Friday, February 23, 2007

Comic relief: How men and women shower



The Hole - video powered by Metacafe

Thursday, February 22, 2007

For the record

"We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and then we want to come home, with honor," he told about 4,000 [U.S.] troops... "The American people will not support a policy of retreat."

- Dick Cheney speaking about the Iraq war at the U.S. Naval Base in Yokusuka, Japan

Mainichi: Cheney meets Emperor, tells troops U.S. won't relent in Iraq war

For another point of view, read the discussion between Michael Shank and Noam Chomsky over at Asia Time: It all comes down to control


The Japanese NGO Video Act has a great page with information about the 2003 anti-war demonstrations in Japan, in case you forgot. Unfortunately, they can't afford to keep the videos on the server anymore, but you get the general picture. Support them by purchasing their VHS Nippon Han-Sen Watashi (Japan Anti-War I).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Advertising power?


McDonalds has been doing poorly for a long time in Japan, until its MegaMac hit the stores. So, I just had to post this image, comparing the photo in the ad to the real thing. Lovin' it? Serves you right.

And, seems Japanese netizens, always ready to be seduced, are already going for the GigaMac, TeraMac... or even a YottaMac.

2006 was China's warmest year since 1951


China had its warmest year in over half a century in 2006, with an average temperature of 9.9 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). The report, which cited the China Meteorological Administration, said the temperature was the highest on record since 1951.

In a sign of how widespread the warming trend was last year, 13 out of 39 climate observation stations on the usually frigid Tibetan plateau recorded record high temperatures, Xinhua said.

Nineteen of the past 21 winters have tended to be warmer than usual, Xinhua said, and the current winter is also likely to hold to that trend if temperatures stay as warm as they have been since December.

Reuters notes that the Chinese government has been slow to wake up the challenge of addressing climate change, but there have been growing signs that Beijing is worried about how global warming could frustrate ambitions for prosperity, stability and influence, as China may become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2009, overtaking the United States.

(Photo from People's Daily Online)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Local governments and climate change

"In order to save the Earth, local leaders must make citizens aware of the need to fundamentally alter our social and economic systems right now," Kyoto Mayor Yorikane Masumoto said in his opening remarks to the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change on February 16. "Since the Kyoto Protocol went into effect two years ago, climatologists have amassed even more evidence that man-made greenhouse gases are a major cause of global warming."

Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada noted the conference in northern Kyoto was opening in unusually warm weather for this time of year, when snow normally covers the ground:

"This mild weather might be nice. But it shows that Kyoto itself has felt the effects of global warming," he said.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives -- Local Governments for Sustainability, a network of 500 local governments worldwide committed to sustainable development, held a conference that ended Sunday with 109 mayors and city council members from 26 countries. About 75 percent of ICLEI members are from developed countries.

Environmental NGOs, academics and representatives from industries involved in environmental technologies also participated to discuss ways in which practical, effective and financially viable public policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be introduced at the local level.

Under the Kyoto Climate Action Declaration released Saturday, all nations are urged to begin negotiating a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty that would mandate a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

"It's local governments that have to respond first with local resources when hurricanes, floods and droughts damage cities, towns and villages. Therefore, local governments have a very direct interest in doing everything they can to reduce the effects of global warming," said David Cadman, president of the organization and a councilman from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Essential to the plan is the idea that developing countries can skip a generation of technology development and have access to the latest technologies that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The Japan Times: Local leaders undaunted by tough greenhouse goals

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NHK Professionals: Making rock gardens


NHK has a series of programs called Professionals and tonight the segment introduced Kitayama Yasuo. His job? Designing and creating rock gardens. NHK says he is recognized both in Japan and abroad, not only for his zen temple rock designs, but also for smaller, private gardens.

Kitayama explains his philosophy and how he got his skills. Apparently, he was good at math, which helps in making the designs. But, he insists that his art goes beyond words and concepts. Moss helps too. There is a short movie on NHK's website, but of course you should experience Japanese rock gardens for real.

Find out more:

Shishu-Intuition and Feeling in the Japanese Garden Tradition

Written and directed by, Robert Ketchell; presently Chairman of the Japanese Garden Society of Great Britain and landscape designer. Robert studied for four years in Kyoto, Japan. This video originates from over twenty years of continuing absorbtion in the profound beauty and beguiling content of the Japanese garden.

Designer of many garden projects, Kitayama Yasuo restored gardens at temples such as Kodai-ji and is responsible for maintaining major temple gardens in Kyoto. Kitayama's comments reveal the intense love and spirituality that underpins his approach to creating and maintaining the gardens.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Choco revolution!



Yamamoto-san at Greenz.jp writes about Fair Trade chocolate in Japan, and the movement to educate people about the good beans.

Have an organic Valentine's Day with no pesticides, non-GMO stuff from farmers who get paid properly. At the Amnesty International website you can sign a petition to get Nestle to source Fair Trade chocolate, and stop child labor in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Also Japan's Slow Food movement and Greenpeace and others have focused on chocolate this winter. My favourite is Choco Revolution! They were featured on J-Wave's radio program Lohas Sunday on Feb 11 and on NHK Feb 12. They have even made a Mixi community (you have to log in). Nice.

Chocolate previous

China to begin publishing pollution statistics



Reuters says China's State Environmental Protection Administration will begin to publish biannual figures on emissions in each province to give poor performers more pressure from the public to clean up their act.

China has set a goal of reducing emissions of pollutants by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010.

The agency also noted that emissions of acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide had amounted to 25.9 million tonnes in 2006. That was 1.8 percent more than in 2005, when such pollution grew by 13.1 percent.

(Photo from Shanghai by Takahashi-san)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Asahi: Yen needed to clean up China's pollution

Interesting new series of articles in Asahi starting today, with an interview with Kenji Someno, an Environment Ministry official attached to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

"It is wrong to assume China's economic state by just seeing Beijing, Shanghai or the GDP figures," the 40-year-old Someno said. "The fact is, most regions across China are in no more of an economic state than a typical developing country."

Tokyo's official development assistance (ODA) to China has been slashed over the past decade because of China's rapid economic growth and Japan's severe fiscal conditions. Tokyo and Beijing also agreed to terminate new yen loan-related projects before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Although Japan remains the primary contributor in China's efforts to combat its serious environmental problems, a Japanese Environment Ministry advisory panel in August proposed a more equal "partnership."

In 2005, the government's yen loans to China totaled 74.7 billion yen. About 80 percent of them were for environmental projects. In addition, all of Japan's 1.4 billion yen grants to China the same year financed such projects.

The panel said Japan needs a more strategic approach to achieve mutual benefits from its aid to clean up China, given the countries' increasing economic and political rivalry.


I hope the series of articles will point to the fact that Japan needs to do more for the sake of the environment in Asia (and the world), not less.

Asahi: Yen needed to clean up China's pollution

Sunday, February 11, 2007

59 hours

When I want to read some really great English, I turn to The Times. It has been a habit for a long time. Now, if you are interested in Asian topics, you will find anything from stories about North Koreans trying to get a £30 million compensation from Lloyds, the underwriters for insurance claims, or complaints about all the abbreviations used in a Lexus LS 460 SE-L car... Anyway, this is English!

Here is a good read about sushi, written by a great writer who spent 59 hours in Japan: Lost in Sushi

Their Asia Exile blog is also rather entertaining.

Perspective.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Preparations





Just a few photos of the preparations I have been doing for Sunday's big event at Bokuryuutei, where magic is bound to happen...

Produced by Yamazaki-san, Big Thanks to Takahashi-san for making it possible. Live music by Descarga Corazon Latino!! - a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Clean Development Mechanism

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) sounds like something I could need for my dusty apartment these days, as the sunshine shows every speck of dust all too clearly. We are having very warm weather in central Japan, with temperatures around 14-15 C every day. Cherry blossoms have already started blooming in Ueno Park, about a month too early.

However, if you know a little about the Kyoto Protocol, you are probably familiar with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Hisane Masaki at Asia Times explains:

Japan's government and businesses are increasingly turning to an array of "Kyoto mechanisms" as attractive means of achieving the target at a lower cost while maintaining the international competitiveness of the nation's economy.

These involve "credits" that firms earn in return for gas-reduction investments in developing countries, which can be counted as cuts in their own emissions - and in turn, in Japan's - under a system called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the three mechanisms introduced under the protocol to help industrialized countries meet their reduction targets. Developing nations that take part also benefit by receiving technology transfers from their industrialized partners.

The two other mechanisms are Joint Implementation (JI) and international emissions trading.


The Japanese government has approved 115 projects to reduce CO2 emissions, many of them CDM projects in Asian and Latin American countries. Of the 115 Japanese government-approved projects, 25 are in China, 17 in Brazil and 10 in India. Also, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, one of the world's biggest international financial institutions, is expanding its environment-related business activities. JBIC is signing partnership agreements with many developing countries, such as El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Brazil.

Read more: Happy Birthday, Kyoto, but...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Reducing fossile fuel use in Japan


Reuters has the story about how Japan aims to reduce its heavy dependency on imported oil and coal. A government panel on energy policy this week said Japan should increase the supply of electricity generated by renewable energy by 2014 to reduce use of fossil fuels.

The call comes amid growing pressure on governments to act against global warming:

The energy subcommittee of Japan's trade ministry said in a draft report that utilities should be required to raise supplies of electricity generated by renewable energy, such as wind and solar power and biomass, to 16 billion kilowatt-hours a year by the fiscal year starting in April 2014. That compares with 5.5 billion kilowatt-hours supplied in the year ended in March 2006, or about 0.5 percent of Japan's total annual electricity supply.

Wind Rose is a website with updates about wind turbines installed in Japan.

Did you know that you can select renewable energy and support this trend? My supermarket has this certificate proudly displayed by the service counter.



Natural-e has all the details.

Japan's Green Power Certification System is a scheme for encouraging corporate and some other customers to use natural energy as one of their voluntary measures for energy conservation and environmental protection. With a Certification of Green Power, customers can show proof of their use of green electricity. This can serve various purposes such as meeting targets of fossil fuel savings and CO2 emission reductions...


(Top picture: The cover of a book by Higuchi Kiyomi about wind power from Junposha)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Okihiki at Roppongi Hills



These photos from The Japan Times and The Mainichi show a ceremony last Sunday at Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. People in happi coats draw a cart full of sacred logs to be used for the 2013 reconstruction of Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, during an Okihiki event. It is the first time the event has been performed outside of Ise.

The reconstruction of the shinto shrine buildings is a remarkable process. They actually tear the entire building down, and rebuild it with new logs, to keep it "pure". I think doing the ceremony at the posh Roppongi Hills was a clever idea, reminding busy people of such ancient traditions.

Ise Shrine is worth a visit, by the way, but the most sacred areas are hidden from view by thin sheets of white silk (or maybe cotton). This actually adds to the sense of beauty - the divine communicates in mysterious ways!

The official Ise Shrine website is nice, with details about the rebuilding ceremonies here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fair Trade chocolate








Fair Trade chocolate and of course organic chocolate is getting popular in Japan, but can still be difficult to find in ordinary shops. Keep asking for it, and make sure your local food shops start selling it.

Earth Garden Photo Collage



Got some nice photos from the Earth Garden event yesterday, please enjoy. These people really know how to put on a good show with lectures, organic food, crafts, clothes and music. Polan, the organic food delivery company, was there too with an impressive selection.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Climate report in the news

Japan's media is reacting to the UN report about global warming. I will add links here as I find them. First out is Yomiuri Shimbun: Warming to alter Japan

One of the main concerns seems to be that Koshihikari rice will be less tasty and the zone suitable for producing mikan will move northward, according to a forecast released by the Environment Ministry. The ministry released its report, based on a number of national studies Friday, in conjunction with the UN report, according to the Yomiuri editorial.

The U.N. report predicts the level of the Earth's seas will rise. If the sea rises one meter along Japan's coasts, 90 percent of the country's beaches will be swallowed up, and tidal mudflats, which are feeding grounds for migrant birds, also are expected to disappear.

To counter the effects of global warming, the country will need to make huge outlays. Tokyo Bay and Osaka Bay, among others, will need to spend a combined 7.8 trillion yen to prepare for the higher waters.

With a mere 2 C rise in the ocean's temperature, fishing grounds for saury, sardine, mackerel and others would migrate northward, narrowing the locations for breeding ocellate puffer. There also might be an increase in damage caused by giant jellyfish to fisheries.


Yomiuri editorial: Fight against global warming must start now

Asahi: Global warming is real

Kyodo: Draft report notes global warming poses threats

Friday, February 02, 2007

Earth Garden Winter


Earth Garden will be held this weekend at Hamamatsucho in Tokyo.

Saturday Feb 3 11-17PM
Sunday Feb 4 10-17PM

Lots of organic foods and performances as usual, this time indoors. Also lectures about a wide range of topics, including "Stop Rokkasho", "Deep Natural Life" and "Valentine Revolution".

@産業貿易センター浜松町館3Fホール(JR浜松町駅 5分)
入場料:各日¥500

Thursday, February 01, 2007

100% Full Moon

I changed things around a bit here at Kurashi, after updating to the "new" Blogger (hrm). I lost my moon calender in the process, so I had to go and find it, and put it where I wanted it. Then I found this cool video, Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising" - enjoy!



Bonus: Have you ever seen the rain?



There has to be a link to Japan here, right? OK, this is the best I could do tonight: Tina Turner did a great version of Proud Mary in 1971, and Beyonce sang it again at the tribute gala for Tina, and - - Beyonce is really popular in Japan! :) Here she is live in Tokyo. OK, OK, long shot.

Good luck our long distance travellers

Sin musica no hay vida.. Irish band The Fat Lady Sings - Archlight (1989)



Thanks, Tom.

The Value of Heritage


Received a nice email from David Kilburn, who lives in Seoul and debates the development of the old parts of the Korean capital, with hanok houses.

In a letter to Seoul Development Institute he notes that their report about the way Seoul is dealing with its historical district is not entirely correct: "...the original plan is excellent and its goals are achievable, worthwhile, and affordable. How tragic that the implementation has been so marred by incompetence, negligence, and corruption." David also sent a link to a nice blog called London Korean Links with impressions from this lovely part of Seoul.

Read David's essay The Value of Heritage: The Problem in South Korea

...South Korea's track record in preserving its own heritage has achieved only mixed results as large amounts of heritage are destroyed every year. For example, although the Changdeokgung Palace has been lovingly restored, the neighbouring Bukchon area is being relentlessly developed as buildings from the last century are demolished even though the area is described as a historic district with preservation status. Within Gahoe-dong, about half the original hanoks have been totally demolished since 2001 and the destruction continues. Regrettably, public money earmarked for preservation and protection has been used to fund totally new buildings where not one single beam or stone from the original remains. The majority of the new buildings are based on reinforced concrete and steel more than the natural materials that give hanoks their special character.

A recent earthquake in Korea also made people increasingly worried that Korean building standards are not prepared for a major earthquake. Chosun Ilbo notes that only 2% of buildings, subways and other infrastructure are built to withstand earthquakes. Seoul city data shows only half of the city’s bridges can withstand an earthquake. There is also controversy over the fact that atomic power plants have been built on fault lines.

(Photo: London Korea Links)

Bluefin tuna quotas to be reduced

NHK reports that the catch quota of bluefin tuna, the highest quality tuna, for Japan and nine other countries and territories will be cut. The decision was made at the conference of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, which ended in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The representatives from 17 countries and territories discussed to what extent quotas should be cut for individual member countries, in order to achieve their basic policy for reducing the total fishing quota of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean by 20 percent to 25,500 tons by 2010.

With the agreement on the 23 percent cut, Japan's quota will be reduced from 2,830 to 2,174 tons.

This follows a decision last week at a five-day meeting in Kobe about ways to reverse the sharp decline in tuna catches worldwide.