For Relief

By now, I’m sure the entire anime-watching world is intimately familiar with the natural disasters that occurred recently in the land of the rising sun. Between the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear reactor scares, Japan has shown nothing but stoic bravery and some of the finest examples of humanity in the face of disaster.

But Thursday morning at 10:32 AM EST, (11:32 PM local Japanese time) Japan was hit with another earthquake. The quake measured 7.4 on the Richter scale (though the US Geological Survey is reporting the quake measured 7.1) and affected the eastern coast of Honshu. NPR’s Greg Dixon reported that the shaking lasted for 2 minutes. Japan’s meteorological society issued a tsunami warning, the worst predictions being for the Miyagi prefecture, though also includes the Iwate, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures. The warnings were lifted just a few hours later without incident.

Thankfully, the workers at the Fukushima Dai-Iichi nuclear plants have reported there are no new problems at any of the six reactors at that plant.

On March 15, George Takei said via Twitter, “In this crisis, we are all Japanese.” I, for one, truly feel this way and my heart goes out to all the families still struggling overseas. Japan still needs our help, and for all the wonderful times that country has given us through video games and anime, we should be the first to offer whatever help we can and the last to put the relief effort behind us.

In that vein, the following are ways that you can help the relief efforts in Japan.

The Red Cross is still accepting donations to help the relief effort directly.  A donation from the Red Cross must be a minimum of $10, but can be done via any major credit card (including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express).

The Save the Children organization is also accepting donations that will be used to help the children facing this disaster.  Donations can be made in any amount here, so don’t be freaked out by the options listed.

UNICEF is also currently accepting donations in any amount.

A group called Your Action is keeping a list of running charity events for the Japanese relief projects in the New York area.  If you’re in the tri-state area there, consider attending one of the benefits or concerts listed there.  Your Action also lists a number of items that can be purchased to help support the relief effort.

Gwen Stefani is sponsoring a fundraiser in which you have the option to purchase a T-shirt for $40 and then add on extra donations to the relief effort should you so choose.  100% of the net profits from this fundraiser are being donated to the relief efforts via the Red Cross.

Hope – Japan is a nonprofit group of artists working to help Japanese victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis as well as those suffering from radiation sickness.  Each of the 36 artists has designed a pin.  If the $40 price point for the Gwen Stefani tee is too rich for your blood, these wonderful pins are only $3 a pop, and 100% of the proceeds are being used to support the relief efforts.

Linkin Park, in conjunction with Download to Donate has created two t-shirt designs to support the relief effort.  These t-shirts available in either men’s or women’s cuts are $25 each and offer 100% of the net profits to disaster relief.

A quick search on the iTunes store will lead you to “Songs for Japan,” a digital album of 38 chart-toppers including artists such as Josh Groban, Katy Perry, U2, Bruno Mars, and Lady Antebellum.  For $9.99, the proceeds will help aid the Japanese Red Cross in their struggle to rebuild.

Remember that when donating directly to any of these organizations, you are doing a huge amount of good.  Any amount of money can help feed a hungry child for another day or get some much-needed medications over to the elderly.  $10 is nothing when you think about it.  Just going without Starbucks for a week would give you more than enough spare funds to donate.

And, to be honest, when people are suffering so deeply in this nation we owe so much to, I think we could all go a week without coffee.

If anyone else has places people can go to donate funds or support the relief efforts in any other way, please leave them in the comments section.

Snow Festival

Well, up here in the frozen lands known in my household as Hoth (in reality and to normal people, Fargo, North Dakota), we’ve had our first snow.  Snows.  Plural.  It’s been a rough few days in the weather department, and the sudden dump of frozen moisture coupled with massive winds have created a big fat blizzard that’s keeping my husband and I from getting to my family for Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, we’ve postponed the big meal, so the red velvet cheesecake I’m baking won’t be a waste. ^.^

But since there’s so much out there, I thought I’d try to put a bit of a happier spin on things.  In Japan, there are probably thousands of different festivals over the year across the country.  I stumbled upon a website featuring the Kamakura Snow Festival in Yokote City of the Akita Prefecture.

This festival has been celebrated for more than 400 years in Yokote.  The festival is meant to honor Shinto deities, especially the Water gods.  People build mounded rooms out of snow called kamakura and serve sweets and a fermented rice brew to passerby who are encouraged to come in and chat.  Countless miniature kamakura are built up and lit with candles to provide offerings of sake and rice cakes to the gods.  It is known as a very striking and romantic scene after the sun sets with hundreds upon hundreds glowing snow mounds lining the streets.

Shibuya426.com has a number of very informative and beautiful image heavy posts on Japan, and one of them explores the February 2010 Kamakura Snow Festival.  I’ve chosen a few of my favorite of the images to include here.  For more, please check out the Original Post!

A small offering to the Shinto gods

Full Sized Kamakura

Many Kamakura lined up in a row

Makes me want to celebrate Kamakura a little early over here in the states! ^.^

Japan – Always Innovating

Oh Japan.  Japan, Japan, Japan.  Why must you make me want to run away to live amongst your crazy juxtaposed buildings and peoples?

Anyone who has ever used a pencil knows that eventually, an eraser will be needed.  The best erasers are the brand new ones with a crisp edge.  When the eraser starts getting rounded and worn down, you end up erasing more than you wanted. Or not as much as you wanted if you’re trying to be really careful.

So, Japan comes to the rescue.  With what?  The Kadokeshi Eraser.

Eraser

This neat little thing shows just how resourceful and innovating the Japanese can be.  Someone over there has taken the typical eraser and turned it into this handy little device with 28 edges.  Count them.  28.  Each little corner and edge is just like a fresh new eraser, but it’s all a single eraser!

The eraser comes in a variety of sizes and even a few different colors.  Best of all, it comes in a special “cell phone charm” size.

Charm Eraser

Unfortunately, I can’t find anywhere that sells these magical little things that isn’t completely written in Japanese.  Which means I can’t understand what’s being said.  Hopefully I’ll find a price in English soon!

Cell Phone Straps

Popular Japanese culture is a fascinating world. Something that is extremely commonplace in Japanese culture, and not so ordinary in American culture is the use of what are called “straps” to decorate cell phones. Now, while America did go through a phase full of cell phone covers and sleeves and even bejeweled stickers, cell phone straps have remained an anomaly.

For this, I am honestly sort of sad.

Cell phone straps are inexpensive, adorable ways to express individuality. In Japan, they’re often used as such, as well as ways to keep a smaller cell phone from being lost or dropped by providing a place to grab that phone from your pocket or the bottom of the purse.

Here’s a couple of pictures of a typical Japanese phone. ^.^

Phone

Phone 2

It’s not entirely uncommon for cell phones to become completely overtaken by these adorable charms in Japan.  Cell phones can become quite bulky and heavy when someone overdoes the customizations.  But that isn’t to say that everyone goes that far.

Like the look?  Wish you had a cute cell phone strap of your own?  Well you’re in luck.  Most American phones have the place to attach a strap.  (Just look for what appears to be an unnecessary hole on your phone.  It’s usually where the hinge is on a flip-style phone.)  And there’s plenty of places to get cell phone straps.  However, the BEST place I’ve come across so far is a website called Strapya World.

Strapya has tons of different cell phone charms that are always changing as they sell out of certain styles and get new ones in.  They carry anime style charms, novelty styles, Hello Kitty, good-luck charms, and even some sort of practical cell phone straps.  Here’s some images from straps that I’m looking forward to someday attaching to my own cell phone.

TsubasaFortune TellerAkihabaraSakuraFlying SailorDragonballMew!JirachiPaper LanturnJingle BellCactusMoss BallBaby Plant