Explaining Japan’s disaster to kids and Russian beer to Americans

Japan has a whole lexicon of earthquake and tsunami-related phrases, many of which are collected in the Japan Times by cultural commentator Kaori Shoji.  There is  bōsai zukin (防災頭巾), meaning the protective safety hood that Tokyo children carry with them to school. There are hinanjo (避難所), evacuation facilities that are housing tens of thousands of people made homeless. And most poignantly, there is buji (無事), meaning safe.  That word is made up of the kanji characters mu (無, nothing) and koto (事, incident). As Shoji puts it, “without incident” is “a state we’re all praying for.”

The severity of the quake, and now the radiation threat, are challenging just about every facet of life in the affected areas.  Here’s one challenge: how do you explain the situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station to children?

Video artist Kazuko Hachiya has made an anime about this. His solution is to use the universal kid language of…bodily emissions.  So in his anime, Nuclear Reactor Boy is unwell and flatulent. But he’s not — like his colleague in Chernobyl — actually pooping. Doctors/nuclear scientists give him medicine (boron and seawater) to cool him down and keep him from pooping. But in case he does poop, we can rest assured: he’s wearing a diaper.  See the video here. Or a nice Scottish English version of it here.

This reminds me of one of my daughter’s favorite books, also out of Japan: Everyone Poops . It’s written by one of the country’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators, Taro Gomi. There’s no plot, just a broad range of pooping practises. Endlessly entertaining.

In France, the government is battling newspapers and online outlets over probes into the practices of some politicians. OK, so that happens everywhere to a certain degree. But France, unlike many other Western democracies doesn’t have much of a tradition of investigative or muckracking journalism. The news media is, in the words of one journalist, too deferential to French politicians.  But now, there are new online investigative players, led by Rue89, which has in turn enboldened some of the older news organizations. Investigative probes have uncovered corruption and embarrassed the Sarkozy government

The politicians are pushing back. The government was recently charged with using the French Secret Service against the venerable daily,  Le Monde. And Rue89 is currently the target of five separate lawsuits.

Last thing in the pod: American brewers are reviving a centuries-old type of beer, Russian Imperial Stout. Despite the name, this was originally an 18th century British-brewed beer, which was then exported to Russia. American brewers are  borrowing some of the the notorious figures from Russian history to name their new brews:  The Portsmouth Brewery in Portsmouth, NH once a year offers Kate the Great. The North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, Calif. has been brewing  Old Rasputin stout for 15 years. See a video and a slide show here.

Or, listen to the podcast here.

Photos: Wikicommons, Portsmouth Brewery.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Explaining Japan’s disaster to kids and Russian beer to Americans

  1. Joel Kellogg

    being older now and able to understand exactly what is going on with japan and the natural disaster and aftermath of it, i cant imagine what it would be like for a child in japan in a time such as this. when there is so much going on and no one is telling you exactly whats happening, you just know its not good. the author who created the anime show to explain to kids what is going on with the reactors is brilliant, he created a show that is probably funny to kids, but at the same time it is getting the important information across.

    In the podcast they talked about how political cartoons are all over the events going on in japan. the artists of these cartoons are not just covering the events in japan but the events in libya as well. they are creating cartoons that have elements of all these events in them. i thought it was very cool and clever of the artists to combine these events into single cartoons. it also made me realize all the craziness that is going on in the world right now.

    Joel Kellogg
    CST 229-001n

  2. Jonathan

    The japan earthquake was very devastating. It Displacing tens of thousands of people from their home and even more serious took the lives of so many people. Teaching the younger children who are unaware of how havoc a earthquake in that area can be is very important. I feel like they are making a great stride in doing so by teaching coming up with a glossery of terms that are related to an earthquake.
    I believe coming up with an anime is a excellent way of capturing the attention of the childern. Children in the whole asian community all watch anime and they are very amused by it and its something that can hold their attention for more then 5 minutes. i feel like we could also use Kazuko’s anime in the states as well to edcaute our young ones too because anime is very popular not only in asia but here as well.
    Also in the podcast, they speak about American brewers and Russian beer. This past weekend a group of friends and I went to the Capitol Brewery in Downtown DC and we saw they had a Russian lager on the menu. We were hesitant to try it but one of my friends did give in and try it. I did not know the history of Russian beer and how it was originally a British brewed beer that was import to Russia, needless to say my friend said the Russian beer was not very good.

  3. Tess Carter

    After listening to the podcast, I looked up the video and it was adorable! It was a great way to explain the situation to children in Japan. It is creative, funny, entertaining and memorable. Most importantly, I think it was educational. Children should be somewhat aware of what goes on in the world, especially when certain events can affect them personally. Japan is not the only country that does this. In America, there are frequently animated commercials that are shown between children’s television programs that encourage kids to eat healthy, recycle, exercise, etc. I think there should be more animated shows like this to explain current events to children.

  4. I spent nine years of my life in a country that has been in war for more than thirty years. I still can vision those miserable moments of my life. By then it was hard for me to understand the detail of war, no matter how many times my dad explained to me but still it wouldn’t make sense. Back then there was not much thing available to educate kids. Fortunately and thankfully today we have all kinds of tools in hand to educate our younger one. Children books, cartoons, videos, children program and internet are great source of knowledge.

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