News Overflow: Japan-based freelance writer clogs the news drain

I live in Osaka, Japan and write about food and agriculture, stocks, travel and whatever strikes my fickle fancy. This is a grab-bag of on-site photos and observations, along with my very expert opinion. Frankly, this is where I put what my editors don't use. When I clog the news drain, this is where the mess lands.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Processed products popular at Japanese trade shows

Trade shows are a good place to see novel processed seafood products, and there have been two recent shows in Japan from which to glean promising items.

The Seafood and Technology Expo Osaka was held 21-22 February. The show is held annually in both Tokyo and Osaka, with the Tokyo show, held in August, being the larger. This year’s Osaka show had about 200 booths, but was combined with the Agrifood Expo, a show featuring regional food specialties, to bring the total to 500 booths. Most attendees of this show hail from Western Japan and the focus is mostly on domestic products.

The FOODEX show held 5-7 March at Makuhari Messe near Tokyo, and open only to those in trade, is the largest food show in Asia, with 2,544 exhibiting companies from 66 countries (if you choose to call Taiwan a country) and 75,000 visitors. Japanese seafoods were in a dedicated seafood area of the domestic zone, while other seafood was scattered about in the various country pavilions of the international zone.

There are, of course, different definitions of “processed”. Fillets are processed when compared with fish in the round. But here we refer to items that are not simply raw fish. Some are cooked, some filleted and marinated; all can be directly eaten or put in the pan or on the grill without further flavoring or preparation. They reflect a desire by Japanese and overseas exporters alike to add value and increase profit, and they address two of the major reasons that Japanese are eating less fish these days: women no longer want to clean and prepare fish at home, and children don’t like to deal with fish bones.

The common point among these products is that they were receiving good buyer interest at the shows.

Hogushimi is a cooked and flaked fish product, somewhat like a drier, saltier version of flaked tuna. In Japan, lightly salted salmon hogushimi is often sold in jars for use in onigiri (rice balls) or as a topping for the rice in a bento lunch box. Salmon is a well-known hogushimi material, but Akafusa Shokuhin Corp. has newly introduced yellowtail and Arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus, or “hokke” in Japanese) hogushimi. At the Seafood & Technology Expo, they were sampling it in ochazuke (rice in hot green tea). They also recommend it in fried rice and hand-rolled sushi. Their retail pack is in 80 gram jars, while 500 gram vacuum bags are offered for the food service trade. The Kessanuma-based company trialed the products before the earthquake and tsunami, and they are now promoting them while producing them in a borrowed factory space.



Shellfish are the specialty of Aichi Foods, based in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture and large clams with sake and green onion frozen on the half-shell are their hit product. The clam is “uchimurasakigai” (Saxidomus purpurata). To serve, the frozen halfshell can be placed directly on a grill, and will soon be bubbling hot. The company was established just two years ago, and its appearance at the Seafood and Technology expo was only its second. They also sell the meats separately from shells.




Exhibiting at both the Seafood and Technology Expo and FOODEX, Maple Foods is a Tokyo-based importer of original processed seafoods, mostly from Vietnam. Among the many products they were promoting was “Saku Saku Vietnam-fu Harumaki”(crunchy Vietnam-style spring rolls) containing shrimp, which use a web-like rice noodle wrapping.



Another popular product from the same company, “Kani Boy” is the picked meat of a Vietnamese swimming crab, filled back into the crab shell. It can also be conveniently grilled in the shell, making a good presentation. It is available in 5 sizes: 30, 40, 50, 70 or 100 grams. This product was Maple Foods’ original development (their package claims it’s patented), but it is recently being copied by others as it gains popularity.

Also at FOODEX, Asia Commerce Fisheries JSC was offering several new marinades and breading styles for pangasius: brata breaded (Western-style breading), panko breaded, lemongrass-chili marinade and BBQ marinade, in addition to plain fillets. The company is based in Dong Thap province, in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It has exported to the EU for two years and is hoping to begin sales in Japan.



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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shanksville Memorial

Far from the throne of finance


And the court of intrigue


Little would we expect momentous events to occur here


Shanksville’s scarred earth lay at the convergence of the elements


Ending its bucolic isolation



Flames of intended fury


Loosened our restraint


Avenging their crime, our leaders charged boldly


Gaining the spoils of victory

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Greene planted to stir up white vote for SC governor's race?

Here’s my take on the upset South Carolina primary election victories of “Democrats” Alvin M. Greene (for US Senate, to face incumbent Jim DeMint-R) and Ben Fraiser (in the 1st US Congressional District, to face somebody-R). Yes, both are plants, and it has nothing to do with DeMint, who is a shoe-in.

In South Carolina, voters can cast votes in either party’s primary, even if registered to a different party. It’s likely that a number of Republicans crossed over (on plan) to support the black Democrats to rile up racist sentiment among white Republicans. This might be found out by checking whether the Democratic turnout was unusually high in the 1st District.

Both candidates are black, and neither has a realistic chance to win the general election, so the purpose was likely to raise white voter turnout for another contest, as in the case of GOP operative Rod Shealy. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who called for an investigation, said that a felony obscenity charge against Greene reminded him of that 1990 case.

The Senate race, because it is high profile, will get lots of coverage, riling whites who will be eager to express displeasure at a black man accused of showing dirty pictures to a young white girl. The 1st district was no-doubt chosen because it will be important to raise the white turnout in this key district which includes Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Though candidate Frasier has long been seen as a GOP-supported thorn-in-the-side for the Democratic Party, forcing them to expend funds on the primary battle, only this year has he gotten even close to winning.

So, who has a stake in a large white (and race agitated) turnout? My guess is that this is tied to the contest between Republican Congressman J. Gresham Barrett and both his primary and general election opponents for the governorship.

In the primary, which he probably expected to win, he ended up facing State House member Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa Haley, daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants, in a run-off. In the general, he faces a Lebanese-American, State Senator Vincent Sheheen. A large turnout of whites angry with people of other races bodes well for Barrett, both for the impending run-off and for the general. We can expect to see news stories playing up the prospect of voters having to choose between an Indian and a Lebanese for governor if Barrett loses the primary. Much will be made of the Bobby Jindal comparison.

Barrett is already under a cloud for the “Chambergate” campaign funds scandal, in which it appears that Myrtle Beach tourism businesses, through their Chamber of Commerce, funded the elections of legislators who supported a local 1% rise in sales tax that will in large part go back to the Chamber for promotion of the member businesses. A quid pro quo is suspected.

Additionally, Republican consultant Mike Green was arrested and testified to police that he was paid by campaign firm Starboard Communications to create problems at a private party for mayoral candidate Mark McBride. Green was arrested for trespassing at the bar in Myrtle Beach where the event was being held. Green was acting in support of incumbent Mayor John Rhodes, who was re-elected.

Starboard’s president has a prior felony conviction for campaign violations, and Barrett is also a Starboard client. Dirty tricks have already been used in the governor race, with accusations of a sexual affair by Haley, but this apparently backfired, as voters were repulsed by the mud-throwing.
The scent is getting warm. I mark Barrett as the beneficiary of the mysterious election of Alvin Greene.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ikejime in action

This is in response to Dave Arnold at "Cooking Issues" blog, who gives a very detailed report on the Japanese practice of ikejime, a bleeding technique for fish. That is, it's for humans to use on fish.

In Japan, I usually see the abbreviated version, which only involves inserting a knife at the gills to cut an artery. Then, the fish is immediately moved to ice water.

These photos are from a trip to an aquaculture site at Hiburi Island near Uwajima on Shikoku Island. The fish are sea bream (madai), not to be confused with snapper. (Americans tend to call any reddish fish a snapper!)
Scroll on down to see all the shots: the harvesting, the night of the long knives (but no steel rod up the wazoo), and some fishies getting dropped in the ice bath...
Chris













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Friday, October 16, 2009

Three Stories about Ill-mannered Children

Here are three tales about three children—three children with bad manners—two who suffered the consequences of their actions and changed their ways, and a third who, through sheer luck, gained from his badness and never changed his ways.

Natalie Schmeerer – a facemaker

The first was a pretty little face-making girl. Her name was Natalie Schmeerer, and most of the time she was a sweet girl with a sweet face. But around her brother she turned very nasty.

If her brother had a piece of candy, Natalie thought she should have two. If her brother drew a wonderful picture, Natalie would cross it out with black ink. And if her brother stuck out his tongue, Natalie would try to make the nastiest face in the world.

She would pull down the skin around her eyes so that her eyeballs looked huge and round. She would flip her ears forward and stretch out her cheeks, and put her tongue out farther than a tongue is supposed to go.

Her mother, who was a reasonable woman with good manners, told Natalie, “You’d better be careful, or your face will get stuck like that,” but Natalie never paid attention when her mother said that.

Of course, we all know that minding your mother is the first and most important rule of good manners, so Natalie shouldn’t have been surprised when the very next time she made a face, she stretched her skin so far that it wouldn’t go back. Her face was stuck in the nastiest, ugliest pose that any face-maker has ever made!

Well, that’s what happens to nasty little face-making girls, so there’s no sense in feeling sorry for her. But, I will say, Natalie became a much nicer girl after that, especially around her brother, because after her face turned so horrible, all of her friends told her she was ugly and wouldn’t play with her, but her brother said, “I’m used to it because she was always making that face at me anyway.” So, he didn’t care, and he invited her to eat candy and draw pictures together. Natalie started to like her brother and became a very nice girl.

With expensive cosmetic surgery, she was able to get most of her pretty looks back, except that her left ear stuck out more than her right, and her tongue would sometimes hang down around her chin.

She made new friends, and when she grew up, she married a very good man who appreciated how nice she was, despite her slightly odd-looking face.

A Rooster (White Leghorn) and his victim, Samuel, a tongue sticker-outer

The next story in this trilogy of rotten kids is about Samuel—an irrepressible tongue sticker-outer. Unlike Natalie, Samuel did not get his face stuck, but something almost as bad happened to him, and like Natalie, it came from not listening to the good advice of his mother.

Samuel did not have a brother. He liked to stick his tongue out at everyone—people in passing cars, strangers, his parent’s friends… Why, sometimes he even went to the mirror and stuck out his tongue at himself! What a rotten tongue sticker-outer he was!

And when his mother warned him, “Samuel, you rotten child, if you don’t stop it, a rooster will land on your tongue!” he pooh-poohed her good advice and stuck his tongue out at his mother. Well, in fact, a rooster did not land on his tongue at that moment, but he did get a spanking with a wooden spoon, and was sent to his room for two hours.

The next day, however, as he was walking to school, he was sticking his tongue out at nobody, just for practice, when a rooster (that had been standing beside the road waiting to cross—which is what chicken’s do in their spare time) flew into the air and landed right on Samuel’s tongue! It perched there for one whole day, grasping tightly with its scaly toes, which made Samuel very uncomfortable. At school everyone laughed at Samuel, and the rooster left unsightly rooster droppings on Samuel’s shirt and desk. Samuel was afraid the rooster would lay eggs on his tongue too—but that didn’t happen, because rooster are boy chickens and only hens lay eggs.

The rooster finally got tired of sitting on Samuel’s tongue and flew away, which was a great relief to Samuel. That rotten tongue sticker-outer stopped sticking out his tongue and didn’t have any more trouble with his face, except for one incident a couple of years later when he stuck a rock up his nose and his mother had to take him to the doctor to remove it. Well, “live and learn” they say.
As does the child, does the man

Speaking of noses, our next story is about a boy, whom we will just call “Nose-picker boy” because he is now a famous full-grown man, and I wouldn’t want to embarrass him by telling his real name. Nose-picker boy always had his finger up his nose, worming around for boogers. He picked and probed so aggressively that one day his father asked him, “Digging for gold, eh, Nose-picker Boy?”

“That’s right!” Nose-picker Boy joked back, but then he got the idea that there might really be gold up his nose, and he picked all the harder! Sure enough, on the following Friday, he dug out a beautiful large nugget, worth over seventeen-thousand dollars.

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” his father said when Nose-picker Boy showed him the nugget of nose gold. They took it to a bullion dealer and sold it for $17,412.

Then, they invested the money in shares of undervalued small-cap companies. By the time this ardent nose-picker was 18, he was a millionaire, and today, through good connections in government, he has become a billionaire.

But, although he has more money than anyone needs, he continues to pick his nose. He never learned his lesson, and everyone he knows thinks he is a gross pig with no manners. He married a woman who only wants his money and who can’t stand to be around him—because of his terrible unsanitary habits. He has few friends.

In the end, through his stroke of luck and some good investment advice from his father this Nose-picker Boy has become a lonely, albeit rich, Nose-picker Man.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The back and forth of a job

Usually, I can't show my customers' jobs on the web, because they are all covered by confidentiality agreements. But recently, I asked one of the translators I work with to do a translation job for me and I proofread it myself. So, I will post the progression of this job here.

This is the Japanese news release about a "Seafood Corner" in the FOODEX trade show.

プレスリリースVol.5
2 0 0 9 年2 月1 7 日
報道関係者各位
【水産物・水産加工食材コーナー】を新設、魚の魅力、信用性を提案
~つなげよう、港から食卓まで~水産物でより豊かな食生活!
社団法人日本能率協会(会長:富坂良雄)は、関連5団体の共催で食品・飲料専門展示会「FOODEX
JAPAN2009/ 第34回国際・飲料展」を、2009年3月3日(火)~6日(金)の4日間、千葉県・
幕張メッセにおいて開催する。アジア最大の食品・飲料専門展示会には、世界60カ国・約2,300社が出
展する“食”業界必見のイベント。
本展では、日本の食文化に欠かせない「水産物・水産加工商材」にスポットをあてた特設コーナー
【『水産物・水産加工食材コーナー』】を開設する。
漁獲量の減少下、いままでフォーカスされていなかった魚の利用、発掘・新加工食の開発が急がれている中、
展示コンセプトを「~つなげよう、港から食卓まで~水産物でより豊かな食生活!」に設定。より豊かな食生
活のための先進的かつ埋もれた水産商材の発掘、流通や経路の改善・拡大に寄与することを目的に展示・情報
発信を行う。
本コーナー内の注目展示企画が「FOODEX FISH MARKET」。
水産物は、飲食業や小売業にとって他社との差異化をはかる重要な商材・コンテンツである。本企画を通じ
て日本の食文化を古くから支えてきた魚食の魅力を再認識する機会となることを狙いとする。
《新魚や新調理法で差異化。各地域の仲買人と連動した地域らしい魚や地域ならではの食べ方の喚起》
全国組織の「鮮魚の達人協会」の協力のもと各種水産商材を扱う企業が選りすぐりの鮮魚を中心とした一押
し商材を一堂に展示。まだ知られていない魚種や新しい食べ方の紹介を通じ、来場する飲食業・小売業バイヤ
ーに対して具体的に他社との差異化を図る実践的な提案を行う。各地の地域独自の魚、地域ならでは食べ方を
提案。具体的な食べ方提案として、土佐清水や沼津の比較的深い海で揚がる未利用魚。名前の知られていない
安価な魚を、煮付け、刺身に落とし込む料理を即興で見せる。今まで水揚地域でしか流通せず、ビールのつま
み程度でしかなかったシラスに混じった小さいスルメイカを、イタリアンのぺペロンチーノに応用。ごく一部
の地域でしか食されなかったサメを、和食の煮付け、焼き物用の商材として紹介。加工品では、徳島ではコン
ビニにも置かれる小魚をミンチにして揚げたカレー味の「フィッシュカツ」などを紹介。さらに、『産地市場』
を中心とした自地域内での流通だけでなく、有機的に各地域の仲買人が連動することで、それぞれの地域で食
べる魚の種類を増やし、流通構造の改善、消費拡大させる具体的構図を紹介。
1/2
《日本の台所「築地」情報》
消費市場の代表格「築地」。加工食の観点から築地ならではの品揃えを生かした提案を行う。世界で一番多
く魚介類の素材を扱う築地市場。日々変化する消費動向と産地情報の接点を活かし「価値ある加工食品」のヒ
ントが生まれ、多くの商品提案が行われている。築地内で加工食部門の商材を扱うセリ人が一番多い卸会社・
千代田水産と目利きのプロである仲買人が一緒になっての本邦初の「変化を先取りする価値ある加工食品の紹
介」や、「貴社のオリジナル商品開発の提案」を実施予定。
―以上―
問い合わせ先
FOODEX JAPAN 2009 事務局
社団法人日本能率協会 産業振興本部内
〒105-8522 東京都港区芝公園3-1-22 TEL:03-3434-3453 FAX:03-3434-8076
担当:箱崎



The Japanese translator produced this version.

The 34th International Food and Beverage Exhibition
FOODEX JAPAN 2009


New exhibition booth, “Sea Food and Marine Processed Food Materials” proposes the attraction of eating fish and its reliability.

“Let’s connect the fishing port and the dining table for our richer and healthier food life with sea food!”

Japan Management Association (Chairman: Mr. Yoshio Tomisaka) and its related 5 associations are jointly going to hold the 34th International Food and Beverage Exhibition, FOODEX JAPAN 2009 for 4days from March 3(Tues.) to 6(Fri.) inclusive at Makuhari Messe, Chiba Prefecture. About 2,300 exhibitors from 60 countries in the world will participate in this largest food and beverage exhibition in Asia. This is the exhibition that people in the “food” industry must visit.

This exhibition will have a special exhibition booth “Sea Food and Marine Processed Food Materials”, focusing on “Sea food and Marine processed products” that are indispensable in the Japan’s food culture.

The exhibition concept “Let’s connect the fishing port and the dining table for our richer and healthier life with sea food!” has been set in the days of reduced fish catch and of the urgent need to find and promote the new fish that have not been focused and also to develop new processed food. This exhibition will provide information in our efforts to find the new marine processed food materials for our richer and healthier food life and to contribute for the improvement and expansion of the distribution channels.

“FOODEX FISH MARKET” is the specially-designed program in this booth.
Sea food is very important merchandise by which people in the food and restaurant businesses can differentiate their business from other competitors. In this special program, we aim to offer a new opportunity to re-acknowledge the attraction of eating fish that has been in the basis of Japan’s food culture.

“Differentiation by new fish and new cooking style”
“Proposal of local fish and cooking style in cooperation with local dealers”
With the cooperation of nationally-organized “Association of Fresh Fish Experts”, exhibitors handling various marine products will exhibit the recommendable products featuring extremely-fresh fish. Through the introduction of not-yet known fish and the new cooking style, they will make practical proposals to the restaurant owners and retail buyers for the differentiation of their business from other competitors. They will show their local fish and cooking style that cannot be found elsewhere. As one of the concrete proposals to eat fish, they will show the fish that are caught in the relatively deep waters such as in Toshashimizu and Numazu. They will show on the spot how to cook the unknown and cheap fish by “Nitsuke” style (boiling with Soy sauce and sugar) or by Sashimi style. Little dried squid and little fish that had been marketed within their own port areas and served as garniture with beer can now be used for the Italian cooking “Peperoncino”. Sharks that had been eaten in a limited area only will be introduced as the food material for Japanese “Nitsuke” style and roasting. As a processed food, small fish sold at convenience stores in Tokushima prefecture will be minced and introduced as deep-fried “Fish cutlet” with curry flavor. Furthermore, concrete plans to improve the current distribution network and to expand the consumption by increasing the types of fish sold in each area by the closer cooperation of dealers in each area as well as by the distribution in each area’s market based on “Own market”.

Japan’s kitchen “Tsukiji” information
“Tsukiji” is the representative market in the Japanese consumers’ market.
From the point of processed food, there will be proposals that can be made only by Tsukiji due to its wide variety of materials. Tsukiji market handles the greatest kinds of fish and shellfish in the world. It is a point of contact for ever-changing consumers’ trends and market information. In Tsukiji, various suggestions and proposals for “Valuable processed food” are made to produce a lot of merchandise. The wholesaler, “Chiyoda Suisan” with the greatest number of auctioneers handling only the materials in the processed food section in Tsukiji, and the professional brokers will introduce “Valuable processed food ahead of market change” and propose “How to develop your own original products”

Contact for information:
FOODEX JAPAN 2009 Office
Industry Promotion Division,
Japan Marketing Association
3-1-22 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku
Tokyo 105-8522
Tel. 03-3434-3453
Fax 03-3434-8076
Contact Person: Mr. Hakozaki

I corrected it to the following version.

The 34th International Food and Beverage Exhibition
FOODEX JAPAN 2009


A new exhibition corner, “Seafood and Processed Marine Food Ingredients” promotes attractive and safe fish.

“Direct from port to table—a healthy seafood diet!”

The Japan Management Association (Chairman: Mr. Yoshio Tomisaka) and five related associations will jointly hold the 34th International Food and Beverage Exhibition, FOODEX JAPAN 2009 for four days from March 3 (Tues.) to 6 (Fri.) inclusive at Makuhari Messe, in Chiba Prefecture. About 2,300 exhibitors from 60 countries will participate in this largest food and beverage exhibition in Asia. This is the “must-see” exhibition for people in the food industry.

This exhibition will have a special exhibition corner focusing on the “Seafood and Processed Marine Food Ingredients” that are indispensable in Japan’s food culture.

The exhibition concept “Direct from port to table—a healthy seafood diet!” has been set to reflect the reduced fish catch and the urgent need to find and promote new fish that have not been focused on, and also to develop new processed foods. This exhibition will provide information on our efforts to find new marine processed food materials for a richer and healthier diet and to contribute to improvement and expansion of distribution channels.

“FOODEX FISH MARKET” is a specially-designed program in this corner.
Seafood is very important merchandise by which people in the food and restaurant businesses can differentiate their business from competitors. In this special program, we aim to re-acknowledge the attraction of eating fish that has been the basis of Japan’s food culture.

“Differentiation by new fish and new cooking styles”
“Proposing local fish and cooking styles in cooperation with local dealers”
With the cooperation of the nationally organized Association of Fresh Fish Experts, exhibitors handling various marine products will exhibit recommended products featuring extremely fresh fish. Through the introduction of little-known fish and new cooking styles, they will make practical proposals to restaurant owners and retail buyers to differentiate their businesses from competitors. They will show local fish and cooking styles that cannot be found elsewhere. As a concrete proposal to promote fish consumption, they will show fish that are caught in relatively deep waters such as off Tosashimizu and Numazu. They will show, on the spot, how to cook unknown and cheap fish in the nitsuke style (boiling with soy sauce and sugar) or in sashimi style. Small dried squid and small fish that had been marketed only within their own port areas and served as snacks with beer can now be used for the Italian cooking style peperoncino. Sharks that had been eaten in a limited area only will be introduced as a food material for Japanese nitsuke style cooking and grilling. As a processed food, small fish sold at convenience stores in Tokushima Prefecture will be minced and introduced as deep-fried fish cutlet with curry flavor. Furthermore, concrete plans will be promoted to improve the current distribution network and to expand consumption by increasing the types of fish sold in each area through closer cooperation of dealers in each area, as well as through local distribution.

Information on “Japan’s kitchen”—Tsukiji
“Tsukiji” is Japan’s representative fish market. Regarding processed food, there are proposals that can be made only by Tsukiji, due to its wide variety of materials. The Tsukiji market handles the largest variety of fish and shellfish in the world. It is a point of contact for ever-changing consumer trends and market information. In Tsukiji, various suggestions and proposals for valuable processed food are made, to produce a huge variety of merchandise. A wholesaler, Chiyoda Suisan (with the greatest number of auctioneers handling materials in the processed food section in Tsukiji) and professional brokers will introduce valuable processed foods at the cutting edge of market trends, and teach how to develop original products.

Contact for information:
FOODEX JAPAN 2009 Office
Industry Promotion Division,
Japan Marketing Association
3-1-22 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku
Tokyo 105-8522
Tel. 03-3434-3453
Fax 03-3434-8076
Contact Person: Mr. Hakozaki


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Friday, October 24, 2008

If an earthquake occurs in the forest…

Are you familiar with the philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”

A person at the website WikiAnswers tried to answer this by saying that everything that vibrates the air creates the potential for sound, regardless of who is there to perceive it. If nobody is there to perceive it, then it would not exist as sound, only vibration.

In Japan, particularly in the Kansai area, which includes Kobe, there is much discussion of earthquakes. I often encounter translations about the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and earthquake preparedness. You can also find this earthquake called the “Hyogo-ken Nanbu Earthquake”.

[“Hyogo-ken Nanbu” means southern Hyogo Prefecture, and “Hanshin” is the area between Kobe and Osaka, inclusive]

There are a few funny tales about the quake. A Japanese friend in Kobe reported that seconds before the big shaking started he heard a sound like a sonic boom. But he assumed his aged mother had clogged the upstairs toilet again, and that she had probably finally broken it!

A Canadian friend flew into the Osaka Airport in Itami on the day and found it deserted. No immigration, no customs…all evacuated.

I was in the US at the time with my wife, while her parents were living in the quake zone. We couldn’t reach them for three days because the lines were overloaded. But finally we did reach them. They picked up the upstairs phone, except now it was the downstairs phone. The first floor had folded like a house of cards, while the second landed intact on top of it!

Americans probably know the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake simply as the “Kobe Earthquake”, and at first it seemed like that is what it would be called in Japan too, but then people from the nearby cities and towns, like Nishinomiya City and Awaji Island pointed out that their towns were also flattened and they’d like to be mentioned too.

For example, in Nishinomiya City, where I once lived, the following damages occurred from the 1995 quake:
Deaths 1,104
Damaged homes 61,238
Evacuees 44,351
Fires 41

[There are some excellent damage photos here.]

As a proofreader, I generally prefer a short word to a long one, but I don’t mind giving the poor folks in Nishinomiya and Awaji and other local towns their due. They suffered enough to deserve the mention. So, I can go along with the wordier name.

But when I get translations to proofread about this event, I often feel the wording of the translations is odd, because the text discusses both the “Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake” itself, and the subsequent “Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Disaster”.

I find myself thinking, “An earthquake is a disaster.” We even call it a “natural disaster”, so why separate the two? And now this “Kobe Earthquake” has grown to a five-word label!

Are the Japanese translators correct in adding “disaster”, and in separating the earthquake event from the following disaster? To answer that, we must come back to the philosophical question, slightly revised: If an earthquake occurs and nothing is damaged, is it a disaster?

The answer is similar: If nothing is there to be damaged, then it would not exist as a disaster, only as a vibration. The translators are correct in separating the two.

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