I'm hoping you are all spending at least a tiny bit of your hard earned yen to some good causes, hopefully a non-governmental organization (NGO) of your choice. I'm sure paying taxes and the odd insurance will also be a task, but how about that extra bit to get newsletters and emails from NGOs that you trust?
NGOs have been around for a long time, at least some of them. Others are novel and (perhaps) more radical. I work for one that got its bearings back in 1969, Consumers Union of Japan. I could also recommend Kiko Network, that helped place the Washed Away advertisement in The Financial Times - and a score of others.
Remember Copenhagen, 2009?
Another Japan is Possible, by Jennifer Chan, has a long list of groups that make a difference.
This book looks at the emergence of internationally linked Japanese nongovernmental advocacy networks that have grown rapidly since the 1990s in the context of three conjunctural forces: neoliberalism, militarism, and nationalism. It connects three disparate literatures—on the global justice movement, on Japanese civil society, and on global citizenship education. Through the narratives of fifty activists in eight overlapping issue areas—global governance, labor, food sovereignty, peace, HIV/AIDS, gender, minority and human rights, and youth—Another Japan is Possible examines the genesis of these new social movements; their critiques of neoliberalism, militarism, and nationalism; their local, regional, and global connections; their relationships with the Japanese government; and their role in constructing a new identity of the Japanese as global citizens. Its purpose is to highlight the interactions between the global and the local—that is, how international human rights and global governance issues resonate within Japan and how, in turn, local alternatives are articulated by Japanese advocacy groups—and to analyze citizenship from a postnational and postmodern perspective.
In Japan, we get a bundle of international NGOs that have set up office here, like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. WWF Japan is also well respected. You probably also know of a number of local NGOs that are important in the place where you live, saving forests, helping children, doing good.
The Japanese Red Cross Society is much older, going way back to 1877, according to their Japanese website, or at least 1887, when the Japanese chapter was admitted to the ICRC. They have official sanction from the Imperial Family, something few other of the modern-era consumer-rights-protection groups or environmental NGOs tend to have. And they do go way back:
1886： The Japanese Government pledged to adhere to the Geneva Convention of 1863. The Society’s first hospital was established in Tokyo.
1887： The Philanthropic Society changed its name to the Japanese Red Cross Society and was recognised as such by the International Committee of the Red Cross on 2 September 1887. In July the Society first engaged in disaster relief by assisting casualties of the Mt. Bandai eruption.
1890： Training of nurses began at the Red Cross Hospital in Tokyo.
1906： The San Francisco earthquake and fire in April gave the Society its first opportunity to extend relief to a foreign country. The Society collected US$146,000 for the American Red Cross.
Japan got a new legislation for said activities, legally defining what non-political organizations (NPO) may do and what they cannot do in 2006. The Japan NPO Center has some more details about the progress, noting that some 6,000 NPOs have been incorporated as Specified Nonprofit Corporation since 1998, which dramatically changed the landscape of Japan's civil society...
Which is your favourite Japanese NGO or NPO? I would really like to know.
Meanwhile, The Guardian notes that NGOs like Greenpeace International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Oxfam are not too happy about the recent Cancun Climate Change results:
"The UN climate talks are off the life-support machine," said Tim Gore of Oxfam. "The agreement falls short of the emissions cuts that are needed, but it lays out a path to move towards them."
"The outcome wasn't enough to save the planet," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made."
The Guardian: Cancún agreement rescues UN credibility but falls short of saving planet
One NGO you can support here in Japan, if you think climate change is an important issue, is Kiko Network 気候ネットワーク. Ki-kou means "climate" and the membership fee is 5,000 yen per year. Apply here. I do hope they at least can get some help to update their English website.
Bank 銀行振込口座：りそな銀行京都支店 普通預金 1799376（加入者名：気候ネットワーク）
As for Consumers Union of Japan, please send 7,000 yen to get the Japanese newsletter 3 times a month, and support our international activities. Check out CUJ's history pages.
While I am at it, I also want to promote A Seed Japan, a youth organization that is very active in several fields, including Zero Garbage (if you have been to the Fuji Rock Music Festival, you know the A Seed Japan volunteers are the guys and the girls telling you where to put your pet bottles), biological diversity (yup, they were in Nagoya in October), and campaigns to create awareness around fossile fuel and climate change issues, for example at Earth Day.
Image from their campaign to raise awareness about financial transactions and "eco savings" as a way to compare the way financial institutions care about social/eco issues.
Where does the money go that you deposit in your bank?
A SEED Japan (Action for Solidarity, Equality, and Environment and Development) is a Japan based, international youth environmental
The A SEED international campaign was founded in October, 1991 in order to give youth a voice at the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), held in Brazil in June 1992.
Following the Earth Summit, A SEED Japan was established as an organisation based on a membership system.
A SEED Japan strives for a sustainable and fair society and focuses on cross border environmental problems and the social injustices found within these.
We aim to change the present pattern of mass production, mass consumption and mass waste, and eliminate the gaps between north and south, different regions, and between different generations.
In order to make these changes, the youth of today, who bear the generations of the future, have taken action.
Join A Seed Japan:
Root 5,000 yen
Tree (Students etc.) 3,000 yen
Ground (Supporting member) 10,000 yen
A major Japanese NGO that is making a huge difference is the peace group, Mayors for Peace. They now have 4,402 member cities from 150 countries and regions, as of December 1, 2010. Impressive. Based in Hiroshima, you can help them by making sure your home town or city also joins:
Send a letter from the mayor or the head of the City Council to the Conference Secretariat stating that your city supports the Program to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and would like to join the Mayors for Peace. Shortly thereafter, the Secretariat will send by return mail a certificate confirming membership in the Mayors for Peace.
(Image: Color lithograph print showing Japanese Red Cross tents and personnel giving medical attention to wounded Japanese and Russian soldiers near the Yalu River during the Russo-Japanese War in April 1904, from wikipedia)