Friday, December 31, 2010
Oceans connect. For Okinawa, there is the culture, the music, the food, the ancient history. Japan should celebrate that it has such an amazing stretch, it reaches from the north to the south like few other countries.
Dear readers, do we really "understand" what is going on in Okinawa, and near the islands that are all the source of conflicts...
Do we not have a better set of values to solve problems?
I would like East Asia to create a model for how to solve local/regional/national problems. After all, these are people/countries that have had close contact with each other for some 2000 years or more. I think we can/should/must expect better. Okinawa should look to Iceland, to Greece, to others that share the same geological difficulties/opportunities. Expecting Tokyo or Washington D C to solve the problems, well, it is not going to happen. We need sincere diplomatic efforts that are native to the region to stand up and speak up. We need leaders.
2010 was the year when prime minister Hatoyama quit because he had no solution to the issue of the American bases in Okinawa. Or did he feel other pressure? From where? I am probably not the only one wondering what Wikileaks will have in store for "Okinawa" in the next couple of weeks or months...
After Hatoyama quit in disgrace, Okinawa has not been so much in the news.
Here is a rare movie from 1989, with Togawa Jun.
Untamagiru (ウンタマギルー?) is a 1989 Japanese film directed by Gō Takamine. It is magical realist story of the legendary Okinawan hero Untamagiru participating in efforts to form an independent Okinawa before the island was returned to Japan in 1972. Many of the characters speak in the Okinawan language and thus mainland Japanese spectators needed subtitles to understand it.
There are those who try to promote Okinawa as a resort island, but "full of fun" is not the message that people here will relate to in the time of economic crisis. Subtropical, yes, but if they go ahead with the U.S. Henoko Osprey helicopter base, there is virtually no way that tourists and visitors will want to go there, "let's play in Okinawa's nature."
From Paradise View
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The first Japanese railroad construction goes way back 140 years to 1870.
Today, the SL Yamaguchi makes the 62.9 kilometer run in 2 hours between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano on the Yamaguchi line.
The Original Yamaguchi line was a narrow gauged private railroad company. It was called the "Dai-Nippon-Kido Co. Yamaguchi" between Shinmachi and Yuda, and it was opened during October 1908. But, this small railway was closed when the government railway Yamaguch line between Ogori and Yamaguchi was opened during February 1913. Later, JGR Yamaguchi line was fully opened on the 1st of April 1923. After WW2, Yamaguchi line saw service by Tsuwano depot's class D60s, but they were replaced by the class D51 during 1966. (You can see the preserved first D60 in the Yamaguchi Museum even now.)
In August 1979 a restored steam train was put into service to provide rides on practically all weekends. After Japan's regular steam operation was closed, this was the first case of a steam train being restored in Japan. The service was started by Umekoji museum's class C57 No.1. 2009 is the 30th anniversary for steam train restoration.
From: Restored Steam Trains of Japan
Near where I live, west of Tokyo, there is the Chichibu Railway, with a fabulous SL train service:
In the Kanto's mid-sized private railroad, the Chichibu Railway's first section, between Kumagaya and Yorii was opened on the 7th of October 1901. Originally the company was started as the Jobu Railway Co. with one C-Tank steam engine (Chichibu Railway's No.1, manufactured by Dubs Co.). The company name was changed to the Chichibu Railway Co. during March 1916. Chichibu Railway had a total of thirteen steam engines (Two were borrowed) in nine classes.
Chichibu Railway was electrified during 1922, at this time, the company owned six steam engines. These engines were retired by 1923, and sold or transferred to other railway companies. But a few engines remained as spare engines up to Jun 1934. Electric railway company's Chichibu Railway didn't have steam engines for the next 54 years.
Half a century later, a restored steam train was started from March 1988 by the C58-363. The train saw service between Kumagaya and Mitsumineguchi section. The nearest restored steam engine from Tokyo is the Paleo-Express.
There are many beauty spots on the "Nagatoro" river bank along the railroad line.
A personal favourite, Sayonara Daisuki na Hito from the Oigawa line in Shizuoka (since 1925). But that particular engine, used in the music video by Hana Hana, the C 56 44 appears to have been used in Thailand, back in the early 1940s?
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Japanese government will provide subsidies to 153 corporate investment projects that aim to contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the country.
As part of its emergency economic stimulus measures compiled last September, the government will subsidize domestic investment projects by up to 180 million dollars each. The assistance will target such projects as the construction of a factory that will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has selected 153 projects as recipients of the subsidies from 285 applications. The selected projects include a battery maker's program to build a new plant and an electronics company's plan to boost production of semiconductors.
The government earmarked a budget worth about 1.3 billion dollars for such subsidies while the amount of such corporate investment projects totals about 6.4 billion dollars. Officials say the projects are expected to create about 95,000 jobs and that the economic effect will be larger than the amount of money spent on subsidies.
Mon, 27 Dec 2010
NHK World: 153 eco-friendly projects to get subsidies
Do we really believe these government projects will help this country become more "eco-friendly" as they say? I would like to think so.
The companies are putting some serious cash on the table.
Nikkei is the news source for anyone who seriously cares about economic trends in this part of the world.
It is all in Japanese, but if that is not an issue, you know that all the major companies here have CSR reports in English.
ECO JAPAN is the website if you want to keep up with such stories.
If you think Japan is a leader in ways to create a sustainable future, you had better pay attention to news from companies here.
They invite you to subscribe to a number of different mail services, and a mail magazine.
Nikkei Ecology is a new magazine, published from Dec. 12, 2010. Top stories include Access and Benefit Sharing (a major issue at the recent Nagoya conference on biological diversity).
Also, Nikkei is talking about measures to deal with climate change:
RGG（I地 域温室効果ガス・イニシアティブ）、温暖化ガス（温室効果ガス）、CO２排出係数、国連気候変動枠組み条約、京都議定書／京都メカニズム、ポスト京都議定 書、国連の気候変動に関する政府間パネル（IPCC）、温暖化防止主要国会合（MEM）、排出枠／排出量取引、CDM／JI、クレジット、排出原単位、 COP、COP／MOP、CO２隔離貯留（CCS）、低炭素社会、セクター別アプローチ、省エネ法、温暖化対策推進法、京都議定書目標達成計画、キャッ プ・アンド・トレード ほか
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The Tatami Galaxy is a pretty good title for the Japanese title, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikai. The 4 1/2 tatami mats of course is your regular small room, with the rice straw mats that are so good to sleep on. Yet, 4 1/2 is as small as the rooms tend to get. Been there?
OK, so that is where your "galaxy" revolves around. The Tatami Galaxy (四畳半神話大系, Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei: "Four-and-a-half Tatami Mythological Chronicles") is a Japanese novel by Tomihiko Morimi, originally published in December 2004 by Ohta Publishing. It was adapted into an anime television series by Madhouse and began airing on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block on April 22, 2010. If you have been to Kyoto University, it must seem very familiar.
And there is more. Much more:
Kyoto student is recollecting his past two years of college life. His wants to meet the girl of his dreams, which is why he joins a new social circle in each episode. He is quite shy, and easily manipulated by the other characters. Even though he is the central character, he seems to be the most powerless.
The appearance of Ozu in every episode causes the protagonist considerable distress. The protagonist always expresses how ugly Ozu is on his first appearance, which is often followed by Ozu telling him that he's quite cruel. Ozu seems to be a misfit. He also seems to care for the protagonist, and rescues him on certain occasions from sticky situations. Because he often eats unbalanced meals, he looks very pale and spooky...
Two brothers from Toyama Prefecture, using local dialect for their flash videos, as they keep on making cool anime videos that take Japan by storm. They like football, but...
They do not seem to like Santa from Finland so much...
By the way, is he down and out in the shopping mall in Kichijoji?
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
What did people eat in Edo era Japan, when there was no food available? In Sweden we have the word barkbröd, the bread made of the bark of trees. It was a way of harvesting the thin layer of C-vitamin rich phloem, the innermost layer of the bark (from the Greek word φλόος (phloos) "bark".
The phloem is concerned mainly with the transport of living organic material made during photosynthesis. These are the cells that transport the sap, and movement occurs by bulk flow; phloem sap moves from sugar sources to sugar sinks. A sugar source is any part of the plant that is producing or releasing sugar. (Isn't wikipedia amazing?)
Somehow, people used to be aware of this. However, the word barkbröd has come to mean poverty, as in a memory of the past, something to be ashamed of.
Now, I find out that in Sweden, they are making and marketing barkbröd, again. This time with a label and a price tag. Photo: Authentic, 2010-made bark-bread from Blomsterstugan i Hedemora, Sweden.
Ken in rural Japan also has similar ideas, methinks:
And as of today, there’s also the Stone Oak, or マテバシイ in Japanese. It’s evergreen, hearty, upright, sprawling, majestic, and has nuts very similar to but bigger than Standard Oak acorns. Below you see a variety of acorns, the tallest (second from the right) being that of Stone Oak...
If anyone’s interested in Acorns as a source of food, check this out: Acorns – From Mush to Candy
I like the photo he found of acorns. Yes, they come in all kinds of shapes and forms. That's the good news.
Thanks for the link to the blog of "Flowering Plants" 草花ブログ『時告風』
What did people eat in Japan in times of poverty? Rice was not abundant at all. The peasants that farmed rice had to pay most of it as taxes. They mostly survived on vegetables and barley, and some types of 麦 mugi, and whatever fruit was in season.
"The skylark rises,
The skylark falls --
How green the barley!"
By Onitsura (1660-1738),
translated by R. H. Blyth in "Haiku" (Hokuseido Press)
Last week I found some lovely green barley growing by the Tama River -- in a "silver" garden. This is an excellent idea: a patch of land where elderly, or "silver-haired" people without gardens can grow their favorite flowers and vegetables. Unfortunately, there was no skylark singing, but the barley, as the poem implies, was doing its utmost to gather greenness in its heart. Barley, like millet, was the poor man's substitute for rice in Japan, and it also provided a refreshing drink in the form of mugi-cha (roasted barley tea). In England, barley was used to produce malt for another daily drink -- beer.
Quoted from The Japan Times, back when Linda Inoki wrote about the wonders of Japan's plants and cultural heritage...
Washoku has more:
They ate fish, and very little else from mammals. Here is a map of the special vegetables grown in Edo (and still now in Tokyo) to feed the shougun and the inhabitants of Edo castle and the whole town.
Edo dentou yasai 江戸伝統野菜
The recent trend to celebrate traditional vegetables is good news, but many of them are rather new, if you look more closely at what farmers did grow in the Edo era or before that. If you live in Tokyo, you are familiar with the area called Myogadani, near Waseda, are you not?
Thanks Shizuoka Gourmet! You are now one of my favourite links!
Myōga (茗荷) or myoga ginger (Zingiber mioga, Zingiberaceae) is an herbaceous, deciduous, perennial native to Japan that is grown for its edible flower buds and flavorful shoots. Flower buds are finely shredded and used in Japanese cuisine as a garnish for miso soup, sunomono and dishes such as roasted eggplant.
Myogadani is a station on the venerable Maronouchi subway line: Can you imagine that there were actually farmers there, in central Edo, who proudly supplied ginger to the city? Gari, sweet pickled ginger was an important part of the sushi that developed as a signature dish of the ancient capital of Japan... And did you know that wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may have been the reason why hords of Edo citizens did not get food posioning from their servings of raw fish?
I could go on and on...
Myoga image from A Radiused Corner - My Internet Bento Box
Fresh wasabi is often served at soba resturants. And you have to grind the root yourself.
The burning sensations of wasabi are not oil-based, thus they are short-lived compared to the effects of chili peppers. The sensation is felt primarily in the nasal passage and yes, it can be quite painful depending on amount taken.
A small amount, with some soy souce, is all you need.
Tiny amounts of original flavour, making your meal that much more worth the effort.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I'm hoping you are all spending at least a tiny bit of your hard earned yen to some good causes, hopefully a non-governmental organization (NGO) of your choice. I'm sure paying taxes and the odd insurance will also be a task, but how about that extra bit to get newsletters and emails from NGOs that you trust?
NGOs have been around for a long time, at least some of them. Others are novel and (perhaps) more radical. I work for one that got its bearings back in 1969, Consumers Union of Japan. I could also recommend Kiko Network, that helped place the Washed Away advertisement in The Financial Times - and a score of others.
Remember Copenhagen, 2009?
Another Japan is Possible, by Jennifer Chan, has a long list of groups that make a difference.
This book looks at the emergence of internationally linked Japanese nongovernmental advocacy networks that have grown rapidly since the 1990s in the context of three conjunctural forces: neoliberalism, militarism, and nationalism. It connects three disparate literatures—on the global justice movement, on Japanese civil society, and on global citizenship education. Through the narratives of fifty activists in eight overlapping issue areas—global governance, labor, food sovereignty, peace, HIV/AIDS, gender, minority and human rights, and youth—Another Japan is Possible examines the genesis of these new social movements; their critiques of neoliberalism, militarism, and nationalism; their local, regional, and global connections; their relationships with the Japanese government; and their role in constructing a new identity of the Japanese as global citizens. Its purpose is to highlight the interactions between the global and the local—that is, how international human rights and global governance issues resonate within Japan and how, in turn, local alternatives are articulated by Japanese advocacy groups—and to analyze citizenship from a postnational and postmodern perspective.
In Japan, we get a bundle of international NGOs that have set up office here, like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. WWF Japan is also well respected. You probably also know of a number of local NGOs that are important in the place where you live, saving forests, helping children, doing good.
The Japanese Red Cross Society is much older, going way back to 1877, according to their Japanese website, or at least 1887, when the Japanese chapter was admitted to the ICRC. They have official sanction from the Imperial Family, something few other of the modern-era consumer-rights-protection groups or environmental NGOs tend to have. And they do go way back:
1886： The Japanese Government pledged to adhere to the Geneva Convention of 1863. The Society’s first hospital was established in Tokyo.
1887： The Philanthropic Society changed its name to the Japanese Red Cross Society and was recognised as such by the International Committee of the Red Cross on 2 September 1887. In July the Society first engaged in disaster relief by assisting casualties of the Mt. Bandai eruption.
1890： Training of nurses began at the Red Cross Hospital in Tokyo.
1906： The San Francisco earthquake and fire in April gave the Society its first opportunity to extend relief to a foreign country. The Society collected US$146,000 for the American Red Cross.
Japan got a new legislation for said activities, legally defining what non-political organizations (NPO) may do and what they cannot do in 2006. The Japan NPO Center has some more details about the progress, noting that some 6,000 NPOs have been incorporated as Specified Nonprofit Corporation since 1998, which dramatically changed the landscape of Japan's civil society...
Which is your favourite Japanese NGO or NPO? I would really like to know.
Meanwhile, The Guardian notes that NGOs like Greenpeace International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Oxfam are not too happy about the recent Cancun Climate Change results:
"The UN climate talks are off the life-support machine," said Tim Gore of Oxfam. "The agreement falls short of the emissions cuts that are needed, but it lays out a path to move towards them."
"The outcome wasn't enough to save the planet," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made."
The Guardian: Cancún agreement rescues UN credibility but falls short of saving planet
One NGO you can support here in Japan, if you think climate change is an important issue, is Kiko Network 気候ネットワーク. Ki-kou means "climate" and the membership fee is 5,000 yen per year. Apply here. I do hope they at least can get some help to update their English website.
Bank 銀行振込口座：りそな銀行京都支店 普通預金 1799376（加入者名：気候ネットワーク）
As for Consumers Union of Japan, please send 7,000 yen to get the Japanese newsletter 3 times a month, and support our international activities. Check out CUJ's history pages.
While I am at it, I also want to promote A Seed Japan, a youth organization that is very active in several fields, including Zero Garbage (if you have been to the Fuji Rock Music Festival, you know the A Seed Japan volunteers are the guys and the girls telling you where to put your pet bottles), biological diversity (yup, they were in Nagoya in October), and campaigns to create awareness around fossile fuel and climate change issues, for example at Earth Day.
Image from their campaign to raise awareness about financial transactions and "eco savings" as a way to compare the way financial institutions care about social/eco issues.
Where does the money go that you deposit in your bank?
A SEED Japan (Action for Solidarity, Equality, and Environment and Development) is a Japan based, international youth environmental
The A SEED international campaign was founded in October, 1991 in order to give youth a voice at the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), held in Brazil in June 1992.
Following the Earth Summit, A SEED Japan was established as an organisation based on a membership system.
A SEED Japan strives for a sustainable and fair society and focuses on cross border environmental problems and the social injustices found within these.
We aim to change the present pattern of mass production, mass consumption and mass waste, and eliminate the gaps between north and south, different regions, and between different generations.
In order to make these changes, the youth of today, who bear the generations of the future, have taken action.
Join A Seed Japan:
Root 5,000 yen
Tree (Students etc.) 3,000 yen
Ground (Supporting member) 10,000 yen
A major Japanese NGO that is making a huge difference is the peace group, Mayors for Peace. They now have 4,402 member cities from 150 countries and regions, as of December 1, 2010. Impressive. Based in Hiroshima, you can help them by making sure your home town or city also joins:
Send a letter from the mayor or the head of the City Council to the Conference Secretariat stating that your city supports the Program to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and would like to join the Mayors for Peace. Shortly thereafter, the Secretariat will send by return mail a certificate confirming membership in the Mayors for Peace.
(Image: Color lithograph print showing Japanese Red Cross tents and personnel giving medical attention to wounded Japanese and Russian soldiers near the Yalu River during the Russo-Japanese War in April 1904, from wikipedia)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Japan did everything it could to block progress at the United Nations COP16 climate change meeting in Mexico, but others prevailed. Hours ago, a deal was forced through and "the ghost of Copenhagen" has been officially declared dead. Which is (kind of) good news, all things considered. As I noted a year ago, there was No Real Deal In Copenhagen...
These are the two main documents that are considered the outcome:
Regarding the Kyoto Protocol (pdf)
Regarding the Long-Term Co-Operative Action (LCA) process from now on (pdf)
Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 countries commited themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases: (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons).
Japan has been opposed to further emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol - and was seen as blocking concrete progress, alongside the US, that was also preferring a weak agreement.
On Friday, things looked particularly bleak. Leadership? You must be joking. According to NHK World:
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has told UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that Japan opposes the extension of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The 2 leaders talked over the phone on Friday, at Ban's request.
The conversation took place as the UN climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, remains divided over the form of a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Ban said he expects Kan to exercise his leadership to help the conference reach an agreement.
Kan replied that Japan cannot accept the extension of the protocol. But he said he will instruct the Japanese delegation to maintain close cooperation with other delegates.
Quite shameful for Japan, although local NGOs here, like Kiko Network have been rather active, and deserve some credit for keeping the topic on the agenda. They note, for example, that among Japan's major 14,710 factories and other "specified facilities" some 150 are responsible for a whopping 50% of Japan's emissions. That figure includes 84 power plants and 16 steel plants.
Kiko Network thinks there is still room for improvement here in Japan, as not all facilities are as energy-efficient as they should be: "In order to introduce appropriate incentive measures, data acquisition and transparency of information is essential," says Kimiko Hirata, director of Kiko Network.
You can read the official statements of each country at the Cancun meeting here:
For example (pdf files):
There seems to have been no statement by China, the world's top emitter of the gases (including CO2) that cause the global problems we know as climate change or global warming. My hunch is that if Japan really took the lead, China would also feel the need to play ball, seriously. But with massive coal deposits, and an increasing need for oil imports from the Middle East, maybe China just has no idea what to do. Japan, meanwhile, has wasted a great opportunity to go that extra mile and come up with original ideas that might help the international community solve a very difficult diplomatic dilemma.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.
From wikipedia, a ranking of the world's top ten emitters of GHGs for 2005 (MNP, 2007). The first figure is the country's or region's emissions as a percentage of the global total. The second figure is the country's/region's per-capita emissions, in units of tons of GHG per-capita:
1. China – 17%, 5.8
2. United States – 16%, 24.1
3. European Union – 11%, 10.6
4. Indonesia - 6%, 12.9
5. India – 5%, 2.1
6. Russia – 5%, 14.9
7. Brazil – 4%, 10.0
8. Japan – 3%, 10.6
9. Canada – 2%, 23.2
10. Mexico – 2%, 6.4
Fail, in every sense.
The Guardian had stellar coverage of events, up to the last moment:
Cancún climate change summit: The final day as it happened
BBC: UN climate change talks in Cancun agree a deal
UN talks in Cancun have reached a deal to curb climate change, including a fund to help developing countries.
Nations endorsed compromise texts drawn up by the Mexican hosts, despite objections from Bolivia.
The draft documents say deeper cuts in carbon emissions are needed, but do not establish a mechanism for achieving the pledges countries have made.
Some countries' resistance to the Kyoto Protocol had been a stumbling block during the final week of negotiations.
However, diplomats were able to find a compromise.
Delegates cheered speeches from governments that had caused the most friction during negotiations - Japan, China, even the US - as one by one they endorsed the draft.
BBC environment correspondent Richard Black said the meeting did not achieve the comprehensive, all-encompassing deal that many activists and governments want.
But he said it was being "touted as a platform on which that comprehensive agreement can be built".
Mexico's President Felipe Calderon said the summit had allowed leaders to "glimpse new horizons" where countries had the "shared task to keep the planet healthy and keep it safe from [humans]".
Kyoto Protocol (from UNFCCC):
The Kyoto mechanisms
Under the Treaty, countries must meet their targets primarily through national measures. However, the Kyoto Protocol offers them an additional means of meeting their targets by way of three market-based mechanisms.
The Kyoto mechanisms are:
* Emissions trading – known as “the carbon market"
* Clean development mechanism (CDM)
* Joint implementation (JI).
The mechanisms help stimulate green investment and help Parties meet their emission targets in a cost-effective way.
Monitoring emission targets
Under the Protocol, countries’actual emissions have to be monitored and precise records have to be kept of the trades carried out.
Registry systems track and record transactions by Parties under the mechanisms. The UN Climate Change Secretariat, based in Bonn, Germany, keeps an international transaction log to verify that transactions are consistent with the rules of the Protocol.
Reporting is done by Parties by way of submitting annual emission inventories and national reports under the Protocol at regular intervals.
A compliance system ensures that Parties are meeting their commitments and helps them to meet their commitments if they have problems doing so.
(Top image of an movie-poster look-alike ad placed by Avaaz and Tcktcktck in The Financial Times, portraying Japan as going against the wave of countries that wanted a deal to be reached in Mexico. Maybe this helped to catch the attention of Prime Minister Kan - pictured as a low-budget anime movie villain. Japan did not, in the end, elect to say no to the Cancun concensus. "Washed Away" is of course a pun on the great Ghibli film, "Spirited Away." Read the text of the ad over at Avaaz and Tcktcktck.)
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Small steps are often the best way to get to a bigger result. Stationary product maker Kokuyo launched a clever labelling campaign in 2007, clearly telling consumers which products in their massive catalogue they considered "so-so" from an environmental point of view. The label, Eco X Mark, was printed in bright red and the goal has been to eliminate such items by the end of 2010.
Through hard work, they have announced that their campaign is a success, according to Sankei. Kokuyo's 2011 catalogue will have zero products that carry the Eco X Mark, compared to 76% of the stationary products in the 2009 catalogue. In the process of looking at the entire supply chain, they have not only gotten rid of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde but also managed to reduce CO2 emissions. They inspected 100 paper mills around Japan to make sure that they really recycle the pulp to the extent that is written on the label.
A number of new and environmentally friendly products have also appeared, such as their special notebooks and calligraphy brushes from a CSR-project they are doing at Lake Biwa near Kyoto, called Re-EDEN.
In 2008, Japan For Sustainability noted:
To accomplish 100 percent of the group's goals by the end of 2010, Kokuyo aims to revise its standards for environmental consideration so that they reflect changes in the social climate and to take another look at the environmental impact values it has so far accorded to raw materials. Their plan also calls for utilizing new materials, reviewing packaging design and raw materials, and verifying the environmental loads of the delivery process, in order to reduce total impacts on the environment.JFS: Kokuyo Labels Its Own "Non-Eco" Products
I'm sure many of my Kurashi readers are using a Kokuyo notebook or other stuff. Isn't it great when companies help consumers to make intelligent choices, but even more, they actually get rid of the products that have no role to play on a finite planet, with limited resources, and not enough time for every individual to figure out what to buy or what not to buy...?
Read more (in English):
Kokuyo Corporate Social Responsibility Reports
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Hugsa ser frid. We take peace for granted, others do not. 30 years ago, I cried hearing the news that John Lennon was killed in New York City. Just could not believe it.
I was a child when the USSR invaded Afghanistan, and now, the United States of America and half of the rest of the world have been engaged in a war for a longer period of time in that country.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days. On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state.
Associated Press: US presence in Afghanistan as long as Soviet slog (AP) – Nov 25, 2010
It does not make much sense.
War is over, if you want it.
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over
The Imagine Peace Tower (Icelandic: Friðarsúlan, meaning "the peace column") is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono, located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavík, Iceland. It consists of a tall "tower of light", projected from a white stone monument that has the words "Imagine Peace" carved into it in 24 languages. These words, and the name of the tower, are a reference to Lennon's peace anthem, Imagine.
An additional panel reads:
I dedicate this light tower to John Lennon
my love for you is forever
October 9th 2007
The Tower consists of 15 searchlights with prisms that act as mirrors, reflecting the column of light vertically into the sky from a 10-metre wide wishing well. It often reaches cloudbase and indeed can be seen penetrating the cloud cover. On a clear night it appears to reach an altitude of at least 4000m. The power for the lights is provided by Iceland's unique geo-thermal energy grid. It uses approximately 75 kW of power.
Buried underneath the light tower are upward of 500,000 written wishes that Ono gathered over the years in another project, called "Wish Trees". Ono plans to have the tower lit every year from 9 October, Lennon's birthday, through 8 December, the date he was shot. Iceland was selected for the project because of its beauty and its eco-friendly use of geothermal energy.
Since the 1960s, Ono has been an activist for peace and human rights. After their wedding, Lennon and Ono held a "Bed-In for Peace" in their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel in March 1969. The press fought to get in, presuming that the two would be having sex for their cameras, but they instead found a pair of newlyweds wearing pajamas and eager to talk about and promote world peace. Another Bed-In in May 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Fairmont in Montreal, Canada, resulted in the recording of their first single, "Give Peace A Chance", a Top 20 hit for the newly-christened Plastic Ono Band. Other demonstrations with John included Bagism. Introduced in Vienna, Bagism encouraged a disregard for physical appearance in judging others.
In the 1970s, Ono and Lennon became close to many radical leaders, including Bobby Seale, Jerry Rubin, Michael X, John Sinclair (for whom they organized a benefit after he was imprisoned), Angela Davis, Kate Millett, and David Peel. They appeared on The Mike Douglas Show and took over hosting duties for a week, during which Ono spoke at length about the evils of racism and sexism. Ono remained outspoken in her support of feminism, and openly bitter about the racism she had experienced from rock fans, especially in the United Kingdom. For example, an Esquire article of the period was titled "John Rennon's Excrusive Gloupie" and featured an unflattering David Levine cartoon.
In 2002, Ono inaugurated her own peace award, The LennonOno Grant for Peace, by giving $50,000 (£31,900) prize money to artists living "in regions of conflict." Israeli and Palestinian artists were the first recipients. The award is given out every two years, in conjunction with the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower.
On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2003, on the eve of the Iraqi invasion by the Americans and the British, Ono heard about a romantic couple holding a love-in protest in their tiny bedroom in Addingham, West Yorkshire. She sent the couple, Andrew and Christine Gale, some flowers and wished them the best.
In 2004, Ono remade her song "Everyman... Everywoman..." to support same-sex marriage, releasing remixes that included "Every Man Has a Man Who Loves Him" and "Every Woman Has a Woman Who Loves Her."
I like how Yoko Ono has created a Peace Tower in Iceland. Come and be inspired by Iceland, she says. "North is wisdom... and power, it spreads."
I like how Yoko Ono was able to rise above the racism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, finding her voice, and making a difference. I like how she managed to make miracles happen, after December 8, 1980.
I like how in December, you cannot go anywhere in Japan, shops or restaurants, and the carols are played, and then this tune comes on... For the yellow and red ones. Without any fear:
"An eye for an eye, will make us all blind."
- M. G.
Frið or Frid, is my family name. In Swedish, it means "inner peace" and we also have the word Fred which means "peace" between countries.
Do think about that.
There is inner peace, and...
...another kind of peace; peace between countries.
Without "inner peace" how can we have peace between countries, in this world, on this beautiful planet.
Monday, December 06, 2010
For the latest on Wikileaks, I recommend The Guardian database. They have got the document showing how the US manipulated the Copenhagen Climate Change talks, and how China opposed Japan as a member of the UN Security Council. Wow.
The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.
On reform of the UN Security Council:
21. (C) China was concerned by "momentum" that was building on UN Security Council reform, which was "not good" for the P-5, VFM He said. China wanted the United States to maintain its position on UNSC reform and not be "proactive" on the matter, which the PRC feared could result in a UN General Assembly resolution on the subject. The P-5 "club" should not be "diluted," VFM He said. If we end up with a "P-10," both China and the United States would "be in trouble." Moreover, it would be difficult for the Chinese public to accept Japan as a permanent member of the UNSC. The Charge replied that the Administration had not completed its policy review on UNSC expansion, so we do not yet have a position on specific proposals. Nonetheless, the United States believed that UN members should be allowed to state their positions freely and openly without undue P-5 influence. Regarding Japan, the Charge said that, while no decision had been made about which countries to support for permanent membership on the UNSC, it was hard to envision any expansion of the Council that did not include Japan, which was the second-largest contributor to the UN budget.
At Kurashi we are reminded of how thankful we should be for cartoonists, who can put it all in perspective, with tact and skill and grace - and a sense of humour. There is a lot more over at Daryl Cagle's Cartoons, onwards and forwards! He has a great blog too!
(Image by Mike Keefe)
Friday, December 03, 2010
Japan could put the emphasis on seeking sustainable alternatives while greatly reducing energy use in general (a strategy posed by Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute called "The Oil Depletion Protocol"). Instead, the focus has been to find more of the stuff.
Next year, Japan is going to start drilling in the Sea of Kumano off Mie Prefecture, not for natural gas, but for methane hydrate - methane gas which is trapped in water ice beneath the sea floor. Methane, once released from the ice, can be used in lieu of gas. It also comes with risks, since methane is a greenhouse gas that is 21 times as potent as CO2, so preventing any leakage is key. The process of doing this has not been perfected and there are many technical hurdles to overcome. Additionally, when you burn methane, while it does burn cleaner than coal or oil, it still produces CO2. However, the promise of a national energy supply is quite a lure and it has the Japanese government going after this fuel - in spite of the risks:
Guardian UK - Japan to drill for controversial 'fire ice'
"Lucia van Geuns, an energy analyst at the international energy programme of the Clingendael Institute, said: "Methane hydrates could make Japan energy independent. Japan put a lot of R&D into this project because of course the less energy it imports the better. Whether they can commercialise methane hydrates remains to be seen." (emphasis added)
'Environmentalists, however, are concernedabout the burning of more earth-locked hydrocarbons. Methane may be a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal or oil but will still release many tons of CO2. Jogmec acknowledges the problems, admitting mining of methane ice could lead to landslides and the devastation of marine life in the mining areas. "There are many other technological problems to overcome," says the Jogmec website. "Not least that when you drill you create heat, which turns the frozen methane into gas, which could then leak uncontrollably through the sea to our atmosphere."'
"Japan's trade ministry, which is behind the scheme, has requested a budget of ¥8.9bn (£667m) for the drilling to start next spring. The huge budget reflects the difficulties of drilling deep offshore. In Japan, hydrates in the Sea of Kumano are found about 30km offshore in about 100 metres of water and at a depth below the seabed of 200 metres, making it difficult to mine the unstable hydrates."
Have you ever noticed how experts in the fossil fuel industry downplay risks (BP in the Gulf, Exxon in Alaska for example) and grossly overestimate the amount and benefit of the resource involved?
The Japanese Trade Ministry hopes to start commercial production of methane from "fire ice" by 2018. Given the ecological risks, the uncertainty that the plan will even work, and the fact that this is still just another nonrenewable "resource" which will contribute to climate change, I am against this project.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
I just loved this essay on GreenJapan.com, a website I like: Seed saving is an integral part of farming, yet these days, almost noone seems to know how to do it. As much as I like organic food, most of the organic farmers depend on conventionally produced seed for their vegetables and produce. Yes, the organic standards want farmers to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and no genetically modified organisms (GMO) are permitted.
That is all good, as far as I am concerned. But what we really need is organic farmers like Masatoshi Iwazaki, who has practiced organic agriculture and own seed banks in Azuma, Unzen City, Nagasaki for over 30 years. He is also the head of Slow Food Nagasaki.
Why is saving your own seeds so important?
In 1982, he started planting kuroda-gosun carrots, a variety native to Nagasaki, from his own seed selections. After a few years, he expanded to other varieties of vegetables and soon became hooked on the fascinating process. “True farming involves the maintenance and care of your crops over the entire lifecycle, from seed to flower to harvest and back to seeding again,” Iwasaki explained with passion.
The process of selecting your own seeds and strains is not easy and Iwasaki has encountered many issues over the years. For example, carrots selected for aesthetic appeal did not produce lots of seeds. Iwasaki says that plants are just like people. Just as there are many types of body shapes and sizes, healthy vegetable crops need to have a variety of properties.
Iwasaki believes that in this modern day and age, as seed producers focus less on variety and more on standardization, diversity on the farm takes on two increasingly important aspects. One of these is breeding variety. For example, while we may think a turnip is just a turnip, there are in fact many types of turnip from all over Japan and this variety should be preserved and treasured.
The second is variety within each crop. Kuroda-gosun carrots may come in many shapes and sizes but all of these are important and useful. However, preserving both kinds of diversity is not the exclusive domain of the farmer, responsibility also lies with the consumer. If people take time out to purchase local varieties of vegetables and are tolerant of variety in shape and appearance then it will be easier for farmers to produce a variety of crops, including locally native plants.
I like this approach to organic farming, and I understand how important it is to save seeds. Yet, isn't it strange that so few farmers share the views of Iwasaki? In fact, faced with huge pressure to change Japan's trade rules, and even totally abandon local farmers with agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to allow unlimited food imports, it would make a lot of sense to at least start to support organic farmers who know what they are doing.
This could then lead to export opportunities like what Iwasaki has found:
While local plant varieties have been decimated as farmers avoided crops that did not appeal to consumers, recently there has been a revival in popularity of traditional vegetables. Take, for example, Unzen kobu takana (mustard greens). This local variety of leafy greens was the focus of an editorial published by the Radish Boya vegetable delivery service. As it turned out, Iwasaki found a local strain and revived it. Iwasaki’s Unzen-kobu takana has now been certified by Presidio, one of Italy’s most prestigious slow food organizations.
Frankly, that is not the only good reason to support organic farming in Japan. You don't just want to do this to "create more farm export" but first of all, food security and self-sufficiency should be considered. Worst case scenario: Oil imports get too expensive, and difficulties in importing/producing chemical fertilizers and pesticides? Do we really have to wait until that point to start asking organic farmers how they think Japan should feed itself?
Each of us as consumers has the responsibility to think about where the foods we are eating come from and how they are grown. And the true value of food comes from knowing the story of our food and the people who produce it. More to follow!
Need green inspiration? Head over to Eco to Waza - not to be confused with greenz.jp (both good).
Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, has just visited Nagasaki and had this to say:
Visiting the Unzen Takana Vegetable Presidium in the prefecture of Nagasaki, followed by a meeting of the local Slow Food convivium, was extremely encouraging and showed us just how aware people here are of the issue of food biodiversity. Thanks to the area’s unique geography, with a series of deep and twisting peninsulas, it has preserved a strong cultural specificity, protected from hybrids and contamination. The recently formed Slow Food Nagasaki Convivium has already firmly oriented itself towards promoting this specificity. It is not by chance that the first and only Japanese Presidium, for the Unzen Takana Vegetable, was established here. The group of women (the consortium of Moriyama processors) who process the vegetable using traditional drying and salt fermenting methods now find it easy to sell their product, which has found space on the shelves of Tokyo’s shops and airport boutiques. The Takana growers are equally satisfied, and they participated enthusiastically in the convivium meeting.
From Resistance in Japan: Food for Thought
Iwasaki Masatoshi, another Unzen farmer, has written a great book about Slow Food farming and the delishious, organic vegetables they make by saving and farming heirloom seeds for a number of different crops.
The book, published by Shinchosha, is called Tsukuru, Taberu, Mukashi Yasai (Make, Eat, Traditional Vegetables). Born in Nagasaki in 1950, Iwasaki has almost 30 years of experience as an organic farmer, and is one of the leaders of the movement in Nagasaki prefecture. Highly recommended!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I don't own a car and do not plan to buy one, especially considering the economic situation we face, which is really a global bubble bust, and if you are lucky, you live in a country that still has a banking system. I take the trains and walk a lot. If I was in great need of a car, what would I do? (Again, not a scenario that is on the radar)
In the midst of all the news from Europe about huge risks that the Euro Zone may collapse, and what will the Germans do after the Irish bailout, with worries about Spain (and others), how is this for some "good" news:
The Telegraph: Nissan Leaf wins Car of the Year
Yup. The world's first mass produced battery electric car wins the premier European award. That's how serious things have gotten. No more SUVs, Hummers (and Volvo, now owned by a Chinese upstart, came 6th in the rankings).
I find it ironic that mass media is still so caught up in the car craze. I understand that a lot of people live in places where they really, really need a car to get to work or do whatever they have to do. But that is about to change. Gasoline is not to be taken for granted, not at reasonable prices. We are now living in the post peak era.
As for electric cars, well, The Nissan Leaf has some very clever engineering, but where is the infrastructure? How many nuclear power plants would we really need to shift to all-electric cars? Let's be honest, this is not the solution. Having 500-800 cars per 1000 people is not possible.
How are the hybrid cars doing, so far?
Toyota Prius has sold about 2 million cars worldwide (only 206,000 in Europe, 826,000 in Japan and 931,000 in North America)
Honda Civic Hybrid: 203,000 in the US
Toyota Camry Hybrid: 167,000 in the US
Ford (Escape and Fusion): 138,000 in the US
Honda Insight: Some 100,000 in Japan, 52,000 in the US
OK, I was wrong about the SUVs, there is one that sold a lot. I wonder if the people who buy this vehicle actually think it is good for the environment, or not.
Lexus RX400h/450h: Just over 100,000 in the US
Data from wikipedia: Hybrid electric vehicles in the United States
This is just so pitiful, in spite of all the energy saving that it promises, as global car production annually is in the 40 million to 50 million vehicles zone, with a peak in 2007.
Year Cars produced in the world
2009 51,971,328 (projection)
Source: Worldometers, data from OICA
Wow! What a website! The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers really cares about CO2 emissions and wants you to drive sustainably! ECO-drive! And there is a call for a new paradigm for the global auto industry! And they know all about it!
OICA: New Paradigm (pdf)
If I was on a city council, wondering what to do, I would vote for something completely different. Transition towns are already trying. I believe more in electric buses. I would support and encourage hybrid taxis, as the drivers would be able to use all their skills to reduce gasoline consumption (did you know that by 2009, 15% of New York's 13,237 taxis in service were hybrids, the most in any city in North America?) and other forms of car ownership such as car sharing - and more bicycles on the roads, yeah! Make your town pedestrian friendly, fast.
The Nissan Leaf will have to do a lot more to convince me that it is not just a part of the problem, but actually a part of the solution. They are ignoring the real picture: Car sales are down, way down. Look at this graph of US car sales (light vehicles) and how it has gone from on average 15-17 million cars per year to about 10.38 million (still too much in my humble opinion).
Casa Food Shed: Less fuel, fewer autos demands different kind of planning
Data from Calculated Risk, from Post Carbon Oregon (great blog). Quote:
Over the last 60 years, anti-urban policies have resulted in an energy-sucking, emissions-spewing U.S. Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, points to subsidization of highways and home ownership as deliberate policy choices that have bled cities and encouraged a suburban and exurban infrastructure – one that is dependent on high levels of energy inputs (resulting in emissions outputs) both for transportation and to power buildings.
Glaeser cites studies that find each new federally-funded highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18%. Cities don’t benefit much from that highway infrastructure because dense areas already have good means of getting around – like walking.
The same, of course, is also true in Japan.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The results of the election on Sunday in Okinawa are as follows, according to Ryukyu Shimpo, the local newspaper. NHK also notes that the LDP-backed candidate, Nakaima, 71 years old has won.
３３５７０８ 仲井真弘多 Nakaima Hirokazu
２９７０８２ 伊波 洋一 Iha Yoichi
Both said they want Futenma, the US military base, moved out of Okinawa. Peace activists, however, doubt that Nakaima Hirokazu will follow up on this pledge. To NHK (video) he notes on Sunday night that the US military bases are not there just for the sake of Okinawa, but for the sake of the entire country. He also says, again, that the base should be relocated outside of the prefecture of Okinawa.
While Iha Yoichi unequivocally opposes a new base in Okinawa, there has been some confusion by incumbent governor Nakaima's expression of his intent to call for relocation of MCAS Futenma "outside of Okinawa." However, throughout the campaign, he has avoided the question of whether he really opposed the government's plan to build a new base in Henoko. "It appears that Nakaima wants to gain Okinawans' support but wants to avoid confrontation with the Japanese government at the same time," the newspaper's editorial suspects. Iha, on the contrary, "will not accept any negotiation based on the current US-Japan plan and challenge the both governments to give up the plan."
Quote and translation by Peace Philosophy Centre: To stop the Henoko base plan, IHA must win. 沖縄に基地を作らせないためには伊波候補が勝たなければいけない
Read more about the peaceful protests at the Tent Village, Henoko, Okinawa on Japan Focus: Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In
On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
And Japanese bloggers of course are also covering this important election: Chura umi o maore (Protect our ocean) and Henokohama Tsushin (Reports from Henoko Beach) and Michisan (a blog to help you know what local Okinawan newspapers are saying) and sumichi and takae and News for the People of Japan...
Photo from rimpeace, stating without a doubt that these Okinawan people do not want US Osprey helicopters on their soil.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Wikipedia: Silent Running
On this planet, we think we can just go in and make profit, cutting down trees, selling the wood elsewhere. I vividly remember my parents had a small mahogany table, bought in the late 1960s:
It has a reddish-brown color, which darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable. Historically, the tree's girth allowed for wide boards from traditional mahogany species. These properties make it a favourable wood for crafting cabinets and furniture.
A wide variety of electric guitars are also made with mahogany, notably the famous Gibson Les Paul, which uses a sandwiched body with a maple cap over a mahogany core. The tighter grain of maple generally yields a brighter tone, the combination of woods produce a warm, rounded tone with great sustain, as well as weight, for which the guitar is famous.
If they had not gotten access to precious wood like that...
Turns out, Gibson was raided by FBI back a year ago,
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Law enforcement officials raided a Gibson manufacturing plant in Nashville after allegations the company has been illegally importing endangered wood from West Africa.
Federal agents confiscated items Tuesday afternoon. They raided Gibson's Massman Road plant and its headquarters on Plus Park Drive.
No charges have yet to be filed.
Gibson officials said they're cooperating with Fish and Wildlife agents on the investigation.
They released this statement:
"Gibson is a chain of custody certified buyer who purchases wood from legal suppliers who are to follow all standards . . . Gibson Guitar Chairman and CEO sit on the board of the Rainforest Alliance and take the issue of certification very seriously."
Gibson manufactures acoustic and electric guitars. The company also makes pianos through its Baldwin brand.
These days, there are a number of efforts to save forests. Few achive their goal. How are we going to save forests?
As a matter of fact, forests are a part of farming, as we need the broad leaves and the compost for healthy farms. This also helps rivers and the areas around river basins. Unless you care about local forests, you will need to import your PK fertilizers, or you will have difficulties.
Silent Running is an amazing film.
I am rather interested in how Yamaha, a major musical instrument maker in Japan, deals with such issues.
Deep connections with trees, initiatives as it aims to create a sustainable society...
PDF file: Yamaha CSR 2010 (Corporate Social Responsibility)
Yamaha notes: The decline of timber resourses makes it more difficult each year to stably aquire the wood materials needed for musical instruments...
And if you read carefully, they are now trying to plant trees in Shizuoka, Japan and in Indonesia.
Friday, November 26, 2010
When a rebel army swept into a town in Korea,
all the monks of the Zen temple fled except
for the abbot.
The general came into the temple and was annoyed
that the abbot did not receive him with respect.
“Don't you know,” he shouted,
“that you are looking at a man who can
run you through without blinking?”
“And you,” replied the abbot strongly,
“are looking at a man who can be run
through without blinking!”
The general stared at him,
then made a bow and retired.
from Trevor Leggett
The Tiger's Cave
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London (1977), p. 160
If you like Kurashi, use it as a tool, and use the Internet links to find what you are looking for. Stop reading what is not helpful for you. Thank you for reading Kurashi.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Consumers Union of Japan: Not Impressed By DPJ's Arguments For A Trans Pacific Partnership Kind Of Free Trade Agreement
I. e. if country A says "our milk is safe" then country B must agree, "OK, you seem to have some kind of system in place to ensure that milk from your country is safe, thus we will agree that your system is as good as ours (whatever it is) and we will OK imports of milk from your country."
From Consumers Union of Japan:
The Problems of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement
Secretary General of Consumers Union of Japan
November 3, 2010
1) The Problems of FTA/EPA
Currently, the participation in TPP is a very large political issue for Japan. We regard TPP as simply a part of the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that have come into effect since May, 2006. The ideal way forward for FTAs is what must be discussed prior to any decision about whether joining TPP is the right path for Japan or not.
Though the government notes that they regard the WTO rules as the basis of Japan’s trading policies, in fact, they negotiated Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with 12 nations since the first agreement with Singapore in 2002. Moreover, they consider FTA/EPA to be important in the new growth strategy, which attempts structural reform, as well as economic restoration nationwide.
The problem of FTA/EPA is that it provides discriminative trading rules. This is fundamentally based on economism (the reduction of all social facts to economical dimensions) carried out by the powerful nations, reflecting the gaps of power of the countries concerned. We think this will create a world where the law of the jungle prevails. It is quite different from what WTO is promising in terms of rule-based trade, a multilateral trading system such as the most-favoured-nation (MFN) status and national treatment, with considerations for diversified global trade.
(2) Direction of the New-growth Strategy
The current partner countries of FTA/EPA with Japan are as follows: Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, the entire ASEAN block, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Switzerland, Mexico, and Chile. India was included in this queue as of October 25, 2010. So far, Japan has been avoiding deals with farm exporting nations. However, Japan is still negotiating with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), South Korea, Peru and Australia. Australia is another huge farm exporting nation, and being partnered with Australia would mean having to deal with its TPP companion, especially the US, bringing hitherto unequaled effects upon Japanese agriculture.
Also, relying on the logics of export competition as a diplomatic policy means turning a blind eye to future troubles. The current FTA/EPA occurred so far in Japan only helped the strong, exporting-centered industries to survive, neglecting the small-medium sized enterprises. We are particularly concerned about the bad effect on Japan’s agricultural sector.
The Japanese government tells the farm lobby that it is considering some policies concerning agricultural matters, such as structural reform of the agricultural system, and drawing up policies to protect domestic agriculture. But it is quite impossible for any Japanese system to compete with the mega-sized farming systems in America and Australia.
3) The problems of TPP
TPP is a regional FTA started by Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, and Brunei, the countries that signed the original FTA partnership. Its unique feature is the abolition of all tariffs without any exceptions. The aim is zero tariffs and deregulation not only for manufacturing industries or agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but also for postal insurance and the public service sectors.
After the November, 2009 APEC meeting in Singapore, it was declared that the US, Australia, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia would start accession negotiations with the others and form the TPP. Clearly, the farm product exporting giants, the US and Australia, will have a large influence on the nine countries in the TPP block. Furthermore, Canada has also expressed interest in joining in the future. For Japan, this could result in a huge drop in the rate of food self-sufficiency from the current 40% to around 14%, according to government estimates, and an economic loss of 4.1 trillion yen for the entire country; specifically, estimates for Hokkaido indicates that the influence on local farm products could be losses up to 556.3 billion yen, which can be compared to the entire economy of Hokkaido, which is 2 trillion yen, if it has to compete with Australia and the US (Source: MAFF 2010).
4) Why are consumers opposing TPP?
Consumers Union of Japan is opposed to deregulation of trade, and we have persistently protested against the WTO negotiations, FTA-AP, the FTA between Japan and Australia, Japan and South Korea, as well as Japan and the United States. We also oppose the TPP for the following reasons:
First of all, we note the negative results that FTA has brought. Examples include environmental destruction and the effect on wildlife as tropical forests have been cut down for palm oil production, and the worsening conditions for factory workers as developing countries race to increase exports at the lowest possible price. From many regions, there are also worrying reports of how people’s staple food production has been sacrificed as a result of export-oriented food production. Moreover, large investments and the expansion of financing has led to deprivation and increased debt problems in developing countries. Deregulation and free trade is also the main factor behind the collapse of the industrial order here in Japan, and we consider it directly responsible for deteriorating labour conditions.
In addition, we regard FTA as a cause of the further decrease in Japan’s food security and already low rate of food self-sufficiency and the impetus to the decline of our country’s agriculture. We also fear that food safety standards will be lowered as part of the mutual recognition system that will be put in place on the pretext of removing trade barriers as part of FTA/EPA.
Now, TPP has become a problem as well in the hegemony duel regarding the establishment of economic blocks in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan has had a focus on promoting good relations with APEC and the FTA-AP, while China has taken the initiative to a FTA with ASEAN+3. It seems obvious that the proposed TPP is an attempt by the US to counter the economic growth of China and gain influence in the region.
For consumers, it is crucial to strongly request an ideal way forward for fair trade between people around the world, rather than the narrow, hegemonistic free trade interests of large exporting countries.
NPO Consumers Union of Japan
Email: yamaura (a t) nishoren.org