Travel to Japan without leaving home at family-friendly World Trekkers on Feb. 15

Editor’s note: Today’s blog comes to us from Jim Matej from the Okinawa Cultural Association of Texas.

All cultures are marked by their festivals and celebrations. In Okinawa — Japan’s southernmost prefecture — the Buddhist custom of Obon is celebrated every summer and has given rise to Japan’s most internationally recognized performing art: the Eisa dance.

Obon began more than 500 years ago. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. During the three-day event, graves are visited and food offerings are made at temples and household altars, ending with traditional dances called Bon-Odori (Obon dances).

The unique culture of Okinawa was established during the reign of the Ryukyu Kingdom. During that time it was a hub of maritime trade in Southeast and East Asia. This was due, in most part, to a tributary relationship with China’s Ming Dynasty. Ryukyuan ships, often provided by China, traded at ports throughout the region including China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Java, Malacca, Siam, and Sumatra.

See authentic Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko at HMNS' first ever World Trekkers event Feb. 15!With the abolition of clans and the establishment of prefectures during the Meiji Restoration of the 1800s, the Buddhist dances in Okinawa began to transform into Eisa performances. Today, in the local villages and towns of Okinawa, Eisa is still performed in its traditional role as part of the Obon festivities.  The youth of each community gather to form their own Eisa groups. On the last day of Obon, they march through the streets and stop in front of homes to perform a traditional send-off for the visiting ancestors.

Koza City (present-day Okinawa City) began the transformation to modern Eisa dance by establishing the Traditional Okinawan Dance Festival in 1956.  Although held at the same time of year as Obon, this Eisa competition is open to all community Eisa groups in Okinawa. The festival has since evolved into a festival representing the Okinawan culture as a whole.

Okinawan Eisa Dance was brought to the world stage by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko (Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Drums). Since the early 1980s, RMD has elevated this religious and festival dance into a performing art. The choreography is created in Okinawa and is a dynamic blend of traditional Eisa and Karate forms with contemporary influences incorporating both traditional folk music and modern rock music. Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko is now a worldwide organization with chapters throughout Okinawa, Japan, Latin America, and the United States – RMD Texas being one of those.

See authentic Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko at HMNS' first ever World Trekkers event Feb. 15!In traditional Japanese costumes — with Jikatabi’s (calf-high white cloth shoes) flashing and arms swinging in synchronized movement, rhythmically pounding drums — this high-stepping, high-energy drum and dance troupe has performed worldwide, including at venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City.

In 1995, in association with Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, the people of Okinawa incorporated the Eisa dance into a celebration of summer itself. The “Summer Festival in Naha” now has the world’s spotlight shinning on five days of Eisa being performed in the streets of Okinawa’s capitol city. The last day is capped off with the unbelievable “Ten Thousand Eisa Dance Parade.” Up to 10,000 Eisa dancers process down Kokusai Street, lighting up the city with their colorful costumes and jubilant dance, all proud to be part of Okinawa’s most internationally recognized performing art.

Join HMNS for its first-ever World Trekkers festival celebrating the art, culture and cuisine of Japan and see authentic Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performed up-close by RMD-Texas.

World Trekkers will take place in the Grand Hall on Friday, Feb. 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Attendees can opt to buy a passport to track their cultural comprehension through each World Trekker festival, spotlighting Egypt (May 3), France (Aug 9), and Russia (Nov. 15). Tickets are $9 for the public; $7 for members. Click here for more information or here to purchase in advance.

The Times, they are a Changing

There is an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” For the past few months that seems to be a motto of the world.

The unrest in Libya that started with protest has now proceeded into a full civil war. The group of protesters formed a National Council on Feb 26th to give course to the now rebels. It took less than a month for the new national council to become recognized as the legitimate authority in Libya by both a western nation France (which was the first to recognize another regime change in another county, Go France!) and the Arab League, an organization of Arab nations that stretch from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. A few days after that, the UN passed a resolution to establish a no fly zone in Libyan airspace. This means that UN air forces (United States, France, Britain, Quarter, etc) will take any and all action to help protect civilians in the country. This has led to a cease fire which both sides have mostly observed.

Colorful Old Oil Barrels
Creative Commons License photo credit: L.C.Nøttaasen

All this has led not only to tragedy, but also to a sharp decrease in crude oil production. Libya’s production is down from 1,400,000 barrels a day to 400,000 barrels a day. Remember that the world consumes 80,000,000,000 barrels each day and the amount we use goes up by 2% annually.

Is Libya the only reason that energy prices are going up?

No, our times are far too interesting to have just one event going on.

In addition to the ongoing protests in Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, Mother Nature has added her own 2 cents.

On March 11th an earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred off the eastern coast of Japan followed closely by a tsunami. The earthquake was the most powerful to hit Japan and the tsunami crested at 33 feet inside Japan (by the time it reached Chili the waves where down to 6 feet). The damage has caused tens of billions of dollars in damages and tens of thousands of casualties. It also caused major damage to the Fukushima I and II Nuclear Power Plants.

Vogtle nuclear power plant, Georgia, USA
Creative Commons License photo credit: BlatantWorld.com

A fission reactor works by having fuel rods made of uranium, which radiate neutrons and photons. Neutrons bombarding the fuel also helps to accelerate the reaction. Control rods are made of neutron absorbing elements like cadmium. Lowering the control rods closer to the fuel rods slows down the reaction. One type of energy given off by the reaction is heat. Water is used to control the reaction and to transfer the heat to another system to create steam which turns the turbine. The water inside the reactor is kept under pressure to raise its boiling point. If the water, or other coolant/moderator, can not transfer the heat away, it will eventual boil into steam. If the rods are no longer being cooled, then a meltdown (or a core melt accident) can occur. If the core is breached, radioactive steam can be emitted into the atmosphere, where it will be spread by the winds.

All nuclear power plants have back ups to power the cooling cycle. However, the tsunami washed away the emergency diesel generators at Fukushima I and II Nuclear Power Plants. Reactors at Fukushima I have undergone a partial melt down.

So how does all this affect you? (I’m glad you asked)

All the instability and stoppage of crude oil makes the price go up (less supply, more demand). In the short term the price of crude oil has gone down a little because of the disaster in Japan. Japan used its nuclear power plants to generate 11 Gigawatts of electricity (a third of their electricity) so in the near future it will have to import more coal and natural gas to make up the shortfall.

The disaster has also had repercussions around the world. It has caused the United States to put on hold some nuclear plans and reevaluate others. Other countries are also reevaluating their nuclear plans. The Germans have decided to accelerate the decommissioning of their nuclear plants.

So what can you do about it?

The first step, as always to understand the situation, which is one of the reasons you read this blog (the other of course being my good looks and charming personality). The next step is action which you can do by creating an energy plan for your self (what do you leave plugged in, what do you leave on, etc.). There are also innumerable places to help with disaster relief in Japan. Some of which can be found here.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.26.08)

No 296!.....I am NOT a Number..lol..:O)
Creative Commons License photo credit: law_keven

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

According to new analysis of satellite imagery, cows tend to face “moo North” – indicating that they somehow sense Earth’s magnetism.

The goblin shark is so strange-looking – and you can check it out in this video from Japan.

Victory for the caveman! According to new research, Neanderthal technology was no less advanced than early human technology. (So, they didn’t go extinct because they were dumb) Also smarter than you think: goldfish.

Now you can decide for yourself whether CERN is about to destroy the Earth: they’ve published all the techincal details online, at the Journal of Instrumentation, and it’s free to read without a subscription.

What happens when our technology becomes smarter than we are?

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.20.08)

Highway One
Creative Commons License photo credit: billaday

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

With dead zones expanding and a growing continent of plastic – is it too late to save the ocean?

It’s coming! Here’s an update on CERN’s progress as we countdown to the big day (they throw the switch Sept. 10.)

Shipwrecks: not just bad for the boat. New evidence suggests that coral reefs are victims, too.

Shocker: the current mass extinction may not be the only one humans are responsible for.

Japan has mandated that products are printed with information about their carbon footprint. Will people pay attention?

A Chicago man recently passed a tapeworm. A tapeworm that’s taller than he is.

All hail the underdog: the Olympics are full of elite athletes who science says shouldn’t be the best.