Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tsunami and the cult of Ichiro

Update as of 3 May 2011 -- well, of course since I wrote the blog entry below on 25 Jan 2011, there was the horrific tsunami on the Sanriku coast, of which I have since blogged quite a bit, though not yet more about Kesennuma City.

But I haven't blogged anymore about Ichiro Suzuki. This Friday 6 May is Ichiro hit-count bobblehead night. I'll be going. You can follow Ichiro's stats here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/suzukic01.shtml
Fans of Ichiro and the Mariners know he holds the Major League record for consecutive seasons of >200 hits, batting for the Mariners since 2001. He broke Edgar Martinez' Mariners total hits record this year. If he has more than 200 hits this season, he will hold the all-time record for TOTAL seasons of >200 hits.

Meanwhile, the Mariners are showing signs of life.... In Japan, I was in a taxi whose driver asked where I was from, and I said "Seattle" after which "Ichiro" and "Mariners" He responded in Japanese to my host Yuichiro, "Mariners are weak"... We'll see. Meanwhile, keeping tabs of Ichiro's hits is fun.

original 25 January blog:

Last April, 2010, I was asked to give a lecture on tsunami geology to the community of Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Kesennuma is on the famous/infamous Sanriku coast of northern Honshu, where there have been many and serious destructive local tsunamis, as well as significant damage and casualties from the 1960 Chile tsunami. So 2010 was the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Chile tsunami, and there was an anniversary conference in Japan about tsunamis.

We tsunami scientists were on a field trip to the Sanriku coast, to see both the evidence of prior tsunamis, but also the efforts of the populace in a number of towns to prepare for future tsunamis – evacuation signs, elevated evacuation structures, gates to close off river mouths, and a sub-sea seawall to break the tsunami effects.

Despite all the precautions, the February 2010 tsunami flooded several towns, including the port area of Kesennuma City and did some damage to aquaculture in some embayments. Yuichiro Tanioka said there even was damage in Hokkaido, he has been going to meetings reviewing what happened and how to mitigate the next one.

So the people of the port/fishing community of Kesennuma City are very interested in tsunami, though it’s fair to say that’s true of many Japanese – indeed the word tsu-nami is Japanese and means “harbor wave.” [In Japanese, there is not a plural form, so tsunami is both singular and plural.]

This is an AP photo of Chile tsunami 2010 flooding Kesennuma.

So when our bus full of tsunami scientists from a number of countries rolled into these towns, they rolled out the red carpet. In Oofunato, we had a boat tour of the harbor area, with refreshments, in Kesennuma City a banquet. In between, the Kesennuma hotel ballroom was filled with mostly men in suits to hear two talks from our group, one by Fumihiko Imamura on the Chile 1960 and Chile 2010 tsunamis, and mine on tsunami geology. It turns out the mayor of Kesunnema was very interested in the asteroid impact 65 million years ago and my tsunami work on that, for which I apparently am famous in Japan, but I chose to focus on the geological evidence for relatively recent tsunamis in my home region--Cascadia subduction zone on the open coast (tsunami about 300 years ago), and the Seattle fault in the Puget Sound region (tsunami about 1000 years ago).

Well, how to relate my region to a Japanese audience? Most people don’t really know that Bill Gates lives in the Seattle area, though they’ve heard of him, of course. And if you go into a Japanese Starbucks, they probably have heard of Seattle, but despite the growing popularity of coffee in Japan, tea is still dominant. In any case, if you want to tell people here where you are from, just mention Ichiro -- I haven’t met a single Japanese person who doesn’t know about Ichiro. So I showed a couple slides mentioning Ichiro, and the audience was with me, completely, …while the international attendees (even from the U.S., except Seattle) were in the dark.

Ichiro (Suzuki), for those who are not baseball fans [that would be about no one in Japan…], now plays for the Seattle Mariners, and has the longest continuous steak of >200-hit seasons going in the history of Major League Baseball. Not to mention he is a great outfielder. I am not sure there is a living athlete in the U.S. who has the status of Ichiro in Japan. Maybe in the past, Babe Ruth? Every game is televised here, with Japanese commentators and photographers who focus on Ichiro. There are special Ichiro tours from Japan.

When we had a tsunami workshop in Seattle in 2005, we received special requests from our Japanese colleagues to go to a Mariners game, so 40 of us went. It was the night he hit his 1000th major league hit, but he was low key himself because he had been in a batting slump. Our group got its name “Tsunami Deposits Workshop” on the big board (can't find the picture right now...), and there just happened to be a tsunami warning in northern California that night [uncalled for… it was a quake on the Gorda plate]. Big night.

Well, Babe Ruth’s name sold candy bars – what else? Ichiro’s name and face sell everything, including beer. Today within a few blocks, I came across three Ichiro highlights. The Kirin Beer one I took in Tokyo last year. I am happy to have some instant cachet when meeting new people in Japan.

From Wikipedia: The Japanese name "Ichiro" is often written 一郎, meaning "first son." Ichiro's name, however, is written with a different character, 一朗, so that his name roughly means "brightest, most cheerful". Ichiro performs in TV commercials in Japan for ENEOS Oil Company. His likeness is used as the basis of the character "Kyoshiro" in the anime and manga Major.

One more link between Ichiro and tsunami – [partly from Wikipedia]

--While the exact origins of “the wave” may be in dispute, Seattle was the first place to routinely perform it [Husky Stadium, Kingdome, Mariners Stadium, Seahawks Quest Field]. It became ubiquitous at every single sporting event in the area in the early 1980s, and it has been a staple of Seattle sports ever since.

No comments:

Post a Comment