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Showing posts from January, 2010

Enka: Departing From Tokyo (1995)

東京発 Tokyo hatsu with Takao Horiuchi. Nice karaoke number from 1995. This was the theme song for the detective series, Inspector Hagure, that I'm sorry to say I never had a chance to watch. The song is about leaving Tokyo for the north.

東京発北国へ Tokyo hatsu kita kuni he "Departing from Tokyo, for the northern parts of the country"

時の針が昔に戻る Toki no hari ga mukashi ni modoru "The needles of the clock return to the olden days"

And there are lots of nostalgic memories and sadness and joy.

Takao Horiuchi has a website too, in case you wanted to know more about the singer and your chances to experience him live during 2010... Born in Osaka, I wonder why he didn't make it Osaka hatsu?

Japan Saying "No!" To Genetically Modified Wheat

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Consumers in Japan are strongly opposed to genetically modified foods, but the previous governments here have been reluctant to cause trade friction with the United States over the issue.

The problem is, the corporate world is running the show, with St Louis-based Monsanto Co. in particular calling the shots in Washington. The USDA, the FDA, and the USTR have key people in charge who have been more than friendly with the biotech giant in the past, notes the Organic Consumers Organization.

OCA: USDA Watch

Now Monsanto is making a huge push to introduce research and development in wheat, a crop that Japan imports from North America (and Australia) through a complex state import scheme.

The main association representing the flour millers here have told the Americans that there is no reason for them to believe that Japan will accept GM wheat.

Quote:
The No! GMO Campaign has compared the results of this questionnaire in December, 2009 to our previous one in March, 2004. At that time, we sent the…

Joy As Pelargonium Patent Revoked

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Sometimes small victories can mean a lot. I got an email this morning with the curious title, "Joy As Pelargonium Patent Revoked" - it may sound like a joke or a scam. It is not. It is the result of a long and tedious legal battle for the rights of South Africans to their traditional knowledge and heritage. Dr. Willmar Schwabe, a German doctor, applied for and was given a patent on a method to extract a substance found in the pelargonium. It is sold as a (popular) cough syrup by his company, Schwabe.

This may all have been fine and dandy if he had made more effort to share the benefits with the South Africans. It turns out that they have used the plant for a long time as a lung medicine, as part of the traditional healing practices in the region. What the Germans did is called "biopiracy" and is as old as colonialization itself, but the new patent rules under the World Trade Organization (called TRIPs) are making things even more difficult:

Nomtunzi Api, a representa…

Takae Village Sit-In Protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest, Okinawa

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Takae is a small village in Yanbaru Forest (pdf), a mountainous region in the northern part of Okinawa adjacent to Henoko. Greenpeace Japan notes that Yanbaru is known for distinct and irreplaceable biodiversity.

Over 192 plant and animal (most are endangered and near extinction) species are unique to this area, such as the bird species Okinawa Rail and Okinawa Woodpecker; Itajii (Evergreen Oak); and the Jambar long armed scarab beetle (the largest beetle species in Japan).

The sea life includes Taimai (Hawksbill turtles), dugongs, corals and tropical fish.

The United States wants to build seven helipads in this natural forest.

Yanbaru Forest. (Photo: Japan Focus: "Okinawa's Turbulent 400 Years" by Gavan McCormack)

Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog reports on the Sit-in Campaign Against US Helipads in Takae, Okinawa, quoting from Brian and Co's Blog:

Takae Helipad Campaign in Okinawa:

There are many campaigns against military bases in Japan. Usually they …

US For Okinawa - Peace Action Network Launches This Weekend In Tokyo And Kyoto

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Members of grassroots peace groups and other concerned individuals have gathered to form the “US for OKINAWA peace action network".


Closely affiliated with the Peace Boat NGO and also including members from the Peace Not War Japan collective, the network’s primary aim is to voice the opposition of foreigners living in Japan to the presence and plans for expansion of U.S. military bases in Okinawa (and beyond):
New Network Formed to Protect Okinawa, Japan from Foreign Military Bases

US for OKINAWA is a new peace action network based in Tokyo that was recently formed by U.S., Japanese, Canadian, New Zealand, Australian, Welsh, Mexican and other citizens living in Japan who are concerned about Okinawa. A deliberate double entendre, US may be read both as "us" (you, me, everyone), as well as U.S. (reflecting the proactive stance of Americans in Japan who support a base-free Okinawa).

US for OKINAWA was organized out of shared concern regarding the danger that the U.S. Futenma A…

Peace Walkers for Okinawa greeted in Nagasaki by Rally to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

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Commuters arriving at and departing from Nagasaki Station yesterday morning were greeted with a peaceful gathering of over 200 people calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Participants of the Peace Walk from Okinawa flew in from Okinawa yesterday just in time for the rally and continued their walk to Tokyo soon after it ended.
Photo taken by Hito
The Peace Walk from Okinawa is travelling across Japan for four months from Okinawa to Tokyo to raise awareness about two historical events taking place in 2010 that will significantly influence the future of our planet: the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) in Nagoya.

The walkers, who are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo by May 3, Constitution Day, believe that our future lies in the fate of our biosphere whose biodiversity is threatened by cont…

Japan: Farming In Foreign Media

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Farming in Japan is as old as the country itself, with rice paddies and veggies and tea and sake as ancient as the shrines and temples. Yet, recently, global WTO agreements and Tokyo-based free-trade import rules have made it difficult for young people to take over farms and make a living.

Foreign media noted some of these stories, and I am impressed. The stories are about people in rural Japan who have succeeded, in spite of the odds.

I try to buy local foods as much as possible. Supporting the farmers where I live is so important. Read the labels before you put anything in your grocery store bag, or make that your マイバグ (my bag)!

Here are a few examples:

The Christian Science Monitor:
Farm Women Go Online

YAMANASHI, JAPAN – Taeko Omata says she’d never even turned on a computer before attending a computer-skills workshop last summer. Ms. Omata, a mother of two, now writes a daily blog, posting recipes for homemade sweets and recounting family trips (with lots of photos). She also sells cak…

Moral Arc of Universe Bends Towards Justice: Anti-US Base Candidate Inamine Wins Nago Mayoral Election

Kyodo News reports that anti US-Base candidate Inamine won the Nago mayoral election:Susumu Inamine, who has been opposed to accepting the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station, won the mayoral race Sunday in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, making it difficult for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to implement a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord to relocate the facility to Nago.Kyodo News also reports:Hatoyama has said he wants to see the election result before making any decision on the U.S. base issue and vowed to conclude negotiations with the United States by the end of May, but prospects are dim that he can find a feasible alternative site. But this remark ignores the fact that there is no need for a "feasible alternative site."

The mayor of Ginowan, Okinawa revealed that the Henoko base was never part of the US original plan. The US always intended to move all the Futenma troops to Guam.

However, the US bowed to pressure from Japanese construction companies (backed by the LDP) that wa…

Shoukichi Kina speaks about the US military occupation of Okinawa in ANPO, Linda Hoaglund's upcoming film

Globally renowned musician and Japanese MP Shoukichi Kina and others speak about the US military occupation to filmmaker Linda Hoaglund in this clip from her upcoming film, ANPO: ANPO opens as a squadron of F-16 fighter jets thunder directly over local traffic to land on Kadena, the largest U.S. airbase in Asia. Ten miles south, the urban homes that crowd Futenma Marine Corps Air Station shake from the numbing drone of C-130 cargo planes whose novice pilots repeatedly practice “touch-and-go” take-offs and landings.

The U.S. base at Futenma is one of 30 bases in Okinawa, an island that makes up only 1% of Japan’s land mass while shouldering the burden of 75% of the U.S. military installations in Japan. That presence includes over 28,000 American troops, rivaling the number deployed to the active war zone of Afghanistan.

America’s military presence was negotiated in 1951 under the terms of the lopsided U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, known in Japan as “ANPO.” Under its provisions, Am…

Ehime Mikan Juice

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January is a great time to enjoy the many varieties of lemons, oranges and mikan that grow here in Japan.

My favourite juice is from Ehime. The Pom Juice is from 100% domestic mikan oranges.

They also introduced a brand that has no food additives (mutenka 無添加).

A very good way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C.

Ehime prefecture is one of the four prefectures of Shikoku.

Hiroko and Rick, based in New York, have a wonderful Itadakimasu blog about all kinds of issues that are close to the heart of Kurashi:

Shikoku is a small island of four prefectures. Since the island was isolated from the main island of Honshu until the 1988 opening of Seto Ohashi (Great Seto Bridge), Shikoku has developed a strong sense of community and pride in each of its prefectures. Kagawa is the place of origin for Sanuki Udon of which its people are extremely proud (myself included). Tokushima is famous for Awa Odori or Awa Dance and Tai (fluke fish). Kochi is well known for drinkers and Katsuo (Bonito...see Katsuo …

Eco Points For Chrysler Jeep? You Must Be Joking

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There are three ways to blog about this piece of news:

LOL, Jeep Patriot will be the first American car to qualify for Japan's eco point system. "Improvements" to the engine have "improved" its fuel efficiency from 10 kilometers to 10.6 kilometers per liter (25.0 mpg), according to the Mainichi. That's hardly an "improvement" ladies and gentlemen.

The Japanese government introduced the subsidy program for eco-cars in June last year, in which up to 250,000 yen will be provided for the purchase of a vehicle with a minimum required gas mileage. However, as most American automakers do not acquire product model approval in Japan, the government had decided to exclude U.S. cars from the program, due to the lack of reliable mileage data required for the screening.

Meanwhile, the Toyota Prius (44 mpg) or Honda's Insight (38 mpg) get, on average, almost twice the fuel efficiency. Jeep, an eco car? No way.

Source: Consumers Report: Fuel Economy Reality Chec…

Japan Airlines: A Cultural Assessment As We Deal With Peak Oil And Climate Change

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JAL, Asia's largest airline by revenue, has filed for bankruptcy. Japan Airlines has operated since 1951 on routes to America and also Europe.


日本の民間航空史(1945~1964)

It seems a great era is about the end. Once great airlines like BOAC, Pan Am or TWA are of course no more. Air France has merged with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Lufthansa has acquired Austrian Airlines. When will KAL, Korean Air (based in Seoul) or China Airlines (based in Taiwan) face the new realities? And what about Air China, based in Beijing?

Easy jet travel, i e convenient flights, wonderful service with meals and drinks, in flight entertainment - it could all end soon. We have taken it for granted for a long time. But with peak oil and climate change worries, the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a long adjustment to economic realities here in Japan, no wonder people are a little reluctant to travel abroad. How different from 20 years ago, when I first lived in Japan!?

"How to Fly, Japanese Style.

NHK World: Shinkansen History

The Shinkansen was not just a high speed rail system for passengers to enjoy a fast trip, but also about "pride" as Japan embarked on a new era of science and technology, recovering from WW2. There are many videos on Youtube, with narrators going on and on about how impressed the foreign visitors and transportation experts were back in 1964. Safety is a major factor, as well as the comfort. "The coffee cup didn't move, it was such a smooth ride!" and the like. Other videos emphasize the innovations, such as the ATC (Automatic Train Control) system that was used from 1964 which was a novel feature to guide trains by computers (using the state-of-the-art Packard Bell from 1972) for safety.

You get to see "Dr. Yellow" - the special 992 train that checks the routes with all kinds of sophisticated equipment. We learn that every night, a crew of some 3,000 workers are out inspecting the tracks, making sure that "track alignment is millimeter accurate.&q…

Shinkansen History 3/3

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Just how difficult is it to take a photo like the image above? Two full-length Shinkansen trains, running along, side by side at full speed. The third part of the NHK World documentary has all the details about serious trainspotting photography in Japan.

Green Tea: Food For Thought

At my Zen temple in Okayama, seveal years ago, I remember the biting cold of mid-January. It was truly terrible. Early mornings as we woke up, as the bell was ringing at 4:40am, were just hell. Then, around 6am or in late January close to 7am, the sun would rise. We had a pretty solid routine each morning, just to get through that. Going along, doing zazen, running, sitting, eating, working in the garden or cleaning the buildings. Suddenly it was noon and time for lunch.

The tea routine was a very important part of each day.

Especially, I remember how things slowed down after lunch. The roshi would meet with guests in the small tea room. He was really such a pro at whipping up the green teas for each guest. That is his way of meeting each person, face-to-face, cup-to-cup.

We didn't always see him like that - so relaxed, happy, just being himself.

But it was really hard. Kitchen duty meant you were serving rice and miso soup to the entire sangha. The person in charge of the kitchen …

TV Asahi's Eco Meshi Food Program About Oden: Is Shark Meat "Eco"?

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TV Asahi has a food program on Sunday evenings at 23:00 called Eco Meshi (エコめし) as part of their "Earth Restaurant" series. Eco of course is the term used for anything connected to environmental matters, while meshi means food in a more casual reading of the 飯 kanji also found in the polite word gohan (ご飯).

Several of their other programs have been educational and fun but last night they introduced oden, and especially hanpen, as an environmentally friendly original Japanese food.

Hanpen, as shown by TV Asahi, is a processed product made from fish meat, and the January 17 show showed how it can be made from shark meat and other parts of the shark, mixed with sugar and starch added. The square patties are white and very tasty - if shark meat is your thing. Many people will probably have difficulties understanding how shark meat can be considered an eco product.

Shark, or same 鮫 is caught accidentally when the huge fishing fleets angle for tuna (maguro 鮪) on long lines with bai…

6 Minutes To Midnight

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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which include some 19 Nobel laureates, has moved the symbolic "minute hand of the doomsday clock" back from five to six minutes to midnight:

We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons. For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable.

It is 6 minutes to midnight

Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a monthly periodical that originated at the University of Illinois, has updated its "Doomsday Clock". It explains the clock's purpose thus:

The Doomsday Clock conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction – the figurative midnight – and monitors the means human…

China: Really Fast Trains With Japanese And German Technology

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China is emerging as the next big really fast train center, with a new line opened on the Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway line, going north-south, in late December 2009.

This is based on technology from Japan and Germany. The trains are now assembled in China, but if you have ever travelled from Tokyo to Nagano, you will recognize the CRH2 as the E2-1000 Shinkansen, and the CRH3 is based on the Siemens Velaro.

China has ordered the Kawasaki/Hitachi made trains based on my favourite, the E2-1000 series design, renamed it as CRH2, becoming the second country to import Japan's amazing Shinkansen trains after Taiwan's 700T series which began commercial operation in 2007 (there are some interesting modifications, such as more powerful motors to allow the trains to run at 300 km/h and as the Taiwanese railway infrastructure is based on the European system, tunnel diameters are larger than in Japan, allowing for a shorter engine nose length without causing a degradation in the aero…

Consumers Union of Japan: In Memory of Urano Hisako

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This is very personal. I had the joy and the privilege to work closely with Urano Hisako at Consumers Union of Japan over the past five years.

Mizuhara Hiroko writes:

Ms. Urano Hisako, who supported the international activities over the past 20 years at Consumers Union of Japan, has passed away on 2009 December 14. She was only 60 year old. I first met Urano-san as Consumers Union of Japan planned its 20th anniversary in August 1989: When we started the work to prepare for the large Asian Pacific Consumers’ Conference (APCC) held in Omiya, Japan, she began working as a volunteer at our office. Urano-san, together with almost 50 other volunteers who were fluent in English, contributed to the success of the APCC, coordinating this large meeting as we welcomed 20 guests from countries in the Asia-Pacific region...

Consumers Union of Japan: History 1969-

Salvador Dali, Hiroshima and Okinawa

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Spanish artist Salvador Dali was deeply terrified by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and his exact, detailed style was very much suited to show the horror of the A-bomb, which America tried to keep a secret by classifying photos and descriptions until the end of the occupation of Japan in 1952. The Bureau of Atomic Tourism has more details if you want to know more about the legacy of nuclear weapons in the U.S.

Even today, do people understand the real horror of atomic bombs? If not, then, why not?

Dali's paintings are on display in Fukushima prefecture, where you can view Melancholy Atomic and Uranium Idyll and The Three Sphinxes of Bikini at the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art.

Long YouTube video from the Nihon University (Nichidai) channel with an interview featuring Morohashi Eiji, the son of the founder of the unique museum, and scenes from the Morohashi Museum (29:20):

#271美術館への誘い ダリの世界

Is there a hidden message in Dali's Bikini hydrogen bomb painting from 1947?…

Sunk In Rethoric: The Ady Gil

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James over at Japan Probe notes:

Being no expert on ships, I can’t really say for certain which vessel did the “ramming” in this case. However, judging from the wake coming from the back of the Ady Gil, it is very hard to believe Sea Shepherd’s claim that the vessel was “motionless” and “dead in the water” at the time of the collision.

On Friday, NHK World says this (adding that "crossbow arrows" have been found near the Ady Gil):

The anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says its high-speed boat that was involved in a collision with a Japanese whaling vessel has sunk in Antarctic waters.The Sea Shepherd's Ady Gil had its bow torn off in the collision with the Japanese whaling fleet's Shonan Maru No.2 on Wednesday.

Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson said on Friday that the Ady Gil was abandoned while being towed by another of his group's vessels toward a French Antarctic research base. He said the organization's remaining 2 ships are continuing their pursu…

Zen: Shodo Harada Roshi In America

"We have zazen, we have this practice that is designed to dig in, and dig out that ego. To find that place where it isn't happening, to get rid of that filter. To cut away, shave away, dig into the deepest possible roots, and find that place where the water of clear mind is flowing freely."

Update by Ten Thousand Things:

In his lecture, Shodo Harada concludes that the only way out is for individuals to purify themselves of their narrow egos and tap into a liberated mindset that sees the interconnections between every person with each other, our planet, and the universe:

This is something that everyone understands very easily. Everyone is capable of sensing the situation in the world today. There's no one who cannot sense that very deep despair that everyone feels.

But it's not a question of only fixing what is external. It's a question of also going within and taking care of the egoistic source of these external problems.

Today there are a lot of thing…