Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Protest Meetings Against Linear Shinkansen

The good people trying to stop the Maglev train line between Shinagawa and Nagoya are holding several large meetings this fall, starting on August 30 at Wako University in Tsurukawa (Odakyu Line).

The theme is to learn from the network that protested against environmental destruction near Mt. Takao in Tokyo, and the experiences from the lawsuit against the Ken-O Highway construction.

On September 13 a symposium will be held in Yamanashi, and on October 13 in Tokyo (with long-term Japan resident Arthur Binard, activist and poet from the US).

The Linear Citizens NET is a group with branches in all the affected prefectures (J).They are concerned about the environmental destruction, the threat to water resources, and other pollution concerns (such as the huge amounts of trucks that will be needed to remove gravel during the tunnel construction). Also, there is much doubt that there will be any financial gains at all for the people affected. Construction is expected to continue well into 2045 (or so) if the line is to be extended to Osaka, as planned. Nara and Kyoto are competing about which of the two cities should get a station.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Permaculture, A Story

I have been hearing good things about permaculture but I'm less inclined to agree that animal husbandry can be integrated in any such endeavor...

Ken sayz…

Personally for me permaculture is about just enough and finding contentment, not exerting energy to make money. I like that it’s focused on rebuilding the top soil and growing perennials and growing food and transforming yards into useful spaces, making everything have multiple functions.

To me permaculture is not just about making it in the current economy, it’s about planning for a future economy after unsustainable practices fail and leave us with nothing but the more sustainable ones, which is something that I think young adults today will see as they grow old.

Which made me come up this story, or parable, or fable, of our times:

Once upon a time... there was a city boy in his early thirties who moved to the hills to farm with his young wife. They started small and that all went well for a while. They wanted to farm in a sustainable way that was good for their own health and for Planet Earth. They talked long and late at night about organic farming and permaculture. They made love, a lot. Money, well, that was not talked about so much, at least not in the beginning. The wife started to take pottery lessons with a teacher nearby, and they raising honeybees and sold the honey in the wife’s pretty pots. After a few years, they had a couple of kids and the farm grew, and they bought a larger car to ship their vegetables and honey to the markets in a city nearby, and that all went well for a while.

The city boy didn’t like the high cost of gasoline, so they changed to a diesel car, and he tried to use used cooking oil instead. That all went well for a while, but it was a messy process, and the city boy started neglecting his fields in order to fine tune the engine and the mechanical system he built for purifying the fuel. The wife was busy with the toddlers and had less time to make pottery and care for the bees. Kids went to a local pre-school, and the wife wanted to get more serious about the veggies.

They decided to get a couple of goats to see if that could help clear the fields from weeds. That all went well for a while but the male goat and the female goat had one kid after the other, and there wasn’t enough room. Also, when the kids became adult goats, the inevitable happened – the male goats started having a go at the females, even though they were all related. That created offspring that were inbred, which had to be put down because they were unhealthy and didn’t grow up right. The city boy and his wife – and their children who were now about to enter first grade school - liked the goats, but this was getting complicated. Then the old goats died of natural causes, and needed to be replaced. But from where would they get new, healthy goats?

They decided to raise chicken instead, and ignore the weeds that grew in the fields. They got a couple of hens and a rooster, and the hens got eggs one after the other. That all went well for a while, and they could sell the eggs in the markets in the city nearby, but when they were away, some of the eggs hatched and suddenly they had lots of little yellow chicks, one after the other. And when they grew up, the rooster started having a go at the females, even though they were all related, just like the goats. And again, that created offspring that were inbred, which had to be put down because they were unhealthy and didn’t grow up right. The city boy and his wife – and their children – liked the chicken and the hens and the rooster, but this was getting complicated. All this slaughter was really getting too much. Then the rooster died of natural causes, and needed to be replaced. But from where would they get a new, healthy rooster?

The moral of this story: In any animal population, you need a certain population size in order to have a healthy gene pool. This in essence means you need a herd to raise even a few animals. If you can’t have a herd on your own farm, you need neighbors with animals of the same kind, but again, unless you are all working towards the same goal, inbreeding is always a risk. For larger animals like cattle or pigs the problem is even more difficult, as the diseases that result from the inbreeding are that much more serious, and there are all kinds of rules and laws that you need to follow.

And as each female animal will have a 50-50 chance of having male and female offspring, you will need to slaughter a lot of male calves and piglets or chicken. If you raise cattle, you can of course castrate one or two of the young bulls and use them as ox in your fields, instead of relying on a tractor and fossil fuels, but that still doesn’t take care of your male-female ratio problem. As for poultry, you only need one rooster for a cage full of hens, or the males will fight bloody battles over who gets to sit on the highest stick!


I don’t believe animal husbandry can contribute much to permaculture. There are some organic farms that raise chicken, small-scale, which can produce manure and egg shells that are great for the soil in the vegetable fields. Goats can be helpful to some degree, but you would have to be prepared to slaughter a lot of kids unless you keep your adult animals separated. And how would you make sure that you have a large enough gene pool to avoid inbreeding? Having just one goat is not permaculture. 

I don’t believe purchasing animals should be regarded as part of permaculture, because it means you may end up depending on outside breeders with other, less sustainable goals for their animal husbandry than yours, such as the use of veterinary drugs and commercial feed.

Animal feed is a huge issue. Do you have enough feed on your own farm, or access to sustainably grown feed from neighbors? Or are you going to use commercial grade feed, which usually contains soybeans and other grains like maize? Will you need to transport the feed by car or truck, using gasoline or diesel, or used cooking oil from oil seed like canola, that is also usually imported? Is your feed imported from other countries? That is not compatible with permaculture either. Is it genetically modified? What kind of pesticides and herbicides were used?

These are hard choices to make, and as for the story above, I worry that the city boy and his wife would quickly forget about their initial inspiration, to farm in a way that makes a long-term contribution to healthy life and to the future for our precious Planet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No Red Meat Diet - The Harvard Version

Harvard doctors have some good news for you: the magic number you should be aiming for is five servings


“It is possible that the digestibility of fruits and vegetables and the availability of nutrients and other bioactive compounds of these foods may have reached a plateau at five servings for most people,” Dr. Frank Hu, Harvard School of Public Health professor, told Health Day.

If you live in Japan and still eat red meat, you are contributing to a way of life that supports imports of beef and pork and chicken from abroad. How do you think that is economically feasible? Well, it is not. And, it is NOT healthy. Recent data from long-term studies show that eating red meat (beef, hamburgers, pork, sausage, etc.) will cut your life expectancy. Not only that, living in Japan, are you sure you will get the health care/insurance/pension/whatever to support you if you keep on indulging?

The no red meat diet seems that much more compelling, as the new research data keeps coming in.

Meat consumption in relation to mortality from cardiovascular disease among Japanese men and women.

This study that documented 2685 deaths due to total cardiovascular disease in Japan, fails to convince me that meat consumption was not the cause.

Consumptions of meat (beef, pork, poultry, liver and processed meat) were assessed via a food frequency questionnaire administrated at baseline survey. Hazard ratios (HRs) of mortality from cardiovascular disease were estimated from Cox proportional hazards regression models according to quintiles of meat consumption after adjustment for potential confounding variables.


During 820,076 person-years of follow-up, we documented 2685 deaths due to total cardiovascular disease including 537 ischemic heart diseases and 1209 strokes.


Cutting red meat-for a longer life


New data shows substantial benefit in eliminating or reducing consumption of red meat and substituting healthier proteins.
Red meat: in addition to raising the risk for colorectal cancer and other health problems, it can actually shorten your life. That's the clear message of the latest research based on data from two ongoing, decades-long Harvard School of Public Health studies of nurses and other health professionals. It appears "healthy meat consumption" has become an oxymoron.
"This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death," according to Dr. Frank Hu, one of the senior scientists involved in the study and a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
How should you respond to this latest blow to red-blooded American cuisine? How much meat can you eat? And if not meat, what types of protein should you substitute?

Meat and mortality

In the study, published April 9, 2012, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a team of Harvard researchers looked for statistical links between meat consumption and cause of death. The populations scrutinized included about 84,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 38,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
People in the study who ate the most red meat tended to die younger, and to die more often from cardiovascular disease and cancer. These people also tended to weigh more, exercise less, smoke tobacco more, and drink more alcohol than healthier people in the study. Yet even when the researchers compensated for the effects of unhealthy lifestyle, mortality and meat remained associated.

Portion Control

Portion control
A 3-ounce portion of meat would fit in the palm of your hand.

What the study found

After 28 years, nearly 24,000 people in these two studies died from cardiovascular disease or cancer. How much and what kind of meat did they eat while they were alive?
Using questionnaires, the scientists asked the people in the study to estimate how many servings of meat they consumed. Unprocessed red meat included beef, pork, lamb, and hamburger at serving sizes of 3 ounces, or a portion about the size of a deck of playing cards.
Processed meat included bacon, hot dogs, sausage, salami, bologna, and other processed items. Two slices of bacon represented 1 serving; so did one slice of cold cuts.
The study determined that each additional daily serving of red meat increased risk of death by 13%. The impact rose to 20% if the serving was processed, as in food items like hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts.

What it means for you

What does a 13% increased "risk of mortality" (for each additional serving of unprocessed red meat) mean for an individual? Dr. Walter Willett, a senior scientist on the team and the chair of the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests this way of looking at the study results:
"If someone is age 60 and has a 50% chance of dying in the next 25 years, adding one serving a day would increase his risk of dying in that time to about 57%, and if he had two servings a day, this would be about a 63% risk of dying in that time."
In other words, the effects of unhealthy foods are relative to where you start, and eating red meat—the study shows—comes with a mortality tax. But there is also a hefty mortality dividend to cutting back on red meat. Consuming less than half a serving (1.5 ounces) per day of red meat could have prevented about one in 10 premature deaths in men in the study.

Protein substitutions for
red meat that can reduce your early mortality risk

Substitute a daily portion of red meat with a healthier protein source to reduce mortality risk by the indicated amount:
Red Meat Substitute Reduced Risk
Fish -7%
Legumes, low-fat dairy -10%
Poultry, whole grains -14%
Nuts -19%

Substituting healthy proteins

The study points to an even greater benefit if you substitute meat with equivalent servings of more healthful protein sources, such as fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. The benefit was 7% for substituting fish, 14% for poultry, and 19% for nuts.
Again, says Dr. Willett, there is a clear mortality dividend for such substitutions. 

"If someone who has a 50% risk of dying in the next 25 years replaces one serving of red meat per day with chicken, the risk is decreased to about 42%, and to about 40% if nuts replace red meat."

What should you do?

The prudent course would be to try to reduce red meat consumption if you already haven't. On an individual level the exact benefit is hard to predict, but you can bet that reducing meat consumption—particularly processed meat—is likely to score you an advantage. "Making these kinds of decisions is like being a smart gambler," Willett says. "Nothing is guaranteed, but this is putting the odds in your favor." 

It's a menu many men can live with—literally.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Silver Spoon

I should have posted this, they made a regular movie out of the anime Silver Spoon... So Hachiken, this regular Tokyo city kid goes to agricultural college in Hokkaido, and learns to love animals, and the rest that humans do to them... He reluctantly finds out what most people prefer not to know about, like how eggs are "made" or what happens to cute piglets when they get big and fat and...

Well, if you read Kurashi, you most likely know the rest of the story!

Enjoy... if that's the word ;)

Music by Sukima Switch

銀の匙 Silver Spoon 2014 映画 予告編

I kind of prefer the anime version, though!

銀之匙 片尾曲 - Hello Especially 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Want To Grow Vegetables? JA Youth May Be Able To Help? "New Farmer" Trend...?

Some of my veggies did good this summer, in spite of the insane heat due to the typhoons in early August.

Now, things are back to normal, somehow.

Climate change indeed, I don't remember typhoons in August when I first arrived on these shores.

Warm, yes, but not so hot and humid.

My corn was alright, very sweet and lovely after a 10 minute boil. No salt needed.

But I did really well with the purple cabbage/cucumber/carrots while lucking out in the ruccula department - they just self-seeded since last year. Bitter, tasty, my new favourite greens.

With a drop of vinegar, if you must :)

Even if you just have a balcony, do try to grow something. You will learn the basics, know when to water, and look forward to the harvest. Write a poem, enjoy the change of seasons.

Simple as that.

I'm sad to see new houses being built with ample parking space for cars, and no garden. Bad. We need to quit the asphalt and go for the soil and compost. Learn to live with your own veggies.

Even a tiny space means a lot.


FAO: The future of Family Farming: empowerment and equal rights for women and youth

To cultivate the next generation of family farmers, we must invest in women and youth.
The stereotype of the young male farmer has given way to the reality of an aging, female-fronted farming force. In the developing world, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor—and, in some countries, they make up 80 percent of agricultural labor.

JA Youth is all over Japan trying to engage young people to like farming.

Doing pretty well, me thinks.

All kinds of events and promotions to educate people how to get started. (J)

Kyushu Ebino City

Lots and lots of blogs about starting farming.

Here is from Fukuoka in Kyushu....

Or even in west Tokyo, in Kokubunji...

Japan's Ministry for Farming, MAFF, has a special page for "new farmer" - do explore.

MAFF Facebook

They are serious about it, folks.

And then there is manga and anime to get young people to like farming? I'm all for it.


Silver Spoon” centers on a pack of individualistic youngsters who attend a vocational high school for dairy farming in Hokkaido, northern Japan. Not your average youth film about sports, first love or superheroes, this pleasant pic offers an uncommon glimpse into modern agricultural practices while teaching respect for the food chain. Adapted from the bestselling manga by Hiromu Arakawa, it is smoothly if unadventurously helmed by Keisuke Yoshida and brightened by a likable teen cast. It’s ideal material for educational screening events and could target tween auds in Asian markets.
Arakawa (who also penned the huge hit “Fullmetal Alchemist”), actually has farming roots and attended an agricultural school in Hokkaido on which the setting of “Silver Spoon” is based. Her experience lends authenticity to the fiction, underscoring the rugged pride of country folk as well as the economic difficulties they constantly face. Yoshida’s adaptation plays it safe with the original’s storyline and spirit, delivering solid, feel-good drama, but it could have done with a dollop of the quirky humor he injected into his “Cafe Isobe” (2008).
Like the manga (and the TV anime spinoff), the yarn is told from the perspective of city boy Yugo Hachiken (Kento Nakajima), who enrolls in Ooezou (aka Yezo) Agricultural School in Hokkaido’s Tokachi, a major dairy-producing region. Initially, drama arises from the clashing attitudes of Hachiken, who picked this far-flung school just to avoid his parents, and his classmates, who chose this vocation in order to inherit their family farms. The film also milks some droll humor from the school’s curriculum (which involves waking up at 4 a.m., jogging around the 20-kilometer campus, getting up close and personal with the cows and collecting horse dung), which the hardy country kids take for granted, but which feels like boot camp for wimpy Hachiken. His internship at the farm of classmate Aki Mikage (Alice Hirose) reveals the back-breaking work as well as the impressive modern technology that go into running such an operation.
However, the story’s core values are expressed in Hachiken’s deepening attachment to a baby pig he names Buta-don (“pork rice bowl”). Although his classmate Ichiro Komaba (Tomohiro Ichikawa) jeers at his hypocritical sentimentality over an “animal of economy,” Hachiken struggles to accept that the pig is destined for slaughter; how he eventually deals with this not only signifies a bittersweet coming-of-age, but also advocates a posture of humility toward the ecosystem.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Watch Japanese TV For Free!

Well, I hope that's a headline that grabs your attention. It turns out that NHK World has started making many of its best shows available on the Internet, in English. These are really top programs about Japanese culture, society, and more. Since almost no anime survives on Youtube due to copyrights, catch some rare shows here! This month there are also several programs related to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Also, I like that many of these programs were not tweaked especially for foreign viewers, but we get a chance to see "ordinary" Japanese TV programs, so to speak. All dubbed, although I like subtitles better, but that's just a personal opinion. Do explore!

Daily schedule

August schedule here


Asia Music Network

(Top image from a program about farmer Kiyoko Ojima, "who teaches techniques for growing vegetables to the people who used to be unemployed, and some were even homeless. She hopes that harvesting vegetables will give these people a sense of achievement, and thus the motivation to become more independent.")

Friday, August 01, 2014

Avoiding Meat, Tofu Nuggets In Japan?

Vegetarian? Not really.

I won't eat these until I know what they are really made of. Tofu nuggets at McDonalds in Japan? Is the soy non-GMO or not? Plus the oil must be as bad as usual. Yet, If you want to try to avoid meat, it is a step, but it still includes fish.

The Japanese division of the world’s largest burger chain introduced a new nugget snack this week: Tofu Shinjo Nuggets, made up of tofu and vegetables in Shinjo, a dumpling-like food made up of fish paste and starch. The tofu nuggets will hit Japanese locations Wednesday.
“The new nuggets do not include any chicken,” but are made from ingredients that include onions, soybeans, carrots and minced fish, a spokeswoman at McDonald’s Japan told the Wall Street Journal. "Because it isn’t meat, it tastes a bit different. It’s a bit softer. Calorie-wise, it is a bit lower than chicken as well.”

Christian Science Monitor: Tofu McNuggets? McDonald’s Japan launches new snack amid expired meat scare.

McDonalds is in huge trouble in Japan.

Earlier, McDonald’s Japan halted sales of products containing China-produced chicken, including Chicken McNuggets and the Chicken Filet-O sandwich, and announced that it would begin sourcing its chicken products from Thailand instead of China.
“I would like to extend my sincere apology to our valued customers,” Ms. Casanova said at a Tuesday news conference.
McDonald’s Japan also withdrew its earnings guidance (or forecast) for the year Tuesday, saying that it was unclear just how much dealing with the fallout from the meat scare would impact revenues. The withdrawal capped off two straight years of falling sales for McDonald’s Japan. For the first six months of the year, the division reported a 50 percent drop in operating profit to 3.5 billion yen and a 59 percent drop in net profit, to 1.85 billion yen.

That's a lot of drop in net profit here in Japan.

As I noted earlier on Kurashi, no wonder the US meat industry is so desperate to push Japan and other importing countries to further "liberalize" meat markets. US meat consumption is rapidly decreasing, so producers want to increase their exports. Simple, but their tactics may be about to backfire.

What the US pork and beef people face is a complete collapse back home. Not much talked about, but here are the facts:

The USDA’s latest figures show that Americans are continuing to turn away from meat. Meat consumption reached a high of 201.5 pounds per capita in 2004 but has dropped steadily since then, reaching 181.5 pounds in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. The last time meat intake was at this level was 1983. These figures show that the average American is consuming 20 pounds less meat each year, compared to a decade ago.

For your health, just avoid it, and go for real vegetables and fruit and locally grown produce.

Top image from Tarzan, a popular magazine in Japan, splashing the 350 g of veggies we all ought to eat daily on its August 2014 front cover. I'd say, eat more. But, good cover (I grow just about all those veggies, and more).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eco Links For July, 2014

I went for a walk and watched fireflies near a temple where I live. Amazing creatures. Got a lesson in bioluminescence from Pandabonium, too, via National Geographics.

There is a lot I do not know.

I like how my town is not exploiting this site for tourism.

July - hot and humid. Japan still has no nuclear reactors online. Do people in other parts of the world even think about this? Can we get some support, please?

Seems a small town in Tochigi near major tourist spot Nikko, where the Tokugawa shoguns have their final resting place, will be selected to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. "Permanently" is a pretty serious word when it comes to nuclear waste. Not sure why they didn't put it in Fukushima. Expect Narita-style protests?

The Mainichi: Tochigi town favored as permanent radioactive waste storage site

Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)
Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of the Environment is preparing to use state-owned land in the Tochigi Prefecture town of Shioya to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.
The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store "designated waste" including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.
Following the meeting, Mikata stated that he was "opposed to construction" of such a facility but indicated that he would engage in discussions with the ministry.
The ministry is eyeing three hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site, officials say. In a meeting with mayors in Tochigi Prefecture it was earlier agreed that prospective sites would be evaluated on four factors -- their distance from communities, their distance from water resources, the level of vegetation and nature in the area, and the amount of designated waste to be stored. Officials agreed to convert these figures into numerical data to make judgments.
During the meeting on July 30, which was also attended by Tochigi Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda, Inoue explained to Mikata that Shioya had achieved the highest ranking in the evaluation. Mikata responded that the ministry's move was "disappointing." He added that the source of one of Japan's designated 100 remarkable water areas lay nearby.
In a news conference after the meeting, Mikata told reporters, "I conveyed my clear opposition. But I think we should lend an ear with regard the implementation of a detailed survey. I would like to consider the issue after discussions with the Ministry of the Environment."
The designated waste includes straw and incinerated ash with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels or more per kilogram. In 2012, the ministry named the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita as a prospective location to build a permanent storage site, but it did not provide explanations to the town in advance, which resulted in local opposition, sending the ministry's plans back to the drawing board. Later, local officials agreed to settle on a single location in which a detailed survey would be conducted. The ministry had acted swiftly to make a selection. A total of roughly 14,000 tons of designated waste remains in Tochigi Prefecture.

Jiji Press and Yomiuri: Tochigi town chosen for N-waste disposal

Jiji Press SHIOYA, Tochigi (Jiji Press)—The Environment Ministry said Wednesday it has picked state-owned land in the town of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, as a candidate site for building a final disposal facility for designated waste contaminated by radioactive substances from the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima.

State-owned land, that must be the key word. No need to dilly-dally any further, then. This is an issue that should have been in focus since the first nuclear reactors were conceived of and built back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

NHK World:  Spent nuclear fuel: Reprocess or dispose?
The Japanese government's basic stance is to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and reuse it as fuel at nuclear power plants.

A basic energy plan adopted in April upholds the nuclear fuel recycling policy. But, for the first time, the plan also called for studies on ways to directly dispose of spent fuel without reprocessing it.

Behind this move lies a series of challenges the government faces in recycling nuclear fuel. A reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in the northern prefecture of Aomori has suffered numerous troubles, and has been unable to start full operation more than 20 years since construction began.

The fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan is designed to use recycled plutonium.
But the facility too has been plagued by troubles, including a fire and failed inspections, and its future is uncertain.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to continue geological and geographical analyses for the direct disposal of spent fuel. It's due to finalize a report in 2018.

However, this option also has its own challenges. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and compared to reprocessing, direct disposal would mean more than a 4-fold increase in nuclear waste volume.
Above all, the government lacks any prospect of finding a place that would accept a nuclear dumpsite.

Jul. 25, 2014

NHK World: Agency: Nuclear waste can be directly disposed of
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is reported to be looking at the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel instead of reprocessing it.

NHK has obtained a draft report compiled by the agency which analyzed the environmental impact of disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

The conclusion of the analysis is expected to touch off controversy, because the government has long maintained the policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel. It has conducted few studies about disposing of it as waste.

Spent nuclear fuel is known to have higher radiation levels than high-level radioactive waste.

But the agency's draft report says it is technically possible to directly dispose of spent nuclear fuel at a low radiation level.

If spent nuclear fuel is buried 1,000 meters underground for 1 million years, the radiation level at the earth's surface will peak in 3,000 years, at 0.3 microsieverts per year.

Even though reprocessing remains official government policy, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is nowhere near full operating capacity.

Japan's nuclear power plants have accumulated 17,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

The agency's analysis is expected to lead to greater attention on future discussions on dealing with the stockpile of spent nuclear fuel.

Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki at Nagasaki University says the conclusion that direct disposal is possible is a very important step forward. Suzuki is a former member of the government's Atomic Energy Commission.

Jul. 25, 2014

If you still eat meat, at least you know what to avoid. Right?

Kyodo: China scandal pushes McDonald's Japan to upgrade food-safety steps

McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) apologized Tuesday for a recent scandal over chicken meat provided by a Chinese producer, promising to do "whatever it takes" to ensure the safety of food on its menu.
"I would like to extend my sincere apologies to our valued customers for any anxiety or concern that this situation may have caused," President Sarah Casanova said at her first press conference since the scandal emerged last week. McDonald's Japan has halted sales of all products using chicken meat sourced from China since one of its suppliers, Shanghai Husi Food Co., was accused of selling spoiled and expired meat to Western fast food chains operating in China and Japan. It has already switched chicken sourcing to Thailand completely. 

These fast food chains are also going to increase imports of meat from Brazil. We know what that means: More rain forest cut down, more genetically modified feed, more bacteria and virus and you name it. You really want meat that bad (and that cheap?) and every day? Not going to happen.

Cheap meat, cheap energy. That is about to change, and are you prepared?

CDC Director Blog Thoughts from CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

This really made my day. I will be attending the meeting in Korea in October, and this is what we get:

Asahi: Nagoya Protocol to take effect in October,but Japan has yet to ratify it

July 16, 2014


The Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources will take effect in October, but without the participation of Japan--even though it spearheaded the initiative.

The protocol stipulates procedures for equal sharing of benefits on the use of genetic resources such as medicine between providers of the resources and users of them.

While Japan compiled the protocol as president of the meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, it did not meet the deadline for ratification due to a delay in domestic procedure.

The Secretariat of what is informally known as the Biodiversity Convention, based in Montreal, announced July 14 that 51 countries had ratified the document.

That means the protocol will enter into force on Oct. 12, exactly 90 days after more than a minimum of 50 countries agreed to be bound by it.

The protocol was adopted at the 10th meeting of the CBD parties in 2010 in Nagoya, with the aim of providing financial assistance to developing countries that provide resources covered by the protocol.

This is because companies and research institutes in advanced countries tended to monopolize bumper profits, which were criticized as “biopiracy.”

The first meeting of parties to the protocol to discuss details will be held during the Conference of Parties of the CBD, scheduled in South Korea in October.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: “Practical tools such as the Nagoya Protocol are critical for the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity. I commend the member states that have ratified this important international legal instrument.”

Japan has been slow to ratify the protocol because of holdups in making arrangements with related industries.

Various government ministries and agencies held meetings with experts, industry representatives and academics to discuss Japan's position, but to no avail.

“Japan is responsible for ratifying the protocol as soon as possible and to implement related measures as early as next year,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said July 15 after a Cabinet meeting.

First Japan abandons all the work for Climate Change, and now also Biodiversity. South Korea also dilly-dallying, if that's the term. Yes, that's the term. Countries need to grow some spine and man up and get serious about these issues.

What a month.

I like Ken's idea of restoring an old house in rural Nagano prefecture, with farmland and forest, and pledged 5,000 yen to his amazing vision/project called Kijisan. Do follow/support/enjoy.

Who hasn’t thought about restoring a Japanese mountain farm? Japan is full of small dying hamlets that are loaded with perfectly good infrastructure and inexpensive homes on old agriculture lots. While the social structures of these hamlets are fading, they have small commercial centers, water systems, and are surrounded by forest reserves, or commons. They are walkable, bikeable, quiet and usually human scaled. To my mind they are the model to emulate, and ought not be abandoned.

Why is it Calvin & Hobbes have all the answers...

Top image from Saitama company Yoshima, staff blog