Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Chinese foods with funny Korean names

Funny Korean names on Chinese foods Posted by Hello

Recently, many Chinese foods are sold all over Asia, especially in Korea and Japan. But, the Chinese companies need a language lesson! These food products have Korean characters, but they are meaningless, or just - - too funny!!

To be popular in China, the foods have such Korean characters, but really... The cookies in the photos have a label trying to say "please chose this with mother's love" but actually, they failed so terribly! About the tea, the label says "a sense of nature that has been recovered" and "it is cool!" but that seems really strange, or perhaps, just totally out-of-date copywriting.

Visiting Sweden

From Kowaka-san's visit to Sweden Posted by Hello

My boss at Japan Offspring Fund, Kowaka-san, is visiting Sweden and Denmark this week. He is very interested in sustainable agriculture and healthy food. In Sweden, he and his staff (and wife and cute daughter!) have visited Swedish chicken farms, where almost no antibiotics need to be used, due to strict hygiene rules and good animal welfare practices. He is trying to introduce such ideas in Japan as well, where over 1500 ton antibiotics is used annually for food production.

Sweden in late May... It is the best time to visit my home country... But, looks like they got some rain, too!

What kind of eco-friendly things do you do?

The Japan Today website asked young Japanese people what they do for the environment. Some of the replies are quite good! Here are a few:

"I also try not to waste gas by just idling my car or motorcyle for no reason, because it emits CO2, the cause of global warming." (Umeno, 30)

"When I smoke cigarettes outside, I do not throw away the cigarette butts on the street. I hold onto them until I find an ashtray." (Niwa, 27)

"My note pad is the flip side of papers that I no longer need." (Marie, 26)

"I try not to buy anything that is disposable, like paper cups, plastic spoons, knives, etc. They are only good for one-time use, and after that you have to buy a new one." (Takashi, 25)

Please click here to add your comment!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Dirty, corrupt Japanese beef industry

The Osaka District Court has sentenced a former meat-packing company executive to seven years in prison for swindling the government out of more than 5 billion yen by abusing a beef-buyback program. The government program was introduced in October 2001, a month after the first outbreak in Japan of mad cow disease.

Mitsuru Asada, 66, the former chairman of Osaka-based Hannan Corp., was called the "big boss of the meat industry." He is one of 26 people indicted in a series of similar cases, according to The Japan Times.

The Japanese government has provided some 21 billion yen in BSE-related subsidies. The amount Asada obtained represents about a quarter of this amount. Disgusting. My question is: Why should tax payers be subsidising the meat industry at all?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Dr Egziabher finally got his visa!

Dr Egziabher Posted by Hello

Dr Egziabher, key negotiator on the Biosafety Protocol, finally received his visa and will attend the meetings on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, Montreal, Canada (25 May - 3 June). As I noted a few days ago, his visa was denied by Canada without explanation and several Canadian embassies and ministers were made aware of this problem one week ago, by Consumers International (CI) and other organisations.

The photo is from a great interview with him on Friends of the Earth's website.

Please click here to read more about Dr Egzianbher and Ethiopia

Peace Demonstrations in Japan, "Freedom Fries"

Peace Demo in Japan Posted by Hello

I don't know if media in other countries has paid any attention to the many peace demonstrations that are taking place all over Japan. There is a strong peace movement that opposes the war in Iraq, and also wants to maintain the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. The photo (from a demonstration that I joined last December) is from Greenpeace Japan's website.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to "freedom fries" has turned against the war. I always like when people are not afraid to change their minds! Quote:

Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina who was also the brains behind french toast becoming freedom toast in Capitol Hill restaurants, told a local newspaper the US went to war "with no justification".

Mr Jones, who in March 2003 circulated a letter demanding that the three cafeterias in the House of Representatives' office buildings ban the word french from menus, said it was meant as a "light-hearted gesture".

But the name change, still in force, made headlines around the world, both for what it said about US-French relations and its pettiness.

Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the "faces of the fallen".

"If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," he told the newspaper. "Congress must be told the truth."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Writing history in East Asia

My father was a high school history teacher, so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about such topics. I noticed that there are always conflicting views, and found that it was difficult to agree on almost anything. War time history seems especially painful, in every country. As Churchill once said, the Victor gets to write the history.

Now, a middle school history textbook, which has taken Korean, Chinese and Japanese scholars four years to write, has been published. The history textbook publication committee, comprised of some 50 teachers, history scholars and civic group members from the three nations, held a meeting to celebrate the publication in downtown Seoul yesterday, according to The Korea Times.

"We have made efforts to share the common ground of history in East Asia based on peace and humanitarianism, confirming that it is possible to respect each nation’s own view on history, while forming a common view of history from among the three countries," the committee said.

Publication of the textbook entitled History That Opens the Future, was initiated in March 2002 at an East Asia peace forum on history in Nanjing, China.

This seems like a step in the right direction for East Asia...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

FC Barcelona vs Urawa Reds June 15

FC Barcelona will play against my football team here in Saitama, Urawa Reds, on June 15. There is a nice photo of the huge World Cup Stadium on their website, with fighter jets in formation. I can see that stadium from where I live... I do hope Henke Larsson, who is from my hometown Malmo, Sweden, will play really well!

This information I shamelessly quote from the FC Barcelona website:

Urawa Red Diamonds was founded in 1950 and turned professional in 1992 along with the other Japanese clubs. The club originated in the town of Urawa, which was then annexed to the city of Saitama. However, as the name of Urawa is extremely popular in Japan, the Club decided to maintain the name.

A team with tradition

Urawa Red Diamonds has a long and impressive list of honours: 1 Japan League Yamazaki-Nabisco Cup (2003), 4 Japan Soccer League championships (1969, 1973, 1978 and 1982), 4 Emperor's Cup championships (1971, 1973, 1978 and 1980), 2 JSL Cup championships (1978 and 1981), finalists in the Japan League Yamazaki-Nabisco Cup (2002 and 2004), finalists in the Japan League Suntory Championship (2004), finalists in the Japan Soccer League (1970, 1971, 1975, 1976 and 1977), finalists in the Emperor's Cup (1967, 1968 and 1979) and second place in the Japan League (2004). FC Barcelona Director of Football Txiki Begiristain played for Urawa.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Biosafety Day - no visa for African negotiator

May 22 is called the International Day for Biological Diversity. It is celebrated annually as an important event. But this year, the United Nations say "it takes on new meaning, new significance and new urgency."

It is a day to think about Earths precious living genetic resources. Very few plants and animals are actually sustaining human life. Rice, corn, wheat and few other are seriously threatened. And new reports show that global fish stocks are down 90% since the beginning of industrialized fishing.

Sadly, most of the terrible destruction takes place in developing countries. That is why I was really upset to hear that Africa's chief negotiator for the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety has been denied entry into Canada to attend meetings to finalise key provisions regarding the international movement of genetically engineered organisms. The biosafety meetings begin next week in the Canadian city of Montreal.

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the Ethiopian government's chief scientist, had his passport returned without the requested Canadian visa Wednesday despite previous visits to Canada, according to IPS. ''I have been to Montreal many times,'' Tewolde said in an interview from Addis Ababa. ''I have never heard of something like this happening before.''

A respected scientist and champion of biodiversity, Tewolde received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel prize) from the king of Sweden in 2000. He is considered by some to be the father of the Biosafety Protocol.

Unlike the U.S. and Canadian governments, he firmly believes in the need for strong international regulations for genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops.

''We're not just upset, we're pissed off about this,'' said Pat Mooney, executive director of a Canadian NGO called the ETC Group.

''I wouldn't have believed it was deliberate but after the CBD meeting in Bangkok I'm not so sure,'' Mooney told IPS.

In Bangkok last February, he said, the Canadian government used ''heavy-handed tactics'' to try and lift a de-facto moratorium on the so-called Terminator, a GE technology that makes seeds sterile. Only strong objections from African countries, Austria, Switzerland, Peru, and the Philippines kept the moratorium in place.

The son of a farmer, Tewolde has publicly clashed with Canadian and U.S. representatives at international meetings over issues such as patents on seeds and the risks of GE crops.

Shame on Canada!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Radio show about health and sustainability

I work for NHK, the national broadcasting station. A much better job is what my Swedish friend Peo is doing, over at J-Wave, a private radio station. He has a show every Sunday morning with news about the environment. He gets to tell millions of Japanese people what they can do to protect their health and the environment!

In his Sunday morning, 6 AM show he tells listeners about organic cafes, how to hold a environmentally-friendly BBQ, and how to minimize garbage (a real problem in Japan). LOHAS means Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

Oh, and I like the music he plays, too. Here is a link to a band from Kyoto that Peo interviewed recently:
Click here to listen to Kicell

Hmm, Peo, the only thing I don't understand is - how on Earth do you manage to wake up so early EVERY Sunday?

Lycka till ;)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mad cow disease and trade barriers

Japan and other Asian countries banned US beef more than a year ago. The first case of BSE had been found. Moreover, sloppy policies regarding testing were revealed. In fact, the US doesn't test very many cows to see if they have BSE or not. USDA inspectors have complained that when they try to do their work, they are harassed. Such "whistle-blowers" have been ignored for many years. Already in 2001, Public Citizens, a US consumer group, warned that the US testing program was in "disarray":

Click here for a report about BSE testing in the United States

This means consumers in Japan, Korea, and other countries cannot be sure that US beef is safe or not.

"There will be a twisted form of imports of U.S.-produced beef without screening and continued screening of domestically produced beef. That only invites confusion among consumers," said Hiroko Mizuhara, secretary general of the Consumers' Union of Japan which has insisted on screening all slaughtered cattle. "This is clear proof that there remains uncertainty in the government," Mizuhara said.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Kent: Du ar Anga

A Swedish band, Kent, has released a new album, Du och jag och doden.

Click here to listen to Du ar Anga

With indiepop growing all over Sweden in the mid-'90s, Kent was to become one of the biggest Swedish bands during that decade. Kent was formed in Eskilstuna in 1990, when singer-songwriter Joakim Berg and lead-guitarist Sami Sirvio met at school. They formed a band and were soon joined by drummer Markus Mustonen, bassist Martin Skold and guitarist Martin Roos.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lecture: Antibiotics in food production

Use less antibiotics for food production! Posted by Hello

My lecture tomorrow at the Fukushima Consumer Center will focus on the over-use of antibiotics in the food industry. In many countries, including Japan, animals are treated with antibiotics on a routine basis. This is linked to the serious problem of "antibiotic resistant bacteria". I will discuss how Sweden and the European Union view antibiotics, and the bans there on antibiotics as growth-promoters.

Consumers need to know that cheap food carries serious risks to our health and the environment. And, it has to be said: the animals suffer...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hybrid cars

I don't own a car, but if I had to buy one, I'd like a hybrid car. Toyota and Honda make them, and they are getting really common here in Japan. Recently, there was news from the US about the terrible state of Ford and General Motors. These companies have fought hard against environmentally friendly cars, like hybrids. Instead their focus has been on SUVs that use a lot of gasolin. But, consumers want the hybrid cars, as gas prices have sky-rocketed, partly because of the US war in Iraq!

The pioneer at Toyota who developed the hybrid engine is Dr Takehisa Yaegashi. He has been getting a lot of recognition recently. Last year, he won a prestigious award for "Best engine of the year" at the Engine Expo 2004, Stuttgart.

Toyota introduced hybrid engines in 1997. I like the quote from their annual report that year:

We welcome healthy disagreements in research and development. Spirited debate and competition are the essence of fertile R&D. In the words of the poet Walt Whitman, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then....I contradict myself; I am large....I contain multitudes."

Click here to read more about hybrid cars in Toyota's annual report from 1997

Monday, May 09, 2005

Join a cyberaction to stop plutonium production in Japan

Join the cyberaction and write emails to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Special Mission of Japan to the United Nations to STOP ROKKASHO NOW!

Please click here to create a message

Please click here for Flash animation to learn more...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

Today is a special holiday in Japan. It is the public holiday called "Constitution Day". The Japanese post-WW2 constitution renounces war in its famous Article 9.

ARTICLE 9: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

Wikipedia mentions that analogues of the Article 9 existed in the post-WW2 German constitution. The German constitution has changed over the years from "no army" to "army for self-defense or defense of NATO-allies" and also to include participation in UN-missions. There is a debate right now in Japan to change Article 9. Other changes may also influence the status of women, and the equality between men and women. There are proposals to put more emphasis on "the family" rather than on gender equality.

Did you know that the Japanese constitution was mainly written by foreigners? The articles about equality between men and women are reported to be written by Beate Sirota, who was born 1924 to a Russian pianist in Vienna. She was only 23 when she participated in US General MacArthur's project to write a constitution for Japan!

Some historians attribute the inclusion of Article 9 to Charles Kades, one of MacArthur's closest associates, who was impressed by the spirit of the 1928 Pact of Paris, a treaty between the United States and other nations "providing for the renounciation of war as an instrument of national policy."

It was proposed in 1927 by Aristide Briand, foreign minister of France, as a treaty between the United States and France outlawing war between the two countries. Frank B. Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, responded with a proposal for a general pact against war.

MacArthur himself has claimed that the idea for Article 9 was suggested to him by Prime Minister Shidehara.

Today I looked for information about the constitution debate on the Japanese government websites, but found nothing. I was disappointed! I wrote an email to them, hoping that they would describe this important debate and - most important - maintain Article 9 as it is, as an inspiration to other countries to also renounce war.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Why does Japan want to produce plutonium?

No Nuke! Posted by Hello

The advanced, civilian nuclear programs of Japan and South Korea could pose a greater proliferation threat than North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, according to Shaun Burnie, an anti-nuclear campaign coordinator working for Greenpeace International. He said the proliferation of weapons-usable nuclear materials by the two countries is ``out of control.’The Scottish activist said Japan already has a 45-ton stockpile of plutonium and could rapidly develop a large atomic arsenal if it felt justified.

His warning comes as delegations from around the world opened a month-long review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday.

(Excerpts from The Korea Times 2005-05-03)

Monday, May 02, 2005

May Day demonstration in Tokyo

Rengo May Day demonstration in Tokyo Posted by Hello

A total of 290,000 people held a May Day rally nationwide on Sunday. One demand is a halt to the government's push for a constitutional revision. Demonstrators also were calling for the elimination of nuclear arms from the global community, organizers said.

Addressing participants at Tokyo's Yoyogi Park, Kanemichi Kumagai, chief of the National Confederation of Trade Unions, critizised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for undermining people's livelihoods on the basis of his economic policies.

Kanemichi Kumagai also was strongly opposing a revision of the constitution, especially Article 9, that prohibits Japan to go to war.

"What the Japanese government should do is not work on a constitutional revision, but assume a part for eradicating nuclear weapons from the standpoint of the sole atomic-bombed country," he said, according to Kyodo News.

In Seoul, South Korean marchers demanded that their work week be shortened from six days to five. They also chanted anti-globalization messages, including “Down, down WTO!” referring to the World Trade Organization, which promotes globalization and trade.