Monday, April 18, 2011

Tsunami Characters

I am reproducing this posting I just saw at AltJapan – a weblog by Matt Alt, a Tokyo-based author and translator. It is something we can all learn when we try to educate the young especially.

Japan has a long history of using cute mascot characters in situations that can surprise Westerners. In fact, quite often the more terrifying or distressing a situation, the cuter the visual description of it becomes on official posters here. This may sound counterintuitive or even a little condescending at first, but when you start thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. Whereas, say, photos of damage or devastation would probably cause people to avert their eyes, this sort of presentation lures people into actually reading the sign – more so with children, as tsunami education needs to start early.

A 2007 poster for tsunami evacuation drills in the Sagami Bay area of Kanagawa prefecture (southwest of Tokyo).

A sign spotted in a Shizuoka suburb, explaining how trees can act as wind and wave breaks.

Of course, there's no way to know how many lives public-service campaigns like this saved in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. But similar to the ancient stone tsunami-warning markers (read my blog posting dated April 14, 2011) dotting the countryside, these cute characters are another example that natural disasters are never far from the minds of people in Japan.

Tsunami-man is one of a series of regional mascots from Shikoku's Kochi prefecture used to teach children about the dangers of earthquakes and tsunami. In fact, this reminds me of the myriad of monsters that Ultraman – a popular character featured in tokusatsu (special effects) television programs – has to battle against in order to save Japan.

Celtic will face Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final after routing semi-final opponents Aberdeen. Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick (49) put Celtic ahead and Joe Ledley's shot (57) doubled their advantage. Kris Commons converted Celtic's spot-kick (63) and finally, substitute Shaun Maloney tapped home the fourth on 84 minutes.

I had mixed feelings about this game between Arsenal and Liverpool – both of whom I am supporting and both teams needing to win. But my heart went out to the latter, and they did well to come back from a goal down to find an equalizer. Robin van Persie slotted in a 98th minute penalty after Jay Spearing brought down Cesc Fabregas and then four minutes later, Emmanuel Eboue fouled Lucas Leiva to allow Dirk Kuyt to grab a Reds equalizer from the spot.

So the 1-1 score, I suppose, was fair. As for Arsenal, they had their chances in earlier games but screwed up big-time. It may be too late to play catch-up with Manchester United. The Gunners are now six points behind Manchester United with six games left.

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