Friday, August 30, 2013

YOHO: You're Only Here Once

Post 4. 8/27 - 8/29

It's only been three days since my last post, but I swear it has been a month! Our days are jam packed with temple visits, eating meals, or just wandering the streets, making each day feel like two. On the 27th, our whole group took a bus ride to the city of Nara, just east of Osaka. Nara has a few claims to fame. This city is home to the largest Buddha statue made of bronze housed in the largest wooden structure, Todai-ji temple, and the friendliest deer in the world.
My Nara Deer Friend
Todai-ji Temple
Giant Buddha Crafted out of Bronze
We also spent a little while in the Nara National Museum. One of the statues that was showcased described the intricate detail that went into making these national treasures. In the eyes of many sculptures, there is a glint, which is created by the addition of inlaid crystals within the eye. Just another way that geology is intertwined with the arts.

As a group we also visited the Genji museum which showcases the famous japanese Tale of Genji, which we are reading for our world literature course. This story consists of 54 chapters telling the tale of a man named Genji and his descendants. For our class we are only reading the last section which focuses on his descendants Kaoru and Niou and the women they are involved with. The story is very interesting, if you enjoy classic literature, I recommend finding a version, which there are many in play or manga form. A major setting in the story is the Uji River, which is located just outside the museum. After a quick walk down to the banks of the river we were able to splash our sore feet in the water and admire the sun setting over the water.

Uji River
I've also decided that I'm basically a local. It's official. I have successfully navigated the subway system not only around Kyoto, but to another city!
Riding the RJ train to Kobe
Yesterday, our group traveled via public transit SW to Kobe. You might recognize the name in reference to the famous Kobe beef, which costs a ridiculous $200 for a piece the size of a quarter. The main attraction for the day was the Kobe Earthquake Museum. In 1995, a huge 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Kobe causing massive destruction in only 10 seconds, forcing the city to rebuild basically from the ground up. It occurred at 5:45 am which didn't even allow enough time for the citizens to wake up, let alone think before their home crashed to the ground. Survivors of the quake were housed in elementary schools for months before relocation to temporary housing where families would remain for up to 5 years. The kind of destruction and emotional turmoil that the people of Kobe had to endure was unfathomable to me. I've never had to experience a natural disaster directly, the closest occurring in a town approx. 30 minutes from my home. I had nothing to compare to the type of destruction that occurred here. That being said, the museum provided the perfect balance of science and human elements to allow me to understand what it would feel like. It was fairly overwhelming. The earthquake alone wasn't all that affected Kobe in 1995. Due to the shaking of the ground, liquefaction caused water to come up from the soil. Homes and businesses sank into the muddy sediment, causing further damage.
Despite all the tragedy, earthquake building standards have improved. More measures are being taken to ensure that buildings are still standing after a major quake. Things like cross beams installed on even just the first floor of a building could be the difference between a few broken windows and a pile of rubble. Prior to the addition of diagonal beams, the bottom of buildings would sway ~18 cm while the top would sway ~2 m, the beams greatly reduce these values. Homes are also stabilized by placing 30 meter deep rods into the ground which anchor into the sediment to prevent sinking due to liquefaction. The most recent development is called a base isolator which places the building on a moving platform, greatly minimizing the amount of swaying a building undergoes. The engineering difficulty with this is planning for essentially any type of movement from left to right to back and forth and even up and down. In this way, you can see how far disaster reduction and research as to go.

The afternoon was ours to spend in Kobe and we had a few options of how to spend our time. Three of us decided to visit Harborland which is essentially the Navy Pier of Kobe. The water was beautiful and we got to go to the top of the Kobe Port Tower (the red building) and get a 360° view of the city. Seeing how extensive the city is from that height just shows how much effort it took to rebuild this massive city, which had a population of 1.5 million when the earthquake hit. It took approx 10 years for Kobe to return to this population level. Walking around the streets today you would have never guessed this thriving city was hit with such a powerful quake.


Journeying to these locations outside of Kyoto allowed me to see what the 'country' looks like. Rice paddies are intermingled with homes and residential areas, which makes me curious about the runoff from roads and homes that might affect the quality of the rice grown in such an urban environment. Hopefully I don't think too much about it next time I eat that sushi roll! The highways also have tall walls on the sides. After speculating with a few other students, we think it is used to hold in the noise pollution but could have some sort of use during earthquake events. All I know for sure is that it really inhibits my window photography :(

As always I've been attempting to speak the little Japanese I've been learning to locals and of course eating Udon, Udon, and more Udon :) Yummm
Slurp away. It's actually polite to do so in Japan.

Sorry about the SUPER long post. I'll probably try to post more often so the posts are shorter, but more frequent! Thanks for reading and I hope you spotted Spot!



  1. Once again--very interesting! Keep it up! I believe I saw on the Today show the deer in Nara. They occupy the streets about this time of year.
    I did spot Spot. HUGS!

  2. Found spot...and udon noodles are yummy! :-) Fantastic favorite quote: "Just another way that geology is intertwined with the arts." :-) And those deer are so SMALL! Kathy

  3. Oh Spot is Tricky this time :) I love your face in the deer picture! Great post! Brandy


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