Local tech company Oceanit and the Honolulu Hackerspace group HI Capacity are collaborating to help Japan with its radiation problems after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant this past March. They recently met up with Peiter Franken one of the co-founders of an organization called Safecast that is helping to map out the zones in Japan that are affected by the radiation fallout. Safecast's mission is to empower people with data, primarily by building a sensor network and enabling to both contribute and freely use the data. One of the main issues is that there aren't enough Geiger counters to survey all of Japan for radiation particles. Franken is working with grassroots programmer groups like the Hackerspace in Tokyo and LA to help build the necessary sensor tools. In Hawaii, Ian Kitajima, Marketing Director at Oceanit drove around central Oahu and Waikiki testing out one of the "bento box" Geigers called bGeigie built by the Tokyo Hackerspace. Kitajima told Bytemarks Cafe, "It is a multifaceted problem and Safecast is looking for a variety of ways to get this technology in the hands of the Japanese citizen." According to Franken, the Tokyo group built 15 of these bGeigie units and volunteer groups are driving around the affected region taking readings. They are also looking at both stationary and mobile sensors. The LA group Crashspace is building a geiger counter interface for the iPhone called the iGeigie. Back at home, Ryan Kanno said that the Honolulu Hackerspace group is looking at ways they can help aggregate the data into a central website. This would allow field workers to easily upload their data for instant analysis and visualization.
Ebisubashi is a central bridge and major attraction in the heart of Dotonbori. We crossed this bridge everyday during our stay in Osaka. Each time there was something new to experience. From here you can access all the restaurants in the area. Don Quijote is about one minute away and the iconic Glico Man looms over everything. In the evening this bridge is known to be a pick-up place where young people rendezvous. Nearby are the Love hotels, but that is a different story. During the day you will run into typical Osakaites scurrying from one shop to the next. You might also find street performers testing out their material. Ron Mizutani showed us a video he and Greg Lau took of a dance troupe practicing their moves on the Ebisubashi crowd. Unfortunately that footage didn't get into the video segments that were run on KHON about Osaka and Kyoto. On this our last day in Osaka, we happened on a street performance by a musician named Aimi. I find these chance meetings most memorable, nothing planned, pure serendipity. She happen to be playing what was to be her last song of the afternoon. With iPhone in hand, this is what I captured. I love her passion and expressiveness. Who knows, she might be the next big J-pop star. Regardless, it was well worth the experience.
For Hawaiian Airlines this is the the second destination route to Japan. This opens up the Kansai area for Hawaiian Air to connect more tourists and business people between Hawaii and Japan. It was a festive event this past Tuesday, July 12th, as I tried to capture the celebration at the departure gate prior to take off. Stay tuned for more to come...
Rather quietly, the Kaiwo Maru slipped into Honolulu Harbor just returning from a 150 year Anniversary celebration in San Francisco. The Kaiwo Maru is a modern day replica of the Kanrin Maru sailing vessel that made the first historic all-Japanese trans-Pacific voyage from Toyko to San Francisco back in 1860. It was at a time when Japan was opening up to foreign trade and influence. Interestingly, there is a NHK Taiga drama series currently running on KIKU-TV about this period called Ryomaden. In the series, Ryoma Sakamoto and Katsu Kaishu play pivotal roles in the creation of the Japanese Navy. Katsu Kaishu was in fact the Captain of the Kanrin Maru back in 1860 that brought the Japanese delegation to San Francisco. The 150 year celebration marks a long relationship between Japan and the U.S. although tumultuous at times (WWII and Pearl Harbor) has resulted in economic partnerships and a strong Japanese-American community. It is interesting to note that Hawaii played a role in the original 1860 voyage of the Kanrin Maru as Honolulu was the stopover point going to and returning from San Francisco. I can only imagine what the meeting was like between Katsu Kaishu and King Kamehameha IV. Visiting the Kaiwo Maru was quite a treat. Having been to several U.S. Navy vessels, it was a pleasure to experience (albeit short) a training vessel which is part of the Japan's National Institute for Sea Training. Although traditional in appearance, the Kaiwo Maru is quite technologically equipped. The ship runs on diesel engines while close to port but utilizes it's 4-masted sails when on the open ocean. Typical speed on the open ocean is 11 knots. The ship was fully equipped with radar, sonar, navigation, onboard electric power and satellite communications. On this voyage the crew consisted of 92 cadets in training (84 men and 8 women) and ship crew of 64, totaling 156. The 92 cadets are part of a multi-year training program that prepares them for a career serving commercial ships, like freighters, tankers and barges in the Japanese Merchant Marines. The above photo shows the route the Kaiwo Maru is on, from Tokyo to San Francisco and then to Honolulu. The ship leave dock tomorrow, May 23rd on its way back to Tokyo. Capt. Makoto Inui told me that training on the Kaiwo Maru helped to instill the heart and soul of Japanese maritime into the students. The Kaiwo Maru along with the Nippon Maru represent the traditional sailing vessels of the 1860's. Students rotate through the other more modern ships in the NIST fleet including the Taisei Maru, Ginga Maru and Seium Maru. Some of the uniquely Japanese things I noticed on the ship was this huge rice cooker. Right next to this cooker was another one similar in size for miso soup, which probably accompanies every meal. The fry cooker was also more hibachi style than the flat grilling surfaces I've seen in the Navy ships. I was also a little surprised to see this vending machine. I asked the First Officer who refills this when it runs out and he told me it was him. Another thing you won't see on any US vessel are these huge fudo or tubs for bathing. They are reminiscent of the public bath houses in Japan where the fudo is not a solitary place but one of community. The showers were the sit down type and if you notice the mirrors are about 3 feet off the ground. You can see more photos in my Flickr set for the Kaiwo Maru. One scene which I will unfortunately miss is on departure. All the crew members will climb the mast, the tallest being 175 feet. They stand on the ropes, suspended from the mast frames and in unison bid farewell to everyone at the port. First Office Iwasaki told me that it is not for those with a fear of heights. From what I saw on the cadet video, commemorating their voyage, they do this feat quite fearlessly, and barefoot to. I wish the crew of the Kaiwo Maru all the best on a safe trip back to Tokyo.