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Showing posts from November, 2009

Swedish Embassy Book Seminar About Food Safety & Sustainable Fisheries

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On November 30, 2009 I will participate in a book seminar at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo. The event is arranged by Lena Lindahl, Sweden Sustainable Association, a long-term resident in Tokyo with exceptional trilingual skills in the education for sustainability sector.

I will talk about food safety, the precautionary principle, and compare the Swedish and Japanese legislation. Kodansha will participate to introduce my book that was published in May, 2009.

『ニッポン食の安全ランキング555』

会場:スウェーデン大使館オーディトリアム
日時:2009年11月30日(月) 18:00-20:30 (開場:17:30)
主催:持続可能なスウェーデン協会(Sustainable Sweden Association)
協力:スウェーデン大使館
参加費:無料
申込み:11月29日までに、お名前、所属、当日の連絡メールアドレスあるいは電話番号を明記の上vzq11450@nifty.ne.jp にご連絡ください。

Also, Yoshihiro Sato will talk about the book "Silent Ocean" that he has translated to Japanese, published by Shinhyo-ron. Written by Swedish journalist Isabella Lövin, we hope this book will stimulate debate about sustainable fishery policies in Japan.

『沈黙の海 — 最後の食用魚を求めて』

Ms. Lövin's book reveals how EU s…

Hideaki Tokunaga Live At Yakushi-ji, Nara

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Hideaki Tokunaga has been around as long as I can remember, at least since 1988, when he had a hit with Kowarekake no Radio. This summer he performed live at the ancient Buddhist temple in Nara, a sacred site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This song is Hoshi to tsuki no pierce to kimi no yume.

星と月のピアスと君の夢 (anyone has any idea how to translate that?)

Do watch 情熱 (Juunatsu) Passion, from the same concert in Nara.

Yakushi-ji was built in the 8th century, and the East Pagoda (known as "frozen music") is still intact today, some 1300 years later. The official website mentions how the ancient stupas of India was an inspiration for these buildings, with sustainable architecture that most modern designers could learn a lot from.




Images from Bernhard's pagoda photo page (in German)

One of the main features is the massive, heavy hanging pillar in the center. This is the real secret of wooden pagodas. The hanging "heart pillar" is like the spine of the pagoda: Not only does…

Event: International Film Festival on Organic Farming

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Great chance to see films about organic farming this weekend in Tokyo:


The life I value most We are happy and grateful to announce that your support has made it possible to hold the 3rd IFOF. The last two years' IFOF have been accepted and welcomed with high regard by both old and young.

Members of Steering Committee have also found the depth and the scope organic agriculture has and are deeply impressed by its implication that organic agriculture is not just how-to of farming but is a wholistic concept which enfolds how we should grasp the nature, how we are to live with forest, water, soil and all the creatures that live on our planet.

We have focused our effort on these vast and deep aspects of organic agriculture to be expressed in the program of the IFOF 2009.

During the last two decades, the earth and our lives underwent decay and segmentation by an idea and system that is all too simple and cold, the winner or the loser in a competitive world of economy.

Under the …

Don't Cut Funding For Organic Agriculture: A Really Bad Idea

According to Japan's daily agriculture newspaper, the Nougyou Shimbun, The DPJ-led government may cut back or eliminate subsidies for organic agriculture. This is a really bad idea. If the government decides to go ahead with slashing the budget for research and development in the agricultural field, there must be a large number of other projects that would be less important than finding ways forward for sustainable food production that is not relying on chemicals and fossile fuels.

Shisaku notes that the process amounts to Japan's Subsidies Culture on Trial:

Of the 244 budget requests reviewed during the first five days, 243 have been rejected. "Reapply with a new proposal," "No budget increases," "Reduce budget request," "Cease activity" have been the responses. Just one program has received the GRU's stamp of approval: a Health, Welfare and Labour Ministry fund supporting theater productions in the nation's after-school activity …

After Peak Oil: Notes From A Small Meeting In Tokyo

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It was Labour Day on Monday, a holiday here in Japan. I wanted to go either to the event preparing for the World Social Forum or to learn more about what people here think about peak oil and food security issues.

I chose the latter. The meeting was chaired by Hiroshi Nakayama, who has ideas that he calls the 2030 Vision. "Isn't Japan going to be in big trouble," he asked. We need scenarios for a "soft landing" as oil may again reach $150/barrel. And is economic growth for China and India really possible, without oil? China, as Nakayama noted, has energy self sufficiency at 94% at the moment, but if they want to copy the car based "modern" lifestyle of Japan, Europe or the US, of course that ratio isn't going to hold up, and they will need imports from - where? China is also trying to stop exporting chemical fertilizers by imposing high export tariffs - a sign that they are beginning to have problems feeding their people. Without cheap imports of N,…

Vintage Japan: The History Of Sex Ed, German Films, And More

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For a blog that is supposedly about all things 暮らし kurashi (life, living) there is precious little sex around here, as I think you can all find enough of that elsewhere on the Internet. But, ladies and gentlemen of the blog reading inclination, I thought my attempt at a Vintage Japan series of posts could benefit from a look at - Sex Education.

On a side note, the first photo here is from a Swedish film from 1953 called Sommaren med Monica, which was rather popular a long, long time ago (known in the US as "Monica: The Story of a Bad Girl" with arrests in Los Angeles when it was first screened at the Orpheum). How surprised I was to see it at Tsutaya, the video rental shop!

不良少女モニカ Furyuu Shoujo Monica (Juvenile Delinquent Monica) is the Japanese title, and it was a scandal here too, apparently.

Harriett Andersson is very lovely in this film, but frankly it is rather dull and there is very little nudity. OK, go and rent it or see if you cannot find it on the Internet. (Photo f…

Vintage Japan: Toyopet

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Toyota has been making cars for over 70 years, and by 1936, the Nagoya-based company was making models that were strong and solid enough for the road conditions of the time. The Toyota AA was produced from 1936 to 1941: 1 engine (3,4 liters / 65 hp) with 353 units produced.

It was Toyota Motor's first passenger car, adopting "the popular streamline style, possessed an ideally balanced load on the front wheel, and offered a superior ride which placed it above many foreign cars in terms of comfort," according to the Toyota Museum website, which claims that it was an "advanced automobile."

Moreover, Toyota's production know-how was developed completely in-house, while Nissan Motor Company acquired designs for large passenger cars and production facilities from the Graham Paige Corporation of the United States (Others claim the early Toyota models were Cadillac knock-offs).

During WW2, Toyota was involved in truck production for Japan's Imperial Army. B…

Vintage Japan: Tiger Oil Advertising Sign

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This morning I was (rudely) awakened by the call of the local gasolin truck, making his rounds for the benefit of some of my fossile fuel-burning neighbours. He has a loud sound track, on his small truck, playing a cheesy clarinet tune, and a young lady announcing, endlessly and cheerfully so, on a tape loop: "Tooyu hanbai, 18 liter, 1380 yen!" ("Selling 18 l of heating gas for 1380 yen!") while he slowly makes his rounds.

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away... There was an oil company putting up metal advertising signs with its 虎印灯油 (Tiger Brand Oil) logo all over the place. It seems very retro today, and Japanese bloggers are delighted when they find one, even if it is rusty. People who were born in the bubble economy days can afford to be nostalgic, at least for now.

The "Put A Tiger In Your Tank" advertising campaign introduced by US oil company Humble in 1964 was even popular in Sweden when I was a kid. Did they get the idea from Japan, or did…

Japan Hoarded Tuna To Keep Sushi Price Down?

Astonishing - the Japanese government admits to having hoarded some 25,000 tonnes of tuna, thus "there is no reason to fear tuna prices will spike or that the inventories of tuna will run out," the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries said at a news conference, according to Kyodo News.

Hirotaka Akamatsu inherited this problem - and the inventory - from the LDP government, but that doesn't make his comment less silly.

Japan has about 25,000 tons of bluefin and southern bluefin tuna in inventory — most in the past decade. Because there is ample inventory, the agency predicts tuna prices are unlikely to rise anytime soon.

Commenting on the decision Sunday by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to slash the annual bluefin catch limit by some 40 percent in 2010, Akamatsu said, "It's good that we can continue fishing for tuna."

Of course the government knew that quotas would be reduced. Negotiations have been going on for ye…

BB King in Tokyo 1989: All Over Again

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In November 1989 I was lucky enough to see BB King perform with Irish band U2 in Yokohama. The Arena is a great place for music and I was very close to the stage, up on the right side.

Last week, George W Bush was in town and as I walked down the street in Waseda, there were a lot of police cars and tension. If you read The Asahi you know that Mr. Bush only talked about baseball, and questions about Afghanistan or Iraq "were not allowed."

Not a very good way to contribute to the spread of free speech, liberty, and democracy, on a major university campus in Japan, but, hey, what do you expect. A friend of mine laughed when I complained and made hands movement, indicating that Mr Bush was just a 文楽 (bunraku).

Today, Mr Obama is visiting, and NHK notes that "Obama said that the United States belongs to the Asia-Pacific region, and that he considers it important to strengthen the alliance with Japan for the sake of the region."

Kings, presidents, emperors... We expect a l…

Whistleblower (Again) At Oil Agency: What Does It Mean For Japan?

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Whistleblower, or just an anonymous source for The Guardian? The story is very similar to last year, as the International Energy Agency releases its annual World Energy Outlook. Is it just a clever tactic to get more media attention to an issue that governments do not want to talk about?

But first, look at the graph. What do you actually see here? The only "real" oil is the darker blue field. The reality is we will not be having even half of the petrolium in just 20 years. The graph says, start reducing consumption, now.

The increase in "other" forms of oil or energy is just a mirage. Note that the real oil supply is now officially expected to drop - a lot. This is not a graph made by "peak oil theorists" but based on official figures and estimates. Finally, we are being told the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the big story of this week...

Actually, in February 2009 a very similar story hit the news, and I wrote about it over at Treehugger: Peak Oil: S…

Lake Hinuma, Early Morning

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Photo from Sweet Bluesette, click to enlarge. Magic.

40 Million People In Japan Have Allergies

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Some 40 million people have allergies in Japan, according to the Japan Allergy Foundation. They don't have an English website, even though information about allergies in Japan should be made widely available - don't you think? The Japanese Society for Allergology has English studies, but most are pdf documents. Their October 2009 Vol 58 issue 4 (in print) had a focus on food allergy- someone should make all of this information available in a more accesible way!

According to a new study by Ito and Urisu (pdf), food allergies affect 12.8% of infants in Japan. 5.1% of 3-year olds and 1.3-2.6% of school-age kids in Japan have food allergies, causing a number of problems, "particularly in terms of providing lunches to the affected children."

I had a chance today to speak to some 30-40 mothers and others with an interest in food allergies in Omiya, north of Tokyo. The theme was "Slow food" so I had prepared a presentation about issues from Sweden as well as curren…

Akihabara Rice: Licolita And The Maids

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My friend Sanada-san has done it again. He keeps coming up with great ideas for the unique Licolita-style activism of Akihabara, Tokyo.

Remember when they went to a shrine and blessed a bicycle (because it is so eco) and way back, they did the uchimizu actions to show that you could lower the unbearable heat in summer by throwing water on the pavement by at least 1 degree C. Uchimizukko! So what's new?!

Photos from Akiba kome!

In September, their music event was a big success. Moreover, this fall, they are harvesting rice made in Akihabara. Yup. Roof-top farming in Tokyo's electronic town. They say they need help to do the treshing, and rice cleaning. Who wouldn't want to volunteer?

Can you imagine a better brand? If you participate, you can share the special omelette-rice オムライス (omuraisu).



They have blogged about typhoons and got featured in Japan's major agriculture newspaper. Sanada-san praises the Akihabara maids who made it possible. They note that this helped them “fe…

Satoyama Initiative: How Can Japan Make It More Well Known?

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Japan's Ministry of Environment is trying hard to introduce the Satoyama Initiative. They are using Youtube (but not allowing the wonderful 10 minute long video by Green TV Japan to be embedded - why?)

- Yet it is a very worthwhile project, with images from Aritagawa, Tsurugashima, and Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Asia:

Youtube: The Satoyama Initiative:Toward a rural society in harmony with nature

Japan gave the name of the Satoyama Initiative to establishment of universal philosophy for sustainable maintenance and use of natural resources such as Satoyama Landscape and the efforts to promote it, and now propose and address it to the world.

The English is so-so, yet don't let that hold you back. There is more - much more - over at the website, Satoyama Initiative:

Satoyama landscape, a traditional Japanese socio-ecological production system, is an example of multi-functional land use practiced in many parts of the world.

Satoyama-like landscapes have sustained millions…

Biodiversity: Japan Urged To Do More Before Nagoya UN Meeting

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Last week was busy with several visitors from international NGOs who are urging Japan to make more efforts to prepare for the UN Conference in Nagoya in October, 2010 about biodiversity.

Consumers Union of Japan and other NGOs were able to bring Christine von Weizsäcker of Ecoropa, co-founder of Diverse Women for Biodiversity, and the CBD Alliance to Japan. She visited Nagoya and Tokyo to discuss the Convention on Biodiversity which she has followed closely since its early stages; thus she knows in detail how this terrific global treaty was created.

In Tokyo, she made a presentation for some 25 newly elected members of the Japanese Parliament and 200 other guests, before meeting with Aseed, a local NGO. The next evening she was suddenly invited to talk directly with the new Minister of the Environment. Christine is especially concerned with the issue of liability and redress - what will happen if farmers find that genetically modified crops have contaminated their fields?

Clear rules ar…

Expect Higher Tax On Cigarettes In Japan

In Japan, a box of Marlboro Lights costs just around 320 yen, compared with 600 yen to 800 yen in the European Union. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters on Friday that a hike in the tobacco tax is ''possible'' considering the adverse effects of smoking on public health and the environment. Even The Wall Street Journal paid attention:

Japan's new administration is considering raising cigarette taxes to European levels to help pay for an ambitious domestic spending plan, in a potential threat to partially state-owned Japan Tobacco Inc.

Japan Tobacco, which sells the Mild Seven, Camel and Salem brands, has a 65% market share in Japan. Tonight, TV7 provided the following figures for the tax part on the cost of a pack of fags around the world:

England
1,186 Yen (731 Yen tax)
US
829 Yen (491 Yen tax)
Germany
644 Yen (385 Yen tax)
Japan
300 Yen (174 Yen tax)

In other words, tax revenue on cigarettes is still much lower in Japan than in other countries. The Ministry of Heal…

Mainichi: Lack Of GMO Information For Processed Syrup

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Are consumers ready for this? Japan imports and makes corn syrup (HFCS) which could be genetically modified. The rules for GM labelling were imposed a decade ago, but ignored the fact that many additives like lecitin or processed sugars can come from GM crops. No genetically modified crops are farmed commercially in Japan, but as noted previously here on Kurashi, avoiding GMO (genetically modified organisms) can be difficult.

The Mainichi surveyed major drink manufacturers Asahi Soft Drinks Co., Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Kirin Beverage Co., Sapporo Beverage Co., Suntory Holdings Ltd., Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Pokka Corp. and Yakult Honsha Co. about their use of GM ingredients in their soft drinks.

Coca Cola simply refuses to tell, while Otsuka, maker of Pocari Sweat and Soy Joy, claims they do not use GMO.

The rest frankly admit that they use GM corn for the High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

"Most HFCS manufacturers have begun switching to GM ingredients, so it has become impossible to…