Sunday, December 31, 2006

Restoring forests


Akira Miyawaki says: "Everyone in the world can be a major player in reforestation efforts to protect our own lives. (Under the Chinese kanji character system), if you plant two trees, you have created a hayashi or grove. Three trees make a mori or forest. Plant five trees and you have a shinrin or woodland. What if 6.5 billion people on Earth each planted 10 saplings? That could make a big difference. I'll continue to plant trees for at least the next 30 years until I'm 107."

Miyawaki, winner of the 2006 Blue Planet Prize, has thought a lot about the state of Japan's forests, and developed methods to help restore forests both in Japan and abroad. "No matter how rich you are, you can't live without forests," he says.

Kids help ecologist renew Japan's real forests

Friday, December 29, 2006

Omede-tai


Tai-no-shio-yaki (grilled sea bream) is a special Japanese food for the New Year celebrations. The word "Omede-tai" (congratulations) is supposedly connected to this dish. I don't usually do food blogging, but the party last night was great, with lovely vegetarian dishes such as gomadofu (tofu paste made from sesame seeds). We also had French wine that Takahashi-san selected. Thanks Nora-san for showing your special collection of oil paintings and sculptures.

Who are you calling a left liberal


This will be a slightly unusual post, in the holiday spirit and whatnot. I get most of my visitors via strange google searches (my post about Tegomass has been a big source of hits recetly). I check it once in a while, so I noted that I had a visitor who came via a Belgian blogger, Vincent (cheers!) and I had a look at his site. Nice photos, and lots of intelligent ramblings in Dutch that I can just barely make sense of.

He linked to Richard E Blauvelt's site, where I found a fascinating reference to a diary called An American visitor to Japan 1923. That sort of stuff really amuses me, so I had a click.

Turned out the Blauvelt family history stems back all the way to the 1600s, when Sweden (unsuccessfully) tried to establish a colony in Delaware, aka the Americas:

Gerrit, son of Hendrick, arrived at "The Rocks" at Swede's Landing, DE in March 1638 aboard the Kalmar Nyckel. He then traveled up the Hudson River to Rensselaerwyck. On 7 May 1646 he married Marretje Lamberts Moll in the New Amsterdam (NYC) Dutch Church. He received a grant of farmland on Manhattan Island on what is now Broadway near Maiden Lane and became known as the Blau Boer (Blue Farmer), his farm, the Blau Veldt. On 22 October 1679, he married Josyntje Janse.


Anyway, what I want to say is: I took a fun American test tonight, found on a link on the above-mentioned Blauvelt family page, called The Advocates for Self-Government. Take the test!

I scored like this:



LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.

Happy New Blogging Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tomorrow Never Knows/Within You Without You

George Martin has made new versions of old Beatles' tunes on the album called (appropriately) Love. Here is a great track...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Pluto's Christmas Tree and Web 2.0

In Sweden, Christmas is celebrated today, December 24, not on the 25th. I called my parents earlier tonight, and my mother said she was hoping for a spiritual Christmas, ("andlig jul") which I thought was very nice.

Since the introduction of television, life on Earth (hrm) changed almost as much as with the introduction with the Internet. Yes, 50 years later we are seeing a similar revolution, this time known as "Web 2.0". Heck, Time Magazine even put You on its cover this year, as a tribute to all the people with their own blog, who watches YouTube, sends digital photos and or "raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing". Good.

In 1959, Swedish TV was very much a government affair, with a lot of political controls. A novel idea that particular Christmas was to broadcast "The Walt Disney Christmas Show". It had been produced in the US eight years earlier, a time gap that today seems totally insane. As Swedish TV viewers had been deprived of animated films on their TV screens, the 3PM show became an instant hit. So, even today, between 35 and 40 percent of Swedish people sit down and watch this annual show on December 24, according to Dagens Nyheter.

So here it is, a small part of Sweden's silliest Christmas tradition!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Have a green holiday


The Ecologist has some good advice for anyone trying to have a green holiday, including a Seasonal Survival Guide. They also have a seasonally-adjusted contemporary Pantomime, by Paul Kingsnorth, a fun take on Jack and the Beanstalk.

What I liked best was the recipe for Mulled wine, a drink we Swedes call Glögg - impossible to spell or pronounce in Japanese!

What you need:

1 bottle red wine
60g/2oz demerara sugar
1 orange, halved
1 dried bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
grated nutmeg
60ml/2fl oz sloe or damson gin
(optional)

How to make:
1. Put the wine in a saucepan with the sugar, orange, bay leaf and spices.
2. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add sugar to taste.
3. Take off heat and stir in the sloe or damson gin if you are using it.
4. Strain into heatproof glasses and serve immediately.

In Sweden we also add raisins and blanched almonds, and some people like it with slices of (organic) oranges too.

Och för alla mina svenska läsare runt om i världen kan jag inte låta bli att lägga en länk till Djungelns Pajas från svensk TV som jag hittat på YouTube. Omöjligt att begripa varför de valt att visa just den filmsnutten varenda julafton sedan 1970-talet... God helg!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Environmental awareness on the rise in China

I would like to direct any reader who might be so inclined to read a long interview about how the awareness about environmental protection gaining momentum in China.

The rich consume and the poor suffer the pollution.

Pan Yue, deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), also writes:

In China, environmental protection is an increasingly pressing issue. Not only are pollution and ecological degradation becoming ever more serious, but also people are more and more unsatisfied about the situation. The speed with which we are polluting the environment far outstrips our efforts to clean it up. Why is this? China has a large population but few resources, and our production and consumption methods are too out of date. But at the root of the problem lies a more significant cause -- the lack of public participation in China.

The initial motivation for the world environmental protection movement came from the public, without their participation it would not exist.

Read more at China Dialogue The environment needs public participation.

He also looks at the lessons China can learn from Japan:

Take Japan as an example; although the country faces a greater pressure on resources than China, it is a world leader in protecting the environment. Visitors to Japan in recent years are invariably impressed by the country’s clean environment. But Japan also experienced the serious social consequences of pollution midway through the last century, when it underwent large-scale industrialisation.

Asahi Shimbun also notes that the Chinese government seems to be giving reporters considerable latitude to write about environmental issues, whereas stories on religion, human rights, military issues and diplomacy are much more sensitive.

Media at the forefront of China's environmental fight

Candlenight 2006

The good people promoting Candlenight 2006 on December 22 have made a nice website where you can add your own special message, and it will appear by a glowing dot where you live on Earth: CandleScape2006

The Photo Contest looks interesting too!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ayako Uehara


This is just great. NHK has a wonderful classical music program every Sunday evening, and I was impressed tonight by her performance: Ayako Uehara was the soloist. And on YouTube I found much more... Her performance with the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit, Tchaikovsky piano symphony numner one, NHK Hall, Tokyo, December 3, 2004.

Please enjoy...



Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hibernation

I got a bit busy with several projects so Kurashi News From Japan will have to take a short intermission. Back soon, hopefully.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Asia's 1000 largest companies


Hong Kong weekly Yazhou Zhoukan ("Asian Weekly") writes in its December 3 issue that Japan topped the list with 636 companies in Asia, followed by Taiwan with 78 and Korea with 67.

A total of 63 Chinese companies made it on the list, up from 39 in 2004 and 46 in 2005.

Two Chinese companies, Sinopec (the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation) and SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) ranked fourth and ninth this year. In terms of sales, Toyota was the top Asian company, with Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Hyundai Motor also among the top 20.

Rankings such as this do give some insight about the tremendous power of the Asian economy...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Urawa Reds vs Gamba 3-2

My team here in south Saitama, Urawa Reds, won J League 3-2 in a great game against Gamba this weekend. Saitama's World Cup Stadium (Tom, remember?) is about 10 minutes from my apartment. It was full of fans, and my supermarket couldn't play the "Urawa Reds" song enough...

Here is a nice video of the awards ceremony




More cheering in Urawa City!

Here is what Yomiuri has to say today: Reds capture 1st J.League title

For the longest time, Urawa Reds have been known as the J.League's club with the best supporters. Now, they can be known as the best club, period.

Reds won the 2006 J.League championship on Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 victory over Gamba Osaka, capturing their first title in 14 seasons before a league record turnout of 62,241 at Saitama Stadium.

Urawa finished the campaign with 72 points from 34 games, five points ahead of runnerup Kawasaki Frontale, who beat Cerezo Osaka 3-1 Saturday to nail a berth in next year's Asian Champions League.

Reds, having climbed back from relegation seven years ago, became the sixth club to hoist the league's championship plate.

"Urawa Reds wa ichiban desu!" Urawa manager Guido Buchwald said to the crowd, after his team seized the top-of-the-table clash against Gamba, the 2005 champions.

The Reds were formed in 1951, as the club team of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Even back then, they were referred to by their fans as the "Red Diamonds" in reference to the red diamond trademark of Mitsubishi that they wore on their uniforms. The Reds were a dominant team in the JSL during the1970s and early 80s, when the team was coached by Kenzo Yokoyama, who would later serve as national team coach. Under his guidance the team won the Japan Soccer League championship four times, in 1969, 1973, 1978 and 1982.

(Source: Rising Sun News)

Japan, South Korea and China: 8th Environmental summit

Japan and China agreed Saturday to set up separate working-level talks on securing drinking water for the Chinese public and the recycling of resources as part of their cooperation on the environment, the Japanese environment minister said.

Masatoshi Wakabayashi told reporters after his talks with Zhou Shengxian, head of China's State Administration of Environmental Protection, that he also asked Beijing to investigate medical waste found on Japanese coasts that may have originated from China.

The agreement on water cooperation was reached after Japan had been informed by China that a major problem it faces is the securing of clean drinking water for its public, Wakabayashi said.

Kyodo has more details: Japan, China agree on cooperation over water, resources recycling

NHK is also reporting that at the meeting today, Japan, China and South Korea have agreed to conduct a joint study and raise funds to deal with the problem of yellow sandstorms.

I will update this if I find news about the conference on Korean or Chinese websites. Good to see that the three countries are finding common ground and discussing serious environmental issues together. There is a lot to do.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tegomass in Sweden

Well, seems Japanese duo Tegomass has made quite an impression in Sweden at their debut party at Spy Bar on November 15. Congratulations to all the fans who got to meet them in Stockholm! The song "Miso Soup" was co-written by a Swedish song writer, Stefan Åberg. Also you can hear Swedish folk musician Mats Wester playing the traditional Swedish "nyckelharpa" on the record. Mats Wester is a "key" member of Nordman, a great rock/folk band that I like a lot. LOL good to see these two Japanese kids doing well in Sweden. I have mentioned before that Swedish songwriters like Fredrik Hult are doing well in Japan, and of course I hope this will be a big hit!



(I had to edit and change the video to this one, hope you enjoy the English subtitles!)

Nordman video: Förlist (I am ship wrecked, alone on an island, I need you)

Bonus Tegomass video from Swedish culture news program Kulturnyheterna

Thursday, November 30, 2006

REACH

Update: European Union lawmakers and governments struck a deal on Thursday over REACH, the wide-ranging draft law on toxic chemicals, putting it on track to enter force in the first part of 2007. Story here.


Reuters has details about the political wrangling about REACH, the proposal for a new chemicals legislation in the EU. I spent a large part of my lecture about environmental hormons in Seoul last week discussing the merits of REACH. As Chosun Ilbo notes, most Korean exports to the EU contain chemicals, and almost every export item will be affected by REACH. Korean Exporters Brace for Environmental Rules Abroad.

An attempt was initiated in 1998 by Japan to deal with reprotoxic chemicals. It is known as the Strategic Programs on Environmental Endocrine Disrupters (SPEED) program, but its original scope was significantly reduced faced with the chemical industry's criticism. Here is a website with MoE's information. This is a debate where a lot is at stake.

Reuters: Talks On EU Chemicals Reform Stalled Ahead of Vote

Talks between European Union lawmakers and EU governments over a far-reaching reform of the chemicals sector stalled on Monday just weeks before an important vote in the European Parliament.

The bill, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), was designed to make companies prove substances in everyday products such as cars, computers or paint are safe.

EU states, the parliament and the executive European Commission are negotiating changes to the bill before it goes before the full parliament for a second-reading vote, scheduled for mid-December.

As that deadline approaches, talks were suspended late on Monday after a German conservative member of parliament said he needed more time to consult with his party, according to sources familiar with the talks.

One source said the talks were interrupted, not over, and would resume later this week. "It has not broken down. It will be continued after (a) suspension," the source said.

According to REACH, the properties of roughly 30,000 chemicals produced or imported in the European Union would have to be registered with a central agency. Those of highest concern, such as carcinogens, would require testing and authorisation.

(...)

WWF Europe and WWF Japan have campaigns against toxic chemicals. For more data about the problem in Japan, do have a look at the People's Association on Countermeasure of Dioxin & Endocrine Disrupters website and subscribe to their newsletter.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Early Buddhism in Japan

Tonight, NHK was showing a beautiful documentary with anthropologist Nakazawa Shinichi, who describes early Buddhism in Nara. Nakazawa is an expert on Tibet and has a lot to say about the influences from China and Korea. You can see his very private talk about Japanese religions here. Shinto? Buddhist? What is "before religion and after religion"? You decide.

Mari, my favourite blog, talks about traditional Buddhist vegetarian food called Shojin Ryori.

Who wants GMO foods?



The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission is holding its Task Force meeting in Makuhari, Chiba this week. On the agenda is foods from genetically modified animals. No such foods are approved yet, but there is research on GMO salmon that could be in supermarkets unless consumers step up the protests.

A "safety standard" approved by Codex could pave the way for more GMOs, irregardless of ethical concerns or the concerns of people caring about animal welfare.

Under WTO, an agreement by Codex makes it difficult for national governments to ban GMOs. Others hope that a strong Codex standard can help countries in the developing world, to oppose imports from the U.S. and Canada, where most GMOs are cultivated.

Good to see that there was a pretty big demonstration yesterday outside the meeting venue in Makuhari, where governments discuss this issue. Many Co-op members, Consumers Union of Japan, farmers' groups and Korean activists participated in the rain. I especially want to mention Seikatsu Club, the Co-op that is fighting for better foods and environmentally friendly products. Japanese website with information about how to become a member here. Do join.

In September last year, I participated in the Codex meeting. Videos here. Frankly I was utterly disgusted by the lack of concern for ethics and animal welfare. Such issues are called "Other Legitimate Factors" and I wish more people would get involved in this debate, to consider what is "legitimate" in terms of scientific development. Are GM Food Animals Coming? ICTSD provides a good background on the debate.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bluefin tuna quotas cut


Kyodo reports that member states of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna reached a formal accord Sunday to cut the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean bluefin tuna quota for 2007.

Overfishing is a huge problem and cutting the quota from the current 32,000 tons to 29,500 tons is not enough.

In the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, fish farms have become increasingly common. Large quantities of tuna from such fish farms are exported to Japan and sold at sushi restaurants and supermarkets. Bluefin tuna and southern bluefin tuna are highly popular in Japan for use in sushi and sashimi. Fatty parts of their meat, known as "toro," are especially sought after and fetch high prices.

Japan gets about half of its bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean, according to Japan's Fishery's Agency official, Hiroaki Hasegawa. He also said to NHK that it is inevitable that the agreement will lead to less bluefin imports into Japan but he cannot say how it will affect the prices.

Clearly prices will go up, is that so hard to predict?

NHK adds that an international fisheries meeting will discuss in December whether cuts in catches of 2 cheap types of tuna -- bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna -- are necessary.

(Photo from Gourmet Walker - wow, that looks good but at 400 Yen per plate I think I will have to pass!)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

GMO Free Zones in Japan


There will be a lot of activities this week about food safety.

Consumers Union of Japan, Green Coop and the NO! GMO Campaign are among the groups that are spearheading the movement to stop genetic engineering in Japan. Many farmers are involved too, especially in Hokkaido, Iwate, Nagano, and Chiba prefectures, as GMO Free Zones are being established around Japan.

The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Task Force is meeting in Makuhari, Chiba, to discuss safety guidelines for GMO animals. Activists are angry that consumer concerns are not taken into account by government officials, although, no GMO animals have been approved for food (yet).






Why doesn't the food industry understand that people do not want to eat GMOs?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Lots of protests in Korea


Here is a photo from the conference at the Korea National Assembly yesterday. I participated in the symposium about mad cow disease and heard about how Korea has been forced to open its market to U.S. beef after pressure from the U.S. government. Dr. Mike Hansen from the U.S. Consumers Union had a lot to say about the situation at U.S. meat plants. Virtually no safety testing is going on and unsafe feed appears to be the norm. And just today, there is news that bone fragments were found in in a package of meat during quarantine inspections. Thus, the Korean government said Friday it will not allow the first batch of beef shipped from the United States to be sold in Korea...

Actually the Korean beef protest issue is part of a bigger picture. The U.S. and South Korea are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the U.S. demanded that Seoul must allow U.S. beef before any further FTA negotiations could take place. Opposition parties and NGOs are furious at the Korean government. I don't want to get involved in the politics of it all, but the case against U.S. beef is strong, and at least Korea should have taken the precautionary measures that Japan was able to impose, before it re-opened its market earlier this year.

As I was there, 72,000 demonstrators took to the streets in 13 cities around South Korea. Unfortunately, lots of violent protests against the FTA as well. Chosun has more details: Korea Sees Worst Labor Protests in Years

Seoul in late November was great, I hope everyone who goes there has as much luck with the weather as I did.

I also met and interviewed the producer at the TV program MBC PD File, who relentlessly uncovered the scandal with Dr. Hwang and his fake stem cell research.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Endocrine Disrupters


Tomorrow I go to Seoul, Korea to talk at a conference about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, and what we can do to minimize exposure to them. In Japan EDCs are called "kankyou hormones" because they are man-made substances that trick the body's endocrine system, by acting like hormons. I like the name better since it is easier to remember than "Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals".

Since Theo Colborn's book Our Stolen Future was translated, there has been a lot of debate about this topic in Japan, also connected to the dioxin and PCB problem. It will be interesting to hear about the situation in Korea.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tuna in Europe in danger

Overfishing of tuna is an international problem, and Japan's quota for tuna near Australia was recently cut. Regulations on fishing for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic Ocean was on the agenda at the special meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), convening in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

WWF has analyzed international trade data, followed fishing vessels and looked at tuna ranches and reached this unhappy conclusion: The estimated total catches in 2004 and in 2005 were at least 45,000 tons each.

That is 40 percent more than the quota.

The tuna ranching boom that triggered the exhaustion of stocks is supported in large part by the Japanese appetite for tons of low-priced fatty tuna at your local sushi shop.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is being done by European Union vessels, including France, as well as Libya and Turkey. Because of a lack of measures to manage resources, bluefin tuna stocks are now nearly exhausted in the western Mediterranean. So fishing fleets are converging in the eastern Mediterranean, now believed to be the only remaining breeding ground for bluefin tuna in that area. This is drastically speeding the population's decline.

Arata Izawa at WWF Japan has more details: 'Farmed' bluefin in fact threaten tuna stocks

You can watch NHK World's news segment about Preserving Tuna in English (Real Player).

Over-fishing previous

Okinawa elections results

Tonight, NHK is saying that Hirokazu Nakaima, 67 years old, who is backed by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, is expected to win today's election and become governor of Okinawa prefecture.

Asahi had more details about a week ago in this editorial.

Scary.

Okinawa elections previous

Friday, November 17, 2006

Love your country

Japan's politicians are debating a new education law that includes a provision to create an attitude to love one's country. People are also concerned about a new "Conspiracy Law". Lots of protests and nation-wide demonstrations. Here is a site with information about more protests. But let me just say for the record that I do love Sweden, and here is one reason why: ABBA performing Dancing Queen at the Royal Wedding in June, 1976.
Love your country, or else!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Asian Heroes: Fighting pollution in Japan

Phillip White at CNIC kindly sent me three great candidates for the Asian Heroes list.

Senji Yamaguchi
, a Nagasaki hibakusha. Do read his book "Burnt Yet Undaunted" which is effectively his memoirs. The forward of the book by Joseph Gerson is a powerful account of his efforts:
http://www10.plala.or.jp/antiatom/html/e/epub/esenji-joe.htm

Jinzaburo Takagi was the founder of CNIC and was head and shoulders above anyone else in the anti-nuclear energy movement in terms of scientific knowledge, leadership skill and prolific publication.

He was a recipient of the 1997 Right Livelihood Award (shared with fellow French anti-plutonium activist Mycle Schneider). More about Takagi on the following page:
http://cnic.jp/english/cnic/takagi/index.html

Jun Ui, the environmentalist, was part of a team of brave researchers who discovered and unraveled the Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) in Kyushu:
http://www.ohiocitizen.org/about/training/junui.html

Here is his chapter about Minamata disease in the book Industrial pollution in Japan, published by the United Nations Press: Minamata Disease.

Thanks.

Asian Heroes: Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank

As I wrote before, Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 for their pioneering use of tiny loans — microcredit — to lift millions of people out of poverty. A true Asian hero.

Poor people, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the mobile phone they need, thanks to Grameen Bank.

YouTube has a video of the announcement by the Norwegian Nobel committee chairman. A great speech.

In this October 2002 article Grameen Bank II: Designed to Open New Possibilities, Muhammad Yunusa describes lessons learnt since starting 1976. The central assumption behind Grameen Bank, he writes, is

the firm belief that the poor people always pay back their loans. On some occasions they may take longer time to pay back than it was originally stipulated, but repay they will. There is no reason for a credit institution dedicated to provide financial services to the poor to get uptight because a borrower could not pay back the entire amount of a loan on a date fixed at the beginning of the disbursement of the loan. Many things can go wrong for a poor person during the loan period. After all, the circumstances are beyond the control of the poor people. We see no reason why the sky should fall on anybody's head because a borrower took longer time to pay back her loan. Since she is paying additional interest for the extra time, where is the problem? We always advocated that microcredit programs should not fall into the logical trap of the conventional banking and start looking at their borrowers as some kind of "time-bombs" who are ticking away and waiting to create big trouble on pre-fixed dates. Please rest assured that the poor people are not going to create any trouble. It is us, the designers of institutions and rules, who keep creating trouble for them. One can benefit enormously by having trust in them, admiring their struggle for and commitment to have decent lives for themselves. It is very easy to appreciate the architecture of GGS if one keeps in mind this central assumption behind the system.

Thanks Mari Toyama at the Musashino YWCA in Mitaka for the suggestion.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Time 60 Years of Asian Heroes


Time Magazine has ambitiously tried to identify Asian Heroes of the post WW2 era, and there are many names on the list that I can only nod, smile and agree with. It is good to see that many Japanese men and women are being recognized, including architect Kenzo Tange, conductor Seiji Ozawa, designer Hanae Mori and - Momofuku Ando (inventor of instant noodles!).

I was also particularly happy that they mentioned spiritual leaders, such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh:

In 1965, after yet another Buddhist self-immolation, Nhat Hanh wrote to the American civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that "the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors, but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination, which lie within the heart of man." Nhat Hanh led King, and, by extension, American public sentiment, to oppose the fighting in Vietnam. During the late 1960s, while living in the U.S. in exile, Nhat Hanh became one of the icons of the antiwar movement. His essays were published in such leading periodicals as the New York Review of Books, and his poems were sung, like songs of protest, to guitar accompaniment at college campuses. It's no exaggeration to say that Nhat Hanh helped force Washington's eventual withdrawal from Vietnam.

Nhat Hanh, now 80 years old and living in a monastery in France, has played an important role in the transmission of an Asian spiritual tradition to the modern, largely secular West.

Have a look at their list, and feel free to add a few names in my comment section. I would not be surprised if you do better than Time Magazine.

Bonus: You will notice that Queen's lead singer Freddie Mercury is listed as well. That's great, because Queen is incredibly popular in Japan, so it gives me a reason to post a YouTube video here on my blog (I try to do that every weekend). Here is Queen at their May 1985 performance at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo (yup, that's one of the great buildings designed by Kenzo Tange). Why is Freddie Mercury listed by Time as an Asian Hero? He was born on Zanzibar to Indian parents, and received his musical education in India. His real name was Farrokh Bulsara. Enjoy (click on the image):



Here is more good stuff from their 1975 tour to Japan: Queen in Japan

Life Style Forum in Shinjuku


This weekend I plan to go to the Life Style Forum with what promises to be interesting speakers and great events. LSF started in 2000 as a gathering of NGOs and individuals concerned with changing the social structure of mass production, mass consumption, and finding solutions to the global warming problem. The theme this year is "Gross National Happiness" and Bhutan.

This year, the event is at Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Centennial Pavilion (walk from Shinjuku station southern entrance, or Shinjukugyoen-mae station, or Shinjukusanchome station) with lots of fun for kids too:

- Music performances
- Lecture forum
- NGO/NPO and company exhibitions
- Ecology market
- Life style cafe
- Kids corner
- Natural observation meeting
- Movie show
- The story of Peter Rabbit and Global Warming
- Yoga classroom

More about Gross National Happiness (in Japanese) at the Sloth website. Sloth Club is the NGO that promotes Slow Life in Japan. Quite a task!

PBS (in English) has more about Gross National Happiness, and there is a program about Bhutan from 2002 you can watch on the PBS Frontline website. Did you know that in 1999, Bhutan was the last country in the world to legalize television?!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NHK World TV Monitors


I just found this notice on NHK's website, and thought I'd share it with you:

NHK World is looking for NHK World TV Monitors

Requirements
- Regular viewing of NHK World TV living
- Residency outside Japan
- Regular monitor reports in either English or Japanese by e-mail

Contents of monitor reports
Impressions, comments and suggestions regarding at least one of the NHK World TV news & programs listed below in 300 to 400 words (if in English).

The programs: "WHAT'S ON JAPAN", "News Today 30 Minutes", "News Today Asia", "Weekend Japanology", "JAPAN BIZ CAST", "TOKYO EYE", "J-MELO", "Insight & Foresight", and "Maverick Minds of Japan"
For further details on those programs, see:
NHK World TV

Frankly, I am very curious, do you ever watch NHK World TV? Did you even know it existed? How about Radio Japan...? Comments, please!

Okinawa elections

The November 19 Okinawa election campaign to select a new governor started today. The campaign will be a duel between Keiko Itokazu, who is supported by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and others, and Hirokazu Nakaima, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

A key issue is what to do with the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Relocating the controversial Futenma air station was the focal issue in two previous gubernatorial elections, notes the Asahi:

Keiichi Inamine, the incumbent governor, won election eight years ago for endorsing the move within the prefecture on the condition that the new airfield be used for 15 years only.

However, the initial plan to construct the base offshore of Henoko sank under protest from local residents and their supporters. Tokyo and Washington then came up with an alternative plan to build the base on land at Henoko point.

But this time, Inamine refused to go along, insisting he "could not accept a plan that had once been scrapped." Now he is retiring without having achieved a resolution of the thorny issue.


Keiko Itokazu, 59, says she will demand the base be moved outside of Japan. Kumagai Shinichiro has written about her in the Japan Focus story Can the Unified Lines of Battle in Okinawa Be Extended?, an article that appeared in Shukan Kinyobi, July 2, 2004. Kumagai Shinichiro is the editor of the journal Shizen to Ningen (Nature and Humanity). Great journalism that should be quoted more often in the international press, if foreign journalists had the good sense to read Japanese. Global Security provides the U.S. military perspective.

(Map from the Japan Calling website)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Protect Article 9: "Stop becoming a country that wages wars"


Kyodo has this photo from a demonstration with groups opposed to revising Japan's Constitution, and its war-renouncing Article 9, in Tokyo, on November 3, the 60th anniversary of the Constitution's 1946 promulgation. The banner says "Lets stop becoming a country that makes war".

The Japan Times notes that discussions about revising the war-renouncing Article 9, which limits the military to self-defense, have been brewing for years, but the recent nuclear threat from North Korea has brought the debate to a head:

The anniversary also comes at a time when Japan has seen its first postwar-born prime minister take office, a conservative hawk who declared amending the Constitution a priority in his effort to end the "postwar regime" of guilt.

"It's been 60 years, and during this time there has been a change of hands between two generations," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday on the eve of the anniversary. "Over this long period of time, the Constitution's basic values of peace, democracy and human rights have taken firm root among the Japanese people."

Abe, who has stayed relatively low-key on the issue since becoming prime minister in late September, said last week that having Japanese people write their own Constitution will open up a new era.

He said clearly for the first time in an interview with the Financial Times last week that he aims to achieve the revision during his term in office, which could last six years if he succeeds in being re-elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In the interview, Abe specifically cited Article 9, which renounces Japan's right to wage war or maintain armed forces, as a "typical example" of provisions that no longer suit the current times.

"This article needs to be revised from the viewpoint of Japan's defense, and also to comply with international expectations that Japan make international contributions" to peacekeeping and other missions, he was quoted as saying.

More photos from recent anti-nuclear demonstrations and peace events in Japan at the mkimpo website, Peace Forum and World Peace Now.



Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Doors: LA Woman

Great video with a lot of ambience from Los Angeles in the 1970s and maybe 1980s. Interesting to see that the Japanese community in LA played such a big role at the city's festivals and that The Doors payed attention.



Little Tokyo in LA had 30,000 Japanese-American residents at its peak. Little Tokyo extended east and south of the present location, and covered approximately one square mile. The area was a magnet for immigrating Japanese until the racist U.S. Exclusion Act of 1924 halted any further immigration. Nisei Week is a good website too (Nisei or 二世 lit. means second generation). More about the internment of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during WW2, based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership".

Densho is a nonprofit organization started in 1996, to document oral histories from Japanese Americans at that time. All very relevant today, as we have to make decisions about how to deal with people of faiths and backgrounds that are different from our own, as artist Roger Shimomura has pointed out:

In 1958, Roger dated a Swedish American girl named Jan Johnson. Jan lived in West Seattle, an area known to be hostile to people of color.

One evening, while Roger was driving Jan home, she told him to drop her off one block from her house. When Roger asked why, she told him that when she informed her parents that she was going out to dinner with Roger Shimomura, her father said he did not want her dating "Oriental people." If she did, and he caught her, he said he would shoot "the Jap" with his gun like he had done in World War II. While she argued with her parents, her father got out his shotgun, loaded it, and placed it next to the front door.

As Jan got out of Roger's car a block from her home, her last words were, "You think I'm kidding?"

I had my first sushi in Palo Alto back in 1987, read Jobs in Japan, and decided to buy the ticket. That was before the boom of all things Asian. China and Vietnam were still rigidly communist. Halryu? Both Koreas were dictatorships, and before the fall of the Berlin Wall, who would have guessed we would all be living in such happy times thanks to the market-based WTO-led globalized economy!!

Bonus: The Doors The End live at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival (8:03 version)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Asahi: Natural energy

Subsidies are a great way to help consumers who want to change into more sustainable forms of energy supply, such as sun power. How is Japan doing? Asahi has the latest news in an editorial today about Natural Energy:

For many years, Japan prided itself as being the world's top generator of solar power. But at the end of last year, it lost the title to Germany. In Japan, the purchase price of solar energy is only one-third of Germany's. In addition, government subsidies to households using solar energy, which kept declining year by year, were completely abolished in March. Even though Japanese companies are supplying nearly half of the global demand for solar panels, they lost the support needed to expand the domestic market.

Business Week: Another Dawn For Solar Power: "Tech breakthroughs and high energy prices are rekindling the industry"

Lots of sun power news at Treehugger. Enjoy.

Japan has quietly been a leader in the field of solar energy for 20 years or so, and there has never been a better time for promoting it than now. But: While Japan's government cuts funding, from January 1, 2007, California's new state law will provide $3.2 billion in funding for a million solar roofs over the next ten years: For the solar industry as a whole to continue to expand, it's time to start marketing solar power as an accessible, aesthetically pleasing, and cost-effective product to the average consumer, according to California Senator Kevin Murray.

And San Diego Solar Power Conference just finished its 2006 expo. A carbon neutral event, no less!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cleaning up Mt. Fuji


I have written before about Ken Noguchi who is on a mission to clean up Mt Fuji. Tonight he was on Fuji TV with a group of volunteers from Fujisan Club who are using GSP equipment to locate garbage, and then go out with trucks to pick it up. For example, they are finding about 200 tons of old tires around Mt Fuji.

Watch the news show on Fuji-News.com!

As Mt Fuji is a symbol of Japan, it is good to see that more and more Japanese people are finally starting to care about it. The cleanup campaign has also been featured on TBS and Asahi TV. About bloody time, too.

Mt Fuji garbage previous

Thursday, October 26, 2006

WWF: Ecological footprint


The 2006 WWF Living Planet report has been published. So, how are we doing here on Earth?

WWF says, "humanity is using the planet's resources faster than they can be renewed and that populations of vertebrate species have declined by about one third since 1970."

What is the ecological footprint? The WWF describes the term as follows:

"The footprint of a country includes all the cropland, grazing land, forest, and fishing grounds required to produce the food, fibre, and timber it consumes, to absorb the wastes emitted in generating the energy it uses, and to provide space for its infrastructure."

Actually Japanese people are doing rather well on this list, at 27th place. Swedish people leave the 8th largest footprint per person - not good. The United Arab Emirates tops the list, followed by the USA, Finland, Canada and Kuwait. South Korea is 30th.

Living Planet Report (pdf)

Click to enlarge the screen shot I took from the report, sorry about the bad resolution.

David Suzuki

Reuters says environmentalist David Suzuki, best known for his television programs on nature and the environment, is ready to step out of spotlight and live the simple life:

Releasing what he insists is his "very last book," a second installment to his autobiography, the 70-year-old Japanese-Canadian says he is looking forward to spending more time in the Canadian wilderness, carving wood and fishing.

He regrets that after decades of campaigning for everything from cleaner air to sustainable farming, his work has not had more impact.

"Nobody any longer knows what a sustainable future is," the bearded, bespectacled environmentalist told Reuters in a recent interview in Australia to promote his book, "David Suzuki: The Autobiography."

"I feel like we are in a giant car heading for a brick wall at 100 miles an hour and everyone in the car is arguing where they want to sit. For God's sake, someone has to say put the brakes on and turn the wheel."

Yahoo has the story here.

I recommend everyone to have a look at the David Suzuki Foundation, a website with great reports and information about environmental issues and food safety.

Listen to this CBC soundclip where David talks about his childhood, and about his mother's advice that he should be "a good dancer and a good public speaker."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Japan tuna quota halved for the next five years


Reuters reported that Japan's annual fishing quota for southern bluefin tuna will be halved for the next five years due to Tokyo's overfishing, quoting a government official:

A huge global appetite for fish, in which Japan's voracious demand plays a key role, has led to widespread overfishing and pushed many high-value species, including some species of bluefin tuna, close to the brink of extinction.

In 2005, Japan exceeded its 6,065 ton quota of southern bluefin tuna by 1,500 tons, which a Fisheries Agency official said had helped contribute to the decision that cut Tokyo's quota to 3,000 tons for five years from 2007.

"There is also a possibility that Japan may have overfished a bit in other years besides 2005 as well," the official added, citing surveys by fishing experts.

"Therefore we had no choice but to accept the decision."


South Korea and Taiwan also saw their quotas fall.

Japan tuna quota halved for the next five years

(Photo: Greenpeace Ocean Defenders)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dark Side of the Moon

Found these SIX videos that just are so marvellous, from the 2003 documentary of the making of Dark Side of the Moon. I had to share them with everyone. "The sun is the same, but you are one year older..."



Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

(Voted number one best album to make love to in 1990 by Australian radio listeners!)



And, as a bonus, Pink Floyd performing Atomic Heart Mother live in Japan, August 1971 at a music festival at Hakone Aphrodite:

Part 1

Part 2

Shakira "chemistry" in Japan!



Great artist from Colombia, do watch her song Ojos Asi from her September 2006 performance in Japan. And here is "Whenever, Wherever", a Shakira bonus video brought to you by Kurashi News From Japan. Have a great weekend!

Avoiding trans fatty acids in Japan


I got a few questions about trans fats and how to avoid them. Dr. Oshimi Takayuki in the city of Ashikawa, Hokkaido, has written about this topic Here's a buzzword for you: Trans Fat. Here is an excerpt:

Why isn't there any legislation regarding the labelling of trans fats in Japan? The risk of developing an artery-clogging disease depends on one's level of intake of saturated fats. In general, Japanese people consume far fewer saturated fats than western people. So, many food manufacturers insist they don't need to worry about the level of trans fats. But the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that trans fats provide no known health benefits, so there is no safe level of trans fats, and people should consume as little as possible in order to maintain a healthy diet. With the level of trans fat in your food being undeterminable, what is there to do? Well, here are a few tips:

* Choose reduced fat and fat-free products whenever you can
* Avoid margarine
* Avoid foods containing plant oils (植物油)
* Avoid packaged foods
* Avoid fast food
* Avoid baked goods
* Avoid candy and cookies
* Avoid cereals

Feel you can't eat anything? No! You are now in Japan! Traditional Japanese foods don't contain these ingredients.

加工油脂 (Processed oil or fat) is another ingredient to avoid.
マーガリン (Margarine) is not a food, it is soap with added artificial butter flavours and other chemicals.
植物油 (Plant oils) Many plant oils such as sesame oil, olive oil or canola are of course healthy, but the oils should not be heated or processed in any way. That is the reason "virgin olive oil" is recommended since it is cold pressed in a slow and unobtrusive way that doesn't destroy the fat molecules. Unfortunately, without a trans fat label, you have no idea about the amounts that you get in your Japanese food. Bummer! I also try to avoid deep fried foods because there is no way to know if the cook is using the right temperature. Deep frying has been shown to produce acrylamides, a toxic compound.

In Japan, food oils that come from genetically modified organisms are not labelled. That's why I prefer oils from crops that are not GMOs, such as olive and sun flower, as well as avocado oil, walnut oil, and rice oil.

Living Healthy in Ashikawa is a monthly column in the newsletter which is called "Asahikawa Info." It is one of the nicest newsletters I have seen in Japan! Congratulations on an inspiring initiative that other Japanese towns ought to consider as well.

Trans fats previous

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rokkashomura Rhapsody


Rokkashomura Rhapsody is a Japanese documentary by Koizumi Shukichi and Kamanaka Hitomi. It deals with Japan's nuclear reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture. Watch the movie at 11AM on 21 October (Saturday) and 22 October (Sunday) at the Pore Pore Theatre in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo. There will be a talk with activists who are opposing the plutonium plant, as there are fears that this will lead to Japan going nuclear in the future.

Kyoto charity concert

There will be a charity concert in Kyoto on 28 October in support of AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. For more information on the recipients of the funds raised, please go to the The Zienzele Foundation website.

The price of one ticket to this event will pay (roughly) for one AIDS orphan to attend school for a year. Now there is a really good reason to get your dancing shoes on (not compulsory) and come on down! Details of the event below:

Saturday October 28th, 5.00pm - 9.00pm
Club Metro - Keihan Marutamachi station (exit 2) Kawabata/Marutamachi
2,500 yen (including one free drink)
Student price: 2,000 yen (including one free drink) show student ID at the door
Food available at reasonable prices, courtesy of TOMS Cafe

Musical line-up will be:
Navegante - African drum and dance group - great sound of Africa
Stephen Burns - keyboardist/vocalist - smooth and soulful
Chappy and P.I.M.P - Funk and soul band - boogie on!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eco-products at Tokyo Big Sight

Eco-Products Exhibition 2006
Meet the future of Eco-Product Development

The Eighth Annual Eco-Products 2005 Exhibition will be held from December 14th to 16th at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, or Tokyo Big Sight, in Ariake, Tokyo. Its aim is to accelerate the expansion of green markets by exhibiting environmentally friendly products and services.

Eco product is used to denote environmentally friendly products and services. The Exhibition is organized by NEDO, JEMAI, and the Nikkei Shimbun, with support from METI, the Ministry of the Environment, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and many others.

* ENGLISH GUIDED TOURS of selected exhibitors (Eco-Products 2006) Dec 14 (Thu.) - 16 (Sat.)
Fee: Free
Place: Tokyo Big Sight - Tokyo, Japan

At this exhibition, Japan for Sustainability (JFS) will hold an English guided tour of selected exhibitors specially designed for foreigners who need a language assistance. The tour will guide you through the exhibition and assist first-hand discussions with industry experts. JFS did such tour in 2005, and there is a report here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reducing trans fats

The Korea Food & Drug Administration has announced revised food labeling standards which make it compulsory to show the amount of trans fats in processed food such as bread, candy, chocolate, noodles and beverages starting from Dec. 1 2007, according to Chosun Ilbo:

"We completed an investigation of some 500 kinds of food including snacks and fast food children enjoy last year before implementing the measure,”said the director in charge of nutritional evaluation at the KFDA Park Hye-kyung. We notified each food company of the result and are looking at whether they are improving. Inspections will continue until artificially produced trans fats are gone completely.”

Japan needs to start moving to protect consumers from synthetic fats, but there has been little discussion so far. The World Health Organization recommends that trans fats should not make up more than 1 percent of total calories you take a day. Without labels, consumers have no way of knowing if food companies are making an effort to reduce trans fats or not.

2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Grameen Bank

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and Grameen Bank ”for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said, ”Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

The unique bank lends money to some of the poorest people in Bangladesh and helps them start their own businesses.

 

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Light blogging ahead


I'm heading back to Sweden for a week so the blog will be rather less lively than usual. I have visited almost 30 countries since my first trip with Iceland Air to the U.S. via Reykjavik in 1984. I do dislike the long-haul airtravel routine with crappy meals inside a noisy cabin, but I have always loved looking out the windows gazing at the upper surface of clouds.

And the CO2 emissions are going to be great. A couple of tonnes of CO2 just to go home and say happy birthday to my father and fix a leaking roof...


The European Parliament has debated aviation CO2 emissions:

Commercial airplanes fly at a height of between 8 to 13 km where they emit the gases which alter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. The higher the plane flies, the more difficult it is for CO2 to break down in the atmosphere. Plane emissions are at present just 3% of the EU total but growing rapidly. If no measures are taken by 2012 “increased emissions from aviation will neutralise more that a quarter of the reductions required by the EU's Kyoto target," said British Green MEP and rapporteur Caroline Lucas.

Hybrid airplane engines? Nice idea. At the 14th European Biomass Conference in Paris, there were several presentations about biojetfuel and biokerosene. ErgoSphere is at least one blogger trying to discuss the issue of what will happen to air travel when oil runs out or gets too expensive:

Methane is the easier of the two to obtain, handle and use. We'll have a healthy supply of it for decades after natural gas wells lose their fizz. It bubbles out of thousands of landfills nationwide, and isn't going to stop unless we stop dumping garbage (which may happen). It can be liquefied at temperatures (99 K) where air is still a gas, and has a liquid density of 0.424. Hydrogen is touchier stuff, not turning to liquid until the temperature gets down to twenty... Kelvin, and is extremely light even as a liquid with a specific gravity of about 0.070. (Strangely, there's about 50% more hydrogen in a liter of liquid methane than there is in a liter of liquid hydrogen.)

Suppose we were going to fuel a 767 with this stuff, and the aircraft requires about the same amount of energy regardless of the specific fuel used. A 767-200E carries 23,980 gallons (90,770 liters) of Jet-A, which is approximately the composition of kerosene...


More airplane news: British tycoon Sir Richard Branson has urged airlines and airport operators to join his Virgin Atlantic carrier in an ambitious plan to curb the aviation industry's contribution to global warming. He says that airlines around the world have to play their part in reducing CO2 emissions given out by commercial planes by up to 25 per cent, and his letter has been addressed also to engine and aircraft manufacturers such as Rolls Royce and Boeing, and airport operators including BAA in Britain, according to ABC:

To cut fuel consumption, Virgin Atlantic even plans to reduce the weight of its aircraft through using lighter paint on the exterior and lighter fittings inside the cabin.

That includes changing oxygen bottles from metal to carbon-fibre, and removing empty champagne and beer bottles which have been drunk before the plane leaves the stand for recycling.

Sir Richard says that combined with an earlier and smoother descent by pilots coming into land, the changes would save over 150 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, or 25 per cent of the world's aviation emissions.

"With global warming, the world is heading for a catastrophe," he said.

"The aviation industry must play its part in averting that."




What fuel was Atom, aka Astroboy, using in his flying boots?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shodoshima in the news


The death of about 500 fish in a pond in a nature preserve on Shodoshima island, Kagawa Prefecture, in the Seto Island Sea, has prompted islanders to conduct a clean-up campaign on September 8, according to the Yomiuri, as 60 volunteers removed garbage from the main roads:

"Holidaymakers visit our island, hoping to enjoy its beauty," said a Chugoku Electric Power Co. employee, who took part in the cleanup. "Abandoned trash undermines the pristine image of the island."

"We'll continue our annual island-cleaning campaign in the hope it'll help raise awareness about public manners among the residents and visitors," Kunihiko Saegusa, an association manager, said.

In summer, the chief of an environmental group on the island picks up waste in and around the beaches, as well as planting flowers almost every day.

Asked why his group is named "One Droplet," Shigekazu Mori said: "Each of us is as small as a droplet of water. But droplet upon droplet can start flowing like a big stream."


(More aerial views of Japan here and as a special bonus, truly great aerial views over at Pacific Islander: Taveuni By Air)

Friday, September 29, 2006

True Food Guide


This True Food Guide has been launched today here in Japan by Greenpeace. It is the result of careful research asking Japan's major food companies how they deal with the difficult GMO issue. Imported genetically manipulated soy, corn, canola (and long-grain US rice as well, although the government seems to have trouble knowing how to test it, since the contamination is illegal) are used by some companies, that make the "red" list.

Greenpeace also tells consumers which foods make the "green" list. A wonderful idea that has helped food shoppers in other countries such as Australia. Order the Japanese True Food Guide.

Asahi has the story here (in Japanese). Impressive piece of work, over a hundred companies have cooperated with Greenpeace Japan's team on this guide. Hope you are all members. . .

GMO crops & food previous

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Global competitiveness

Sweden has climbed to third in a ranking of the world's most competitive countries. In top spot is Switzerland, while Finland takes second place in the rating by the World Economic Forum.

The figures are based on official statistics and interviews with over 11,000 people in leading positions from 125 countries.
The other countries in the top ten are Denmark, Singapore, the US, Japan, Germany, Holland and the UK.

WEF has the rest of the story.

Excerpt:

Leading within Asia are Singapore and Japan, ranked 5th and 7th respectively, closely followed by Hong Kong (11) and Taiwan (13). These economies are characterized by high-quality infrastructure, flexible and efficient markets, healthy and well-educated workforces and high levels of technological readiness and innovative capacity. Malaysia, ranked 26th overall, has one of the most efficient economies in the region with flexible labour markets, relatively undistorted goods markets and public institutions which in many areas (e.g., rule of law, the legal system) are already operating at the level of the top performing new EU members.

Korea’s (24) performance is slightly more uneven than that of Malaysia. The country has already reached world-class levels in certain areas, such as macroeconomic management, school enrolment rates at all levels, penetration rates for new technologies and scientific innovation, as captured by data on patent registration. However, Korea continues to be held back by institutional weaknesses, both public and private, for which it has not yet reached the standards of Finland, Sweden, Denmark or Chile. Taiwan (13) continues to operate at a high level of efficiency but has dropped below last year’s "top-ten" status. It is an innovation powerhouse, with levels of per capita patents registration exceeded only by the US and Japan. It continues to excel in higher education and training indicators (ranked 7th overall) but, like Korea, its overall rank is weighed down by weaknesses in the institutional infrastructure.


I'm reminded of a Swedish painting that is still very famous, from around 1972, by Peter Tillberg. It showed a very realistically painted school class, all kids looking straight forward in an orderly fashion... Except one boy, by the window, who is looking out, far away, into the distance... The title can be translated as, "Will you ever be profitable, my little friend" and the painting, now at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, captured the mood of a generation in Sweden.

29th case of BSE in Japan

Kyodo reports that a dead Holstein cow in Hokkaido has been confirmed to have tested positive for mad cow disease - the 29th case in Japan, farm ministry officials said Thursday:

The 6-year-old cow tested positive in separate screenings at a Hokkaido animal health center and at the National Institute of Animal Health outside Tokyo.

Its meat and internal organs will be incinerated, said the officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Hokkaido government said it will analyze the cow's feed to look into the route of inflection of the disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The cow was born in the town of Horonobe, northern Hokkaido, in June 2000, before the Japanese government imposed a ban in 2001 on meat-and-bone meal feed suspected to be a cause of the disease. It was raised at a farm in the town of Nakagawa, also northern Hokkaido.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Greenz.jp

I love the way young (?) designers are incorporating environmental themes and the ubiqous LOHAS (Lifestyle of health and sustainability) in new projects. Recently, a web magazine called Greenz.jp has been launched as a web community magazine.

Some popular keywords are "detox", "organic", and "eco tour".

Have a look, Greenz is showing photos from a German Eco Village, Okodorf Sieben Linden. This must look terribly exotic to most people in Tokyo!

Monday, September 25, 2006

60 Artists

At the Organic Fair, I found a booth from Japan Organic Cotton Association, with a great exhibition of organic t-shirts. They have asked 60 designers to participate under the theme "I support organic cotton". JOCA has a complete list here.