Het was wereldnieuws, dus ondertussen weet iedereen dat Japan een nieuwe keizer kreeg: keizer Naruhita. Hij volgde als 126e keizer van het land zijn vader Akihito op, die afstand deed van de troon. Een primeur voor het land. We kijken uit naar hoe hij zijn rol zal vervullen, ook al is die – net zoals in België – louter ceremonieel. Wat hem alvast anders maakt dan de vorige keizers, is dat hij als eerste door zijn ouders zelf werd opgevoed en in het buitenland (Oxford) studeerde.
Zijn vrouw, keizerin Masako, studeerde aan Harvard en was voor haar huwelijk diplomate. Ze weigerde enkele huwelijksaanzoeken omdat trouwen betekende dat ze haar carrière moest opgeven. Sindsdien kwam ze vooral in het nieuws omwille van stressgerelateerde gezondheidsproblemen. Ze stond onder enorme druk om voor een mannelijke troonopvolger te zorgen (de wet zegt dat alleen mannen de troon mogen bestijgen), maar het bleef bij een enige dochter Aiko, vandaag 17 jaar oud.
We leefden hier nog in de jaren 30 – meer bepaald Heisei 30 – maar daar kwam verandering in toen Naruhita op 1 mei de troon besteeg. Reiwa 1 is aangebroken. De naam van het keizerlijke tijdperk wordt gebruikt op officiële documenten, kranten, kalenders en muntstukken. Toch bestaat ook hier de westerse kalender. Gelukkig maar, anders zou ik altijd moeten rekenen wanneer ik een document moet invullen :-).
I can’t be living in Japan and not write about Marie Kondo. I even started a free Netflix trial to see what she is all about. Ok you got me, that was not the only reason ;-). For those who haven’t heard about her yet: she is the new tidying guru, very small in size, but big in entrepreneurship.
Kondo is the author of the bestseller ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidy Up’ and since the new year she has a series on Netflix. For what my opinion is worth: I’ve seen only one episode of ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’ and the format seems a little old to me: declutter people’s homes and minds along the way, it’s not the first time we see this. I couldn’t help but finding her a caricature when she exclaimed: ‘I love mess’ or when she needed a moment to greet the house or thank the clothes that were about to be thrown away. This exaggeration is no coincidence and is no doubt key to her (American) success. Let’s not forget she specifically chose to reorganise American homes in an English spoken show. This of course evokes a bigger contrast with the Japanese lifestyle, concepts and values she (supposedly) stands for.
Typhoon Jebi (categorised as very strong) reached Japan today. Daycare was closed, Japanese class and other activities were cancelled, Stan’s boss recommended to take the afternoon off (but he didn’t), trains were cancelled and so on. To go short: we were locked-in for the day. Luckily we only had to endure strong winds and heavy rains.
About 100km to the west, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe were hit hard. Once again in a short period of time (remember the flooding and the heat wave?), Japan is hit with disaster.
Noises all over today: the typhoon siren, police cars, the wind whistling. Half an hour ago an alarm on our phones went off to draw our attention to a governmental warning of landslides near us…. Currently there is a thunderstorm spectacle going on.
What a commotion! Belgian media contacted us, but our area was safe (so no minute of fame on radio or tv:)). The upside is that we also got contacted by many of our friends and family and it was nice to hear from them.
Don’t be too surprised when the expiry date on your food says year 30. Don’t keep it until 2030 though, in Japan it currently is Heisei 30. That means it’s 30 years into emperor’s Akihito’s reign. Japan is the only country in the world that still uses the imperial calendar, mostly on governmental documents, newspapers and commercial calendars.
This is soon about to end. In May of next year, the abdication of the emperor is planned in favour of crown prince Naruhito. This will literally and figuratively be ‘the end of an era’. (Nowadays an era ends with the abdication. In the past emperors also initiated new eras during their reign as a ‘tabula rasa’ after a crisis or disaster.)
Experts are busy deciding on a new era name. Exciting times!
After the heavy rains earlier this month, causing floods and landslides, now a heat wave plagues Japan. According to Japan News the death toll has risen to over 30 and over 10.000 have been taken to hospitals. On Wednesday temperatures up to 40.7 degrees were measured, breaking all records since record-keeping began. These unseen temperatures have made it even more difficult for disaster victims and rescue workers in flood-hit towns, because water supply can’t be restored.
As for us: we almost melted on our Kyoto trip last weekend. Kyoto attained the highest temperatures in the country. We pittied the construction workers challenged by the extreme heat. ‘Luckily’ they had jackets with built-in fans. We are hiding from the heat and taking refuge in air-conditioned rooms. So if anyone asks us why we haven’t ridden our bikes yet, this is why!
I guess the news of the heavy rains, floods and landslides has reached Belgium. Thanks for all your concerned messages. We had a lot of rain, but we are ok! Apparently we are not in the danger zone. Southwest of Japan is hit hard. News bulletin titles: “88 dead and over 50 missing”. Most casualties fell in Hiroshima in the Okayama Prefecture. This prefecture is one of the hardest-hit areas: more than 1,000 people were temporarily trapped on the roofs of buildings submerged by floods following the bursting of three dikes on the nearby Oda River. Rescue operations are continuing.