New Life Goal: Free Trip to Japan

In an attempt to boost tourism, Japan will be offering 10,000 free airplane tickets to lucky travelers from across the world. The program is rumored to begin in April 2012 in order to generate the tourism economy currently suffering from the recent earthquake and nuclear power disaster less than a year ago. The catch? Each ticket recipient must blog about his or her travel experience for the duration of the stay. Bloggers with a strong following and those capable of encouraging others to visit the wealthy island nation are encouraged to apply.

Am I one of those highly influential bloggers the Japanese tourism industry is looking for? Probably not. But my life’s new ambition is to receive one of the 10,000 magical boarding passes. Like Charlie, I will buy as many chocolate candy bars as possible to increase my chances of winning a “golden ticket” to the land of the Rising Sun. Since neither of my uncles had children of their own, I represent the final generation of individuals who bear the family name Tsukada. My name is more Japanese than any other part of my life and I want to learn everything I can about it’s origin and history.

In the two times I have traveled to Japan in the past, my combined visits totaled less than four hours. Both to and from the Philippines, I remained behind the thick glass windows of the Tokyo airport munching on green tea Kit-Kats and picturing the world outside. It was with reluctance that I boarded my connecting flight, whispering I’ll be back, before the island archipelago disappeared from view.

As a Japanese-American, I am constantly reminded of my identity and cultural heritage. Strangers I meet for the first time often ask me where I am from or what my ethnicity is. Many want to know if I can speak Japanese and make sushi on a regular basis. I want to tell them, “I’m as Asian as you!” but I simply say, “No, I am the fourth generation born in the United States. My father didn’t speak the language but I do hope to learn more about my culture in the future.” Nobody wants to know if I can speak Italian or have ever traveled to southern Italy, the home of my mom’s grandparents. So as long as I look Asian, I might as well learn as much about Japan as possible. 

I wonder if Japanese citizens will notice the slant of my eyes and color of my hair. Will they be able to tell I am half-Japanese? It’s hard to say and my distinctly American accent will not help me blend in. Even if I don’t win one of those free tickets to Japan, it is a future destination that comes ahead of most places in the world. So I’ll brush up on my chopstick skills, practice the correct pronunciation of Konichiwa, and hope for the best.

Bottle Ban Blocked in Grand Canyon

A New York Times article online reported the indefinite postponement of a plastic bottle ban in Grand Canyon National Park.. The plan was blocked by the national parks chief after a conversation with Coca-Cola, a major distributor and producer of Dasani water bottles. The plan was overturned last year just a couple of weeks before the implementation date on January 1st. Park service officers were disappointed with the recent decision due to the park’s commitment to sustainable practices and the tremendous success of a similar ban in Zion National Park in 2008.

“Discarded plastic bottles account for about 30 percent of the park’s total waste stream, according to the park service. Mr. Martin said the bottles are “the single biggest source of trash” found inside the canyon.”

“Banning anything is never the right answer,” a spokeswoman at Coca-Cola said. “If you do that, you don’t necessarily address the problem. You’re not allowing people to decide what they want to eat and drink and consume.” 

As travelers, we are constantly on the move. Our belongings must fit into a suitcase under 50 lb with mini shampoo bottles all snug in their Ziplock bag, awaiting inspection. We don’t always remember to pack every necessary item of clothing or quick-dry towel before jumping in the car or on a plane. But how much space does one water bottle take up? How difficult is it for every person in a family to bring his or her personal Nalgene or Sigg on their nature adventure?

A friend of mine carries her water bottle wherever she goes. She and the water bottle, Joe Nalgene, have become so attached that he now has a page on Facebook and frequently posts comments on friends’ pictures. While I don’t necessary recommend that every reusable water bottle assumes an Internet identity, I think each of us must grab remember to grab a bottle before leaving the house.

The Coca-Cola spokeswomen says that banning water bottles doesn’t address the problem. The word problem is defined as a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome. An example of a problem is too many water bottles in the national park. The definition of the verb address is to deal with or discuss. An example of this verb in action is removing water bottles before they can be discarded, thus significantly reducing a litter and providing a cleaner healthier park for workers and visitors alike.

I’d say the national park service was doing exactly the opposite of Coca-Cola’s claims by directly addressing the problem of disposable water bottles and decreasing our dependance on bottled water production. Then again, maybe they didn’t see the problem the spokeswoman was talking about. A decrease in Dasini sales…