Monday, August 30, 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 the claims of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition, which has rejected his proposal.

During a news conference, Ozawa pointed out that Japan is a signatory of the U.N. and activities authorized by that body, including the ISAF, should not, therefore, be viewed as unconstitutional.

"Japan became a member (of the U.N.), promising to answer to its every possible demand, to give its full cooperation," Ozawa said. If joining the ISAF activities is unconstitutional, "that would make (Japan) a liar. That would mean that Japan's Constitution and the U.N. Charter are inconsistent.
What he actually may have wanted is to put an end to the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom-Whatever-Maritime-Interdiction-Operation, which was not authorized by the United Nations.

Top photo from janjan 撮影:上下とも筆者
Map from mapsof.net



Swedish TV documentary from 2007: Swedish Women in the Army (English Subs) - Part 1/3 - with unique insights if you ever wanted to be a part of the action in rural towns in northern parts of a country that has been repeatedly attacked by every major power...

I am having difficulties establishing just who Imperial Japan would have had those close diplomatic relationships back in 1931. Wikipedia has this:
Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan (1885?-1953) was a political figure in Afghanistan. He was the uncle of Mohammad Zahir Shah and the elder brother of Sardar Shah Mahmud Khan and Sardar Shah Wali Khan.[1] Hashim put into effect the policies already orchestrated by his brothers. Internal objectives of the new Afghan government focused on strengthening the army and shoring up the economy, including transport and communications. Both goals required foreign assistance. Preferring not to rely on the Soviet Union or Britain, Hashim turned to Germany. By 1935 German experts and businessmen had set up factories and hydroelectric projects at the invitation of the Afghan government. Smaller amounts of aid were also offered by Japan and Italy. He governed Afghanistan as Royal Prime Minister from November 14, 1929 until May 1946.


Japanese people here who pay attention to Afghanistan affairs are more likely to remember the epic photo of Kazuya Ito.



Michael Penn: The Slaying of Ito Kazuya: Japan in Afghanistan

Ito had gone to Afghanistan as an agricultural specialist for the Peshawar-kai, a Fukuoka-based aid organization whose long experience in the region dates back to 1983. His main work was to identify and grow crops such as sweet potatoes, tea and hay that could take thrive in the barren Afghan soil that would thrive in the local area. This was part of the effort to reduce dependence on the poppies used to make opium and heroin and boost villagers’ incomes. As one of his Afghan colleagues noted, “He wanted to expand legitimate agriculture.” He also worked on constructing a twenty mile irrigation canal from the Kunar river to a desert area. By all accounts, Ito adapted very well to life in Afghanistan, gaining a working command of the Pashtun language and seeming comfortable in his surroundings. His Japanese friends began to think that Ito might spend the rest of his life in Afghanistan. That indeed became the case, although not in the sense they intended.

This just breaks my heart. The small NGO that Ito joined and wanted to help has a website (of course) and goes back to work that Dr. Tetsu Nakamura was doing in the region since 1983, mainly on Hansen disease patients and malaria:

In 1984, Dr. Nakamura was assigned to Peshawar Mission Hospital in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan. At that time the Hansen's disease ward of the hospital was treating patients without sufficient medical equipment and without adequate facilities for carrying out operations.

In 1986, we began to treat Afghan refugees who had fled to Pakistan. Later, in December 1991, we opened a satellite clinic in Dara-e-Noor in the north-eastern mountainous area of Afghanistan as a base for further work in the country. This was our first clinic in Afghanistan. Subsequently, two more clinics were built in the north-eastern regions of Afghanistan. Since then we have provided medical services to the people in villages in mountainous regions, who previously had no access to medical institutions.

After an outbreak of malignant malaria hit the Dara-e-Noor area in 1993, we launched a large-scale fund-raising campaign in Japan to purchase anti-malaria drugs. Thanks to more than 20 million yen of donations from people throughout Japan, as many as 20,000 patients were saved.




Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who heads a nongovernmental organization that helps with recovery efforts in Afghanistan, has described his life and activities in the area for the past 25 years in a recently-released book.

Nakamura, 63, leads Peshawar-kai, which has been actively engaged in reconstruction activities in Afghanistan including digging wells and building water channels.

In the book, titled "Hito wa aisuru ni tari, magokoro wa shinzuru ni taru: Afghan to no yakusoku" (All people need is love, all sincerity needs is faith: A promise with Afghanistan), Nakamura tells his interviewer, nonfiction writer Hisae Sawachi, about several little-known private episodes, including those about his son, who died from illness, and his parents.

The Mainichi: Japanese doctor discusses 25 years of humanitarian work in Afghanistan in new book

Thursday, August 26, 2010

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 the crash, what should Okinawa do now? August 7, 2005 Symposium on Futenma Base Problems

See this previous post for more information and photos about the helicopter crash in the summer of 2004.

Peace Philosophy Center

It would be great to see an interview with Shimabukuro that asks some intelligent questions about his feelings not just as a young baseball player but also about how he feels about Okinawan issues today!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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 journey to Italy in 1575...

At the age of 13, Tycho was sent to the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. A solar eclipse 1560 awoke his interest in astronomy, and he began reading books on the subject. He attended the universities of Leipzig, Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel to study law, humanities and science. In Leipzig he started astronomical studies without permission, but was soon forgiven after demonstrating successes. He found that old observations were very inaccurate, and started to design methods and instruments for high-precision measurement of positions of celestial bodies.
I think we need more such people, right now.

Image of Jupiter and Uranus from Jodrel Bank Centre for Astrophysics:

This month, Uranus lies a few degrees to the right of Jupiter. On the first of August, Uranus, at 5.8 magnitude, is close to a 6.3 magnitude star which lies between it and Jupiter some 3 degrees to its lower left. As the month progresses, Jupiter closes on Uranus and at month'e end is just 1 degree 45 arc minutes to its lower left, just below the 7th magnitude star and so forming a right angle triangle. Given a small telescope you may resolve the 3.6 arc second greenish-blue disk. With Jupiter on the left, both will be seen together in a binocular field of view and Uranus will be the brightest object in the field after Jupiter.


Urania, the Greek godess of astronomy, was (according to wikipedia) the "mother of the musician Linus. She is usually depicted as having a globe in her left hand. She is able to foretell the future by the arrangement of the stars. She is often associated with Universal Love and the Holy Spirit. She is dressed in a cloak embroidered with stars and keeps her eyes and attention focused on the Heavens. Those who are most concerned with philosophy and the heavens are dearest to her."

Urania, o'er her star-bespangled lyre,
With touch of majesty diffused her soul;
A thousand tones, that in the breast inspire,
Exalted feelings, o er the wires'gan roll—
How at the call of Jove the mist unfurled,
And o'er the swelling vault—the glowing sky,
The new-born stars hung out their lamps on high,
And rolled their mighty orbs to music's sweetest sound.

—From An Ode To Music by James G. Percival

Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India, is another place where stars and planets and the universe were carefully obserrved.

Architecture Science has a pdf file, by Berry Perlus, Architecture in the Service of Science

Imagine if Tycho Brahe and Jai Singh II had met...? Frankly, I cannot understand what actual observations or scientific knowledge was aquired at Jantar Mantar. Comments, please!

Meanwhile, still on Planet Earth, back here in Japan, you can always be certain that there is much more to explore.

The three stars of Orion have been an inspiration here, for a long time. Mitsu Boshi are sometimes called San Jou Sama, and fishermen sometimes mention Sumiyoshi.

How about Yowatashi Boshi; Stars that Pass in the Night Japan's Cultural Heritage Reflected in the Star Lore of Orion by Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara October, 1999. A further revised version appears in The Kyoto Journal, Issue 48, July, 2000.

Agricultural associations discussed so far have generally been related to the setting of Orion during early stages of annual rice cultivation. The rising of the three belt stars in the East was also an agricultural symbol and was allied with the end of the period of rice cultivation. Hara (1975) records that in many rice farming areas, the stars were called Haza no Ma, a term that refers to a three pole stand that is used in the field to dry rice. In the early phases of autumn, when Orion is no longer seen at sunset but rather rising earlier and earlier each night, farmers looked to the belt stars and saw them as a symbol that "only Hasa are left in the field", the harvest of rice being over.

While incorporation of a lunar calendar and later complete adoption of a Gregorian calendar in post Meiji era Japan led to more precise methods for determining times for planting and harvesting, many old farmers in rural agrarian areas still use methods that are centuries if not millennia old. According to Uchida (1973), the following time piece is still recited in such areas: "When Mitsu Boshi are one fathom high; it's time to go to bed. when Mitsu Boshi are in the middle, it's the middle of winter; and when Mitsu Boshi lay, it's time to wake up." This of course, refers to the vertical alignment of the three belt stars as they rise in early Fall, the angular position in the middle of the Southern sky in Winter, and the horizontal visual alignment in the West in Spring. The metaphors are related to (respectively): Fall harvest, Winter rest, and Spring planting.

Star lore related to fishing is somewhat more rare than that which is related to crop cultivation. It was primarily through cooperation of local farmers along with their local ancestral kami or gods in the production of rice that early Japanese rulers were able to fulfill their purpose of unifying the country under singular rule. Still, incorporating the legends of families of fishermen was an important part of this unification, and a mix of agrarian and fishing lore is sometimes found (See Nojiri, 1988).

In some fishing areas, the three belt stars are called Kanatsuki which is a name given to a spear with three prongs used in fishing (Nojiri, 1973; Uchida, 1973). We can note some similarity in pronunciation of Karasuki (plow) and Kanatsuki. As a sign, Kanatsuki was used as a time piece for favorable catches. When prospects for such seemed to be particularly good in the Fall, old fishermen were often heard to say "Let's wait for Kanatsuki" before going out for the evening's catch.




Astronomy in Japan: Science History Culture



Pentax, the camera company, has a lot of details if you are interested in photography of the stars...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

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 the continued presence of the bases is unavoidable, given the threat from China and North Korea. In short, one must acknowledge that Japan exists as a country by the warped reasoning that "We don't mind the bases as long as they are in Okinawa."

I'd like to touch here upon the Japanese media, which by all rights should provide the citizens with some perspective on the issue. The waffling of the nation on the Futenma problem is shared by the Japanese media. I went back and read newspaper commentaries on foreign policy disputes in the past decades, including the San Francisco Peace Conference, the Bandung Conference, and the 1960 revision of the Security Treaty. The deterioration of the intellectual quality of the writing is undeniable. One can only conclude that journalists have abandoned the pursuit of the essence of problems.

He also notes:

Now is not the time for self-satisfied parroting of the "favorable US-Japan relationship," premised on the US military bases as they are today. What we need to do is achieve stability in East Asia while reducing the US bases, making the US-Japan alliance evolve into something truly deserving of trust.
As for Article 9, David Rothauser, a film producer, has penned an interesting piece that has appeared in CSM and Tokyo Progressive, titled "Article Nine, America’s Gift to Japan"

By embracing [the Peace Constitution] in 1950 and saying, "No," to American coercion, Japan took the first step in becoming a world leader for peace. Now Japan has a golden opportunity to inspire other nations to embrace the idea of peace as an organizing principle where non-violence and peace become one and the same. Where the dynamics of non-violence and peace become ingrained in every person's daily activities, where the spirit of Wa becomes the dominant force in every society. Japan had the power to say, "No," in 1950. Now she has the power to say, "Yes!" to independence from the illusion of American security. To say, "Yes!" to the abolition of nuclear weapons. To say, "Yes!" to Article Nine and the Peace Constitution. By so doing Japan will become a beacon of hope to the world. Her beacon will unite instead of divide.

May we reflect a moment to the time (1945) when weapons of mass destruction were first introduced. Atomic warfare changed the face of war forever. Today nations having nuclear weapons possess the capability of igniting a nuclear holocaust that threatens all life on the planet. Conventional weapons are obsolete. The enemy is as much the tiger behind the gates as the tiger at the gates.
But he also notes:

It is not Japan alone who needs Article Nine. It is the world. It is here that Japan may play a major role. By keeping Article Nine in her Constitution she will have displayed the strength, vision and courage that America currently lacks. Japan's fortitude will serve as an impetus for America to live up to its own ideals. To lead in this fashion will take immense courage, a unique vision for the future of humankind and the will to break the chains of war as a means to an end.
Turn to Ten Thousand Things from Kyoto for a post about the Chamorro scholar, writer, and visual artist Michael Lujan Bevacqua, who visited the 2010 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (also found on www.guamology.com):

This Wednesday my column will be about my recent trip to Japan where I attended the 2010 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, and gave many speeches in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on current events in Guam, especially surrounding the US military buildups here. While at this conference I got to hear so many stories from so many different countries, especially those from places which have been negatively affected by the use, storage or testing of nulcear weapons. My column tells the story of Paul Ahpoy, an elderly man from Fiji who was a sailor in the British Navy, who along with hundreds of other sailors, witnessed numerous nuclear tests in Kiribati. Like all other communities damaged by nuclear weapons, Paul and other veterans were beset by numerous invisible and unknown diseases, which would riddle their body with cancer, make them sterile, and even be passed down to their children. (...)

These tests were not conducted on the mall in Washington D.C., in Piccadilly Square in London or Les Champs Elysees in Paris. They were conducted in faraway, isolated islands where even if things went horribly wrong, who would really be affected? A few thousand people which as Henry Kissinger noted, no one gives a damn about anyways? Some sea turtles and some coral and coconut trees? In other words, these were places which matter precisely because they do not matter. The lesson here is that while geography is strategically important in today’s globalized world, so is smallness and invisibility.

While Paul was giving his speech, I had a copy of his prepared remarks in front of me. After remembering those words about the great service for humanity those tests meant, he choked up and he quickly ended his speech. I looked down at the text to see what he had left to say. It was just a single sentence, but perhaps the most important one considering his tragic tale. The last line of his speech was: “I now thank you all for sharing with me and hope that our combined efforts to remove forever all nuclear weapons from our planet becomes a reality, so our children may live in peace.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was some of what has moved me this summer during very hot and humid days, here in Japan. But to end this post, I share with you Noodles (top) by Gwen Muranaka and Zero Gravity by Roger Dahl at The Japan Times, for a little bit of laughter at the end of the day:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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, 1991.

Hokkaido, northern Japan, has so many amazing lakes, where swans gather and rest... as they migrate. Lake Toya, Lake Utonai, Lake Tofutsuko, Lake Kussharo...



Video: Dutch wildlife & nature photographer Marsel van Oosten.

As we try to make a living, making money, paying this tax and that, doing the best we can: there is also the insight that we are so terribly poor. We just have no idea how to manage. Human beings, hard at work, we make all the effort, but we just have no clue how to survive on this beautiful planet. Why is that?

At the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Hokkaido, migrating birds know where to go, since ancient times.



Photo: Pixelchrome

Monday, August 16, 2010

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 from 1.52!

Super 8 obviously used because we are all so tired of digital?



In 2005, his song Tokyo was a hit, nice slow three-beat tune, don't you agree?

The Hotaru tune is also the theme song for another TV drama this summer, called 美丘 Mioka.



But, back to the NHK drama about Ryoma:
The popularity of Ryoma Sakamoto, who played a key role in toppling the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, is rising thanks to the influence of NHK TV's "Samurai Drama: Ryoma-den."

The scene of the drama has shifted to Nagasaki, a port city with an exotic atmosphere. Ryoma frequently visited the city toward the end of the Edo Period and the beginning of the Meiji Era. It may have been a comfortable place for the samurai, who attached more importance to the future of Japan than the benefit of his clan.

"Nagasaki is my hope," a line from a novel by Ryotaro Shiba.

The Mainichi: NHK's samurai drama set in colorful Nagasaki boosts Ryoma Sakamoto's popularity

The victory of Satsuma and Choshu, or the ancient clans in southern Kyushu and Yamaguchi, against the Tokugawa bakufu in Edo (Tokyo), was the trigger to start the process of modernizing Japan as a nation on par with other powers. This is tied in with Sakamoto Ryoma and his clear thinking. He was a young man who realized that in order to compete with the developments in industry and technology, especially guns and naval power, the Japanese people had to modernize to avoid being colonized or carved up into "spheres of influence" like China or India in the 19th Century: something Japan was not going to have to suffer.

Kōchi Airport has been renamed to the Kōchi Ryōma Airport in his honor. You can visit the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum 坂本龍馬記念館 (English website) in Kōchi, Shikoku, where he was born.

Why pop star Masaharu Fukuyama in the role as Ryoma?

"I wondered why they chose me," Fukuyama admitted at a news conference in November. "I had this image of Ryoma as a very rough-hewn guy, and I thought my image was different to that."

Producer Suzuki explained that, "This time, it's a cheerful, down-to-earth Ryoma that we wanted to depict," suggesting that this would be easier for today's viewers to identify with — at least at the outset. As the series progressed, he continued, Fukuyama's clean image would be considerably "roughened up."
The Japan Times: Legendary, dirty samurai gets makeover

Fukuyama says Ryoma's greatest asset was his willingness to try anything. "I initially had this idea of him as a bulldozer, a man with a one-track mind who would barnstorm through whatever obstacles got in his way," Fukuyama said. "But, in fact, he was a sponge. He absorbed everything and then extracted only the very best ideas."

This is the lesson the singer says he hopes to take from this yearlong acting assignment. "When I'm busy or I'm working a lot, I have a tendency not to listen to people," Fukuyama admitted. "Ryoma has taught me that learning to absorb everything and having a healthy curiosity is important."

Producer Suzuki's objective is more Ryoma-esque in scope.

"The lesson to learn from Sakamoto Ryoma is that anyone — even a nobody from the country — can actually change the course of history," he said. "There are a lot of things about Japan today that also seem unchangeable. I hope this new Ryoma will demonstrate that they can in fact be changed."


Sunday, August 15, 2010

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 ticket gate, and the employee on hand stamps the ticket, making it valid on every non-express JR train until midnight. After midnight, the ticket becomes invalid unless it is stamped again. The ticket has spaces for five stamps, after which it is invalid.

More than one person can travel on the same ticket: each of the five spaces on the ticket allows one person to ride for one day. For instance, if two passengers were using the ticket, the ticket would be stamped twice; at the end of the day, both passengers could use the ticket for another day and have one stamp space left over, or one of the passengers could use the ticket for three days. Likewise, a group of five could travel for one day on a single ticket: the cost would be only ¥2300 per person, which, for example, is more than 70% off of a regular one-way fare between Tokyo and Osaka.

We started out from Takayama and went south on the JR Takayama Line, which is truly scenic. You can go the other way too, starting in Nagoya, and the track passes green hills, rice fields and Miyagawa river. The sweeping curves, the bridges and all the tunnels must have required a lot of engineering work too, and credit goes to every worker who made this possible. The line was completed in 1934 and I personally think it must rank as one of the world's top ten rail trips. Then we changed at Mino Oota, and got on the Taita Line, heading east for Tajimi. Then the next line to look for is the JR Chuo Line by the gorgeous Kiso River, towards Matsumoto in Nagano prefecture...

However, at Shiojiri station, we were in a bit of a hurry, hoping to make it back home that night, not wanting to miss our last connection. But, because of the heavy rain, the Kiso Fukushima Line was delayed and we were stuck for an hour at Nagiso station, which was a nice break, but... This is where the station masters at Shiojiri really came through for us. They managed to figure out a way for us to combine the Seishun 18 ticket with - paying only 2,600 Yen extra - the express train back towards Tokyo. We didn't want to pay a whole lot and use the express train all the way back, say to Shinjuku, but this saved our skins and we even managed to catch an earlier connection and made it back home on time in style. All thanks to the quick thinking at Shiojiri station!

And so it goes.

Using the 18 Seishun makes all of this possible at a real bargain, plus you don't have to stop and purchase tickets at each place where you may need to hurry to catch the next connection.

Photo: Poster from the JR Seishun 18 official website

Why not use the more famous JR Rail Pass, you may ask. Good question! For those of us who live and work in Japan, we actually cannot purchase the JR Pass, because we do not have Tourist status stamped in our passports. Not exactly logical, since we are also cash-paying tourists with a yen for travel around this country. But that's how it goes. If you want a fun, cheap train trip holiday, get the Seishun 18 Ticket instead!

Japan National Tourist Organization has greatly improved its website, with maps and helpful train guides. Do have a look for inspiration. Here is their page for Hida Furukawa, a small town we visited on my birthday last week.

More trains on Kurashi!

Even more trains on Pacific Islander: Peekaboo Fuji-san from a recent trip to Koya-san in Wakayama prefecture

Monday, August 09, 2010

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, for the finest perfumes are sometimes just a shade too insistent or too bland. Genji sent for the two perfumes of his own compounding. It being in the old court tradition to bury perfumes beside the guardsmen's stream, he had buried them near the stream that flowed between the main hall and the west wing. He dispatched Koremitsu's son, now a councillor, to dig them up. Yu~giri brought them in. "You have assigned me a most difficult task," said the prince. "I fear that my judgment may be a bit smoky." The same tradition had in several fashions made its way down to the several contestants. Each had added ingeniously original touches. The prince was faced with many interesting and delicate problems.

Despite Asagao's self-deprecatory poem, her "dark" winter incense was judged the best, somehow gentler and yet deeper than the others. The prince decided that among the autumn scents, the "chamberlain's perfumes," as they are called, Genji's had an intimacy which however did not insist upon itself. Of Murasaki's three, the plum or spring perfume was especially bright and original, with a tartness that was rather daring. "Nothing goes better with a spring breeze than a plum blossom," said the prince. Observing the competition from her summer quarter, the lady of the orange blossoms was characteristically reticent, as inconspicuous as a wisp of smoke from a censer. She finally submitted a single perfume, a summer lotus-leaf blend with a pungency that was gentle but firm. In the winter quarter the Akashi lady had as little confidence that she could hold her own in such competition. She finally submitted a "hundred pace" sachet from an adaptation of Minamoto Kintada's formula by the earlier Suzaku emperor, of very great delicacy and refinement. The prince announced that each of the perfumes was obviously the result of careful thought and that each had much to recommend it.

And here is Yasunari Kawabata, from a short story called The Master of Funerals:

It is true that since childhood I have attended more funerals than I can count; not only have I met with the deaths of my closest relatives, but I have also often represented my family in the country villages where everyone diligently attends each other’s funerals.

I have reamed the funeral customs of Settsu Province. I am most familiar with funerals of the Pure Land and New Pure Land sects of Buddhism, but I have also attended Zen and Nichiren funerals. I have witnessed the last moments of five or six people that I can remember. I can also recall three or four times when I moistened the lips of the dead with the last water. I have lighted the first incense and have also lighted the last so-called departing incense. I have participated in several ceremonies where ashes were gathered and placed in an urn. And I am well acquainted with the customs of Buddhist rites for the forty-ninth day after death.
He has such a nice way with words, Kawabata does, and his attention to detail makes every page of his prose worth reading.

How about Yukio Mishima, from Act of Worship:

...But wasn't it possible too that, for all his resistance to the living world, he had left behind in the deep green Pure Land of his district something of beauty, something that, albeit anxiously, he was hoping to make his own again?...

Tsuneko was still toying with these thoughts when the car drew up in front of the gateway of the Nachi sanctuary. They got out of the air-conditioned vehicle, shrinking from the blast of heat that struck their faces, and set off down the stone steps leading to the adjacent sub-shrine, where the sunlight pouring through the trees lay copiously like hot snow.

By now the Nachi Falls was directly before them. The single sacred staff of gold erected on a rock shone brilliantly as it caught the distant spray; its gilded form, set bravely in opposition to the waterfall, appeared and disappeared in the smoke from a mass of burning incense sticks.
Dramatically, Mishima, ever the writer who likes to make the worst happen to his characters, lets Tsuneko save the old professor from a nasty fall...

Mishima often returned to the incense theme, from The Sound of Waves:

...and, after striking many matches only to have them blown out by the wind, finally succeeded in lighting the incense.
We will next hear from Kenzaburo Oe's Hiroshima Notes:

It is now six in the morning, August 6. Surviving families of the A-bomb dead are coming to lay flowers before the Memorial Cenotaph. Soon there is a large floral mound; and incense smoke wafts up slowly like a mist. The chanting of a Buddhist memorial service at the A-bomb Memorial Mound is heard, and the crowd of citizens increases gradually.

(...)

On my last night in Hiroshima, I go out to watch the Buddhist service of floating lanterns on the river to honor the dead. I attend to honor my friend who committed suicide in Paris from hysterical fear of nuclear war. The red, white, and sometimes blue lanterns, set afloat near the Peace Bridge, flow upstream as high tide comes in. In the postwar years this custom has found a place in the hearts of Hiroshima's citizens as though it had been a folk tradition for centuries. Countless lanterns drift soundlessly, illuminating the rivers of Hiroshima.
Sources:
The Tale of Genji from Japanese Incense.com. Translation either by Arthur Waley or Edward Seidensticker.
The Master of Funerals from An anthology of visual pleasures, and from google books. Translation by J. Martin Holman
Acts of Worship from google books (many more treasures to be found there, no doubt!). Translation by John Bester.
Hiroshima Notes also from google books. Translation by David L. Swain and Toshi Yonezawa.

(Photo from The Guardian: Nagasaki remembers day of destruction, 60 years on/Tributes to the dead as US is urged to give up nuclear arsenal)

Friday, August 06, 2010

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 白檀 byakudan or pure sandalwood from India, a fragrance so very common in most types of incense. What you will not find here in this very traditional shop, though, is the New Age style incense or aroma therapy style oils increasingly common (but frankly the chemical ingredients can be quite suspect).

This sandalwood incense, for example, is from Mysore, India, a high quality source. Australia produces sandalwood, and Hawaii was also once a source (ʻiliahi), that was unfortunately depleted around 1825.

Yamada Matsuya is a famous incense shop in Kyoto. This Youtube video shows how they make incense, the Japanese way (no sound):



Another popular company is Nippon Kodo, that does a lot of TV commercials. Here is one for their obon incense, that they call "Natural." They are introducing incense at a booth from July 1st to August 31st at the Japanese Industry Pavilion of the 2010 Shanghai Expo:

We have been noted as the best seller of all booth exhibitors and it has become big news: as big crowds of visitors are gathering in front of our booth every day. Ka-fuh/Scents in the wind and Kayuragi seem to be especially popular. Please take a chance to stop by our booth if you plan to visit the Shanghai Expo this summer.


Here is another classic CM from 1990, to get people to burn incense every day (毎日香 Mainichi Kou):



The shop at Mt Koya notes that certain products that they sell are subject to restrictions under the special convention called CITES. This is an international treaty that "works by subjecting international trade in specimens of listed species to certain controls." These require that all import, export, re-export and introduction of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a permitting system. Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES.

As we all learn more about the importance of biological diversity, we also realize that even a simple joy like burning a stick of incense on a day like this, August 6, or next week during Obon, can have large, global implications.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

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" ga attano ka! (I didn't know there were these kinds of "mental techniques"!).

Why do we fall prey to negative emotions?

I suggest they should take a break from all the katakana!

メンタルデトックス (mental detox) is a new term I had never heard of before.

How about リチーミング (re-teaming)? Well, it is one of those key words that seem to take root in the "global" business community, then spread as katakana terms in Japan about five years later. Apparently, this is part of "Employee Assistant Program" that people working for very large companies need. There are now special "coaches" who get paid to deal with over-worked staff and help them get back into the fold, hrm, "team."

Work-life balance is another key term in katakana, of course: ワークライフバランス. Is equality between men and women in the workplace and at home a solution? Can a better work-life balance be a tool for a company to get an edge? Rather than life time employment, can other forms of work styles for talented people provide better models?

The way you live and the way you work should to be integrated with how your company makes a profit, but is that a solid enough foundation to make a balance between hard work and "soft" issues like your life a little more meaningful for you...?



Image of a brain that Does not suffer! from blogger Jun Takahashi.

The kanji are 遊ぶ asobu (play, enjoy) and 休む yasumu (rest).

You get the picture of his optimistic management philosophy!

Monday, August 02, 2010

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 so focused on your possessions that you don't notice anything else."

"How can you say such a thing?" asked the barrister.

The policeman replied, "Don't you know that your left arm is missing from the elbow down? It must have been torn off when the lorry hit you."

"My God!" screamed the barrister. "Where's my Rolex?"
And - then there was this:
The rat-race explained

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"Well, then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs...I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

Next, John Bird and John Fortune on Silly Money satirising the absurdity of the financial crisis back in 2008 (How to go from "dodgy debts" to "structured investment vehicles" here).

Over a 150,000 views. "We have been stupidly greedy!"

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.
From RT.com

More quotes from Euractiv.com:

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 Europe. This week's commemorations of the 2005 London attacks are a poignant reminder of the very real threat we face".

He added that "we now look forward to prompt implementation, while ensuring the protection of personal data, which improves our national security".

German Liberal MEP Alexander Alvaro, who drafted the Parliament's position and led negotiations with the other institutions, argued that the chamber had "stood up for citizens' rights to privacy by insisting that the current transfer of bulk data via SWIFT will be replaced by a properly controlled European data transfer system".

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso argued that "the active and constructive participation of all the European institutions" had led to a "very good agreement, which respects the right balance between the need to guarantee the security of citizens against the threat of terrorism and the need to guarantee their fundamental rights and civil liberties".

However, Portuguese leftist MEP Rui Tavares, whose GUE/NGL group was one of the few to oppose the new deal, said that the content of the agreement essentially remained the same and represented "a violation of the fundamental rights of innocent Europeans".

"Many privacy protection questions remain unanswered," he said, reserving particular criticism for the position in which it places Europol. Doing so was "absurd, illegal and unconstitutional," said Tavares, adding that "this agency has no role in data protection and has a clear interest in the results of any transfers".

"We will challenge this violation of citizens' rights in the courts and if declared illegal, the citizens of Europe will want to know where their elected representatives were and why they voted for an illegal deal," he said.

I think the problem is that the bulk data has to be send, all of it, because there is so much of it. That means, hundreds of millions of bank transfers are just handed over. Who knows what will be read or left in the pile of not so interesting files - and let us just for fun entertain the thought that some obsqure branch of a government would like to know what kind of "secret" transfers go on between company A and company B - or between bank X and bank Y and bank Z - what consequences could that have for free trade, commercial deals and contract negotiations?




Well, Washington said the move is vital to counter terrorism, but many in Europe see it as a gross invasion of privacy.

Policy laundering is a term that is new to me. Privacy International is an NGO that tries to explain these issues, including data retention, "Google Wi-Fi grab" and anti-terrorism measures in general.

AT Extraordinary Powers

How on earth will anyone feel "safer" in 2010 just beacuse a few thousand government officials, with loosely defined powers, sift through the raw data of the bank transfers of hundreds of millions of citizens?

Remember how we all used to laugh at the bloated STASI archives of East Germany - or shudder at the war-time surveillance in Japan, for example through the tonarigumi or "neighborhood association programs" - units consisting of 10-15 households organized for fire fighting, civil defense and internal security, formalized in 1940... We could even go so far as to compare to the infamous (and in the end, so terribly unsuccessful) kempeitai activities:

Kempeitai intelligence section

  • Decoding & Codebreaking Department
  • Political Department
  • Counterespionage/Counterintelligence Department
  • Propaganda and Indoctrination Department
  • Subversion and Sabotage Department
  • Kempei Tai (Army Secret Security) (previously known as the Service Section)
(Image of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Forces, from the wikipedia entry about the Peace Preservation Law of 1894)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

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 passing details of European banking transactions involving the US to the US Government since the terrorist attacks in the US of 11th September 2001.
Well, the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt did say that SWIFT should have "taken more account" of Europeans' privacy rights. Whatever that means. In September 2006, the Belgian government "declared that the SWIFT dealings with U.S. government authorities were, in fact, a breach of Belgian and European privacy laws."

"SWIFT finds itself in a conflicting position between American and European law," he said. "But it should have received stronger guarantees of privacy protection based on European standards, not by American standards, which are not as strong."

Earlier this year, the European Union has tried to stop the agreement with the United States.

BBC reported on February 11, 2010:

The European Parliament has blocked a key agreement that allows the United States to monitor Europeans' bank transactions - angering Washington. The US called the decision a "setback for EU-US counter-terror co-operation". The vote was a rebuff to intensive US lobbying for EU help in counter-terrorism investigations. EU governments had negotiated a nine-month deal which would have allowed the US to continue accessing the Swift money transfer system.
And:

The US started accessing Swift data after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington. But the fact that the US was secretly accessing such data did not come to light until 2006. Last week the Greens' home affairs expert, Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP, said that in backing the new deal the European Commission and EU governments had "not respected the fundamental criticism about the lack of sufficient protections with regard to privacy and the rule of law". The leader of the Socialist group, Martin Schulz MEP, said: "We want a new and better deal with proper safeguards for people's privacy."
The European Parliament’s decision to reject the so-called “SWIFT Agreement” in February 2010 was historic, as even the vice-president who was chairing the plenary session had to admit. It defended EU citizens’ fundamental rights against overly intrusive measures by security agencies, but it also came at the right moment. The Parliament now has full co-decision powers in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, and it will have to set a clear path in order to use these responsibly.
So, dear readers, if you are interested in this kind of matter, how would you suggest that we go about trying to find out what is actually happening. Do you think we are getting the entire story? You can see a 3:30 min long BBC video about the privacy debate from July 8, 2010 here.

How is Japan dealing with similar demands... Are banks in Japan, using SWIFT, also sending bulk data of all monetary transfers to the authorithies in the United States? Anyone in the know?

Not much I can find, except Swift.com/jp which has a "community" website, of course, and even a blog, but nothing about the privacy debate.

However, I found this gem from Colin at Swift:

The Wolf is at the door – if he huffs and he puffs will he blow the bank down?

Last week saw me in New York, at what could prove to be a historic moment for both the US and potentially the world’s financial markets, what with one of the widest sweeping shake-ups of US financial legislation since the Great Depression of the 1930s being signed into law. Now let me share how if we just followed the lessons learnt from our childhood fairy tales, we would have constructed a more resilient bank.

Many of you may now know that I have four children ranging in age from 4 to 14, and when dad returns from any overseas trip we always spend quality time together, playing games, reading books and the like. This return from the States was no different. As soon as I stepped through the door, my four year old and six year old had their favourite books in hand and we snuggled down on the sofa…. This week’s favourite was a good old fashioned English fairy tail – ‘The Three Little Pigs’.

You know the one - where the first little pig built a house of straw and then the big, bad wolf came along and huffed and puffed until he blew that house down! As with every fairy tail there is always a moral to the story. There certainly was for the poor little pigs in our story, for the first little pig went running to his brother’s house. The second little pig’s house, while stronger than the first, was made of sticks and that wolf easily blew that house down too.

This got me thinking – have the banks that were weak or poorly conceived all fallen? Or will we see more failures against this unmeasured force? Is the worst yet to come? If the first little pig was you and me, the retail customer and that house collapsing was the subprime crisis, who is the second little pig? Is he the commercial customer? And what could possibly be represented by the house of sticks?

Could it be anything to do with the US$1.4 trillion in commercial real estate loans at are coming due over the course of the next four years in the United States , that’s about US$300 billion per year.

Surely not…. Surely banks and bank supervisors have already addressed these issues after all between 2002 and 2008 CRE lending in the US almost doubled to $3.5 trillion.

As Michael Mayo (managing director and financial services analyst at Calyon Securities) stated in his testimony to the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission back on 13th of January this year “I’ve been analyzing an ‘industry on steroids’ whose prior achievements were artificially enhanced” .

Thanks for sharing Colin, good work.

From 2010年7月9日 Reuters:

[ブリュッセル 8日 ロイター] 欧州議会は8日の本会議で、欧州の銀行間送金データを米国に提供する欧州委員会と米国の合意を可決した。これに より米国はテロ資金追跡の目的で、銀行間決済ネットワーク、スイフト(SWIFT)で欧州のデータを閲覧できるようになる。

 合意の期間は5年間で、8月から発効する。欧州議会は今年2月には、個人情報保護が不十分との理由から、前回の合意を否決していた。


(Image from Asahi)