Showing posts from January, 2013

Toshiba Refuses To Meet Finnish Nuclear Protesters

During a demonstration today outside Toshiba's headquarters in Tokyo, anti-nuclear activists pointed out that they had "politely" asked for a meeting with the Japanese company, but were refused without any explanations. Toshiba was selected in October, 2012 to build a new nuclear power plant in northern Finland.

However, after protests intensified, E.On, the largest stakeholder in energy utility Fennovoima pulled out of the project.

Prohanhikivi activists photographed by Fredrik Oskarsson.

The German energy company E.On intends to pull out of the project aimed at building a nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki on Finland’s west coast. As E.On would have been the largest single investor with a 34 per cent holding in Fennovoima, the company that plans to build the reactor, the whole project is in serious jeopardy. Two other companies, the meat processing company Atria and the S-Group retail chain announced earlier that they were divesting from Fennovoima. E.On's decis…

Protests Against Toshiba: "Finland Does Not Want More Nuclear Power"

Activists from northern Finland are in Japan to convey the message that Finnish people do not want a Toshiba nuclear reactor in their neighborhood. Hanna Halmeenpää from Pro Hanhikivi has visited Fukushima Prefecture and is now in Tokyo to talk to anti-nuclear activists and I had the pleasure of meeting her and help interpret for her team. A mother of three, she was rudely awoken by a newspaper article that there would be a nuclear plant in the Baltic Sea nature reserve called Hanhikivi - on her doorstep, literally. This is a beautiful cape that turns out to be host to a large number of migratory birds, a location for breeding birds, and unique natural beauty.

E.On, the German energy giant soon found out that they had dropped this project on the wrong doorstep. Through lawsuits, going to Brussels and arguing the case that this is a protected Natura 2000 area, and by an amazing amount of enthusiasm, Hanna and others managed to at least bring the project to a temporary halt. E.On has dr…

400 Years Or More Of Korea-Japan Diplomatic Relations

It may be useful to remember that Korea and Japan has had formal diplomatic relations, for a  very long time. This post is about the Joseon Tongsinsa. In light of events this week, where Communist North Korea may be - again - thinking of a nuclear bomb test, well, Beijing (who still supports North Korea) would have to deal with that puny effort to be taken seriously.

The mess that they are in, with little or no food for their population, and no hope for reunification with South Korea, the People's Paradise next door to Japan in in a state of flux. Meanwhile...

Here at Kurashi of course we tend to think about compassion and peace. There is no other way forward (paradigm paradox, or paradigm paralysis). Don't believe everything mainstream media tells you. We can do a lot of things to make all things better.

I'd like to highlight that in Seoul and Busan, many people are involved in all kinds of wonderful events to commemorate the Joseon Tongsinsa. People in South Korea dress …

Film: Yamada, The Samurai of Thailand

Thailand and Japan have links that go way back to the 16th Century, and as Buddhist countries, of course there are deeper bonds that transcend time.

Based on a true historic figure during Ayothaya Era, here is a film that depicts the life of Yamada Nagamasa, a Japanese samurai who gained considerable influence in Thailand and became the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand.

Yamada Nagamasa lived in the Japanese quarters of Ayutthaya, home to another 1,500 Japanese inhabitants (some estimates run as high as 7,000). The community was called "Ban Yipun" in Thai, and was headed by a Japanese chief nominated by Thai authorities. Yamada was born in Shizuoka prefecture in 1590.

Wikipedia has more: The colony was active in trade, particularly in the export of deer-hide to Japan in exchange for Japanese silver and Japanese handicrafts (swords, lacquered boxes, high-quality papers, used by Rembrandt, among others). They were noted by the Dutch for ch…

Tasting Japanese Traditional Vegetarian Cuisine

For centuries, Japanese people were mostly vegetarians, with a lot of veggies and grains that were grown seasonally, plus stuff that could be harvested from the wild, like mushrooms or seaweed.

Fruit was also plentiful in the southern parts, and even today, I'd say Japan has the most amazing variety of oranges, mikan, dekapon, and so many others in the winter season, providing vitamin C and sweetness during the cold months.

This winter, I'm able to harvest several types of greens, including mizuna, hakusai, and sweet cabbage. I'm looking forward to a scale-up of my efforts next winter. Things that I'm still not very good at include broccoli and daikon, staple food in winter as well. I think I will get a hang of it, ultimately. Growing something is what matters, as far as I am concerned, as we are heading towards a time when imports may no longer be taken for granted. Having something from your own garten that you can barter with may make all the difference.

It wasn'…

At Least 10 Japanese Missing In Algeria: Sunday, No Condolences From Prime Minister Abe?

Sunday is never a great news day in Japan. Today, Kyodo just after noon noted that at least 10 Japanese are missing at the Algerian gas plant that was part of a "hostage crisis" that ended badly.

TOKYO, Jan. 20, Kyodo Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp. said Sunday 17 of its employees including 10 Japanese remain unaccounted for in Algeria after local security forces ended a hostage crisis at a gas complex with apparently heavy casualties.
The Japanese government was told by Algeria earlier in the day that some Japanese nationals died in the crisis, although Tokyo says it has yet to confirm the information.
The situation surrounding the missing workers is "grave," a JGC spokesman said, in light of information obtained locally and from the Japanese government.

No updates until now, on Sunday night. The UK prime minister already confirmed that British workers are dead, Norway's king has offered his condolences - but no such revelation by Shinzo Abe that Japa…

Art Setouchi Triennale 2013

I am fortunate enough to often get the chance to go to Naoshima and the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, and this year, from March to November, 2013 they are again hosting an event that should attract visitors.

Update: As David (merci!) notes in the comment section, the Triennale is held during three sessions: One in the Spring (March 20 - April 21), one in Summer (July 20 - September 1st) and Fall (October 5th - November 4th).

Easy access from Okayama. If you have never been to these parts of Japan, you are missing out!

First held in 2010, the Art Setouchi is now a much larger, more extended event with events being planned for a large number of locations and islands. Did I mention "events"?

List of participating artists here.

Setouchi Triennale Website (English) here.

You will get stuff like this:

Inujima Art House Project: S-Art House

An elongated gallery made of transparent acrylic panels appears behind a curve on the road in front of a tangerine orchard. An image of a one-dolla…

Farmers Markets

Want to know more about the farmers markets in Tokyo? Want to actually meet a farmer? Most people get their food from supermarkets or the local convenience store, only. How do you feel about that?

Head over to the Japan Farmers Markets blog. This weekend should be sunny but cold, so everyone is ready to go.

Joan from Michigan, has more:

The language may be different, but just under a different culture and maybe a different skin tone beats the same heart. Again and again I find people as generous and kind as any farmer in my home state, as hard-working, as weathered, as cautiously optimistic about the future of their livelihoods. It is, perhaps, how I stay connected with my own culture and history while living so far away.
One such farmer is Takako Kimura from Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture. Takako comes to the Nippori Farmers Market each month with her vegetables, some yummy homemade pickles, and rice. She's charming, knowledgeable, and fun to talk with. (Yes, she&#…

Snow, Trains, Japan

As we got a lot of snow on Monday (a public holiday) I was impressed that most trains kept running. Seibu Ikebukuru Line struggled to get me into Tokyo, and we were 25 minutes delayed, but got the job done. Well done, and much appreciated. While some lines were temporarily suspended, the Yamanote Line managed to keep running all day long.

The Yamanote Line is very special for people in central Tokyo. It runs both ways, clockwise and anticlockwise, and a full circle takes just about one hour. This year, it celebrates its 50th anniversary as the first trains started to run the full loop back in 1963, just before the Tokyo Olympics.

Sankei notes that the first tracks were laid down back in 1909 between Akabane and Shinagawa, and Ikebukuro and Tabata. Now, in 2013, a campaign to celebrate the anniversary will involve a "Lucky" train wrapped in special green colours. Others trace the history back to 1885 (electrification started in 1909). Current trains are from 2002, built by sta…

Kiritanpo From Akita

Wow, lots of snow in Tokyo, I was rather concerned. Made it into central Tokyo, and the Yamanote Line had delays after delays. No worries, I got from A to B to C, and arrived safely at Uguisudani.

We had a plan to celebrate the new years, and the privilege to have a special dish from Akita prefecture, kiritanpo, so I was not going to let a little snow delay my Monday. Lots of rice dumplings, served in a special nabe way.

Kiritanpo is one of many local Akita dishes, with certain rules.

We added veggies, and for Ver. 2 my cabbage was included: This winter, I have been growing hakusai, mizuna and cabbage. So, I do get some instant street cred at slick city parties like this... Yo, bro! Etc. etc.

Archery Event In Kyoto

A really great archery event held each year in Kyoto at the Sanjusangendo Temple. Girls dressed up in their very best kimonos.

Imagine the training behind all of this. 1500 young women participated this year.

Photo from Sankei

So, Nuclear Power Plants, How Safe Are They Really?

I'm confused by the news from Sweden and elsewhere that safety at nuclear power plants is not really that different from any other kind of factory. Anyone, with a mission, seems to be able to enter these premises. Doesn't that worry you?

Any location that has hazardous material ought to be sealed very tight. Or not be allowed to operate. OK, we are all humans, and mistakes are made, all the time. Sigh.

In Sweden, Greenpeace activists were able to simply walk into the Ringhals and Forsmark nuclear plants (Sweden has three plants, with 10 reactors).

A spokeswoman for Greenpeace Nordic said on Wednesday the six had remained in restricted areas around the west-coast Ringhals plant and Forsmark on the east coast by hiding on rooftops.
On Tuesday, plant owner Vattenfall said police had detained in all 59 people who had climbed over or cut through fences into the grounds of Ringhals and Forsmark.
"There was a heavy police search yesterday and still they didn't find them,&…

Nuclear Updates

There is so much going on here that it is difficult to keep up. I don't want Kurashi to be all about nuclear issues, since there are so many other topics that interest me, and inspire. But I also work with related issues, so here we go.

The Guardian: Fukushima 50: 'We felt like kamikaze pilots ready to sacrifice anything

Excellent article by Justin McCurry over at The Guardian, just about the best I have read so far in the English-language press about what actually happened at Fukushima Dai-ichi after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He has managed to interview one of the workers who stayed on to save us all from a much bigger disaster.

Disagreements over a possible withdrawal rumoured to have taken place in the capital never filtered through to the men on the frontline, according to Yoshizawa. Some among the vast network of Tepco contractors and subcontractors ordered their employees to leave the plant. They were joined by other workers who lived in the communit…

Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass - Meetings Along The Edge!

Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass from the Album "Passages" (1990). The collaboration between Philip Glass, one of the greatest composer of the 20th century, and Ravi Shankar...

Ravi Shankar (vocals, sitar); Philip Glass; S.P. Balasubramanyam, Madras Choir, Jeannie Gagne (vocals); Shubho Shankar (sitar); Partha Sarady (sarod); Barry Finclair (violin, viola); Tim Baker, Mayuki Fukuhara (violin); Al Brown (viola); Seymour Barab (cello); Theresa Norris, Ronus Mazumdar (flute); Jon Gibson (soprano saxophone); Richard Peck, Lenny Pickett (alto & tenor saxophones); Peter Gordon (French horn); Keith O'Quinn (trombone); Joe Carver (bass); Abhiman Kaushal (tabla).

Seven Herb Rice Gruel

Today, January 7, is traditionally a special food day in Japan. People eat seven freshly harvested veggies, herbs, and roots. We had this dish at my temple in Okayama, as a way to say thanks to the way the days were getting longer, while it was still very cold, but in the fields, some greens were beginning to thrive.

七草粥 nana kusa kayu means "Seven herb rice gruel" but that is just a part of the story.

These seven varieties of 草 kusa or herbs, also include some 采 sai or na (brassica) which are nutritious and something we should all eat a lot more of.

One thought was that after indulging in all kinds of delicious New Year foods, on this day, people would welcome something so very simple. Our bodies, of course, prefer veggies, and a lot of veggies. We are not particularly well equipped for indulgence. Speaking of equipped, we are more prone to survive poverty than opulence. From a long-term perspective, humans can deal with having less, but not with having more. Fat, sugar, m…

Seven Lucky Gods

With a lot of humour, and a great sense of compassion, we get these old manga stories from Japan's Old Tales.

Manga Nihon Mukashii Banashi

まんが日本昔ばなし 「大年の客」 

An old lady is trying to do good, bringing some rice from her small field to a local lord. Seems like we are talking about paying local taxes, right?

Her humble offering is rejected.

It says something about the way we feel, as we pay taxes.

Those who rule, don't they tend to enjoy their wealth, at our expense?

The old lady is really sad, as she returns to her house.

Meanwhile, the seven gods from the local lord, are disgusted by his ignorance.

He rejected her humble seeds, and threw them to the chicken...

The seven gods decide to depart, and make an effort to move to the house of the old lady, in the cold winter... 

She invites them to her simple abode.

There is a certain glow...

And the poor seven members that used to occupy her altar, will move, as they are no longer wanted. Where do they go? Never seen the seven old gods look so…

Bright Ideas For 2013

Here are a couple of links to some bright ideas from fellow bloggers. Also, for the new year, some principles to scale up in your daily life. Thanks everyone!

1) Exchange/Study/Survive

Help indigenous Ainu youth get to New Zealand for an exchange with Maori to study methods for cultural survival.
In January 2012, a Maori leader, Te Ururoa Flavell visited Ainumosir (Hokkaido) and Tokyo and witnessed the work Ainu people are doing in their communities to revitalize their culture, language, and rights. He immediately suggested that Ainu youth come to Aoteroa (New Zealand) to see how Maori community members have been working to ensure cultural survival.
Immediately, we formed the Aotearoa-Ainumosir Exchange Program Committee to seek out participants. After a rigourous interview process, we chose 7 Ainu youth to go on the exchange starting end January for 5 weeks. Once they reach Aotearoa, they will study, experientialy, about the various ambitious endeavors of Maori people w…