Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sakura in Tokyo - Yasukuni Shrine, Shinjuku Gyoen & Inokashira Park

Sakura Trees around Yasukuni Shrine
Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine

This is my third article about Sakura viewing spots in Tokyo. In this article, I will introduce three more fantastic sakura viewing locations, namely Yasukuni Shrine, Shinjuku Gyoen and Inokashira Park. 

To access my previous articles on Sakura in Tokyo, click the titles below:

Due to the current radioactive scare caused by the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, I believe many have cancelled their Sakura viewing trip to Japan this year. I hope that the nuclear crisis can be overcome soon and people can start visiting Japan again next year. While praying for the recovery from the disaster suffered by Japan, these Sakura in Tokyo articles and pictures will serve as an alternative for Hanami (sakura viewing) online. Note that these pictures were taken in Tokyo last year, while actual sakura has only started to bloom at the time this articles is written. They are fore-casted to reach full bloom in about one week from now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3rd Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2011

Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2011

A few hours before I left Japan for Kuala Lumpur, I came across a friend's posting on Facebook about the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Putrajaya, Malaysia which were held from the day I returned home on 17 March 2011 to the weekend. The timing was just right for me and since I have always wanted to photograph such a beautiful event, I had decided to stay back in Kuala Lumpur area for the weekend.

It was a Saturday morning, that I woke up as early as 6am to get ready for the event, which started with Hot Air Balloon Flight from 7am to 9am.

Hot air balloons getting ready to take off at sunrise

Monday, March 21, 2011

Leaving Japan

I wanted to use the word evacuation for the titled of this article, but I think the word will mislead the readers about the current condition in Japan.

On 17 March 2011, I have left Japan and have already been back to Malaysia for the past 4 days. It was a difficult decision as the power plant that I was working at has not been started yet but I have to leave the Japanese people at this very difficult time. I felt so sorry for the move but the few of us foreign engineers have decided to leave the country for our own safety, partially due to the radiation level concern and mainly due to the scare of being trapped in Japan if a panic strikes the region where we were at. Foreigners like us do not speak Japanese language well, so it will be extremely difficult and dangerous for us if there is an evacuation order or a panic that strikes places like Tokyo. It will be too late to leave by then. Thus, I have decided to support the startup from home in Malaysia.

The flights out of Japan were mostly fully booked while the few seats left available are of double or triple the usual price. I managed to get a flight out from Narita Airport on Vietnam Airlines, but needed to transit in Ho Chi Minh City before arriving in Kuala Lumpur. 

My drive to Narita Airport as early as 5.30am was a slow one as the speed limit throughout the highway was reduced to 80km/h due to the fear of car skidding if there is a shake on the road caused by an earthquake. Along the journey to Narita airport, I found that the petrol stations were all in long queue, as told by my Japanese colleague earlier. The queue was so long that I could only see the queue but not the actual location of the petrol station.

Narita Airport was crowded as expected. The queue to check-in my luggage at Narita Airport was crazily long. The queue to my check-in counter at row <I> was as long as to the side of row <M>. It took me one and a half hours to check-in my luggage.

Narita Airport on 17 March 2011
Crowded Narita Airport

Now that I have reached home safely in Malaysia, I am supporting the site in Japan remotely as much as I can as this is the least I can do to help them at this very difficult time. I wish them luck in getting the unit started and adding 500MW into their national grid. We know the 500MW means a lot to the people especially during this cold weather in Japan. I also hope that the nuclear plants in Fukushima can successfully be cooled down as soon as possible, bringing the end to this nuclear radiation scare and I will then be able to return to Japan and support the startup.

To read about my previous postings on the Earthquake, click the links below:
1. March 11, Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
2. Earthquake & Tsunami Aftermath On A Monday in Japan

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake & Tsunami Aftermath On A Monday in Japan

Kimitsu-shi, Chiba-ken, Japan. - It's Monday, and a lot of people wonder if I need to get to work on this day after the disaster last Friday that killed more than a thousand people. Yes, I did get to work, everyone at site did, although I heard that there are offices in Tokyo that are closed today.

Today is Blackout day, a scheduled one. Due to the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan is now suffering from power shortages. As such, people in Japan have to share the usage of electrical power and will each experience a three hours power outage. When I login to my Facebook account just now, I saw this message:
"Japan Earthquake Information - Updated Mar 14, 8:05AM

Scheduled Blackout
There will be a scheduled blackout (power outage) starting the morning of 3/14 in Tokyo, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.
Areas will be divided into 5 groups and each group will experience about 3 hours of power outage.

Please refer to the TEPCO Homepage (as of now, the list is only provided in Japanese) to find out which group you are in and what time the power outage will occur in your group.

Train companies have announced that there will be irregular operation, including out of service hours. Summary here.

JR | Tokyo Metro | Toei Subway/Bus | Tokyu | Odakyu | Keio | Tobu | Keikyu | Keisei

Major out of services are: Tokaido Line (all day), Yokosuka Line (all day), Yokohama Line (all day), Odakyu will only operate between Kyodo to Shinjyuku (all day), Keio will only operate between Chofu and Shinjyuku (during morning and evening rush hours).

The Facebook website will not be affected by this blackout.

About this box: Facebook uses this box to provide information to foreigners and visitors in Japan for the duration of the current crisis."

I am not sure if everyone gets this message or it is only for people who login through an IP address from Japan, but I think this is very useful at this difficult time in Japan. Kudos to Facebook!! If you think this information might be useful to your friends, just hit the Recommend button above or below this article to post it to your Facebook wall.

As described in my earlier posting about the earthquake on March 11, I am a field engineer who is currently working on an outage in a TEPCO thermal power plant in Chiba. When I get to site today and visited the TEPCO office, I was shocked to realize the absence of light in the office. It was dark and I thought the office must be under-going some electrical panel maintenance work until I was told that they are actually trying to reduce electrical power usage so that more people in other parts of Japan can have a share of the power. Only laptops and computers were powered in their office. Although I know that this measure will only reduce a minimum amount of energy consumption, these people have immediately won my utmost respect to them. I went back to our office and we started switching off our lights too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sakura in Tokyo - Chidorigafuchi & Meguro River

This is my second posting about Sakura in Tokyo. In the previous article, I have introduced Ueno Park and Koishikawa Korakuen. You can access the previous article here.

Due to the recent major earthquake and tsunami that struck North-East Japan on 11 March 2011, this posting has been delayed. I wish all of the affected victims the best of luck in recovering their homes and loved ones.

If you wonder what is the current condition in Japan and is it fine to visit Japan at this moment, you can visit this webpage for a more detailed information about the effect of the disaster on the tourism industry in Japan by clicking here.

Back to the cherry blossom. This article will introduce to you two more beautiful sakura viewing spot in Tokyo, Japan - namely Chidorigafuchi 千鳥ヶ淵 and Meguro River 目黒川.

Chidorigafuchi 千鳥ヶ淵

Meguro River 目黒川

March 11, Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Kimitsu-shi, Chiba-ken, Japan - It has been more than 24 hours since the 8.9 scale earthquake struck North-Eastern part of Japan, causing tsunami of 10 meters that destroyed homes and killed believed to be more than a thousand people. It was indeed a very sad day in Japan - March 11, 2011.

This will be one of my very rare post that will have no picture in it. I want to share my experience in this earthquake.

It was a Friday evening, at 2.46pm Japan Local Time. I was working at a Thermal Power Plant in Futtsu, Japan. At that time, I was just done with checking my email in the site office and was getting ready to go to the turbine deck to checkout some instrumentation before attending a daily meeting at 3.30pm. Just when I was getting ready, the office floor suddenly moved sideways and the movement got stronger and stronger. We immediately ran down the office building to an open space carpark just by the office. We couldn't stand still on our feet. The earth was moving sideways (left right front back) and we had to move our legs to keep our balance. The cars parked at the parking area were shaking too. It lasted for more than 3 minutes, and instantly we knew that this is a big one, a special one, unlike the ones we had in Japan that will usually only last for a few seconds.

People who were working at site in the turbine building stopped work and evacuated the area. Everyone was instructed to return to their office and was prohibited from entering the turbine building. It was about 30 minutes later that we felt the second quake, which I think was stronger than the first one as I could hear the items on the table trembling when I was on my way running out of the office, for the second time. The Japanese colleagues were all putting on their safety helmet in the second evacuation from the office. All of them were seen using their mobile phones to watch the TV news.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sakura in Tokyo - Ueno Park & Koishikawa Korakuen

Sakura or Cherry Blossom in Japan

Sakura is the term for Cherry Blossom in Japan. With the Sakura season coming soon by the end of March to early April, I am posting some of my Sakura pictures taken last year and sharing some of the best places to view Sakura in Tokyo, Japan. The 2011 Sakura forecast can be accessed here.

This post recommends two of the best places in Tokyo to view Sakura, namely the famous Ueno Park and Koishikawa Korakuen. More Sakura viewing locations will be made available in my coming postings in March 2011. So, stay tuned and bookmark this website if you are interested to know the best locations in Tokyo area for Sakura viewing. Remember to LIKE our Facebook fan page to get the latest update on my postings right at your fingertips.

Sakura in Ueno Park, Tokyo

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