Japan Video Topics 2014-12 (DVD)

Prepared for Disaster

During its long history of earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis, Japan developed many techniques for surviving and recovering from natural disasters. We see examples from a high-rise building incorporating state-of-the-art seismic-resistant technologies to a folding bridge that deploys in just 10 minutes to restore vital lifelines. Japan plays an active role in international initiatives to minimize disaster damage – it contributed to the development of the international framework for disaster risk reduction, and hosts UN conferences on the issue.



The Japanese Love of Sound

The Japanese have always had a special sensitivity to the sounds of nature, something evident in many old customs that are still common. Insect song and other sounds from nature are used to evoke feelings of the season, while gardens still feature often traditional devices like the shishiodoshi and suikinkutsu to recreate natural sounds. It may be the history and culture of the tea ceremony, with its emphasis on the awareness of natural sounds, that made this part of the Japanese character.



Kisoji-The Old Mountain Road

The Nakasendo is a very old trade route through the central mountains of Japan, connecting Kyoto in the west to Tokyo in the east. The section that best retains the flavor of the past is called the Kisoji – a mountainous stretch containing 11 old post stations. A popular tourist destination, these small towns look much as they did in their heyday, their streets lined with historic wooden buildings. We see the unique scenery of this treacherous landscape, and the way the post stations prospered, blessed by their mountain environment.


The Spirit of Mottainai

Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmentalist Wangari Maathai was so impressed by the philosophy of mottainai that she made it her mission to popularize the word worldwide. This is a traditional expression that indicates both regret at wasting or misusing anything that still has value, and shows respect and gratitude for material things. We see how, from the continuing popularity of traditional rag-weaving techniques to recycling efforts based on the latest technology, the spirit of mottainai still permeates Japanese society today.


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