Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Visit Tree of Life Herb Garden in Hanno

If you like herbs, and if you like gardens, do pay a visit to the Seikatsu no Ki Herb Garden in Hanno, Saitama... Nice shop, cafe, medial herbs, natural healing garden, special Sri Lanka treatments, aroma therapy, Ayusha, Ayurveda products, and a lot more.

The Hanno garden itself is a work of art, you walk up through roses and all kinds of flowers, a tiered theme park, with so much fragrance to enjoy... Each month has new surprises... A very special place.

The medical garden tour in Hanno is just 1050 yen plus your lunch...

The Tree of Life company stretches around the globe, talking to the staff, I got some sense of how they got so big! I like how they do both seminars in the city and guided trips in the forest. Founded in the early 1960s, some 50 years ago, this is a company that has grown to have 100 shops all over Japan.

Never heard of Tree of Life? You are missing out. Do visit Hanno and the unique herb garden, really, it is a small park, and you will not be disappointed.

Additional images from the Takuetsu blog...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Visit Koma in Saitama, Japan

Koma, a small town in rural Saitama, Japan has an amazing story to tell, and if you visit the small Koma Shinto shrine, you will be told that this tiny hamlet was the place where a bunch of survivors from a war on what is now the Korean peninsula - I have no idea what it may have been known as back then - some 1300 years ago.

People escaped from all the way across the ocean, and ended up safely, here?

In fact, even today, people are confused about what to call that Korean region. Even more seriously, Communist China appears to try to claim large parts of the region (which is now to the north of North Korea, if I understand things correctly).

Here is what Koma, Saitama looks like today, while the wikipedia entry for "Koma" redirects to Goryeo, the ancient Korean kingdom from 918–1392.

Ken has this to add:

This shrine is also very old and was founded about one thousand and two hundreds years ago. It is said that the prince, Jakkou, of the ancient Korean dynasty had visited and stayed in Japan with his people in 7th century AD as mentioned in the previous chapter. Because his country was conquered by Tang dynasty in China during his staying, unfortunately, he was made resign to go home and decided continuing to stay in Japan. He and his people taught various things to people here and gave great influences on them in many fields such as the silk production, agriculture etc. Then the Japanese government established Koma County and nominated him as a mayor of the County in 716 AD, recognizing his greatness. This shrine was, thereafter, founded and dedicated to him.

It is heartwarming and refreshing to wander on the country road from the foot of Hiwada-san through Koma-jinja Shrine via Shou-den-in Temple in early spring.(Same as Course A specified in Chapter 9) You would surely feel a start of natural lives of the year, pale green buds on the branches of trees, sound of birds, agile movements of small animals and so on.
In recent years many people come to this shrine to pray, especially for a new year. Autumn festival called Rei-tai-sai is also held in October every year when selected people dance in special costumes as shown in the photograph below.

(Photo, Right ; Entrance gate called "Torii" to Koma-jinja Shrine)

Festival Dancing
Festival ornament

(Photo, Left ; Dancing in the autumn festival, Right; Festival ornament in front of the shrine)

Historical House

There is a historical old house preserved in the backyard of Koma-jinja shrine. This used to have been inhabited by the Koma family and now, it is open to public for education. There are many kinds of Japanese apricot trees in the backyard and they are in full bloom in February and so beautiful. In addition, chrysanthemum flower contest takes place here in November.
(Photo, Left; a Historical Old House of the Koma Family)

Meanwhile, an American blogger living in South Korea has this to add to the mystery, with comments from others.

He quotes Donga Ilbo: China distorts ancient history at Goguryeo museumhttp://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2013042660578

So tiny Koma here on the Seibu Line in my neighborhood is somehow linked to a strange conspiracy where Communist China is trying to usurp a large part of Korean territory?

I rather doubt that the locals would want to have anything at all to do with that!

APRIL 26, 2013 06:54
As China is set to open an exhibition center specializing in displaying relics of Korea’s ancient kingdom Goguryeo in Jian, Jilin Province on May 1, it has begun in earnest to publicize key parts of its Northeast Asia Project that claims Goguryeo as its local state.
Dong-A Ilbo reporters and Goguryeo historians have visited the museum, which preliminarily opened to the public early this month, to conduct an in-depth analysis of China’s distortion of Goguryeo history. The museum opened after 10 years of preparations.

Located in an area bordering North Korea, Jian was the capital of Goguryeo from 3 to 427 A.D. and has approximately 12,000 Goguryeo tombs. The Monument of King Gwanggaeto the Great is also in Jian.
The museum is not so large in size, as it has six exhibition rooms on two floors. One doesn`t need to be an expert in Korean history to notice that the museum did not provide any explanation about Goguryeo’s link to the Korean Peninsula. Goguryeo’s relocation of its capital to Pyongyang, a large-scale war between Goguryeo and China’s Sui Dynasty and the fact that heaps of Goguryeo relics have been excavated in the Korean Peninsula are little mentioned.

By contrast, the museum emphasized that Goguryeo was under absolute influence of and fused politically, economically, socially and culturally with Chinese dynasties in the Central Plain. This thoroughly reflects the core parts of studies conducted under the Northeast Asia Project, although the museum does not directly mention that Goguryeo was a local state of China. A historian who accompanied Dong-A reporters said, “Though it is not explicitly stated, the museum claims that Goguryeo history is a part of Chinese history.”

The Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, carried out from 2002 to 2007 the Northeast Asia Project, including the history of ancient Korean kingdoms such as Goguryeo, Balhae and Gojoseon into Chinese history. Faced with South Korea’s protest at the time, the Chinese government claimed that Seoul was reacting “too sensitively” to some scholars’ academic discussions, denying that it was a state project.

“Just as South Korean scholars have been concerned, the Chinese government is applying Northeast Asian Project research results to the field to solidify the project, starting with the opening of the Goguryeo museum,” said Cho Beop-jong, a professor of history at Woosuk University. “South Korea should respond proactively.”

Proactively, right. You can't win, these ancient battles are part and parcel of living in Asia, as long as there are communists and nationalists and whatnot. Without much further foreign involvement, things would probably stay the same, for a very long time. Meanwhile, isn't it wonderful to ponder the fact that that simple shrine here in Koma, Saitama, is a shinto shrine. The native goods of Japan do not seem to mind.

As for Wikipedia, I find it very useful, but I also hesitate to rely on any site that has more than 500 revisions. The Northeast Project of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is one such wikipedia site. For more about Goguryeo (ancient northern Korean) do check this wikipedia page or History of Korea.

Buddhism was introduced here [in Korea] as early as in 372, but was more popular in other parts of the ancient Korean kingdoms...

When I read the news each day I think these peoples of various faiths and economy systems and interpretations of history have yet to find a way to recognize the wonders and miracles of each other, as each and everyone is so great. Love your neighbor. North East Asia will continue to surprise, while inspire an ignite profound trends, for a very long time.

When visiting Nara, for example, you are not just visiting "Japan" but really a puzzle or matrix of influences that include people who came all the way to this city from India, China and Korea.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hamaoka Nuclear Reactors In The News

The Hamaoka Nuclear Plant near Tokyo is in the news again, with The Mainichi reporting that anti-reactor restart mayors have been victorious in nearby towns. Glad to hear that. Best of luck to the campaigners in Shizuoka prefecture who have fought so hard for so long against this particular nuclear folly. Check Hamaoka here on Kurashi and it is probably the one nuclear plant I have blogged about most often over the years...

Municipal elections delivered wins on April 21 for two incumbent mayors against the restart of the nearby Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, joining two other cities in the region against reactivating the plant's reactors.
Mayoral elections were held in the cities of Iwata, Kakegawa and Fukuroi, and anti-restart incumbents in the latter two were returned to office. The mayors of nearby cities Kikugawa and Yaizu have also declared they "will not recognize" any move by plant operator Chubu Electric Power Co. to restart the Hamaoka reactors.
All five cities fall in whole or in part under the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA)-designated 30-kilometer radius "urgent protective action planning zone" (UPZ) around the plant, where preparations must be made to shelter the local population in case of a nuclear accident.
The Hamaoka area is one projected epicenter for the next major earthquake in the Tokai region.
The NRA expanded the UPZ across the country from 8-10 kilometers to 30 kilometers in October last year. In the case of the Hamaoka nuclear plant, the new UPZ embraced parts of 11 cities and towns. Two of those cities also fall within the plant's five-kilometer "precautionary action zone" (PAZ), where urgent emergency measures must be prepared.
Municipal government approval is not strictly required to restart a nuclear reactor. Gaining local cooperation is considered essential, however, due to the burden placed on the municipalities by a nearby nuclear station, including preparing sufficient stores of iodine tablets and drawing up evacuation plans.
In the Kakegawa election battle between current and previous mayors, 66-year-old incumbent Saburo Matsui hammered home the message that "it's very hard to say that this is really the place for a nuclear plant," and, "I will not recognize a restart until the safety of the plant has been confirmed." His 73-year-old opponent and former mayor Shinya Totsuka, meanwhile, said he "would not entirely repudiate the nuclear plant" and said he would approve a restart if certain conditions were met.
In the Fukuroi poll, both incumbent Hideyuki Harada and his opponent came out against restarting Hamaoka's reactors.
"Even when the new safety measures (at the plant) are completed, I still will not approve reactor restarts," the winning Harada said.
Hamaoka reactor restarts were not an issue in the Iwata mayoral election.
Part of Kakegawa is within 10 kilometers of the Hamaoka plant, and had signed an agreement with Chubu Electric on safety measures even before the UPZ expansion. Fukuroi is not within 10 kilometers of the power station, but the city is demanding Chubu Electric sign an equivalent accord.
A Chubu Electric executive told the Mainichi that the firm would "refrain from commenting on the election results, but is developing thorough safety measures that we hope will lead to local public approval for reactor restarts."
The power company is set to finish construction on anti-tsunami projects within the year, and will install the newly-required filtered vents at the Hamaoka plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors by March 2015. Chubu Electric is aiming to restart the reactors soon after.

April 22, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joe Hisaishi - Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

I don't fly much these days, I feel I have more or less used up my miles when I was younger, and thinking about the planet, we all ought to travel more climate-friendly (and travel less). Be that as it may, there is also something subconscious about flying - I dream about hovering, levitating, using nothing at all to be air-borne. Might have something to do with watching Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, 25 years ago? Remember all those hover skateboards escapes and cool cars that didn't need any roads?

Or how about Kiki's Delivery Service, a wonderful Ghibli feature from 1989, set mostly in the imaginary skies over Visby, Gotland, a small island in Sweden. Kiki battles her reluctant broom as she saves the day. I like how they used that airplane in the beginning, a  Handley Page, only a handful were built in the UK.

G-AAUD, production number 42/3, was named after the Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator, who explored the Atlantic coast of Africa in approx. 570 BC. Hanno first flew on 19 July 1931 and was later converted to a H.P.42(W) (Hannibal class).

Back to the film - almost impossible to find on Youtube, so do rent it, or buy it, it is a classic. Apparently, the idea was to show a Europe that had not gone through two world wars... Well, Sweden fits the bill, but we have precious few flying mago.

This clip is from a special concert in the Budokan in Tokyo, with composer Joe Hisaishi conducting the NHK Philharmonic. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earthday Tokyo Japan

I was lucky enough to walk through the Earthday market in Tokyo today, a regular Sunday. If you haven't tried it, you haven't experienced the more aware youth in Japan, all the NGOs, the amazing farmers markets, the hemp clothes, the organic tea, the hippie vibe. This is a city that cares about the environment, the state of the planet, the wholeness. We are all connected.

More Tokyo farmers markets here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

TPP Links About Food And Farming

I'm more and more impressed by the amount of debate about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Japan. Here are a few links.

The Mainichi: Japanese participation in TPP talks bad news for everyone involved

Michio Ushioda, Expert Senior Writer notes: The TPP has such great value precisely because it is aimed at complete tariff elimination and trade liberalization, without exception. Demands for special consideration risk watering down this basic principle and producing a weak agreement. In other words, it may be better for the rest of the world if Japan were to turn down TPP participation.

Soichi Yamashita is a Hokkaido farmer who knows of what he speaks. Do read his heartfelt appeal:

The Mainichi: Farmer to urban dweller over TPP: 'You would starve if Japan's agriculture collapsed'

"There's no problem as long as you can buy food. However, if Japan's economy went bankrupt, you would starve without the domestic agricultural industry. I'd be all right because I'm a farmer. I wouldn't mind if Japan's agriculture declined or died down because I can produce what I eat," replied the farmer, 76-year-old Soichi Yamashita. "It's you -- not me -- who would starve."


"Urging farmers to send high-quality Japanese agricultural products to wealthy citizens in Hong Kong is tantamount to demanding low-income earners in Japan eat cheap Chinese farm products," he says. "If Japan were to sign the accord, opponents of Japan's participation in the TPP couldn't eat safe, high-quality agricultural products. Only those who are promoting the TPP could eat such farm products. How disgusting."
Yamashita believes that if Japan were to be a party to the TPP, it could lead to the disbanding of agricultural cooperatives, the elimination of the Agricultural Land Act and the liberalization of private companies' entry into farming. In other words, companies would replace agricultural cooperatives. Such development would certainly please advocates of structural reform. However, Yamashita points out that regional agricultural cooperatives are far more humane than private companies that purely pursue profits. He is worried that those in favor of structural reform could force farming households to recklessly seek profits by citing the examples of a few companies' success in farming, thereby destroying the regional communities of rural areas.
Yamashita expresses grave concern about the future of Japan's farming in "No wa Kagayakeru" ("Agriculture could glitter"), a book that records his discussions with 77-year-old farmer-poet Kanji Hoshi, who grows rice and apples in Takahata, Yamagata Prefecture.
A series of books authored by Yamashita are records of his struggle with Japan's trends of making light of and looking down on farming. His novel, "Gentan Jinja" ("Idle farmland shrine"), which depicts a farmer stretching a sacred rope around his idled rice paddy to prevent other people from dumping garbage there, was nominated for the Naoki Literary Prize in 1981.
Public broadcaster NHK made Yamashita's novel, "Hikobae no Uta" ("The song of the tiller") -- based on his experience of inheriting assets including farmland from his father who suddenly died -- into a drama in 1982.
Yamashita has inspected agricultural industries overseas on about 50 occasions, based on which he has written many essays.
It is widely believed that Japan had no choice but to participate in the TPP talks as part of efforts to strengthen the Japan-U.S. security arrangement. Despite the decision, the prime minister has emphasized that he will "protect Japan's rural scenery."
However, Yamashita is skeptical of the prime minister's words. "When farmers' incomes were half of what they are today, rural areas were bustling because farmers lived in their own villages. But these villages are almost empty now although farmers' incomes have doubled. Why?"
Japan's farming industry could not survive if the government continued to pursue economic growth and make up for all problems deriving from such growth with money. Yamashita is certain that the current situation of Japan's agriculture is the consequence of this policy.
Close attention should be focused on whether Japan can convince other countries participating in the TPP talks to create a system to ensure Japanese people do not starve even if the world is thrown into chaos and imports of foodstuffs to Japan are suspended. (By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)

I really wish Japan Agricultural News, a daily newspaper with a heavy-duty website, would pay someone to provide English translations to its excellent coverage of current issues including food safety, WTO, TPP, you name it.

Meanwhile, the current LDP minister of agriculture, Yoshimasa Hayashi, seems hardly the best candidate to fight for farmers' rights. Is there anything in his CV to assure us that he cares about rural Japan? Nobody has even bothered to update his English wikipedia page. Please tell me I am wrong.