Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stop This Right Now!

Climate change, heat, cold, we are all wondering what is going on. The Hamaoka nuclear reactors south west of Tokyo are a no-go as far as I am concerned. This was before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima.

I was working on this very topic back in 2005-2006 over at Japan Offspring Fund.

Junichi Kowaka noted:

Of all the 52 active nuclear reactors in Japan experts agree that the 5 reactors in Hamaoka are the most dangerous. 

Hamaoka sits directly over a subduction zone near the junction of two tectonic plates. The ground is not solid rock, but sand. 

This area is in fact overdue for a major earthquake.
When the radioactivity is released, it will be much worse than if an atomic bomb was dropped in the region.
At Japan Offspring Fund, we are concerned with safety issues, and we would like to provide advice about what you can do to escape, when such earthquake happens.

I like how the Calvin and Hobbes creator dealt with this issue, from the point of view of a five year old (or so). Nature vs. the power(s) we cannot contain, safely.

Or are we just trying to get by? Back then why did we not regard the Fukushima nuclear reactors as the most dangerous...?

Mainichi Editorial:

Chubu Electric Power should reconsider reactivating Hamaoka nuclear plant

Chubu Electric Power Co. reportedly intends to apply with the nuclear power regulating agency for a safety inspection of its Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Shizuoka Prefecture by the end of this fiscal year, in preparation to restart the idled power station.
The utility suspended operations at the atomic power plant shortly after the outbreak of the crisis at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, following the strong urging of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Since resumption of operations at the plant is highly risky, the power company should rather consider decommissioning the complex.
Chubu Electric Power is considering applying for safety inspections of the No. 4 reactor at the Hamaoka plant to restart the unit ahead of its idled No. 3 and 5 reactors. Its No. 1 and 2 reactors are set to be decommissioned. The company cannot restart the No. 4 reactor until October 2015, because it needs to implement additional safety measures.
Nevertheless, the company intends to hastily apply for safety inspections because its increasing reliance on thermal power stations has resulted in a sharp rise in fuel expenses. The utility estimates that it will suffer from a net loss in the business year ending in March 2014 for the third consecutive year. To make up for its increasing losses, the company plans to raise its electricity charges sometime around April next year. Under these circumstances, the Chubu Electric Power board has apparently deemed it indispensable to restart the Hamaoka plant in order to improve its profitability.
However, the conditions of its site have posed a unique danger to the power station. When he urged Chubu Electric Power to suspend operations at the power station, then Prime Minister Kan explained that he considered the huge impact that a serious accident at the Hamaoka nuclear plant could have upon Japanese society as a whole. His explanation is rational.
The plant is situated just above the focus area of a powerful earthquake feared to be triggered by the Nankai trough -- and it could be hit by a massive tsunami if one were to be generated by such a temblor. Furthermore, there is a major industrial district near the power station, and the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line and the Tomei Expressway -- two main transportation arteries between eastern and western Japan -- also run nearby. Should a serious nuclear accident occur at the plant, it could cause extremely serious damage to neighboring areas alone. Moreover, such a disaster could divide the Japanese archipelago, dealing a serious blow to the livelihoods of all members of the public, as well as to the industry as a whole.
Even if the nuclear plant's operator implemented various safety measures, it would be difficult to overcome the risks involved with the facility being situated in such an area. The city assembly of Makinohara, situated within 10 kilometers from the Hamaoka plant, has adopted a resolution demanding that the power station be permanently shut down unless its safety is guaranteed. It is expected to be difficult to gain consent from the Shizuoka Prefectural Government, as well as nearby municipalities, for reactivation.
Although business performance improvements are certainly something that company executives should think about, Chubu Electric Power board members should reconsider whether resumption of operations at the Hamaoka plant will truly lead to improvements in its business performance.
Under the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, electric power companies are liable for damages from any accident at nuclear plants that they operate. Since such responsibility is too heavy for a single private company to fulfill, however, even Tokyo Electric Power Co. -- the largest company in the industry -- has been placed under state control following the outbreak of the Fukushima disaster. Therefore, it makes no rational sense for Chubu Electric Power executives to consider restarting the Hamaoka plant.
Behind Chubu Electric Power being so desperate to restart the Hamaoka plant is that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is leaning toward approving reactivation of idled nuclear reactors without showing a future vision concerning Japan's nuclear power policy. The government needs to show a road map toward ending Japan's reliance on nuclear power, and put its utmost efforts into urging power companies to shut down dangerous nuclear plants.

September 27, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Address by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, at the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Energy technologies? So, dear readers of this long-suffering Kurashi blog, what do you think of Mr. Shinzo Abe's comment?

[Energy technologies]
You (Americans) live in a country that is very lucky indeed, enjoying tremendous economic power through shale gas and shale oil, which will also lower your fossil fuel costs. Japan is not so fortunate. But it is exactly because we lack this good fortune that we have become masters of innovation.
Compared to 1973 when the Fourth Middle East War erupted, Japan's energy efficiency has improved by some 40 percent. Japan's petroleum-equivalent energy consumption per thousand dollars of GDP is now a mere 0.11 tons, in contrast to 0.17 tons for the United States. China's is 0.6 tons, showing how Japan's highly advanced energy conservation technologies outperform the rest of the field by a wide margin. Herein lies an opportunity for Japan to grow -- and an opportunity for you to invest.
Some 70 percent of the world's lithium-ion batteries for automobiles are made in Japan. Japan also makes the batteries in Tesla Motors' electric vehicles that are so popular here in the United States. Next-generation automobiles are -- to play on the famous phrase "Intel Inside" -- a case of "Japan inside."
Japan's LED lighting is also highly efficient, consuming less than one-fifth the electricity used by incandescent bulbs.
One provisional calculation asserts that if worldwide demand for 6.5 billion incandescent bulbs were replaced with Japanese LED bulbs, the energy conserved would exceed the output of 200 new nuclear power stations.
In addition, Japan will also continue to make contributions to the world in the area of safety technology for nuclear reactors. There will be no abandoning them. I believe that it is incumbent upon us to overcome the accident in Fukushima and contribute to the world by having the highest level of safety in the world.
In the waters off Fukushima, a power-generating technology of the future is now on the verge of blooming. That is technology for "floating" off-shore wind power. Currently, there exist only 2MW-class wind turbines anywhere in the world.

But we are now working to develop 7MW-class wind turbines off the coast of Fukushima. Its colossal wind turbines some 200 meters high generate electricity despite the roll of the waves. This will be a massive project that brings together concerted efforts from around Japan, with internationally respected steelmakers, heavy industry manufacturers, electronics industry manufacturers, and others participating.
Japan's energy technologies are a mass of sheer potential. That is exactly why I will push forward with reforms to the electric power system. In order to accelerate this kind of dynamic innovation still further, I will bring about a major transformation of Japan's energy market by liberalizing the electric power sector.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Recepie For Duty Of Care

Add one spoonful of Abe Shinzo's speech to Wall Street, including his weird reference to that 1980s movie character, Gordon Gekko:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak to you today. Wall Street, an entity that moves the global economy-- when I hear the name, my mind turns to Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas.
In the original film in 1987, the words "Nikkei Index" appear. Japanese businessmen also take the screen and the film reminds us of the era in which the Japanese economy was regarded as a juggernaut.
However, in the 2010 sequel, the investors that appear are Chinese and it is not Wall Street but London where Gordon amasses his wealth. Japan is conspicuous only in its absence. Just as the title, "Money Never Sleeps," indicates, the principle that money flows to wherever the profits are is decidedly severe.
It is certainly true that after the bursting of its bubble, from the 1990's Japan was mired in almost 20 years of deflation and the economy was sluggish. But today, I have come to tell you that Japan will once again be a country where there is money to be made, and that just as Gordon Gekko made a comeback in the financial world after 23 years of absence, so too can we now say that "Japan is back."

Whip together with Judge John Deed, if you have got an hour and a half. (I have no idea what movie PM Abe is referring to).

Who am I to add additional orders?

For some spice, add Fukushima Daiichi, at the Olympics recently in Buenos Aires, when Mr. Abe clearly lied to the world, stating that the three reactors with core meltdowns are now under control. They are not.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Generic Medicines, In My Mailbox

MSF Urges Countries Not to Trade Away Health as Trans-Pacific Trade Pact Negotiations Intensify

August 22, 2013, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam  - The far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) should be a force for improving health outcomes for the more than half a billion people in twelve countries affected by the pact, but instead negotiators are moving towards finalizing a deal that in fact would restrict access to affordable medicines and constrain governments’ ability to protect the health of their citizens, warned Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“Despite more than 18 months of persistent opposition from its trading partners, the U.S. government has refused to back down from its demands for intellectual property (IP) rules designed to impede timely access to affordable generic medicines,” said Leena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign Manager, who is attending the negotiations.  “The U.S. is keen to block developing country governments from any attempt to control abusive patenting or limit drug patent terms to the internationally-agreed 20 years. These efforts are a repudiation of the U.S. government’s own prior commitments to balance commercial pharmaceutical interests with the public health interests of developing country populations.”

For more details on the U.S. demands, read MSF’s Issue Brief:
In this 19th round of negotiations, the U.S. may up the ante with a new demand for 12 years of “data exclusivity” protections for biologics, a class of products that includes many lifesaving drugs used to treat conditions such as diabetes, cancer and hepatitis C.  Data exclusivity gives companies  monopoly rights on drugs by restricting the use of clinical trial data by drug regulators when approving generic drugs or “biosimilar” versions of drugs and vaccines.  Data exclusivity therefore creates a new patent-like barrier to accessing medicines and vaccines, even when these products are not protected by patents.

While the data is locked up, competitors with affordable versions of drugs in the pipeline would be forced to repeat clinical trials in order to get them approved – a costly step that is also unethical, as safety and efficacy has already been established by the originator company.  The World Health Organization and other UN agencies have warned countries against implementing data exclusivity because of its harmful effects on access to medicines. Furthermore, a twelve-year demand would be at odds with the Obama administration’s own domestic proposal, which would shorten data exclusivity on biologics in the U.S. to seven years.

“Recent victories for patients in India would not have been possible if data exclusivity on medicines had been in force, which would have blocked affordable versions of exorbitantly priced biologic drugs like trastuzumab for breast cancer and pegylated interferon for hepatitis C for years to come, even when the patent has been legally revoked, has expired, or in cases where a compulsory license has been issued,” said Menghaney.

The U.S. proposal represents the most aggressive IP standards ever seen in a trade agreement with developing countries.  For example, TPP countries would be bound to grant patents on new uses, new forms and new formulations of existing medicines, effectively “evergreening” pharmaceutical patent monopolies for well beyond 20 years.  The practice of repetitive or secondary patenting does not contribute to the development of novel medicines, but instead serves to restrict access to existing and known medicines.

Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the final TPP agreement doesn’t exacerbate the failure of the medical research and development system to deliver affordable medicines that address the health needs of developing countries.  As pressure mounts to finalize the TPP pact ahead of the October APEC summit, MSF urges countries to stand firm and reject harmful rules that jeopardize access to medicines.

My town sent me a lot of letters recently, urging me to get to know "generic medicines" and aim for low cost medical care.

Do look out for these key words:




Access to Life-Saving Generic Medicines Threatened by Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

Japan Must Consider The Impact of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on Access To Medicines In Developing Countries

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) JP
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has the potential to greatly diminish access to affordable medicines for millions of people in parts of the developing world, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today.

As Japan nears a decision on joining the TPP negotiations, MSF is concerned that discussions in Japan have failed to take into account the impact that aggressive intellectual property provisions proposed by the US could have on access to medicines in countries where MSF works and beyond.

“Our experience around the world shows that MSF's treatment programs – and our patients’ lives – depend on the availability of quality and affordable generic medicines,” explains Eric Ouannes, General Director of MSF-Japan. “If Japan does not properly consider the impact stringent intellectual property provisions will have on patients in the developing world, there is a risk that hard won gains in the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS will be undermined”

Encompassing nine countries to start (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States), the TPP is billed as a vehicle for economic integration across the Asia Pacific region and a template for successive future regional trade agreements, including with developing countries. The US proposals would delay introduction of generic medicines in the countries that sign up to the TPP and decrease competition amongst drugs manufacturers.

Competition among generic manufacturers brought the price of the first generation of HIV medicines down by more than 99% over the last decade, from $10,000 per person per year in 2000 to as low as $60 per person per year today. This dramatic price drop has played a major role in helping scale up HIV/AIDS treatment to more than six million people in developing countries.
Stifling generic competition also has implications for Japan’s own foreign aid policies. Japan is a key contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which relies heavily on generic drugs. Vietnam, Malaysia and Peru, are participants in TPP negotiations and are all receiving support from the Global Fund.
“Policies that restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments,” said Brian Davies, Coordinator of MSF’s Access Campaign in Japan. “Promoting access to affordable lifesaving medicines in developing countries should be integral to Japan’s trade policies.”
MSF will continue to monitor the TPP negotiations process and its potential impact on access to medicines in developing countries.

Got Asthma? TPP Is Not Going To Help

Trade agreement threatens access to affordable medicines
Access to affordable medicines is threatened by the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to the New Zealand-based leader of the Global Asthma Network, Professor Innes Asher.
Media Release
The University of Auckland
20th September 2013
Trade agreement threatens access to affordable medicines

Access to affordable medicines is threatened by the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to the New Zealand-based leader of the Global Asthma Network, Professor Innes Asher.

The US-driven trade agreement is designed to promote the interests of the pharmaceutical industry to the great detriment of public health, says Professor Asher from the University of Auckland.

“A lobby group influenced by the pharmaceutical industry is seeking to eliminate therapeutic reference pricing and introduce appeals processes that will allow pharmaceutical companies to challenge formulary listing and pricing decisions”, says Professor Asher. “It is also trying to introduce onerous disclosure and “transparency” provisions that will facilitate industry involvement in domestic decision-making around coverage, reimbursement and pricing of medicines and medical devices.”

Professor Asher was referring to a paper published recently in the journal “Health Policy” * in which the authors describe how these proposed TPPA provisions are likely to affect New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC).

“PHARMAC has been highly successful in facilitating affordable access to medicines for its population through a combination of aggressive price negotiations, innovative procurement mechanisms, and careful evaluation of value for money,” she says.

“The TPPA will most likely increase costs and reduce access to affordable medicines for New Zealanders. In turn, this would exacerbate inequities in access to medicines in New Zealand, and disproportionately affect disadvantaged population groups, especially M?ori and Pacific peoples.”
The Global Asthma Network (GAN) strongly opposes a TPPA that would allow pharmaceutical and medical device industries to override national health policy-making and invalidate policies and mechanisms that have been put in place to improve access to affordable medicines, says Professor Asher.

GAN also warns that such a TPPA would cause harm not only to populations in the eleven countries currently involved in the agreement, but it would set a dangerous precedent, opening the way for further international trade treaties to target low-income and middle-income countries. Many of those countries have weaker policy environments, governance and have vulnerable and marginalised populations, she says.

“The Millennium Development Goals acknowledges the need to improve the availability of affordable medicines for the world’s poor (Target 8e). Indeed, any country that aims to improve the health, well-being and development of its population needs to ensure equitable access to affordable medicines for all,” says Professor Asher.

Asthma causes disabling symptoms in millions of people who struggle to breathe, making ordinary activities extraordinarily difficult, with huge social and economic costs. About 235 million people in the world suffer from asthma and the number is increasing.

Professor Asher says, asthma is a neglected epidemic, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Underpinning optimal asthma treatment is ready access to quality–assured essential asthma medicines (a reliever such as salbutamol and a preventer inhaled corticosteroid such as beclometasone).

“Many countries in the world do not have these medicines readily available. Even where these medicines are available, their cost may be beyond the reach of many of the asthma sufferers,” she says. “In line with the Millennium Development Goals, the global community should be focusing efforts on making essential medicines affordable, and building policies, partnerships and mechanisms that will reduce inequities in health care across all the countries of the world.”
Advocacy is urgently required to ensure no trade agreements are allowed to counteract these efforts, says Professor Asher.

For further information:
*Gleeson, D, Lopert, R, Reid, P. (2013) How the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement could undermine PHARMAC and threaten access to affordable medicines and health equity in New Zealand. Health Policy (in press, published online).
Available from:
Global Asthma Network
Established in 2012, the Global Asthma Network is working worldwide to reduce the burden of asthma through improving management, research, surveillance, capacity building and GAN strives to achieve global access to quality-assured essential medications.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tokyo Autumn Festivals

Shitamachi Tokyo. This is one city where people do like to party. If you are thinking of going to Japan, late September is a great time. This weekend, we had the Nezu Shrine festival, and to the east of Nippori station, a full weekend of fun.

Do get lost in this part of Tokyo, enjoy the small shops and cafes and shrines and temples...

Yanaka is that kind of place. And there is so much going on!

Here is a short video of the dance in Nippori on Sunday night:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coal Mine Dance in Nippori, Tokyo

This weekend the Nippori Marche will feature guests from Kyushu, who will perform their traditional Coal Mine Dance. The market is on the east side of Nippori station. The tankobushi dance is a chance for everyone to join a classic Kyushu event, right here in Tokyo.

Saturday: 18:00
Sunday: 15:00 contest (best costume) and 18:00 (big final event)

Plus lots of local foods from farmers who take this market seriously, for 3 years now (and counting).

Details from Nippori Yume Donya (J)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Autumn Full Moon

Enjoy the exhibition of ukiyo-e at the small Ota Memorial Museum in Harajuku. Woodblock prints by Hiroshige depicting views of the autumn full moon.

More: Moon Phases Calendar for September

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tropical Storm Man-yi, a.k.a. Typhoon 18

Watch out for more heavy rain both today Sunday and tomorrow, as we have a direct hit over the Kanto region, including Tokyo. The Kinki region including Osaka and Kyoto will get up to 600 mm of rain. Take good care.

Tropical Storm Man-yi, a.k.a. Typhoon 18 will hit land at around midnight or early Monday morning, so there goes the "Respect for the Aged" holiday down the proverbial drain...

JMA Tropical Storm info (English)

Top image borrowed from Mainichi (J)

UPDATE 1: At 14:00 on Monday, September 16, the tropical storm is passing Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture. NHK is reporting strong rains and winds, and JR trains are not running. The storms appears to be heading almost straight for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Image (right) from NHK at 13:53 on Monday and bottom from JMA.

UPDATE 2: The worst damage so far seems to be in parts of Kyoto, with huge areas flooded on Monday, forcing some 150,000 people to move to emergency centers. Kumagaya City in Saitama and some smaller towns in Gunma were also hit by strong winds causing damage early this morning.

Shinkansen and most JR trains in Tokyo have also been stopped since earlier today, and are still not moving by 14:00.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Danger Of TPP Exposed"

9.6写真2Yoshiko Matsuda has been reporting on the risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks through a Facebook page, based on information she gathered from people worldwide.

Matsuda says she wants to inform the public on the need to oppose the TPP agreement, using various kinds of ways.

She consistently checks the homepage of the United States Congress and other overseas sources to gather information on the TPP talks, and conveys it directly to members of the Japanese Diet as well as posting it on the Internet. In May, she translated into English the resolutions adopted by the committees of the upper and lower houses of the Diet and the Liberal Democratic Party regarding the TPP negotiations, which urge the government to protect the five key agricultural products including rice and wheat, and sent them to all the members of the U.S. Congress.

Cooperating with Japanese women living in the U.S., Canada and Australia which she became acquainted with through the Internet, Matsuda began collecting signatures for a petition to the White House opposing the TPP agreement.

She received support from Norihiro Suzuki, professor of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School and a leading TPP opponent, to create a video message asserting the dangers of the TPP talks through sounds as well as printed words, and shares it on the Internet. (...)

Matsuda said it is not enough to merely oppose the agreement, adding that it is necessary to offer theoretical arguments which would sound persuasive also for TPP proponents. She said that instead of just criticizing politicians and the government, she hopes to urge them to work for the benefits of Japan. In order to do so, she said it is necessary to conduct activities based on appropriate strategies and accurate information.

In late August, Matsuda visited Brunei, where the TPP negotiations were held, to gather information on the TPP negotiations and attend briefings for stakeholders. She approached government and industry officials to exchange information and e-mail addresses. According to Matsuda, one of the U.S. negotiators told her that he was impressed by her enthusiasm and that he would convey her message to other negotiators when he returns to the U.S.

In the sessions for stakeholders, where industry officials and citizens’ groups exchange opinions with negotiators of the TPP member countries, she asked negotiators questions she accepted through the Internet, and distributed English version copies of the Diet resolutions to more than 100 people present. She was expected to hold meetings in Japan to present the results of her visit to Brunei.

Source: The Japan Agri News

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Olympics In Tokyo 2020?

Nice video here with all the announcements and the recent winning cities (including Nagano for the 1998 Winter Olympics).

I think Tokyo has a very strong and safe bid and hope everyone will be with us here.

In a few hours we will know.

Remember 1964?

Tokyo had been awarded the Olympics in 1940 but the war in China meant events had to be cancelled. Imagine the joy in Tokyo 24 years later in 1964... Sweden did not do too well, only a sailing gold in Zushi, Kanagawa.

After that, two terrific Winter Olympics (Sapporo 1972 and Nagano 1998) so this should be Tokyo's opportunity to once again welcome a lot of people to this amazing city.

Japan enters at around 1:40 here:

Update: And I could remove the question mark in the title. Congratulations Tokyo!

Update 2: Andrew DeWit has an interesting take on what is in stall for Japan over the next 7 years. DeWit wonders if this will be the "Green Olympics" we are hoping for. He spotted a remarkable sentence late in Prime Minister Abe's speech in Buenos Aires, where he essentially admits that there is little hope for restarting nuclear power - in Japan or around the world - and that Japan must accelerate its support for renewable energy and energy conservation "to the maximum."

And all of that in just three years, according to Mr. Abe, who may have been forced to shift away from nuclear power by recent events in Fukushima, as well as former Prime Minister Koizumi's strong message on August 25 that Japan can expect no hope from nuclear power.

Japan Focus: The End of Japan's Nuclear Power Mirage? Tokyo's Green Olympics in 2020

Update 3: (Since Japanese media do not seem to understand and appreciate the importance of having news online for the record...)

Former PM Koizumi's anti-nuclear case makes sense

In mid-August, former Liberal Democratic Party leader and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 71, visited Germany -- which has decided to give up nuclear power -- and Finland -- which continues to promote the technology. His impressions could be summed up thusly: I went and I understood abandoning nuclear power; I saw with my own eyes, and I am convinced.
Koizumi was accompanied by four executives from the nuclear power technology divisions of Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. During the trip, one of these executives whispered in the former prime minister's ear, "You have a lot of influence. Do you think you could come around to our way of thinking? Will you be our friend?"
Koizumi looked at the executive and replied, "In my own experience of most big issues, if three out of 10 people agree with you, two will be against you, and the other five will say, 'whichever is fine with me.'
"If I was back in the Diet in my old job, trying to persuade undecided members on the nuclear power issue, I don't think I'd have it in me to convince them Japan 'needs nuclear power.' But after seeing what I've seen on this trip, I think I could persuade those members to move toward zero nuclear power. I'm more confident of that all the time."
The little exchange appeared casual, off-hand even. And yet it was just the latest step in a long dance between pro-nuclear Japanese industry and former PM Koizumi -- who has made several comments on denuclearizing Japan since March 2011 -- as each side probes the other's position.
The genesis of this odd-couple voyage was an April symposium attended by Koizumi and the presidents and CEOs of Japan Business Federation member companies. The captains of Japanese industry rose one after another to call for the continuation of nuclear power generation. And then Koizumi stood and roared, "That's no good!" The room sank immediately into dejected silence.
Right after his single-phrase contribution to the symposium, Koizumi hit on the idea of visiting Onkalo, the massive subterranean spent nuclear fuel repository now under construction in Finland. He also put Germany on his itinerary, a country focusing on producing renewable energy for domestic consumption. When Koizumi queried Japanese companies in the nuclear technology business about participating, they responded enthusiastically, and the Koizumi inspection team was born.
It's been said that nuclear power is like "an apartment without a toilet." All nations with nuclear power would like to build a final repository for their nuclear waste, i.e. a toilet, but no one wants such a dangerous facility anywhere near them, and there's no way to talk them around. Onkalo is so far the only purpose-built final disposal facility in the world. It will take its first delivery of spent fuel in 2020.
The thinking behind Onkalo is that the spent fuel will be locked deep underground for the 100,000 years or so needed for it to lose its toxicity. No structure built by human hands has ever lasted that long. It's hard to imagine where our species will be in 100 years let alone 100,000, so is it really permissible to bury such dangerous material with just the knowledge and technology we have today?
I had the opportunity to ask Koizumi what he thought, what he'd seen, upon his return to Japan.
"A hundred thousand years," he began. "They say they'll re-evaluate things in 300 years, but everyone alive now will be dead by then. In Japan, there's no place to dump the waste in the first place. We have no choice but to get rid of nuclear power."
I mentioned that there are many voices calling the immediate abandonment of nuclear power irrational, and that they have the upper hand.
"No, it's just the reverse," Koizumi told me. "If no plan to get to zero nuclear power is produced now, eliminating atomic power will become all the more difficult in the future. All the opposition parties agree that Japan should abandon nuclear power. If the prime minister decided to do it, he could do it. Once that decision was made, wise people would make their contributions" to ensure it happened.
"The most difficult job in battle belongs to the rear guard," Koizumi continued. "To withdraw" is the hardest part. "Look at the war in the Showa era (the second Sino-Japanese war and World War II). Japan should have withdrawn from Manchuria, but we couldn't. The business world says that the 'economy won't grow if we lose nuclear power," but that's just not true. People used to say that 'Manchuria is Japan's lifeline,' but we lost Manchuria and Japan grew anyway, didn't it?
"You know the expression, 'Necessity is the mother of invention,' don't you? Defeat in war, the oil shock, the Great East Japan Earthquake; difficult times are an opportunity. Japan should make itself into a recycling-based society that makes a resource out of nature itself."
I've always been anti-nuclear power, and so I listened to the former PM with delight. Unfortunately, though these words come from the mouth of Koizumi, the pro-nuclear camp will likely refuse to hear them. And so I'd like the undecided, the remaining five out of 10, to know what he has to say. (By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)

The End of Japan’s Nuclear Power Mirage? Tokyo’s Green Olympics in 2020 - See more at:
The End of Japan’s Nuclear Power Mirage? Tokyo’s Green Olympics in 2020 - See more at:

Friday, September 06, 2013

Summer Dance

Obon Odori is held in many local places in late summer, an if you are in Tokyo, do catch the dance in Nippori, Tokyo on September 21-22 with the Coal Miners Dance. Check out Nippori Yume Donya for the schedule.

So, why do young guys in Malaysia dance the Obon Odori? "Girls, pretty girls in kimono!"

Meanwhile in Seattle:

Meanwhile in San Diego:
The Bon Odori continued into the night for a total of 20 dances, including “Bon Odori Uta,” “Tohoku Ondo,” “Ichi Tasu Ichi (One Plus One) Ondo,” “Tanko Bushi,” “Sakura Kappore,” “Memanbetsu Bayashi,” “Shiawase Samba,” “Mottainai,” and a Japanese version of “Beautiful Sunday."

Meanwhile in Argentina:

Yo voy a seguir subiendo videos :) asi q si quieren miren en mi usuario ^^ me alegro q les haya gustado, la verdad s q fue una noche muy linda :D saludos :) 

Meanhile in London, UK:

Meanwhile in Malaysia:
Date: 20th July 2013
Time: 6.00pm- 11.00pm
Organizer: The Consulate-General of Japan, Penang State Tourism Development & Culture office and Bon Odori Organizing committee
Tel: 04-6505136
A traditional and merry Japanese festival that is celebrated with dance and lively drum performances to welcome the homecoming of ancestral spirits.
This festival is a Japanese Buddhist observance that honours the spirit of ancestors, who return once a year to visit their families.
The carnival-like atmosphere at Esplanade is made ever merrier with stalls selling a variety of local and Japanese food, firework displays, Japanese souvenirs, lively performances and games.


Bon Odori festival honors ancestors, celebrates Japanese tradition in Westport

Updated 1:42 pm, Monday, August 12, 2013
  • The Japan Society of Fairfield County hosts a Bon Odori Festival at Jesup Green in Westport on Saturday, Aug. 17. A taiko drum group from the University of Connecticut performed at the festival last year. Photo: Todd Tracy / Westport News contributed
    The Japan Society of Fairfield County hosts a Bon Odori Festival at Jesup Green in Westport on Saturday, Aug. 17. A taiko drum group from the University of Connecticut performed at the festival last year. Photo: Todd Tracy

For the last five years, Junko Burns has been keeping the beat of tradition.
Burns, of Westport, is a member of New York Taiko Aiko Kai, a Japanese drumming ensemble that aims
to impart Japanese culture to present and future
"We want (our children) to understand where they come from," Burns, a mother of two, said. "Japan has hundreds of years of history."
She also believes the Japanese way of life has something to offer the average American: a sense of community.
"Every Sunday, we all come together to practice," she said of the group. "Our members come from all walks of life. It doesn't matter who you are."
It is in the spirit of inclusiveness and cultural preservation that Bon Odori -- a celebration that takes place in Westport on Saturday, Aug. 17 -- is held.
Hosted by the Japan Society of Fairfield County, Connecticut's take on Japan's biggest summer festival features folk dancing, bamboo stalk decorating, origami, water yo-yo, Japanese fashion and drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai.
Revelers don an array of Japanese fashions -- from the yukata (traditional summer kimono) to the happi coat (short kimono-style top) to other ceremonial outfits -- as they recreate scenes that unfold in hundreds of Japanese villages each August. Bon refers to the Japanese Buddhist custom of honoring the spirits of one's ancestors. The custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday in which people return to their ancestral homes and visit and clean their ancestors' graves. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years.
Vernon Beck, president of the Japan Society of Fairfield County, said the festival is "in many ways similar, fundamentally, to the celebrations of other cultures.
"It's much the same thing we do on Veterans or Memorial Day," added Beck, of Ridgefield. "Many people remember their ancestors. Look at any culture and you'll find that to be true."
The difference, of course, is "the Japanese twist."
The festival's most unique and attention-grabbing spectacle is the Taiko drums, which, on the day of Bon Odori, can be heard echoing throughout downtown Westport. At Bon Odori, the alternating rhythms and tones of the booming cylinders are used to honor the dead.
"It's very spiritual," Burns said.
It's also a lot of fun as Burns' son, 10-year-old Samuel, has learned. New York Taiko Aiko Kai is very much a family affair; it began in 2002 when Japanese parents at a Manhattan public school took up Taiko "with a hope to pass Japanese culture to their children," according to the group's website.
The way Burns sees it, with each bang of the Taiko, Samuel taps into his cultural identity and, in turn, keeps the beat of tradition going until the next generation arrives.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Flight of the Swans

Set in British Malaya and India, The Flight of the Swans is an expansive family epic with a war theme revolving around the vision of a flight of swans or a bird in solitary endeavour that signals a cursed Captain and his family's hurried escape from the hands of the British. This, to face hardships in another land as well as hopeful dreams. Family upheavals, mangled from a wounded political and historical landscape as well as sibling rivalry for the hand of a beautiful courtesan, hold reflection on a new brand of literary Indian writing in Malaysia that rests on ambitious history and vivid description of lives lived and lost through circumstances and bad decisions. 

This is a story that deals with the beautiful, the exotic and the tragic.

The Flight of the Swans by D. Devika Bai

In her debut novel, The Flight of the Swans, Malaysian author, D. Devika Bai has painted a richly decorated tapestry of ancient India with marble palaces, magnificent forts, royal procession of elephants, snake charmers, saints and sadhus, villages and glorious kingdoms. She brings to life dead facts and powerful empires in an era of brave rulers. In a family-oriented saga spanning three hundred years, The Flight of the Swans is a story about the Bhonsles, who bravely faced battles, sacrifices and tragedies. The Bhonsles were a prominent Maratha clan, known for their ability as warriors. The most well-known member of the clan was King Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire which helped bring about the fall of the Mughal Kingdom in the 17th century. The Marathas were also the most determined rivals to the British supremacy in India.!

Image of front cover from Monsoon, the leading publisher of books and ebooks on southeast asia.

- See more at:
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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

South Chinese Sea/West Philippine Sea

While everyone seems focused on Syria, there is a much more important dispute concerning Communist China and its neighbours in the South China Sea, involving The Philippines, Vietnam, and a host of other small countries. India is also involved, as there may be oil and gas in the area.

My advice? Stay calm and do not let daily news rock your boat. We have more important issues to deal with, such as energy, food security, democracy.

Mark Valencia over at The Japan Times has done a stellar job at uncovering the legal/international law issues.

Over the past few years, the Philippines and China have engaged in a series of increasingly dangerous incidents stemming from their conflicting claims in the South China Sea. On Jan. 22, a potential watershed date in the politics of the South China Sea, the Philippines, with tacit U.S. support, filed a complaint against China with the Law of the Sea’s dispute settlement mechanism — the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea based in Hamburg, Germany. Despite China’s refusal to participate, the process is continuing and an arbitration panel has been appointed and convened.
However, the arbitration is likely to be a long drawn-out process that may take years — and settle little or nothing.
In an ideal world, the outcome of the arbitration would be based solely on the law and the facts. Both sides would accept it and continue their relations. But this is not an ideal world. Indeed the outcome of this case could have significant political implications for the Law of the Sea’s dispute settlement mechanism, for the Law of the Sea itself and for conduct and relations in the South China Sea and beyond.

Lesser problems make the news here in Japan, but do keep your bearings. Stiff upper lip, all of that. Japan really needs better neighbours.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ask This of Rikyu (2013)

The Japanese film "Ask This of Rikyu" received an award for Best Artistic Contribution on Monday, at the Montreal World Film Festival in Canada. Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo plays the main character of tea master Sen no Rikyu. The story is set in the late 16th century and is based on the novel "Rikyu ni Tazuneyo", which won Japan's literary award Naoki Prize in 2009.

Here is a trailer:

A writer and poet, the tea master referred to the ware and its relationship with the tea ceremony, saying "Though you wipe your hands and brush off the dust and dirt from the vessels, what is the use of all this fuss if the heart is still impure?"

Many of the prescribed behaviors used in contemporary Japanese tea ceremony were introduced by Rikyu. Some of his contributions include:
  • A tea house that can accommodate five people,
  • A separate small room where tea utensils are washed, and
  • Two entrances, one for the host and one for the guests
  • a doorway low enough to require the guests to bend down to enter, humbling themselves in preparation for the tea ceremony

From wikipedia:

There are three iemoto (sōke), or "head houses" of the Japanese Way of Tea, that are directly descended from Rikyū: the Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushakōjisenke, all three of which are dedicated to passing forward the teachings of their mutual family founder, Rikyū.

It was during his later years that Rikyū began to use very tiny, rustic tea rooms referred as sōan (lit., "grass hermitage"), such as the two-tatami mat tea room named Taian, which can be seen today at Myōkian temple in Yamazaki, a suburb of Kyoto, and which is credited to his design. This tea room has been designated as a National Treasure. He also developed many implements for tea ceremony, including flower containers, teascoops, and lid rests made of bamboo, and also used everyday objects for tea ceremony, often in novel ways.
Raku teabowls were originated through his collaboration with a tile-maker named Raku Chōjirō. Rikyū had a preference for simple, rustic items made in Japan, rather than the expensive Chinese-made items that were fashionable at the time. Though not the inventor of the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the very simple, Rikyū is among those most responsible for popularizing it, developing it, and incorporating it into tea ceremony. He created a new form of tea ceremony using very simple instruments and surroundings. This and his other beliefs and teachings came to be known as sōan-cha (the grass-thatched hermitage style of chanoyu), or more generally, wabi-cha. This "line" of chanoyu that his descendants and followers carried on was recognized as the Senke-ryū (千家流?, "school of the house of Sen").

Sen no Rikyu films are always special and there have been many in the past.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Do You Care About Online Internet Consumer Protection?

Updating the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection for the Digital Age

Why amend the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection?

Download the book to read more
Download Updating the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection

Because digital consumers are being treated unfairly

  • Did you ever purchase a movie from overseas, only to find it wouldn't work on your player back home?
  • Do you hate having to click “I agree” to pages of legalese that could be taking away your rights?
  • Would you like to be able to freely transfer e-books between your devices and to share them with family members?
Our amendments will give you the same rights whether you buy digital or analogue, online or offline.

Because your privacy matters

  • Are marketers tracking you across the Web without your permission?
  • Are you worried about how securely your personal data is being kept online, and what recourse you might have if it leaks out?
  • Can you easily move the documents, photos and videos that you have stored online to another provider?
We propose to add the preservation of your privacy as a cross-cutting objective of the Guidelines.

Because everyone deserves access to an open and fair Internet

  • Did you ever have a dispute over an online purchase that you had no effective way to resolve?
  • Do you hate being forced to take a bundle of services, and to sign up for a long period, just to gain access to the Internet?
  • Would you like free online access to the consumer laws, standards and safety information that affect you, in your own language?
The amendments we propose will promote an open, neutral, fair and diverse Internet.
The amendments proposed by CI and supported by the global consumer movement will update and strengthen the Guidelines, for the benefit of consumers everywhere. Our book Updating the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection for the Digital Age is available now, and you can also download a full copy of our proposals across all areas of consumer policy. To support these amendments, contact your local CI member.

More information

Since 2010, CI has been engaged in proposing revisions to the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection to incorporate A2K principles that are important for today’s consumers. In 2012, this project was expanded to include a full review of the Guidelines. The links below include some current as well as some historical material from throughout this process.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Consumers Union Of Japan At The TPP Round In Brunei <= This is where NHK World had a video about the events in Brunei, but it has now been taken down. In their infinite wisdom, I suppose. Good thing we still have blogs to spread the word.