Saturday, October 31, 2009

Surprising Kanji Lesson: Hotoke, Butsu (Buddha)

The Japanese kanji for Buddha is a simple 仏 (hotoke) - a simplified version of the Chinese 佛, which is also common here. How did this character appear? I was reading an essay on Sacred Texts, a great website, when I found one explanation that I had never heard before.

The essay is The Creed of Half Japan, by British Reverend Arthur Lloyd, who spent more than a quarter century as a lecturer at the Naval Academy in Tokyo.

This particular book was published in London in 1911. He notes that Nestorian Christians had made inroads in China some 1500 years ago. Did they influence the Chinese Buddhists? Rev. Lloyd clearly thinks so. The Nestorians brought ideas about Jesus and his teachings to the East, and there are records of at least two Nestorians reaching Nara in the 8th Century, all the way from Persia, Syria (or Turkey). Around exactly that time, Rev. Lloyd notes, Japan started caring for the sick in a new fashion, and there are other examples of how Christian ideas may have influenced people in the Nara Era.

What I found really surprising is how Reverend Arthur Lloyd explains why the kanji for Buddha looks like it does. Here we go:

Still more significant is the character which must have been introduced to represent Buddha ( ), the Chinese Fo, the Japanese hotoke. The component parts of this character are said to represent a man ( ) with a bow ( ) and arrows ( ); and we may suppose the two missionaries to have said to the people of Lôyang (the ancient capital of China), "We have come to tell you of the Mabito, of the true man, of the man with the bow and arrow whom your Emperor saw in his vision." It is possible (for there were Greeks living in India, as we have seen) that under the Indian names of these two missionaries there may have lurked a Greek nationality. At any rate, the character they chose is capable of another signification, besides the one usually given—the three first letters of the name of the Perfect Man, our cherished Christian monogram, , the man with the bow and arrows!

(Image of Ghandara from Pakistan from the 2nd Century - Miho Museum)

Rev. Lloyd thinks this character for Buddha was introduced to China about the year 68 A.D. Be that as it may, how did the man with a bow and arrows come to represent Buddha? In the year 67 A.D. (we are told) the Book of Revelation was written:

In that book the author, after a rapid survey of the Churches under his immediate Apostolic guidance, and after a vision of God in His glory, proceeds to tell his readers the things that must shortly come to pass. The immediate future is a sealed book with many seals which none but the Lamb may open. The first seal is broken (Rev. vi. 2), and St. John is told to come and see "a white horse, and he that sat on it had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer."

Rev. Lloyd found it curious that Buddhist temples in Japan from the early era has images of white horses, as a illustration, or perhaps an object of worship., the "unofficial" website for the Nestorians, also make a point about early contacts between Japan and their followers:

American Reverend Ken Joseph told a gathering here on March 16 that Christianity first came to the Far East roughly 1,800 years ago along the "Silk Road," passing through China to Nara, central Japan. Evidence of this, Reverend Joseph said, was a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew in old Chinese script, dating back to the ninth century, found inside the Koryuji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, near Nara.

The White Horse Temple is the very first Buddhist temple in China. It is a popular spot for pilgrims and tourists even today. The wikipedia entry has the story:

According to the Book of Later Han history, Emperor Ming was said to have dreamed one night in the year 64 of a golden person standing 20 metres tall and with a radiating white aureola flying from the West.[citation needed] The next day he told his ministers, and the minister Zhong Hu explained to him that he had probably dreamed of the Buddha from India. The emperor then sent a delegation of 18 headed by Cai Yin, Qin Jing and Wang Zun to seek out Buddhism. They returned from Afghanistan with an image of Gautama Buddha, the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters and two eminent monks. The monks names have been variously romanized as Kasyapamatang and Dharmavanya, Moton and Chufarlan. The next year, the emperor ordered the construction of the White Horse Temple three li east of the capital Luoyang, to remember the horse that carried back the sutras.

Rob Gilhooly over at the The Japan Times has more: The ancient temple Koryuji in Kyoto has another name, Uzumasa-dera. And what does that mean?

Yoshiro Saeki, known as the father of research on the Eastern Church, wrote two books on Nestorianism in the early 1900s. While both concentrate largely on interpreting relics and documents found in China, Saeki, who studied both the Persian and Syriac languages at Oxford University to help his studies in Eastern Christianity, also notes Imperial records in Japan that mark the visit of a Persian missionary to Nara in AD 736.

Saeki believes this man, who was granted an audience with the Emperor and is said to have received "Imperial favors," to be the father of Yesbuzid, who erected the Nestorian Monument in China (...). What's more, in his book "Nestorian Missionary Enterprise," British scholar John Stewart says that it was through the teachings of this Persian visitor that Empress Komyo (701-760) was "led to embrace Christianity."

The legacy of the early Christians lives on in the Japanese customs and language of today. Saeki believed that the origin of the word "Uzumasa" was taken from the Aramaic "Yeshu Mesiach," meaning "Jesus messiah."

(Image of Miroku Bosatsu, Koryu-ji Temple from Heritage of Japan)

Koryu-ji is thought to be Japan's first Buddhist temple. And why are some temples called -ji and others -dera in Japanese? The explanation I have been given by a teacher a long time ago is that names that are Chinese are followed by -ji while names that are Japanese are followed by -dera (such as
苔寺 Koke-dera or the Moss Temple in Kyoto, which is also known as Saiho-ji). If you have any further knowledge about that, please comment.

Dear long-suffering friends of Kurashi, if you enjoyed all of that, may I suggest the
The Smokey the Bear Sutra by Gary Snyder: A much beloved short poem about the relationship between Buddhism and ecology, written by one of the 'beat' era poets, simultaneously funny and profound.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Japan's Hayate Shinkansen In China

Good news for train lovers as China will buy 140 bullet trains from a Chinese train maker affiliated with Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., according to Kyodo. The deal for the E2 Series Shinkansen trains is worth about ¥604 billion:

China will buy the trains that can run at 350 kph from Nanche Sifang Locomotive, which has a technology licensing agreement with Kawasaki Heavy, the sources said. The trains will be manufactured using Kawasaki Heavy's technology for Hayate trains, which are used on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line.

In China they will run between Beijing and Shanghai, and between Beijing and Guangzhou starting in 2010. Japanese railway-related manufacturers that produce motors, brakes and other parts may also benefit from the contract, notes Kyodo.

The Japanese name 疾風 or はやて (Hayate) was chosen with input from the public and means a strong wind or hurricane, but it also has positive connotations of speed and power. It is the fastest train on the Tohoku Line going north from Tokyo.

China has previously introduced a number of 250 km/h trains based on the Kawasaki Heavy E2-1000 series design, called CRH2, which they seem pleased with, although the Wikipedia article notes that they were introduced "with little fanfare, and was not even publicized in China." Most CRH2 are now built in China. The Japanese wikipedia page for CRH2 also notes that the blue and white design has a smart (in the sense of stylish) image スマートなイメージ.

Also, it is worth noting that Japan foots at least some of the bill for this through its official development projects. According to MOFA, some ¥182 billion is provided as loans to China for rail and subway projects, in addition to older projects worth over ¥640 billion.

For example, through Japanese loan aid (yen loans), a total length of 5,200 km of railway lines were electrified.

Fanfare, indeed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sailing In Ibaraki In The Rain

On October 2 I had the great pleasure to go sailing in Japan, for the first time. It was a terrific holiday. Ibaraki Prefecture is about two or three hours east from where I live, so I took the train and the bus in spite of the weather reports.

Yup, the forecast was rather gloomy, but peak oil pundit/pacific island blogger, the always brave Pandabonium decided that a bit of rain wasn't going to stop us from having a lot of fun.

P has managed to import to Japan the first Lido class sailing boat, that he named Bluesette, made by W.D. Schock in the US of A; it turned out to be a rather fine little craft (with two sails) and enough space for three adults.

As you can see from the photos, Kurashi (life, living) was having the time of his life. We had the best winds, and the worst rain, but somehow the first day of sailing was just pure fun. Lake Hinuma Yacht Harbor, Ibaraki. Glad I made it back, alive.

The skills you need to sail depend a lot on the boat - and who is in charge. I was lucky to have P at the rudder (why is the darn thing called a tiller in US English?), as he ordered his crew when to "come about" which meant, something like, "pull that string, watch your head, don't panic, hope we don't all fall into the lake - - - anyway, this lake ain't so deep, guys, we can probably walk back..."

One thing that I still don't understand is - directions. Once you turn, everything is w e i r d for a while, until you get your bearings back.

A lake in Japan in heavy rain is rather amazing, with fish jumping and looms ahead, in addition to the challenge: how do we get back to the pier? Thankfully, P had it all worked out. At least he made us feel like he did. A rather rare chance to feel the forces of nature (and they are strong) and an opportunity to learn about myself; how I deal with pressure, with powers that I cannot control, with Joie De Vivre or what we call leva livet in Swedish.

Thanks for a truly wonderful time.

PS There might be a Part 2 if P could only get his cameras organized ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nikkei Eco Japan: Translating The Latest News

This is something I wanted to do for a long time: a quick rundown on what's considered as news at Japan's leading news website for eco topics.

Nikkei is the big news paper devoted to economic issues, and their Eco Japan website reflects some of that focus. It's not going to give you the small-scale, happy-go-lucky news or information about grass-root events that you usually see here on Kurashi.

Yet, I think it highlights what corporate Japan Inc. is thinking these days, to a large degree. Tech-On! has more stories in English.

Plus, of course, Japan Inc. has some 70% of the patents to back up their claim to the No 1 spot:

The Japan Patent Office conducted a survey on trends in global patent applications related to electric vehicles (EVs) and other "electric propulsion vehicles" and announced that about 70% of the applications were filed by Japanese applicants. Electric propulsion vehicles include EVs, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) by the definition of the office.

Click on the images to get the larger picture.

Nikkei Eco Japan topics include: Electric vehicles and hybrids at the Tokyo Motor Show, CO2 reduction targets, energy solutions for your home, biodiversity topics as Japan prepares for the UN summit in Nagoya 2010...

Feedback and comments - as always - most welcome.

Disclaimer: this is of course a totally unofficial translation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Awesome: Chugoku Electric To Pay Double If You Have Solar Panels

I don't use the word "awesome" very often but that's how I felt when I read Hiroshima Gab brag about how her power company has decided to increase the payment to users with PV solar panels from 26 yen to 48 yen per kilowatt of solar power. Yes, instead of paying money to the power company, you get paid by them. Nice and simple.

Hiroshima Gab explains how it works:

This works great for us as we are usually gone during the day so that we sell more of our solar made power during peak rate daylight hours (bought by the electric company and sold again/used by our neighbors), and use it at night when it is cheaper (8pm-8am).

We have had the PV panels on our home for just over a year now and on average we have received more money back from the electric company than we have paid on average each month. Peak months in spring and autumn, we end up getting back about 4-5,000 more than we pay, but once the new rates go into effect we will be getting a lot more money back each month.

Apparently, solar panel makers like Kyocera are helping people get the loan they may need to cover the costs of installing the system, and the city of Hiroshima is also helping with a 50,000 Yen cash-back on energy saving installations.

They are also renting the EcoCute 自然冷媒ヒートポンプ給湯機 (Sizen reibai hīto ponpu kyūtō ki) which literally means "natural refrigerant heat pump water heater" to further reduce electricity consumption. Way to go.

EcoCute エコキュート (ekokyūto) was invented around 1998 and has been around for a while in Japan, and seems to be getting some attention in Europe as well. There are several models, including one by TEPCO, the power company here in the Tokyo region:

Eco Cute not only enables significant energy conservation in water heating, which accounts for about 30 percent of household energy consumption, but also helps to prevent the destruction of the ozone layer and the emission of greenhouse gases...

Oh, and did I mention I think this is awesome?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Soil & Peace Market 2009

Today is a sunny, warm autumn day, just the best weather possible for the Soil & Peace Market 2009 in Hibiya Park, central Tokyo. Lots of groups are participating with homemade foods, organic veggies, crafts, performances, lectures and much more.

Tanemaki has more details (in Japanese)

Checking my archives, it was 2 years ago that I visited this event, and wrote about it here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009 Blog Action Day About Climate Change

Blog Action Day 2009 in Japan: over at we did several stories. Here is a quick review!

Ecogroove wrote about Renewable Hydrogen, an exciting concept for those of you who are interested in energy issues, as society must be moving away from fossile fuels. The Renewable Hydrogen Network is a non-profit group that wants to explore the possibilities of hydrogen in a sustainable way:

RH2 means hydrogen generated using clean methods such as electrolysis of water by means of renewable energy. If we create a society where its energy source is based on RH2, energy (electricity, fuel, heat) can be produced, supplied, and consumed in any part of the world as long as there is water. Then, there will be fewer conflicts over limited resources, distortions created by the centralized social structure, and environmental destructions. Once the discord in our society is removed, we would be able to redefine our connection with others and restore our sense of community.

Kumagaya-san wrote about Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, where the city has introduced a congestion charge system to reduce CO2 emissions. Clearly, Japan could do the same, and get great results. Instead, the new government seems to be more interested in promoting a toll-free highway policy. Hmm?

Ishimura-san wrote about Youtube and Google’s efforts to raise awareness, with the video of how Earth might look in 2100, if we don’t get our act together and agree on a post-Kyoto deal to decrease emissions… You can add your own video to the Youtube COP15 website!

At we like new media, and every effort to get more people involved.

Pero (a.k.a Yamamoto-san) took the opportunity to introduce the TED talk by Carolyn Steel to our Japanese readers, with a focus on food security and agriculture. Climate change may cause irreparable damage to ecosystems, including rice farming in Japan, and as Pero highlights, food production is a major source of GHG emissions (especially if you eat beef from cattle, but also due to transportation).

Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world. Understanding the flow of food will help us reconnect with what we eat.

The Alternative Nobel Prize

The Right Livelihood Foundation, which was founded in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull to "recognize work that he felt was ignored by the Nobel Prizes," will give an honorary award to David Suzuki. The prize will be handed out at the Swedish Parliament on December 4, 2009.

The prize citation for Suzuki says: "For his lifetime advocacy of the socially responsible use of science, and for his massive contribution to raising awareness about the perils of climate change and building public support for policies to address it".

David Suzuki is one of the most brilliant scientists, and communicators about science, of his generation. Through his books and broadcasts, which have touched millions of people around the world, he has stressed the dangers, as well as the benefits, of scientific research and technological development. He has campaigned tirelessly for social responsibility in science. For the past 20 years, he has been informing the world about the grave threat to humanity of climate change and about how it can be reduced.

For more about David Suzuki, here is a link to his website: The David Suzuki Foundation

Source: CBC and Globe and Mail

Activists from Congo and New Zealand and a doctor from Australia won the top awards presented by the Right Livelihood Foundation for their work to protect rain forests, improve women's health and rid the world of nuclear weapons:

New Zealand peace activist Alyn Ware, 47, was recognized "for his effective and creative advocacy and initiatives over two decades to further peace education and rid the world of nuclear weapons," according to the citation. Alan Ware is Co-Founder and International Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), which engages legislators from across the political spectrum in nuclear disarmament issues and initiatives. PNND is a global network of over 500 parliamentarians from more than 70 countries working to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve nuclear disarmament.

Asked to compare the awards, von Uexkull, the Right Livelihood Foundation's executive director and nephew of the prize founder, noted that Mr. Ware had actively campaigned against nuclear weapons for 25 years, while Mr. Obama had yet to translate words into action:

“We have a window of opportunity with Obama opening up to the possibility of nuclear disarmament,” Mr. Von Uexkull said. “He will have the opportunity to take concrete steps now and I hope that he will do it.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pizza Made With Local Ingredients From All Over Japan

Haha, this is great. Domino's Pizza has introduced different new pizzas with ingredients from different regions all over Japan.

I do like how they promote Hokkaido, Hakata (using yuzu kosho, a citrus fruit based spicy condiment made from yuzu rind, chili and salt), Nagoya, and Kobe/Nagata.

OK, long-suffering readers of Kurashi know that I'm not a fan of beef but this concept could be developed further, using locally produced veggies and other goodies.

And there is more!

Thanks Mari at Watashi to Tokyo for the tip!

Econa Troubles: Why Japan Needs Precautionary Principle

Over at Consumers Union of Japan, we discuss Econa and the health label troubles that are big news this month. Food oils should be left unprocessed (that's why I like Extra Virgin Olive Oil that hasn't been rushed through a factory, just slowly extracted to avoid the heating up of the oil as it is pressed from the seeds). What Kao Corp seems to have done is to rush the palm seed oil processing, with harmful chemicals emerging, that they were not aware of.

Kao Corp had to admit that there were up to 100 times higher levels of impurities (possible carcinogens). The government was slow to act, as Japan does not use the Precautionary Principle in its food law.

The government finally announced on October 8, 2009 that they would start procedures to cancel the health label authorization for Kao’s Econa series, according to Kyodo News. Kao Corp says they will make every effort to lower the levels of glycidol, and is anticipating to put Econa on the market again in February 2010. The government has no legal way to stop them from doing that, as the deliberation in the expert committee of the Food Safety Commission may take several years before reaching any conclusion about the risks. Changing the food legislation to be based on the Precautionary Principle is the only way to make sure that this type of scandal does not happen again.

When I previously wrote about Kao Corp's Econa troubles, I noted that "it is time for a review of the policies that called FOSHU healthy back 5-10 years ago. While many of us were exploring organic foods, with as little processing as possible, and no food additives, the large companies introduced FOSHU with a lot of fanfare."

The Precautionary Principle changes the burden of proof so that it is the manufacturer of a novel product that has to show that it is safe, rather than others. In the case of Econa, it was just impossible for Japan's Food Safety Commission to order the animal testing, and do the proper evaluation, and get all the experts to agree. Finally, Kao Corp announced that they would “temporarily” stop sales of its best-selling Econa food oil products, called Enova in North America.

Talk about trying to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Toyota Hybrid Patent Problems In The US

Toyota has introduced the most advanced hybrid technology and sold some 2 million of its Prius cars. Yet, in the United States, there are patent issues that could stop the sales. Yup, there are people in the US who are trying to argue that hybrid cars from Japan should not be sold in the US.

I first mentioned hybrids in a post way back in May, 2005, quoting Walt Whitman.

Toyota introduced hybrid engines in 1997. From their annual report that year:

We welcome healthy disagreements in research and development. Spirited debate and competition are the essence of fertile R&D. In the words of the poet Walt Whitman, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then....I contradict myself; I am large....I contain multitudes."

The pioneer at Toyota who developed the hybrid engine is Dr Takehisa Yaegashi. Yaegashi-sensei is not that well known, but he won a prestigious award for "Best engine of the year" at the Engine Expo 2004, Stuttgart.

In 2002 he was co-recipient of the American Sustainable Environmental Institute (SEI) prize to the 2001 most influential 10 people in the world who have contributed to sustainable environment. In 2006 he, together with two colleagues at Toyota, was awarded the International Environmental Prize of Göteborg City for their unique, goal-oriented and decisive contribution to the development of Prius, the first commercial hybrid vehicle in the world.


Trying to make vehicles that run on less petrol? Hoping sell a car to the kind of driver that just wants to lower CO2 emissions, and get the best mileage possible? Using lithium batteries and sophisticated computers to help drivers drive in a more clever way?

In the US, the patent system seems to be making that a very difficult bargain. If the allegations are upheld by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), Toyota could be ordered to stop using the patented technology in its Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and to bar the import of any vehicle containing it. Yes, you read that right. Toyota could be legally ordered, by the US government, to not sell any more Prius in the US.

All About Prius: Trade Panel to Investigate Infringement Claim

Toyota has issued a strongly worded statement saying it would prevail, saying it "has many patents on the hybrid technology." Toyota added that it "believes that it has strong defenses against all of Paice's claims and...will prevail in the ITC proceeding."

Paice LLC, of Bonita Springs, Florida is not a car company. They don't make, and they don't sell, a single vehicle.

By now, Toyota has fought several claims before the ITC. The commission, set up to bar unfair trade practices, can stop imports but cannot impose royalty payments or financial penalties. To win its case, Paice LLC must demonstrate that it can successfully market and profit from its patents. Since it is not a car company, it is difficult to understand what they are actually trying to do, except to make trouble for Toyota.

Paice LLC complained to the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington alleging that Toyota is violating a patent it holds for powertrains that feature both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor – better known as hybrids. notes that this isn't the first time these two companies have grappled over hybrid drivetrain patents:

Back in 2005, Paice won an initial judgment against Toyota that resulted in an order that the automaker to pay Paice monetary damages of $4.3 million, though the judge rejected a request to force Toyota to halt sales of hybrid vehicles in the U.S. at that time.
Photo: New York City Toyota Prius Hybrid Taxi, from NHK Special on October 18.

100年に一度と言われる経済危機。20世紀を牽引した石油の時代の大転換。今、技術や産業のあり方からライフスタイルまで「自動車の常識」が大きく変わ る時代が訪れている。軒並み赤字に陥った大手自動車メーカーは、この事態にどう立ち向かおうとしているのか。GM破綻後、名実共に世界一の自動車メーカー となったトヨタ。他社に先駆けて開発した独自のハイブリッド技術を武器にエコカー市場をリードしようとしている。走行距離や価格等の面で電気自動車の普及 にはまだ時間がかかると見て、まずはガソリン・電気を併存させるハイブリッド車で移行期の戦いを有利に進めようという戦略だ。膨大な数の自動車部品メー カーを巻き込みながら復活に向け舵を切るトヨタ。その浮沈は、日本のモノづくり産業の今後を大きく左右するものとなる。激動の時代を生き抜くトヨタの 「ロードマップ」、新型ハイブリッド車の開発の最前線、打撃を受けたアメリカ市場のテコ入れ、部品メーカーの模索。密着取材の中から自動車の未来像、「自 動車革命」の実像を見せていく。

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Going Beyond Headlines: China, South Korea And Japan

It took a while to find some actual news from the big meeting in Beijing between leaders of China, South Korea (ROK) and Japan. Most reports just repeat the same claims, but this was actually a unique meeting and the three countries are clearly getting closer. The world is changing fast.

Reuters claimed that Japan PM asks China for climate commitment which is a bit of a stretch, but ok, it cuts to the chase.

Hatoyama, who took office on September 15, has pledged Tokyo will cut emissions 25 percent by 2020 and hopes emerging nations like China will also sign up to an ambitious global deal.

China is now the world's top annual emitter of greenhouse gasses although on a per person basis it is still far behind industrialized nations. President Hu Jintao recently announced plans for a carbon intensity goal, which would lead to greener growth but not guarantee an overall fall in emissions.

Over at the Chinese official news site, People's Daily, they publish the text of the leaders' joint statement on sustainable development in detail, about "developing the green economy" and to work closely to contribute to the successful achievement of the Copenhagen Conference in December. Here are some highlights (quoted from Xinhua):

The areas of cooperation indicated in the statement are as follows:

-- endorse the 10 priority cooperation areas identified at the 11th Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting (TEMM), such as biodiversity conservation, environment awareness, encourage the development of a tripartite joint action plan which is to be adopted at the 12th TEMM in 2010, and take joint practical measures to facilitate cooperation; further promote sustainable environment management;

-- explore the establishment of a China-Japan-ROK circular economy model base in the spirit of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and to make joint efforts to promote resource-conserving and environment-friendly industrial structure, growth pattern and consumption mode.

-- Promote the China-Japan-ROK Joint Research Collaboration Program, carry out diverse forms of exchanges and cooperation, and bring into play the role of scientific and technological progress and innovation as the engine of resolution of common regional issues and economic development.

-- Establish a mechanism for meeting of ministers responsible for water resources in due course, focusing on integrated river management and water resources management adapting to climate change.

-- Promote cooperation in sustainable forest management and wildlife protection, and work together to facilitate harmonious development between man and nature.

-- Work closely together and spearhead cooperative efforts in international frameworks for energy cooperation, aiming to promote sustainable development through deployment of clean energy and improvement of energy efficiency.

-- Explore tripartite cooperation mechanisms in agriculture.

-- Work closely through strengthened dialogue among the three countries to contribute to the successful achievement of the Copenhagen Conference, including the establishment of an effectivepost-2012 international cooperation framework on climate change, consistent with the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in particular common but differentiated responsibilities.

"Developing the green economy" has become a buzzword especially in South Korea, where they also call it "green growth" - things we discussed when I spoke at the MCED Civil Society Forum in Seoul in 2005: Seoul Initiative on Green Growth.

I'm pleased that they mention biodiversity here as well, and rivers, and the 3Rs... All in all, a pretty impressive to-do list from three countries that need to cooperate more to avoid further chaos and environmental destruction, and going beyond that to create new models for development.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ian Brown: Illegal Attacks (2007)

NHK World talks to a representative of the Japanese organization of nuclear bomb survivors, who has called President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize very encouraging to bomb survivors:

Senji Yamaguchi, who leads the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations, said he knows from experience that it is very hard to call for nuclear abolition in the United States because the public still supports possession of nuclear arms.

Yamaguchi said Obama is extremely courageous to call for nuclear abolition as a US president. Yamaguchi said he hopes Obama will overcome difficulties to achieve his goal. In 1982, Yamaguchi became the first survivor to speak about nuclear abolition at a UN assembly.

Matashichi Oishi, who was exposed to radiation from a US hydrogen bomb test while on a fishing boat in the South Pacific in the 1950s, said he hopes Obama's prize will help the movement toward nuclear abolition. But Oishi said he has mixed feelings about the awarding of the peace prize to the president of a country that has used nuclear bombs.

Anti War song by Ian Brown from The Stone Roses with Sinhead O'Connor. Seems appropriate today, as Oslo says it has "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

So what the fuck is this UK
Gunnin’ with this US of A
In Iraq and Iran and in Afghanistan

Does not a day go by
Without the Israeli Air Force
Fail to drop it’s bombs from the sky?

How many mothers to cry?
How many sons have to die?
How many missions left to fly over Palestine?
‘Cause as a matter of facts
It’s a pact, it’s an act
These are illegal attacks
So bring the soldiers back
These are illegal attacks
It’s contracts for contacts
I’m singing concrete facts
So bring the soldiers back

What mean ya that you beat my people
What mean ya that you beat my people
And grind the faces of the poor

So tell me just how come were the Taliban
Sat burning incense in Texas
Roaming round in a Lexus
Sittin’ on six billion oil drums
Down with the Dow Jones, up on the Nasdaq
Pushed into the war zones

It’s a commercial crusade
‘Cause all the oil men get paid
And only so many soldiers come home
It’s a commando crusade
A military charade
And only so many soldiers come home

Soldiers, soldiers come home
Soldiers come home

Through all the blood and sweat
Nobody can forget
It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight
It’s the size of the fight in the dog on the day or the night
There’s no time to reflect
On the threat, the situation, the bark nor the bite
These are commercial crusades
‘Cos all the oil men get paid
These are commando crusades
Commando tactical rape
And from the streets of New York and Baghdad to Tehran and Tel Aviv
Bring forth the prophets of the Lord
From dirty bastards fillin’ pockets
With the profits of greed

These are commercial crusades
Commando tactical raids
Playin’ military charades to get paid

And who got the devils?
And who got the Lords?
Build yourself a mountain – Drink up in the fountain
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home
Soldiers come home

What mean ya that you beat my people
What mean ya that you beat my people
And grind the faces of the poor

No Nukes Festa In Tokyo

Some 7000 people gathered in Tokyo last Sunday for an unusually big demonstration against nuclear power. The event was the culmination of lots of planning involving activists from all over Japan. For a country that depends to such a high degree on nuclear power, it is strange that so many accidents happen, and that there is so much discontent.

Speakers included local activists against controversial nuclear power plants around Japan, such as the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the Hamaoka nuclear plants, the Kashiwasaki-Kariwa nuclear plants, and the campaign against high-level radioactive waste in Gifu prefecture. Victims from the accident at JCO in Ibaraki talked about the risks and participants heard an emotional appeal from peace activists and cyclists who noted the sense of insecurity among people living near nuclear facilities, and their concern for their health and the environment.

Read more about the No Nukes Festa over at Consumers Union of Japan

Many nuclear projects are taking place far away from Tokyo, such as the MOX fuel shipment in Saga Prefecture earlier this year (Green Action also has photos here), and of course the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture. Mizuho Fukushima, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Social Affairs, and Gender Equality, attended together with several other lawmakers. Many local anti-nuclear activists are hoping that the new central government will listen more to their concerns.

Citizens' Nuclear Information Center has much more (I like the new website!). CNIC's Baku Nishio writes:

After winning a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election held on August 30, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party (PNP). It might be hoped that a change of government would herald a change of nuclear energy policy, but we should not be too sanguine about the chances of a significant improvement. There is a wide range of views about nuclear energy within the DPJ (as indeed there is in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled Japan for most of the last fifty odd years). While minor coalition partner SDP favors a nuclear phase out, its influence on nuclear policy within the new government is likely to be quite limited. PNP is a relatively recent breakaway from the LDP and is unlikely to rock the boat on nuclear energy issues.

The prospects for policy change are likely to depend very much on the ability of civil society to make serious proposals that have the potential to garner widespread support.

CNIC: Nuclear Energy Policy Under a New Government

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The End Of Econa Oil

Kao Corporation has had to bite the bullet and pull its best-selling Econa Oil from the market. The reason is concern that the product contained glycidol fatty acid esters. It was reported that glycidol fatty acid esters occur as a by-product in the general process of deodorization (getting rid of foul smells) during the production of the oil, and are contained in processed vegetable oils.

This is a mess because since 2003, the oils have carried a FOSHU Health Label, and was promoted as aiding "in the maintenance or loss of weight and fat mass, and helps to maintain healthy triglyceride levels in the bloodstream." ADM, the huge American company, has also been involved in the manufacturing, marketing and sales of diacylglycerol (DAG) oil as an ingredient for the food industry since 2001.

Well, good riddance. Unfortunately, it was one of the 555 products I recommended in my food safety book. You will not see Econa Oil in the next edition.

FOSHU refers to foods containing ingredients with "functions for health and officially approved to claim its physiological effects on the human body."

FOSHU is intended to be consumed for the maintenance / promotion of health or special health uses by people who wish to control health conditions, including blood pressure or blood cholesterol. In order to sell a food as FOSHU, the assessment for the safety of the food and effectiveness of the functions for health is required, and the claim must be approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Sounds like it is time for a review of the policies that called FOSHU healthy back 5-10 years ago. While many of us were exploring organic foods, with as little processing as possible, and no food additives, the large companies introduced FOSHU with a lot of fanfare.

Litra, a similar product in South Korea, from a food oil company called CJ Cheil Jedang is also in the news for the same reasons, CJ having stopped sales of its product.

The Mainichi: Kao to suspend sales of Econa health foods over cancer-causing fears

Major consumer goods manufacturer Kao Corp. has announced that it will suspend sales of its Econa health food series from Thursday over fears that the goods may possibly contain a cancer-causing chemical.

The shipment and sale of a total of 59 Econa products will be suspended due to their use of glycidol fatty acid ester, a chemical that could cause cancer, a company official said. Kao's Econa series, including cooking oils and dressings, have been designated as special health food products by the health ministry.

The danger of glycidol fatty acid ester has been pointed out in Europe. Japan's Food Safety Commission is also currently assessing the risk.

Typhoon 18

My local Seven-Eleven collects money for victims in Sumatra, The Philippines and one or two other places, where earthquakes and storms have wrecked havock. Yet tonight we are bracing for Typhoon 18, or Melor as it is called elsewhere, a rare big one that is already pounding Shikoku, Izu and central Japan, and the rain hitting the tin roof of my small house sounds like the kind of sound effects they used in old radio dramas before TV was invented. Very realistic.

Lots of schools and trains are cancelled, Toyota has closed all 12 factories, oil firms have halted shipments, so stay safe Thursday.

I check JMA for updates.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Five Stars For The JA Ibaraki Pocket Farm Doki Doki Restaurant

Ibaraki prefecture is a haven for farms of all sizes and shapes and as I wrote last summer in my post titled Ibaraki Trip, you can learn a lot about that state of Japan's agriculture there.

Last weekend I again had an opportunity to visit friends near Kashima, as we went sailing on Lake Hinuma (in the pouring rain, but that's another story!) and enjoyed some of the local cuisine. Fish in particular is abundant in the fall in Ibaraki, including hirame (flat fish), sea bass and abalone. In fact the small silver fish was jumping in the lake (one even managed to land in the Lido) and on early Saturday morning we saw anglers with rubber gear standing in the shallow lake with long rods.

Nokyo, the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (農業協同組合 nōgyō kyōdō kumiai), also called JA-Zenchu, or just JA as it is often abbreviated, is Japan's farmers' association. It is a very powerful lobby group that is often critizised by the organic farmers as JA promotes pesticides and fertilizers as well as the most recent farming methods and trends. That has led to difficulties for small farms to survive, yet JA has also been a backbone of life in the rural areas, with JA banks, loan institutions and more acting as focal points for farmers, their families, and just about everyone else too.

JA Ibaraki has recently added farmers markets to their activities. We visited a very attractive place about 25 minutes from Mito, and the Pocket Farm Doki Doki "Home Cooking" Restaurant. It is housed in a brand new building in the style of an old farm house, with a high ceiling and dark thick beams to support the roof, but added to that huge windows so guests get a great view of the forest and the small park. If there was one thing to complain about, it was the noise, as the many families and kids and everyone else seemed to have a great time eating and drinking (no alcohol was served).

The food was terrific! It was 食べ放題 (tabe hōdai) style, meaning you pay once and then you can eat as much as you like, and I think I went back at least 3 times for more. It was not a regular バイキング (viking) style buffee that we call smörgåsbord in Swedish, but rather many different stations where you could sample a lot of dishes. I had plenty of different salad veggies, pumpkins and tiny white radish that seemed to have been picked the same day, and other fresh autumn vegetables both steamed and grilled. Mito is famous for its natto, and I tried that too of course, as well as freshly made tofu that looked just like plump goat cheese. They also served tempura and grilled fish and meat, and the cooks brought out new dishes all the time. I had some Italian style bread, and when I went back for more, it was gone, and there was another type instead. As I mentioned, no alcohol (probably since most people drive to get there), but instead plenty of juice and many varieties of tea. And of course, some desserts too, mostly fruit and yoghurt - all in all very healthy and well thought out.

What I really liked was the friendly atmosphere and the focus on local, Ibaraki-made ingredients. All dishes in the different stations had memos explaining what the dish contained, and many also the name and photo of the farmer and the chef who had created the food. That is so important, and something JA Ibaraki should promote more. After our feast, I talked to the floor manager, and she expressed how strongly she feels about food safety and how they do everything they can to make this restaurant a better place for eating and educating people about quality food.

For example, she said all dishes are 無添加 (mutenka, no chemical additives) and their rice is a local コシヒカリ (Koshihikari) variety grown in Ibaraki, and for meat eaters, the ham and the sausage are made in the Doki Doki Factory nearby from the local pigs - a great place to show kids where your meat comes from, by the way, as you can visit the farm animals and get a guide to explain more about meat production.

Finally - if I was ranking this restaurant, they would get five stars!!

Thanks to Pandabonium and K for a great trip ;)

Photo from the Doki Doki Restaurant website (in Japanese)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"Because We Just Don't Have Five Planets"

Last week I participated in the production of a documentary about biochar, to discuss the potentials for this material to be used as carbon storage and soil improvement.

The documentary is the brain child of Patricia Bader-Johnson, active in Tokyo in a number of environmental projects, as well as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce CSR Committee.

We did the interview in the lovely Edo era temple gardens at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chinzan-so Garden.

Great location for talking about sustainability!

My focus is on food safety and food security, and I pointed out that biochar needs to be produced in a way that is not adding toxic substances or heavy metals into the food supply chain, say, if wood is used that has been treated with chemicals. Yet, the potential for using biochar in food production seems very promising. I particularly like how it allows farmer to take control over the soil fertility issue, rather than depending on fertilizer companies and fossile fuel for adding important nutritients to the soil. From a food security perspective, it can be an important way to improve small scale farming, as well as self-sufficient, subsistence farming that we urgently need to solve hunger problems.

Before my interview, Patricia and the film crew talked to professor Katsu Minami, a Japanese expert on climate change who 20 years ago was part of the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

An Historical Overview of the GAIA Hypothesis and the IPCC Reports, and Global Warming in Japan, by Katsu Minami:

Why do our thoughts not extend to the extraordinary crises that humanity and civilization now face? Heating due to global warming is bringing about phenomena which are extremely harmful to ecosystems, and has already exceeded the level at which warming could be controlled, yet why can’t people understand that?

What can we do right now? Return carbon and nitrogen to the soil. Devote ourselves body and soul to buying green products. Decrease our desire for material things. Reduce consumption of resources and energy. Reduce pollution and waste across the board in production, distribution, and consumption. Turn our attention not only to CO2, but also to CH4 and N2O. Though we might criticize politicians, the media, and the national structure and system, we need the self-awareness that we ourselves cause global warming. Transition to and lead the way to a negative-growth economy. Cultivate thinking in which the economy is a subset of the environment, and immediately discard thinking in which the environment is a subset of the economy.

There are many examples of how biochar can be used in agriculture. In Montreal, Canada, farmers use biochar as a way to improve soil fertility by grinding the charcoal and incorporating it into farm soil. The key is the way biochar is made, through pyrolysis, which locks carbon into the charcoal, taking it out of the atmosphere. Biochar can also be used with EM (Effective Microorganisms) as in this project in Costa Rica. The Japan Biochar Association was established earlier in 2009, and according to professor Makoto Ogawa, president of JBA, biochar was first mentioned in 1697, using rice husk charcoal:

The oldest description on charcoal use in agriculture is found in a text book, “Nogyo Zensho (Encyclopedia of Agriculture)” written by Yasusada Miyazaki in 1697. He described in it; “After roasting every wastes, the dense excretions should be mixed with it and stocked for a while. This manure is efficient for the yields of any crops. It is called the ash manure”. Probably similar knowledge had been popular in China and Korea since ancient time.

In Asian countries, rice husk charcoal which can be carbonized by simple methods in field soon after harvesting has been one of the most common materials for soil amendment. It seems that rice husk charcoal has been used for several thousand years since the beginning of rice cultivation in Asia, because rice husk with high content of silica is decomposed a little in soil and useless as a compost material.

Patricia plans to have the documentary ready by December, and will show it at the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Photo of carbonated rice husk from the Philippines

Video: Where We Going To Go

Thanks to David Todd for sending me an email letting me know about his climate change song, Where We Going To Go. I like the acoustic guitar and vocals. Clearly a talented song writer, hope to hear more from him!

"Where We Going To Go has been well received and is being used for education purposes in several schools around the world," says Todd, who lived in Osaka for five years and speaks Japanese.

"Where We Going To Go"
Words and music by D.E. Todd.
(C) Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved.