“Jose in Japan” videos are coming down

Just a quick message: I am sorry to announce that due to multiple Japanese ownership claims that are spreading across my YouTube videos like wildfire, I have no choice but to delete ALL of my Jose in Japan videos. I might re-upload the videos in the future, but for now there’s nothing I can do with YouTube now threatening to delete my account. All of this after the videos have been up without problems for… 3 or 4 years?

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Japan giving away 10,000 free air tickets

It was recently announced that the Japan Tourism Agency intends to offer free air travel to tourists visiting Japan next year as a way to stimulate tourism and the economy. This plan is included in their annual budget which must be approved by the Japanese Government (Diet).

Multiple news sources, in reporting this story, note that tourism levels in Japan have dropped sharply since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the northern Tohoku region – but I suspect the strength of the Japanese Yen also has something to do with it (now at 76.80 to the US dollar).

Under the plan, which may begin as early as April of next year – which is when new fiscal years typically begin in Japan – prospective tourists will be asked to fill out an application, indicating what parts of Japan they would like to visit. Passport ID numbers would be required as part of the application process. The tourism agency will select 10,000 entries after background checks are conducted to ensure that tourists will not enter and stay in the country illegally. These 10,000 lucky people will have their round-trip airfare paid for in full, while being responsible for all other costs (food, lodging, transportation, etc)… they will also be asked to write a report about their trip which will be published online. The tourism agency is hoping that tourists spreading the word about their Japan trip through social media (Facebook, Blogs, YouTube, etc) will stimulate more travel in the country.

I would keep an eye on the websites of the Japan Tourism Agency (http://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/en/) and the Japan National Tourist Organization (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/) to see if and when the application process will begin. Once again, the Diet will need to approve the tourism agency’s budget before this process can begin.

I won’t lie… I definitely will be one of the many people submitting their applications for a free airplane ticket to the land of the rising sun. You have been warned.

Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

I woke up this morning to hear horrible news… a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck Japan, followed by a 30-foot high tsunami. The earthquake is the highest magnitude in Japanese history… higher even than the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake that registered at 7.9.

Hundreds of people are dead, and hundreds others are injured, missing, or homeless. Transportation has grinded to a halt north of Tokyo; train systems in Tokyo were taken offline following the earthquake but most of them are back up and running now.

I ask everyone reading this to consider donating money to help with the Japan relief efforts. If you live in the United States and Canada, the best way to make a donation is to send a text message using your cell phone to the American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross, respectively.

If you live in the United States you can donate $10 by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. Those in Canada can donate $5 by texting the word ASIA to 30333. These donations will be added to your next cell phone bill.

I hope to find out more about Japan’s transport status in the coming days as the extent of the damage becomes clearer. Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers and thoughts.