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Showing posts from December, 2010

Untamagiru: Okinawa Movie From 1989

Okinawa, the most southern prefecture in Japan, has been a major focus during 2010. It is close to Taiwan, to South Korea, to Communist China. Yet, there is a massive U.S. military based there, as if World War II/Cold War never really ended. It is far south in the sense of Hawaii being far west of the United States.

Oceans connect. For Okinawa, there is the culture, the music, the food, the ancient history. Japan should celebrate that it has such an amazing stretch, it reaches from the north to the south like few other countries.

Dear readers, do we really "understand" what is going on in Okinawa, and near the islands that are all the source of conflicts...

Do we not have a better set of values to solve problems?

I would like East Asia to create a model for how to solve local/regional/national problems. After all, these are people/countries that have had close contact with each other for some 2000 years or more. I think we can/should/must expect better. Okinawa should look to…

Steam Locomotive Trains In Japan

SL trains are a huge hit with local train afficinados. Steam locomotive trains (SL) have a lot of fans here, with tickets sold out quickly for novel rides on good lines in the countryside. For example, the SL Yamaguchi line has a dedicated C571 train in Yamaguchi prefecture to Tsuwano in western Japan.

The first Japanese railroad construction goes way back 140 years to 1870.

Today, the SL Yamaguchi makes the 62.9 kilometer run in 2 hours between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano on the Yamaguchi line.



The Original Yamaguchi line was a narrow gauged private railroad company. It was called the "Dai-Nippon-Kido Co. Yamaguchi" between Shinmachi and Yuda, and it was opened during October 1908. But, this small railway was closed when the government railway Yamaguch line between Ogori and Yamaguchi was opened during February 1913. Later, JGR Yamaguchi line was fully opened on the 1st of April 1923. After WW2, Yamaguchi line saw service by Tsuwano depot's class D60s, but they were repla…

Japan: Eco-friendly Projects To Get Subsidies

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From NHK:

The Japanese government will provide subsidies to 153 corporate investment projects that aim to contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the country.

As part of its emergency economic stimulus measures compiled last September, the government will subsidize domestic investment projects by up to 180 million dollars each. The assistance will target such projects as the construction of a factory that will manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has selected 153 projects as recipients of the subsidies from 285 applications. The selected projects include a battery maker's program to build a new plant and an electronics company's plan to boost production of semiconductors.

The government earmarked a budget worth about 1.3 billion dollars for such subsidies while the amount of such corporate investment projects totals about 6.4 billion dollars. Officials say the projects are expected to create about 95,000 jobs and …

The Tatami Galaxy

Kami-sama no Iu Tōri by Junji Ishiwatari & Yoshinori Sunahara + Etsuko Yakushimaru

The Tatami Galaxy is a pretty good title for the Japanese title, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikai. The 4 1/2 tatami mats of course is your regular small room, with the rice straw mats that are so good to sleep on. Yet, 4 1/2 is as small as the rooms tend to get. Been there?

OK, so that is where your "galaxy" revolves around. The Tatami Galaxy (四畳半神話大系, Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei: "Four-and-a-half Tatami Mythological Chronicles") is a Japanese novel by Tomihiko Morimi, originally published in December 2004 by Ohta Publishing. It was adapted into an anime television series by Madhouse and began airing on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block on April 22, 2010. If you have been to Kyoto University, it must seem very familiar.







And there is more. Much more:



Kyoto student is recollecting his past two years of college life. His wants to meet the girl of his dreams, which is why he joins a new social …

The Berich: Merry X'mas Mr. Lonelyman

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Two brothers from Toyama Prefecture, using local dialect for their flash videos, as they keep on making cool anime videos that take Japan by storm. They like football, but...

Oh.

They do not seem to like Santa from Finland so much...

By the way, is he down and out in the shopping mall in Kichijoji?

Genki Sudo: Boy Meets Girl

It is that Bonenkai time of the year again, when people here in Japan party to forget the old year. I thought this video from July 2010 was pretty good. Genki Sudo is a retired K-1 wrestler who also writes books when he is not performing his unique synchronized dance numbers with World Order. The tune is a 1994 hit by TRF.

Edo: What Did People Actually Eat When There Was No Food?

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What did people eat in Edo era Japan, when there was no food available? In Sweden we have the word barkbröd, the bread made of the bark of trees. It was a way of harvesting the thin layer of C-vitamin rich phloem, the innermost layer of the bark (from the Greek word φλόος (phloos) "bark".

The phloem is concerned mainly with the transport of living organic material made during photosynthesis. These are the cells that transport the sap, and movement occurs by bulk flow; phloem sap moves from sugar sources to sugar sinks. A sugar source is any part of the plant that is producing or releasing sugar. (Isn't wikipedia amazing?)

Somehow, people used to be aware of this. However, the word barkbröd has come to mean poverty, as in a memory of the past, something to be ashamed of.

Now, I find out that in Sweden, they are making and marketing barkbröd, again. This time with a label and a price tag. Photo: Authentic, 2010-made bark-bread from Blomsterstugan i Hedemora, Sweden.

Ken in ru…

NGOs: Not Happy With Cancun Climate Change Deal, Doing A Lot Of Other Positive Things

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I'm hoping you are all spending at least a tiny bit of your hard earned yen to some good causes, hopefully a non-governmental organization (NGO) of your choice. I'm sure paying taxes and the odd insurance will also be a task, but how about that extra bit to get newsletters and emails from NGOs that you trust?

NGOs have been around for a long time, at least some of them. Others are novel and (perhaps) more radical. I work for one that got its bearings back in 1969, Consumers Union of Japan. I could also recommend Kiko Network, that helped place the Washed Away advertisement in The Financial Times - and a score of others.

Remember Copenhagen, 2009?

Another Japan is Possible, by Jennifer Chan, has a long list of groups that make a difference.

This book looks at the emergence of internationally linked Japanese nongovernmental advocacy networks that have grown rapidly since the 1990s in the context of three conjunctural forces: neoliberalism, militarism, and nationalism. It connects th…

Washed Away: Japan Fails To Derail Climate Change Meeting In Mexico

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Japan did everything it could to block progress at the United Nations COP16 climate change meeting in Mexico, but others prevailed. Hours ago, a deal was forced through and "the ghost of Copenhagen" has been officially declared dead. Which is (kind of) good news, all things considered. As I noted a year ago, there was No Real Deal In Copenhagen...

These are the two main documents that are considered the outcome:

Regarding the Kyoto Protocol (pdf)
Regarding the Long-Term Co-Operative Action (LCA) process from now on (pdf)

Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 countries commited themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases: (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons).

Japan has been opposed to further emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol - and was seen as blocking concrete progress, alongside the US, that was also preferring a weak agreement.

On Friday, things looked particularly bleak. Leadership? Y…

Kokuyo Gets Rid Of Office Products That Are Not Environmentally Friendly

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Small steps are often the best way to get to a bigger result. Stationary product maker Kokuyo launched a clever labelling campaign in 2007, clearly telling consumers which products in their massive catalogue they considered "so-so" from an environmental point of view. The label, Eco X Mark, was printed in bright red and the goal has been to eliminate such items by the end of 2010.

Through hard work, they have announced that their campaign is a success, according to Sankei. Kokuyo's 2011 catalogue will have zero products that carry the Eco X Mark, compared to 76% of the stationary products in the 2009 catalogue. In the process of looking at the entire supply chain, they have not only gotten rid of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde but also managed to reduce CO2 emissions. They inspected 100 paper mills around Japan to make sure that they really recycle the pulp to the extent that is written on the label.

A number of new and environmentally friendly products have also app…

John & Yoko: Give Peace A Chance

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Hugsa ser frid. We take peace for granted, others do not. 30 years ago, I cried hearing the news that John Lennon was killed in New York City. Just could not believe it.

I was a child when the USSR invaded Afghanistan, and now, the United States of America and half of the rest of the world have been engaged in a war for a longer period of time in that country.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days. On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state.
Associated Press: US presence in Afghanistan as long as Soviet slog (AP) – Nov 25, 2010

It does not make much sense.

War is over, if you want it.

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and …

Wikileaks Cartoons

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For the latest on Wikileaks, I recommend The Guardian database. They have got the document showing how the US manipulated the Copenhagen Climate Change talks, and how China opposed Japan as a member of the UN Security Council. Wow.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.
On reform of the UN Security Council:

UNSC REFORM

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21. (C) China was concerned by "momentum" that was building on UN Security Council reform, which was "not good" for the P-5, VFM He said. China wanted the United States to maintain its pos…

Japan to Drill for "Fire-Ice"

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Japan imports almost all of its fossil fuels, including liquid natural gas (LNG). Gas represents 12 percent of Japan's energy (oil accounts for about 52%). At present, Japan buys gas from 12 countries and is supposed to add Russia to the list soon. Buying gas from Russia comes with the potential problem of Russia using the gas as a political lever as it has with its neighbors and Europe ("do as we say or we cut off the flow"). Notably, the scramble for gas is the source of one of Japan's biggest international relation problems: the dispute with China over the Senkaku Ilands.

Japan could put the emphasis on seeking sustainable alternatives while greatly reducing energy use in general (a strategy posed by Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute called "The Oil Depletion Protocol"). Instead, the focus has been to find more of the stuff.

Next year, Japan is going to start drilling in the Sea of Kumano off Mie Prefecture, not for natural gas, but for m…

A Farmer's Tale: From Nagasaki With Love

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I just loved this essay on GreenJapan.com, a website I like: Seed saving is an integral part of farming, yet these days, almost noone seems to know how to do it. As much as I like organic food, most of the organic farmers depend on conventionally produced seed for their vegetables and produce. Yes, the organic standards want farmers to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and no genetically modified organisms (GMO) are permitted.

That is all good, as far as I am concerned. But what we really need is organic farmers like Masatoshi Iwazaki, who has practiced organic agriculture and own seed banks in Azuma, Unzen City, Nagasaki for over 30 years. He is also the head of Slow Food Nagasaki.

Why is saving your own seeds so important?

In 1982, he started planting kuroda-gosun carrots, a variety native to Nagasaki, from his own seed selections. After a few years, he expanded to other varieties of vegetables and soon became hooked on the fascinating process. “True farming involves the maint…