it is the most adult themed Anime I have ever seen. It deals with War, love, loss and is just heartbreaking. While I completely recommend it, you will need a little back story as it is a followup series to Mobile Suit Gundam (Gundam 0079); I suggest just looking up a synopsis because it is incredibly slow. The followup to this series had a theme song called “Anime, Ja Nai” which in English mean “It is not Anime.” Up to this point Anime hadn’t dealt with such serious themes and ZZ brought the heavy.

Dragon Ball

Dragonball 1

No, not Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball GT, but Dragon Ball. This is the series that started it all. It is not at all like its predecessors. It’s hilarious, and cute. It is a LONG series at 153 episodes, but it is fast paced and just an overall great series. It is intimidating, but you will be rewarding by watching it.


I know I have based American cartoons for not dealing with more adult natured themes, but there is one series that bears mentioning is Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you haven’t seen it. Go watch it. Fantasmic.

Avatar the last airbender