Showing posts from August, 2010

Japan In Afghanistan?

Japan established diplomatic relationships with Afghanistan in 1931, but recently, the relationship is obviously much more complex.

SPJ's Ozawa is on the record as wanting Japan to join ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Back then, in 2007, the former LDP-led government which included Komeito - the party that we all know is strongly affiliated with Sokai Gakkai - did not agree.

As you can see on the map, Sweden (not part of NATO) - is a member of ISAF. Sweden has a long history of neutrality, which aided us in avoiding both WW1 and WW2. So, why are Swedish military forces in - of all places - Afghanistan?

Why are Japanese military forces not in Afghanistan?

Ichiro Osaza had this to say, according to The Japan Times, in 2007:
Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, said Wednesday the Self-Defense Forces' participation in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan would not violate the Constitution, contrary to th…

Update: Koshien Baseball Ace From Okinawa Was "Peace Activist"

Remember Konan's ace pitcher Yosuke Shimabukuro, who helped his team win the High School baseball tournament this weekend? Turns out he is a well known figure in Ginowan City, where U.S. Futenma Air Station is located, at the time of the 2004 USMC helicopter crash into the Okinawa International University campus. Peace Philosophy Centre, reading Okinawa newspapers, notes that he even held a speech at the Rally against the American military bases, and there is also a photo of him on the town's website:

Shimabukuro was a grade 6 student, and as a student leader, he spoke at the Ginowan Residents Rally, as representative of all elementary school students. The Rally was held on September 12, 2004, a month after the August 13 accident, and attended by more than 30,000 residents, one third of Ginowan City's residents (More rally photos from Ginowan City's website). Shimabukuro then called for a safer living environment for the residents.

Ginowan City website: One year after th…

Finding Jupiter, Uranus - And Orion

Very clear sky tonight, with some thunder and lightning back over in the Chichibu mountains. Wish we would get some rains. It is rather hot this summer, is it not?

Which means, taking a walk at night is such a pleasure. Thanks to P, I was made aware of the fact that you can easily spot Jupiter, that huge planet, as it emerges in the night sky near the full moon. He even suggested that it is possible to see a moon or two, using binoculars.

I was reminded of how much effort people in the past put into carefully noting such events.

Tycho Brahe, a Dane living on the tiny island called Hven or Ven between Denmark and Sweden, near Malmö and east of Copenhagen, made many of the observations that were later used by greater minds to help us all make sense of the universe.

Uranienborg, "The Castle of Urania" was his star observatory, and he also tried to impose farming methods, inspired by his travels, such as his journey to the botanical garden in Padua that Tycho probably visited in his…

Peace: Required Reading, Summer '10

Here are quotes and links to some very interesting articles that have appeared over the past few weeks, related to peace, Article 9, and the debates about the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Terashima Jitsuro, "The US-Japan Alliance Must Evolve: The Futenma Flip-Flop, the Hatoyama Failure and the Future" (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, August 20, 2010)

The Futenma flip-flop exposed the reality that Japan does not confront problems by considering their essential character. It confirmed, first of all, that there is no place in Japan outside of Okinawa that will agree to host an American base. At the end of May, Hatoyama requested the members of the National Governors Association to host a replacement base for Futenma, but not a single prefecture volunteered. The fact is that a base is a problem that no one wants nearby. At the same time, the pretense that the bases ensure the security of Japan and Asia goes unquestioned, and many Japanese are swayed by the argument that …

Victory For Okinawa! Koshien High School Baseball

Konan, the baseball team from Okinawa, won big today against Tokaidai in the classic event of summer, the Koshien High School Baseball Tournament. This was Konan's first final, led by top pro prospect pitcher Yosuke Shimabukuro. It is a historic win - the first time a team from Okinawa wins the popular tournament since the start in the 1920s. What a welcome piece of good news for the Okinawans. Congratulations!!
The games all the end the same way. While the winning team celebrates, the losing team is left in a puddle of tears before the players drop to their knees to scoop some of the deep-brown infield dirt into little plastic baggies — a treasured memento for the rest of their lives.
More over at the WSJ blog, Japan’s Boys of Summer Are Back

Nina Ananiashvili Dances The Dying Swan In Tokyo 1991

I was here in Japan as the Berlin Wall was no more, and soon the Soviet Union also was no more a union. Imagine how these artists felt as they were so warmly welcomed in Tokyo, Japan. Things change.

Nina Ananiashvili dances The Dying Swan in Tokyo 1991

Nina Ananiashvili dances "The Dying Swan"
(Music by C. Saint-Saens; Choreography by M. Fokine)
In 1991, a troupe of international ballet stars, headed by the brilliant young Russian ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, visited Japan, presenting a program which underscored the considerable talents of a new generation of virtuoso dancers. Program includes Le Spectre de la Rose, The Dying Swan, Scenes from Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, The Flower Festival at Genzano, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, La Bayadère, La Sylphide, Giselle, Don Quixote, and others. Dancers include Farukh Ruzimatov, Rose Gad, Yury Posokhov, Vadim Pisarev, and Aleksei Fadeechev. The 21st Century Orchestra; Aleksandr Sotnikov, conductor. Live Performance, December 3, 19…

Masaharu Fukuyama: Hotaru

This singer/song writer from Nagasaki is currently everywhere, summer of 2010, and his new song 蛍 Hotaru (Firefly) was just released on my birthday a couple of days ago.

Last year on August 9, Masaharu Fukuyama told listeners on his radio show that he is a 被曝二世 Hibaku nisei (the son of survivors of the atomic blast in 1945).

You know him of course from the NHK drama about Sakamoto Ryoma. Masaharu Fukuyama has a solid fan base since his debut in the spring of 1990 with Tsuioku no Ame no Naka (video from Harajuku and Shibuya and he is even smoking - scandal!).

He "remains active and popular," according to Wikipedia which I think is something usually said about much, much older artists.

I like this summer time love song video: a simple trip by rental car and local trains to a ryokan, a visit to a dirty beach (with a highway running along the coast line) and the general mood of the simple, fleeting joys of life.

Big bonus points to any Kurashi reader who can locate that train station…

Local Trains: Using The Seishun 18 Tickets

Regular readers of Kurashi know I like trains, and local trains are a great way to get around in rural Japan. Sure, Shinkansen gets you from A to B really fast, but you may want to see a bit more of the country than the high speed allows for. Also, many great traditional towns and historically fun places (as well as hot spring resorts) are off the much-beaten flashy-new trunk line track.

I visited Takayama over the past few days as my old friend Tom was ending his first WWOOF stay/organic farming/weeding-in-the-35 C-sunshine-experience in Gifu prefecture. We decided to get the incredibly cheap Seishun 18 Tickets to get around on a lazy, hot August day, with the occasional thunderstorms thrown in for added excitement.

The Seishun 18 is a deal where you buy five tickets for unlimited use on local trains. From Wikitravel:

The ticket is actually five one-day passes condensed onto a single piece of ticket stock. When using the ticket for the first time, the passenger presents it at the manned…

Incense In Japanese Literature

Wishing to talk a little more about incense, I wanted to share a few quotes from books, by authors you may be familiar with. It could hopefully be an introduction for others who have yet to read a novel or work of fiction by an author from Japan. Any additional suggestions are most welcome, as we are now in the Obon season, when a lot of incense is being lit, and there is time to read.

First, from The Tale of Genji, as the shining prince partakes in a peculiar Heian-kyo competition, the ancient art of knowing one's fragrances:

The time had come to review the perfumes. "It should be on a rainy evening," said Genji. "And you shall judge them. Who if not you?" He had censers brought in. A most marvelous display was ranged before the prince, for the ladies were determined that their manufactures be presented to the very best advantage. "I am hardly the one who knows," said the prince. He went over them very carefully, finding this and that delicate flaw, fo…

Ten Virtues Of Incense


Incense From Mt Koya, Kyoto

Incense is a fragrant stick or powder, lit and let burn or rather glow to give your room a special atmosphere. It is often used at temples, and has since ancient times played an important role in Buddhism, for example at Mt Koya in Japan, in the Kii Mountain Range in Wakayama prefecture south of Osaka and Kyoto.

Here I found a most wonderful shop, called Koyasan Daisido, selling many kinds of incense for different types of ceremonies. They also display fragrant wood from various countries in Asia, including Vietnam, which are increasingly rare and difficult to find.

I was surprised to discover actual twigs or cuts from branches of 伽羅 kyara or agarwood:

The odour of agarwood is complex and pleasing, with few or no similar natural analogues. As a result, agarwood and its essential oil gained great cultural and religious significance in ancient civilizations around the world, being mentioned throughout one of the world's oldest oral texts - the Sanskrit Vedas from India.

You can also buy…

Don't Suffer - Live Life Positively - Learn!

How to deal with negative thoughts and feelings is the topic of the Aug. 16 issue of President, a Japanese management magazine. They reach out to a lot of experts and regular commentators, as well as marathon-monk and writer Sakai Yusai, a Buddhist priest, and others.

Yusai Sakai: The message I wish to convey is please live each day as if it is your entire life. If you start something today, finish it today. Tomorrow is another world. Live life positively.
In this issue, I like how President goes from 「悩まない」練習 Nayamanai renshuu (Don't suffer, see it as practice, or I don't suffer, I learn) to a feature about Zen meditation as a way to deal with stress. How to go beyond the regular, droll 9-to-5 routine - or, rather, 8am-to-19pm here in a city like Tokyo. If you have talent, it may be a different story. They suggest taking Sundays and Mondays off rather than the usual Sat-Sun routine, just to get a different perspective on life. 

こんな「心理テクニック」があったのか!Konna "shinri tekunikku&quo…

Greed And Money: Clean Jokes

A collection of financial transaction jokes, found here and there. Just trying to lighten up the mood. We could need a change of pace, or a different state of affairs, or make that a higher level of consciousness ;)
A very successful barrister parked his brand-new Lexus in front of his office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he got out, a lorry passed too close and completely tore off the door on the driver's side. The barrister immediately grabbed his cell phone, dialed 999, and within minutes a policeman pulled up.

Before the officer had a chance to ask any questions, the barrister started screaming hysterically. His Lexus, which he had just picked up the day before, was now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter what the body shop did to it.

When the barrister finally wound down from his ranting and raving, the officer shook his head in disgust and disbelief. "I can't believe how materialistic you barristers are," he said. "You are s…

SWIFT Privacy Debate In Europe: Quotes

"Policy laundering" is how Dutch MEP Sophia In 'T Veld describes the weird way that countries in Europe actually wanted the United States to do the dirty work of going through financial transaction data that countries in Europe could not access.
...Member state governments are very keen to meet the demands of the US because the US will then share the information it obtains from the financial data with the European governments. Because, the European governments do not have a similar program in place, so they do not have direct access to this data. It is a bit - we call it "policy laundrying" - I mean, getting access to the data of their own European citizens via a back door, via the US.

More quotes from
UK Treasury Commercial Secretary Lord Sassoon argued that "this agreement is a vital tool in the global effort to fight terrorism. The Tracking Programme will supply leads against those responsible for planning or committing attacks in …

Did You Know - What Is SWIFT?

If you ever send money abroad, SWIFT is the Belgian company that makes it happen. Swift is "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication" and they claim to "supply secure messaging services and interface software to wholesale financial entities." As of November 2008, SWIFT linked 8,740 financial institutions in 209 countries, according to wikipedia.

Except, they may not be as secure as you wish. They have been accused of breaking privacy rules, as in this case in 2006:
A European banking organisation broke privacy rules by allowing the transfer of citizens' transaction details to US authorities, the Belgian privacy protection commissioner has ruled. EU officials may appoint an independent auditor to investigate.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) co-ordinates payments between financial institutions and has its headquarters in Brussels and offices in the US. The New York Times revealed in June that it had been p…