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Showing posts from March, 2012

Aomori Shinkansen

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Back a long, long time ago, in December 2010, the new Shinkansen line to Aomori prefecture in northern Japan was opened. Shin Aomori station is about as far as you can get in a hurry from Tokyo, but that also means people "up there" are now able to go to meetings and conferences, if they really have to, in the big city. (I'm sure they all mostly prefer to stay up there in Aomori and enjoy the slow life...)

Japan likes fancy commercials and even dramas about things like this. The "CM" as it is called here sometimes contain a certain element of drama, with characters that carry a message of hope, concern, love.

In the case of the Aomori Shinkansen, they have put all of that into a series of 30 second long TV commercials.

The main guy is a young JR employee who gets selected to be transferred to Aomori prefecture - not a great move at first sight. His nick name is simply "Tokyo" and he has a lot to discover. But, the real reason he is here is that the Shink…

Travel In Japan: Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima

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I'm just back from a brief business trip to Aizu, Fukushima prefecture, using the trains as usual. I just love the Shinkansen, the fast and comfortable way to get from A to B in Japan, since 1964. I know, I have mentioned it before... But compared to jets, trains are just so much more pleasant for trips like this. I can't imagine having to check in my luggage and wait and get through all kinds of hoops to board a plane.

This year, getting people to travel to Tohoku, the region north of Tokyo and Kanto, may be an uphill battle? But, there are a lot of posters and commercials, to show that the north is open for visitors, in spite of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The Onyado Toho hotel I stayed at was fully booked, which made me happy. I'm glad to see this region getting back on its feet, with all the precautions in place, but still, they are so very happy to greet visitors. I think there are a lot of "repeaters" as it is called in tourism, i e people w…

Test Your Food: The Results Are In...

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...and the good news is that my leek onions had no detectable levels of radiation. I was quite happy to hear that of course. I hadn't expected any high levels as my field is far from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. But, it is nice to have done the testing. I also brought a sample of my soil and it had 140 Bq/kg which is very low.

What does all this mean? In a new article published over at Japan Focus, I try to make sense of the large amount of data we now have, one year after the earthquake and tsunami wrecked havoc on March 11, 2011. The Japanese government publishes the results of the testing of food samples, and so far over 120,000 samples have been analyzed. For Fukushima prefecture, over 20,000 food samples have been tested and the results published. So, we have a pretty good picture of the situation.

Japan Focus: Food Safety in Japan: One Year after the Nuclear Disaster

For example, for the 120,000 food products have been tested, the total number of cases that exceeded the…

Test Your Food

On March 17-18 (10am to 5pm) you can bring your own vegetables, foods and even soil if you want to get stuff checked for radiation. The measurement takes about 10 minutes and you need to bring 600 cc (a little more than half a liter) of each item. A sophisticated machine will be available to measure the levels of Cesium 134 and 137 isotopes.

The testing is part of the Nippori Marche event at the east side of Nippori Station, Tokyo.

Nippori Marche (J)
Food Market In Nippori, Tokyo (E)

Make A Film And Participate In Japan In A Day On March 11

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If you have a film camera of any kind, you can participate in the Japan In A Day project with great director Ridley Scott of Bladerunner fame, Fuji TV and others. I like how this can evolve into something that involves a lot of people. Getting published or playing live, having your work out there for others to enjoy! It is such a great chance with all the technology we have at our disposal. There has never been such an era before. Who knows where it will take you?

Make a film and the rest is up to fate or karma, things that happen beyond our control. Use it! - Chihiro Kameyama and Takayuki Hayakawa ask you to capture your Japan in a day:

It’s easy. All you need is a camera to get started! This is your chance to express yourself. From the ordinary to the extraordinary, we want you to film your day and show us your life and your Japan. No limits – you can submit as much or as little footage as you like, but you must film between 12:00AM to midnight on 11 March 2012 wherever you are.

Go to …

2020: Brave New World Of Allotment Gardening

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Good essay over at Hartley Botanic (since 1938!) by John Walker, imagining a Modified New World in 2020. By then, the genetically modified seed companies have won the battle, and if you dare to plant anything that is not approved by the GM thought police, you are toast, or relegated to the

...nether regions of allotment fields, with the prime plots being given to those ordering PerfectPlot Seeds. It was never voiced, but the deal was either relocate or get out. We saw that coming, too; one of the most pernicious ‘big society’ outcomes was that multinational seed companies, dressed up as our familiar favourites, offered to fund the upkeep of allotment sites. When a few of us bothered to check the small print and found that their support was dependent on plotholders buying only genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant PerfectPlot Seeds, we knew there was trouble ahead.

For those of us who think doing a little bit of farming on the side is a fun way to pass the time, here is a warning:

In…

No To Consumption Tax Rate Increase

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Over at Consumers Union of Japan, we published a letter of protest to Prime Minister Noda about his plan to raise the controversial consumption tax, which is now 5%, to 8% and then 10% - and who knows where it will end?

CUJ strongly requests that the government’s policy of “first raising the consumption tax” should be fundamentally reexamined.

According to the proposed reform bill, the consumption tax will gradually be raised to 8% From April 4, 2014 and to 10% from October 1, 2015. The aim is to ensure a stable source of income for the social security system and at the same time achieve healthier public finances.

The plan is to obtain people’s understanding by regarding the raise of the consumption tax as a tax that is earmarked for social security. The four main areas of expenditures are the costs for the pension system, health care & medical treatment, social security, and the decrease in the birthrate. Although this may be carried out, we suspect that the true aim of the raising …

More Food Markets In March

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Joan over at the terrific Popcorn Homestead blog has a great list of farmers markets in Tokyo this month. Head over to her blog and learn more. Here are a few examples (Joan has visited them all so jump over to her blog to read her impressions and get the addresses):

Ebisu Market
Sunday, March 18
11am to 5pm

Gyre Market
Saturday, March 10 and Sunday, March 11
Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25

Kichijoji Market
Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18
10am to 5pm

Roppongi Market
Every Saturday in March
10am to 2pm

The farmers market concept is taking off all over Japan. One initiative is the Marche-Japon.org (J) where you can find locations and events outside of the nation's capital!

I also want to mention my favourite, Nippori Marche, at the plaza on the east side of the station. The next event is March 17-18 (10am to 5pm). Food from farmers in Tanegashima, Niigata, Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima), and Chiba. A troupe of kids from Kawasaki will perform taiko drumming around noon on both days.

Als…

25 Kilograms Of Food Additives Per Person

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Japan has recently been forced to permit some 70 new food additives that are used in the US and Europe, or face the usual trade related wrath of food exporting countries. That means 423 food additives are now allowed in Japan as of December 27, 2011. Some 350 food additives have been used for a long time, with very few ones approved since the late 1960s.

Over 3 million tons of food additives are now used annually in Japan. That means each Japanese consumer on average eats about 25 kilograms of food additives each year.

The largest share is artificial flavouring and synthetic seasoning products, that amount to over 2.5 million tons. This includes the controversial class of additives that are loosely labelled as アミノ酸 など (amino acids etc.) in Japan.

107,000 tons of synthetic preservatives are used while colouring products add up to about 23,000 tons.

Many are genetically engineered including Vitamin B2 and Aspartame, the controversial artificial sweetener in Diet Coke and Nutrasweet.

25 kg -…