A few things I’ve enjoyed learning on this trip – outside of our filming: 1. Argentina is where Japanese kids dig to in the sandbox. Yuki (our pet for the past two weeks) is anxious to get to South America, too. 2. In Japan – where being the eldest is such a point of honor – the ranking in twin births is interesting. The first baby born is considered the youngest. The baby born second is the oldest. While filming SON OF SAICHI, we met Saichi’s great-grandaughters – twins Miu and Reika. Their mom tells us that even though Reika was born a few minutes after Miu, she is considered the eldest. 3. Sushi-go-rounds are about as much fun as you can have at a restaurant. An eating frenzy akin to tossing chum to sharks. And cheap. Every plate is 100 yen (108 with tax) – that’s one dollar. Not… LEARN MORE
Just when I thought there was nothing left to say about the terrifying Japanese Giant Hornet, Hidekazu pulls out his Giant Hornet Juice. “Just one drop, and I feel like stinging someone,” he says. “It’s power.” It turns out being deadly isn’t the giant hornet’s only gift. Its strength, speed, and endurance are to be envied: The giant hornet can lift as much as six pounds, fly up to 25mph, and travel 60 miles in one day. Want that kind of power yourself? Find some inspiration from the worm-in-tequila trick, and just add the 3 inch monster – or its larvae – to your favorite hard alcohol (here, that’s shōchū). It’s giant hornet season right now, and I definitely like them much better drowning in booze than buzzing around above our heads. For more on our filming adventures for SON OF SAICHI, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
“This is a very important day for sending his spirit on… for sending him on to the next world,” says Tsugiko Ouchi as she prepares what she will wear to today’s memorial service. Her husband, Hiroshima survivor Saichi, died forty-nine days ago, and in the Buddhist tradition, this is the day his spirit will transition to its new life.
Like everything in life now – the post-evacuation life – events big and small become reminders of what has been lost. After spending 20 minutes rifling through everything in her bedroom drawers and carefully separating her dry cleaning, Tsugiko realizes she’s missing her best black kimono – the very thing she wants to wear to today’s service. The kimono, her son tells her, is back home in Yamakiya hanging in a close that seems frozen in time since they were forced to leave after the nuclear disaster. Learn More…
Yamakiya, Japan – Forced Evacuation Zone
[This] risky, back-breaking, mind-numbingly slow work… involves being tethered to a tree while worrying about whether the Japanese giant hornet will strike. And there’s good reason to fear…Learn More…
Iizaka Village in Kawamata Town in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
Current top ranking for most ridiculous conversation goes to:
Me: “We need anti-radioactive underwear.”
Balaban: “Do they sell that at the hardware store?”
10th Floor, Toyoko Inn, Fukushima City
There are lots of fun reasons for a bed to be rattling in the middle of the night. But an earthquake isn’t one of them. The first quake hits at 3:20am. It’s a 5.7 magnitude off the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture, and feels like a ride on a coin-operated horse at the grocery store. Within ten seconds it’s over.
The second quake two hours later is slightly weaker – 5.6 magnitude – but closer. About twenty miles away right off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. Fear strikes in a waiting-for-the-ceiling-to-crash-down kind of way. I stand paralyzed in the middle of my tiny hotel room with one overarching thought, “I do not want to die in the Japanese equivalent of a Holiday Inn.” Learn More…
Logan Airport, 4:30am “You may be alright,” Chris, the Air Canada ticket agent tells us. “But it’s risky. That’s flying too close to the sun for me.” And so begins Friday the 13th, and our trip to Japan to film SON OF SAICHI. We’ve been accused – more accurately our travel agent has been accused – of cabotage. It’s illegal. And it means we’re grounded. Google cabotage and you’ll find a Wikipedia entry that highlights our exact situation: Cabotage situations can occur as a consequence of hub-and-spoke operations. Consider that Air Canada has a major hub at Toronto that offers flights to several U.S. cities. While a passenger is able to buy a ticket from Boston to Toronto, and a separate ticket from Toronto to Seattle [in our case Minneapolis] that same day, both flights cannot be offered on the same itinerary because this would effectively be a U.S. domestic… LEARN MORE
One of the most striking things about Fukushima in the winter is a persimmon tree in the snow. The fruits have lost the wild orange color that defines them in the fall and now dangle from naked tree limbs like scarlet Christmas ornaments. Festive as they look, they shouldn’t be here now. Locals should have picked the persimmons when they were ripe, then carefully peeled, dried and painstakingly massaged them over weeks to make hoshigaki, a Japanese specialty. But there’s no locally-made hoshigaki being served on the kotatsu table this season because much of the fruit here has been found to have high levels of radiation from the meltdown of the nuclear plant at Fukushima-Daiichi caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. People tell us they are emotionally exhausted. Everything is under assault: What they eat. How they think. Where they live. The family we’re filming – the Ouchi… LEARN MORE
Tsugiko Ouchi is 87-years-old, yet giggles like a school girl as she hands us a worn copy of a newspaper article. There she is in the accompanying picture, kissing her husband, Saichi, a survivor of both Hiroshima and the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. “I was visiting him in the nursing home,” she tells us, “and as I was getting ready to leave, he looked so sad. So I asked him for a kiss.” Such displays of public affection are rare here, and even more so among the elderly. When you’re in Tsugiko’s presence, she is perpetually making and serving green tea. A silver cylinder with a tiny knob on top holds the leaves which she extracts with a small matching scoop to top off a mesh strainer. She stands as she does this, and the slight age curvature of her back is pronounced in this position. Slowly, she lowers… LEARN MORE
Iraqis under threat, Indian women in focus at Tribeca by Christine Kearney NEW YORK – (Reuters) – Iraqis living in danger after working with U.S. troops and diplomats and an examination of women in modern India are two subjects grabbing the attention of critics and audiences among documentaries showing at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. Both films are part of a lineup of 32 documentaries at the New York festival, which runs through Sunday, that tell true tales from inside and outside the United States. Documentaries, which have become more stylized in recent years with inexpensive hi-tech cameras, have traditionally been a strength at Tribeca. This year is no exception, and many of these non-fiction movies will be seen in theaters and on TV throughout 2012. “The List” tells of American Kirk Johnson’s fight to save U.S.-allied Iraqis who are at risk of being kidnapped and killed by militants… LEARN MORE
Biking through the streets of Boston yesterday on the final leg of the 3-day ride from Ground Zero, I rode through Kenmore Square feeling like it was 1994, and I was navigating from one of my grad classes at Boston University to my tiny studio apartment in Beacon Hill. As a little girl I had dreamed of studying at BU; it was my Dad’s alma mater, and some of my best memories as a child are of traveling there from our home in Connecticut to watch my Dad play his trumpet in the alumni band. While he practiced, my Mom and I enjoyed the school and the city. One year that meant picking through all the treasures at a tag sale being held in the Music Department. There was a luxurious red snow fox stole—with glass eyes, four legs, feet and a tail—that for $1.50 was clipped around my neck… LEARN MORE