Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Human Family Tree

The Human Family Tree

The Human Family Tree: Tracing the Human Journey Through Time

Airs on National Geographic Channel Sunday, August 30, 2009, 9pm

The Genographic Project is creating a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world by mapping the genetic markers in modern peoples. These great migrations eventually led the descendants of a small group of Africans to occupy even the farthest reaches of the earth.

200,000 – 150,000 years ago: The genetic journey of everyone alive today began with one woman — “Scientific Eve” — who lived in Africa and passed along her DNA through special cell structures called mitochondria, which only women pass down to further generations.

195,000 years ago: No one knows when modern humans first appeared, but the oldest skulls and bones of anatomically modern humans were found in Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley by paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey in 1967. Our ancient homo sapien ancestors remained in Africa for as long as three-quarters of our history as a species.

150,000 years ago: The first branch point on our human family tree is marked by the earliest major movement of humans: One group headed to southern Africa and the other to eastern Africa — and later, to the rest of the world.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Aomori Japan

Aomori is the capital city of Aomori Prefecture, the Northernmost state of Japan's Tohoku region North of Akita, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The city faces the Tsugaru Strait via Mutsu Bay to the North and the Hakkoda Mountains to the South. It has the biggest seaport in the prefecture. Aomori ”青森” literally means blue/green forest. Snow and cold weather characterize the winter climate in Aomori. The city and its surrounding area is renowned for its heavy snowfall, which is said to be the heaviest among all Japanese cities. In 1981 the city recorded a maximum snow cover of 196 cm. Aomori is especially famous for its apple orchards.

The Seikan Tunnel is a 53.85 km (33.46 mi) railway tunnel in Japan, with a 23.3-kilometre (14.5 mi) long portion under the seabed. It is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It travels beneath the Tsugaru Strait — connecting Aomori Prefecture on the Japanese island of Honshū and the island of Hokkaidō. Before the Seikan Tunnel opened, Aomori's port connected the city via ferry to Hakodate in Hokkaidō, serving as the main entrance to Honshū for passengers and cargo to and from Hokkaidō.

Lake Towada, a beautiful caldera, lies on the boundary between Akita and Aomori Prefectures. The Oirase river drains Lake Towada; in the summer it is refreshing and in the autumn the leaves are breathtaking. It is the largest caldera lake in Honshū island, Japan. Located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, it lies 400 meters (1,800 ft) above sea level and is 327.0m (1,073 ft) depth,. With a surface area of 62.2 km², Towada is Japan's 12th largest lake, its bright blue color due to its depth.

The Oirase mountain stream is the only stream that has Lake Towada as its source, and the upper reach of the stream runs for 14 km. The area around the stream is famous for its splendid landscape and the beauty of the colorful autumn leaves.

Tsugaru ben is one of the local dialects spoken in Northern Japan. It is not well understood by most Japanese people outside of Aomori.

The Tsugaru clan was a Japanese samurai clan originating in northern Japan, Mutsu Province. A branch of the local Nanbu clan, the Tsugaru rose to power during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It was on the winning side of the Battle of Sekigahara, and entered the Edo period as a family of lords (daimyo) ruling the Hirosaki Domain. A second branch of the family was later established, which ruled the Kuroishi Domain. The Tsugaru survived as a daimyo family until the Meiji Restoration, when Tsugaru Tsuguakira of Hirosaki and Tsugaru Tsugumichi of Kuroishi were relieved of office. Their extended family then became part of the new nobility in the Meiji era.

Nebuta Festival

The Nebuta Festival is a weeklong Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori City, Japan. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country's nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in Northern region. The festival was designated an important part of the country's folk culture in 1980. "Nebuta" refers to the float of a brave warrior-figure which is carried through the center of the city, while dancers wearing a unique type of costume called haneto and dance chanting "Rassera".

Nebuta floats are made of a wood base, carefully covered with this same Japanese paper, beautifully clolred, and lighted from the inner part with hundreds of light bulbs. In early August the colorful floats are pulled through the streets accompanied by people dancing in native Nebuta costumes, playing tunes on flutes and drums. One of the reasons for the popularity of the Nebuta festival is the free participation of the public. The sounds of the Nebuta drums and bamboo flutes inspire people to prepare costumes and begin practice of the Nebuta dances. The festival is held every year from August 2 to August 7, where the float is carried through the city during the evening from August 2-6, and during the daytime on August 7. A fireworks show is held on the evening of the final day while the float is carried into the sea.