Friday, September 30, 2011

IFOAM Korea Conference

I have just spent the last week in Korea to attend the World Congress of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). It is the first time they hold such a big meeting in Asia.

I will update with more posts as it has been an intensive time with many farm visits, meetings and a lot of impressions (both good and bad).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Huge Anti-Nuclear Demonstration In Tokyo

Some 60,000 people gathered in Tokyo on Sept. 19 to raise their voices and to call for abolishment of all nuclear power plants in Japan. This was one of the largest rallies Japan has ever seen in its history.

Japanese Nobel laureate, Kenzaburo Oe, said in his speech that humans cannot co-exist with nuclear energy in its state and a demonstration is a means for the public to show its dissatisfaction in government policies.

10 minutes video
Reported by Chie Matsumoto
Filmed by Akira Matsubara

Thanks to Ten Thousand Things for posting.

The Mainichi has published an essay by Oe that I think catches his mood perfectly. He seems to always weigh his words carefully, more carefully than any writer I have ever known. Each word, such as "outrage" or "waste" seems to matter immensely to Oe. A good lesson for all of us.

Kenzaburo Oe: Resignation to and responsibility for Fukushima disaster

It hasn't been long since I read a science fiction piece in which humankind decides to bury massive amounts of radioactive waste deep underground. They are stumped by how they should warn the people of the future who will be left to deal with the waste, and by who should sign the warning.

Unfortunately, the situation is no longer a matter of fiction. We are one-sidedly unloading our burdens onto future generations. When did humankind abandon the morals that would stop us from doing such a thing? Have we passed a fundamental turning point in history?

After March 11, I stayed up until late every night watching television (a newly formed habit following the disaster). There was a television reporter who went to check in on a house with the lights on in an area that was otherwise dark due to evacuation orders. As it turned out, a horse was in labor and the owner was unable to leave its side. Several days later, the reporter visited the farm once again, and saw the mare and its foal indoors in the dark. Their owner's expression was gloomy. The foal had not been allowed outside to run around freely because radioactive material-contaminated rain had fallen on the grass.

The crisis has taken away lives that many people are still trying to get back. What messages can we deliver to those people and how? I need to hear those words, too, and the person I have turned to for guidance is the physician Shuntaro Hida, who has been speaking about the dangers of internal exposure to radiation since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

In an interview in the September issue of the magazine Sekai, Hida says: "If you have already been exposed, you must be prepared. Resign yourself. Tell yourself that you might be unlucky and see horrendous effects several decades down the line. Then, try to build up your immune system as much as you can to fight the hazards of radiation.

"But will making the effort to avoid buying vegetables that may be tainted be sufficient in protecting you? It's better to take precautions than to not take them. But radioactive materials continue to leak from Fukushima, even now. Tainted food has infiltrated the market, so unfortunately, there's no guaranteed method of protecting yourself from internal exposure. Abolishing nuclear power and cutting off radioactivity at its source is a much faster way of dealing with it."

I do not want to deliver these words to the men -- the politicians, the bureaucrats, the businessmen -- who intend to thrust the difficult task of dealing with radioactive waste, which was generated and continues to be generated by an electric power policy that puts production power and economic strength before everything else, upon future generations. Rather, I want to deliver these words to the women -- the young mothers -- who have been quick to catch on to the dangers being posed to their children, and are trying to deal with the problem head on.

After Italian voters rejected the resumption of operations at their nuclear power plants, a senior official in Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) attributed the referendum result to "mass hysteria," suggesting that the power of women was behind the results. An Italian woman in the film industry responded to the insult, saying: "Japanese men are likely moved to action by a 'mass hysteria' that puts productivity and economic power before all else. I'm only talking about men here, because no matter where you are, women never put anything before life. If Japan were to not only lose its status as an economic superpower but fall into long-term poverty, we all know from Japanese films that women will overcome such hardships!"

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan's World War II defeat, and the subsequent occupation of Japan by the Allied Forces took place during my childhood. We were all poor. But when the new Constitution was unveiled, I was struck by the repetition of the word "determination" in its preamble. It filled me with pride to know that the grown-ups were so resolute. Today, through the eyes of an old man, I see Fukushima and the difficult circumstances that this country faces. And still I have hope in a new resolve of the Japanese people. (By Kenzaburo Oe, author)


Kenzaburo Oe, born 1935, was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. After the crisis started at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, musicians and writers, including Oe, released a statement calling for the abolishment of nuclear power. An antinuclear rally will be held in Tokyo's Meiji Park on Sept. 19.

(Mainichi Japan) September 19, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sada Masashi: Reserved Tickets

I'm going on a big trip (again) tomorrow, September 11. Starting in Nara, then to Koya-san in Wakayama prefecture, a temple area with 1,000 years of history. Just called them today to ask if the typhoon had any impact, but they were OK.

Remember that post I did about incense from Koya-san?

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 do these trips to learn more about the country I reside in.

After this, I go to Korea for the first world congress in Asia of the organic farming movement. Light blogging ahead? If you are so lucky, maybe there will be a post or two.

Here is 指定券 Shitekiken (Return Ticket) by Sada Masashi, a singer song-writer born in Nagasaki 1952.

Sometimes it feels like destiny has it all worked out. And you thought you knew it all! I'm learning a lot, every day. Hope you also feel like that, dear readers of this old Kurashi/Kurushii blog... The more I learn, the less I pretend I know.

Pandabonium has a nice post about staying at a temple shukubo at Koya-san:

Of the 117 temples in Koyasan, 53 offer lodgings to visitors. These are called "shukubo" and may include two meals a day and morning sutra chanting. Food is strictly vegetarian. This way of cooking is called Shōjin Ryori, and was brought to Japan with Buddhism. Much more than just vegetarian cooking, it literally means to cook in a way that leads one to enlightenment.

Bonus: Sakimori no Uta

防人の詩 An Ode by an Ancient Japanese Coast Guard

Is the sea mortal...? Is the human heart mortal...? Must everything including my beloved home country... pass away?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Just Another Typhoon Approaching Tokyo

Tomorrow Friday: just another typhoon over Tokyo and trains may not be running as usual. Not something we worry a whole lot about here, but still, it has been a busy summer, after the horrific spring.

When people get delayed by train services in Tokyo, they get a printed slip from the train line as they exit. It explains the reason for the delay. When arriving late to the office, this slip helps people feel less stressed about the problem, and as delays are infrequent, companies accept such slips. A wonderful token that makes up for the inconvenience of being late.

A typhoon is approaching Tokyo tonight, one of many this time of year. Not an unusual event, yet we all worry in case we get caught in massive 50mm+ rainfall.

Friday should be rather bad. Why not just work from home? Somehow, the old office is still so very important in Japan. A little more flexibility could do miracles for morale. Managers and bosses could just have made it an informal work-at-home day, if someone up higher in the hiarchy had had the bright idea.

Back in 2005 when I was working at Japan Offspring Fund, the Yurakucho line was delayed, and I got one of those slips. As I arrived at the office, then in Kojimachi, everyone smiled and thought I was so very sincere. They had already heard about the train delay, and knew I'd be late. Still, I think the punctuality of the trains in Japan is something special. I like how we can rely on their very best efforts.

If we are going to move away from a society that depends on cars, we need public transportation that delivers. Even when there are typhoons. And if that is impossible, we need people to stay home.

Map from with lots of graphs and services.

I like Nakajima Miyuki's voice a lot, a star from the mid 1990s. This song is "In between the sky and you" and first, you get the karaoke version. Enjoy.

Well, "tears in the rain" comes to mind. The original vocal is here, with a video full of images of sky and clouds...

Nakajima Miyuki, thanks Mari (Sora no Fune with English lyrics) for helping me remember!

Update: A week later, in spite of five days of rain in Tokyo, it was Nara and the Kii peninsula that got the brunt of this typhoon. Over 50 dead and as many still missing due to landslides and flooding. NHK World reports:

As of Wednesday evening, about 470 people remain stranded in Mie, Wakayama and Nara prefectures. The number is growing smaller, as many roads damaged in the storm have been restored. SDF troops are transporting medical staff, food and water to isolated communities.

I will visit Nara this weekend and then go to Koya-san in Wakayama prefecture, just northwest of the worst hit areas. I'm hoping there will be no damage to the ancient temples and that the people are alright.

Light blogging ahead.