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Showing posts from May, 2009

Pioneers Of Organic, Vegetarian Food In Japan

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I went to Koma, Saitama today for the Food Festival, a fun event sponsored by Alishan. They really are the pioneers of organic, vegetarian foods in Japan. Jack and Fey have worked so hard to bring the very best to this country, and make it easy for people to order. It was great to see my old collegues, and new staff, and the belly dancing and yoga and the same old super-busy barn atmosphere... Make sure to be there next time they throw a party.

Photos from Herman's Vegan Japan blog, and from the (new) official Alishan Organic Center website.

Tengu Natural Foods is their mail order service "for organic vegetarian foods, environmentally sound cleaning supplies and more to make life just that much happier and healthier." They ship anywhere in Japan in just a few days (all things being as they should). I worked there part-time 2 years ago in the packing room, climbing the stairs and learning about the organic food business. What I loved? The focus on healthy, non-GMO foods, wi…

Codawari Shouten In Nishi-Waseda And More "Antenna Shops"

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"Antenna Shops" is a concept that is gaining popularity in Japan. Farmers who want to find alternative ways to tell their goods in the cities are supporting these shops so consumers can get fresh produce, fruits and other local specialities, for example here in Tokyo. Yasui-san in Nishi-Waseda was recently featured in Japan's Agriculture Newspaper, and here he is with me, helping me promote my book. He also has a blog and as he points out, I often buy rye bread when I visit. He is a really swell guy, and a good example of all that I think is so good about Japan's food & farming.

Furusato Antenna Shops are sometimes called Chiho Bussan Kan (地方物産館), meaning Local Food Shop.



Antenna Shop Codawari Shouten
Address: Nishi-Waseda 1-9-13, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

町に貢献する店として色んな『良い事』を実践中です!
住所:東京都新宿区西早稲田1-9-13
電話:03-3203-5801
Blog: アンテナショップ こだわり商店 早稲田 (栃木県茂木町 宮城県南三陸町/東京都檜原村)

Japan-Hopper has details about other Antenna Shops in Tokyo:

1. Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza

Hokkaido is the northest pr…

My Food Book On Kodansha's Website...

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This is what my food safety book looks like on Kodansha's website.

I'm of course hoping a lot of people here are asking the same questions that I have been asking; food self sufficiency, food mileage, climate change effect, peak oil, organic farming, non-GMO seeds, as little use of pesticides as possible, and how about food additives. And why don't all companies explain where their ingredients come from?

I was able to list foods that come from Hokkaido in the north to Tanegashima and Okinawa in the south. I think consumers have a right to know that kind of things.



(Kodansha in Gokokuji, left is the 1930s building, to the right is the 1990s skyscraper where I had most of my editorial meetings)

Official blog: Gendai Premier

このブログでは本書より、順次「安全な食品」を紹介しますのでお楽しみに。紹介ジャンルについては下のリンクから、各ページでのランキングの基準などは上の「まえがき」をご覧ください。

「ニッポン食の安全ランキング555」
ISBN:978-4-06-214970-9
出版社:講談社
著者名: マーティン・フリッド 著

Asahi On The Eco Points Program

Asahi: As part of the Aso administration's economic stimulus package, the government has introduced a program in which buyers of energy-saving household electronic appliances are given "eco-points" that can be exchanged for gift certificates or other goods.

Not quite the full monty? Well, why not include, say JAS marked, certified organic food in this clever little scheme. Ladies, you could all claim that you want organically certified cosmetics and hair care products to be covered, no? And why not, menstrual pads made of certified organic cotton? Has Prime Minister Taro Aso not heard of Fair Trade products from Third World countries? Why should Japan's tax payers support this proposal, that only gives benefits to people who buy new TVs and air conditioners??

While the program may be beneficial for consumers, the 295 billion yen necessary for this system is, in the end, a burden of 2,500 yen for each individual citizen. In addition, more government money will be necess…

Announcement: My Food Safety Ranking Book Published By Kodansha

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My Food Safety Ranking Book has been published by Kodansha and is now in bookshops around the country. You can also order it on the Internet.

I spent about a year carefully reading company websites, looking at ingredient lists, company news releases, and checked shops and other sources. Finally, the book puts 555 different foods to the test: The best get 3 stars, and the rest 2 or (in many cases) 1 star each. I checked if the company has good information about where the ingredients come from, especially if they are locally produced or imported. This, of course, contributes to global warming: we need to think more about issues like food mileage and irrigation in foreign lands... I also listed if the companies are avoiding genetically modified ingredients or not. Some 80% of consumers here in Japan say they want to avoid GMOs, but that can be difficult in many cases. That's why you need my guidebook ;)

Organic food products get higher rankings, but if a locally made food is available,…

Beat Poverty: Word Fair Trade Day In Japan

I love how the good people over at People Tree are such an insipration here in Japan. This year's World Fair Trade Day in early May was no exception: 800 people showed up to watch their fashion show: there was Taiko drumming by Gocoo, a celebrated band with a lot of energy (and a cute website) and other fashion-related events. Says Safia Minney:

Whether you attended a World Fair Trade Day event or not the biggest support you can give is buying Fair Trade and telling your friends about it.

The fair trade movement is growing stronger and stronger. I can't beleive it is seven years ago that they invited me to talk about consumers perceptions about fair trade at their international conference. I made a strong case for the fair trade movement to promote themselves more, and be proud of what they are doing. Back then, they were often seen as running little shops with not much to sell except the odd tea bags or cotton t-shirts. How things have changed!

People Tree, Avanti and Patagonia …

Harvest Time In Satoyama

A wonderful video about Satoyama by Anne McDonald, Mio Horiuchi, and Toshiya Kai at the United Nations University.



Forests, wetlands and rice paddies, and grasslands: In Japanese, there is a name for this kind of area that encompasses these ecosystems, along with houses and roads and shops where people make a living: Satoyama (里山): It is similar to the English concept of "the commons" yet this is much more of a people-land concept. Satoyama, here where I live in central Saitama, the word means people who farm, people who have small shops, people who take care of the forests up on the hills. Here, people live in spite of the Seibu golf courses, in spite of the trucks that pass by on the roads built with money from Tokyo, in spite of a lot of madness imposed by others. Satoyama is almost like a verb. You live it. It is a sustainable kind of investment, like putting a seed in the soil, knowing that sooner or later, a crop, a plant, will emerge.

As the academics put it:

For many Ja…

Which Country Has The Best High Speed Rail?

Living in Japan, we take the Shinkansen for granted, and tend to forget that other countries are not as fortunate to have such an efficient, safe and reliable mass transit system. But countries like France, Germany, and most recently Spain, are also investing heavily in high-speed rail. Over at Treehugger, I compare the different countries.

It turns out that the U.S. is hoping Japan and other countries will help to build a high-speed railway network. Karen Rae told Kyodo that FRA is reaching out to "a number of countries that have success in high-speed rail" and that "Japan is one of many." She also noted that they are trying to avoid creating a "cookie cutter" where everything is exactly the same: "It really needs to be designed around the local and state needs."

The International Union of Railways defines high-speed rail as services which regularly operate at or above 250km/h on new tracks, or 200km/h (125 mph) on existing tracks.

Recommended rea…

Honda Insight: First Hybrid Ever To Top The List Of Best-Selling Cars In Japan

12 years ago, Toyota introduced a revolutionary car, the Prius, on the market. It was a "hybrid" meaning its engine could switch between gas and electric drive modes. Now, the new Honda Insight is the best-selling car in Japan for the month of April. It is the first time ever that a hybrid car tops the list here in Japan (or anywhere in the world).

Other car makers have been much slower to introduce hybrid cars, and even Ford had to licence Toyota's technology in order to get its first hybrids on the road.

I don't own a car, and I don't plan to buy one (I love trains) but I do think we are witnessing a paradigm shift away from gas-guzzling automobiles, to an era where mobility means we only use energy resources as efficiently as possible.

I'm sorry to say that U.S. -owned car makers Volvo and SAAB are so far from this race that they frankly deserve to go under, unless they can start to make cars with fuel efficiency that match the hybrids - and why not? In Swede…

Tokyo International Singers

Tokyo International Singers, the chorus I had the joy of rehersing and performing with a few years ago, will perform Antonin Dvorak's Mass in D Major Opus 86 and the Liebeslieder Waltzes 1-18 by Johannes Brahms.

Tokyo International Singers perform at the Oota Kumin Hall Aprico in Kamata from 7 p.m. May 9, 2009. Tickets are ¥4,000. www.tokyo-singers.org.

The concert tonight will feature soloists Jang Min Kug (soprano), Misato Iwamori (mezzo-soprano), Makoto Kuraishi (tenor) and Tetsuro Kitamura (baritone) accompanied by organist Mineko Kojima and pianists Jonathan Kats and Akemi Watanabe.

The group's conductor is longtime Tokyo resident Marcel L'Esperance, who founded TIS, a choir boasting members from several countries as well as Japanese nationals, in 1980 with his wife, the late Carol Melby, who recently lost her own battle with cancer. There are not too many things that would benefit the world more than a cure for cancer. TIS, therefore, is hoping that the public will tur…

South Korea To Promote Korean Food, Plans 40,000 New Restaurants

South Korea is officially launching its first promotional body dedicated to promoting recognition and popularity of Korean foods abroad, according to The Korea Times:

The pan-government body - comprised of 36 food experts, officials and CEOs including Agriculture Minister Chang Tae-pyong and Culture Minister Yu In-chon - will work on revising the law and setting up stable business structures to foster Korean restaurants, chefs and food experts overseas...

They note that Korean food is getting more popular in the West. I had no idea that there are some 1,400 Korean restaurants in the United States, 1,700 in Japan, 2,500 in China and 170 in Europe.

But these figures are still meager, compared with 10,000 Japanese restaurants in the United States and nearly 25,000 globally, according to the Koreans, who wants 40,000 Korean restaurants by 2017. While promoting healthy food is always a good idea, I fail to see the point of setting an unrealistic target like that. Why not focus on quality ins…

Herwin's Vegan Pocket Guide - Updated

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Dutch writer and food enthusiast Herwin Walravens strikes again - a new and updated version of his vegan restaurant guidebook is now on sale. His website also looks better than ever. The book features more then 100 different 100% vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Japan's mayor cities, from Sapporo in the north, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, to Okinawa in the south. Even if you are not a vegan you would enjoy many of these restaurants with healthy food and unique people. Herwin's labour of love is a real inspiration!

Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide
Author: Herwin Walravens
Full Color, maps, bilingual, 164 pages, 151 restaurants
Published Februari 2009
Publisher: Children of the CARROT publisher
Price: 1600 yen (+ 80 yen tax)