Thursday, February 28, 2008

PV EXPO 2008

PV EXPO 2008 is presently going on at Tokyo Big Site through tomorrow (Friday).

This is the world's first international photovoltaic power generation expo with 301 participating companies from 17 countries. In addition to the PV panels themselves that one would expect to see at such an event, there are exhibits of the equipment and components used to manufacture and install them. The latest technologies are being demonstrated such as thin film systems which can be applied to any surface, and transparent panels which can be used as a window.

Japan - Land of the Rising Sun - is the world's leader in PV applications. "The photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules market in Japan, estimated to be 640 Megawatts (MW) in capacity or 209 billion yen in value of shipment, will rapidly grow to 2,350 MW or 665 billion yen in value in fiscal 2008 by recording an average growth of 30 to 40% every year". This in a marketing report "New Energy System Market (PV Power Systems) 2005" published by Yano Research Institute Ltd. Interestingly, the cited Megawatt addition rate equates to the output of one or two new nuclear power plants per year.

For details about PV EXPO 2008, visit the expo website (available in English, Japanese, and Chinese): PV EXPO 2008

Here Comes The Sun (Beatles)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Plastic recycling in Japan

I got a question a while back about plastic recycling rates in Japan. Now, that is not an easy question at all, dear readers. Why? Well, for one thing there are many different types of chemicals in that group - plastic.

If you paid attention during your High School chemistry class, you know that some plastics are actually called polystyrene foams.

So, you go shopping. You need some steak, maybe fish, or some vegetables? Styrofoam is that bubbly, light tray you carry home your food on: probably made of styrofoam plastics. Since the 1930s, when I.G. Farben found out how to mass produce styrofoam, we have had just about enough of the stuff. According to wikipedia, cities that have banned polystyrene include Portland, Oakland, and Santa Monica. Wow.

In Japan, about 70% is recycled. Great. Well done. Not bad compared to other countries. However. The rest? Not so great. Landfills, maybe. Dumped by a road, ending up in a river, maybe sayonara in the Pacific Ocean. Styrofoam plastic won't degrade in, like, 500 years. Your kids will have kids and grandchildren - and they will find your styrofoam trays.


Because they don't just "disappear". Ever.

(Graph from Nissui Co.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Not 9?

Why Not Article 9, the Japanese movement to introduce Japan's peace clause to the world, has opened a webshop. Get their cool "Number 9" t-shirt.

The "Global Article 9 Conference" will be held in Tokyo, Japan, in May 2008. This conference will bring together the voices of the world supporting the existence and principle of Article 9. It will bring together Nobel Peace Laureates, intellectuals, cultural figures and NGO activists, and provide a forum to discuss what the citizens of the world can do to realize the principle of Article 9, through promoting disarmament, demilitarization and a culture of peace. It will aspire to create an international movement for realization of "peace without force."

The holding of such a conference will be a concrete step in materializing the aim confirmed at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in 1999; "Every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going to war, like the Japanese article number nine. "The endorsement of Article 9 in the World Peace Forum's final statement, "Vancouver Appeal for Peace 2006: Make Peace" has also greatly encouraged our campaign, supporting our ambition to stage a large scale international conference revolving around Article 9.

Read more here (in English).

Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War

May 4-6 2008
Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex

* Join 10,000 people from around the world to voice your support for the existence and principles of Article 9

* Join the people of Japan in protecting their peace constitution

* Take part in an active network of international movements to shift resources from the military to sustainable development and human security

* Hear keynote speeches by international peace advocates including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and President of the Hague Appeal of Peace Cora Weiss

* Share your views or activities through a "self-organised event" - be it a performance, debate, symposium or workshop (application details to be announced on this website soon, or for more details contact

* Contribute to the creation of a Global Article 9 Action Plan to Abolish War

* Experience cultural events in collaboration with civil society from all over the world

* Call for peace constitutions for every country.

(Photo from

Photos from ARTicle 9 Festa vol.3

Below is a Picasa Collage with photos I took yesterday at the event in support for Article 9, the peace clause in Japan's Constitution. Lots of people from Peaceboat, The Japanese NGO that sends a ship around the world with volunteers. Sadly, I learnt that they will not be able to go to Kenya this year, because of the troubles there.

Good news: Peaceboat has recently opened a US office - near the UN Headquarters in New York City. Get involved. Peace Boat’s first voyage was organized in 1983 by a group of Japanese university students "as a creative response to government censorship regarding Japan’s past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific". They chartered a ship to visit neighboring countries with the aim of learning first-hand about the war from those who experienced it and initiating people-to-people exchange. Peace Now Korea Japan was formed in 2003 by young people in their 20s and 30s who share the common goal of wanting "to bring peace to the Korean peninsula". Activities include youth Peace Walks across South Korea and humanitarian aid through community fund-raising activities for the benefit of North Korean children. Website here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oisix - The Organic Express

After reading Martin's February 19th post about Oisix - an organic food retailer - we checked out their website (here: Oisix) and placed an order. This morning our box of food arrived at our door.

Our sampler shipment included an orange, 2 carrots, komatsuna (mustard spinach), a bunch of naganegi (small Japanese leek), celery, dashi, lotus root, Bunashimeiji mushrooms, six eggs, four small packages of tofu, 500 ml of milk (my significant other, "K", will drink that), and some pork (which we gave to K's parents). All organic of course, and we're impressed with the freshness and high quality.

Looking through the printed brochures that came in the box is easier for me than trying to find my way around their website (I can't read Japanese), but K can do the online ordering for us. Out here in Kashima City, finding organic produce is a hit or miss thing, unless one is willing to spend an hour traveling by car to get it. Oisix offers a wide variety and I am very happy to have a reliable source for organic foods delivered right to my door.

Why not give them a try?

Friday, February 22, 2008


From The StormRiders Blog.

ARTicle 9

I will show four of my oil paintings as part of the ARTicle 9 Festa vol.3 this weekend in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. The event is in support for the peace clause in Japan's Constitution. This time, the event is scheduled on the date when the Peace Walk for the Global A9 Conference starts.

「peace x art = eARTh」
Date: February 24, Sunday
18:00 (DOOR OPEN) 18:30 (EVENT START)

Venue: Shimokitazawa Alley Hall
2-24-8, Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Shimokitazawa Alley Building 3F
3 minute walk from Shimokitazawa Station

Live Music / Art / Fashion / Video / Photography

Global Article 9 Campaign

Article 9 of Japan's Constitution is a strong and clear promise to the world by Japan, particularly to the people of the Asia-Pacific, who suffered terribly under Japanese aggression prior to and during WWII, that "we will never repeat such a tragic mistake."

Article 9 has helped build confidence in a very unstable region, keep peace for more than 60 years and is of paramount importance for the prevention of conflict.

The philosophy of Article 9 is the logical extension of the UN Charter's goal to save future generations from the scourge of war. The purpose of our Global Article 9 Campaign is to urge global civil society to adopt the "No War, No Military" message and push for this concept to be included in their own countries' constitutions.

Green Map

Green Map is a global community of people who create maps about their favourite area, for example to promote bicycling, walking, organic shops and "green" restaurants. Green Map System has been developed collaboratively since 1995, and is now active in 400 cities, villages and neighborhoods in 50 countries. Using google maps, you can view maps by theme, culture, ecotourism, food and so on.

Green Map Japan is increasingly popular, as you can see on the News page:

Japan's Ministry of Environment held a ‘Stop Climate Change’ contest. “Tokyo Cycling Green Map” was the only project by a non-profit organization among the winners. Following a presentation of 47 projects primarily by local governments or other type of corporations that represent each prefecture, this Green Map won the Tokyo Grand Prix.

This is the third major prize for this team!

“Modal Shift” is a term referring to the conversion of transportation means. It mainly means reducing the use of automobiles and switching to other transportation modes, including subways and bicycles in order to solve environmental problems and ease congestion.

"Get Lean Legs!"

As spring rapidly approaches, it is time for all you ladies to get back into shape. "Get Lean Legs!" And no cheating, such as a long walk in the forest or a swim. No no, stay right where you are, in the office. In front of the computer. Go!

(Hat tip to From Tokyo With Love)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My story, kind of

Mimi wo Sumaseba, which literally means "If You Listen Closely", tells the story of Shizuku, a junior-high school student... Her boyfriend makes violins, and gets to go far, far away, from Tama City, Tokyo, Japan all the way to Italy. Vintage Miyazaki anno 1995. With English subtitles. Part one of 15 here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

School lunches getting more expensive

Japanese schools have a lunch system where parents are supposed to pay (although not everyone does) for the kids' meals. Now, after the gyoza scandal, many education boards are trying to replace cheaper, Chinese-made foods. Asahi notes that this means higher costs. For example, in Fuji, the daily fee is 243 yen per meal at elementary schools and 288 yen for junior high schools.

Is that all? What do you think, is that reasonable? Or is it already too high?

Asahi: School lunches safer but at what cost?

I'm reminded of Jamie Oliver who started a massively successful school lunch campaign in the UK, promoting healthier dishes and even organic ingredients. Check his website School Dinners and the official School Food Trust. In the UK, Channel 4 has a website as well, with a lot of advice on improving the quality of your child's school meals, ways to start a campaign for change and some simple ways to improve your child's general diet. Having said that, Japanese kids get better grub than what is generally served in schools in most parts of the world.

Haha, just found this page with photos of Japanese school dinners. Good blogging. And no post about school food would be complete without a reference to Kyuusyoku Toban, the cute restaurant in Akihabara that serves - you guessed it - school food. The Japan Forum has more information about studying in Japan, with lots of photos.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TV Tokyo: Organic food business

Food retailer Oisix will be featured on TV Tokyo tonight at 22:00PM. Oisix is a food mail order company with a strong focus on creating links between farmers and consumers. They have seen a large surge in sales from its home delivery services for organic vegetables and additive-free processed foods recently, according to Jiji Press:

The food offered by Oisix comes packaged with selections made by customers via the Internet and is about 30 pct to 50 pct more expensive than the products sold at conventional supermarkets. Kuniaki Mishima, spokesman for Oisix, says that over the past few years, the startup company has benefited from a series of problems in the food industry, such as bird flu, mad cow disease, agrichemical residue and concerns about food produced in China. But Mishima says that the majority of Japanese households are willing to tolerate food price premiums of only up to 15 pct, according to surveys conducted by Oisix. In order to cut prices, the company, the No. 3 player in organic food delivery services in Japan, is aiming to lift its annual sales to 10 billion yen from the fiscal 2006 level of 3.6 billion yen in order to procure greater amounts and improve cost structures.

"We are not targeting wealthy consumers and we do not believe offering safe food is a niche business," Mishima says.

The Oisix shopping website may be a little difficult to navigate if you don't read Japanese, but do have a look. Trivia: The first part of the name "Oisix" sounds like the word oishii (delishious).

TV Tokyo Gaia no Yuake (Dawn of Gaia) website has more details about tonight's program (Japanese only)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scandinavian Boom

My local bookshop surprised me with this great collection of titles about Scandinavian design, food, and culture. I like the way they promote our environmentally- friendly "slow" way of life, with more family time and less pressure. On display are books in Japanese about everything from IKEA to "Scandinavia: The Coffee Shop Heaven".

The sign in the middle could have been designed with more flair, but I like the message: Now is the Scandinavian Boom.

I should also recommend my friends Peo & Satoko Ekberg's book (in Japanese) about recycling, called Uchi Eco Nyuumon (Introduction to an Ecological Home).

Nice interview with them in The Japan Times: Pair share eco-friendly role model goals

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sotokoto NGO issue

The magazine Sotokoto is always good, but the March issue is exceptional. Over 100 NGOs and NPOs are listed with photos and information about their activities in the fields of environmental protection, local activism, food and farming, as well as support for developing countries. Plus interviews. Do find it in your local bookshop and have a look.

I'm impressed.

Kazumi Oguro, editor of Sotokoto magazine, has said: “Eco-conscious is a new fashion. Thinking about the global environment used to be constrained, but now, all people have become aware that it is quite enjoyable.”

Kazumi Oguro notes that his magazine is for people who feel there is something strange about our modern lifestyles. That doesn't mean he wants to turn back to clock. When Sotokoto talks about "Slow life" or countryside living, it also wants to present a modern, advanced perspective, according to Oguro. As an editor, he emphasizes that he likes novelty. But the point of Sotokoto is to stop for a moment and take a second look at the foot, as it is about to take another step forward...

(Photo from Ecobeing)

Japan's energy troubles

Read Hisane Masaki's excellent overview of Japan's energy troubles at Asia Times Online: Japan covets Russian gas, hot air

Resource-poor Japan’s drive for natural gas, as well as oil, has shifted to high gear, as the world’s second-largest economy is increasingly concerned about its medium- and long-term energy security amid spikes in prices and intensifying global competition, fueled by China’s increasing needs, for hydrocarbon resources.

For Japan, which imports almost all of its oil and natural gas, ensuring stable supplies is a matter of life or death. Japan remains by far the world’s largest importer of LNG, buying about 40% of global imports.

However, as Indonesia's domestic consumption of LNG goes up, Japan is being forced to reduce its imports...

(Image from Osaka Gas Wakuwaku Gas Land - an educational flash website, explaining among other things climate change, acid rain, and ozon layer destruction - with cute drawings, needless to say)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Single beans chocolate

I have only visited Venezuela once, on my way to Cartagena, Colombia, where we danced all night under the stars, to live Latin music. Venezuela, they had "single beans chocolate" for sale. Wonderful flavours.

I like the fact that farmers and retailers get together and make stuff that taste great. Protecting and even developing genetic resources, on a local scale (without genetic engineering) is a big part of organic, fair trade chocolate. Single beans? Well, if you like good wine or single malt whiskey, you understand what it means.

Here in Japan, People Tree were the pioneers introducing Fair Trade chocolate. Do support. Greenpeace Japan also steps up their campaign for GMO free chocolate. Order or download the free guide.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shipping's Effect on Climate Change

True scale of C02 emissions from shipping revealed
Leaked UN report says pollution three times higher than previously thought
John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian,
Wednesday February 13 2008
The true scale of climate change emissions from shipping is almost three times higher than previously believed, according to a leaked UN study seen by the Guardian.

It calculates that annual emissions from the world's merchant fleet have already reached 1.12bn tonnes of CO², or nearly 4.5% of all global emissions of the main greenhouse gas.

The report suggests that shipping emissions - which are not taken into account by European targets for cutting global warming - will become one of the largest single sources of manmade CO² after cars, housing, agriculture and industry. By comparison, the aviation industry, which has been under heavy pressure to clean up, is responsible for about 650m tonnes of CO² emissions a year, just over half that from shipping.

Until now, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated shipping emissions to be a maximum 400m tonnes, but the new draft report by a group of international scientists is a more sophisticated measure, using data collected from the oil and shipping industries for the International Maritime Organisation, the UN agency tasked with monitoring pollution from ships. It not only shows emissions are much worse than feared, but warns CO² emissions are set to rise by a further 30% by 2020.

click to enlarge, or visit the Guardian site to download the PDF

Contacted about the contents of the report, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, said: "This is a clear failure of the system. The shipping industry has so far escaped publicity. It has been left out of the climate change discussion. I hope [shipping emissions] will be included in the next UN agreement. It would be a cop-out if it was not. It tells me that we have been ineffective at tackling climate change so far."

The entire article here: Guardian UK

This news should come as no surprise, since our "globalized" economy was based on cheap fossil fuels that made transportation costs very small. Some of the response to the need to cut emissions as well as the rising cost of oil will no doubt be to try and make ships more efficient, but what we really need to do is to re-localize the way we live with less travel and by buying our foods and other goods locally. I can't help but wonder how much to the shipping in the world is to ship oil, coal, cars, and other commodities which themselves will add to CO2 emissions when put into use. Vicious cycle.

NGOs: Stop Rokkasho

Postcard campaign to protest against the Rokkasho Nuclear Reprocessing Plant in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan:

To order a set of four postcards, please head over to the Consumers Union of Japan website. Or just send your own designs.

CUJ says:

- The front of each card has space for you to write your message.

- The cards are pre-addressed:

1) “Prime Minister” (Postal code: 100-8914, Tokyo, Japan)

2) “Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry” (Postal code: 100-8901, Tokyo, Japan)

3) “Governor of Aomori Prefecture” (Postal code: 030-8570, Aomori Prefecture, Japan)

4) “Mayor of Rokkasho Village” (Postal code: 039-3212, Aomori Prefecture, Japan)

Please write a message to each of these people.

- Please place a postal stamp on the card and send it asap.

The messages from everyone will help stop operation of the reprocessing plant.

I recently wrote more about Rokkasho demonstrations here and here.

No Nukes, More Hearts (in Japanese)

Videos: Go to the Rokkashomura Rhapsody documentary (in English) or watch on YouTube, starting with Part 1. Surf-Rider Japan just made a new video too, you can watch it here. Cheers.

Stop Rokkasho is organizing a demonstration on February 17, 2008 in Shibuya, Tokyo. Starting at 14:00 - The next event will be on March 16.

On the same day, Feb 17, 2008 there will be a "Anti-nuclear live" concert and lectures in Aomori prefecture. More details on (in Japanese). Concert supported by solar power from Energy Green.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Japan Car Sales In Reverse

Japanese domestic car sales are in decline, as young people would rather use bicycles and use public transportation and spend their money on other things. The car is no longer viewed as a status symbol, but rather a big money drain. As a result new car sales in Japan are at a 35 year low.

Not good news for car manufactures but great news for the local environment since, as other posts on this blog point out, trains and bicycles are hundreds of times more efficient and less polluting than cars.
Toyota, which nearly topped General Motors in worldwide car sales last year, saw its domestic sales fall by 6%. Mitsubishi's global sales rose 13% in the first three quarters of 2007 over 2006, but lost 11% of sales at home.

According to an article in The Age (Australia):

"Between 2001 and 2005, the proportion of men in the first half of their 20s without a car rose from one in five to one in three, a Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association survey found. Ownership rates did not change among older generations.

"Over roughly the same period, spending by 20- to 35-year-olds on car-related expenses fell 15%, according to a government poll of family budgets."

Yours truly is well past his 20's, but has seen the light. I haven't owned a car in over 3 years....

Imperial Household's organic farms

Japan's Imperial Household is an institution that is supposed to take care of the Emperor and his responsibilities as head of state. They also run seven farms around Japan.

I got interested and checked it out - and found out that the farms are in fact organic, not using chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Yokota Tetsuji has written several books about the food served at Imperial events, with insights about organic farming and the Goryou Bokujou traditions and its history (He also wrote about the Imperial duck farms and how to protect them from bird flu).

Young Japanese organic farmers are also blogging about the Imperial farms, and they have participated in conferences together.

In Europe, Prince Charles is well known for his support for organic agriculture. I really wish the Japanese would be more outspoken when they actually do something really good, like this.

From the Imperial Household Agency website Goryo Bokujo (Imperial Stock Farm):

The Imperial Stock Farm is situated approximately 13km north-east of central Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture. At the farm, the main activities are arable farmings and stock breedings, which includes rearing of riding horses and carriage horses for the Imperial Family and for the Court functions, raising other livestocks and poultry, and producing such as milk, meat and eggs for the use of the Imperial Family and domestic and foreign guests. The farm is also used for the reception for the diplomatic missions resident in Japan.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Challenge making gyoza!

My local supermarket had this display today, encouraging people to "challenge making hand made gyoza". Selected ingredients were there on the table, as well as recipies.

チャレンジ or challenge, the English word, was used to cheer on those in doubt of their cooking skills. Be brave!


Blue Lotus, a food blog I like, has more to say about these humble dumplings - did you know they are called jiaozi in Chinese?

Green Lantern for Local Food

Japanese restaurants are getting into the local foods movement by joining Green Lantern (midori-chochin), a non-profit organization in Sapporo. The movement is the brainchild of Kiyoaki Maruyama at the National Agricultural Research Center in Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. Maruyama registered midori-chochin as trademark and an umbrella maker in Wakayama manufactures the lanterns, according to Yomiuri Shimbun.

Another positive result of efforts to use more local ingredients is the reduction of green house gas emissions. Food is shipped across the oceans while Japan struggles to fulfill its Kyoto obligations. Some Japanese food companies are switching from trucks to rail transport to avoid the long-haul domestic routes. However, the Green Lantern movement is focusing more on directly supporting local farmers. Japan’s low self-sufficiency is a topic that gets a lot of attention here, and appeals more to small restaurants.

Keeping it simple is a great idea.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Green lanterns signify domestic ingredients

Of course, if you know your DC Comics, you will find the entire project to save the earth rather hilarious!

Ink fraud

Some 50% of Japan's 28 ink makers certified as environmentally friendly manufacturers have shipped products that fail to live up to the requirements of certification, the Japan Printing Ink Makers Association said Friday, according to Kyodo/Japan Today.

The data falsification committed by the 14 companies involved products carrying the "Eco Mark" certification issued by the Japan Environment Association and those authorized as "Soy Seal" products by the American Soybean Association, the group of printing ink makers said.

The ASA mark, with a huge American flag in the shape of a drop, looks silly - and now we find out that it was a fraud. No thanks to genetically engineered soybeans that noone wants to eat, used as ink - or not.

Japan Printing Ink Makers Association data (in Japanese)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saitama leads the way

NHK World reports that Saitama Prefecture plans to set up a fund in April, 2008 to engage in environmental activities, using some of the proceeds from the auto tax.

The local government plans to allocate 500 yen from each vehicle's auto tax revenue for the fund. It will appropriate about 1.4 billion yen or about 13 million dollars for the budget next fiscal year. The money will be used for preserving 3,000 hectares of forest and 100 facilities to be greened. Greening will involve planting grass at school gardens or covering the roofs of buildings with trees and grass.

This use of part of auto tax is the first of its kind.

The local government says it will enhance civic awareness of the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the source of global warming.

I'm suddenly feeling very proud to live in Saitama ;)

Friday, February 08, 2008

"Kind to the Environment, Eco by Tokyo Metro"

The subway system in Tokyo is not only one of the world's most efficient in terms of getting people from A to B.

Now, they are eager to point out that taking the subway is actually "Eco"! The posters in the stations point out that you reduce CO2 and other green house gasses by not driving. Good message.

Tokyo Metro website here (in English)

Feed crunch

Japanese beef prices are about to get even higher, the country's farmers said Wednesday, due to higher feed prices. AP notes that the cost of feed in Japan has risen by about a third over the last year, mainly because of the rise in US corn prices. Corn can be used for making ethanol, and the demand is growing for ethanol, a kind of biofuel, because of soaring oil prices.

In 1960, Japan produced almost all the beef, pork and dairy products the nation consumed. In recent years, Japan imports about half of the beef and pork, as well as about a third of the dairy products.

Using corn for animal feed or for fuel will never be sustainable. Japanese farmers need to rethink their priorities. It is good that they try to reach out to consumers, but I doubt that most people know that animal feed is imported. Also, as consumers find out that the feed mostly is GMO corn or soy-based products, there will be a lot of explaining to do here.

Mainichi: Farmers ask for public understanding on beef price hike amid soaring feed costs

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fumio Kishida

Tonight, Kyodo and NHK report that Fumio Kishida has been appointed minister in charge of consumer affairs. Kishida helped build consensus inside the LDP for the 2004 revision of the basic consumer protection law, where consumer rights are respected as the basic concept of consumer policies. As I have noted here, it also gave whistle blowers protection, and made consumer education mandatory. Fumio Kishida is a relative of the late Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. At 50, he is the youngest among Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet ministers.

Eco-friendly Transportation

I recently purchased a Yamaha PAS City-S Lithium hybrid-electric bicycle.

A hybrid-electric bicycle is one which can be pedaled like any ordinary bike, but which also has an electric motor to assist when accelerating, climbing a hill, riding against the wind or carrying heavy loads. Yamaha has been building them since 1993 and currently offers twelve models. PAS stands for "power assist system".

This bike utilizes a Lithium-Ion battery and 240 watt motor to provide a range of power assistance levels and up to 104 km (64 miles) of range. Hills, headwinds, and weight all affect the range of course, and I find on average I get about 75 kilometers per charge. My usual trip into the city for groceries is about 20 to 25 kilometers round trip. Recharging a fully discharged battery takes 3.9 hours. Li-ion batteries are not harmed by being topped off, so I recharge whenever the battery indicator lights on the control switch indicate a charge level of one half.

I live about 8 kilometers out of town, so the electric assist really makes grocery shopping and other errands easier. In the few weeks that I have owned the bike, I have ridden it about 280 kilometers (174 miles). I have also tested in on the steepest hills in my area and it allows me ride up all of them rather than having to walk. I've also ridden the bike around the city without using the electric motor, and find the bicycle works fine in that mode, though I can't ride it as fast.


I have read studies that show that hybrid electric bicycles are more energy efficient than a regular bike (when all energy inputs are taken into consideration). Pretty amazing. That would make them the most efficient means of transportation on the planet. The PAS bikes have a mode called "Auto-eco" which saves energy and extends range by automatically reducing or shutting off the motor when the bike is coasting, or on level ground when pedaling is easy.

I've added a rear basket with a waterproof cover, which in addition to allowing me to carry more, gives me a place to put my backpack when it is not otherwise in use. I have also installed a speedometer/odometer to keep track of distances and my average speed. On the road I average between 16 and 19 kph and in town I slow down to about 12 kph.

For a short video intro to Yamaha PAS, click on the picture below. You will see a 45 second intro and then you can click "Start" to watch the 1 minute 40 second demo. (In Japanese, but no translation needed.)

A 26" Yamaha PAS Bicycle


For people who commute a few miles to work (or train station) or who, like me, just want to reduce their carbon footprint or do not want to deal with the high cost of car ownership, yet want a good personal transport, the hybrid-electric bike makes a lot of sense. Even if you just want to cut back on car use or have a back up means of getting around, I think it's a good choice. A friend of mine in the US was so impressed with my bicycle that he has decided to make his next "car" a hybrid-electric bike.

Hybrid-electrics bikes are produced by a number of manufactures and available in a wide variety of styles, power systems, and prices.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Setsubun with Non-GMO beans

Here are some random images of Setsubun, a Japanese tradition in early February. Part of this, you are supposed to throw out beans and shout "Devils Out, Luck In" and whatnot. They even sell the beans in nice packs in supermarkets and convenience stores, clearly labelled as "Not genetically modified" because that just would not do, if you are expelling little red-faced demons.

Best of luck for the new lunar year.

(The last photo, with my translations, is from Pandabonium's blog entry Setsubun - or "Soybean Madness")