Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lifestyle Forum 2008

If you are in Tokyo this weekend, do visit the park called Shinjuku Gyoen and listen to lectures about environmental topics, "slow life" and current topics. The cafes are great and I love the focus on all my favourite topics like solar power, fair trade gifts and organic food.

Lifestyle Forum 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cup Noodles Recalled

Japan's Nissin Food Products Co. said Friday it was recalling half a million cups of instant Cup Noodles over fears of insecticide contamination. AFP has more:

A 67-year-old woman vomited and felt numbness on her tongue after eating Nissin's Cup Noodle this week in the Tokyo suburb of Fujisawa, the city's health office said late Thursday. The product was made at a Nissin factory in Japan.

Recalls are a good way to quickly deal with the uncertainty in such situation. The noodles scare spread as another company, Myojo Foods Co. said it found instant noodles laced with paradichlorobenzene and naphthol, also used as bug repellent. I wonder if consumers are getting more careful and more willing to report bad food. Hope noone else gets sick!

Update I: Asahi says the Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union (JCCU) has had to recall its cup noodles as well: JCCU told its outlets to remove five types of Co-op cup ramen from their shelves. Their stuff is made by Myojo Foods, and it has taken an entire month for them to get to the bottom of this. Mainichi has more: Woman left ill after eating contaminated instant noodles

Update II: NHK World says a Tokyo-based food company has begun to recall a type of Chinese-made instant noodles after it detected a tiny amount of the chemical melamine. Ryukou Shokuhin found the chemical in the freeze-dried broth for instant Harusame noodles with dried vegetables and egg. The product was made by a Chinese manufacturer.

Update III: Kyodo says Itoham Foods Inc. will voluntarily recall 2.67 million packages of sausages, pizzas and other products that might be tainted by toxic cyanogen compounds detected last month in well water it uses. The recall affects 13 products: nine types of sausages, including Arabiki Gourmet Vienna Sausage, and four kinds of pizzas. It will also include expired products. Itoham's previously very fancy website now looks like this.

Update IV: is your website if you want to try to keep up with product problems of all kinds in Japan!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

21st Tokyo International Film Festival: Action! For Earth

Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) starts on October 18th. Stars will walk on a green carpet manufactured from recycled plastic bottles to convey the message of “Ecology = Preservation of Earth’s Environment.”

The Earth Grand Prix, a new award, will be given for the first time to the best new film dealing with nature, the environment and ecology. There will also be some fun and easy-to-understand conferences and other events on the environment and ecology are also scheduled. Participation if free! The official poster of the 21st TIFF features a green earth and the new motto of TIFF “Action! for Earth!”

TIFF Lineup

I like that the Natural TIFF, a new section of the festival program, is also launched this year, with 30 new and vintage films. The following films will have their world premier: Ashes from the Sky, Blue Symphony, and Silent Color Silent Voice.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NHK: Shanghai Typhoon

NHK's six-part drama series, Shanghai Typhoon is about a young Japanese woman named Misuzu (Tae Kimura) as she starts her own business in Shanghai. As she moves to the Chinese city she has trouble finding an apartment, so she stays with another Japanese expatriate, Mari (Megumi).

Misuzu applies for a job at a flower shop, and the boss, Kaori (Yuki Matsushita), reluctantly hires her. Later, Misuzu realizes that the Chinese owner of the flower shop (Peter Ho) got her fired from her last job in Japan. It gets more interesting as Misuzu reveals her true talent as a fashion designer...

You can watch six brief trailers from the drama: the last one will be aired on October 18, 2008, called "Thank You, Shanghai".

With the recent opening of H&M, the Swedish retailer, in Japan, I cannot help but wonder... Multinational companies need to do a lot better in terms of supporting culture and drama, to really connect people around the world. If Shanghai Typhoon is shown on Swedish TV, I would be very pleased. And... In my humble opinion, this is one example of how Japan is a lot more global-minded than my old country... European and American companies think they can sell to customers in Japan and other countries in Asia, without any real commitment to the region. That is not going to be sustainable, guys.

H&M, what's new? Organic cotton? Good. Please make every effort to tell your Japanese customers that this is now available at H&M.

Our intention is to gradually use more cotton that has been grown organically – that is without the use of chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. We want to contribute towards increased demand and thereby motivate more growers to invest in organic cotton growing.

H&M has been using organically grown cotton since 2004, when we began to mix some organic cotton into selected children’s clothing. Since 2007 we have had garments made from 100 percent organic cotton in all departments. We also have some garments made from 50 percent organic cotton and 50 percent conventional cotton. All garments made from organic cotton are marked with an “Organic Cotton” label.

Does H&M have any idea about Japan??

Friday, October 10, 2008

Japanese Humour & Really Bad Jokes

Recent reports indicate the Japanese banking crisis shows no signs of improving. If anything, it's getting worse. Following last week's news that Origami Bank had folded, it was today learned that Sumo Bank has gone belly up. Bonsai Bank plans to cut back some of its branches. Karaoke Bank is up for sale and is going for a song.

Meanwhile, shares in Kamikaze Bank have nose-dived and 500 jobs at Karate Bank will be chopped. Analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank and staff there fear they may get a raw deal.

Source: JREF (Thanks guys, you are the best!)

OK, OK, a few more:

Japanese mugger

What does a Japanese mugger say?
"Give me all your money or I'll kill myself!"

Why did the Japanese Kamikaze pilot fly back to the base?
He forgot his helmet.

Two men and a woman on a deserted island:

On a beautiful deserted island in the middle of nowhere, the following people are stranded:
Two Italian men and one Italian woman
Two French men and one French woman
Two German men and one German woman
Two Greek men and one Greek woman
Two English men and one English woman
Two Bulgarian men and one Bulgarian woman
Two Japanese men and one Japanese woman

One month later the following things have occurred:

One Italian man killed the other Italian man for the Italian woman.

The two French men and the French woman are living happily together having loads of sex.

The two German men have a strict weekly schedule of when they alternate with the German woman.

The two Greek men are sleeping with each other and the Greek woman is cleaning and cooking for them.

The two English men are waiting for someone to introduce them to the English woman.

The two Bulgarian men took a long look at the endless ocean and one look at the Bulgarian woman and they started swimming.

The two Japanese men have faxed Tokyo and are awaiting further instructions.

(Funny photo from

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Giants and Tigers? It's Crunch Time

I know nill and nought about baseball, but I have a ticket for the game at Tokyo Dome tomorrow night (Thursday). So I would appreciate hints from anyone who knows what the fuzz is all about. Asahi says "The Giants and Tigers each have identical 81-56-3 records with four games remaining, including Wednesday's key matchup with each other at Tokyo Dome." I heard they serve draft beer at Tokyo Dome, so I don't think it will be a complete waste of time.

Oh, and no big Japanese bank has failed yet, but the Crunch seems to be hitting the stock market hard. Is Japan going to avoid the bailouts now happening in the US and Europe?

Which brings me to the main message of this post: how do we all join together and calm down the real crisis, instead of letting politicians that we never really liked anyway scare us all into thinking it will get worse?

The Coup D'etat of October 1, 2008

Listen to Naomi Wolf, author of "Give Me Liberty - A Handbook For American Revolutionaries", talk about what our news networks are not telling us (thanks Isis).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nobel Prize in Physics To 3 Japanese Scientists...

NHK is reporting that 3 Japanese scientists share the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. More later...

Yoichiro Nambu at Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, US, shares the prize with Makoto Kobayashi at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization
Tsukuba, Japan, and Toshihide Masukawa at the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics (YITP), Kyoto University, Japan. Together, they made important discoveries about "symmetry breaking" and quarks, leading to a deeper understanding of our universe.

...and snowflakes:

How does the oxygen and hydrogen of water form such a wide variety of (beautiful) patterns when forming the simple snowflake? To understand this, we need very complex mathematical models, derived from the years of study of elementary particles and quantum physics.

James Trefil explains the Snowflake like this:

Both the hydrogen and oxygen molecules are quite symmetric when they are isolated. The electric force which governs their actions as atoms is also a symmetrically acting force. But when their temperature is lowered and they form a water molecule, the symmetry of the individual atoms is broken as they form a molecule with 105 degrees between the hydrogen-oxygen bonds. When they freeze to form a snowflake, they form another type of symmetry, but the symmetry of the original atoms has been lost. Since this loss of symmetry occurs without any external intervention, we say that it has undergone spontaneous symmetry breaking.

I'm always inspired by these great minds who continue exploring the origins of our universe. Want to read more about symmetry breaking and quantum physics? Over at Treehugger I made this a (short) list of books:

Richard P. Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
James Trefil: The Moment of Creation: Big Bang Physics from Before the First Millisecond to the Present Universe
Fritjof Capra: Tao of Physics
Gary Zukav: The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Got any more suggestions...?

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Big Issue

This Thursday, we'll have The Big Issue as guest speakers at to talk about poverty and the situation for homeless people in Japan, as part of Blog Action Day 2008.


Thursday 9th, October 2008

Time Schedule:

19:00 Door Open. Opening Remarks Followed by Presentation by Big Issue Japan
20:00 green drinks
23:00 Door Close

Lounge greenz 3-29-3 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (Harajuku station)

Map (in Japanese):

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eiji Oue Conducting Mahler's Fifth Symphony

Part II (with the famous harp tune)

21.10.2006 Auditorio de Barcelona

"Asians have lived below their means so that Americans could live beyond theirs"

Japan has invested $55 billion in US firms in the past few days, in addition to the massive amounts of money spent on "infusions" to the market. Hope America appreciates the effort. We are all in this great act together.

Leading research firm Thomson Reuters says Japanese firms have spent over 55 billion dollars - a record-high amount - to buy out or invest in overseas companies so far this year, capitalizing on the financial turmoil that severely affected US firms, notes NHK World.

Over at Treehugger, one of my collegues notes:

Matt Simmons, head of the oil investment bank Simmons and Company, has long been a prophet of peak oil, silencing the Fast Money team with his dire warnings to move to the country and grow your own food. And he’s busy stirring things up again, warning in a conversation with Peak Moment TV that gasoline reserves are so low in the US that if everyone topped up their tank we would see “a run on the bank”, literally running dry – running out of food within 5 to 7 days...

The title of this post is a quote from the Financial Times, where David Pilling talks to Chinese and Japanese finance experts, wondering if this is America’s chance to kick its Asian addiction:

Did America hang itself with Asian rope? I put this to a Chinese official last week and, quick as a flash, he responded: “No. It drowned itself in Asian liquidity.”

Asia’s part in America’s financial downfall has been two-fold. First, shiploads of cheap goods from China and other low-cost producers helped keep a lid on US prices. That lulled the Fed, with its tight focus on the consumer price index, into thinking it could have it both ways: high growth with low inflation.

Second, FT notes, Asian bank reserves, particularly from Japan, funded buy-now pay-later consumption in the US.

I can't help but wonder why. "Asians have lived below their means so that Americans could live beyond theirs" - a classic quote.

Treehugger: A Great Act: Living Beyond One's Means

Oh, and as part of the very unusual $700 billion taxpayer-assisted US bailout of banks and market players, there was also a sign of relief:

Wind power tax credits have been extended for one year; other types of renewable energy such as small-scale hydro or tidal power have been extended for two years. The bigger news is that solar tax credits for businesses and residential installations have been extended for eight years. The entire package amounts to $18 billion in tax credits and will be partially paid for by closing tax loopholes for the oil and gas industry.

A comment I got from Crossroads in China (much appreciated!):

I too will be interested to see if Americans will be able to manage through this period. The Chinese call it "eating bitterness", and unfortunately there are some that will have to do just that before times improve.

through this episode in our economic and social evolution, one can only hope that the concepts of conspicuous and green consumption patterns will take hold. Otherwise, nothing will have been learned, and the opportunity to make big steps will have been lost.

(Photo - of a real great act - from from Blogtorira, a great act from an ancient Kagura performance)