Category Archives: Japan

The World in the First Half of the 20th Century


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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In the first half of the 20th century, four flagrant men with their competing egos drove almost the entire human race to the brink of extinction with their charismatic personalities and grandiose visions.

The four, deemed notorious, are:

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin

Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini

Adolf Hitler

 Adolf Hitler

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo

  • Joseph Stalin – General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from April 3, 1922, to October 16, 1952.
  • Benito Mussolini, leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country as Prime Minister from 1922 until his ousting in 1943.
  • Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945.
  • Hideki Tojo, who was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan from October 17, 1941, to July 22, 1944.

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The Communists of Russia

 

Communist symbol

The Russian Revolution of 1905 is considered the major factor that led to the February Revolutions of 1917. This series of revolutions, collectively known as the Russian Revolution, led to the creation of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR) after demolishing the Tsarist autocracy.

The first Russian revolution in February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar since the old Julian calendar was in use in Russia at that time) focused around Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). The February Revolution took place in the context of heavy military setbacks during the First World War (1914–18), which left much of the Russian army in a state of mutiny. The army leadership felt they did not have the means to suppress the revolution and Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, abdicated. During the chaos, members of the Imperial Parliament or Duma assumed control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government. The Soviets (workers’ councils), which were led by more radical socialist factions, initially permitted the Provisional Government to rule but insisted on a prerogative to influence the government and control various militias.

During the second Russian revolution in October (November in the Gregorian calendar) 1917, the Provisional Government in Petrograd was overthrown by the Bolshevik (communist) party, led by the revolutionary, politician and political theorist Vladimir Lenin, and the workers’ Soviets. The Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders of various government ministries and seized control of the countryside.

Joseph Stalin was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was named the general secretary of the party’s Central Committee in 1922. Following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin, he managed to consolidate power while eliminating any opposition. By the late 1920s, he was the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union.

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The Fascists of Italy

 

Fascism was a unique radical force that emerged in Italy in 1919. It had no clear predecessor, but developed out of World War I. Fascism in Italy was the offshoot of two other movements: nationalism and syndicalism.

Angered by Italy’s treatment after World War I, the nationalists, combined the idea of a class struggle with that of national struggle; and the syndicalists postulated that economic life in Italy should be governed by groups representing the workers in various industries and crafts. Italy was a proletarian nation, they said, and to win a greater share of the world’s wealth, all of Italy’s classes must unite.

Benito Mussolini, Mussolini was a syndicalist who turned nationalist during World War I.

Originally Mussolini was a revolutionary Socialist, and editor of “Avanti” (Forward) the socialist newspaper. He was later expelled from the Socialist Party. Mussolini rose to power in the wake of World War I, as a leading proponent of Fascism. At the start of World War I, like all socialists, he condemned the war as workers were forced to fight other workers while the factory bosses got richer at their expense. He forged the paramilitary Fascist movement in 1919 and became prime minister in 1922.

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The Nazis of Germany

 

Nazi symbol

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In 1914, Adolf Hitler joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He fought on the Western Front and was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery in battle. In 1918, he was temporarily blinded by a gas attack and was invalided out of the war.

After the war, in 1919, Hitler joined the German Worker’s Party led by Anton Drexler and was in charge of the political ideas and propaganda of the party. In 1920, the party announced its 25-point programme and was renamed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party – NAZIs.

In 1921, Hitler became the leader of the party and soon began attracting attention, with his powerful speeches. Hitler stirred up Nationalist passion, giving the people the fodder to blame for Germany’s problems. Hitler’s opponents tried to disrupt the meetings so for protection Hitler set up the SA – Stormtroopers. Though the actual membership of the NAZI party remained quite low in this period, Hitler, through his meetings and speeches gained a very high profile.

By 1932, the Nazi party was the largest party in the Reichstag but did not have a majority. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. A month later, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building was burned down. The Communists were blamed for the fire and the Communist party was banned in Germany, giving the Nazis a clear majority in the government.

On August 2, 1934, Paul von Hindenburg, the second president of Germany from 1925 to 1934, died. Hitler then combined the position of Chancellor and president and made himself Fuhrer of Germany and began building his Third Reich. Ignoring the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he began building up the army and stockpiling weapons. The Nuremberg Laws passed in 1935 defined Hitler’s ideal pure Aryan German citizen and barred Jews from holding any form of Public office.

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Statism in Shōwa Japan

 

Japanese symbol

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Statism in Shōwa Japan also referred to as Shōwa nationalism or Japanese fascism, was a union of Japanese right-wing political ideologies, developed over a period of time from the Meiji Restoration. It was a mixture of ideas such as Japanese nationalism and militarism and “state capitalism” that was proposed by a number of contemporary political philosophers and thinkers in Japan. This statist movement dominated Japanese politics during the first part of the Shōwa period, during the reign of Hirohito.

Hideki Tōjō (December 30, 1884 – December 23, 1948) was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II. Politically, Tōjō was a fascist, nationalist, and militarist. He had a sharp, legalistic mind capable of making quick decisions, and was nicknamed “Razor”.

Even before he became the Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki Tōjō had planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he assumed office on October 17, 1941, he put his plan into effect and attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, and thereby initiated the war between Japan and the United States.

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School Lunch in Japan!


Myself 

 By T.V. Antony Raj

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School Lunch in Japan

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The lunch period is a learning period in Japanese schools and is used to inculcate the essence of the Japanese culture.

Lunch time is more than just eating. It provides an opportunity for the children to learn discipline, proper manners, hygiene and courtesy before, during and after a meal.

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The Japanese Sendai Nuclear Plant Threatened by the Sakurajima Volcano


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The lithosphere is the rigid, outermost shell on Earth. It comprises the crust and the part of the upper mantle that has an elastic behavior on, timescales of thousands of years or greater.

The scientific theory of plate tectonics describes the large-scale motion of Earth’s lithosphere. The geoscientific community accepted the theoretical model of plate tectonics developed during the first few decades of the 20th century based on the concept of continental drift. The concepts of seafloor spreading developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.
The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.

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The Earth’s lithosphere, the rigid outermost crust and upper mantle, is broken up into seven or eight major tectonic plates and many minor plates.

These massive slabs of the earth’s crust forever creep, slip, lock up and then jolt again. The typical annual lateral relative movement of the plates varies from zero to 100 mm.

Almost all creation of mountains, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and the formation of oceanic trenches occurs along these tectonic plate boundaries.

The islands that compose the Japanese nation sit on or near the boundary of four tectonic plates: the Pacific, North American, Eurasian and Filipino plates.

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The Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire

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Also, Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” also known as the circum-Pacific belt.  –  The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, associated with a continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and  tectonic plate movements.  It has 452 volcanoes and has over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. A large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in this region.

Sendai Nuclear Power Plant

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)
The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by the Kyūshū Electric Power Company, is in the city of Satsumasendai in the Kagoshima Prefecture.  It is located near five giant calderas, a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, with the closest one about 40 km away from the plant.

Before the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the nuclear disasters that resulted from it, Japan had generated 30% of its electrical power from nuclear reactors. It had planned to increase electrical power production to 40%.

Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan, but there had been concern about the ability of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity.

The earthquake and tsunami of on March 11, 2011, caused the failure of the cooling systems at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.  Japan then declared its first-ever nuclear emergency. This caused the evacuation of around 140,000 residents within 12 miles (20 km) of the plant.

On May 6, 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the shutdown of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is likely to hit the area within the next 30 years.

Also, many other nuclear power plants, including the Sendai plant stopped  generating electricity.

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan set new safety standards for its nuclear reactor plants.

On September 10, 2014, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) declared the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant safe for operation.

On August 11, 2015, Kyushu Electric Power Co., restarted its operation by bringing online the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai power station according to the new safety standards. Now it is providing power to the nearby towns again. Sendai is the first of Japan’s nuclear power plants to be restarted.

The Sakurajima Volcano

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View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009
View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009

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Sakurajima is an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) 990 km southwest of Tokyo. It is a former island in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. It is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts all the time. The lava flows of the 1914 eruption caused the former island to be connected to the Osumi Peninsula. The volcanic activity still continues, dropping large amounts of volcanic ash on the surroundings. Earlier eruptions built the white sands highlands in the region.

The Japan Meteorological Agency  on its website said that it believes that a larger than the usual eruption could be in the offing since it detected multiple earthquakes in the area on Saturday morning.  So, on Saturday, August 15, 2015, the agency raised the warning level for the volcanic island of Sakurajima from Level 3 to an unprecedented Level 4 (red). It has warned the residents in the villages on Sakurajima and has advised them to evacuate since stones could rain down on areas near the mountain’s base.

The Kagoshima prefectural government has formed an emergency response team.

The Kyushu Electric Power Company says a possible eruption on Mount Sakurajima will not affect the operation of its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. The company made the comment after raising the alert level to 4. They said that they will collect the relevant data while proceeding with work to increase output as planned.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) also says any possible eruption of the Sakurajima volcano will not affect the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant.

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A European in the Orient: Part 3 – Did Marco Polo Really Travel to the Far East?


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Marco Polo (Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Marco Polo (Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Marco Polo died at his home in Venice on January 8, 1324. Before his death, friends and readers of his book visited him and urged him to admit that his book was a fiction. Marco would not relent. He told them:

I have not told half of what I saw!

​Marco Polo has been long regarded as the earliest and most distinguished of European travelers of all times for traversing Asia from one extremity to the other. He surpassed every other traveler of his time in the extent of the unknown regions he visited, as well as in the amount of new and important information he had collected. His description of the Chinese imperial court and the Chinese empire under the most powerful of the Asiatic dynasties, and tales of the adjacent countries in the Far East, forms a grand historical picture not painted by any other traveler of his period.

Authenticity is important in any travel narrative, otherwise it altogether becomes a worthless romance. A profound ignorance veiled  Europe when the Polos returned from the East. Doubts of the authenticity of Marco’s tales arose since most of the regions he had traversed were wholly unknown at that time. And his discoveries far transcended the knowledge of his age. Also, many editions of Marco Polo’s travelogue proliferated in an age when printing was unknown. The narratives varied from one another, often corrupted to a great extent.

Even now, some argue that Marco Polo never reached China, but cobbled together secondhand accounts of what he had heard. They say there are inaccuracies in the tales. They point out that he never mentioned the basic elements of Chinese culture, such as drinking tea, the use of chopsticks, the Chinese characters, or the tradition of foot-binding.

Responders to such skeptics have stated that if the purpose of Marco Polo’s stories of travels was to impress others with tales of his high esteem for an advanced civilization, then it is possible that Polo shrewdly would omit those details that would cause his readers to scoff at the Chinese with a sense of European superiority. Marco lived among the elite Mongols. Foot-binding was almost unknown among the Mongols and was rare even among Chinese during Polo’s time.

Some observers, who have only a cursory view of the history of China, say he never mentioned the Great Wall in his book. These people are ignorant of the fact that the Great Wall, familiar to us today, is a Ming structure constructed, about two centuries after Marco Polo’s travels in China, to keep out northern invaders.

New Evidence

It is odd that Marco Polo never produced a single map to accompany his narrative accounts in the ghostwritten book. Hence, scholars have long debated its the veracity. Now, there is new evidence in favor for this historical puzzle of whether Marco Polo did indeed visit China and the Far East. The proof is in the form of a curious collection of fourteen little-known maps and related documents purported to have belonged to the family of Marco Polo.

In the 1880s, Marcian Rossi, an Italian, immigrated to the United States. He brought along with him a collection of sheepskin vellum he said were of the 13th and 14th century. There were 14 little-known maps and related documents detailing Marco Polo’s journey to the Far East. These  documents bear the signatures of the three daughters of Marco Polo — Fantina, Bellela and Moreta.

The existence of these parchments came to light only in the 1930s, when Marcian Rossi contacted the Library of Congress. He explained that Marco Polo had bestowed the documents upon a Venetian Admiral, Ruggero Sanseverino, and that they had been passed down through generations of the Rossi family. But the collection did not undergo exhaustive analysis.

Are the maps forgeries or facsimiles?  They created a problem for the historians of cartography. Did Marco Polo’s daughters, whose names appear on some of these artifacts, preserve in them geographic information about Asia as told by their father? Did they inherit the maps created by him? Did Marco Polo entrust the maps to a Venetian admiral who had links to Rossi’s family line? Or, if the maps have no connection to Marco Polo, who made them, when, and for what purpose?

While some historians discounted the 14 parchments as mere fantasy, forgeries, or facsimiles, others wanted a balanced, detailed study of the documents.

Benjamin B. Olshin, a historian of cartography and a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, spent more than a decade studying the artifacts. He translated the Italian, Latin, Arabic and Chinese inscriptions found therein. All but one of the original documents, a map Marcian Rossi donated to the Library of Congress, remain in the possession of Rossi’s great-grandson Jeffrey Pendergraft in Texas. Olshin is the first scholar in decades to see those originals.

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Marco Polo's 'Map with Ship' (Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)
Marco Polo’s ‘Map with Ship‘ (Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

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The map donated by Marcian Rossi to the Library of Congress, dubbed “Map with Ship,” is a curious one. It has an illustration of a Venetian sailing vessel and a sketch of what appears to be outlines of Japan, Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, the Bering Strait, the Aleutian Islands and the coastlines of present-day Alaska and British Columbia. The map was not a navigational aid because it lacks longitude and latitude reference lines.

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The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps by Benjamin B. Olshin
The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps by Benjamin B. Olshin

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Olshin has detailed the results of his intensive research in his book, “The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps.” The book is the first credible book-length analysis of these parchments. It is a balanced, detailed, and a non speculative work of cartographic scholarship, not another ‘who discovered?’ sensation. Olshin charts the course of the documents from obscure origins in the private collection of the Italian-American immigrant Marcian Rossi in the 1930s. He describes the investigations by the Library of Congress, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI for their authenticity. Olshin describes his own efforts to track down and study the Rossi maps.

After a  thorough tracing of Marcian Rossi’s ancestry, Olshin asserts that Rossi’s explanation that Marco Polo had bestowed the documents upon a Venetian admiral, Ruggero Sanseverino, and that they had been passed down through generations of the Rossi family was credible.

Olshin describes himself as an “evidence guy” and makes no claims that the document “Map with Ship,” depicts Alaska for certain although there are similarities. Olshin also admits, the authenticity of the ten maps and four texts is not settled. The ink on the parchments remains untested. A radiocarbon study of the sheepskin vellum of one key map, the only one subjected to such analysis, dates it to the 15th or 16th century, making it at best a copy.

Regardless of the origin of the documents, Olshin offers insights into Italian history, the age of exploration, and the wonders of cartography. He then takes his readers on a fascinating journey to the early legendary lands of the Chinese.

Alessandro Scafi said in Times Literary Supplement (UK):

“Olshin plays with the idea that Marco Polo’s relatives may have preserved geographical information about distant lands first recorded by him, or even that they may have inherited maps that he made. If genuine, Olshin argues, these maps and texts would confirm that Marco Polo knew about the New World two centuries before Columbus, either from his own experience or through hearing about it from the Chinese … Fascinating material … Olshin himself admits that there is no hard evidence to support his thrilling speculations. Including translations of every annotation and inscription, Olshin’s study and description of the fourteen parchments are exhaustive. His analysis, however, leaves many questions open … A fascinating tale about maps, history and exploration.”

The parchments in the Rossi collection may not only back up Marco Polo’s claim that he journeyed to the Orient, but also could reveal he might have set foot on the North American continent, 200 years before Christopher Columbus. It is purported that Columbus carried a well-worn copy of “The Travels of Marco Polo” with him on his historic 1492 voyage. It is conjectured that the travels of Marco Polo inspired Columbus to seek a westward sea route to the riches of East Asia, but instead landed in the New World.

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← Previous: Part 2 – The Book “The Travels of Marco Polo”

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A European in the Orient: Part 2 – The Book “The Travels of Marco Polo”


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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When Niccolò, Maffeo, and Marco Polo,  arrived in Italy they found the Republic of Venice at war with the Most Serene Republic of Genoa, that had one of the most powerful navies in the Mediterranean.

Marco Polo joined the Venetians in the war. He commanded a galley equipped with a trebuchet, a type of catapult that used as a siege engine in the Middle Ages. The Genoans captured Marco in a skirmish in 1296, off the Anatolian coast between Adana and the Gulf of Alexandretta, and imprisoned him.

While spending several months in prison between 1298–1299, Marco became a friend of a fellow prisoner Rustichello da Pisa, an Italian writer of romance. Marco told Rustichello about his time in Asia. Rustichello soon committed his stories to paper in Old French. The romance writer also incorporated into it tales of his own as well as other collected anecdotes and current affairs from China.

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Le livre des merveilles du monde. Marco Polo
Le livre des merveilles du monde. Marco Polo

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After his release in 1299, Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa together turned the written notes into a travelogue titled “Livre des Merveilles du Monde” (Book of the Marvels of the World) or “Devisement du Monde” (Description of the World). In Italian the account appeared as “Il Milione” (The Million) or Oriente Poliano and was published later in English as “The Travels of Marco Polo.

Marco Polo was not the first European to reach China.

Marco Polo was the first to leave a detailed popular chronicle of his experience in medieval China to the world, but he definitely was not the first European to travel to the Far East.

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John of Plano Carpini's great journey to the East. His route is indicated, railroad track style, in dark blue. From the "Historical Atlas" by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923 (2nd edition)
Giovanni da Pian del Carpine’s great journey to the East. His route is indicated, railroad track style, in dark blue. From the “Historical Atlas” by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923 (2nd edition)

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During the time of the great Mongol invasion of eastern Europe, the Battle of Legnica on April 9, 1241, proved disastrous. The loss threatened to cast European Christendom under the rule of Ögedei Khan, the 2nd Khagan of the Mongol Empire.

Four years later, with the dread of the Mongols still on the mind of the people in eastern Europe, Pope Innocent IV, dispatched the first formal Catholic mission to the Mongols. It was partly to protest against the latter’s invasion of Christian lands, partly to gain trustworthy information about Mongol armies and their intention for the future. The Pope chose 65-year-old Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine to head this mission.

The mission started on Easter day April 16, 1245, from Lyon, where the Pope then resided. Giovanni bore a letter “Cum non solum” dated March 13, 1245, from the Pope to Ögedei Khan, the Mongol Emperor. Another friar, Stephen of Bohemia, accompanied Giovanni, broke down at Kaniv near Kiev. Another Minorite, Benedykt Polak, appointed to act as interpreter joined Giovanni at Wrocław.

Their journey was perilous. The Papal legate wrote that they were, “so ill that we could scarcely sit a horse; and throughout all that Lent our food had been nought but millet with salt and water, and with only snow melted in a kettle for drink.

Friar Giovanni and his companions rode an estimated 3000 miles in 106 days. By the time they reached their destination Ögedei Khan was dead.

On August 24, 1246, Giovanni and his companions witnessed the formal enthronement of Güyük Khan as the Third Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The new emperor refused the invitation to become a Christian, but demanded that the Pope and rulers of Europe should come to him and swear  their allegiance to him.

When Güyük Khan dismissed the expedition in November, 1246, he gave them a letter to the Pope, written in Mongol, Arabic, and Latin. It was a brief imperious assertion of the Mongol emperor’s office as the “scourge of God.”

Later on, other Catholic emissaries followed. In the 1250s, William of Rubruck, traveled east on a quest to convert the Mongols to Christianity. These early missionaries were largely inspired by the myth of Prester John (Latin: Presbyter Johannes), Christian patriarch and king popular in European chronicles and in the tradition of the 12th through the 17th century.

The accounts about this mythical king vary. They are just a collection of medieval popular fantasy. One such account depicts him as a descendant of the Three Magi, ruling a kingdom full of riches, marvels, and strange creatures. Polo mentions the fictional monarch in his book, and even asserts that Prester John fought a great battle against the Mongol ruler Genghis Kahn.

A Lombardian surgeon also had reached the city of Khanbaliq in 1303. A merchant named Petro de Lucalongo, had accompanied the monk John of Montecorvino to Khanbaliq in 1305.

In his work “Histoire de l’Empire Mongol,” Jean-Paul Roux,  a French Turkologue and a specialist in Islamic culture says that a person named André de Pérouse had mentioned that there was a small Genoese colony, in the harbor of Zaytun in 1326. Andolo de Savignone was the most famous Italian resident of the city. In 1336, Toghon Temür, the 15th Khagan of the Mongol Empire and the 11th Emperor of the Yuan dynasty sent him to the West to buy “100 horses and other treasures.

In 1339, a Venetian named Giovanni Loredanoto returned to Venice from China during the reign of  Emperor Toghon Temür.

A tombstone with the name of Catherine de Villioni, daughter of a Dominici, who died in 1342 during the reign of Toghon Temür was discovered in Yangzhou.

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An illuminated manuscript on Marco Polo's fascinating and adventurous travels (Source: facsimilefinder.com)
An illuminated manuscript on Marco Polo’s fascinating and adventurous travels (Source: facsimilefinder.com)

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Well-known master artists of the medieval times steeped the manuscripts like the one shown above in enchanting colors.

The Travelogue, “The Travels of Marco Polo” soon spread throughout Europe in manuscript form.  It gave the curious Europeans in the Middle Ages craving to know more about the marvels of the Orient,  the first comprehensive look into the inner workings of the Far East, including China, India, and Japan. Rarely have secular topics had such an intense echo.

The Travelogue is divided into four books:

Book One describes the lands of the Middle East and Central Asia that Marco Polo traveled through on his way to China.

Book Two describes China and the court of Kublai Khan.

Book Three describes some of the coastal regions of the East: Japan, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, India, and the East Coast of Africa.

Book Four describes some of the then-recent wars among the Mongols, and some of the regions of the Far North, like Russia.

No authoritative version of Marco Polo’s book exists. The early manuscripts differ much from one another. Also, inadvertent errors and discrepancies crept in during the process of copying and translating.

The published editions of the travelogue either rely on single manuscripts, or a blend of many versions. For example, the popular translation published by Penguin Books in 1958 is the handiwork of R.E. Latham, who blended several manuscripts together to make a readable whole.

A.C. Moule and Paul Pelliot based their  1938 English translation on a Latin manuscript found in the library of the Cathedral of Toledo in 1932, and is 50 percent longer than other versions.

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Probable view of Marco Polo's own geography drawn by H. Yule, 1871. (Source: The Book of Ser Marco Polo. London, 1871, vol. I, p. cxxxv)
Probable view of Marco Polo’s own geography drawn by H. Yule, 1871. (Source: The Book of Ser Marco Polo. London, 1871, vol. I, p. cxxxv)

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Some published editions carry notes to clarify, as exemplified in the English translation by Henry Yule.

To date, approximately 150 manuscript copies exist in various languages.

After his release from prison, Marco Polo returned to Venice. He married and raised three daughters. During the next 25 years, he carried on the family business.

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Next → Part 3 – Did Marco Polo Really Travel to the Far East?

← Previous: Part 1 – The Adventures of Marco Polo.

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A European in the Orient: Part 1 – The Adventures of Marco Polo


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A 13th-century travelogue titled Livre des Merveilles du Monde (Book of the Marvels of the World) or Devisement du Monde (Description of the World) introduced Europeans to the geography of the Orient and the ethnic customs of its indigenous peoples.

The book described the travels of the Italian merchant traveler Marco Polo between 1276 and 1291, through Asia: Persia, China, Indonesia, Burma, Tibet, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan (Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire. The book described Cathay (present-day China) in great detail and its abundance of riches. Though Marco Polo was not the first European to have visited the Far East, he still became famous after the publication of the book.

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Marco Polo (Credit: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)
Marco Polo (Credit: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

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Marco Polo was born in Venice on September 15, 1254 to a wealthy Venetian merchant named Niccolò Polo. Marco’s father and his uncle Maffeo Polo being merchants had established trading posts in Constantinople, Sudak in Crimea, and in a western part of the Mongol Empire in Asia.

In 1264, the Polo brothers joined up with a diplomatic mission sent by  Hulagu, the ruler of Il-khanate to his brother Kublai Khan, both grandsons of Gengis Khan. They reached the seat of Kublai Khan, the leader of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, in Dadu (present day Beijing, China) in 1266.

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Kublai Khan, Emperor of China. The 5th Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The First Emperor of the Yuan dynasty.
Kublai Khan, Emperor of China. The 5th Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The First Emperor of the Yuan dynasty.

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Kublai Khan, the Mongol Emperor, received the Polos well and expressed his interest in Christianity. He then sent them back to Italy with a Mongol named Koeketei as an ambassador to Pope Clement IV. They carried a letter from the emperor requesting the Pope to send 100 educated people to teach Christianity and western customs to his people. He also requested oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulcher. The emperor also gave them  the paiza, a golden tablet a foot long and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide, to signify certain privileges and authority, allowing them to acquire lodging, horses and food throughout  his dominion.

Koeketei left in the middle of the journey, leaving the Polos to travel alone to Ayas in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. From that port city, the Polos sailed to Saint Jean d’Acre, capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Pope Clement IV died on November 29, 1268. The long sede vacante between the death of Pope Clement IV, and the election of a new pope delayed the Polos from fulfilling Kublai Khan’s request.

In 1269 or 1270, Teobaldo Visconti, then papal legate for the realm of Egypt suggested that the brothers return to Venice and wait for the nomination of the new Pope.

Niccolò Polo once again saw his son Marco, now a teenager, who had been living with his aunt and another uncle in Venice since the death of his mother at a young age.

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Niccolò Polo and Matteo Polo remitting a letter from Kublai Khan to Pope Gregory X in 1271.
Niccolò Polo and Matteo Polo remitting a letter from Kublai Khan to Pope Gregory X in 1271.

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In 1271, Theobald Visconti was elected as Pope Gregory X. He received the letter from Kublai Khan brought by the Polo brothers.

The Polo brothers left Venice on their second voyage to the Orient along with a 17-year-old Marco. Unable to recruit the 100 people that Kublai Khan had requested to teach his people, the Polos left with only two Dominican friars:  Niccolò de Vicence and Guillaume de Tripoli. They set sail to Acre.

At Acre they joined a caravan of merchants travelling to the Persian port of Hormuz. Soon, bandits attacked their caravan using the cover of a sandstorm to ambush them. The marauding bandits killed many members of the caravan and enslaved the rest, but the Polos managed to escape to a nearby town.

Marco reveled in the adventure, but the two monks after getting a taste of the hard journey ahead of them, soon turned back for home.

When they reached Hormuz they wanted to sail straight to China, but the ships in Hormuz were not seaworthy, so they continued overland through the Silk Road.

The journey was challenging and at times they had to traverse harsh terrain. In what is now Afghanistan, Marco fell ill. He had to retreat to the mountains to recuperate from the illness.

Crossing the Gobi desert, proved long and, at times, arduous. Marco told later: “This desert is reported to be so long that it would take a year to go from end to end. And at the narrowest point it takes a month to cross it. It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat.

In 1274, three and a half years after leaving Venice, when Marco was about 21 years old, the Polos reached Kanbaliq or Dadu, the capital of the Yuan dynasty (present day Beijing). Kublai Khan who welcomed them into his summer palace known as Xanadu, a grand marble architectural wonder. The Polos presented the sacred oil from Jerusalem and the papal letters to the Mongol Emperor.

The Polos spent the next 17 years in China under the patronage of Kublai Khan. Niccolo and Maffeo were granted important positions in Kublai Khan’s Court. The Mongol Emperor took a liking to Marco, an engaging storyteller. Marco’s immersed himself into the Chinese culture and mastered four languages. He served as an official in the salt administration and made trips through the provinces of Yunnan and Fukien. At one stage, he was the tax inspector in the city of Yanzhou.

Marco Polo marveled at the use of paper money in the Mongol empire, an idea that had not reached Europe at that time.

Kublai Khan employed Marco Polo as a special envoy.  He sent Marco to Burma, India, Tibet and other far-flung areas hitherto never explored by Europeans. Marco was promoted again and again for his work. He served as governor of a Chinese city. Later, Kublai Khan appointed him as an official of the Privy Council.

The Polos asked permission on many occasions to return to Europe, but Kublai Khan liked them so much that he would not agree to their departure.

In 1291, Kublai Khan entrusted the Polos with their last duty. It was to escort the Mongol princess Koekecin to her betrothed, the Il-khan Arghun of the breakaway state of the Mongol Empire in Persia, ruled by the Mongol House of Hulagu.

The Polos departed from the southern port city of Quanzhou with a caravan of several hundred passengers and sailors. They sailed to Sumatra, Ceylon and India. They visited Mylapore, Madurai and Alleppey in India. Marco Polo nicknamed Alleppey as the “Venice of the East.”

The journey was harrowing due to storms and disease. Many perished. By the time they reached Il-khanate in Persia in 1293 or 1294, only 18 people, including the princess and the Polos, were still alive.  They came to know that Il-khan Arghun to whom the princess was betrothed had died. They left the Mongol princess Koekecin with the new Il-khan Gaykhatu. The Polos then moved to Trebizond . From there they sailed to Constantinople and then reached Venice in 1295. They had travelled almost 15,000 miles (24,000 km).  The Polos returned to Venice with thier fortune converted in gemstones. In Venice, the Polos struggled to converse in their native tongue. Above all, they were unfamiliar to their family.

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Marco Polo's Route (Source: httpdepts.washington.edu)
Marco Polo’s Route (Source: httpdepts.washington.edu)

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Next → Part 2 – The Book “The Travels of Marco Polo”

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The Shōguns of Japan


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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While researching for a forthcoming series of articles on the despots of the 20th century, I accumulated many interesting extraneous materials that presented themselves as subject-matter for some interesting articles. Herein, I have attempted to throw some light in a nutshell on the establishment of the shogunate (or bakufu) in Japan and its rule from the end of the twelfth century until the Meiji Restoration in the middle of the nineteenth century.

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Feudal Japan (Source: millparksc.libguides.com)
Feudal Japan (Source: millparksc.libguides.com)

After the 8th century, the system of public-land domain in Japan broke down, and various types of private landholdings consolidated into estates (shōen) came into being. These holdings, organized under the authority of the civil nobility and religious establishments, remained within the framework of the imperial government.

The Kamakura period

In Japanese, the term “shōgun” meaning “barbarian-quelling generalissimo” or a military ruler was first used during the Heian period. The title “shōgun was occasionally conferred on a general after a successful campaign.

Minamoto no Y.oritomo (May 9, 1147 – February 9, 1199), the 1st Kamakura shōgun
Minamoto no Y.oritomo (May 9, 1147 – February 9, 1199), the 1st Kamakura shōgun

In 1185, Minamoto no Yoritomo (May 9, 1147 – February 9, 1199), gained military control of Japan after his decisive victory over the rival Taira family at the battle of Dannoura. Yoritomo created his own military administration to serve beside the imperial court. In 1192, the imperial court sanctioned his authority and granted him the official rank of shōgun. His military administration was the first bakufu, or shogunate, commonly  known as the Kamakura shogunate.

The years 1192 to 1333, during which the basis of feudalism was firmly established in Japan is known as the Kamakura period, named after the city where Minamoto Yoritomo set up the headquarters of his military government.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the military class – the buke or samurai, increased in numbers and prominence. The Kamakura culture was largely defined by the rise of the warrior class, which held martial skills and the ideals of duty, loyalty, and bravery in the highest regard. The cult of the sword and the practice of ritual suicide by disembowelment (seppuku) both emerged during this period.

The daimyō

At this time, the term “daimyō“(大名) came to be applied to those military lords who began exercising territorial control, and later proprietary rights, over the various private estates and hereditary land holdings into which the country had become divided. They were subordinate only to the shōgun. Usually, though not exclusively, a shōgun arose or a regent chosen from the daimyō warlords.

Following the daimyō were the warrior-caste of samurai, with the farmers, artisans, and traders ranking below.

Often, the daimyō hired the samurai to guard their land and paid them in land or food. A few daimyō paid the samurai in money.

In some smaller regions of Japan, the daimyō and the samurai were almost identical since a daimyō might be trained as a samurai, and a samurai might act as local rulers.

After Yoritomo died on February 9, 1199, the Kamakura shōguns lost real power to the Hōjō family while remaining titular rulers.

In 1274 and 1281, the Japanese warriors thwarted the invasion attempts by the Mongolian fleets under Kublai Khan with the aid of kamikaze (神風) or the “divine wind” of typhoons that decimated the enemy fleet.

The term Kamikaze was later used for the suicide attacks by military aviators officially known as Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊 literally: “Special attack unit”) abbreviated as Tokkō Tai (特攻隊) from the Empire of Japan. The Kamikaze attacks by the Tokkō Tai against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II destroyed warships more effectively than was possible with conventional attacks.

The financial strain imposed by the defense efforts against the Mongol attacks, however, aggravated the internal weaknesses in the regime. In 1331, Emperor Go-daigo Tennō tried to overthrow the shogunate and restore the monarchy. His efforts led to civil war and divided the imperial family into two rival factions and subsequent collapse of the bakufu in 1333.

Ashikaga Takauji (1305 – June 7, 1358), 1st Ashikaga shōgun.
Ashikaga Takauji (1305 – June 7, 1358), 1st Ashikaga shōgun.

Ashikaga Takauji received the title of shōgun in 1338 and established the Ashikaga shogunate. However, his successors enjoyed even less control over Japan than the Kamakura shōguns. Gradually, the country succumbed to civil war.

The Tokugawa period

Though the shōguns were nominally appointed by the emperor, between 1600 and 1868 they were the de facto rulers of Japan. Each shōgun during this period was a member of the Tokugawa clan.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (January 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616), 1st Tokugawa shogun.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (January 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616), 1st Tokugawa shōgun.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (January 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616) was the founder and the first shōgun of the Tokugawa, which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and was the last feudal Japanese military regime.

The years of rule by the Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa bakufu, are recognized as the Tokugawa period or pre-modern period. Since they ruled from the Edo (now Tokyo) Castle they were also known as the Edo bakufu and the years of shogunate rule was likewise called the Edo period.

The Japanese society in the Tokugawa period, unlike the shogunates before it, was supposedly based on the strict class hierarchy.

The Tokugawa shogunate brought Japan the longest period of peace, constancy, and stability lasting well over 200 years.

The Meiji restoration

The Japanese proclivity for titular rulers prevailed, and in time a council of elders from the main branches of the Tokugawa clan ruled the country from behind the scenes. Since the title of shogun ultimately came from the emperor, he became a rallying point for those who sought to bring down the shogunate.

The 1866 alliance between Saigō Takamori, the leader of the Satsuma domain, and Kido Takayoshi, the leader of the Chōshū domain, formed the foundation of the Meiji restoration also known as the Meiji Ishin. These two leaders supported the titular Emperor Kōmei and challenged the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu (October 28, 1837 – November 22, 1913) also known as Keiki was the 15th and last shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.
Tokugawa Yoshinobu (October 28, 1837 – November 22, 1913) also known as Keiki was the 15th and last shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.

The 15th Tokugawa shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, resigned and the Tokugawa shogunate came to an official end.

Emperor Kōmei died on January 30, 1867.

Meiji the Great, the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912
Meiji the Great, the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912

On February 3, 1867, the Meiji emperor, the 122nd Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, ascended the throne. He reigned from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912. During his lifetime, the emperor was known by his personal name Mutsuhito. But after his death, he was given the reign name, “Meiji“. His personal name “Mutsuhito” is never used in Japan in any official context.

On the night of December 9, 1867, the Kogosho Conference was held at the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the restoration of imperial rule (osei fukko) was declared.

Japan changed from being a feudal society to having a market economy. During this period the Western countries influenced the lifestyle of the Japanese.

In 1871, Japan adopted the prefecture system.

Click on this link for the shōgun timeline:  http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsFarEast/JapanShoguns.htm

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The China Syndrome


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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In the town outside of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the archway of hope still reads 'Nuclear Power Our Bright Future'
In the town outside of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the archway of hope still reads ‘Nuclear Power Our Bright Future’

On Friday March 11, 2011, at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC), a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea mega-thrust earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. The epicentre was about 43 miles (70 km) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypo-center was at an underwater depth of about 19 miles (30 km).

The Japanese refer to this earthquake as the Great East Japan Earthquake and as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Since modern record-keeping began in 1900, it was the fifth most powerful earthquake in the world and the most powerful known earthquake ever to have struck Japan. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 8 feet (2.4 metres) east and shifted the Earth on its axis between 4 inches (10 cm) and 10 inches (25 cm).

An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.
An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.

Also, the earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves. In Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, tsunami waves reached heights of up to 133 feet (40.5 metres) and in the Sendai area, travelled up to 6 miles (10 km) inland.

Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo:  AP)
Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6, 2011. (Photo: AP)

On March 11, 2011, after the Tōhoku earthquake and the ensuing 15-metre tsunami, a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive materials from three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a nuclear accident. All three cores melted in the first three days. Panic reigned at the plant while trying to deal with the three out-of-control reactors.

Used fuel generates heat, and needs to be cooled and shielded. This is initially performed by water in ponds, circulated by electric pumps through external heat exchangers, that dump the heat and maintain a low temperature. The ponds hold some fresh fuel and some used fuel, pending its transfer to the central used/spent fuel storage on site.

At the time of the accident, Unit 4’s reactor was undergoing maintenance. So, in addition to a large number of used fuel assemblies, unit 4’s pond also held a full core load of 548 fuel assemblies these having been removed at the end of November. A new set of problems arose as the fuel ponds, holding fresh and used fuel in the upper part of the reactor structures, were found to be depleted in water.

Masao Yoshida

Masao Yoshida was the plant manager during this Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, where he played a critical role by disobeying corporate headquarter orders to stop using seawater to cool the reactors

On March 12, 2011, about 28 hours after the tsunami struck, TEPCO executives ordered workers to start injecting seawater into Reactor No. 1. However, 21 minutes later, they ordered Yoshida to suspend the operation. Yoshida chose to ignore the order. That night, at 20:05 JST, the Japanese government again ordered seawater to be injected into Unit 1.

Early on Tuesday March 15, 2011, hydrogen explosions rocked reactor buildings 1, 3 and 4. Before dawn, Masao Yoshida, the director of the plant, remarked: “The worst-case scenario is a China syndrome.

On June 7, 2011, Yoshida was verbally reprimanded for defying the order and not reporting it earlier.

According to nuclear physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, the decision to use seawater arguably prevented a much greater disaster. The massive influx of seawater is the only thing that stopped the cores from exploding, according to Dr. Kaku, who added this was a last-ditch effort.

Worst case scenario - China syndrome

In Early May, 2011, Tepco sent engineers to recalibrate water level gauges in reactor No. 1. What they discovered was alarming: virtually all the fuel in the core had melted down. In other words, the zirconium alloy tubes that hold the uranium fuel and the fuel itself lies in a clump – either at the bottom of the pressure vessel, or in the basement below or possibly even outside the containment building.

Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono
Goshi Hosono, Japanese Environment Minister

On December 19, 2011, in regard to where the nuclear fuel might be Goshi Hosono, Minister of State for the Nuclear Power Policy and Administration (Nuclear Accident
Minister) said there are 3 possibilities:

  1. In pressure vessel
  2. In containment vessel
  3. “In regard to that third possibility that some [nuclear] fuel may have worked its way out of the containment vessel and gone underneath it, I think there’s a very strong possibility…we think there is a strong possibility that some fuel is in that location as well.”

The phrase “China syndrome” now touted very much in the news is a fanciful term that should not be taken literally. It owes its origin to the movie China Syndrome, a 1979 terrific American thriller starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas. It tells the story of a television reporter and her cameraman who while doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources discover safety cover-ups at a nuclear power. The movie is based on a screenplay by director James Bridges and American screenwriters Mike Gray, and T.S. Cook.

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her radical cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) while visiting the (fictional) Ventana nuclear power plant outside Los Angeles, witness the plant going through an emergency shutdown (SCRAM). The movie describes a fictional worst-case result of a nuclear meltdown, where reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, “all the way to China.” Kimberly determined to publicise the incident soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret.

The China Syndrome

Click on the above image to read the full plot of the film China Syndrome.

The film “China Syndrome” was based on a number of real-life nuclear plant incidents and in particular the Brown’s Ferry Alabama Nuclear Power Plant Fire that occurred four years earlier in 1975.

The film was released on March 16, 1979, and 12 days later the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania suffered a partial meltdown. Luckily no one was hurt. Coincidentally, in one scene in the movie, physicist Dr. Elliott Lowell (Donald Hotton) says that the China Syndrome would transform “an area the size of Pennsylvania” permanently uninhabitable. The Three Mile Island incident helped turn The China Syndrome into a blockbuster.

Nuclear meltdown

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Would You like to Live in a Topsy-turvy House?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

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The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland
The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland

Would you like to live in a topsy-turvy house like the above one? This house can be found in the tiny village of Szymbark in the municipality of Stężyca, in northern Poland. It is a center for winter sports.

As on December 31, 2011, the village of Szymbark had a total of 627 residents, with 544 people living in the main part of the village. The above upside-down house was built in 2007 by Daniel Czapiewski, a Polish businessman, builder and philanthropist.

Normally, it takes hardly three weeks for Czapiewski’s company to build a house. However, this extra-ordinary creative project took 114 days because of its structural design; moreover, the workers were a bit confused by the topsy-turvy architecture.

In 2010, in a poll conducted by “Official Baltic,” voted the Kashubian entrepreneur as  “The Man of the Year 2010” for his ingenuity of design that has become a tourist attraction in Szymbark.

In the first place, what prompted Daniel Czapiewski to design the house to stand upside down? Well, the eccentric person that he is, Daniel Czapiewski opines that it represents his view on the current state of the world – the time of uncertainty after the end of the communist era in Poland.

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By the way, this house in the village of Szymbark, Poland is not the first upside down house to be built. Wonderworks Upside Down Building in Florida opened in 1998. There are also upside down houses in Austria, Germany, Russia, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, a café in Japan and so on.

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This is not a house, it is a statue in Vancouver, Canada (Image credits - papalars)
This is not a church, it is a sculpture in Canada (Image credits: papalars)

The above image is a unique statue and not a church. American sculptor Dennis Oppenheim designed this imposing 22 x 18 x 9 feet sculpture composed of galvanized structural steel, anodized perforated aluminum, transparent red Venetian glass, and concrete foundations, as an upside down church, with its steeple buried in the ground.

The piece, initially called “Church,” was proposed to the Public Art Fund in the city of New York to be built on Church Street. It was commissioned by the President’s Panel on Art. However, the president of Stanford University turned down the sculpture since he considered it as “not appropriate” for the campus. The director thought it was too provocative and might infuriate the Church and the religious folks in that area. To evade this situation Dennis Oppenheim then changed the title to “Device to Root out Evil”.

Though the “Device to Root Out Evil” was too hot for New York City, too hot for Stanford University, it finally found a public home in Vancouver. It was first installed in a public park in Vancouver, Canada. As expected, people again considered it too hot for Vancouver as well. The public had a mixed reaction towards the work and the Vancouver public parks committee voted to remove the sculpture. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada seized the opportunity to display the sculpture. After removing it from Vancouver, the museum placed it in Ramsay, Calgary’s most creative neighbourhood where it is now being celebrated.

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‘Worse than AIDS’ – sex ‘superbug’ discovered in Japan called disaster in waiting


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superbug-gonorrhea-aids-sex

Doctors are warning that a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea could be more deadly than AIDS, and are urging members of US Congress to spend $54 million for the development of a drug that would fight it.

“This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly,” Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, told CNBC.

The new strain of gonorrhea, H041, was first discovered in 2009 after a sex worker fell victim to the superbug in Japan. Medical officials reported that the medication-resilient ‘sex superbug’ was discovered in Hawaii in May 2011, and has since spread to California and Norway, the International Business Times reports.

Nearly 30 million people die from AIDS-related causes each year, and the H041 superbug could have similar consequences, according to Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine.

“Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days,” Christianson said. “This is very dangerous.”

The gonorrhea strain has not yet claimed any lives, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have asked Congress for $54 million to find an antibiotic to treat the strain.

In a Capitol Hill briefing last week, health officials said an education and public awareness campaign is crucial in minimizing the effective of HO41. William Smith, executive director of the National Coalition for STD Directors, said that if the ‘sex superbug’ spreads, it could quickly kill many people before a treatment is discovered. And that risk becomes increasingly more likely if Congress does not provide the funds to find a cure, he said.

“It’s an emergency situation. As time moves on, it’s getting more hazardous,” he told members of Congress.

“We have to keep beating the drum on this,” he added. “The potential for disaster is great.”

In the United States, there are 20 million new STD infections each year, which results in about $16 billion in medical costs, the CDC reports. More than 800,000 of these cases gonorrhea infections, most of which occur in young people ages 15 to 24. Gonorrhea is sometimes difficult to detect, since it shows no symptoms in about half of all women. Those who fall ill to the deadly strain may not notice it until it’s too late.

“That’s what’s kind of scary about this,” Smith said.

Although health officials have widely reported that cases of H041 were discovered in California, Hawaii and Norway, the CDC has disputed those claims and told CNBC on Monday that the infection has not been confirmed anywhere outside of Japan. The CDC did, however, make an announcement in 2011 that it was noticing greater gonorrhea bacterial resistance to certain types of antibiotics in Hawaii and California.

CDC officials said that the US and Norwegian cases were treated effectively with antibiotics not routinely recommended and that these cases were mistakenly identified as H041. But the agency continues to urge Congress for research funding, indicating that the risk of infection is high regardless of where the cases occurred.

Christianson is urging people to practice safe sex and get STD tests if they are in a new relationship, since a superbug infection could be around the corner.

“This is a disaster just waiting to happen,” he told CNBC. “It’s time to do something about it before it explodes. These superbugs, including the gonorrhea strain, are a health threat. We need to move now before it gets out of hand.”

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Re-posted from RT.com
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