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


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

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


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