Showing posts from October, 2011

EU Crisis - Live Blogging - What It Means For Japan

The strong Yen is impossible to understand. Japan seems to be the only economy in the free world that is upbeat. And that is after the March 11 震災 (shinsai).

Why is the Yen at such record highs against the US$ and considered a safe haven for investors? Well, it may be a case of us against them. Just about everyone else have much larger troubles ahead. Japan, in spite of it all, is still a country where people work hard, we tend not to protest, as the gap between rich and poor is not as huge as in other parts of the world.

The European Union this week is trying to deal with that huge gap - the 27 countries which form the EU have members that are not so strong, like Greece. Yet, there is a strong commitment to the Euro, the common currency. But what does it mean, when a country is told to deal with its debt, and tell people that pensions from the national government may not be forthcoming. And what about the salaries of the police force that is supposed to deal with the demonstrations? Th…

Wind Power? Not So Fast, Says TEPCO, While Others Are More Optimistic

Japan's largest wind power company, Eurus Energy, is in the news as TEPCO has announced that it will sell a part of its shares in the company, that is also owned by Toyota through a trading house connected to the car maker. Why is TEPCO not holding on to shares in a company that could do very well as the nation turns from fossile fuels and nuclear energy, to renewable energy sources (water, solar, wind, biogas)?

It has not been much noted, but somehow, Japan's wind turbines managed to survive the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. As shaken as our confidence is in nuclear energy, it is perhaps telling that main streem media has not told the story of how the turbines in Kamisu, southern Ibaraki prefecture, perfectly managed to survive the forces of nature.

The seven turbins were unhurt and continued to produce electricity. In fact, none of Japan's wind turbines, representing over 2300 MW of capacity, failed as a result of the disaster, according to the Japan Wi…

Japan's Renewable Energy Bill - Q & A

A new law for renewable energy in Japan? If you haven't heard about it, well, here are a few details. I'm still not convinced it is the real deal.

The August 26, 2011, new law:

- "opens up" the power generation industry
- is meant to "reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear power"
- aims to achieve reduce Japan's greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 from the 1990 level
- will introduce a feed-in-tariff mechanism, common in Europe, that requires utilities to purchase at premium prices electricity produced from renewable sources

PV Magazine notes:

Andrew DeWitt is a politics and public policy professor in Tokyo and he believes that this legislation is a critical step in Japan fully adopting renewable energy. "You have to see everything [in light of] this recent trajectory of politics in Japan. In the wake of Fukushima, public opposition to nuclear energy has gone from basically people not being concerned with ‘nukes’ […] to more than 75 percent against i…

Japan Gets 29 3-Star Restaurants In Michelin Guide

Good news on the gourmet front: Michelin, the French guide book publisher, will award 29 restaurants in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara with 3 stars, its highest rating. This confirms what many of us know already - Japan has the world's best food!

The Telegraph mentions that France now only has 25 3-star restaurants:

Japan's status as a clear culinary leader over France will be officially confirmed with publication of the new 2012 publication on Friday, which bestowed a total of 296 stars upon establishments – including an additional three three-starred restaurants – across the Western Japan region.

In the new guide to Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara, which will be published in English and Japanese on Friday, there are 15 restaurants with three stars, an accolade which refers to the distinction of "exceptional cuisine worth a special journey".

The high quality of food in the region was reflected by the fact that the total three-star tally for the region outshone the capital T…

Fukushima Rice Is OK

Careful testing of rice harvested in all parts of Fukushima prefecture shows that none of the rice on sale has radioactive materials at unsafe levels. Of course rice from the most heavily contaminated areas near the nuclear reactors (11 areas) will not be for sale. Where there are high levels, the rice will not be sold even though the levels are below the safe limit of 500 Bq/kg. "I will take the initiative in marketing by stressing the safety and good taste" of rice harvested in the prefecture, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato said after the announcement, according to The Japan Times/Kyodo: Fukushima declares rice is safe.

You can check the testing results over at the Ministry of Health (MHWL). These daily reports are very valuable in terms of reassuring the public. However, a lot of people are probably still very worried about the nuclear contamination.

In Sweden, and in most of Europe (especially Germany and Austria) we had similar concerns after the 1987 Chernobyl accident. Japa…

James Turrell At Naoshima

I went back to Naoshima again in September, staying at the Benesse Art Site. There are a number of installations in the town and a couple of spectacular buildings by Tadao Ando. The view of the Seto Inland Sea makes it even more beautiful. This time, however, what really caught my attention was the works by James Turrell. He makes large rooms and space where light itself becomes the object. You actually step inside his art. It cannot be described, it has to be experienced. He notes that he works with frequencies of light that resonate, based on distance to the wall ahead of you. In other words, what you see is what your brain creates out of the visual stimula. Leave it to your mind to appreciate the rest.

Open Sky (2004,Naoshima) can be viewed at anytime, but a special sunset viewing, Night Program, is also available.

From wikipedia:

Turrell's works defy the accelerated habits of people especially when looking at art. He feels that viewers spend so little time with the art that it ma…

Tomas Tranströmer - Lifetime Recognition Award (2007)


South Korean Food Imports At 80-90%

I was rather shocked to learn that South Korea imports almost all its food from China and the United States. Nearly 90% is imported, according to Asian Sentinel - and that includes almost all its wheat and corn, quoting a Samsung report from SERI World. Some 16 countries supply the country with other food items:

...Korea's food self sufficiency has in fact continued to decline due to its falling international competitiveness in agriculture, as well as its increased opening of its food market to foreign providers.
But that is just the beginning.

Food stability in South Korea has experienced a continuous decline, caused by rapidly increased grain price volatility and intensified import source concentration as the western countries, particularly the United States and the European Union, devote more and more of their corn production to biofuels. It is estimated that 35 percent of corn production is now going into biofuels. In addition, the report says, "food safety fell to its lowes…

IFOAM: Sadness, Joy

This blog is honestly more about the sadness I feel, living here, and the reasons we are feeling connected to Japan and South Korea and the Far East.

I was in South Korea for a week, visiting organic farms. They are trying to avoid dangerous chemicals, trying to avoid artificial fertilisers, and not adding 添加物 (tenkabutsu) chemical additives, and trying to save seed. I was impressed by their grains, especially by Heuksalim, a farm/company that we visited in central South Korea.

The only good food I was able to enjoy was at a Buddhist temple restaurant in Seoul, but even that felt slightly strange. I don't think that was the food that people actually ate at a temple, where they did their practice.

I felt so sad in Seoul, with the traffic jams, and the large BMWs and Benz and Lexus. Walking was faster. I was told that in Korea, the rich people cannot afford to buy a house, so they buy a large car instead. If that is true - I feel just sadness, and pain. The income gap just appears …

Kan On The Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail

Will Kan Have Hap I asked last year when he was suddenly made Prime Minister as the hapless Hatoyama resigned. Now Mr. Kan has also been replaced, perhaps because he was too outspoken against nuclear power.

I have no idea what Hatoyama does these days, but Kan has been seen in Shikoku on the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route of 88 temples, which he is quoted as saying is preferable to the "slander" that goes on in the political realm. A good choice for a man who had the right stuff but not the right connections.

More Buddhism and pilgrimage routes on Kurashi:
Praying, Sutras, Meditating For Japan
On The Pilgrimage Trail in Chichibu
Incense From Mt Koya, Kyoto
The Heart Sutra

Noda And The Okinawa Problem: What Happened To The Japan That Can Say "No"?

Over at Japan Focus, Gavan McCormack and Norimatsu Satoko have taken a very close look at how Japanese media covered new Prime Minister Noda and his recent talks with US President Obama.

Japan Focus: Discordant Visitors: Japanese and Okinawan Messages to the US

Seems to me that the Daily Yomiuri has some serious explaining to do, while other news channels fare almost as badly. It is all down to who said what, and who quoted whom. It all matters a lot to the people in Okinawa. If the Yomiuri fails to explain why it failed to report what actually happened during the Noda-Obama meeting, or if the Japanese officials were involved in what is commonly known as "spin" and if the Yomiuri had its own agenda, I hope we will find out.

Noda says he will try to get the "understanding" of the people in Okinawa. OK, good. So, when will he actually travel to the prefecture? When was the last time a Japanese Prime Minister bothered to visit Okinawa?

Or is Noda planning to let others …