Monday, June 30, 2008

Isahaya Bay: Saga Court rules in favour of local activists, fishermen (and the environment)


On June 27, 2008, activists and fishermen won an important victory in Saga Prefecture court, as it ruled in favour of the plaintiffs regarding the controversial dam at Isahaya Bay. The court said the government must keep the dike gates open for at least five years to allow the bay to regain its original environment and provide sufficient time for a thorough investigation.

The local court even castigated the ministry for its stance, noting that Tokyo is guilty of “obstruction of evidence.”

I thought this was worth a longer post, which you will have to read over at Treehugger.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Organic Agriculture Conference



食・農・環境の未来を「ゆうきの一歩」から
Food, Farming, and the Future of the Environment: Organic is one Step Forward

Weekend!


Some fun things going on this weekend:

Anti-G8 acitivists are holding meetings in Tokyo to discuss globalization, issues of poverty, labor, discrimination, war, violence, gender inequality, social exclusion, environmental destruction, abuse of human rights, food safety, agriculture, minority, and public order. G8 Action Network (English)

Big organic agriculture conference about the links between food, farming and the future of the environment at Sankei Plaza in Otemachi, Tokyo (tel/fax 03-3946-1237) Click here for details (Japanese)

Tojiba, a non-profit organization I really like, I holding a soy bean planting event on Sunday in Chiba prefecture, as part of their Soy Revolution Campaign. Do join if you like getting your boots muddy! Tojiba Tanemaki (Japanese)

Updates about other events over at Sarajeen's website Tokyo Community News

Fertilizer prices to go up by 60%


Japan's largest wholesaler of fertilizers says it will raise its prices by an average of 60 percent in July, as a result of a global surge in prices of fertilizer ingredients. NHK reports that Japan's National Federation of Agricultural
Cooperative Associations, or Zenno, announced its record-high price increases at a news conference on Friday (Actually it was top news last night at NHK's 21:00 Newshour - the second news was about North Korea's nuclear program).

Prices of nitrogen-based fertilizers will rise up to 63 percent and phosphorus fertilizers will rise up to 74 percent. Prices of compound fertilizers made of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will rise from between 45 and 112 percent. Zenno says the cost of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium has doubled or tripled from last year.

The surge in prices is attributed to a growth in crop production as the global population expands. China, the world's largest producer of phosphorus, accelerated the trend by restricting its phosphorus exports to secure domestic needs.

Japan imports almost all ingredients for fertilizers, making it vulnerable to global price fluctuations.


NHK World: Fertilizer prices to go up

What NHK failed to note was that many other countries also import fertilizer ingredients and feed ingredients from China. This means that if domestic food prices go up, Japan will also have a harder time to import cheap food from other countries. As Tony Boys noted 8 years ago (I quoted him here and here) and many others since then have pointed out, we could be facing a sudden food crisis not unlike what happened to North Korea in the 1990s.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tokyo leads the way to combat CO2 emissions


It is great to see cities and states get tough on greenhouse gas emissions. California enacted a cap on global warming emissions in 2006, and yesterday the Tokyo metropolitan assembly adopted an ordinance requiring large businesses to reduce their CO2 emissions to specified levels, the first such obligation in Japan.

By 2020, factories and offices will be required to reduce their CO2 output by 15-20 percent of the average amounts emitted from 2005 to 2007, sources said. A maximum fine of 500,000 yen will be imposed against those that fail to meet their targets. This mandatory program will start in 2010.

Satoshi Yamashita, director at Tokyo’s environmental policy planning section, told Reuters that the new limits would help Tokyo reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2021, compared with 20 years earlier.

By then, of course, we will probably not be living in an oil based economy anymore, and people will be wondering what everyone was thinking back in the noughties.

Tokyo is a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Groupe, and will host a C40 Conference on Climate Change in October, 2008. "Global warming is the most critical environmental issue ever faced by humanity", notes Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara. Way to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mokutou! (黙祷)


Tonight on the news I heard the call, "Mokutou!" at least two times. First, it was a moment of prayer by the rescue workers in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, as they have tried to find survivors from the big earthquake last week. Second, the same call was heard as the survivors in Okinawa (NHK video), southern Japan, marked that it is 63 years since the end of the final battle there.

Mokutou means something like silent prayer, or a silent minute. I searched a bit using google and found a nice thread on a judo/aikido blog called E-Budo, where people discuss what this moment of silence means to them. It is often called mokusou in the martial arts world, and could be called "meditation", according to some.

(Another commentator was reminded of "furitama": shaking the balls, an exercise with a specifically religious aim, at least in the beginning.)

Blogger Markaso notes: "In my Dojo, where we practice Go Jyu Ryu, we do a Mokusou before and after a practice. My Sensei in Kyoto, come to think of it nor does my Shihan in Kyushu, really do not tell the student what to think, not think, focus, not focus on, But I used it for many a things. For example I would use it as a focusing time for the upcoming practice, a thanking time to my Sensei, throwing away my stress before a practice time as well as a host of other things. We did not do any kind of mantra or chant. Very silent we were."

I really feel the need for this collective moment of slowing down. On a large scale. Or maybe I just need a summer vacation. As a people, we need opportunities to stop everything we are doing, even just for a short while, and think. And then, to not think. Time-out!

(Photo from the Buddy Sport Club in Yokohama, Japan)

Summer Wine



The Corrs and Bono, what else can you ask for?

Maybe Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, 1967?

Glad midsommar...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Turn off the lights, and take it slow...


Saving energy is easy. According to the Ministry of the Environment Japan, more than 65,000 public facilities and businesses turned off their lights here in Japan last night on June 21, 2008.

Major landmarks including the Tokyo Tower, the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, the Clock Tower in Sapporo, and the Tsuutenkaku in Osaka joined the campaign. Impressive.

The lovely Candlenight website is a bit slow tonight, give their busy servers a rest and check it another time ;)

Meanwhile, I'm glad to see that this campaign has really taken off in Korea. (Click to enlarge)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

East China Sea Gas: Not Worth Fighting About


China and Japan have "struck a deal" to jointly develop a gas field in the East China Sea. This comes after many years of diplomatic wrangling, often with loud nationalistic overtones.

However, these gas deposits are not going to help either country very much. As noted by Jun Okumura (thanks!), who spotted the data about the the Chinese oil equivalent of the natural gas reserve estimates for three of the fields:

Shirakaba/Chungxiao: 63.8 million bbl
Kashi/Tianwaitian: 12.6 million bbl
Kusunoki/Danqiao: 15.2 million bbl
Asunaro/Canxue: NA

Now look at this:

Shirakaba/Chungxiao: 174.8 thousand bbl/d
Kashi/Tianwaitian: 34.5 thousand bbl/d
Kusunoki/Danqiao: 41.6 thousand bbl/d
Asunaro/Canxue: NA

Jun Okumura notes: "That’s how much you can extract every day if you use up the entire reserve in a single year. Take a more reasonable, say 20-life span for the gas fields, and you get an idea of how trivial the gas fields really are."

Source: Yomuri Shimbun (in Japanese)

Trivial indeed, and not worth fighting about. Pandabonium, who knows much more about energy issues than I do, also notes in an email to me that the UK produced 77.4 billion cubic meters of gas in 2006 alone - presumably most of which came from their part of the North Sea: The Shirakaba/Chungxiao field has TOTAL estimated reserves of 4.75 billion cubic meters.

But, that is not what news media like AFP will tell you. Instead, they quote an "expert" who makes an entirely irrelevant comment:

"For Japan, it's part of the country's long-term efforts to reduce its heavy reliance on oil imports from the Middle East," said Yoshihisa Miyamoto, an analyst at Okasan Securities in Tokyo. "For China, securing stable energy supply is a pressing need to sustain its hot economy," Miyamoto said.

AFP: Japan, China strike landmark gas-sharing deal

Yomiuri: Mutual gas benefit stressed / East China Sea exploration pact highlights Japan-China ties

International Surfing Day



Read more over at Treehugger: Surf's Up! And Thumbs Down for Rokkasho

Friday, June 20, 2008

NHK: Police arrest 2 Greenpeace members

This is being reported by NHK this morning:

Police in Japan have arrested 2 senior members of the Japanese branch of the environmental group Greenpeace on suspicion of theft of whale meat and unlawful entry. Police in Aomori prefecture arrested the 2 officials, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, on Friday morning, and raided the office of Greenpeace Japan in Tokyo.

The 2 men are suspected of removing a parcel without permission from a delivery service company in Aomori city in April. The parcel contained whale meat, which a crewmember of the Japanese whaling research ship Nisshin Maru had mailed to his home.

Greenpeace Japan revealed last month that it would file a complaint with Tokyo prosecutors against Nisshin Maru crewmembers for embezzlement of whale meat. The group said the box was one of at least 47 sent by Nisshin Maru crewmembers to their homes and other addresses.

It also said intercepting the box was not illegal, as it used the box as evidence, and had no intention of obtaining unjust benefit.

Tokyo prosecutors are expected to dismiss the case against Nisshin Maru crew, arguing that the crew had received the meat as a souvenir from a company that conducts research whaling commissioned by the Japanese government.

To support Greenpeace Japan, make an online donation

Read more about the Whale Meat Scandal

"We've uncovered a scandal involving powerful forces in the Japanese government that benefit from whaling, and it's not surprising they are striking back. What is surprising is that these activists, who are innocent of any crime, would be arrested for returning whale meat that was stolen from Japanese taxpayers by crew of the whaling fleet. In whose interest were these arrests made? Because it would appear to us that this is an intimidation tactic by the government agencies responsible for a scandal," said Greenpeace Executive Director Jun Hoshikawa.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Kids Want to Save the Planet Too"

Just some cool photos I found on the Mizube Center for Supporting Children’s Waterside Activities website today, as I was writing a post about kids and environmental education for Treehugger:

Kids Want to Save the Planet Too



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Squid strike


More than 60 fishermen representing a national organization of squid fishing associations gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday. NHK says this is the first of a 2-day suspension of operations by more than 900 boats around Japan:

The fishermen say fuel prices are 2.4 times higher than 5 years ago, and that going out to sea will only create losses. The organization's deputy chairman Hiroyuki Noto said at the rally that the fishers need fundamental measures by the government to stop the abnormally sharp rise in fuel prices that is killing them. Participants chanted slogans calling for help to sustain their operations.

Later, they visited the Fisheries Agency and handed over a letter asking the government to help them pay for fuel and to cut fuel taxes. Associations of tuna and mackerel fishers are also planning to stop going out to sea. The moves are expected to affect the shipment and prices of marine products.


Do watch the video at NHK World: Fishermen urge government support for fuel

Fishermen in Spain and Italy are also on strike, with riots in Brussels last week.

BBC: Fishermen clash with police at EU

According to BBC, the fishermen said they will go out of business unless the EU allows national governments to give them more financial aid and subsidise their fuel:

French fishermen have been on strike for several weeks over the price of diesel, which has risen by 240% in the past five years. In recent days they have been joined by members of fleets from the UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy, who have blockaded ports across Europe, and truck drivers.

Floods, floods and more floods


Time to stay calm. In the US, the Mississippi is flooding, putting large areas of farmland in Iowa under water. Cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are also under water. And in India... And in China... And in North Korea...

I used to live in Iowa, it's a great place with a lot of Scandinavian descendants. Maybe that's why I feel so sad to see these great plains covered with muddy water. I know the people there will fight hard to get back to normal again, but what is normal?

* Corn and soybean prices stayed near record levels as millions of acres of cropland have been lost or damaged in the world's largest grain exporter. Meat prices also soared, in line with the costs for feeding cattle, hogs and chickens.

* Corn prices at the Chicago Board of Trade soared above US$8 a bushel for the first time on Monday and stayed near there on Tuesday in fears Midwest farmers will not be able to grow anything on as many as 5 million acres (2 million hectares).

* The problems add up to more food inflation for not just US consumers, but also dozens of countries that buy US grain. The United States exports 54 percent of the world's corn, 36 percent of soybeans and 23 percent of wheat. And of course, you-know-which-country imports a lot of its protein from this very part of the world, "normally".

Treehugger: A Prayer for the Farmers and Everyone in Iowa

Reuters: Levee Breaks as US Midwest Flood Damage Mounts

(Left: Image of flooded corn field in Oaksville, Iowa)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ever heard about "Virtual Water"?

I recently started having to think about a topic called Virtual Water. It is a way to assess how much water a country needs to be "sustainable" especially in terms of its food supply. It tries to illustrate the idea that when goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water. Japan in particular imports a lot of foods.

Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment here have brought up the subject.



MOFA takes the position that since Japan imports food, the country "actively assists the water supply of developing countries, including drinking water and agricultural water."

That is only partly true, since most of Japan's imports are from developed countries such as North America, South America and Australia.



MOE, however, takes a different approach. It understands the seriousness of the issue more in terms of how we as consumers here in Japan are influencing water supplies all over the world.

They even have a chart where you can calculate your virtual water, depending on what kind of foods you generally eat.

It is in Japanese, but do have a look here.

List of different foods and the Virtual Water impact (pdf).

For example:

Beef 20,600
Pork 5.900
Chicken 4,500
Eggs 3,200
Rice 3,700
Bread 1,600
Tomato 131
Cabbage 117

Unit: (m³/t)

Thus if you are currently heavily into beef, you may want to reconsider your daily shopping habits. Beef requires 6 or 7 times as much water compared to eggs: Chicken or eggs would be a better way to get your daily proteins.

Actually, the MOFA chart is peculiar since it doesn't make the connection that corn and soybeans are to a large extent used as animal feed for domestic animals here in Japan. Thus eating domestic beef or pork (or drinking milk) still means you are contributing to "Virtual Water". Complicated.

A UNESCO-sponsored website called Water Footprint notes that Japan has a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per person. The USA water footprint is about 2500 cubic meter per year per capita, considered highest in the world while the water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita.

And:

The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.




The UNESCO world water footprint map shows average national water footprint per capita (m3/cap/yr).

Green means that a nation's water footprint is equal to or smaller than the global average. Countries with red have a water footprint beyond the global average (Period: 1997-2001). Looking at it from this perspective, Japan is actually doing better than most other developed countries - it is below average in terms of its water footprint.

Calculate your Water Footprint!

Your individual water footprint is equal to the water required to produce the goods and services consumed by you. Please take your time and feel free to use the extended water footprint calculator developed by the researchers at UNESCO-IHE to assess your own unique water footprint. The calculations are based on the water requirements per unit of product as in your country of residence.




Allright, that's me. "Stimulants" refers to my coffee habit, and as you can see, I like eggs (but I don't eat meat).

My total water footprint comes to 492 m³ water/year, less than the average of 1240 m³ water/person/year.

If you haven't heard about Virtual Water or Water Footprint, well, who shall we blame? The media? Your high school teacher? Me?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Origags from the British Origami Society



I know next to nothing about origami, the art of folding paper into all kinds of shapes and figures.

So when I was researching the post I did for Treehugger, about big old trees and the zigzag paper ornaments at Japanese shrines, I was delighted to find the website of the British Origami Society. And, it turns out they used to have a special origag feature, a comic created by Roberto Morassi in the 1970s. Introduction by David Lister here.

Fifty-nine Origags were published in British Origami over a period of ten years. There would have been sixty, but the subtle nuances of English tabooed words misled even Roberto, so one Origag was censored by the then editor. Sadly no trace of it seems to have been preserved and that is our loss. But what an astounding achievement! I can only look on with admiration as cartoonists relentlessly contribute to newspapers, day after day and year after year. How do they do it?



Watch them all, starting here!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thank you Kurashi News from Japan visitors!

Zigzag Papers


Really old trees are really amazing! If I get a chance this weekend, I will go hiking somewhere nice with old-growth forest northwest of Tokyo. Could be tricky to find though, as much of what we see today is planted or restored forest areas, and you’ll rarely see magnificent trees with huge trunks and foliage reaching for the clouds.

Near many shrines in Japan however, there are special, sacred trees decorated with hemp ropes and white paper ornaments. David Lister at the British Origami Society has tried to find out more about these Zigag papers in Shinto shrines:

The origins of these zigzags is lost in antiquity. My first impression was that they stood for lightning, but when I was in Kyoto I asked a Buddhist priest about this and the idea had never occurred to him. Although he was a Buddhist and not a Shinto priest. If it had been an idea that was known in Japan, I am sure he would have been familiar with it. The other suggestion I have come across is that the zigzags originated as strips of cloth. Another is that they take the place of fibres of hemp. Or rice, which still decorate the Shimenawa rope. Or the distant origin may have been in offerings of cloth to the deity. Today the material used is almost invariably pure white paper, but coloured papers may sometimes be use. The only ones I have seen have been made of white paper.

The main use of O-shide is to decorate the Shimenawa or sacred rope that encircles any sacred lace in Japan.


I like the rope and the paper ornaments... They quietly remind us that a very old tree or a rock or an object can be sacred in its own right. Also a subtle reminder that while our human existence is a rather brief occurrence, others are carefully living on this planet for hundreds and even thousands of years. Perspective.

How to fold that Zigzag paper ornament? Read more here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Should We Measure Progress?

How much economic growth is enough? Even as we bring the Earth to the edge - massive biological die-off, climate change, energy resource depletion, soil erosion, water pollution and depletion, etc. - the politicians move cautiously in their responses, having made economic growth the top priority. Even well meaning "greens" speak of "sustainable growth" - an oxymoron on a finite planet.

We need a new paradigm regarding how we define and measure progress.

June 6th marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. In his first major presidential campaign speech on March 18, 1968, Robert Kennedy had warned against measuring ourselves by wealth alone. His message is even more relevant today:



“Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but that GNP — if we judge the United States of America by that — that GNP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

“Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

For more on this topic and what we can do about it, visit:



and


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Korea: Amazing



Amazing. Hundreds of thousands of protestors pack the 16-lane Sejong street in downtown Seoul, Tuesday night - the largest public demonstration since last month when Koreans began to hold candlelit rallies to protest US beef imports due to fears about Mad Cow Disease.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and the Cabinet offered to resign en masse Tuesday, taking responsibility for the intensifying political crisis triggered by the government's failure in negotiations regarding US beef imports.

The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said Han tendered his and the Cabinet ministers' resignations to President Lee Myung-bak after chairing a weekly Cabinet meeting. Han had already admitted his failing in communicating with people over key policy issues and claimed responsibility for escalating anti-government street demonstrations.

Rallies were held in major cities across the nation, including Seoul, Busan and Gwangju.

KBS: Record Crowds Join Protest Rallies Across Nation

For the past 40 days, central Seoul has been rocked by demonstrations , which began as rallies by hundreds of teenage students, singing, dancing and holding candles to protest the importing of American beef. They have now evolved into a protest against government policies on education, health care and consumer prices.

NYT: Protests in South Korea Imperil Government

Ohmy News: Snapshots From Anti-US Beef Candle Vigils

Videos of the protests here...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

NHK: Alan



Ashita e no Sanka roughly translates to “Song Sung for Tomorrow”... The lyrics were penned by Nojima Shinji, a famous movie and TV drama scriptwriter in Japan. The composition was the work of Kikuchi Kazuhito, who frequently works with popular artists like Ayumi Hamasaki. To top it all, alan’s Tibetan-style vocals were showcased in their full glory bringing the listener an epic and powerful title track.



One can clearly note how alan sets herself apart from the typical newcomers. Her vocals suggest years of vocal training and practice. Her low-notes are not particularly striking and are fairly soothing. However her high-notes are definitely something unique and unusual and are bound to attract attention in the future. The chorus is particularly powerful, where alan unleashes her so called “wailing” which sounds so haunting. It’s fairly impressive how alan manages to hit those high notes and hold them for so long, while managing to sound like she was in control throughout the whole track. It’s also highly suggested to watch her live performances of this track, since they manage to live up to the studio version.

The instrument choice matches her “mountain-notes”, which are reminiscent of her Tibetan roots and the traditional Chinese folk mountain songs. I was particularly attracted to the traditional arrangement, which takes influence from contemporary enka and Tibetan music. The instrumentals are fairly mellow, as if they are only there to assist alan’s powerful vocals. In fact, at certain instances one can almost feel that alan is drowning out the background music with her high notes. The instrumental choice contains some percussion and string elements, bringing forward a cold and desolate atmosphere, fitting for the winter season.


From Alan's debut at Channel-Ai, where I learnt that Alan Dawazhuoma was born in 1987 and grew up in the Meiren valley in the Rongxar county of the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China. Ethnically speaking, alan is of Tibetan descent. Her mother actually was a singer in the past, while her father is a civil servant. alan was always oriented towards music.

The Mansion: An Inconvenient Truth - The Opera

Not enough Australian humour on this humble blog!? OK, guilty as charged. So here it is, dear patient readers, The Mansion, An Inconvenient Truth - The Opera.



It is complete with a sad polar bear, Al Gore’s failed attempts to insert a .jpg photo on Powerpoint, and that special hydraulic lift scene.

I don't want to write a letter
I just want to make the world better


And if you liked that, why not spend a few minutes with the News Lab, as they explain why gas prices continue to rise!

Oh, and how about this hilarious statement: Speaking before a trip to Japan on Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged the G8 to "apply the blow-torch" to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [to get them to pump more crude, apparently] but G8 energy ministers appeared unwilling to take that route.

Reuters: G8 energy ministers look inward on oil, spare OPEC

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Candle-Night Osaka




Turn off your electric lights. For more information, visit Candlenight Osaka.jp
(In Japanese)

Shinichi Takemura at Kyoto University of Art & Design produced this award-winning Tangible Earth as a way to communicate how fragile our planet is.

He calls it the Earth Literacy Project.

Videos here.

Since 2003, he produced the Candle-Night for millions, a lights off, energy conservation movement to call attention to the global environment.

What is Candle-Night?

Tokyo - the new California?


Treehugger, a green website that has rapidly grown into a major portal for environmental blogging and opinion exchange, notes that Tokyo is the New California:

Tokyo's mayor has seen the (green) light and is taking major steps to introduce a climate change programme for the city despite Japan's reticence nationally on the matter. Mayor Shintaro Ishihara is a 75 year old self-acknowledged rightwinger who has decided to go it alone and impose strict curbs on local green house gas emissions. Some have compared his initiatives to those of California's Governor Schwartzenegger's differences with the Bush administration. As of 2010 Tokyo will impose caps on emissions on its largest polluters, along with credit trading for those who go over the limit.

Financial Times has more details, quoting Yurika Ayukawa, a climate activist and academic, who believes Tokyo's effort could be "crucial" to shaping national policy ahead of the G8 summit: "There is pressure for Japan to show more leadership," she said.

FT: Tokyo mayor leads on climate

Stay tuned, we should have a lot more treehugging news from Japan shortly, thanks to greenz.jp - a NGO I really like.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Save energy!


A government white paper called Tuesday for households to save energy as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Japan.

The white paper, Kyodo notes, mentions that household energy consumption in Japan has increased 44% in 2005 from 1990. Energy used for hot water represents 30% of overall energy consumption in Japanese households, the white paper said. It proposed that Japanese households try to save energy by "shortening showers by 1 minute a day and introducing solar power and energy-efficient water-heating systems."

According to NHK, the white paper says the use of renewable energy such as solar power is spreading rapidly in Europe and Asia, and the global market for renewable energy has grown by 40 percent in the last 10 years, to about 670-billion dollars. But:

[The white paper] points out that Japan lags behind in this area. The paper says eco-business has grown only by about 10 percent in the last decade in Japan, and that new installation of solar power is actually on the decline.

At the same time, Japanese trading house Itochu Corp has bought 10 percent of the Norwegian solar power technology firm Scatec As for 1.3 billion yen ($12.4 million) to join development of solar facilities in Europe, according to Reuters:

Itochu already holds a stake in Scatec's group company Norsun, which is building a plant to produce monocrystalline silicon wafers used in solar cells. The Norwegian group plans to build solar facilities in the Czech Republic, Germany, Bulgaria and other European countries where governments are expanding support for clean energy projects... Itochu will also spend some 100 billion yen to develop a solar park in Bulgaria by 2010 to generate 100 megawatts, making it one of the world's biggest.

Kyodo/Japan Today: Gov't urges households to save energy to curb global warming

NHK World (story & video): Japan should help to create new CO2 rules

Reuters: Japan's Itochu to spend $1 bln on solar parks

(Photo from Handcellphone.com. I assume it is still ok to take a nice, long bath, then, as long as I bring my brand new fancy cell phone?)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Vegan and vegetarian update


Mae Kaidee's cooking classes last year were a huge success. She is back in Japan for another set of workshops at Alishan Organic Center in Koma, Saitama. She will show you how to make vegetarian patties, green curry and tom yum soup.

Workshop Schedule:

Date: June 4th (Sun) 8th (Sun) 11th (Wed) and 15th (Sun)
Time: There will be workshops in both the morning and the afternoon. Morning workshops are from 11am – 1pm and afternoon from 2pm – 4pm.
Price: 5000 yen per workshop with a 1000 yen discount for two or more classes.
*Thai massage will be available on June 6th and 13th and Mae will be cooking Thai food for Alishan Cafe on June 7 and 14. Do watch her video!



Let me also mention that Herwin from Holland (I met him at the Brown Rice Cafe in Tokyo last year - a nice place to start if you are looking for good vegetarian food) is planning a new edition of his great little Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide. He claims that while the 2007-2008 edition covered 51 restaurants (with 25 in Tokyo), the new edition will cover 137 (and going up) restaurants (with 51 in Tokyo).

I'm thinking this makes Japan one of the most vegan-friendly places on earth!?

The new edition of Herwin's Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide still needs volunteers: If you speak Japanese, live in Japan, have some free time, you can help with:

- Checking and doing research by telephone and email. Restaurants and shops need to be called. This is crucial and important work that Herwin cannot do by himself.
- Translating.

If you are interested in Japanese vegetarian cooking, how about joining Yoshiko Imazato's cooking classes on June 9, July 7 or September 1 this summer.

Yoshiko Imazato is a Vegetarian Cooking Specialist and a Certified Permaculture Designer (AUS). She speaks English and a little bit of French.

Recipes for the Everyday & Extra-Festive
Desserts Naturally Sweet & Easy on Your Health
Down-Home & Seasonal Japanese Ingredients
Basic Macrobiotic Methods & Applications
Eastern & Western Styles, Modern & Traditional
Low-Impact & Ecological Cookery

Come share all the original, fun veggie recipes that come out of the mix!

It happens at:
Yoshi House
Musashimurayama-shi, Tokyo
Email kashinomori (at) gmail.com
Website: Kashinomori

Sunday, June 01, 2008

ELO: Twilight

NHK reports that gasoline prices went up 10 yen today to 170-180 yen per liter. That's over $6 per gallon.

And that kind of reminded me of Twilight, the ELO song that I liked a lot back in the 1970s.

Lyrics by Jeff Lynne:

Just on the border of your waking mind
There lies... Another time
Where darkness & light are one
And as you tread the halls of sanity
You feel so glad to be
Unable to go beyond
I have a message
From another time...




You brought me here, but can you take me back...?

Last Train to London is pretty good too! Any suggestions for more songs about trains? Do leave a comment!