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Showing posts from June, 2009

June Blog Updates

Kyoto Foodie: Firefly Theme Namagashi

This wagashi from a historic shinise store in Kyoto, Kameyama Yoshinaga, is reminiscent of fireflies on verdant green foliage of early summer...

Live while you can. Japanese love something fragile and rare and that is in season for a short period. The cherry blossom is the very best example, but fireflies are similar. Fireflies in Kyoto can still be been seen along some of the rivers and streams in the quieter and greener parts of the city, but they quickly fade and disappear after a few short weeks.

Greenz.jp:Life is sustainable when you are having fun - a day at the Awanowa Market in Kamogawa

I briefly spoke to one of the event’s organizers, Yoshiki Hayashi of the NPO “Uzu”, a healthy, lean, tanned man who seemed to personify to me the image of the traditional Japanese farmer seen in the earliest photographs of Japan from the 19th century, despite the modern artistic cut of his hand made indigo blue work clothes. He described the loose collective ga…

Beekeeping Allowed In Ginza, Tokyo - Why Banned In New York?

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You may have heard of the successfull Ginza Honeybee Project, that started in 2006 and is now selling honey used in pound cakes and other sweets sold at patisseries and confectionaries in Ginza. Matsuya has some 30 employees who tend to the urban patch up on the roof garden as an after-work volunteer activity, according to The Japan Times:

It is great to see people becoming more aware of environmental issues. Each person takes action and hopefully that will spread to other people," said Shinpei Kono, who heads the project team.

The Matsuya department store in Ginza is supporting the Ginza honey bee project by giving the bees access to Matsuya's rooftop garden. They call this Ginza Green, and it is part of the company's efforts to take action on environmental issues. "Ginpachi" is a very Japanese way to abbreviate Ginza and the hachi of hachimitsu that becomes pachi, from the Japanese 蜂蜜 as bee and honey have the same kanji, but can sound different due to linguisti…

Soy Sauce: Introducing The Real Stuff

I wrote about soy sauce over on Treehugger, noting that organic, traditionally brewed soy sauce is now available not only in Japan, but also exported to other countries. Kikkoman, Ohsawa and Kenyu Trading are among the companies making an effort to introduce the real stuff overseas.

I'm not sure this kind of post makes much sense to readers over at Treehugger. Is it relevant? What do you think? When I talk about "traditional brewing" I mean keeping the soybeans and the koji in cedar casks for up to four years. That takes patience.

Kōji, or kōji-kin (麹菌) the microoorganism, is also used here to make sake and miso. Not easy to explain to people who are used to considering food more as entertainment...

When I see the large variety of soy sauces in my local supermarket, I'm both bewildered and delighted. Being able to read kanji characters is a must: if I want a soy sauce that contains a 100% naturally fermented product, I select the Honjōzō hōshiki variety, while the Shins…

Sweden: Reduce Meat Consumption, Make Important Environmental Choices

EurActiv.com, 22 June 2009 - Guidelines for climate-friendly food choices developed by the Swedish authorities recommend citizens to reduce their meat and rice consumption as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first of their kind, the guidelines are now being sent out for reactions and inspiration from other EU countries.

"Meat – beef, lamb, pork and chicken – is the food group that has the greatest impact on the environment," state the guidelines, jointly drafted by the Swedish National Food Administration and the country's Environmental Protection Agency.

The authorities note that Swedes' meat consumption has grown by an average ten kilos per person over the past ten years and now totals 65 kilos.

According to the World Bank, demand for food is expected to increase by 50% by 2050, and demand for meat by 85%, mainly as emerging economies like China and India become richer and adopt Western-style eating habits, rich in meat and dairy products.

The document…

Taue: Rice Planting By Hand And By Machine

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I did taue (rice planting) for the first time on Saturday. I went up to Kumagaya by Arakawa River in north/central Saitama to get mud between my toes and sun on my cheeks.

I managed to do about five lines (how is that for a terrific blog post title!) and they were not too crooked either as far as I could tell (and noone made any silly comments).



That area is not organic but they use as little pesticides as possible. We saw frogs and ladybugs, and there were birds and ducks.

The fields were created in the 1960s with modern irrigation. Before that, there were no factories on the horizon, and rice paddies as far as the eye could see.

The farmer, Negishi-san and his wife took good care of our small group of 3 who had assembled from Consumers Union of Japan and the local Seikatsu Club. As a gift, he got my food ranking book, signed by yours truly.



Neighbours selling their fields, new farmers arriving who don't follow (or understand) the rules (and the odd Swede in a silly hat doing his very…

"Tsunami" Of Criticism Against Japan For Its CO2 Goals?

Remember Taro Aso, our manga hero, busy trying to make a decision about Japan's CO2 emissions?

Well, first James Kanter at the NYT was very unhappy about Japan's CO2 emission cuts. I do look forward to his reports from now on - how will he describe the US effort, or China's? Mr. Kanter doesn't seem to remember that last year, Mr Aso's predecessor Yasuo Fukuda set a longer term target of cutting emissions by 60-80% by 2050. Seems to me that noone really wants to take the lead, and blaming Japan was an easy way to escape real responsibility.

Green Inc. Tsunami of Criticism for Japan’s CO2 Goals

Then, on June 12, Mr. Kantor wrote again, having talked to more experts, noting that perhaps, Japan’s goal are Not So Shabby After All?

The key distinction, both Mr. Purvis and Mr. Levi said, is that the Japanese had pledged to reach their goal by making cuts in domestic emissions — that is, by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions within their own borders.

That contrasts with …

OurWorld 2.0

I added a link to OurWorld 2.0, a blog I like, about current topics from Brendan at the United Nations University here in Tokyo.

Organic Cotton? Isetan, Uniqlo, You Can Do Better

Wal-Mart is the biggest buyer of organic cotton, and Swedish H&M and Spanish Zara also rank pretty high. Where are the Japanese retailers? Nowhere to be found, at least not on Treehugger's ranking list. C&A is No 2 and Nike is No 3. What is going on?

Nike says its goal is to blend a minimum of 5 percent organic cotton into all of its cotton-containing apparel materials by 2010, while steadily expanding its offering of 100 percent certified-organic cotton products.

In 2008, the big-box retailer purchased 12 million pounds of cotton from farmers who were transitioning from conventional to organic farming to help boost the supply of certified-organic cotton available on the market. No matter what the company's intentions, be they financial, altruistic, or a little of both, any move Wal-Mart makes is significant by virtue of its massive supply chain and sheer ubiquity—factors that would play no small role in pushing us past the tipping point.

Isetan has some organic cotton it…

Reducing CO2 Emissions The Japanese Way

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Taro Aso announced what he called "extremely ambitious" greenhouse gas emission cuts of 15%. Did you hear about the manga campaign in Nikkei to get him to make even deeper cuts, such as 25%?

Aso stressed that Japan's mid-term target of 15% has been calculated solely on domestic energy-saving efforts, unlike those set by the US and Europe, which include emission rights purchased from other countries. The 14-15% reduction compared to 2005 levels translates to about 7-8% reductions to 1990 levels... The EU reductions compared to 2005 levels are about 13% and the US about 14%, according to Naoto Katase, NHK World: he was even told that "Japan's proposal is unlikely to be welcomed at this point."

Mr Aso, you could have done worse, and a lot better.

Treehugger: Japan: "Extremely Ambitious" 15% Emissions Cut

Recalls And Mislabelling? Japan's New Consumer Agency Will Have Its Work Cut Out For It

Last year, Japan was rocked by a number of food scandals, not particularly serious, but they managed to grab the attention of the media and sales of all frozen food in Japan fell by as much as 40 percent in 2008. It also had the positive effect that large companies with factories in China, producing frozen foods for supermarkets all over Japan, changed their inspection practices and improved their labelling. Ajinomoto, for example, started listing the country-of-origin of all the ingredients in their frozen foods.

Now, it turns out that there were some 879 cases of mislabeled food products last year but MAFF only disclosed 110 of them "in order to protect the companies responsible" according to Kyodo.

A ministry official said it decided not to announce all of the cases because it might deliver "a big social blow" to firms that got caught up in mislabeling through simple negligence or temporary law-infringement cases. It therefore decided only to announce cases it con…

Youtube Japan Goes Green

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Youtube Japan Goes Green, with videos ranging from nature documentaries to shows about renewable energy, food and other fun stuff that we like here on Kurashi.

Youtube Think Green Channel

Backed by a lot of good people, with NHK and the Youtube channels of United Nations University as well as Asahi.com and National Geographics, this is a media initiative that could reach the hearts and minds of lots of people.

Some videos have English subtitles and could be useful if you are planning teaching environmental topics or sustainability with a focus on Japan. Or, alternatively, exploring this could help you improve your Japanese.

Having said that, I'm not sure Youtube's 5 minute limit is the way to go here.

Many difficult problems require a lot more thinking and thorough explanation.

Here are 2 examples of good reads from the Oil Drum, that would be impossible to summarize (or, ok, go ahead, try):

Herman Daly: From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

Luis De Sousa: EuroEle…

Taro Aso, Manga Hero Cutting CO2 Emissions

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Image from Nikkei, the major financial daily here in Japan. This ad was sponsored by WWF Japan and Avaaz.org to highlight the options for Prime Minister Taro Aso. He is supposed to decide Japan's CO2 emission targets in June. They range from an increase of four percent (suggested by the industry) to reductions up to 25 percent.

Turns out 63% of the public, when asked, will support deep cuts. "Can Taro Aso be a hero," the ad asks. Wouldn't it be great if he really came forward on this issue? More over at Treehugger.

Japan's international reputation and economic future are at stake as Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso prepares to announce Japan's 2020 climate targets in the next few weeks. His decision will be critical to progress at global climate negotiations -- currently taking place in Bonn, Germany -- as countries like the USA and China are deliberating about their own ambition levels.

Avaaz.org, working with partner organizations in Japan and around the world…

Japan Hoping That GM Chapter 11 Will Not Be The End Of The World

Asahi has a brief but good analysis of the sentiment here in Japan as General Motors went to the courts filing for bankruptcy protection. Chrysler has already been rescued by Fiat, the Italian car maker, while Ford remains stable.

1) Toyota has reached a basic agreement with GM to continue New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., a joint venture in Fremont, California, established in 1984.

2) Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki said CAMI Automotive Inc., a joint venture with GM in Ontario, Canada, will play a central role in GM's reconstruction.

3) A top Isuzu executive said the company's relationship with GM would continue because the truck business had been profitable everywhere except in the United States.


Asahi: Firms brace for GM bankruptcy

A lot more is going on behind the scenes today (Monday), as you may expect. This is not just about selling automobiles to individuals who really can't afford it using no-money-down incentives: "Parts suppliers, meanwhile, are trying to sec…