Showing posts from June, 2012

No Restart of Hamaoka Nuclear Plant Likely

The aging nuclear plant at Hamaoka, in Shizuoka prefecture is located near a fault line in a region seen as vulnerable to earthquakes. It was one of the first nuclear plants ordered to be shut down after last year’s March 11 disaster. I can't say how happy I am to hear this news.

No restart of Hamaoka nuclear plant likely for long time, says Shizuoka governor:

Japan Today/AFP

Last September, plant operator Chubu Electric Co began preparations to build an 18-meter-high anti-tsunami seawall. However, Shizuoka Gov Heita Kawakatsu told reporters that new disaster-mitigation measures at the plant are a long way off, NTV reported. Chubu Electric says the seawall and other additional safety measures should protect the plant from a tsunami as strong as the one that crippled the Fukushima plant on after the March 11 earthquake. The Hamaoka plant faces the Pacific Ocean and sits in the Tokai region, southwest of Tokyo, where seismologists have long warned that a major quake is over…

Sign Of Relief: Hamaoka Not To Be Restarted, Soon

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant was the first one I was made aware of, and campaigned against, back when I was working on another project (about food safety and antibiotic resistance) for Japan Offspring Fund. Now I am pleased to hear that there is very little chance of it going back online. The Shizuoka governor seems to share the deep concerns not only about the earthquake fault it is on top of, but also the lack of tsunami protection.

Back then, I think it was 2005, we just thought there was enough evidence that that particular plant was unsafe.

Of course, after March 11, 2011, we know that massive earthquakes can cause massive damage, much worse than we could imagine, back then. Of course, the damage can be contained, and life goes on. But the Hamaoka nuclear power plant is situated at such a location that if a similar event to the Fukushima disaster were to strike, then Tokyo (and eastern Japan) would basically be cut off from Osaka (and western Japan). The Shinkansen and other i…

Mahler # 2 Resurrection Conducted By Gustavo Dudamel

Gorgeous, young, and from Venezuela. The Financial Times just hailed him as "The modern maestro" pointing out that classical orchestra conductors are no longer of the old breed, like Karajan, Haitink or Mravinsky... I did not know that conductors "did not exist until the mid 19th-century."

Only then did the rapidly growing size and sophistication of the orchestra necessitate that someone other than the principal violinist beat time  and coordinate the players.
Since the does not like linking, I will not. Sad. Such great writing, on pink paper, not to be available to the reading, listening, thinking public. If they could explain why I should not quote, then so be it. I think the writers should protest, and the editors, and tell the owners of such great newspapers that we need to have them online, available, for the public good, for history, for democracy and for education.

"The seed was sown to flower again... The Lord of the harvest goes forth."


16 amazing photos of flooding around Wakayama City after the recent downpour, from the Mainichi.

H&M Neon Sign Mystery In Sweden

"700 plan" is simple enough, but the old neon sign makes no sense at all. What does it mean? The Swedish newspaper SVD decided to outsource the question, and after a couple of days, an answer was found. Something about 700 square meters, or whatever, as a promotion for a new shop.

I like how Sweden had a totally un-metric unit, the "plan" back in the 1950s. These days, we are all too standardized to care.

Japan, of course, has tatami mats as the way to go (make that "sleep"). Soft to step on, made from rice, with a certain bounce.

One tatami mat is just about 2 square meters, by the way, but since the days of the Silver Pavilion was built in Kyoto, or whenever, the 2.73 m × 3.64 m (6 mat) room is a standard.

Isn't wikipedia amazing, here is the page for tatami.

Korea also has the pyeong (tsubo) and in Taiwan, the ping is used. 

I digress, but for a reason.

The United States is sometimes blamed as the only country on Earth that does not do "metri…

Extreme Weather, Do Take Care

Do take care tonight, the 2 typhoons are hitting us hard and make sure you are not in harms way.

I usually check the Meteorological Agency website for updates on a day like this. Go to their main website, then find the link to tropical cyclone information.

JMA has good updates in English and maps that are very accurate.

“Fresh Currents: Japan’s Flow from a Nuclear Past to a Renewable Future”

From the good people over at Kyoto Journal an appeal to support the next issue, "Fresh Currents" by donating thru the website:

More than a year after the triple meltdown at Fukushima, Japan and the rest of the world continue to grapple with the short- and long-term consequences. The myth that nuclear power can deliver us from the long-term evils of fossil fuels has been shattered. Renewable energy, long dismissed as impractical, is being given serious reconsideration. Japan can and must take advantage of this opportunity to rethink and refocus its energy strategies. In Kyoto, birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, a dedicated group of reporters, writers, artists, editors, and photographers associated with Kyoto Journal ( is taking a fresh look at proven and innovative alternative technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, mini-hydro, and biomass as well as the even greater number that are being …

40 Year Old Nuclear Reactors To Be Restarted? I Don't Think So

So we all accept that technology tends to make life better, right... Except, some things like nuclear reactors, are not easily replaced because they are so expensive to build and difficult to run. Now, Japan wants to restart old reactors, that have been idled due to fears after last year's massive earthquake and tsunami. This is how I think about it:

Almost nobody would drive a car that is 40 years old, and most of our gadgets from back then have been replaced or abandoned. Somehow, the nuclear power plants are an exception. 30 or 40 years ago, well, people made great things, but since then a lot has changed. In Tokyo, for example, nobody wants to live in a building that was constructed before 1981, when the new earthquake rules came in force.

Or take your old bath tub from back then. I'm not joking, but it is rather funny how old Japanese baths were so complicated in the 1970s and 1980s. I happen to have one made by Hitatchi, it is hilarious how many levers and cranks are nee…

Football, 2012: England v. Sweden

I just had this thought, this feeling, that the Euro 2012 is just a way for Europe to deal with the karma of so many battles between people in the past. Now, we don't go to war against each other. We just play football. Karma? Still angry? I really wonder why. Not only that, but we have exported the game around the world. Why not go forward and promote much more good around the planet?

We need to focus on the great, not the nasty, bad. If we are going to get through the next couple of years, let's work together. But, we can do better.

Karma means we take responsibility for what we do, what we say, yes even what we think.

We need to "think better" and be more clever.

The Independent: Banking: King hits panic button
Fears of new credit crunch prompt Bank of England to kickstart emergency lending scheme
Sir Mervyn King, and George Osborne said the Bank and the Treasury were working on a liquidity operation – a "funding for lending" scheme – which w…

Meeting Remarkable Men: Prince Tomohito

I actually met the man that has been in the news recently, who was a reluctant member of the imperial household. It was way back when I was a lot younger. I think it was some kind of ado having something to do with Sweden House, and he and his wife attended, for some reason or other. I now completely understand how dull it must have been for him. So, there I was, in my early 20s, dressed in my 501 jeans and my only suit jacket, listening to speeches by all kinds of people.

Then I noticed that over in another room, there was silence, and a lot of body guards. I ventured there, and found Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito. He seemed bored and of course I went over and said hi!

We had a long talk. He told me about his time in England, and lots of stories, from when he was about my age, at that time. He also frankly mentioned how he wanted no part of the imperial business, but they would not let him leave. All the time, his wife was there, and he was very fond of her, telling me,…

TPP Documents Leaked, Huffington Post, Activists Huff

The debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership just got a little bit more huffy (cool adjective I just invented) as The Huffington Post leaked links to documents that US trade negotiators have tried to keep away from the public eye that were released by Public Citizen.
And of course, the same is true for every other country that joins the TPP. The international tribunal will be able to overrule any national legislation that is not in line with the TPP rules. Forget about national legislation, that is so old-school. Democracy? I don't think so.Say your country has environmental laws and consumer protection rules, that are not so much appreciated by some multinational corporation, be it chemicals, energy, cars, food, or medicines.

The Trans-Pacific deal has Intellectual Property (IP) provision rules that would prevent the development of useful new products in the technology space, blocking the release of new products.

If national rules do not confirm with TPP negotiated terms, the for…


Torrential rain is wrecking havoc in Taiwan, as we here in Japan are also entering rainy season. Image from Michael Turton's blog shows a great before-after capture of Mucha, a district in Taipei.

It brings home why we need those ugly concrete riverbanks in this part of the world... If you work in Tokyo, for example, and live across any of the large rivers, you will appreciate why the rivers are built to look like this.

Turton also mentions something I wasn't aware of, regarding dams. Too much silt means the lifespan of reservoirs and dams may be shortened. Typhoons in particular can release a lot of silt  and mud into dams, meaning their water retaining capabilities are reduced. This can lead to the kind of flooding now seen in Taiwan. Ouch.

Unpredictable weather means more stress on dams that are exposed to conditions they were not designed for. Dams of course are also important for energy production (hydro power) and many older dams may need to be rebuilt, at huge costs. An…

Rare Flowers In Niigata

In mid June, a rare flower blooms in Niigata, and people who like to pay attention to such things, come and visit, from far away.

The Oze Preservation Foundation website:

When I recently visited Yuzawa, I was told that Oze is the place to see the white mizubashou, and I just adore that simple, terrific flower. It grows wild only in the certain environment here in north eastern Japan.

The Oze-area extends over 4 prefectures:

I was told that many people know the lovely enka tune of Oze, so do tell me, which is the version you like.

The Cycle of Clever, Intelligence And Good (Beauty)

I was recently made aware of a documentary film about matters I care a lot about. Such as food, health, agriculture, welfare. Also about the economy.

Are the top pharmaceutical companies, that are obviously also involved in biotechnology, and GMOs, and what not, also making the same substances that may give us all, or at least 1/3 of us, cancer? That is the concept behind Idiot Cycle.

A documentary by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia. Seems Google is not very fond of this film. Also, I'm told they couldn't get the insurance that is needed to show it on TV in North America. Scary, as "freedom of speech" is something we all care a lot about, right?

I'll be complete honest and say that I don't like the image of the dead lab rat that they have chosen for the film's poster. Yes, millions of lab rats are killed for research, I don't like it but that is considered as normal, and no one seems to care. I don't understand why not, but that is reality.

Milkweed i…

Terrific Food Label Guide!

I'm really, really impressed by the post by Ashley over at her Surving in Japan blog, about reading food labels in Japan. I learned a lot! And I'm supposed to be the expert! That just shows how complicated it can be to shop for food in a foreign country. Fortunately, Japan has laws and regulations that help us who try to buy healthy and environmentally friendly food. Head over to Ashely's (long) post and I promise, you will be happier for it.

The Ultimate Guide to Reading Food Labels in Japan

When I first came to Japan, attempting to read food labels and understand what things were and what was IN what I was buying and eating was a huge obstacle. I could read hiragana, katakana and some kanji, but the majority of the food labels were confusing and I spent extensive amounts of time at the supermarket, smartphone in hand with a Japanese-English dictionary open, trying to decipher ingredients and information. I'd also use the smartphone app, ShinKanji, to search for …


Maya Nakanishi, who is planning to compete in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, published a calendar featuring her posing semi-nude with her prosthetic leg to help fund her training and trip to London Paralympic Games. Do search and do support her. Is being sold at Amazon. Photos by Takao Ochi.

Some ten-fifteen years ago, I worked with Kent, a wonderful guy who had polio as a child. If you have not dealt with real serious disabilities, you have no idea what it does to a human being. Not just the body, but the spirit. Most of us have no idea how to deal with that, if it were to happen to us. In Maya's case, it was an accident. Well, isn't life all about accidents waiting to happen??

Yoko Ono In The Financial Times

At Ikebukuro station, they sell newspapers and one of them is the FT at 600 yen, thus I rarely buy it, but it is there, and I sneak a look, getting a peak at the headlines. This weekend I was going to Tokyo so I bought it, and hey, the Simon Schama interview was a bonus. For 600 yen, there is a lot to read, indeed. I like how the lady that sells the pink rag by the tracks agrees with me, "Yes, it is expensive..." But, as we head out to the 'woods, we like a good read, nes pa? Yoko Ono talks to...  But had she not been Mrs John Lennon, would the world have heard of Yoko Ono? The answer, says Simon Schama, is YES

In a cold-water apartment on Chambers Street, New York, she gave a series of performances and concerts in which minimalist “instructions” and transient experiences replaced the static, monumental pretensions of framed pictures. The prompted eye and the receptive brain made the pictures instead. The technique was lovely, liberating and genuinely inno…

The Stuttgart Ballet in Tokyo

I went to see Stuttgart Ballet perform the unusual work, The Taming of the Shrew, in Ueno at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. It is a beautiful piece based on Shakespeare's play, with lots of laughs. The music was written by Kurt-Heinz Stolze in the classical style of Domenico Scarlatti but with some modern inspiration as well - it premiered in 1969. Choreography by John Cranko.

The Stuttgart ballet is a terrific troupe and I highly recommend anyone who like classical music to take the opportunity to go and see their Swan Lake on Tuesday or Wednesday June 5-6.

Here is the Pas de Deux 1:

Who's In Charge In The Nuclear Age?

I'm confused about who makes the decision here in Japan regarding nuclear reactors. I thought it was based on local, not national government decrees. In other words, if a nuclear reactor in say, Ohi, a place you most likely have never heard of, is in question, the national government in Tokyo has to wait until the Ohi town and Fukui prefecture have made up their minds.

I'm reluctant to argue with Shisaku, a blog I like a lot, but his only source for a recent post about Osaka governor Hashimoto having "backed away from full opposition to a restart of the Oi reactors, paving the way for them to be brought back online" is a dubious blog entry from the Wall Street Journal. MTC, that is not quite good enough, is it?

Shisaku: Hashimoto Toru Comes Back Down To Earth
WSJ Japan Real Time Blog: Japan Reactor Restart Countdown: Approaching Zero?

In fact, on May 31, The Yomiuri has a different take on the events, as they continue to unfold:

Meanwhile, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, …