Saturday, May 31, 2014

Eco Links For May, 2014

Remember these guys that looked like they were trying to bolt from my refrigerator? I planted them and 4 months later, they have given a steady, daily harvest of tasty green peas!

Thanks to some of you who have been sending links.

The solar energy boom continues in Japan, according to Rudolf ten Hoedt in my new favourite city, Kagoshima. Well researched article published by Energy Post and others, pointing out that the boom is not without issues:

For Japan, solar obviously has priority over wind power. 6.7 GW of solar capacity was approved in Japan for the feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme in 2013. Almost half of this was utility-scale solar.
This year, Japan is even expected to install over 10 GW of solar power, with more than half of this being utility-scale solar. The boom in utility scale solar got started by an FIT- program introduced in 2012 by the Japanese government. Under this program, regional utilities have to buy power from solar and other renewable energy producers for non-household use at pre-set prices for a period of 20 years.
 
When the program was first introduced, it started a gold rush. “In the beginning, there were many developers with a low level of sophistication”, says Patricia Bader-Johnston of Thurlestone Capital, a renewable energy developer that has funded over 500 MW of solar and off-shore wind projects around the globe. “Everybody who had a claim on land applied for FIT pre-purchase agreements.”

Energy Post: After the goldrush: Japan’s second solar boom

Meanwhile, if you are following the shale oil/fracking debate, that proponents claim will help get lots and lots of cheap oil from tar sand and "jumbled layers of subterranean rock" in regions like California: Not so fast, it turns out.

LA Times noted that estimates have been cut by 96% for one of the largest such area in Monterey. That was supposed to be a national "black gold mine" of petroleum.

LA Times: U.S. officials cut estimates of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation's need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.

The energy agency said the earlier estimate of recoverable oil, issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government, broadly assumed that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Japan is burning more of the stuff which has lead to an increase in 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the government’s Annual Report on Energy for 2013. The report was leaked to The Yomiuri and will be published later in June. The Yomiuri is fiercely promoting a return to nuclear power so I expect the actual report to be more balanced.

The Yomiuri: Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions up 8%

And if that is all too depressing, try this comedy video with John Oliver, who slams the usual reporting style when it comes to climate change. Must see!



The Guardian has more: John Oliver explained to Inquiring Minds why he found media false balance in climate reporting worthy of mockery.
"The stridency, and the intense comfort with a lack of scientific information, is ludicrous—it's objectively ludicrous. So I'm attracted to going to wherever the biggest hypocrisy is, and there feels like there's some good mining to be done regarding environmental issues…This world will be a complete ball of fire before it stops being funny."

Finally, "Justice is alive" says activists who got a court to rule against restarts of nuclear reactors in Oi near Kyoto and Osaka:

The Fukui District Court's decision that ruled against restarting the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO)'s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture has delighted the residents who brought the case to the court.
Some 200 people -- including the plaintiffs of the lawsuit and their supporters -- erupted in cheers at the court after one of the plaintiffs held up a sheet of paper bearing a message, "Justice is alive," after the court handed down the landmark ruling on May 21.
The district court's ruling discussed the enormous damage brought about by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and declared that extremely high levels of safety and credibility are sought after for nuclear power stations. The ruling lambasted the safety measures currently in place, stating, "They are vulnerable and only work out under optimistic prospects."
Miki Murai, a 34-year-old illustrator from Fukui and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said, "The ruling has reassured us that justice still has a conscience. We'd be too embarrassed to turn our faces toward people in Fukushima if nuclear reactors were restarted in Fukui while we are aware of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I hope the ruling will serve as a breakthrough."
Kiyoko Mito, 78, another plaintiff and a resident of the Osaka Prefecture city of Takatsuki who has participated in anti-nuclear movements for over 40 years, shed tears upon hearing the ruling. "It is a perfect ruling that takes the residents' side. The decision is something we can be proud of not only in Japan but also in the world," she said.
Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer and co-leader of the Datsugenpatsu Bengodan Zenkoku Renrakukai (National liaison council of attorneys in lawsuits calling for a breakaway from nuclear power), also praised the ruling. "The ruling could become the 'Bible' of anti-nuclear movements. I want the decision to spread among courts, citizens and politicians across the country," he said.
In the meantime, the ruling saw mixed reactions among residents of the town of Oi, Fukui Prefecture, where the Oi nuclear plant is situated. "The ruling is inconceivable. My company's future has become completely invisible," said the president of an equipment company in the town that receives orders related to the Oi nuclear plant from KEPCO.
"I hope KEPCO will appeal the ruling, but I'm also worried about the possibility of the trial being prolonged. With no clear prospects for the future, local businesses will find themselves receiving fewer orders," the president said. "As it directly concerns the livelihood of our employees, I want KEPCO to restart the reactors at any cost."
A man in his 50s who runs a private inn in Oi said, "The ruling is going into depth while the central government has demonstrated its commitment to reactor reactivation. The verdict gives the impression that the courts have started to evaluate (the danger of nuclear plants), which is shocking to our local community."
Jiku Miyazaki, 70, a priest in the town who advocates against reactor reactivation, welcomed the ruling. "It's an epoch-making ruling, and I'm very much pleased. Looking at the progress of the trial, KEPCO's counterarguments lack sincerity. The court has recognized the danger of nuclear plants in an objective manner," he said.
Oi Mayor Hiroshi Nakatsuka commented on the ruling: "I can't help but accept the judicial ruling in a somber manner. I will keep an eye on the safety screenings (by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) based on its regulatory standards and see how KEPCO will react."
Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa withheld from clarifying his stance on the ruling, saying, "I have nothing to say from the standpoint of the prefectural administration." The governor, however, added that "nuclear power is an important energy source."
At the public relations section at KEPCO's headquarters in Osaka's Kita Ward, more than 10 employees stood up together and were glued to TV news as the court's ruling was reported on. They were then busy responding to numerous phone inquiries over the court decision.
"We hadn't expected a ruling against reactor restarts," said a surprised senior KEPCO official. "The ruling would inevitably affect reactor reactivation adversely when safety screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority are already stalled."


Friday, May 30, 2014

International Biodiversity Day, Tokyo, Japan


International Biodiversity Day Symposium In Tokyo, Japan

International Biodiversity Day Symposium
Is Our Food and Biodiversity OK?
Saturday 24 May, 2014


YMCA Asia Youth Center
Suidobashi, Tokyo, Japan

13:00 Meeting hall open
13:30 Greetings
13:40 Message from South Korea
13:45 Status of GMOs in the Philippines (50 min)
14:35 Bt Brinjal: Bangladesh case (50 min)
15:25 Situation in Japan (20 min)
15:45 Break (15 min)
16:00 Panel discussion (50 min)
16:50 Final comments
17:00 End
18:00 Party at Tokyo Achikoko!!

なんと東京アチコーコーを偶然に見つけて選んでくださったのですがお話をすると、遺伝子組み換え食品に反対し、食品の安全を考える方々のお集まり。小さいけど、無農薬で畑で野菜を作る私としてはとってもウレシイ出逢いでした。
 

I am very happy that you found our place and know you all. Let’s keep trying to save food safety. I definitely support your activities!

お集まりいただいた方々の活動の一部は下記でチェックできます。


http://fa-net-japan.org/
http://gmo-iranai.lolipop.jp/index.php/


Japanese Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
Consumers Union of Japan
1-9-19-207 Nishi-Waseda
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan


www.nishoren.org/en/

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

European Parliament Election, Energy Issues, And More

Most of the news about the weekend's vote in Europe has dealt with issues that I don't care so much about, such as immigration.

But Bellona notes that:

The European Parliament has a record of being the most ambitious EU institution within the fields of climate change and energy. Earlier this year, it passed a resolution on the policy framework for 2030, where its views on the European Commission’s proposal were presented. The members of the European Parliament voted for a 30 % share for renewables in the energy market and a 40 % improvement in energy efficiency, thereby taking a considerably more determined stance than the Commission. Bellona hopes that the new European Parliament will continue to be at the forefront of the global response to climate change and steer the EU towards a low-carbon society.

I have also noticed in conversations with people that

a) they don't know that Japan is the world's third largest economy

b) they are not aware that all nuclear reactors in Japan are offline

c) peak oil or other such related issues are not really part of the conversation, unless you explain it


d) (and I could go on) gasoline in Japan is now 160-170 Yen/L

e) the people active in the TPP debate in Japan should understand that a similar debate is happening in Europe, with the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Christoph Scherrer: It seems to me that it mainly serves the interests of the corporations. Neither consumers' nor workers' organizations were consulted ahead of the negotiations. The catalogue of demands is fundamentally an image of the demands of the major industry associations.
One of the points of contention is the corporations' new right to take legal action. Some fear that parliamentary decisions could be suspended if companies feel unfairly treated by new legislation. How justified is this fear?
The idea that companies can sue states is completely new for any trade agreement between states that have well-developed legal systems. And it is one of the most problematic aspects of the planned deal, because it means the creation of a parallel legal system that is fundamentally controlled by corporations.
Symbolbild Flaggen Europafahne und US-Flagge
The TTIP offers corporations a number of new opportunities
Highly specialized lawyers will man the courts of arbitration, and they will be appointed on an ad hoc basis while they represent the corporations the rest of the time. This wouldn't be an independent judiciary controlled by political bodies representing the people. Such a right to take legal action is not compatible with the rule of law.
Why should such a regulation even be necessary?
The corporations realized that democratic decisions sometimes lead to changes in their investment opportunities. The best example is the transition to renewable energy in Germany: there is an energy agreement with around 40 states in Central Asia and Europe that includes this provision for legal action. 

The energy giant Vattenfall is now exploiting that to sue Germany.

In other words, a democratic decision is being questioned and corporations are being given the opportunity to claim compensation for profits that they may have made in the future. This compensation is expensive and could lead to future elected representatives having these costs in the back of their minds in the future - and then not making certain decisions on that basis.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Town, The Anime Version

If you like mountains and are up for a bit of a climb, there are lots and lots of wonderful places in Japan.

I live north west of Tokyo and suddenly my town is the center of a mountain climbing boom, now further spurred by the anime Yama no Susume (Recommending the Mountains).

I'm selling my veggies at the Times Mart store mentioned below.

The characters in the anime are students in a high school just 5 minutes from my house, and they get increasingly brave as they try new hills and venture out in nature.

I don't teach English, but there are always the odd foreigner walking down the main road, who do indeed teach at Seibo, so - I don't blame some of my neighbors if they confuse me for that crowd. Do get in touch.

If you come from Tokyo, this is one of the very best places to explore mountains. My town has of course made some efforts to encourage this trend. Local shops are putting up large billboards with the girls from the anime, and just this weekend, there was a city-sponsored event.

Nevertheless, people have come here by their own accounts, and the place is within easy access.

Tenransan in Hanno and Takao in Tokyo and other hills mentioned in the anime are not huge, but the point is to get all kinds of people to start on an adventure.

And learn a lot.

If you come to Hanno to climb Tenransan, do pay your respects at the large Edo era temple, Noninji.

This was an area that linked Edo to the forests.

Wood for buildings in the capital was shipped from here utilizing the many rivers.

Hanno and Chichibu also made silk and other strong materials, and there are many Kura (warehouses) that showcase the importance of this region.

Further west you get the Oku-Musashi mountain range, and if you arrive here on the Seibu Ikebukuru line, you'll pass Iruma, the Self Defence Air Base.

It used to be the Johnson Air Base (Youtube link to listen to the broadcast of the top 20 from the Far East Network with images from back then) which is highlighted fondly by many Americans who served there.

Bloggers specializing in comparing images from their favourite anime and real locations have caught on to this trend, here is Shinkirou

Now, even the Yomiuri has noticed this trend:



If you are a fan of “Yama no Susume” (Encouragement of Climb), you might be interested in visiting “sacred sites” of the anime by riding in style—in a bus decked out in images from the popular anime now operating in Hanno, Saitama Prefecture, the anime’s main location.

The anime, an adaptation of a manga with the same title, is about local high school girls who deepen their friendship and grow through mountain climbing. When the anime was aired on Tokyo MX TV from January to March last year, young fans began visiting Tenranzan mountain, the scenic Hanno Gawara riverside and a shopping street in the city’s central area—all of which were depicted in the anime.

In the spring last year, the municipal government and local businesses set up a committee to promote the city by taking advantage of the anime’s popularity. The organization has, so far, made a map to help visitors reach sites featured in the anime and organized tours to visit these “sacred sites.”

Now, images from the anime have been printed on two buses thoroughly covering the vehicles’ exteriors. Their patterns are different, but they show Aoi, Hinata and two other main characters, as well as local scenic spots, such as Tenranzan and Lake Naguri. Anime images also decorate the buses’ interiors, covering the ceilings, seats, stop buttons and fare adjustment machines.

The buses are run by Kokusai Kogyo Co., mainly on regular routes in the city and also for chartered events such as primary school excursions and “sacred sites” tours.

The launch ceremony on April 29 attracted about 300 fans, including those from other prefectures such as Chiba and Kanagawa. They enthusiastically took photos of the buses.

“I was surprised to see these large illustrations,” said Shiro, the original manga’s creator, who attended the ceremony. “I’m happy these buses travel in the city area.”

According to the city, the anime’s sequel will be broadcast from July. The city plans to make it more popular, following the lead of the city of Kuki, which was featured in “Raki-Suta” (Lucky Star), and Chichibu, which was featured in “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day), both in the prefecture.

 

Fan dubbed episodes 1-12:



This humble town with all its forests and rivers, suddenly a target of Tokyo tourism? I'm not so worried about that. If you need any support to make it to these parts of the wood, do let me know. There is so much to explore!

By walking along the river, you will arrive at the Wareiwa Bridge, which appeared in Episode 12.








If you go further down the river, you will arrive at the area where everyone was playing together in the anime. During summer, people enjoy swimming and having barbeques in this area. For those living in Saitama Prefecture along the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, this area is partly seen as a sightseeing location.




After you have played in the river, climb the short hill to see Central Park, which was shown in Episode 1, as well as Nonin Temple, which was shown in Episode 3. The garden at Nonin Temple has even been selected as one of the 100 Famous Gardens of Japan. Take your time and enjoy strolling through the temple’s beautiful landscape.




Mt. Tenran, which appeared in Episode 3, is a mountain that Aoi and Hinata climbed together. From the top, you can see a sweeping view of the city, much like what is shown in the image at the top of the article. The mountain only takes about 20 minutes to climb, but make sure to wear appropriate shoes––it is a mountain after all.




This Times Mart is located in front of the entrance to the foot of the mountain. Here, you will find life-size character cutouts and a pilgrimage note. Furthermore, inside the store are many items to commemorate your journey, including Encouragement of Climb T-shirts and original goods.




If you travel to Mt. Tenran from Higashi-Hanno Station, you will be able to see the school that Seibo Academy, the high school that Aoi and Hinata attend that was shown in Episode 1, was modeled after. However, guest’s aren’t allowed to enter the school grounds. Also, since it is located in a residential area, please be courteous when taking pictures.




At this railroad crossing shown in Episode 1, a mountain range can be seen far off in the distance. If you’d like to take pictures in this area, be careful of oncoming trains.




Last on the tour is the Yaoko Hanno store shown in Episode 4. Again, because this is a supermarket used by the locales, please be courteous when taking pictures.
By following the location route specified on the map, visitors will be able to see the entire metropolitan area of Hanno City. Completing this tour on foot will take about four hours, so if you happen to come on a hot day, make sure to keep plenty of water on you as you enjoy the sights.
 
TV Anime Encouragement of Climb Official Site:
http://www.yamanosusume.com/
 
Special Encouragement of Climb Page on Hanno City’s Official Site
http://www.city.hanno.saitama.jp/0000004112.html
 
(c) Shiro / Earth Star Entertainment






Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wild Food

What a discovery, an entire blog devoted to the edible plants found growing wild in Japan.

Enjoy.

Funny how I have been fighting one particularly obnoxious "weed" in my garden, turns out it is sanshou, a very fragrant plant used for many dishes, and especially potent in May. Do cut its most recent leaves and add to your salad or any dish. This is how I found out!

I was in the middle of Tokyo, near Suidobashi station. Tokyo Achikoko is a small Okinawan restaurant with amazing staff that know a lot about food. This time, they simply went outside with a pair of small scissors and harvested the sanshou, and put it on one of the dishes we had ordered. I observed the process, went out to take a second look recognizing the shape of the leaves - my "weed" and confirmed that this is indeed a useful plant... I also enjoyed their original horsebean croquette and the vegetarian goya champuru...

Weeds do that to you. They expose your weakness, your lack of knowledge. You try to grow something but there is resistance. Turns out, the resistance is part of the "good" and you learn something. You fight, you lose, you learn, you grow. Your food grows...

And the blog? Well, they just moved to a new location... Very weed-like.

Thinking Like a Forest

Shikigami - where the wilds things are

Sanshõ (Zanthoxylum piperitum, Japanese pepper). This is a pungent little plant and while it is usually the dried husks of the seeds that are used, at this time of the year young small leaves can be eaten. The young leaves of spring are most often used as a garnish in Japan but if used sparingly they can add fantastic flavour to a dish. The key is to use sparingly. Sanshõ will make the tongue tingle – often a sign that you should be a little wary of a plant – but it is perfectly safe to eat. Maybe not in large quantities but I can’t imagine anyone would even try. It is far too intense for that. I sometimes see sanshõ in sugi and hinoki plantations (otherwise known as “the green deserts”). Usually I see it growing in dappled light to almost full shade.

If you are in the neighborhood, do consider paying them a visit for their permaculture lectures (note the homage to Masanobu Fukuoka). They do all kinds of events and encourage resilience education... Also visiting Tokyo from time to time...

INTRODUCTION TO PERMACULTURE

Location: Shikigami. Shimoda, Shizuoka
Date: July 19/20/21, 2014
This introductory course is intended to provide a solid understanding of what permaculture is and what permaculture can offer as a response to some of the most pressing issues of our times; issues such as environmental degradation, species loss, climate change, peak oil, community breakdown, financial crises etc. This is not a permaculture design course – it is not a course in which you will learn how to do permaculture but rather, it is a course intended to give you a taste of what permaculture is, what it has to offer, and how to become involved.
The course will cover:
  • A brief history of permculture: from its beginnings in Australia to its development and application around the world.
  • Some of the fundamental terminology and concepts used in permaculture
  • Permaculture ethics and design principles
  • Examples of applied permaculture
  • Next steps: training up and applying permaculture where you are
Register for the Introduction to Permaculture workshop, July 19/20/21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paul McCartney: I'm Down

I saw Paul at Tokyo Dome when he first played the old Beatles tunes, 1989 or so. Was glad to have him back again but now he is - down - with a cold so here is a medley of videos, from Shea Stadium and The Budokan, back in 1965 and 1966. So very much loved here in Japan, after all these years.

Back then I was impressed that he promoted Friends of the Earth, the NGO here in Japan. Do support them, if you have the means.

Paul has also always been a proponent of the vegetarian way of life, and encouraged "Meat Free Mondays" for people who needed that kind of inspiration. Climate change? EAT LESS MEAT is a major message if you try to contribute to a world that has looked at all the evidence, and we need to get the message across.

Is it that difficult?

Paul says, it is the kids that give us the hope for the future.

I like how Paul also supports meditation 
McCartney has also in the past called for Transcendental Meditation to be used in schools. He said:
“I believe that in the future meditation could be as commonplace in schools and society as eco-awareness is now. It interests me that an ancient cure may be the solution to a modern problem.”
- See more at: http://www.tm.org/blog/people/the-beatles-may-have-been-on-to-something-after-all/#sthash.dBYX2a5T.dpuf
McCartney has also in the past called for Transcendental Meditation to be used in schools. He said:
“I believe that in the future meditation could be as commonplace in schools and society as eco-awareness is now. It interests me that an ancient cure may be the solution to a modern problem.”
- See more at: http://www.tm.org/blog/people/the-beatles-may-have-been-on-to-something-after-all/#sthash.dBYX2a5T.dpuf
McCartney has also in the past called for Transcendental Meditation to be used in schools. He said:
“I believe that in the future meditation could be as commonplace in schools and society as eco-awareness is now. It interests me that an ancient cure may be the solution to a modern problem.”
- See more at: http://www.tm.org/blog/people/the-beatles-may-have-been-on-to-something-after-all/#sthash.dBYX2a5T.dpuf



Big moment for me four years ago with Tom to visit Abbey Road in London.

And a small road nearby.

So, Paul, if you are feeling down, so be it.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Wood Job! Movie & Swedish Mulle In Japan

(This one is for Ken and his amazing efforts up in rural Nagano)

So this month we have Wood Job!, a Toei movie about forestry, a comedy actually, by the same team that gave us Swing Girls and I Forget What Other Fun Film About 18 Year Old Amateurs Getting It All Wrong At First... But this seems to be a rather genuine story about a guy who tries to escape the city life and do something worthwhile.

Expect being shouted at, a lot.

Filmed in Mie Prefecture, where there are no convenience stores and no mobile phone access. But there are also the fabulous festivals and the sweaty fundoshis (ahem) and the reluctant girl (what Japanese movie would be without one?) except she actually gets to bring said young man to some sort of character development.



And I think I will stop trying to review this film right there and then, except to note that Swedish singer Maya Hirasawa is back with another great hit, Happiest Fool.

Speaking of forests and Sweden, The Japan Times mentions (without actually saying it) Mori no Mulle (Skogsmulle), a campaign to get young children to experience the woods.

I did this in Malmö when I was about 5 or 6, and it is great to see it catching on in Japan, with a little help from the good people at the Swedish Embassy. Memories and experience, for life. Get help from experts who can guide your kids into the wonders of nature.

Swedish tradition of outdoor activities

Children living in the city were able to enjoy nature’s wonders during a Sunday event earlier this month at Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park in the Hiroo district of Tokyo.
The event took place on May 11, as the first of a series of educational programs promoting eco-friendly lifestyles. The program is co-organized by Minato City Eco-Plaza and The Japan Times, in collaboration with embassies in Tokyo. The idea is to learn about environmental efforts and ideas around the world through embassies, which serve as a window into each country.
This time, the event was held in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy and was aimed at providing preschool children with an opportunity to experience a Swedish-style outdoor activity program while exploring nature with all of their senses and learning about all living things. Backed by a long tradition of outdoor activities in the northern European nation, the children’s program was originally developed in the 1950s and has taken root in the society.
Led by Kiyo Shimoju, a Japanese expert on Swedish environmental education, the program attracted 12 children and their parents, including three Swedish fathers.
The children grew excited as soon as they were each handed a magnifying glass at the beginning of the session. The children happily examined a tree trunk to observe its mossy surface and find tree-boring insects.
Amid glorious spring weather, the children were invited to discover wonders of nature — very small phenomena to be sure, but nature does everything for a reason.
“Gently pick a leaf of tsutsuji (azalea) and put it on your T-shirt. What happens?” Shimoju asked.
“It sticks!” a child replied.
“Yes! Do you know why? Let’s look at the underside of the leaf,” Shimoju suggested, and each of the children examined the underside of the leaf with their magnifying glasses.
“It’s fuzzy, right? Why is it so fuzzy? Do you have any ideas?” Shimoju asked, prompting the children to think about how plants protect their leaves to survive in their environment.
Following the pathway around the tree-filled park, the children learned about various plants, including the “bad” smell of dokudami (lizard tail), a row of spores on the underside of fern fronds and the tiny seeds of hinoki cypress. Also, they encountered turtles swimming in the pond and a duck having breakfast in the brook.
After gathering several plants, the children sat in a circle and played a guessing game.
“It is not yatsude (Japanese aralia).” “It is not hiiragi (holly).” They had fun -guessing the plant names.
“By making mistakes and repeating the names, they can memorize the name of each plant,” Shinoju said.
Among the parents who warmly watched the activities, a Swedish father, whose daughter participated in the event, recounted his experience joining a similar program in his hometown during his childhood.
Akiko Sasaki, a staff member of the Swedish Embassy, was happy to be involved in putting on the outdoor event for the children.
“When I studied in Sweden, I was impressed that nature is close to people even in urban environments,” Sasaki said. “I think these programs are necessary, especially for city kids like the ones in Tokyo.”
At the end of the session, Shimoju delivered a short speech for the parents.
“The more the children learn, the more they develop a love for nature, and they will grow up to be adults who pay attention to nature,” she said. “I believe that such people are the foundation of democracy that leads to build a sustainable society.”


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Food Manga "On Hold"

One of my favourite manga is Oishinbo, created since the 1980s by a team of writers and food experts that truly inspired me to go out and look for better food, and find out about ingredients and their history. Over a hundred books have been published in this series, as well as a couple of anime films, often with political overtones and relevant to the news of the day.

So I was sad to hear that they had gone overboard in picturing Fukushima as unsafe, when there is little or no evidence to back up that claim, at least for foods from the prefecture that is on sale (seafood and seaweed products from the region are not on sale). In its May 19 edition, many different experts will get to voice their opinion about this issue, according to Asahi:

'Oishinbo' manga on hold after criticism of Fukushima episodes

Chastened editors of the long-running "Oishinbo" manga series agreed to review depictions after scenes about the Fukushima nuclear disaster in recent installments triggered an uproar.
The editors said they accepted criticisms leveled at them particularly with regard to the main character suddenly developing a nosebleed after visiting the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
In another scene, characters based on real-life individuals caution people not to live in Fukushima.
The editors pledged to review the way of depicting scenes in the future.
The installments that caused a fuss were carried in the April 28 and May 12 editions of the weekly Big Comic Spirits, published by Shogakukan Inc.
The Fukushima prefectural government posted on its website a letter of protest addressed to the publisher and its view on the issue. A number of Cabinet ministers also blasted the content.
In the upcoming edition of Big Comic Spirits to be published on May 19, Shogakukan editors in charge of the manga series will run a statement under the title of “the view of the editorial department.”
The statement, according to sources, reads in part, “We sincerely accept the criticisms and severe dressing-down, and will review and discuss the way we present the storyline.”
It also says, “As editor in chief, I feel responsible for upsetting so many people. We received much criticism and protests with regard to the content of the manga.”

There is more to this story and I hope to cover it. Are we really getting all the information about Fukushima? Is this an example of censorship on the rise...?

Meanwhile, enjoy this classic anime episode of Oishinbo where a foreign politician is treated to a Japanese meal in order to try to help him understand the importance of rice in food culture here. You'll get a lesson that ranges from pure sake to pottery, as well as how rice bran is used to preserve fish... Enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Trail Running, Walking, Hiking...

Trail running in Japan is about all kinds of fun. While I prefer walking, I love the idea that people go out and about. Where I live, way west of Tokyo, so many opportunities to enjoy trails, ancient hot springs and temples and shrines.

GAMBARE! Run! Lunge up endless steps, gongs beating in your ears and stagger a last few paces as if through treacle. Book-keepers wait in judgement, a banner swims overhead- why can’t you read it? Higher still looms a huge silver warrior on horseback, sword poised to lop off the heads of those below. You want to shout, to warn them, but they can’t understand and you laugh manically as you sink to the ground. No, it’s not just another running anxiety dream and you aren’t loosing it. It is a Japanese mountain race … and that’s only the finish….

Tokyo may excite the techno-urbanite, but it’s flat, it’s enormous and it’s very, very ugly. (Even I think that and I come from Rochdale.) Sanity demands that the fell runner gets the hell out. Fortunately, most of Japan is covered by beautiful mountains, some of which are only an hour to the west of Tokyo.  

More over at http://trailrunningjapan.blogspot.jp/

Top image from Tokyo Trail Running.

Couple of tips for the run: The mountain restaurant where we will stop for a break is SUPER. Mountain vegetables, wild boar meat with noodles, etc. Slow but great fun. Next, we might get wet at the very end, so maybe have a change of shirt/top in your bag! It's optional, but a nice finish.....

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Every season is a new adventure!





Meanwhile, here is Brutus, a Japanese lifestyle/fashion magazine, and its special focus on health.

A year ago or so, they published an issue about 100 things good for your body...

www.karada100.com (J)

Among the many events is a focus on trail running this month, which I have highlighted before here on Kurashi.


Tarzan, another magazine, recommends Baka Training College... Involving some super crazy ways to get into your slippers! OK, OK, that was just for fun...



On a more serious health-related note, Japan is in the midst of a Yoga boom, and I'm all for it. This has got to be one of the best health trends to hit these shores. Lots and lots of people are benefiting from not only the body work but also the ancient philosophy behind Yoga.

Dacapo from Magazine House has featured Yoga frequently.

Here is a video about Yoga from An-an, a very popular women's magazine (also from Magazine House).



(Update: Post edited for clarity & sanity)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Eco Links For April, 2014

What a lot of travels and what everyone here calls the 連休 (renkyuu, consecutive days off) or "Golden Week" but here are some links that I think are important.

Andrew DeWit has a great take on Obama's visit and how a US-Japan Green Alliance may be the key to the future. Heavy on military information but why not? The Pentagon apparently is way ahead of whoever-is-in-charge here in Japan when it comes to visions for defense that will not depend on oil.

Japan Focus: Could a US-Japan “Green Alliance” Transform the Climate-Energy Equation?

There was no emphasis on US-Japan military cooperation on climate change, even though the US military itself has for years identified climate change as the mother of all threats, including fully 8 detailed references to “climate change” and its consequences in its March 4, 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR 2014). Indeed, the American green military-industrial complex is openly calling for NATO to focus even more on climate change and greening, and not get unduly distracted by the Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. As for the assurance of fracked gas that Abe got, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently dismissed relying on it rather than renewables and efficiency as “prohibitively expensive.”
But Japanese energy politics and Team Abe’s preferences apparently led to ignoring these pertinent items, as well as the fact that there is already a “Green Alliance” between the US and Japan. The Joint Statement’s inattention to this alliance, as well as the way it is being mismanaged, indicates that the framework desperately needs top-level attention, particularly on military collaboration. Expanding and escalating US-Japan green collaboration would surely do more to foster both countries’ energy and military security than any other move. Considering the geopolitical stakes in East Asia, it is bizarre that years of US military green leadership and open collaboration with just about every other partner except the Japanese Self Defence Forces goes without comment in the relations between the two nations and in the press.

Eco, or not, if you want to get a glimpse of what some Japanese experts are thinking about issues like natural gas (LNG) do check out the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan and their new April pdf report about the "framework" beyond 2020, with all kinds of points related to the Kyoto Protocol and future issues with regards to China and these parts of the wood....

Meanwhile, well, the Mainichi pointed out: Small-scale renewable energy producer disappointed with new gov't energy policy:

The plan "has no high (renewable energy) targets, and doesn't contain any measures to support small and medium energy producers. Only the big producers with megasolar stations will survive," said 75-year-old Yoichi Yamakawa, president of Tama Energy LLC, a solar energy firm based in Tokyo's Tama district with small arrays atop universities and other buildings.

Speaking of energy, The Yomiuri (which has just about the worst website with virtually no old stories available even after just a week or two) noted that a Hamaoka N-plant area evacuation would take full day

SHIZUOKA—The Shizuoka prefectural government has said that in the event of a severe accident at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in the prefecture it would take at least 22 hours to evacuate the about 860,000 people who live within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant.
The prefectural government released results of estimates based on severe accident scenarios at the plant in Omaezaki in the prefecture on Monday. It is feared that radioactive materials could escape from the plant in the event of a massive Nankai Trough earthquake.
The authorities have said they intend to use the results when drawing up their wide-area evacuation plan for evacuation of residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the plant to eight surrounding prefectures, including Kanagawa and Nagano prefectures. 
The prefecture calculated the time it would take to evacuate the about 860,000 residents living in the 11 municipalities within 30 kilometers of the plant using about 280,000 vehicles.

I have blogged about Hamaoka many times in the past.

One problem not mentioned by the Yomiuri is that the main railroads (Shinkansen, Tokaido Line) go through this area.

This image from the Asahi does make the connection.

A nuclear disaster like the one in Fukushima would thus cut Japan in half, with no expressway or train communications possible between Tokyo and Osaka. Of course, we all hope and pray that will not happen, right?

Meanwhile, if you are unsure what to think about the many ways how you get your energy, one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint (which means you care about your impact on climate change) is eating less (or no) meat. Plus feeling a lot better... as you will help stop the madness that is factory farming.

April was an amazing month for news about the adverse effects of meat, be it chicken, pork or beef.

Let's start with Fredrik Hedenus, in the New York Times: To Avoid Global Warming, Stop Eating Meat and Cheese

To avoid dangerous climate change and limit global warming to below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the level of preindustrial times – a target endorsed by the international community and the United States – global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 80 to 90 percent by the second half of this century. But even eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors may not be enough to reach that target because greenhouse gases from food and agriculture, mainly nitrous oxide from agricultural soils and methane from livestock, will be too large.

RTCC: Halving meat consumption offers 'significant' climate benefits

World meat consumption is growing in line with rising income and population in emerging and developing countries.
But livestock production also has a large carbon footprint, accounting for 50 to 70% of direct agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, according to Friday’s report, “Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change in Agriculture”.
Reducing meat consumptions receives little research attention, perhaps unsurprisingly given the political difficulty of prescribing people’s diets.
Friday’s report suggested that, in addition, advocacy and civil society groups were focused on improving food security, meaning that the issue of changing diets slipped through the cracks.
“Reducing demand of meat by a relatively small amount would have a significant absolute impact on greenhouse gas emissions, human health and the environment associated with livestock production,” found the report, published on Friday by the research groups Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates.
The report used an illustrative “healthy diet” of 90 grams of protein per day.
Data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation shows that of 174 countries, only 47 nations had diets which exceeded this level of protein intake in the years 2005-2007.
But diets in emerging economies are changing rapidly, meaning that most countries would exceed the threshold in coming decades, if they do not already.
Global adoption of such a diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 2.15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually in 2030, the report estimated. Present fossil fuel CO2 emissions are 35 billion tonnes annually.
- See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/04/25/halving-meat-consumption-offers-significant-climate-benefits/#sthash.6hslTmS0.dpuf
Halving meat consumption offers ‘significant’ climate benefits - See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/04/25/halving-meat-consumption-offers-significant-climate-benefits/#sthash.6hslTmS0.dpuf
ABC The Drum: Meat the hidden culprit of climate change

Most of us agree that action needs to be taken to address climate change, but when it comes to moving to a meat-free diet to drastically reduce emissions, suddenly we're not so keen, writes Ruby Hamad.
The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, "It is easier to change a man's religion than his diet." It is also, apparently, easier to change the entire world's energy production.
Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, "Mitigation of Climate Change", citing fossil fuels as the biggest source of emissions, with coal, oil, and natural gas the major culprits.
However, the panel also implicates animal agriculture, noting that "changes in diet and reductions of losses in the food supply chain, have a significant, but uncertain, potential to reduce GHG emissions from food production."
Seventy per cent of agricultural emissions come directly from livestock - and about 37 per cent of total worldwide methane emissions - and it is clear that moving away from animal products is not just potentially significant but downright necessary.
The IPCC findings come hot on the heels of another study, "The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets", published in the April edition of Climate Change.
The study's lead author argues that targeting the fossil fuel industry alone is insufficient because "the agricultural emissions ... may be too high. Thus we have to take action in both sectors."

The Nation: Let This Earth Day Be The Last

National Journal: It May Take a Global Vegetarian Movement to Combat Climate Change

If we really want to cut down on global greenhouse emissions, we're going to have to do something about cow farts*.
That's the conclusion of a study published today in the journal Climatic Change. If we have any shot of reaching the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's global-warming mitigation goals, the world is going to have to start eating a lot less meat.
Thirty-seven percent of all human-caused methane emissions come from the worldwide agricultural industry. Compared with CO2, methane is 21 times more effective at trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere, according to the United Nations. While transportation and electricity account for more than half of emissions in the United States, the EPA reports that agriculture comprises 8 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. And while relatively small, that's a significant contribution that can't be ignored—especially considering how progress in halting emissions from transportation has so far been minimal.


"In order to have any chance to reach a 2 degree target, fossil-fuel use has to be reduced drastically," Fredrik Hedenus, the study's lead author, wrote in an email. "However, what we show is that may not be sufficient, as the agricultural emissions ... may be too high. Thus we have to take action in both sectors." Transportation and energy are the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, but researchers say a global shift in people's diets is also necessary to contain climate change."We therefore conclude that dietary changes are crucial for meeting the 2 degree C target with high probability."

So, how much less meat do we have to eat?

"It all depends how much we can and want to do in the energy sector," Hedenus explains. "If we do a lot there it may be sufficient with a 25 percent lower meat and dairy consumption than predicted in 2070. If we do less, somewhere around 75 percent less may be reasonable."

If 25 percent to 75 percent less meat consumption worldwide sounds like an absurd long shot, it is. Global meat demand only continues to rise, as fueled by China and the developing world. Meat consumption in the United States has actually declined in recent years, explains Emily Adams, a researcher with the Earth Policy Institute. "Meat consumption peaked in the United States as a nation in 2007 and since then it has fallen 4 percent," Adams says. "That's not a 75 percent reduction like they are talking about, but that's coming without government fiat or absolutely insane food prices."

But while meat consumption in the United States has fallen, that's a small drop compared with the rising demand in China.

(Earth Policy Institute)


But I think in spite of all the cheaply produced TV programs that endlessly promote meat eating, most Japanese still eat relatively little of the stuff. So, be that as it may, "we" in the so-called developed countries must set an example.

The huge meat consumption per capita in the US and Europe (and the total increase in China) is not sustainable.

Graphs from ChartsBin.


Having said that, here in Japan, as in all industrialized countries, local meat mostly comes from small operations that are not sustainable.

Case in point in April:

Bird flu virus detected in Kumamoto, 112,000 chickens to be culled

KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) -- Two chickens tested positive Sunday for a highly pathogenic avian influenza at a farm in Kumamoto Prefecture where 1,100 chickens have died, setting off the culling through Monday of some 112,000 birds, the local and central governments said.
The H5 virus was detected in the two birds during genetic testing of six chickens that tested positive in a simple test for bird flu, the prefectural government said.
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization will examine samples from the testing in detail, the local government said.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged relevant ministers to promptly take thorough disease control measures, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who conveyed the leader's message at an impromptu meeting.
"As the initial response is key, we would like to closely coordinate with related ministries and Kumamoto Prefecture and take firm steps," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
The prefectural government said it has asked chicken farms within a radius of 3 kilometers of the farm in the town of Taragi and another farm under the same management in the nearby village of Sagara to refrain from moving their combined 43,000 birds plus eggs.
It also asked other farms within 10 km from the two farms not to take their 398,000 birds out of the zone.
The tally of dead chickens at the Taragi farm came to 1,100 as of 7 a.m., up from the 270 initially reported for Friday and Saturday, according to the farm ministry.
"We will go all out to deal with the incident promptly and unfailingly," Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima said at a local task force meeting convened earlier in the day, adding his government will mobilize some 1,000 personnel.
The last bird flu outbreak in Japan was in March 2011 in the city of Chiba, east of Tokyo, according to the farm ministry.
Japan saw a massive outbreak of bird flu between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011, spreading from Shimane to other prefectures including Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Oita, all adjacent to Kumamoto, and Chiba.
Cases of suspected infection of birds with the H5N8 flu have been reported this year in South Korea, while about 100 people have died from the H7N9 strain of avian flu in China since the virus emerged in the country in March last year.

At stake here are trade related issues, including being able to declare your country or region as disease-free, thus being able to export animals and meat (and make money), according to rules by OIE.

The official recognition of disease status of Member Countries is of great significance for international trade and constitutes one of the most important legal links between the OIE and World Trade Organization (WTO), in the framework of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), which entered into force in 1995. In 1998, the official agreement between WTO and the OIE further confirmed the OIE’s mandate to recognise disease-and pest-free areas based on the SPS Agreement.

A country may either lose or enhance its commercial attractiveness in the eyes of potential or existing importing partners, depending on official recognition of its disease status. By acquiring and maintaining its official status, a country also demonstrates transparency and helps to promote animal health and public health worldwide, thereby gaining the trust of its partners and of the international community.

Granting, suspension and recovery of official disease status are handled in an objective and transparent manner, governed by the Standard Operating Procedures.


If you are eating meat, you are part of the cabal that is supporting trade agreements like the World Trade Organization, with the rules that made this happen, and the even more severe chapters in the (so far kept secret) Trans Pacific Partnership "agreement" that - fortunately, and thanks to a lot of protests here in Japan - was not agreed upon in the month of April, 2014.

Cull means "to kill" so what this means is, well, kill to trade.

Top image from video by EbruNews: Obama Visit Tokyo Amidst Protests