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Showing posts from October, 2009

Surprising Kanji Lesson: Hotoke, Butsu (Buddha)

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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 pe…

Japan's Hayate Shinkansen In China

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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 Toky…

Sailing In Ibaraki In The Rain

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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 …

Nikkei Eco Japan: Translating The Latest News

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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 …

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.


Soil & Peace Market 2009

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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.

Greenz.jp: Blog Action Day About Climate Change

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Blog Action Day 2009 in Japan: over at Greenz.jp 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 Sto…

The Alternative Nobel Prize

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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 …

Pizza Made With Local Ingredients From All Over Japan

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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 go…

Toyota Hybrid Patent Problems In The US

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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 S…

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' j…

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 t…

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 pl…

The End Of Econa Oil

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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 ingredie…

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.

Five Stars For The JA Ibaraki Pocket Farm Doki Doki Restaurant

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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 fert…

"Because We Just Don't Have Five Planets"

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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 i…

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.