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Showing posts from March, 2011

New Blog I Like

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Kitchen Garden Japan: Largely self-sufficient, Tom farms, Izumi cooks, Kento throws our organic fruit and vegetables at the wall. Haruto mainly gurgles and sleeps.

Kitchen Garden Japan

Quote:

The quake just didn’t reach it this far. And nor, too, did the tsunami. The outlying island of Shikoku, home of Masanobu Fukuoka, an influence whose book “The One-Straw Revolution” partly inspires this project, blocked and diffused the wave. By the time it reached here, the wall of water was thankfully a mere 20cm high.

And now you know why...

Fukuoka’s message is most easily explained by his food mandala, pictured below, in which he advocates growing and eating seasonal foods. It’s not rocket science, just common sense, but it is sense that society’s “I want this and I want it now” culture overlooks all too easily. It’s all about harnessing seasons:

Round and round

So in the orchard, we’ve planted with eyes on succession; taranome, loquats, and cherries segue into apricots, plums and peaches, before pa…

Power-Down

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Learning to live with less, being innovative and finding ways to consume as little as possible, going with the trend to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

Tepco is actually cancelling some planned blackouts because people are doing well, not using more than they need. I see a lot of drink machines that have been turned off, or at least the lamps are off. Factories are running daytime only, many offices tell workers to go home early. It can be done. What does it mean for the economy? Right now, we are all more worried about the workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plants and praying for their success and health and whatever it is that one prays for when one thinks of guys having to do shifts in dark, unknown, unsafe conditions like that.

Power-down is taking its toll but so far we are lucky, as it is spring, and not too cold in Tokyo. Good citizens of Tokyo, we are all doing our part, aren't we? Some have left, others stay. How long can we power-down for? We knew…

Port Town Blues

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Here are a couple of videos with views from many different harbours and port towns around Japan, and an enka melody first released by Shinichi Mori back in 1969. Here is the karaoke version:



Do watch the version by Teresa Teng from Taiwan, who was a popular artist with a large fan base in Asia. The fan video is dedicated to the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami:

We express great sympathy to those who suffered from disasters in the following port towns in this song: 函館 (Hakodate), 宮古 (Miyako), 釜石 (Kamaishi), 気仙沼 (Kesen-numa), and in many other areas.

I like how Asahi Shinbun wove this old standard into a fine essay about the fisheries of the region. Is a unique fishing culture lost forever?

"Minato-machi Burusu" (Port town blues), an old hit by popular singer Shinichi Mori, mentions the then-fine ports of Miyako, Kamaishi and Kesennuma. Strung along a saw-toothed coastline, these port towns were flattened by tsunami waves that crashed into the bay from all dire…

Praying, Sutras, Meditating For Japan

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The ancient prayer here is the Heart Sutra, but there are many others. The Lotus Sutra (how we can all rise from the mud to become like an amazing lotus blossom) is another. You will hear them at funerals and at temple events, on a daily basis. There are lots of books with commentary even in ordinary bookshops. Many, many bloggers are adding personal stories and videos from such pilgrimage trips.

Since ancient times, sutras, praying and deep mediatation have helped. You can do it too, of course. Whatever your religion may be, or be it science-based, your feelings and deepest thoughts and practice can help immensely at a severe time like this.

Pilgrimages were always a part of how Japan slowly evolved, dealing with new ideas and concepts and medicine from abroad. The Chichibu fudasho here in Saitama is one such trail, with 34 temples that get increasingly difficult. Close enough to Tokyo, you can reach the first temples easily from Ikebukuro. All are worth visiting. You get to buy a be…

A Bit Of Relief...?

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...of the comic variety, that is. Yosuke Kihara made this brief animation with outtakes from the daily briefings of the Japanese government spokesman, Mr. Ho-hum-ehr. It ends with his usual, "And that's all folks." Mr. Edano has gotten a lot of sympathy for his tiredless efforts to answer and explain questions, but also some flack for all that has gone wrong, so far. Most of the comments are of the "Ganbare, Japan and Ganbare, Tohoku!" variety.

Water In Tokyo Tested

Kyodo and NHK (in Japanese) report that tap water in Tokyo has been tested for radioactive materials:

The Tokyo metropolitan government warned Wednesday that infants should not drink tap water as radioactive iodine exceeding the limit for them were detected in water at a purification plant. According to the metropolitan government, 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine were detected per 1 kilogram of water against the limit of 100 becquerels.

The levels are lower today Wednesday (190 becquerels/liter). For adults, the legal limit is 300 becquerels/liter. These are not dangerous levels, but parents should not let their infant babies drink tap water or use it for powder milk formula, according to NHK.

Official data here (measured in Shinjuku-ku) do not yet mention these levels. The elevated levels were detected at a water plant in Katsushika-ku, which supplies water to all 23 wards (-ku) in Tokyo, as well as Musashino City, Mitaka City, Machida City, Inagi City and Tama City in Tokyo.

Like I…

More Testing Of Food In Tohoku Needed

High levels of radioactivity was found in spinach in Fukushima, and in milk at a farm in Ibaraki. The levels are in no way life threatening but show how serious the contamination is in the Tohoku region, near the Fukushima nuclear reactors that were struck by the 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami on March 11. That it has taken this long before testing started (or showed result) is surprising, and it appears the Fukushima milk cooperative was planning to ship the milk without doing any testing.

Wall Street Journal has the levels (hat tip to Japan Probe for finding).

I'm stunned, but we are told by the government's chief spokesman not to worry, and frankly what he says makes perfect sense at this point:

Mr. Edano said that the level of radioactive materials detected in the milk means that if a person drank that milk every day for a year, based on average Japanese milk consumption, total exposure to radioactivity would be about the same as one CT scan. If a person ate the spinach in ques…

How To Donate To Earthquake And Tsunami Victims

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Just a quick post, as people are asking me how to directly donate to the victims in Tohoku region in Japan.

What they need most of all is rice and water. As it is cold, they also need basic things like blankets and warm clothing. Batteries are sent directly from factories to Tohoku (thus you can't find any in your local shops). Other things are perishable goods that may or may not be a good idea to try to send.

From inside Japan, NHK suggests two ways to donate money. One is the Japanese Red Cross, the other is AkaiHane ("Red Feather") also known as the Central Community Chest of Japan and each Local Community Chests.

Here are details on their websites how to donate (in English):
Japanese Red Cross
http://www.akaihane.or.jp/en/index.html


Source NHK World (in Japanese):
http://www.nhk.or.jp/nhkvnet/spots/_contribute.html

There may be many other good ways to donate and help, but these are two very respected organizations, and no hazzle. Be careful about suspicious e-mails and str…

Radiation: A Discussion

Radiation is an amazing thing. We see fireflies glow and we know that clocks used pale green radium paint so you could know what time it was in the dark. How are these waves measured? This is where it gets complicated, and with the current crisis in Fukushima, no wonder there is concern.

I'd like to hear from readers, what do we actually know about Siverts and gray. These are units that make no sense to me or most ordinary people. I konw what a meter is, and if you tell me the distance in yards, I'd be shaking my head. I am not being silly here, but clearly, the radiation from Fukushima is nowhere near dangerous. If you think it is, please evacuate, but you are probably just going to be exposed to more radiation in your jumbo jet flight, than if you stayed in Tokyo, Japan.

Having said that, of course I am worried about nuclear reactors. We should all be. But we have not been educated to deal with this, and do not know what it means. That is what I consider very serious. Since th…

No More New Nuclear Plants In Japan?

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I hope other countries around the world also follow this news and stop building new nuclear power stations, and move towards a nuke-free planet (from NHK):

Japanese nuclear power plant operators have shelved plans to build 2 plants in northern Japan, in light of the nuclear crisis unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

On Thursday, Tokyo Electric Power Company, which was due to start building one plant in Aomori Prefecture next month, has notified the local government of its decision.

The No. 1 reactor of the plant was expected to go online in 6 years, with a projected capability of 1,380 megawatts, making it the most powerful in Japan.

Another plant operator, Electric Power Development, said it has put on hold the 3-year-old construction of a plant, also in Aomori.

That would have been the first in Japan to burn a mixture of uranium and plutonium extracted from spent fuel. The target year for its completion is 2014.

Thursday, March 17, 2011 20:20

There is also news that Germany and other…

Emperor Akihito Speech, Please Be Kind To Each Other

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In a very rare occasion, Emperor Akihito has made a heartfelt speech with his messages to the victims of the eartquake and tsunami. He also expresses his respect for the brave men who are trying to deal with the nuclear reactors. And he asks of all of us here in Japan, "to be kind to each other."



NHK World video of Emperor Akihito

Japan's Emperor Akihito has delivered a video message to express sympathy for people affected by Friday's devastating earthquake and call for concerted efforts to overcome hardships.

The speech on Wednesday was the first in which the Emperor expressed his feelings on video.

He said the death toll has been increasing daily and that it is not clear how far it will rise. He said he hopes the safety of as many people as possible is confirmed.

He expressed deep concern about the situation of the quake-hit nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, and said he hopes related people's efforts will prevent the situation from worsening.

The Emperor s…

Planned Power Outages: No Fun At All

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Considering the suffering in many towns and the rural communities in Tohoku, I feel lucky. I moved to this town because I thought it would be safe, and so far, knock-on-wood, it has been just wonderful. Yesterday and today, we felt the effects of the planned power outages, however, and I can only try to imagine what people are going through in Tohoku region, in shelters, having lost everything.

The schedule for when the electricity will be cut is impossible to understand, and my city hall makes public announcements on the outdoor PA system, which I think was installed before WW2. It sounds something like: "Bing-bong-bang, This is-this-is-is City hall-city hall-alall, We are now-a now-wow, Going to tell you something really important-tant-tant..." and from there on it gets increasingly impossibly to understand a single word. This means a planned power outage is imminent. OK, good, I can handle that.

Last night I had supper with Robert, a friend who runs his own business, cool w…

Another Day, And We Are Doing OK!

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Live feed from NHK World, about the current developments in Japan


Eat wakame, kombu, nori and yoghurt to get enough idoine, if you feel the need. Stay healthy and strong. Spirit and mind, have you ever had such a challenge? Do you feel afraid, why? What is fear. I bet you have never even thought about it. Fear and worry, we all have to appreciate such opportunity to learn about living, and surviving. Let's rebuild! Frankly, I feel rather calm. How about you?

If you learnt about life lessons from the past, why run away? So many people are putting their life on the line over the past couple of days, to help victims, to try to deal with reactor meltdown, to deal with the outrageous claims in the media. I am impressed that my friends are doing OK. How about you, how would you deal with a similar disaster?

Staying calm does not mean "doing nothing" as you can donate to the Red Cross and other proper NGOs and well known organizations. DO NOT REPLY TO STRANGE EMAILS. Take a deep b…

Ganbare, Japan!

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MSN had this image as its top news on Sunday evening, conveying the message from The Independent, the UK newspaper. Ganbare of course means "fight" or "hang in there, do your best" and it is such a positive message. Not forgetting all other natural disasters, this is one for the history books.

Where I am living, we are facing planned electricity shortages on Monday, as the 10 reactors in Fukushima are not up and running for obvious reasons.

I got a great reply from my editor at Kodansha, who summed it up like this:

大丈夫です この地震できっと日本はいい方向に国が変わると思います

"We are ok, I think this earthquake will be a great opportunity to change Japan in a good way."

The message from The Independent is: "Don't give up Japan, Don't give up Tohoku!"

Thank you!!

Updates On Fukushima Nuclear Reactor I-3: MOX Fuel Concerns

There is concern about the MOX fuel used at the Fukushima nuclear reactor No. I-3. This is the third reactor at the first compound. There are a total of 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima, with 6 at compound 1 and 4 at compound 2 (Source CNIC and wikipedia, Fukushima I and Fukushima II). All are run by Tepco to supply electricity to the Kanto region and Tokyo in particular.

Unit I-1 was designed in 1967 and went online in 1970. From September 2010, unit I-3, which went online in 1976, has been fueled by MOX fuel.

Mixed oxide (MOX) fuel contains plutonium recovered from spent nuclear fuel (Source: World Nuclear News and The Japan Times). So far, media has not reported about the use of MOX fuel, possibly because it could add to concern and confusion. I have tried to access Tepco's website but it is not responding (I get an error message) possibly due to too much activity.

Fortunately, Units I-4, I-5, and I-6 were shut down for maintenance at the time of the earthquake/tsunami on March 1…

Extreme Flooding Along The Coast Due To Earthquake And Tsunami

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Huge areas along the coast of north-eastern Japan are flooded. Mostly small towns, in isolated areas, but also the coastal part of Sendai City (while central areas may be ok).

NHK had some rather disturbing "before-and-after" images from towns like 宮古 Miyako (bottom image) 南三陸町 Minami Sanriku-cho in northern Miyagi Prefecture (center), and 新地市 Shinchi-shi in Fukushima Prefecture (top image, that is supposed to be a station, now all immersed in sea water and debris). Large amounts of people are not accounted for in these small towns.

Shinchi station on the Joban line Wikipedia page here.



Train line between Nagano and Niigata Prefecture also destroyed.



I'll update this as I learn more.

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

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NHK is reporting that a outer wall of the nuclear power plant no. 1 in Fukushima has been destroyed in an explosion. The image shows how one building (on the left) is missing at 16:30PM, compared to 9AM this morning. TBS is reporting that two workers have been injured. NHK is saying several people are injured. At a press conference 18:00, they didn't have many details and are urging people to stay calm and not spread information that is not confirmed.

As of 23:00 Saturday night, 3 out of 90 patients have tested positive for radioactive poisoning at a local Fukushima hospital, according to NHK.

The Fukushima nuclear power plants are about 250km (160 miles) north-east of Tokyo.

Image from NHK from UStream

The NHK English website has good updates that so far seem the most reliable source of information...

Updates From Japan

Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima still face tsunami warnings over 24 hours after the massive earthquake. If you are watching photos or TV clips from the scenes in north-western areas of Japan, most of the damage you see is from the huge waves (up to 10 meters in some cases). There are surreal images of large boats up on land, and bridges that have been destroyed, and trains that have, well, fallen off such bridges. The worst devastation is in small coastal towns in the three prefectures, but there is also damage in Sendai, the largest city in those parts. Death toll so far is around 1,000 people confirmed, according to NHK, and many more yet to be confirmed. Still many missing.

The experts working to shut down the nuclear reactors in Fukushima have managed to start the process to release pressure. Still very high temperatures and concern about a melt-down of the core. The concrete structures are thick enough to handle that, we are told, and the reactors are not of the Chernobyl or Three Mi…

Very Serious...

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The huge earthquake and the tsunami are having a huge effect on most of Japan today. There are many after-shakes and even the small ones rattle the nerves if not the buildings. Tokyo is completely shut off and people working in the city cannot go home. Electricity is down and in many places, no mobile phone access (I can't use Vodaphone except for sms messages).

I probably live in one of the safest towns, up in the hills in central Saitama, way north west of Tokyo. I was planting potatoes and broccoli when the 8.9 quake hit. Had to sit down and wait, impossible to stay standing.

I had just had some major trouble with long roots that had to be tugged out to clear the soil. When I told Panda Bonium about this, he wrote:

> It's all your fault! You tugged at something connected to the Kanameishi
> stone and let loose the carps.

That's a good joke considering the circumstances. The Kanameishi refers to a special stone at an ancient shrine in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, whic…

Wind Power In Japan? Asia Doing Much Better Thanks To China

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How should Japan reduce its dependency on imported oil? While solar panels are popular, wind power is less so. Japan ranks 18th among nations in new wind farms, according to The Japan Times. Japan only placed 18th in the global rankings for new wind power installations in 2010, creating 221,000 kw of renewable energy. Compared to the global output capacity of wind farms, which increased to 194,390,000 kw in 2010, Japan is just above 1% of global wind energy production.

China is No. 1 and the U.S. does very well too at No. 2:

Global wind power installations increased by 35.8 GW in 2010, according to figures released by the Global Wind Energy Council today. This brings total installed wind energy capacity up to 194.4 GW, a 22.5% increase on the 158.7 GW installed at the end of 2009. The new capacity added in 2010 represents investments worth EUR 47.3 billion (US Dollars 65 bn).

For the first time in 2010, more than half of all new wind power was added outside of the traditional markets in …

Oil Prices And The Effects On Agriculture

Surging crude oil prices due to political unrest in the Middle East have begun to hit Japan's fishing and agricultural industries, reports NHK World, noting that the price of a liter of light oil reached about 140 Yen ($1.10) in February:

Fishermen at Otsu Port in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, have started to shorten or suspend their operations due to rising fuel prices. A farmer in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, who uses fuel to grow cucumbers in hothouses from December to April says his fuel costs are expected to rise by a few thousand dollars. Workplaces for making wood crafts and lodging facilities in Ueno Village in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, now burn crushed timber called pellets for stoves and boilers. Forestry is the village's main industry.

Much of the food we eat comes from agricultural practices that rely on oil or gasoline in one way or the other. Almost no farmers can produce food without tractors and other tools that runs directly on fuel. But co…