Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tsunami Warning

Staying away from the beach today...

NHK World:

The Meteorological Agency says the estimated arrival time of the tsunami is 1 PM on the east coast of Hokkaido along the Pacific, and the Izu-Ogasawara Islands, 1:30 PM in Tohoku on the Pacific coast and in Kanto, 2 PM in Tokai, and 2:30 PM in Kansai and Shikoku along the Pacific, in the Satsunan Islands, and in Okinawa, 3 PM in eastern Kyushu, 3:30 PM in western Kyushu, and 4 PM on the coast in the Seto Inland Sea.

2010/02/28 09:47 (JST)

JMA has the map.

Update 18:45 The largest wave (or tide) seems to have been about 120 cm high in Iwate prefecture, and there are no reports of any major damage in Japan. From Chile, however, the reports indiacte that the situation is really bad.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mikael Wiehe - En sång till modet

May I introduce Mikael Wiehe from Malmö, Sweden, who has had an amazing career since the 1970s, on the "Silence" record label, and stayed very true and close to his roots, thinking about workers and people who don't have such an easy time. Live concert, winter of 2008.

Here is a song to courage (modet, an ancient Swedish word for "brave")
It is for all who dared to believe in love (kärlek or kär lek, "love play")
Even though the night
Is so long

Here is a song to courage
A little, simple song
It may seem meaningless
But I sing it

Here is a song to courage
For joy and hope and laughter
It is for all who dared to believe in love
Even though hatred is so strong

For all who build bridges
For all who let it in
For all who think man can do, what he wants

Here is a song to courage
For those who say the truth
For all who makes demands
For those who knows how difficult it is
And yet, they say, "yes"

(Chorus 2.25)

Here is a song for all of you
Who refuse to give up
It is for all who dared to believe in love
Here is a song for all
Even though life is so hard
For all who still have longings

...who demands the rights they are entitled to

Here is a song to courage
It is from me to you
A little simple song
About what I want to really say.

It will grow and spread
So take good care of it
Then it will grow and spread
In all of Swedish land

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Preparations for the Global Summit on Nuclear Security and the NPT Treaty Conference...

On February 18, 2010, Japan's Cooperative Consumers Union (JCCU) announced that they will help support sending a delegation together with Nihon Hidankyo to go to New York in May to present their vow to abolish nuclear weapons at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

The NPT has three main "pillars": non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. A total of 187 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States. But not everyone is satisfied with the progress since then.

The United Nations website used to have a special page devoted to disarmament, but it seems to have been discontinued: Error 404. Even pages about the history from 1970-1995 have been moved or deleted. I did find it here (Federation of American Scientists):


Signed at Washington, London, and Moscow July 1, 1968
Ratification advised by U.S. Senate March 13, 1969
Ratified by U.S. President November 24, 1969
U.S. ratification deposited at Washington, London, and Moscow March 5, 1970
Proclaimed by U.S. President March 5, 1970
Entered into force March 5, 1970

The Federation of American Scientists launched a campaign on January 21, 2010 to create a nuclear weapon-free world:

One of the biggest challenges our world faces this century is the erosion of global security in a nuclear-armed world. The world’s combined stockpile of nuclear warheads remains at a high and frightening level – more than 24,000 – despite being two decades removed from the end of the Cold War. Of the 24,000 warheads, nearly 8,000 are considered operational, with a quarter of those on “high alert” – meaning they are ready to use at a moment’s notice. These weapons collectively have an explosive force equivalent to hundreds of millions of tons of TNT. In a post-9/11 world, the elimination of all nuclear weapons must be a top priority for America and the rest of the world.

The Review Conference in May 2010 is important for the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which is based on the treaty. The 2009 Session of the NPT Preparatory Committee failed to deliver an agreed recommendation for the upcoming Review Conference, but even so, it has been considered successful to define the main issues to be discussed during the meeting.

More should be done to help their work be successful.

Here in Japan, the JCCU delegates, consisting of approximately 100 members of Japanese Co-ops and 50 members from Nihon Hidankyo, are planning activities while in New York, including a panel exhibition about the atomic bombings and meeting high school students and other groups. The A-bomb sufferers will give lectures in schools in New York recounting their personal experiences of A-bombing.

Co-op delegates will also submit peace-message cards collected from Japanese Co-op members across the country: "These activities are to transmit the horrible reality of the nuclear bombing as well as to send a message wishing the elimination of nuclear weapons."

Meanwhile, regional Co-ops around Japan are organizing charity campaigns to support the delegates' activities, along with collecting signatures and conducting study meetings in 2010.

I hope Co-ops around the world will be inspired by these actions and help eliminate nuclear weapons from their countries. Actually, what I really pray for, is that this will be the top news every day this year. Why do all major news outlets continue to block out news about this crucial work?

To quote Mr. Terumi Tanaka, Secretary General of Nihon Hidankyo:

We request that the 2010 NPT Review Conference will set the path and goal to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, and start multilateral negotiations to this end. Hand in hand with the anti-nuclear peace movements in Japan and of the world, we pledge to do our utmost for the success of this NPT Conference.

Lastly, nearly 63 years have passed since the nuclear weapons were actually used. Both in Japan and internationally, the knowledge about this fact is fading among people. We ask all the governments of the world to educate their peoples about the inhumanity and devilish nature of nuclear weapons through learning the facts about the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and build up the will to abolish them. Please listen to the witnesses of the Hibakusha, and pass on the Hibakusha's experiences to future generations as the legacy of the human community.

For preventing another Hibakusha, and for the survival of human beings:
No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis!
No More Hibakusha! No More War!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food Co-op: Japan's Cooperative Movement

Japan has a large and very developed alternative cooperative movement, the food Co-ops. More than 14 million people are part of one Co-op or - at some point at least - approximately 1 in 5 of all Japanese households belongs to a local retail/consumer Co-op. 90% of all Co-op members are women.

Another way to count: Nearly 6 million households belong to one of the 1,788,000 Han groups (Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union., 2003). These consist of a group of five to ten members in a neighbourhood who place a combined weekly order which is then delivered by truck the following week.

A particular strength of Japanese consumer co-ops in recent years has been the growth of teikei or community supported agriculture where fresh produce is sent direct to consumers from producers without going through the market.

Here are a few Co-ops:

Coop Kobe (Kobe based, one of the largest co-op in the world, with 1.2 million members)
Tohto Coop (Tokyo based)
Coop Net (Internet sales system)
Pal System Coop (Organic foods, since 1990)
Seikatsu Club (Right Livelihood Award-winning, very aware of global issues)
Miyagi Coop (English website, "for better life with mutual help")
Coop Kyoto (Kyoto based, with a special eco campaign since 2009)
Coop Sapporo (Hokkaido based)
Coop Okinawa (Okinawa based)
JCCU (Japanese Consumers' Cooperative Union, established in Tokyo 1919 and Osaka 1920)

After the end of the war in 1945, when the country experienced severe food shortages and exceptional inflation, Co-ops were established across Japan. In 1947, about three million people became members nationwide. In 1948, the law for consumers' cooperative union was enacted and in 1951, Japan Consumers' Cooperative Union was established.

Co-op Kobe has roots from 1909 and was inspired by people like Christian leader Toyohiko Kagawa. While also thinking deeply about the difficulties of farmers, he nurtured a desire to create a better society in the 1930s. He also founded a peace movement after WW2. He was a prolific writer and some has been translated (1931):

There is no commoner phrase in Japan than "shikata ga nai," "it can't be helped." Everybody uses it. But we must be people who can say, "It can be helped!" no matter in what circumstance we may be. A man often deceives himself by saying he has faith, and at the same time saying, "It can't be helped!" If you advise a person leading an irregular life to be a little more careful, he will say, "This has become a habit; it can't be helped," and in saying so he will consider he has justified himself. He is an example of what is called character-determinism.

生活協同組合コープ (seikatsu kyoudou kumiai coop) is the Japanese term for the cooperative movement, including the word seikatsu which means living or livelihood. Very close to the meaning - and heart - of kurashi.

The Consumer Co-operative Institute of Japan is a think tank of Japan's Co-operative movement. The CCIJ homepage provides information about their research activities.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Loss Of Biological Diversity Has Huge Economical Impact

Japan will host the UN conference in Nagoya in October, 2010 about biological diversity. That's just great. This country needs to think much more about the way it deals with natural resources, including food. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a very important instrument, not just for saving tigers or pandas (or whales). If we lose species at the current rates, due to urbanization, construction, hunting, fishing - or climate change - we will find that many economic activities also become impossible, including farming:

Losses of biodiversity "have increasingly dangerous consequences for human well-being, even survival for some societies," according to a summary of a 90-nation UN backed conference in Norway from February 1-5.

The United Nations says that the world is facing the worst extinction crisis since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, driven by a rising human population and spinoffs such as pollution, expanding cities and global warming.

Damage to coral reefs in the tropics, creeping desertification in Africa or felling of the Amazon rainforest were among threats to wildlife and so to human livelihoods.

"Many more economic sectors than we realize depend on biodiversity," the co-chairs of the conference said in their summary.

Apart from food production, less obvious sectors such as tourism, medicines or energy production with biofuels all depended upon nature and diversity of species.

From Mind Food: Loss of Species Hits Economy

But this is not all. Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, says human activities has "raised the pace of extinctions to 100-1,000 times the background rate over the Earth's history." In other words, we are losing plants and animal species at such a fast rate that many of them cannot survive in the future. How does this work? Well, once you are down to a very small population, say of wolfs, they start to inbreed and that causes all kinds of troubles such as disease and loss of natural instinct. Incest is never a good survival strategy. All animals need a certain population to survive, and if you cross that line, the population cannot manage. The same is true for food crops, and for our farm animals: cattle, pigs, chicken. We need a certain level of biological diversity within each species to ensure that they can propagate properly now, and in the future.

BBC notes that "as natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free. These include purification of air and water, protection from extreme weather events, and the provision of materials for shelter and fire. With species extinctions running at about 1,000 times the "natural" or "background" rate, some biologists contend that we are in the middle of the Earth's sixth great extinction - the previous five stemming from natural events such as asteroid impacts."

BBC: World's biodiversity 'crisis' needs action, says UN

The same is true for fish. Japan is in the news recently, not only with regards to whaling, but also for its appetite for tuna. Notes the New York Times:

The hunting of highly valued animals into oblivion is a symptom of human foolishness that many consign to the unenlightened past, like the 19th century, when bird species were wiped out for feathered hats and bison were decimated for sport. But the slaughter of the giant bluefin tuna is happening now.

NYT: The Bluefin Slaughter

Japan recently responded that the country would simply "ignore" any attempt at banning the sale of tuna. But, according to the WWF, "Japan's huge appetite for tuna will take the most sought-after stocks to the brink of commercial extinction unless fisheries agree on more rigid quotas." When there is no more bluefin tuna to buy, it is too late for Japan to start trying to save it. Cites, the international convention that deals with extinction issues, is very concerned:

"In our opinion, international commercial trade in bluefin tuna should be prohibited," said David Morgan, head of the Cites scientific unit.

The Guardian: Bluefin tuna international trade ban proposal backed by UN agency

And of course this also applies to the dugong in Okinawa. Read more over at Ten Thousand Things and sign the petition.

Back to Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and his amazing research about the state of our planet. Last year, he published a large study in Nature about resilience and our planet's "boundaries." The study points out that three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries have already been overstepped - and one of them is biological diversity. While we have enjoyed a long period of stability — known to geologists as the Holocene — we have seen human civilizations arise, develop and thrive. But the recent period has seen such turbulence and change due to human intervention, that a stable global situation may be about the end.

To avoid catastrophic environmental change humanity must stay within defined 'planetary boundaries' for a range of essential Earth-system processes, argue Johan Rockström and his co-authors in a Nature Feature. If one boundary is transgressed, then safe levels for other processes could also be under serious risk, they caution. Seven expert commentaries respond to this proposal in Nature Reports Climate Change. Join the debate and listen to the podcast.

Nature: Planetary Boundaries

I don't think Rockström's research or way of thinking is very well known in Japan, but actually, even Time Magazine seems alarmed enough to mention the study for its American readers:

In three of the nine cases Rockstrom has pointed out, however — climate change, the nitrogen cycle and species loss — we've already passed his threshold limits. In the case of global warming, we haven't yet felt the full effects, Rockstrom says, because carbon acts gradually on the climate — but once warming starts, it may prove hard to stop unless we reduce emissions sharply. Ditto for the nitrogen cycle, where industrialized agriculture already has humanity pouring more chemicals into the land and oceans than the planet can process, and for wildlife loss, where we risk biological collapse. "We can say with some confidence that Earth cannot sustain the current rate of loss without significant erosion of ecosystem resilience," says Rockstrom.

Read more:,8599,1925718,00.html#ixzz0gA9iaOwH

I have to mention the seminar about biological diversity and sustainability, to be held at IR3S, Tokyo University, on February 27, 2010, with the usual suspects (including Carl Folke at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Jane Smart from IUCN, Anne McDonald at UN University and Japanese experts, including Keisuke Hanaki, Junichi Hamada and Daizaburo Kuroda, see list of speakers here).

One thing would be to make sure that these issues are made more simple (without so many abbreviations - and less katakana) so that Japanese media and the public can understand what is at stake. I don't think Japanese journalists are idiots, but they do seem to have a huge problem with understanding how to write well about global issues. We also need to make the issue of biological diversity better known at the local level, to help local communities get legal rules to be able to fight against the destruction of their fields and forests. I have previously noted that the Satoyama Initiative is a step in the right direction*. Also, like Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre says, we need to better integrate climate change and biodiversity:

Now is the time for connection between UN conventions to be made and to bring biodiversity meaningfully into the discussion on climate change, Elmqvist said at an open session hosted by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiative (ICLEI).

Roadmap on biodiversity: ICLEI announced its intent to launch a new initiative global mobilisation activity called the Local Government Biodiversity Roadmap that will advocate for the adoption of a comprehensive Plan of Action for Local Biodiversity Action at the UN CBD COP10 set to take place in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.

* The recent Paris Declaration on the Satoyama Initiative notes that the economic aspects of biodiversity loss must be urgently dealt with:

Some socio-ecological production landscapes have been abandoned as a result of rural depopulation and ageing populations, while others are increasingly threatened in many parts of the world due to various pressures such as unplanned urbanization, industrialization and increase in population/resource demand. The loss or degradation of these landscapes leads inevitably to a decline in the various ecosystem services that they provide, with serious consequences for the local or broader communities that rely on them...

Paris Declaration on the Satoyama Initiative (pdf)

US for Okinawa Honors Prime Minister Hatoyama for Listening to the People of Okinawa & Building Peace in Asia-Pacific

From Rose Welch of US for Okinawa:

I'd like to report today that we had a very, very succesful delivery of our letter and our cake to Prime Minister Hatoyama that said "We love you for listening to the people of Okinawa, and for building peace, not bases in East Asia."

Members of Peace Boat and US for Okinawa could deliver the cake today to the Prime Minister's residence, and Yorihisa Matsuno, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary received our cake on behalf of the Prime Minister and listened to our statement.

From the moment we entered the building, we were met by a throng of press (TV and newspaper), and I explained why we thought Futenma should be closed, why we were opposed to new construction in Henoko, and that we appreciated the Prime Minister's focus on building peace rather than bases in East Asia.

After our meeting with Mr. Matsuno, the press again took statements from us (this time US for OKINAWA rep and former Peace Boat intern Jay Gilliam spoke), and they expressed a lot of interest in our point of view.

The goal is to help the peace-loving people of Okinawa and Japan build true peace in East Asia rather than more military bases that contaminate and destroy the environment, greatly disturb nearby local communities, and use up vital funds that could be better channeled into health, education, and environmental protection.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When The Saints Go Marching In, The Numbers Don't Add Up

When I worked for NHK World a couple of years ago, we often had to report news about the Air Self Defence Forces (ASDF) and their "humanitarian aid" mission to Iraq and Afghanistan, which ended in March 2009. It was first reported in Japanese and English, and the rest of us translated the segments into other languages, and then our job was to read the news live on-the-air. The Swedish, German, and Italian broadcasts have since been terminated, and I now longer go to Jinnan in Shibuya to sit behind a short-wave microphone in one of the musty old NHK studios.

But recent revelations about the "humanitarian" aspect of the airlifts are deeply troubling. According to an official report, Japan's ASDF were engaged in quite different activities that are not normally called "humanitarian aid."

Here are the facts from an article by David McNeill on Japan Focus:

In the absence of official investigation, much of the digging around in the war’s darker corners has been done by grassroots activists. Kondo Yuriko recalls her surprise that the state's democratic machinery eventually produced results.

Her three-year demand for information on how the Japanese government had spent billions of taxpayers' yen supporting a "humanitarian mission" in Iraq from January 2004 through to the end of 2008 had been partly, if belatedly, answered. And it was worth the wait.

In late September 2009 new Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi unexpectedly authorized the release of a short document under the Freedom of Information Act disclosing that about 67 percent of the 26,000 soldiers transported by the Air Self-Defense Forces between July 2006 and December 2008 wore U.S. uniforms. That is, the ASDF was transporting U.S. forces into and out of combat.

Secrets and Lies: Ampo, Japan’s Role in the Iraq War and the Constitution

Now, this is all very strange. If you have a look at the website of the Ministry of Defence, and for example their English newsletter called Japan Defence Focus, the numbers just don't add up:

Achievements of the ASDF
  • Period of activity: Approx. 5 years (March 2004 to Dec. 2008)
  • No. of dispatched personnel: Approx. 3,600 in total
  • Airlift operations: No. of flights: 821 (including 112 for UN)
    Personnel transported: Approx. 46,500 (including 2,800 for UN)

"Humanitarian aid" is a nice term. It gives you an image of good people doing good things. But we have no idea what the American soldiers on those Japanese Kawasaki C-130 ended up doing on their different (and probably very difficult) missions. The point is, they were likely military missions, not humanitarian missions. That is a very large difference.

Too bad the Japanese government and NHK decided to lie to the people, not only here in Japan, but to all the listeners around the world who tuned into our radio broadcasts as well.

(Image from a "SDF Marching Festival" held at Budokan, Tokyo in 2008)

Lake Kasumigaura Needs Organic Agriculture, But How?

“Only good things will come from the clean water that flows in the stream, when only good things are put into the water…”

Notes from a lecture by Mr. Uozumi Michio, Japan Organic Agriculture Association, on December 9, 2009 as part of Consumers Union of Japan’s seminar series about safe living, connecting food and agriculture with our daily lives.

Uozumi-san emphasized that humus is the most important organic material for livings things: “Let us create a movement to promote deep connections and affiliations with strong links between organic farmers, fishermen, forest workers, and consumers!”

Japanese people have had many historical experiences such as Ashio mining pollution, Minamata disease (methyl mercury) and serious health damage since the Meiji era. We should study and understand that the most important thing for the people is to preserve the natural environment of the forest, farm fields, rivers and the sea.

Uozumi-san pointed out that it is emphasized by the nuclear power industry that nuclear reactors do not discharge CO2, but the technology for proper disposal of nuclear waste has still not been developed. Nuclear power plants contribute to global warming by discharging heated water into the environment.

Prof. Katsuhiko Matsunaga of Yokkaichi University has shown how seaweed and algae – the forest of the ocean – can contribute to sustainable fishery and act as a large CO2 sink. Coastal regions and beaches are also important sources of biofuel.

Fulvic acid-Fe can increase phytoplankton and sea weeds by river mouths and along coasts. Fulvic acid-Fe -rich humus can protect the marine ecosystem and enrich fishing grounds.

Chemical fertilizer ingredients (N, P, K) are easily carried away from conventional rice fields, because the soil cannot preserve them. The chemical ingredients are delivered to rivers, ponds, lakes and the sea, and are also accumulating in the groundwater. Said Uozumi-san: “It is necessary to convert to organic agriculture.”

People living in the Lake Kasumigaura area in Ibaraki prefecture are using the water for drinking. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries must promptly be converted to organic practices and methods to protect the health of all livings beings.

Surplus nutrients in lakes and wetlands can increase the growth rate of harmful water weeds. The water quality deteriorates resulting in the decrease of fish and shellfish. Harmful chemicals can also accumulate in the human body.

Leaves from forests in nearby mountains can be collected and used to enrich composts and contribute to the healthy soil. Rice grown in fields with plenty of humus tastes very good!

Uozumi-san noted that reclamation of tidal flats leads to a number of environmental problems. The brackish water regions will lose their ability to function as a filter, and natural habitats and feeding grounds for waterfowl and other wild birds are lost. Concrete dams also contribute to a loss of the water purification function.

Organic farming should be expanded to avoid eutrophication and to enrich rivers and the coastal regions, and to keep N, P and K out of the groundwater. From now on, let us cooperate with consumers to convert to organic agriculture, with mountain region forestry and fisheries, said Uozumi-san.

Farm fields and rivers are enriched by humus flowing in the water originating from forests. This is good for the river basin region and the brackish water region.

Promote organic farming

Uozumi-san pointed out that humus consists of humic acid, humin, and Fulvic acid-Fe. Broad leaf trees contribute to making healthy humus and organic matter, with more than ten times as much Fulvic acid compared to conifers. In organic rice fields there are more phytoplankton and zooplankton. Also, the breeding levels of phototropic bacteria are higher, and Nitrogen (N2) is fixed.

Enjoy composting! Mix your kitchen garbage (vegetables and organic matter) with fallen leaves as a way to restore CO2 levels in the soil. We call it wakuwaku composting using waku boxes. It is fun for everyone! The Japanese word, wakuwaku, means to enjoy something and do it with enthusiasm. Elementary schools and junior high schools can let the children experience composting. This is an important educational experience to teach young students about organic farming, forestry and fishery projects, and promote a better understanding with a link to the daily food they eat.

Uozumi-san noted that a healthy mountain forest with a large biological diversity, and lots of fallen leaves that can be used for composting: “The forest is the mother of the earth.” Fields should have a large variety of crops. In Japan, projects are underway to help develop shellfish farming and oyster cultivation by planting broad leaves tree saplings in the forest regions upstream from the river basin region. This is based on the understanding that all things are connected: “The forest is the lover of the ocean.”

Conifer forests that are not thinned properly do not allow much sunlight to reach the ground. Thus, the undergrowth is not well developed, and the absorption of CO2 is bad. Use good quality compost to enrich the soil. Create warm beds for vegetables, using heat created by the fermentation and composting of leaves, straw, rice bran and other organic material.

Uozumi-san concluded: “Only good things will come from the clean water that flows in the stream, when only good things are put into the water…”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Urgenci Japan Symposium In Kobe

February 18th to 22nd 2010, Urgenci’s IVth International Symposium will take place in Kobe and the Kansai Area in Japan.

This is the first time that Urgenci’s Symposium and General Assembly will be held outside Europe. This is indeed a major change, which should give us the opportunity to foster and strengthen the internationalization of our network.

The Urgenci International Symposium will include the following three main events:

1- An Organic Tour to the oldest and most representative Teikei will take place on Feb. 18th to 19th. This will definitely be the place to be for all those who want to go back to the source of the international LSPPC movement. The International Committee members will take part in some of the field visits programmed throughout the Organic Tour.

2- The International Symposium itself will be held Feb. 20th and 21st, in Kobe Gakuen University. There will be both plenary sessions and working groups on major LSPPC (Teikei/CSA/AMAP) –related issues. There will be numerous and much expected ”stories from the field.”

3- The Urgenci General Assembly will be held Feb. 22nd in Kobe Gakuen University.

URGENCI brings citizens, small farmers, consumers, activists and concerned political actors together at global level through an alternative economic approach called Local Solidarity Partnerships between Producers and Consumers (LSPPC):

Some examples of LSPPC:

* AMAP in France
* CSA in the Anglo-Saxon countries
* ASC in Quebec
* Teikeis in Japan
* Reciproco in Portugal

Urgenci English website
JOAA website (in Japanese)
Teikei System (in English) The producer-consumer co-partnership and the Movement of the Japan Organic Agriculture Association: Country Report for the First IFOAM Asian Conference, August 19-22, 1993 in Hanno, Saitama, Japan

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seasonal Food In Mid February

I guess I didn't explain very well in the last post about the future of food, what do I mean by seasonal vegetables or foods in season (shun). Especially in winter, and mid February, you may ask, "What did people eat in Japan in the past?"

Well, if they had saved some rice or barley, that would be great, as well as some tubers (possibly, but not in the more ancient past).

As for vegetables, most people probably survived on radish (daikon) and early greens such as mizuna and nanohana (rape or canola of the brassica family). Other leaf veggies that do well around this time include chingen, but I'm not sure how common that may have been. Most likely, farmers had plenty of kabocha (winter squash) and hakusai (napa cabbage) that farmers keep in the field all winter, and harvest little by little. Gobo (a root) and negi (leech, a kind of spring onion) are also wonderful.

All this goes well in a nabe, boiled as a soup or stew, preferably with miso (fermented soy paste). Tori nabe would include chicken, but I don't think that was common. If you have saved soybeans, you could also make tofu and get your proteins. Anything else you need? Mushrooms, perhaps, especially shiitake. You could add eggs, and if you lived near a stream or a lake, probably some fish, from a satoyama region with creaks or streams from the hills and mountains. Meat - optional.

Kuri (chestnuts) were very important in winter, roasted or boiled. Some fruit, most likely yuzu, for vitamin C. Hopefully some sake, at least for a special occasion...

Photos collected from around the web:

Tori nabe (Check out the post about Kenchinjiru, a warm vegan soup from Kamakura!)
Miso soup
Kuri chestnuts
Daikon radishes
Colourful daikon radishes

She who eats is a blog with food related posts, but unfortunately, Chika has a strict copyright rule so I cannot show any of her photos of her winter vegetables, roots and leaves. Do take a look anyway, her winter comforts in the pot is terrific!

When reading about ancient Japanese history, I'm often surprised how ignorant the authors and historians are about how ordinary people lived. We know a lot about the noble people, say in Heian era Kyoto, but very little about the farmers and others. Not only that, but it seems the experts do not care. It is so much more fun to write about the splendid, dashing Emperors and poetry-writing Princes, rather than mention much about the rest of the population.

15th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol

On February 16th, the15th anniversary for the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol (2005), students of Hakodate La Salle Jr. & Sr. High School and citizens of Hakodate came together to create a sand message at Ohmori Beach.

Their crossword of "KYOTO" and "350" signifies their importance of the Kyoto Protocol as a first step towards returning to a world where CO2 levels are below 350 parts per million in the atmosphere.

For more information about the importance of reducing C02 emissions to below 350, check out, an international organization building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis. On October 24th, 2009 they organized what is considered "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," with more than 5200 events in 181 countries to raise awareness of climate change.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tokyo: Keywords For The Future Of Foods

I went to a really interesting workshop at the British Council in Tokyo sponsored by some people I know are thinking deeply about sustainability and environmental issues. The panel discussion was a bit unusual but allowed people to cue in ideas and pet topics. A good mix of unusual people joined and I had fun.

This was the first of a new series of monthly learning and networking events, The Green Leaders Forum: The Future of Food @ British Council.

- Luke Poliszcuk, eQualC Sustainability Communications
- Hiromi Matsubara, biopio inc.,
- Jacob Reiner, Earth Embassy

Photos from the event here

It was pointed out from the start that Japanese people basically did not eat meat for about 1000 years, since it was outlawed in the 680s to the early Edo era (and even then, animals like horses and cattle (oxen or cows) were too precious to eat, as they were useful for the economy in other ways). A lot of people joined the discussion to say how it can be difficult to be a strict vegan or vegetarian in Japan, as the dashi (soup sauce) often includes extracts from fish. But fish (and whales) were not part of the ancient taboo so the western-style concept of a strict vegan or vegetarian lifestyle in the modern western sense may be rather alien to Japan.

I did wonder what Shotoku Taishi and others said about food back in the 600s: It would be interesting to know more about why Japanese people avoided eating pork and beef for so long. But it may have other roots:
In 676 AD, the then Japanese emperor Tenmu proclaimed an ordinance prohibiting the eating of fish and shellfish as well as animal flesh and fowl. Subsequently, in the year 737 of the Nara period, the emperor Seimu approved the eating of fish and shellfish. During the twelve hundred years from the Nara period to the Meiji restoration in the latter half of the 19th century, Japanese people enjoyed vegetarian-style meals. They usually ate rice as staple food and beans and vegetables. It was only on special occasions or celebrations that fish was served. Under these circunstances the Japanese people developed a vegetarian cuisine, Shojin Ryori (ryori means cooking or cuisine), which was native to Japan.
Source: Vegetarian News 1998

Hiromi Matsubara said she tries to promote "green" but in a business setting, it can be difficult: "You just have to be aware of where your food is coming from and be a little more imaginative."

During the event we also talked about organic food and - there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. It was hinted that this year, Japan is about to change in a big way. Some big companies are going for the "top-down" approach and may be introducing more certified organic food during 2010. One response was that we need to look at ecosystems and consider how our food choices are affecting people and nature downstream: "Is this a problem for resources, for the ocean, for the rainforests?" Genetically modified ingredients were also mentioned as a problem, since Japan imports so much food, an several people voiced concern about Japan's low food self sufficiency and the high dependency on fossile fuels.

I liked how three Japanese concepts were highlighted as keywords to the future of food:

* Shun 旬 - the seasonal food, harvested and eaten at the prime time, the very best moment to eat that particular food
* Teikei 提携 - the direct and close relationship between farmer and consumer, based on trust, without a middleman
* Mutenka 無添加 - using no artificial chemicals or additives, getting the "pure" taste of the food

Also, don't miss the British Council E-idea Competition:

Do you have a climate change project idea for making a sustainable society? Looking for seed money funding to kick start your project?

Apply to the E-idea competition to win funding up to 800,000 yen!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Andy Couturier: A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance

The Kyoto Journal News Page is featuring a book that demonstrates the kind of quality of life that many people in Japan (especially ecological peacebuilders) want to maintain and encourage:
Andy Couturier’s A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance has just been published by Stone Bridge Press.

"Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, deeply fulfilling lives in the mountains of Japan.

Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly-designed volume is a treasure chest of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with nature, and contributing to their communities."
Read the great discussions between author and readers at the book blog here.

(Given recent discussion at the post on energy sources about the importance of changing popular attitudes towards consumption and ideas about "quality of life"--thought this would be an interesting follow-up.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Global Art Project 2010 For Peace

Jen over at Ten Thousand Things writes: In times of conflict and misunderstanding, art provides a transformative and healing power that enables people to overcome personal and interpersonal divides.

Art has also supplied the glue that bonds friendships together that may never had stuck without it. To that effect, the Biennial Global Art Project has been providing a common canvas for friendship building and mutual understanding for eight years. The ninth GAP facilitated art exchange will take place in March and April 2010.

Nominated for a UNESCO Peace Prize for Tolerance and Non-violence, GAP matches artists (professional or amateur, performing or visual, individual or groups) with like-minded people from other countries. In March, each participant creates a piece of artwork to be exchanged by mail with an overseas match, resulting in thousands of messages of peace and goodwill simultaneously encircling the Earth during the week of April 23-30th. The works of art are then displayed locally with the purposes of promoting tolerance and friendship across cultural divides. Check out previous galleries or order prints of previous art work by clicking here.

Over 90,000 people have already participated in GAP worldwide, including people in Japan:

* Children from a small, private English conversation school in Yasu, Shiga created a group artwork using traditional Japanese katasome paper. The work was then exchanged with a Visual Arts League in New York, USA.

* A group from the International Division of Mino, Osaka’s Community Education Center used washi paper for their collage in their exchange with a high school the U.S. Yoko Matsuda of Osaka said that although the members of her group had no art training whatsoever, they decided to participate because they were impressed by GAP’s message of global unity.

* A troupe of 80 dancers called the International Dance Network choreographed and recorded a performance for exchange.

* 280 people represented Hiroshima, a city which serves as a symbol of peace, reconciliation, and healing after the path of non-violence it chose after surviving U.S. atomic attack, with their submission of an art project for peace.

Written by Jen Teeter at Ten Thousand Things.

Do check out the gallery at the Global Art Project website. Such an inspiration!

Friday, February 12, 2010

One Small Nuclear Reactor Replaced By Solar Panels In Japan During 2009

Sales of solar panels more than doubled in 2009 from a year earlier thanks to government incentives, says the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association. The panels shipped were capable of generating a total of 480,000 kilowatts of electricity, 2.1 times more than in 2008.

Asahi notes that the government in November 2009 started requiring utilities to buy surplus electricity from household solar panels at 48 yen per kilowatt-hour (about 40 U.S. cents), or double the previous price. And here is the best part:

Of the domestic shipments, panels for residential use accounted for 430,000 kilowatts, up 2.3 times from the previous year. That generation capacity is equivalent to a small nuclear reactor.

It wouldn't cost that much, all things considered, to change the way we consume electricity, and make a huge difference in terms of reducing the dependency on nuclear energy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cafe Millet: Organic Food In Kyoto

Ted Taylor wrote to me and introduced me to his article about Cafe Millet, a place I'd really like to visit:

The organic food movement in Japan is by no means new. The current interest originated a decade ago with middle aged women who, watching many men of their generation succumb to cancer and heart disease, began to take a greater interest in the source of their food. What makes Cafe Millet special is that everything served is grown in the surrounding fields and gardens. This has greater benefits than simple delicious ingredients. “I feel great happiness in reaping the blessings of a life lived naturally, and not being occupied with doing business but instead, simply living. Around food we can create a community out of all sorts of people, of any age or occupation,” Juri says. “With money, we can quickly accomplish just about anything. But I find much more value in time spent in the present, with family and neighbors. Plus being able to live according to the rhythms of nature, amidst food growing all around you, it is easy to pass the time in an valuable way.”

Working together as a couple has many benefits. While Juri is responsible for what appears on the table, Atsushi provides the materials. “How vegetables are grown is important, of course, but the fact that they are organic vegetables made without pesticides is not the only important information. We also need to consider the manner in which they are sold, the environment where the vegetables grow, the methods of the farmers. We must ask questions like, ‘What nutrients are there?’ ‘What is most effective?’ ‘Where was it produced?’ ‘At what cost?’ And for us, the most important question is, “Does the food have soul?”

For directions and workshop information check their website (Japanese only). Here is a map.

Text by Ted Taylor.
Pictures courtesy of Cafe Millet.

Related article: Ted Talks.

Read the entire article here: Cafe Millet

AFP: Japan Wants To Reduce Whaling

This could potentially be a good solution to a very acrimonious debate:

Japan will propose scaling down its troubled annual whale hunt in Antarctica on condition it is allowed to whale commercially in its own coastal waters... Tokyo will present its proposal to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at its annual meeting in Morocco in June.

"We have been studying ways to reach a packaged agreement and to normalise the IWC activities," said the Fisheries Agency official, who declined to provide specific details of Tokyo's proposal. "The efforts continue today."

AFP: Japan wants deal to scale down 'scientific' whaling

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Open Thread: Toyota Recall

If you have any opinions about the recent news about Toyota's recall, here is your chance to say what you think.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Clever Japanese Protest Against US Military Bases

There have been massive protests recently against the American military bases in Japan. Note the funny protest sign - with a setsubun-inspired message:



/Fuku wa uchi! Heiwa wa uchi! Kichi wa soto!
Guamu ni Okinawa ni Nihon ni beigun kichi wa isuwaru na! Meiwaku da!
Kaette kure!!/


Luck in! Peace in! Military bases out!
American military bases in Guam, Okinawa, and Japan, do not remain!
It is troublesome! Go home!!

(Hat tip to Rocking in Hakata)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Progess On Nuclear Weapons Reductions This Week In Paris And Geneva

Atomic bombs may become obsolete, if recent developments are anything to go by. It has been a long time without much good news on this front (the U.S. infamously withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001) but suddenly, through a lot of diplomatic efforts, including by Japan, there is hope for progress.

American and Russian negotiators reached an "agreement in principle" on the first nuclear-arms-reduction treaty in nearly two decades, administration and arms-control officials said on February 3, according to The Wall Street Journal:

The deal would bring the ceiling for deployed nuclear weapons down to between 1,500 and 1,675 per side, from the 2,200 agreed to in 1991, but nuclear-delivery systems would fall more sharply, to between 700 and 800 each from the current limit of 1,600. In fact, both sides have already reduced their nuclear-armed bombers, submarines and missiles to below 1,000.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the agreement is a milestone, the first arms-control treaty to not only set goals on warhead deployments but also to establish strict limits, with verification measures to hold each side to those limits.

Then, the Paris-based conference called Global Zero concluded their conference in Paris with strong support for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. A large number of senior Japanese politicians and diplomats are voicing their support for this effort, together with statesmen and -women including Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Hans Blix, Mary Robinson, and Gro Harlem Brundtland. Full list of signatories here.

In December 2008 in Paris—in response to the growing threats of proliferation and nuclear terrorism—100 leaders from around the world launched Global Zero. They announced a plan for the phased, verified elimination of nuclear weapons, starting with deep reductions in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, to be followed by multilateral negotiations among all nuclear powers for an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons—global zero. The growing group includes former heads of state, former foreign ministers, former defense ministers, former national security advisors, and more than 20 former top military commanders.

Presidents Obama's and Medvedev's commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons - matched by growing support from governments around the world—represents an historic opportunity to stop proliferation and end the nuclear threat once and for all by setting the world on the course to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Global Zero is working on three fronts to achieve this goal: 1) developing a step-by-step plan for the elimination of nuclear weapons based on the Paris conference framework; 2) conducting track-two diplomacy to build support among key governments; and 3) generating broad-based worldwide public support through media and online communications and grassroots organizing.

Today, February 5, NHK World notes:

Experts on nuclear disarmament have proposed that Russia and the United States dramatically cut the number of nuclear weapons and called for boosting the movement for nuclear nonproliferation. A 3-day conference organized by the group "Global Zero" concluded in Paris on Thursday with about 200 experts and former high-ranking officials from all over the world in attendance. A declaration crafted by the conference says both Russia and the United States must reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,000 respectively and other nuclear powers must not seek additional nuclear deployments.

You can sign the Global Zero Declaration here, and help spread the word. I can think of no better way to start the new year - and the decade - than to have such a strong push for nuclear disarmament.

However, let's also remember that U.S. president Obama has just approved an increase in funding of some $ 5 billion, or more than 13 percent, for the National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. They will get $11.2 billion from tax payers if the increase is approved by Congress. The Washington Post has more:

In addition, the budget request provides for a 10.4 percent increase, to $1.6 billion, in funds for additional work in science and technology to enhance confidence in the annual certification of the nuclear stockpile. An additional $2 billion would go to the long-term program to upgrade weapons-complex facilities, including a new plutonium facility for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a uranium manufacturing plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In September 2009, the UN Security Council Summit adopted a resolution aimed at achieving "a world without nuclear weapons." In this resolution a provision was included which urges all nations to embrace an additional protocol developed by the IAEA for strengthening its inspection system. A strong appeal on the part of Japan was reportedly behind the move.

In the words of peace activist Kazumi Mizumoto at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, "this does not mean that Japan can simply sit idle and wait for nuclear weapons to be eliminated. If Japan desires a non-nuclear policy, the government must pursue a path of security that does not rely on nuclear arms."

For another approach, here is the proposal of Regina Hagen, currently visiting Japan:

Many proposals have been made how to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. Ususally, such plans suggest individual measures -- the so-called incremental approach with steps such as entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, conclusion of a Fissile Materials (Cutoff) Treaty, further US-Russian reductions of strategic nuclear weapons, no-first-use doctrines, lowering of the alert status of nuclear arsenals, etc. -- as steps towards nuclear abolition.

A different approach has been taken in the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, which was drafted by three international non-governmental organizations (IALANA, INESAP, and IPPNW) in 1997 and updated in 2007. The model treaty suggests an incremental-comprehensive framework that outlines a framework of measures that would be implemented in five phases over fifteen years. The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention has been introduced to the UN by Costa Rica and Malaysia (A/62/650) and was referred to by the UN General-Secretary when he suggested that as a measure leading to nuclear disarmament states “could consider negotiating a nuclear-weapons convention, backed by a strong system of verification, as has long been proposed at the United Nations” (Ban Ki-moon, October 24, 2008).

In her talk, Regina Hagen explained the main provisions of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention and described the advantages of such an approach as compared to the current nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. Regina Hagen, Michio Kaku, Agneta Norberg, Robert Anderson, Bruce Gagnon and a lot of other good people at the board of the Global Network are thinking deeply about these issues. Do listen.

Read more!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thousands gather over weekend in Tokyo to support a military base-free Okinawa

Attendees at Saturday's Hibiya Park rally wearing handmade hats symbolizing the kuina, a bird native to Okinawa's Yanbaru forest that is presently threatened by U.S. military construction

Over 6,000 people attended a rally and march in Tokyo's Hibiya Park on Saturday to reject plans for construction of U.S. military facilities in the ecologically sensitive areas of Henoko near Oura Bay, and Takae village in the Yanbaru forest. Consisting primarily of labor groups, students, peace organizations, and a collection of other activists and citizens, the crowd also called for various additional anti-military initiatives including the closing down of nuclear power plants, revision of Japan's policy toward North Korea, and the dismantling of the Japan-US Security Treaty.

Left: "STOP genpatsu (nuclear power)"

National Public Radio in the United States ran a story about the event here.

At the pre-march gathering, an older woman shyly approached me and offered me a small folded origami box containing a collection of origami Totoro figures from the popular environmentally-themed manga "My Neighbor Totoro", which she explained that she folded to express her hopes for the preservation of nature to triumph over the use of land for military purposes.Although I cannot be sure, I suspect that this gift---as well as the several smiles and thumbs-up that I received from other parade-goers---were given to me because I was one of only a handful of other obvious-looking foreigners who seemed to be in attendance at the rally.

Conscious of this need to show support among foreigners in Japan for Okinawa's self-determination regarding the military base issue, the recently established US for Okinawa Peace Action Network held its own peace action the next day across town in Yoyogi Park. ("US is pronounced "us", as in "you, me and everyone.")
Photo by Meri Joyce

Attended by people from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, the network's first-ever event included a photo exhibition and a FAQ sheet including information on social and environmental damage resulting from U.S. military bases in Okinawa, as well as countries such as Vietnam and Iraq where Okinawa-based soldiers have been sent; a live painting station accompanied by didgeridoo music; and a reading aloud of the following message for the assembled crowd:

All of us at the peace action network, US for OKINAWA, have assembled here in the park today to express our concern about the enormous burden that U.S. military bases are placing on Okinawa.

Already, U.S. military facilities occupy nearly 20% of Okinawa Island, and even the U.S. and Japanese governments agree that Futenma Air Base poses a great safety risk to nearby residents and agree it should be closed.

However, we are appalled that closing Futenma is contingent upon constructing new military facilities in Henoko, another part of Okinawa Island.

A majority of local residents in Henoko are strongly opposed to this new construction, and we can understand why. It would simply shift the problems of contamination, noise pollution, and safety hazards from one part of Okinawa to another, and would also destroy much of the fragile ecoystem of Oura Bay. This will likely lead to the extinction of the dugong from Japan, as well as yet again deny Okinawans access to part of their traditional land and water.

We want you all to take a moment to imagine Yoyogi Park being appropriated from the general public in order to construct a new military base here. Imagine this park being surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers who will threaten you if you enter it without permission of the U.S. government. Imagine all the beautiful trees being cut down to create runways, shooting ranges, and weapon stockpiles. This is just an imaginary scenario for us, but this is basically what the people of Okinawa have experienced and are being threatened with yet again.

It's time for the U.S. to engage with the rest of the world through more diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties rather than primarily military. It's time for the U.S. to stop adding to its collection of 1,000 military bases around the world. These bases simply provoke more militarization around the world and destroy our natural world. And it's time for the Japanese government to say loud and clear: “Shut down Futenma” and “No more new military construction in Okinawa.”

A petition was also circulated calling for the following:

For more than 60 years, military bases in Okinawa have threatened the safety of local residents, contaminated and destroyed the natural environment, and denied Okinawans access to much of their land, oceans and airways. Futenma, the most dangerous of these bases, should be closed and reverted back to use for civilian purposes. Closure of Futenma should not be contingent on the construction of yet another new U.S. military base in the Henoko District of Okinawa—nor anywhere else in Okinawa. We call upon the U.S. and Japanese governments to listen to the people of Okinawa who have long been protesting the burden of these bases on their island. No more Futenma, no more new bases in Okinawa, no more appropriation of land and water from island peoples for military use!

Okinawa newspaper Ryuku Shimpo ran an article about Sunday's action here.

Upcoming network actions include sending a letter to President Obama making clear the network's position on the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, and the organization of a study tour to Okinawa in the spring for Americans and other foreigners who wish to learn more about the issue of U.S. military bases and their impact upon local communities.

For further information and updates, visit the network's blog.- Post and photos by Kimberly Hughes

Yale Environmental Ranking: Japan At 20th Place Among 163 Countries

Very interesting set of data from Yale: Their 2010 ranking of countries shows that European countries and Japan score high on a number of policy issues. Iceland tops the list, while the US ranks 61st. According to the New York Times:

"Some countries that score extraordinarily well in one area may not perform well over all because of unusually lackluster performances in another. The United States scores well in forestry and the provision of safe drinking water, but its ranking is low because of poor scores in areas like heat-trapping emissions and urban air pollutants like sulfur dioxide."

Japan scores well on environmental health and better than the US on a number of issues mentioned by New York Times, like water (including water quality) and forestry, but 45th on issues like air pollution, and just 76th on biodiversity & habitat. Japan also scores very high on pesticide regulation which may come as a surprise to some, but confirms what I have learnt regarding food safety in this country. In total, Japan ranks 20th among the 163 countries on the Environmental Performance Index. There is a lot of data to peruse and the rank charts (pdf) are a good place to start if you want to know more.

Yale EPI Press Release

Monday, February 01, 2010

90% Chance Of Snow In Tokyo Tonight?

90% chance of snow tonight Monday in Tokyo, according to the Meteorological Agency. Do take care if you are out and about. The trains could get in trouble and it may become impossible to go home if you live in the suburbs. An evening spent under the Kotatsu sounds like a better alternative.

For all kids, an evening of fun is predicted, with high possibility of snowball fights ;)

More bicycle comics over at Yehuda Moon & the Kickstand Cyclery