Saturday, March 28, 2009

South Korea’s Kim Wins Short Program at Figure Skating Championships

When her score popped up on the monitor at the world figure skating championships on Friday, Kim Yu-na could hardly believe it.
She buried her face in her hands. Her jaw dropped. Her coach, the two-time Olympic medalist Brian Orser, grabbed and shook her.
In front of a crowd filled with South Korean fans waving South Korean flags, South Korea’s Kim dominated the short program here Friday, winning by more than 8 points. Her score was 76.12, the best ever for a woman. It easily eclipsed her previous best score of 72.24.
Joannie Rochette of Canada finished second, with 67.90. Mao Asada of Japan, the defending world champion and Kim’s longtime rival, was third, with 66.06.
I was very comfortable when I was skating,” Kim said of her reaction to the audience, many of the fans from the sizable Korean community here. “I felt that I was able to do well because of all the people cheering me on in the stadium.
Kim, 18, had come into worlds expecting her biggest competition to be Asada, but she had no competition at all. Her performance put her in perfect position to win her first world title on Saturday, less than a year from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Skating in a black outfit that sparkled in the lights, she landed each of her jumps, but her moves in between were what mesmerized the crowd. She effortlessly floated from one element to another, often with a smile, always with grace.
It’s one of those moments in skating people will always remember,” Orser said.
The United States team had a night to forget, with its hopes of earning three spots at the Olympics likely slipping away.
The Americans must finish at least a combined 13th for the team to be awarded three Olympic entries. After the short program, the Americans are in 21st, combined. The last time the team brought only two women skaters to the Olympics was in 1994.
Alissa Czisny, the national champion, fell twice and is 14th going into the long program. She had 53.28 points.
Today was disappointing because that’s not the way I’ve been practicing,” she said, devoid of emotion. “I have higher expectations of myself, and it just didn’t happen.”
Rachael Flatt, who finished seventh, stepped out of a triple flip and flubbed her first combination jump. But it did not ruin her night. Flatt, 16, said she was excited, not nervous, for her first senior-level world championships. She scored 59.30 points.
I was hopping around out back, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool,’ ” said Flatt, who has been studying for her A.P. chemistry test and writing an English paper on “The Great Gatsby” during her down time.
The United States men could rest easy. They secured their three spots for Vancouver on Thursday. Evan Lysacek’s gold medal certainly helped the cause. At 23, he will go into the Olympic year as the gold-medal favorite.
Lysacek skated brilliantly to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” landing eight triple jumps as the crowd roared. He became the first American man in 13 years to hold the world title.
To perform it just how I imagined it hundreds of times and visualized it,” he said, “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

source: via

Himeji-jo - the castle of Himeji

Himeji Castle (姫路城 ,Himeji-jō) is a flatland-mountain Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture and comprising 83 wooden buildings. It is occasionally known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior.

It was registered as the first Japanese National Cultural Treasure by UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Japanese National Cultural Treasure in December, 1993. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan.

Himeji serves as an excellent example of the prototypical Japanese castle, containing many of the defensive and architectural features most associated with Japanese castles. The tall stone foundations, whitewash walls, and organization of the buildings within the complex are standard elements of any Japanese castle, and the site also features many other examples of typical castle design, including gun emplacements and stone-dropping holes.

One of Himeji's most important defensive elements, and perhaps its most famous, is the confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized so as to cause an approaching force to travel in a spiral pattern around the castle on their way into the keep, facing many dead ends. This allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their entire approach. However, Himeji was never attacked in this manner, and so the system remains untested.

Himeji Castle was built in ?. At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1331, Akamatsu Sadanori planned a castle at the base of Mount Himeji, where Akamatsu Norimura had constructed the temple of Shomyoji. After Akamatsu fell during the Kakitsu War, Yamana clan briefly took over planning of the castle; the Akamatsu family took over again following the Ōnin War.
A drawing of the layout of Himeji Castle, with an intricate complex of paths and walls that would prove difficult for besiegers to penetrate and take over.

In 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the badly damaged castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to Ikeda Terumasa who embarked on a nine-year expansion project that brought the castle roughly to its current form. "Only the east gate of one section of the second bailey" survive from the earlier period. The current keep dates from 1601, and the last major addition, the Western Circle, was completed in 1618.

Himeji was one of the last holdouts of the tozama daimyō at the end of the Edo period. It was held by the descendants of Sakai Tadasumi until the Meiji Restoration. In 1868, the new Japanese government sent the Okayama army, under the command of a descendant of Ikeda Terumasa, to shell the castle with blank cartridges and drive its occupiers out.

When the han system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was sold at auction. Its final price was 23 yen (in those days) and in public funds. Himeji was bombed twice in 1945, at the end of World War II. Although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived almost entirely unscathed. Castle restoration efforts began in 1956.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

North Korea places Taepodong-2 missile on launch pad

North Korea has positioned what is believed to be a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile on the launch pad at a facility in Musudanri, sources close to Japan-U.S. relations said Wednesday night. North Korea has said it plans to send a satellite into orbit from the facility between April 4 and 8. But Japan, the United States and South Korea suspect the planned launch may actually be a test-firing of a ballistic missile.

NBC television, quoting U.S. officials, said in its online edition Wednesday that while two stages of the missile can be seen on the launch pad, the top is covered with a shroud supported by a crane. But now that the missile is on the pad, the launch itself could come within a matter of days, NBC said.

North Korea has informed the International Maritime Organization of the plan and warned that the first stage of the rocket will fall into the Sea of Japan while the second stage will fall into the northern Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government also received the information from Pyongyang.

Japan is expected to issue an order for the destruction of debris from the missile in case its planned launch fails.

North Korea launched a Taepodong-1 missile in August 1998, part of which flew over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

A Taepodong-2 missile is believed to have a range of more than 6,000 kilometers. Its test launch in July 2006 apparently ended in failure.

Monday, March 23, 2009

FedEx plane crashes on landing at Narita airport; pilot, co-pilot reported dead

A FedEx cargo aircraft crash landed and burst into flames early Monday morning at Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo, according to airport and police officials. The pilot and copilot were taken to a hospital, and a local TV station reported they were both confirmed dead.

The MD-11 aircraft, Flight 80 from Guangzhou, China, was apparently whipped back up by strong winds when it landed at around 6:50 a.m., according to the Chiba prefectural police.

Local firefighters were seen trying to extinguish the flames.

A local observatory said winds of up to 72 kilometers per hour were blowing in areas around the airport at the time of the accident.

Video footage obtained by NHK showed the plane touching down on its rear wheels and its head hitting the runway as if slammed onto the ground.

The plane bounced and its left wing hit the ground. The plane then flopped over and veered off from the runway with flames bursting from the center of the fuselage.

The cargo plane touched down on Runway A, the longer of the airport’s two runways. The runway, used for accommodating large aircraft, is currently closed, according to the airport office.

Monday, March 09, 2009

maiko performance video in Kyoto

Maiko performance in Kyoto. At Kyoto Kokusai Hotel you can enjoy a maiko performance at 7 pm.
Hotel location: Horikawadori Nijojomae,Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8502

京都国際ホテルは旧福井藩邸跡にあり、二条城や古都の佇まいが一望できます。白鳥が泳ぐ日本庭園…。その池の上にしつらえた特設舞台では舞妓さんが京舞を 披露、華やぎの世界を演出いたします。ロビーでのおしゃべりや記念撮影など舞妓さんとのふれあいもお楽しみいただけます。

Friday, March 06, 2009

Video of Geishas dancing at live-house?

But what is a Geisha nowadays?
There remains some confusion, even within Japan, about the nature of the geisha profession. Geisha are portrayed as prostitutes in much Western popular culture. However, geisha do not engage in paid sex with clients. Their purpose being to entertain their customer, be it by dancing, reciting verse, playing musical instruments, or engaging in light conversation. Geisha engagements may include flirting with men and playful innuendos; however, clients know that nothing more can be expected. In a social style that is common in Japan, men are amused by the illusion of that which is never to be.Geisha have been confused with the high-class courtesans of the Edo period known as oiran, from whom they evolved. Like geisha, oiran wore elaborate hairstyles and white makeup, but oiran tied their obi in the front not, as is commonly thought, for easy removal but, according to anthropologist Liza Dalby, because that was the practice of married women at the time.
During the Edo period, prostitution was legal. Prostitutes such as the oiran worked within walled-in districts licensed by the government. In the seventeenth century, the oiran sometimes employed men called "geisha" to perform at their parties. Therefore, the first geisha were men. In the late eighteenth century, dancing women called "odoriko" and newly popular female "geisha" began entertaining men at banquets in unlicensed districts. Some were apprehended for illegal prostitution and sent to the licensed quarters, where there was a strict distinction between geisha and prostitutes, and the former were forbidden to sell sex. In contrast, "machi geisha", who worked outside the licensed districts, often engaged in illegal prostitution

In 1872, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, the new government passed a law liberating "prostitutes and geisha." The wording of this statute was the subject of controversy. Some officials thought that prostitutes and geisha worked at different ends of the same profession – selling sex – and that all prostitutes should henceforth be called "geisha". In the end, the government decided to maintain a line between the two groups, arguing that "geisha" were more refined and should not be soiled by association with prostitutes.
Also, geisha working in onsen towns such as Atami are dubbed onsen geisha. Onsen geisha have been given a bad reputation due to the prevalence of prostitutes in such towns who market themselves as 'geisha', as well as sordid rumors of dance routines like 'Shallow River' (which involves the 'dancers' lifting the skirts of their kimono higher and higher). In contrast to these 'one-night geisha', the true onsen geisha are in fact competent dancers and musicians. However, the autobiography of Sayo Masuda, an onsen geisha who worked in Nagano Prefecture in the 1930s, reveals that in the past such women were often under intense pressure to sell sex.

"Geisha girls", also known as "panpan girls", were Japanese women who worked as prostitutes during the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan. They almost exclusively serviced American GIs stationed in the country. The term is a mispronunciation of the word geisha. The mispronunciation persists among some westerners.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that these women dressed in kimono and imitated the look of geisha. Americans unfamiliar with the culture of Japan did not know the difference between these costumed prostitutes and actual geisha. Shortly after their arrival in 1945, occupying American GIs are said to have congregated on the Ginza and shouted in unison "We want geesha girls!"

Eventually, the term "geisha girl" became a general word for any female Japanese prostitute or worker in the mizu shobai, and included bar hostesses and streetwalkers.

Geisha girls are speculated by researchers to be largely responsible for the continuing misconception in the West that geisha are prostitutes!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Japan end long wait for Nordic world title

Japan’s men were the shock winners of the Nordic combined team title at the world championships here on Thursday.
The Japanese claimed gold after finishing fifth in the ski jump and winning the cross-country skiing 4×5km relay by the smallest of margins.
Germany finished second with the much-fancied Norwegians third.
In a tight race to the line in the relay, Japan’s team of Yusuke Minato, Taihei Kato, Akito Watabe and Norihoto Kobayashi pipped the Germans by just 0.1 seconds, while Norway finished 3.6 seconds off the pace to take bronze.
Pre-competition favourites Finland suffered the late withdrawal of World Cup leader Anssi Koivuranta and finished eighth, while the United States finished outside the top ten after Bill Demong lost his bib number and was unable to take part in the ski jump.
It was Japan’s first team world championship success since 1995, when the inspirational Kenji Ogiwara was behind his country’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport.
The Nagano native won Olympic team titles in 1992 and 1994 and world team titles in 1993 and 1995.
An individual world champion in 1993 and 1997, Ogiwara dominated the World Cup between 1993 and 1995 before succumbing to the rise of the Finns and the Norwegians and retiring in 2002.
Since then Japan’s Nordic skiers have acquired a reputation for being accomplished ski jumpers but unreliable cross-country skiers.
“The Japanese team has been revived by young skiers who, like me when I was 12 years old, followed the exploits of Ogiwara, Masashi Abe and Takanori Kono. I dreamed about emulating them,” said Kobayashi, the highest ranked Japanese competitor in the world rankings at 22nd.
“We’ve rediscovered how to win. It’s a surprise for us as well, but we made the right choices in terms of tactics and the waxing of our equipment.”