Trip Start Sep 09, 2009
15Trip End Oct 21, 2009
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Where I stayed
The Winter Park Palace
Red paper bag "luminaires" lit the path to Japan Party! Passing under strung globous rice paper lanterns, guests were greeted by an inviting banner and a small info card about the Japanese tradition of wearing house slippers.
Leave your shoes at the door, don some slippers, and come on in. Kangei (welcome:)...
"Yikes," I said! "They're right on time!"
Still scrambling with last minute preparations, I opened the door and greeted my first guests, "Konbanwa." ("Good evening.")
The pace picked up quickly. Before long a sea of shoes flooded the front door strand and the commotion and chatter of party goers was everywhere!
It went non-stop for the next several hours!...
JAPAN MAP, TABLE, & INFO CARDS:
Those who know me know that I am a teacher at heart. I love to share the rich interests of life.
A large map of Japan prominently adorned the living room wall. Marked cities from my travels where connected by highlighter pen tracing my path along the Shinkansen bullet train - Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Mt. Koya, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. 600 miles in 6 weeks!
Nearby was a table with assorted items, plus cultural artifact I'd collected along the way - Lonely Planet travel guide, phrase book, currency (coins and bills, including a 10,000 yen note worth over $100!), Japanese newspaper, plus assorted food products covered with Japanese writing and imagery.
On the same wall was another one of the many info cards distributed throughout the house. This one described the Japanese writing system. Check the photo gallery to view all 10 of them and learn something cool about Japan!
Not far away was the origami table. On display was a collection of models I've folded over the last few years, including the famous peace crane, plus frogs, butterflies, flowers, a yin-yang symbol, and my prized black cat that took me 4 hours to make!
SAKE & FOOD!:
The huge bottle of sake I bought was soon surrounded by brethren of assorted pedigree. In the traditional Japanese manner I entered "2" "0", pushed START... waited... then removed my warm sake from the microwave:) IMHO it tastes MUCH better heated.
If this was not your pleasure, there was Japanese beer (Sapporo, & Kirin), sweet plum wine, juice, water, and of course, tea (what Japan party would be complete without tea!).
Then there was the food... sushi, gyoza (dumplings), seaweed salad, and little candies for afterwards. Sorry, no takoyaki or okonomiyaki:( Complimentary chopsticks were provided as souvenirs. They may have looked too nice to take, but a few lucky guests made off with theirs.
600 carefully selected and processed fotos and videos looped continuously, taking nearly an hour before repeating! Luckily, nobody seemed to complain:)
HIROSHIMA A-BOMB DOME (presented in photosynth 3D viewer)
"The Hiroshima talk starts now," I announced…
I stood and gave a brief intro about Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park that occupies the space once obliterated by the first atomic bomb blast ever visited upon human beings.
"This is the 'cenotaph.' It's a memorial that holds the names of all the victims of the a-bomb dropped on Hiroshima," I commented on the first photo. “The blast instantly incinerated 100,000 and claimed tens of thousands more in the aftermath.”
“In the distance you can see the A-Bomb Dome,” I continued. “It’s the sole preserved building remaining from that time.”
I clicked a 'Highlight’ thumbnail on the right side of the screen and continued the guided tour…
The interface zoomed thru and around several photos landing on a 13,000 pixel wide stitched panorama of the Dome and the Motoyasu River. Attached below it was a photo history of before, during, and after the bomb. I explained how the program could so quickly handle such a large image (~10MB) across the limited bandwidth internet connection.
“The program creates several resolutions of the image, plus creates square tiles within each of those images. So, only the required resolution tiles needs to be sent from the off-site server to my computer. When you pan or zoom, the unneeded data is discarded and the new resolution tiles are downloaded. This is how it can handle 600 hi-res 8 Megapixel images!” That’s over 2 GB (or 2000 MB) of image data, for all you geeks out there:)
After zooming in to show the New York Times front page, the mushroom cloud as seen from the chase plane, the before&after aerial shots, plus the famous panorama taken shortly after, I zoomed back out to reveal the ‘orbit control’ in the center of the screen. Holding the Ctrl key I revealed the ‘point cloud.’ The photos disappeared leaving a black screen with collections of clumped, colored dots revealing the basic 3D structure of the Dome and surrounding objects. The program analyses each photo for recognizable objects, then places points on them, in 3D. Then each photo is compared against all other photos for common shared objects. In this way, the 2D photo planes can be arranged in three dimensions! Sound confusing!? Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand any of this to navigate and enjoy the scene. So, let’s continue…
A click-n-drag of the mouse framed the cenotaph in the far background and the line-of-sight to the Dome in the foreground. It’s quite impressive, really, and must be seen to be fully appreciated. Be sure to go try it out.
I continued clicking highlight hyper-links, taking my audience to group photos, riverside views, a view from 1/2 a kilometer away, then zoomed in to the Dome at an effective distance of just a couple meters! The crowd was duly impressed and released the tell tale “ewws” and “ahhs.”
Next, I zoomed into a “hidden” origami crane resting below some flowers on a planter. I’d folded it from a flyer (haha, no pun intended) and photographed it in various places, creating a sort of scavenger hunt. See if you can find them all!
Finally, I got to my favorite, and most significant part of my A-Bomb Dome experience…
I explained to my audience, “On the second day of shooting I determined to meet Japanese people and ask what the Dome meant to them. I knew this was a bold move, especially for the reserved Japanese, but felt strongly about getting a view ‘from the other side.’ Understanding the sensitive nature of my request, I decided to meet them in their language first…”
“Sumimasen. Konnichi wa. Watashi no namae wa ‘Swami’ des. Nihongo ga chotto hanasemau… sukoshi. Eigo ga hansemasu ka” (Excuse me. Hello. My name is ‘Swami.’ I speak a little Japanese… a skosh. Do you speak English?”)
I continued telling the story to my guests…
“It took five tries, but I finally encountered a woman who spoke a bit of English and was willing to talk. Tomoko was an attractive Japanese woman in her early 40’s I surmised. She was a teacher visiting the Peace Park with her class. We sat and talked for a while…
“So, I asked her what the Dome meant to her. She thought for a moment, then replied, ‘It’s a symbol of peace.’
“This took me a bit by surprise. While meditating on it, she asked me back, ‘What does it mean to you?’
“I thought for a moment, and had to honestly reply with the first thing that came to my mind, and said, ‘It’s a symbol of destruction.’
“The contrast struck me. She saw the future and hope, while I saw the past and destruction. I thought about this, then told her I hoped I could come to see it as she did, now that she had shared her view. I thanked her.”
And then I met HIM.
“As Tomoko and I were talking, an old man appeared. He looked at me and asked, ‘America you?’
“I said, ‘Yes, I’m American.’
“Thru Tomoko, I asked him what the Dome meant to him. He said it meant ‘never again.’
“Then he went on to tell his story…
“Much of it was beyond Tomoko’s limited ability to translate, but one amazing fact came thru. Now 79, he was 14 at the time and lived in a neighboring city about an hour train ride away. He described seeing ‘yellow in the sky.’ He actually witnessed the a-bomb detonation!
“He and I stood side by side flashing peace signs with the A-Bomb Dome in the background as Tomoko snapped my most prized photo of the thousands on my camera. WOW!”
I finished my presentation landing on a nice night shot of the Dome.
During the talk I noted that, “One thing that struck me from my experience there in Hiroshima was the fact that the a-bomb resulted in a dramatic shift in national consciousness. Before, the nation had a long history of warring, and particularly leading up to WWII had sought to conquer neighboring territory in Manchuria (northeast China) and the Malay Peninsula. The emperor was considered God and the Japanese had never lost a war. Surrender was not an option… but ultimately they did indeed have to surrender. After, they had to reevaluate things. And now they focus on peace, and hope for a future without nuclear weapons. Quite the dramatic change.”
This change is integral to the Constitution of Japan adopted after WWII. Specifically, I direct you to Article 9, the “Peace Article” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_9_of_the_Constitution_of_Japan). Basically, it prohibits an act of war by the state.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Close to forty guests passed through the door in the course of the night. Of course, I appreciate everybody that attended, but a few were standout and worthy of note. Norm gets the award for “Most Authentic” with his full aikido outfit, including sword. Rob gets “Most ‘Colorful’” with his untraditional kimono. John gets the “Most Time Spent in Japan” award, having just returned from 14 years living there! Maria gets “Notable Mention” for spending 3 years in Japan. “Longest Trek” goes to my sister, Bonnie, for traveling all the way from Maryland. And “Notable Trek” goes to my long-time dear friend, Phil, who drove in from Sarasota. Thanks to… Paul for bringing a rice dish; Steve for bringing me not one, but two Japanese model kits; Glady for the thoughtful gift of gems; Ryan for the sake; especially my sis Bonnie for all her help, and anybody else I might have forgotten.
Of course, a number of people who really wanted to attend, but were unable, were very much missed. You know who you are and I hope to see you very soon. Just call and we’ll arrange a time and place. And I’ll be more than happy to give a private slideshow to include you in some of what you missed.
So, JAPAN PARTY was A HUGE SUCCESS!:) A big thanks to everybody who came out and helped make it so. I trust you had a good time, made some new friends, and maybe even learned an interesting thing or two about Japan.
And to all those that made it, and those that didn’t, stay tuned for South America Party! coming to the Swami Pad, soon:)…
P.S. Anybody who has any pix from the party, please email them to me at email@example.com so I can include them in this blog. TIA.