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The Year of 2014 is ending..

Today, it is the last day of 2014. How would you define the year of 2014? In Japan, the Kanji (Chinese character) of the year is chosen through a national ballot every year and the Kanji of the year 2014 was “Tax”. Thus, for many Japanese the event that represented this year was 2014 was that the consumption tax was raised to 8% from 5% in April.

the Kanji for "Tax"
the Kanji for “Tax”

 

It was quite a surprise because the increase of only 3% gave such a shock to people enough to vote for “tax”… Besides, it is not a Kanji of a good taste. I personally think that many things whose values were more than 3% happened in 2014.

For me the biggest event in 2014 was the eruption of Mt. Ontake, the second highest volcano in Japan at 3,067 m (10,062 ft) located around 100 km (62 mi) northeast of Nagoya.

Photo by Ministry of Land,
Photo by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Chubu Regional Development Bureau on September 27, 2014.
White smoke rising from Mt. Ontake in Nagano prefecture, central Japan. Dozens of hikers were stranded on the slopes of an erupting Japanese volcano that has reportedly killed one person and left 30 more seriously injured.

 

covered with volcanic ash Photo from a blog, "Shinjitsu wo Sagasu Blog (Looking for the truth)"
covered with volcanic ash
Photo from a blog, “Shinjitsu wo Sagasu Blog (Looking for the truth)”

 

If you want to know more about this eruption please visit the site, “VolcanoCafé”,

 

Other than this eruption, many natural disasters happened in this year.

In February, there was a super heavy snow fall not only in northern part but also in central part including Tokyo, which was the most abnormal weather condition in the last 30 years. In some areas around Mt. Fuji where it doesn’t snow so much normally the snow was piled up over a meter nearly two meters. Roads were blocked because of the piled snow and it took so much time to put away the snow because people were not accustomed to it… Transportation was stopped, which means that the supply of food was also stopped for a while. In Yamanashi prefecture, which is very famous for fruit cultivation such as grapes, cherries, and peaches, 40% of vinyl greenhouses were broken and 80% of grape ranches were damaged.

 

Photo by Reuters Kyodo
Many cars and trucks were left on roads
Photo by Reuters Kyodo

 

In August, a series of landslides struck small towns in a mountain near the city of Hiroshima. 217.5 mm (8.56 in) of rain fell in three hours on that day, from 1:30 am to 4:30 am, which was the rainfall of one-month.

Photo from 47 News
Photo from 47 News

 

Some people say the abnormal weather is caused by global warming. Some people say this is just one period of 4-billion-year history of the earth. I have no idea which is correct but I think I know, at least, the nature is not to conquer but to coexist with.

Japan is a nation which is surrounded by sea and About 72% of its land is covered by hills and mountains. Because of the mountains the river are short and have steep channel slopes.

According to a National Land Agency survey on land utilization (1992), 252,100 km2 (66.7% of the national land area) is forests, 52,600 km2 (13.9%) is cultivated fields. Only in 16,500 km2 (4.4%) of the land 127,341,000 people are living (2013). The official population density of Japan is 337 people per square km. but the more realistic density would be 7,717 people per square km. considered only the habitable area. That’s why Japanese have constructed many buildings. That’s why trees have been cut down and mountains and hills have been leveled to construct residential districts.

 

What is worse, Japan is often struck by two major natural phenomena, typhoons and earthquakes. Japan is islands located along the edge of the Eurasian Continent, which means it is situated in the path of many Pacific typhoons that cause heavy rain and strong wind.

Courses that Pacific typhoons take  Image from the website of Metrological Agency
Courses that Pacific typhoons take
Image from the website of Metrological Agency

 

On the other hand, earthquakes, the most dangerous natural phenomenon, are also caused due to the geographical conditions of Japan.

Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The subducting plates, being deeper than the Eurasian plate, pulled Japan eastward, opening the Sea of Japan around 15 million years ago. The islands of Japan were created by the result of several large oceanic movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years from the mid-Silurianto the Pleistocene as a result of the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the continental Amurian Plate and Okinawa Plate to the south, and subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate to the north. This means that Japan is all up to the movements of these plates. Also 10% of the active volcanoes are situated in our country.

Image from http://www.georesources.co.uk/
Image from http://www.georesources.co.uk/

 

With the Japanese Imperial Year which started in 660 BC, Japan has 2,674-year-long history. How many typhoons and earthquakes have struck Japan in these 2,674? How many natural disasters other than these two majors have the people in Japan experienced in these 2,674? Why didn’t they abandon this country full of natural disasters and go for migration?? Why have many poets written poems of the love toward nature?? Maybe because Japan was too beautiful to abandon. Maybe because they loved and respected the nature and they knew how to coexist with it.

Speaking of “coexistence”, Japan is the country where the tradition and the forefront live together. In 2014, The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/

 

With this invention of blue light-emitting diodes the night in Tokyo has become more beautiful than ever.

Tokyo Sky Tree with Fireworks of Sumida River in July Photo from
Tokyo Sky Tree with Fireworks of Sumida River in July
Photo from “The Sky in Asakusa”

 

Illuminated Meguro River for Christmas in Nakameguro area Photo from
Illuminated Meguro River for Christmas in Nakameguro area
Photo from Fashion Press

 

Gokō-yu geisha area backstreets of Kyoto  Photo by Malcolm Browne
Gokō-yu geisha area backstreets of Kyoto
Photo by Malcolm Browne

 

Colorful people in Harajuku and women in Kimono, both belong to Japanese culture and both make it exciting. I would like to continue to inform you, my dearest readers, of both sides of Japan.

Street snap taken in Harajuku, Tokyo  Photo by Megan Catherine Rose
Street snap taken in Harajuku, Tokyo
Photo by Megan Catherine Rose

So, for the year of 2015 and forever, I would like to vote for the Kanji “CO” of “coexistence” as the Kanji of Japan.

 

The Kanji for "co-" of coexistence, "Kyo".
The Kanji for “co-” of coexistence, “Kyo”.

 

Thank you very much for reading my blog, “Saionji Net.” I wish all of you have a great new year!

Rei Saionji
西園寺 怜

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