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Showing posts from September, 2009

A World Outside Of Tokyo: PNB Gallery In Chichibu

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If you live in central Tokyo you probably know that there is a lot more to Japan than Midtown or Roppongi Hills, but do you ever venture out and try something different?

We may be in the middle of the collapse in world trade, but how about the surge in interest in art, music and culture?

Just an example: if you like French art, you already know that there is so much happening all over the country:

Yokohama: French movie night
Kansai: Louvre museum exhibition
Nagoya: Alliance Francaise Jazz/Fusion concert
Hokkaido: Fleurs
Kyushu: From island to island, by Sebastien Lebegue

(Hat tip to Stephan Duccup at Japanzine)

And if you live in the UK, you might have heard of Japan Festival, no doubt!

Japan Matsuri 2009 surpassed our wildest dreams. We anticipated that the maximum number of festival-goers would be around 15,000. In fact, we had more than twice this number, all of whom enjoyed the delicious food and wonderful entertainment throughout the day. In the four weeks leading up to the festival we ha…

FM Nishi Tokyo

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I was on radio again today, a live show called Compass over at FM Nishi Tokyo, a local station near Tokorozawa and Mitaka, which is west of central Tokyo, but actually in the middle of Tokyo To, the larger area that reaches way out west to the Oku Tama hills where only the bravest of the brave seem to venture, except to grow rice and fruit and veggies...

Kumiko-san was the "personality" that led the interview, and she admitted to being a little nervous having a foreigner on her show, but she did a terrific job and I like being interviewed in Japanese. She had read my book carefully and noted that I recommend 555 different foods, and that I must have done a lot of research. You bet - and we shared a lot of laughs on the air, or rather on FM 84.2 MHz.

She also explained to the listeners about some of my choices of top-ranking foods, such as Yotsuba Milk from Hokkaido (a company that is very careful about using local feed for its cows) and domestic olive oil from Shodoshima, a …

Hatoyama In New York: Live Blogging From UN Climate Change Conference

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Treehugger writer Matthew McDermott is in New York, live blogging from the United Nations Climate Change conference. Japan's new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama was on every news channel tonight, speaking in English, making the pledge: Japan will reduce CO2 emissions by 25%. My favourite website Grist.org has updates as well. Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, a conservative is also in New York (speaking for the EU).

UN Summit on Climate Change

Update: Hatoyama's speech (pdf)

UN Summit Programme here if you want to know what world leaders actually said at the UN meeting, rather than just reading brief quotes that media provides for you. I had no idea our world leaders still rely on fax machines to send their messages: check it out.

From Treehugger:

10:43 EDT
Reinfeldt: Agreement by G8 of 2°C goal is good but we now to take action to actually make that happen -- we need to make 25-40% emission reductions by 2020 (1990 levels) -- that's what the science says is required and g…

The Deeper Meaning Of Ohigan

I had to look up Ohigan on the web to refresh my memory about the Buddhist holiday this week. Ohigan (お彼岸) means "The Other Shore" and implies that we are spiritually crossing to the other shore, a metaphor in Buddhism that can refer to the reaching of Enlightenment by leaving behind ignorance and suffering.

I don't blog much about Buddhism but one guy who does is Doug over at Japan: Life and Religion, with many quotes from Buddhist scriptures and other insights, including his posts on Ohigan. Deep stuff. Also, From the garden of zen, based in Kita-Kamakura, blogs about the seven Higan-bana, the flowers that bloom around this time of the year. I love this photo of the Manjyu-shage (lycoris radiata).

Ohagi, a rice cake covered with bean jam, soybean flour or ground sesame, is traditionally eaten during Ohigan. The cake is named after hagi (bush clover), which flowers in September.

Meanwhile, many people take the "Silver Week" off and get out of the cities to visit …

Lush, The Body Shop Leading The Way Against Animal Testing

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Lush and The Body Shop have numerous shops all around Japan and both companies have campaigns to educate people about animal testing. Lush writes in detail about the issue in the recent issue of their free magazine, which is available at stores. They note that the 25 member countries in the European Union banned animal testing for cosmetic ingredients in March earlier this year and that there is no reason for Japan not to follow. Certainly, they do not intend to use animal-tested ingredients in Japan.

KohGenDo is a Japanese cosmetics brand with a clear policy against animal testing:

We believe that animals shouldn't have to sacrifice their lives for our pursuit of beauty. It is time to end this sad chapter in cosmetics history.

Demonstrations against animal testing have been held recently, with a fairly large one took place in Shibuya on March 8, 2009, sponsored by JAVA and others, with over 100 participants, mostly dressed in pink!

Photos from the Shibuya event here and here.

A Peace…

The Cove To Be Shown At Tokyo International Film Festival

Great news - The Cove, the documentary about dolphin hunting in Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, will be shown at TIFF here in Japan. It is the first chance for a Japanese audience to see the film.

"The Cove" had been widely reported to have been refused by TIFF, but it was confirmed just prior to the finalization of the lineup. The film, shot by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, displays footage of dolphins being corralled and then killed by sharpened poles in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. It has not yet been screened in Japan.

Regarding the documentary, the chairman said that TIFF very strongly believes in freedom of expression. "We were subjected to some criticism from some parts of the media about perhaps engaging in censorship," he said. "I would like to make it absolutely clear that we do not censor any works in any way."

TIF chairman Tatsumi “Tom” Yoda said at a press luncheon that it is very important for TIF to not only screen high-quality f…

Mail Online: The Ghost Fleet Of The Recession

I was born in a small/medium size harbour town with fog horns at night and strong winds all day long. We liked the salty air but hated this time of year, when summer turns to autumn, and you know it is just going to get darker for a very long time.

When I was a child, the Kockums shipyard in Malmö had the world's biggest gantry crane, which for many years stood as a strange symbol, no longer used, for the city I was born in. The good news is that in 2002, it was sold and dismantled, and shipped to Ulsan, South Korea.

However...

Must read over at Mail Online: Revealed: The ghost fleet of the recession anchored just east of Singapore By Simon Parry

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between …

A Picture Is Worth More Than...

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New government here in Japan, Prime Minister Hatoyama has a plan. Mr Dove Mountain bows deeply to the Emperor at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo on Wednesday.

How about the choice of Minister for the Environment, Mr Sakihito Ozawa from rural Yamanashi prefecture, who got his masters degree here at Saitama University. I hope he speaks English as he will be leading the Nagoya UN Biodiversity/Cartagena Protocol negotiations in Nagoya next year. Can Mr Ozawa explain Japan's 25 percent cut from Japan's 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions levels by 2020 at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen?

Reuters AlertNet had this to say:

- He has chaired the lower house of parliament's environment committee and served as member of the Democratic Party's panel on climate change, although the party's climate policies have mostly been spearheaded by Katsuya Okada, the new foreign minister.

- Ozawa is expected to work closely with Okada in the new government as Japan tries to play a b…

Geothermal Energy: Japan Can Do Better

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Geothermal energy is all about harnessing heat from deep below. Japan ranks 6th after the US, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and Italy in terms of global geothermal electricity capacity. Producing some 535.2 MW today, I think Japan can do a lot better. Source: GHC Bulletin (pdf).

Earlier this year, Nikkei, the business daily reported that Mitsubishi Materials Corp, J-Power, Nittetsu Mining Co Ltd and Kyushu Electric Power Co will build new geothermal powerplants, starting in 2009, with government support. Japan has 18 major geothermal power stations in operation, but their aggregate output accounts for only around 0.2-0.3 percent of electricity generated here, according to Reuters.

Yanaizu Town in Fukushima Prefecture is a town that made the news when Chiba University professor Hidefumi Kurasaka announced his list of Japan's most self-sufficient places.

Yanaizu tops the list at a fantastic 3290%, due to its geothermal applications. According to Kurasaka-sensei, a zone where all energ…

FM Yokohama Interview: Green Oasis

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I like radio, and today I had a chance to talk about my book with the good people over at FM Sounds, a studio that produces content for FM Yokohama and other stations.

If you have been reading Kurashi, you know that I am concerned about Japan's food security and issues like peak oil. At the same time, my book is very positive. I am doing some radio spots recently, and everyone in the production teams seem to pick up on my concerns. Do avoid GMOs, do try to find organic foods, care about food mileage, the fewer additives the better.

Today, Mitsumi asked about Japanese food, and what I think about the low food self-sufficiency level, which is about 40%. She also noted that for rice, Japan is 100% self-sufficient. I think that's great, and I look forward to the harvest this fall!

We talked about soybeans. Japan imports some 95% of soy, but most of it goes to animal feed. If you care about tofu, miso and natto, you already look at the labels, and buy the 国産 (kokusan) stuff, which a…

Can Japan Lead? Update About Mr Hatoyama's Emission Targets

Japanese businesses are worried about the ambitious emissions cut target proposed by DPJ. Mr Hatoyama, the next prime minister, said on Monday that he is resolved to achieving a 25 percent cut from Japan's 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions levels by 2020.

One research institute estimates that to achieve the goal, solar-power generation capacity would have to increase to 55 times the current level by installing solar panels in all new houses. It says the sales of conventional cars would have to be banned to raise the percentage of eco-friendly models to 90 percent of all new cars. It also says some highly energy-consuming industries including steel and chemical manufacturers would have to curtail production. The institute estimates these measures would cost each household an additional 3,900 dollars a year.

OK, that is how you would expect Japan Inc. to respond to any radical proposal. Fact is, Mr Hatoyama is getting some very strong support around the world.

"This is the first sign …

Ganbatte! Japan Is Feeling Competitive?

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Sweden is ranking very high on this year's list of competitive countries. Japan is doing very well too, and South Korea is scoring among the top 20.

In its Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, the Geneva-based institute said Sweden ranked 4th in competitiveness among 133 countries. This is based on a combination of available data and a survey of over 11,000 business leaders in 133 countries across the globe. Japan "won high marks for technical innovation, but its competitiveness was compromised by its huge budget deficit," according to NHK World, while China ranked 29th, India 49th, Brazil 56th and Russia 63rd.

Makes me wonder why we are all so busy, working so hard...

Why bother!? What would happen if we all slowed down a bit, decided to help each other a bit more, and make sure everyone is ok...?

The Korea Times: South Korea's Competitiveness Plunges To 19th

400 Year Old Sake Company Creates Rooftop Garden In Tokyo

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In 1971, sake brewer Toshimaya was prosperous enough to construct a brand new headquarter building in Tokyo. They probably took one look at the blueprints and thought it was the sexiest design ever: straight lines, simple features. Think modern, modern, modern.

Recently, however, they remodeled this drab, sterile (well, molding is probably more accurate) concrete cube with a terrific roof garden, as part of Japan’s movement to reduce CO2 emissions, called Minus Six Degrees.

This is an effort that quickly paid off, with staff clearly inspired to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and think about environmental issues. The before-and-after photos are striking.

Previously, this was a company that promoted its rice liquor with snappy slogans like "For Mountains, it’s Fuji, for Shirozake, it’s Toshimaya."

Comparing your traditionally made sake to the tallest mountain in the country was probably good enough back in the 1970s. Recently, they felt the headquarter building was …

Hatoyama Wants 25% GHG Emission Cuts By 2020 From 1990 Levels

Hatoyama vows 25% emission cuts by Japan by 2020 from 1990, according to Breitbart/Kyodo and NHK. That's a big step forward compared to the LDP proposal of 8%.

"It is one of our pledges stipulated in our (election) manifesto so we have to have the political will to aim at its realization by utilizing all policy tools," Hatoyama said today.

Speaking to the Asahi World Environment Forum in Tokyo hosted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Hatoyama urged other major countries to agree on "ambitious" reduction targets, saying such an accord will be a "precondition" for Tokyo's renewed emission cut goal. "We will aim to establish a fair and effective international framework involving all major countries in the world" to fight global warming, he added.

NHK World notes that Hatoyama added that he wants to start studying immediately after taking office what concrete assistance Japan can offer to developing countries. He said these efforts would be cal…

What Is A Barrel Of Oil Worth, You Might Ask?

As he drives, Dave indulges in a little academic exercise. He’s comfortable with numbers, quick with calculations. A barrel of oil, he tells you, contains about six gigajoules of energy. That’s six billion joules. Put your average healthy Albertan on a treadmill and wire it to a generator, and in an hour the guy could produce about 100 watts of energy. That’s 360,000 joules. Pay the guy the provincial minimum wage, give him breaks and weekends and statutory holidays off, and it would take 8.6 years for him to produce one barrel of oil equivalent (boe, the standard unit of measure in hydrocarbon circles). And you’d owe him $138,363 in wages. That, Dave tells you, is what a barrel of oil is worth.

An Inconvenient Talk

Dave Hughes’s guide to the end of the fossil fuel age
by Chris Turner

This is a very long and detailed article on the energy crisis we are not told about by our regular media. A good read by Chris Turner, a former winner of the National Magazine Awards president's medal, w…

Change Of Government: Not So Fast, DPJ

brace yourself (PREPARE) verb [R]
to prepare yourself physically or mentally for something unpleasant:
The passengers were told to brace themselves (= to press their bodies hard against something or hold them very stiff) for a crash landing.
She told me she had some bad news for me and I braced myself for a shock.

NHK World, which should be neutral, picked this term as the title for an article about the change of government and how "Japan's ministries are bracing for the start of the incoming government to be led by the Democratic Party."

NHK World: Ministries brace for a new government

Who is bracing for what?

Here is evidence that the old LDP-style bureaucracy is still in charge. A former senior official from MAFF, the Agriculture Ministry, was appointed on Wednesday to become the chairman of Japan Fisheries Association, a ministry-affiliated organization. Hope you are sitting down for this: He is the official who resigned last September to take responsibility for scandals in…

Yamba Dam Suspended As DPJ Prepares To Lead

What a difference a day makes. I have friends who told me just last week that they would attend a court hearing about Yamba Dam, a controversial project in Gunma prefecture first proposed way back in 1952. This huge hydro-electric power plant would also help supply water to Tokyo and the entire Kanto region. Now, today, Yamba, already costing tax payers some 321.7 billion yen ($3.2 billion), has been postponed to the joy of local activists, according to The Asahi:

...the DPJ, which pulled off a landslide victory in the Lower House election Sunday, has pledged to "drastically review large-scale public works projects that fail to meet the needs of the times." The Yanba dam is one of the projects expected to be axed under the new DPJ administration. Hiroaki Taniguchi, vice minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, told reporters Monday that the ministry would "comply with the instructions of the new minister." Other public works projects, including the K…