Friday, August 27, 2010

Atomic tuna & Godzilla

While we were in Tokyo last week, I was able to visit the resting place of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru -- or Lucky Dragon the 5th. This Japanese fishing ship was damaged in the fallout of the United States' H-bomb explosion on March 1, 1954 in the Bikini Atoll. The bomb was the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated by the United States.

When the test was held, the ship was outside the "danger zone" established by the U.S. military and 100 miles form the test site. But the bomb tested was twice as powerful as expected (and 1,000 times the strength of the bomb used in Hiroshima). The fisherman were exposed to nuclear radiation as "death ashes" fell from the sky for several hours while they tried to retrieve their fishing gear from the sea.

Upon returning to Tokyo, the fisherman complained of burns, headaches, pain their eyes and other symptoms of radiation poisoning. The chief radio operator died six months later from blood and liver damage. The rest of the 23-man crew were hospitalized for a year.

The Daigo Fukuryu tragedy sparked a global anti-nuke movement and inspired a series of famous monster movies in Japan -- starting with "Godzilla" which came out later that year.

Here's some photos of the Daigo Fukuryu and the nuclear museum in Tokyo.

The Daigo Fukuryu in its current home in southeast Tokyo.

Chains of origami cranes for peace.

Some articles on board the Daigo Fukuryu melted after the blast.

Atomic tuna. In addition to the Daigo Fukuryu, 856 smaller Japanese boats were affected by the blast and ensuing radioactive rain. In all, 485 tons of tuna had to be discarded because of nuclear contamination from the Bikini blasts.

"Death ash" made up of radioactive coral found on board the Daigo Fukuryu after the Bikini atomic tests.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tokyo in August

We just got back from our mini-vacation to Tokyo. I was there four nights and Mike came for the last two nights.

In addition to getting my new Korean visa and doing an interview for Radio Netherlands, we managed to see shrines, the Imperial Palace, several markets and a boatload of Hello Kitty-themed creations.

We also had some of the best sushi we've ever tasted (at the Tsukiji Fish Market), the best Western-style tea service in recent memory (at the Darjeeling in Azabu-juban), and the best locally brewed beer in Asia (Yebisu and Kirin products).

Here's some highlights of our trip:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Storms and Nine-Tailed Foxes

Well, judging from the lack of updates over the last month it's probably obvious we've settled into our new neighborhood quite nicely (our place is definitely losing that new apartment smell).  The last couple weeks in Seoul have been hot, rainy, and muggy, too -- not the best combination for going outside -- so I've been avoiding the outdoors as much as possible, aside from opening up the windows to watch the pouring rain and listen to the amazing thunderstorms that have been going on recently.  I don't know if it's just in my head but living higher up makes the thunder and lightning feel a lot closer than ever before.  And the sound... just incredible.  Here's a sample (listen for the multiple reverberations):

We had my uncle's family over on Friday night for the first in what will hopefully be a series of housewarming parties, or 집들이.  Space is a premium in most Korean homes (present company included) so it's common to invite people in separate groups rather than throwing a huge blowout with all your friends at once, which I'm sure our neighbors would hate us for doing.  Anyway, Nissa and I did taco night with my aunt, uncle, and cousins because good Mexican food is so hard to find in this town.  They seemed to like it and the food turned out to be a great conversation piece for the evening (e.g. "What is this called?", "How do you eat this?", and "How many of these would an American eat?")

The other discussion of the night was about a new horror drama that started on KBS last week called "구미호", or "Nine-Tailed Fox".  It's based on a traditional folk tale about a young girl who comes back from the dead to inhabit the body of her half-sister and avenge her own murder.  The dead girl's mother is this werewolf-type character with superpowers like jumping up into trees and ripping people's hearts out with her bare hand, and she just told her dead daughter (in the body of this other girl) that she, too, will become a werewolf in a few years, though I don't know how that would work physiologically since it is just the spirit of the dead girl that has survived and the girl's body she has inhabited is from a different, human mother... Anyway, we're into it, and the cousins have been watching it as well and helped fill in some of the gaps for us (I've been translating the show for Nissa when we watch it and when I can't understand what people are saying we've been piecing the plot together with some guesswork... as you can imagine it gets pretty campy so that hasn't been too difficult). 

Summer is the season for horror in Korea -- they say it helps chill you to the bone -- and apparently this is the year of the Nine-Tailed Fox because there is another version of the same story airing on another network simultaneously with the one we've been watching.  Talk about cannibalizing your viewership (Ironically, though, part of the story revolves around the idea that eating the liver of a young, healthy child can cure you of illness, so maybe there is method to the madness).

On another note, I should mention today is the 65th Anniversary of Korean Liberation Day, when Korea was freed from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II.  Google did a nice job of marking the date on its homepage:

And speaking of Japan, Nissa's gotta make another visa run to Tokyo this week so we're making a trip out of it.  Rhee & Rhee are going to Japan!  More to come...