Thursday, July 28, 2005


Tokyo from above the clouds Posted by Picasa

No nukes in Far East

On the third day of negotiations in Beijing, there have been more "bilateral" talks between the Americans and North Koreans. That means noone else is invited to listen. The Russian negotiator is even saying he'll go home for the weekend. The issue is, DPRK will not give up its nuclear weapons unless the U.S. gets rids of its nuclear weapons in the region. How I wish they would just all sign a peace agreement and start acting like normal people.

Read more about nuclear insecurity in the region and U.S. nuclear naval ships visiting Japan, and what U.S. president Ford thought about this serious issue.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A hot summer in Korea?

Today is the second day of talks between six nations in Beijing, where the North Korean nuclear development is being discussed. North Korea has already offered to abandon its nuclear weapons, but are they sincere? As North Korea is still "technically" at war with the U.S., it wants to negotiate a non-aggression pact and get economic aid. Meanwhile, I found this story at the Digital Chosun about a comment from South Korea's unification minister:

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Tuesday the Gwangju Democratic Uprising of 1980 was thwarted by an "invisible hand." The minister was telling an Uri Party policy committee how the destiny of the Korean Peninsula has been controlled by outside forces for the last 100 years.

"A hundred years ago, the Philippines became a U.S. colony and the Korean Peninsula a Japanese one owing to the Taft-Katsura Agreement” of 1905, Chung said.

“The division of the nation and Korean War were not our will either," nor was the failure of the Gwangju Uprising.

A century later [2005] Chung promised “a hot summer in which our fate will be decided not by North Korea, China, the United States, Japan or Russia, but by our own pride and self-determination."


Chung recently told a weekly magazine the division and war happened without regard to the will of the Korean people, as did the suppression of the Gwangju Uprising. The remarks “mean we must actively decide our own fate,” the minister explained.

I'm following the talks and I'm hoping for the best. In fact, a nuclear-free Korea would mean the U.S. would also have to make a commitment to get rid of all nuclear war ships in the region. Perhaps they can move them back to California? Or dismantle them once and for all? Hmmm, as usual, I suppose I am being to idealistic...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sick House Syndrome

About 1 percent of households living in new houses in Japan suffer from so-called sick house syndrome, and high humidity is likely to increase the risk, the Japanese government's health ministry said Monday.

The estimate by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is based on a survey it conducted, marking the first comprehensive nationwide research on what Kyodo News calls "mysterious" sick house syndrome and correlation with living environments. (Note: what is "mysterious" about getting sick from toxic chemicals!? Someone should give Kyodo journalists a health science lecture...)

Many new houses and apartments in Japan contain more than 0.08 parts per million of formaldehyde, which is the legal limit set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. However, certain construction companies are also setting forth criteria for solvents such as toluene and xylene valpors, and have switched to water-based flooring paints without solvents.

The trend is emerging in Japan to build eco-houses that are virtually free from dangerous man-made chemicals. The Ecological House Research Institute says:

"Without addressing the problem that dwelling houses, which should be basically healthy in their environments, are constructed of building materials that generate such gas and contain such chemicals causing sickness, we cannot discuss the environmental problem of the 21st century."


Sweden is the third largest supplier to the Japanese residential building product market and have a 25% market share. Sweden increased its market share over the last several years because of Sweden House (click here to see their commercials!). This is actually the largest imported homebuilder in Japan, and they brag about having "a good quality image". I can't find a word about sick house syndrome on their fancy website, though.

Chinese internet censorship

According to a blog called Rconversation, bloggers who want to reach a Chinese audience should avoid the following blog service providers, all of which have now apparently been blocked:

http://egoweblog.com
http://www.blogspirit.com/
http://www.blogeasy.com/
http://www.blogzor.com/
http://www.mazeme.com/
http://www.yesblogger.com/
http://www.tblog.com/

Rebecca MacKinnon writes that the latest blockings come on top of a sustained campaign by Beijing against the free use of the internet that has included:

* The closing of thousands of internet cafes that allowed customers open access to the internet.
* Legislation forcing mainland Chinese to register their real world identities with the local security forces before being allowed to use internet cafes.
* Legislation making service providers responsible for political comment made though their services.
* Legislating forcing mainland Chinese bloggers and Webmasters to register their site addresses and real world identities with the government.

Wendy Ginsberg, writing for Index on Censorship, provides the following commentary:

"When one of China’s Internet users – now more than 90 million strong – logs on to the popular search engine Google.com, everything appears normal. But search results for China-based web surfers are anything but. Websites without the government’s blessing – including the BBC, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Amnesty International – will not be found."


Thanks for the photos! Posted by Picasa

Funeral in Seoul for last Korean heir to the throne Posted by Picasa

Read more here about the funeral this weekend in Seoul for the heir to the throne of the ancient Choson monarchy.

More details about Yi Ku, the son of the last crown prince of the Choson Kingdom

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What a waste!

NHK will be discussing a common Japanese expression "Mottai-nai," which people use to express their appreciation many things. Literally it means "What a waste!"

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai is one of those who want to spread this concept around the world. Maathai, who is an ardent advocate of reforestation in Africa, has been urging people to adopt the word "Mottai-nai" as a slogan for protecting the environment. In Japan, too, people are starting to take steps to revive the tradition of "Mottai-nai."

Click here to read more about broadcasts from NHK.

Hmm, I have to say, this guide is extremely confusing! The program will be broadcast on Friday July 22. Good luck in finding it, and do let me know if you enjoyed it ;)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Thinking about leisure and imagination

In a very interesting article, 'No More Work, Now Play!' The Korea Times invites us all to think about the importance of leisure. Staff writer Kim Ki-tae introduces two recent Korean books. One is called You Will Succeed As Much As You Play (Nonunmankum Songgonghanda) by Kim Chung-woon. The other is Play, Art and Imagination (Noriwa Yesul Kurigo Sangsangnyok) by Chin Cung-gwon.

A couple of quotes:

Kim’s approach is timely and fresh especially as he reminds us that the issue of leisure is not just a personal matter but a national subject. As he puts it, 'just as the nation’s outdated financing and banking system brought the financial crisis in the 1990s, the lagging leisure culture could pose a threat to society as well.'

Kim contends that it is playful people, not just diligent ones, that can give a fresh and creative perspective to the information era.

'They can redefine relations between pieces of information and reinterpret contexts of information we think we are familiar with. In doing so, they can add new and fresh value to old information,' Kim writes.

'The power of the playful comes from none other than 'joy.’ Those who pursue joy can be the creative playful ones.’

The professor asserts, however, that Korean culture has been suppressing joy. 'The antonym of work is not play, but sloth,' he notes.

As if echoing Kim’s voice, Chin also declares that the new era of imagination has come. 'The power of production in the future will be imagination. The 'Imagination Revolution’ has already begun,’he writes, according to The Korea Times.

Chin also suggests that we pay attention to the baroque era, which is similar to this post-modern era. Bearing in mind Italian scholar Umberto Eco’s comparison of the medieval era with the post modern one, Chin writes that the baroque imagination involves science and fantasy, while the medieval imagination is rather related to sorcery or theology. 'Maybe we can call this era `neo-baroque,’Chin writes.

I think I will spend the evening listening to Bach...

Japan's low food self-sufficiency rate

I did a lecture yesterday in Chiba, for a group connected with Seikatsu Club. One of the questions was about Japan's low food self-sufficuency rate. It is only about 40%, which is very low compared to other developed countries.

This topic interests me. I did a quick search using google, and found only results related to Japan and - Ethiopia. It seems most other countries are not concerned about this topic. For Japan, being so dependent on foreign resources is becoming a huge problem. What to do when oil prices go up, and when there is no more oil to ship the food to Japan!?

A report from OECD also points out that 40% of the global population in 2025 will be living in countries whose water supplies are too limited for food self-sufficiency.

Hmm, what will I have for lunch today...?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

UN AIDS conference in Kobe

KOBE-"If." It's a word that has barely escaped Moni Pen's thoughts since her husband died two years ago, weakened by meningitis, an opportunist disease triggered by AIDS.

If only she'd had the money for the necessary drugs. If only they'd been cheaper. If.

In Pen's native Cambodia, the kind of anti-retroviral treatment that has prolonged the lives of people with AIDS and HIV in richer nations is still very much a luxury beyond reach.

Still, that doesn't make her husband's premature death any easier to deal with.

Read the whole story at Peace Journalism

For more information about the The 7th United Nations International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Kobe, Japan from 1-5 July 2005, please
click here

Friday, July 08, 2005


Paris Wall of Love Posted by Picasa

Rice field pictures


Inakadate rice fields Posted by Picasa

I just adore these rice field pictures! They are created by farmers in Aomori prefecture, using different varieties of rice, in a town called Inakadate that has a population of 9,304 people. This village is located in the southern region of the Tsugaru Plains, known as one of the best rice-producing districts in the prefecture. Flower cultivation is also popular, and in the same manner that flowers such as the Turkish bellflower, cyclamen, and roses have achieved a special status in Inakadate, a jumbo strawberry named the "love berry" has become a new special product of the village.

Results from the G8 meeting

Leaders of the eight most powerful countries (G8) meeting agreed their final statement on climate change, but Friends of the Earth International and other NGOs said the document added nothing in the fight against climate change.

“There’s nothing meaningful in the G8 text because they couldn’t come to an agreement demonstrating the continued split between the Kyoto seven and the US,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF International’s Climate Change Programme.

“Thanks to the Bush administration, the world’s biggest polluters have given little hope to those already suffering from climate change, especially those in Africa who will be hit hardest by climate change,” added Morgan.

A bit depressing, I suppose, especially after all the sad and terrible news from London. However, the plan of action agreed between the G8 and the African leaders means debt relief for the poorest countries, the doubling of aid for Africa to $50bn, the promise of Aids treatment for all, and a new peace-keeping force for Africa to promote stability and democracy. That sounds like an achievment.

G8 photos from The Times Posted by Picasa

Delays at G8 due to bomb attacks in London

Due to the terrible bombings in London, the expected G8 statement about global warming has been postponed until Friday.

"The discussions on climate change have gone very well," said Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, referring to talks held in the absence of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who had travelled to London for police briefings.

"We have noticed a shift in the American position," French President Jacques Chirac said late on Thursday, according to BBC.

I found this statement from Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, from Feb 17, 2005 when the Kyoto Protocol entered into force.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bad advice

In an interview, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair hesitated to critisize the American policy on global warming. He said that it was far too easy to “point the finger at America”. China and India would be major CO2 producers over the next few years, and unless they were involved in an agreement it would never happen.

Yes, China and India will also pollute Earth's environment. While that is true, it seems Blair and Koizumi are so wimpy who never say anything frankly about the US position. It seems they have such bad advisers!

In fact, The Times has revealed that the White House aide who softened scientific warnings about global warming in US government documents has been hired by Exxon Mobil, the oil company. Philip Cooney, the former chief of staff to President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, quit two days after leaked documents disclosed the extent to which he had neutered the conclusions of government scientists.

Mr Cooney’s handiwork became an embarrassment to the White House when it was revealed in June. The leaked documents showed that he edited environmental documents before their release, according to The Times.

For instance, at one point he inserted the words “significant and fundamental” before the word “uncertainties” in an apparent effort to cloud the stark findings and predictions of scientists.

In one October 2002 policy paper, Our Changing Planet, Mr Cooney added the word “extremely” to the sentence: “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.”

Environmental activists have long accused Mr Bush of allowing big oil interests to dictate his environmental policy, writes The Times in a comment.

Climate change previous

G8 debating climate change today

Japan has proposed industry-based standards in an effort to combat global warming. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi submitted the proposal at the annual Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Britain. According to Asahi Shimbun, energy efficiency indexes would be established as nonbinding targets for each industry, with the cooperation of the International Energy Agency.

According to other newspapers, there were "furious" back-room talks taking place in Gleneagles throughout July 6 to carve out G8 deals. The toughest negotiations are over the two central issues: African poverty and global warming. US officials have been lobbying behind the scenes against setting any specific goals or timetables for emission reductions, as called for in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Regarding aid to Africa, Koizumi pledged to double Japanese official development assistance over the next three years. Japan has been actively committed to helping African nations out of poverty by hosting of gatherings of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Koizumi's efforts to draw the attention of his G-8 fellows met with a little success when he proposed promoting a "3R" — or reduce, reuse and recycle — campaign when the G-8 leaders and leaders from five emerging economies met at an outreach meeting Thursday, according to Kyodo.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Riots in China demanding environmental protection

Terra Daily reveals that there have been several riots and uprisings in different parts of China, related to environmental problems. I think this is a very important development. China is trying to improve the quality of life for its people, and there will be many challenges from now on.

"The rapid pace of change in China is increasing these types of incidents because local, powerful government interests are destroying people's interests," according to Gilles Guilleux, director of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, quoted by Terra Daily.

Here are some examples of recent demonstrations and riots:

Guangdong province: thousands of farmers protested a land-grab by the government
Anhui province: a riot erupted after a fight between a local government official and citizens
Zhejiang province: demonstrations against a huge polluting battery factory and a chemical factory
Liaoling province: protests after three children died and up to 3,000 fell ill after drinking soya milk issued to schools
Shenzhen Special Zone: riots after police demolished illegal sheds in a water storage reserve
Huai River Delta: violent protests about disastrous levels of pollution
Yunyang district: riots due to re-settlement of Three Gorges dam residents

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8 concert in Japan


Photo from BBC Posted by Picasa

The first Live 8 anti-poverty concert is taking place in Japan, ahead of nine other shows around the world. Icelandic star Bjork, UK boy band McFly and US rockers Good Charlotte are performing for 10,000 fans at the city's Makuhari Messe arena.

According to BBC, more than 200,000 fans are starting to arrive at Hyde Park, London, to see U2, Madonna, REM and Coldplay. The shows come ahead of next week's G8 summit in Scotland and aim to highlight calls to tackle global poverty.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Green tourism


Photo from Furusato.or.jp Posted by Picasa

Thinking of your summer vacation? I just found some interesting statistics. A survey indicates that in 2002 the average number of nights spent at paid accommodation during holidays was 3.5 by the Japanese, a very small number compared with 20.1 for Germans, or 15.8 for the French.

Hiroyo Hasegawa at The Japan for Sustainability Newsletter notes that green tourism in Japan is now just a minor movement: "Reflecting on our lifestyle and lifecourse leads us to wonder about what is really important and what we really want to do in life. Green tourism may provide an opportunity to rediscover our own souls, our own locality and our country, something that clearly cannot be gained through an ordinary sightseeing tour."

Please click here to read more about Green Tourism in Japan