Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eco Links For July, 2014

I went for a walk and watched fireflies near a temple where I live. Amazing creatures. Got a lesson in bioluminescence from Pandabonium, too, via National Geographics.

There is a lot I do not know.

I like how my town is not exploiting this site for tourism.

July - hot and humid. Japan still has no nuclear reactors online. Do people in other parts of the world even think about this? Can we get some support, please?

Seems a small town in Tochigi near major tourist spot Nikko, where the Tokugawa shoguns have their final resting place, will be selected to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. "Permanently" is a pretty serious word when it comes to nuclear waste. Not sure why they didn't put it in Fukushima. Expect Narita-style protests?

The Mainichi: Tochigi town favored as permanent radioactive waste storage site

Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)
Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of the Environment is preparing to use state-owned land in the Tochigi Prefecture town of Shioya to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.
The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store "designated waste" including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.
Following the meeting, Mikata stated that he was "opposed to construction" of such a facility but indicated that he would engage in discussions with the ministry.
The ministry is eyeing three hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site, officials say. In a meeting with mayors in Tochigi Prefecture it was earlier agreed that prospective sites would be evaluated on four factors -- their distance from communities, their distance from water resources, the level of vegetation and nature in the area, and the amount of designated waste to be stored. Officials agreed to convert these figures into numerical data to make judgments.
During the meeting on July 30, which was also attended by Tochigi Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda, Inoue explained to Mikata that Shioya had achieved the highest ranking in the evaluation. Mikata responded that the ministry's move was "disappointing." He added that the source of one of Japan's designated 100 remarkable water areas lay nearby.
In a news conference after the meeting, Mikata told reporters, "I conveyed my clear opposition. But I think we should lend an ear with regard the implementation of a detailed survey. I would like to consider the issue after discussions with the Ministry of the Environment."
The designated waste includes straw and incinerated ash with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels or more per kilogram. In 2012, the ministry named the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita as a prospective location to build a permanent storage site, but it did not provide explanations to the town in advance, which resulted in local opposition, sending the ministry's plans back to the drawing board. Later, local officials agreed to settle on a single location in which a detailed survey would be conducted. The ministry had acted swiftly to make a selection. A total of roughly 14,000 tons of designated waste remains in Tochigi Prefecture.

Jiji Press and Yomiuri: Tochigi town chosen for N-waste disposal

Jiji Press SHIOYA, Tochigi (Jiji Press)—The Environment Ministry said Wednesday it has picked state-owned land in the town of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, as a candidate site for building a final disposal facility for designated waste contaminated by radioactive substances from the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima.

State-owned land, that must be the key word. No need to dilly-dally any further, then. This is an issue that should have been in focus since the first nuclear reactors were conceived of and built back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

NHK World:  Spent nuclear fuel: Reprocess or dispose?
The Japanese government's basic stance is to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and reuse it as fuel at nuclear power plants.

A basic energy plan adopted in April upholds the nuclear fuel recycling policy. But, for the first time, the plan also called for studies on ways to directly dispose of spent fuel without reprocessing it.

Behind this move lies a series of challenges the government faces in recycling nuclear fuel. A reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in the northern prefecture of Aomori has suffered numerous troubles, and has been unable to start full operation more than 20 years since construction began.

The fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan is designed to use recycled plutonium.
But the facility too has been plagued by troubles, including a fire and failed inspections, and its future is uncertain.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to continue geological and geographical analyses for the direct disposal of spent fuel. It's due to finalize a report in 2018.

However, this option also has its own challenges. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and compared to reprocessing, direct disposal would mean more than a 4-fold increase in nuclear waste volume.
Above all, the government lacks any prospect of finding a place that would accept a nuclear dumpsite.

Jul. 25, 2014

NHK World: Agency: Nuclear waste can be directly disposed of
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is reported to be looking at the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel instead of reprocessing it.

NHK has obtained a draft report compiled by the agency which analyzed the environmental impact of disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

The conclusion of the analysis is expected to touch off controversy, because the government has long maintained the policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel. It has conducted few studies about disposing of it as waste.

Spent nuclear fuel is known to have higher radiation levels than high-level radioactive waste.

But the agency's draft report says it is technically possible to directly dispose of spent nuclear fuel at a low radiation level.

If spent nuclear fuel is buried 1,000 meters underground for 1 million years, the radiation level at the earth's surface will peak in 3,000 years, at 0.3 microsieverts per year.

Even though reprocessing remains official government policy, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is nowhere near full operating capacity.

Japan's nuclear power plants have accumulated 17,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

The agency's analysis is expected to lead to greater attention on future discussions on dealing with the stockpile of spent nuclear fuel.

Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki at Nagasaki University says the conclusion that direct disposal is possible is a very important step forward. Suzuki is a former member of the government's Atomic Energy Commission.

Jul. 25, 2014

If you still eat meat, at least you know what to avoid. Right?

Kyodo: China scandal pushes McDonald's Japan to upgrade food-safety steps

McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) apologized Tuesday for a recent scandal over chicken meat provided by a Chinese producer, promising to do "whatever it takes" to ensure the safety of food on its menu.
"I would like to extend my sincere apologies to our valued customers for any anxiety or concern that this situation may have caused," President Sarah Casanova said at her first press conference since the scandal emerged last week. McDonald's Japan has halted sales of all products using chicken meat sourced from China since one of its suppliers, Shanghai Husi Food Co., was accused of selling spoiled and expired meat to Western fast food chains operating in China and Japan. It has already switched chicken sourcing to Thailand completely. 

These fast food chains are also going to increase imports of meat from Brazil. We know what that means: More rain forest cut down, more genetically modified feed, more bacteria and virus and you name it. You really want meat that bad (and that cheap?) and every day? Not going to happen.

Cheap meat, cheap energy. That is about to change, and are you prepared?

CDC Director Blog Thoughts from CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

This really made my day. I will be attending the meeting in Korea in October, and this is what we get:

Asahi: Nagoya Protocol to take effect in October,but Japan has yet to ratify it

July 16, 2014


The Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources will take effect in October, but without the participation of Japan--even though it spearheaded the initiative.

The protocol stipulates procedures for equal sharing of benefits on the use of genetic resources such as medicine between providers of the resources and users of them.

While Japan compiled the protocol as president of the meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, it did not meet the deadline for ratification due to a delay in domestic procedure.

The Secretariat of what is informally known as the Biodiversity Convention, based in Montreal, announced July 14 that 51 countries had ratified the document.

That means the protocol will enter into force on Oct. 12, exactly 90 days after more than a minimum of 50 countries agreed to be bound by it.

The protocol was adopted at the 10th meeting of the CBD parties in 2010 in Nagoya, with the aim of providing financial assistance to developing countries that provide resources covered by the protocol.

This is because companies and research institutes in advanced countries tended to monopolize bumper profits, which were criticized as “biopiracy.”

The first meeting of parties to the protocol to discuss details will be held during the Conference of Parties of the CBD, scheduled in South Korea in October.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: “Practical tools such as the Nagoya Protocol are critical for the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity. I commend the member states that have ratified this important international legal instrument.”

Japan has been slow to ratify the protocol because of holdups in making arrangements with related industries.

Various government ministries and agencies held meetings with experts, industry representatives and academics to discuss Japan's position, but to no avail.

“Japan is responsible for ratifying the protocol as soon as possible and to implement related measures as early as next year,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said July 15 after a Cabinet meeting.

First Japan abandons all the work for Climate Change, and now also Biodiversity. South Korea also dilly-dallying, if that's the term. Yes, that's the term. Countries need to grow some spine and man up and get serious about these issues.

What a month.

I like Ken's idea of restoring an old house in rural Nagano prefecture, with farmland and forest, and pledged 5,000 yen to his amazing vision/project called Kijisan. Do follow/support/enjoy.

Who hasn’t thought about restoring a Japanese mountain farm? Japan is full of small dying hamlets that are loaded with perfectly good infrastructure and inexpensive homes on old agriculture lots. While the social structures of these hamlets are fading, they have small commercial centers, water systems, and are surrounded by forest reserves, or commons. They are walkable, bikeable, quiet and usually human scaled. To my mind they are the model to emulate, and ought not be abandoned.

Why is it Calvin & Hobbes have all the answers...

Top image from Saitama company Yoshima, staff blog

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Greetings, Fist Bump (Or Why Not Just The Bow) To Avoid Bacteria

Something I have been worried about for a long time: The old European/American hand shake. Sorry, but it is a disgusting way to say hi. Share a lot of emotions, yes, and also a lot of germs.

I much prefer the Japanese bow.

Great greeting, good manners, no worries about transmitting germs.

If that is not your style, go for the Fist Bump.

Me? I'm a now a solid bow kind of guy. No need to over do it, just a touch of the neck muscles and a moment of humble. Humility? No, just humble.

As in, hi, great to have the honour to meet you.

Medical Daily: Why A Fist Bump Is More Hygenic Than A Handshake

A fist bump may be more than just the young, cooler way to greet someone; it could possibly hold the answer in preventing the spread of bacteria. According to a recent study, a dap can reduce the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria up to about four times compared with a handshake. (...)

A fist-bumping alternative to reduce germs is especially useful since studies have highlighted only a small percentage of individuals wash their hands correctly. In a study from Michigan State University, researchers found only five percent of the popilation washes their hands correctly. The majority of people who wash their hands after using the bathroom do not wash them long enough for the soap to effectively kill the bacteria living on the hands. One-third of all the people who did wash their hands didn't even use soap, and 10 percent of people didn't wash their hands at all after using the bathroom.  

In his books Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse (and the popular PBS and National Geographic documentaries they inspired), big-picture scholar Jared Diamond explores civilizations and why they all seem to fall. Now in his latest book, The World Until Yesterday, Diamond examines small, traditional, tribal societies -- and suggests that modern civilization is only our latest solution to survival.

Diamond’s background in evolutionary biology, geography and physiology informs his integrated vision of human history. He posits that success -- and failure -- depends on how well societies adapt to their changing environment.

TED Talks by Jared Diamond about aging, and more

"Why you white men have so much cargo...?" Yes, "why" indeed.

"It's an audacious idea, that the inequalities of the world, were born from the crops we eat..."

Looking back thousands of years, Jared Diamond argues that farming gave some cultures an enormous head start... Those who co-habited with cattle and pigs may have had a head start. Still, the deadly germs, a large part of the story, starts at around 1.37.00

So, in the late 16th century, Japan and Korea and this part of the world somehow managed to avoid the terrible faith that the Inkas in south america and mexico and elsewhere were exposed to.

Guns, Germs And Steel - based on the book by Jared Diamond

Friday, July 25, 2014

Miyazawa Kenji - An Introduction

Do visit the Japan Organic Agriculture Association event on Friday, July 25, 2014 to learn more about Miyazawa Kenji.

Poet, writer, vegetarian, and more. From Iwate prefecture. And he is well known in Japan and around the world for his essays on wilderness, and the universe, how hard it is to be human, and the wonders of nature.

Night of the Milky Way Railway and Other Stories

This collection of timeless children's classics by Japan's most beloved modern-age writer features Ginga tetsudo no yoru (tr. Night of the Milky Way Railway), Miyazawa's most celebrated work. It is a story about Giovanni, a schoolboy, and his friend Campanella, and their voyage across the Milky Way aboard a night train. One evening while stargazing, Giovanni hears a voice: "Milky Way Station!" The next moment he is on a train speeding through the galaxy with Campanella. Outside their windows the boys can see a shimmering, phosphorescent river of stars. On the train they meet shipwrecked passengers of the Titanic and a bird catcher, and listen to stories and see sights that fill them with wonder. Gradually, as the train makes stops, the other travelers on it disappear. Giovanni, however, has a ticket that allows him to stay on the train as long as he likes. Finally, at Heaven, Campanella disappears, too, leaving Giovanni all alone. Then Giovanni suddenly wakes up to discover he had fallen asleep beneath the stars. As he makes his way back into town, he learns that Campanella drowned in a river that evening while attempting to save the life of a friend. Vivid in its telling and ripe with symbolism, the story resonates with both Christian and Buddhist themes.
Also included in this anthology are the highly popular, light-hearted tales Matasaburo of the Wind and The Restaurant of Many Orders.
Miyazawa's writings have been published many times over in Japan as multi-volume collected works. Matasaburo of the Wind has been made into a movie three times, while Night of the Milky Way Railway has been adapted for the stage, made into an animated film, and published in several English translations.

To attend the lecture, you need to apply to JOAA:

   舘野 廣幸さん
     栃木県下都賀郡 有機稲作・きのこ栽培農家

■日 時:2014年7月25日(金) 午後6:30~8:30

■会 場:文京区湯島第二会館
    (文京区本郷3-10-18 TEL 03-3814-9245)

■主 催:日本有機農業研究会
■申し込み・問い合わせ先 日本有機農業研究会事務局
            TEL 03-3818-3078 / FAX 03-3818-3417
            E-mail : mail

Homage to the Life and Poetry of Miyazawa Kenji

Japan Focus: Roger Pulvers

A Walk Along the Shores of Shura

The city of Hanamaki has finally recognized the importance of this stretch of river and beautified it with walkways, lookouts and a host of flowers, many of which appear in Kenji’s works.  On this particular Sunday the 21st, a light rain was falling.  I walked along the river, on the narrow path that cuts through the cosmos and sunflowers—I even wrote a poem about the path called “Light Years”—and truly felt that this was the place Kenji called “the shores of Shura.”  (Shura is one of the realms of existence, the one just below “Humans,” where pandemonium reigns…a kind of Buddhist Purgatory.)

That afternoon I went to the Miyazawa home that I visited in 1969, when I first met Miyazawa Seiroku, Kenji’s younger brother.  From there we walked to the stone monument of Kenji’s most famous poem, “Strong in the Rain,” where the annual Kenjisai, or Kenji Festival, is held.  This was the second time that I was attending this festival, the first being in 1970.

Top image: In 1910, Miyazawa Kenji drew this image of the Halley comet. From friends.

A new book published in the spring of 2014 is creating a stir of interest in Miyazawa Kenji and his writings. I hope we will see translations asap. Very timely. Do explore.

宮沢賢治: おれはひとりの修羅なのだ

NHK World, I really like how Peter Barakan goes deep into this topic, do start at 1.00 or so.

And, thanks to Youtube, here is the 1985 movie

Night on the Galactic Railroad
Ginga-tetsudo no yoru (1985)
Directors: Gisaburo Sugii, Arlen Tarlofsky

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Food Safety Violations, Sankei Shimbun Analysis

So, how bad are food imports? Sankei Shimbun notes that in 2013, Japanese food inspectors officially caught some 278 violations in the imports from China, compared to 174 from the US, 93 from Thailand, 45 from Korea and 29 from France.

But if you look more closely at the data, Japan inspected a lot more food from China.

Thus the rate of violation found by Japanese government food safety inspectors was only .25% in the case of Chinese imports. The bigger problem would be foods imported from the US at .8%, Thailand at .78%, Korea at .58% and France at .34%.

China, the bastion of food safety?

Well, they rank just above France, representing the European Union, with its draconian food safety laws, that the US is trying to crush in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, that seem similar to what the US is trying to do in the TPP negotiations here in the Pacific... Here is what BEUC, the European consumers organization has to say:

BEUC Food Safety Publications: Food and the TTIP (pdf)

BEUC: Food in TTIP

What is at stake for EU consumers? Food is one of the vital sectors which will be majorly affected by a TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement between the EU and the US.

A new BEUC position paper on Food and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is available as of today, wherein we have identified three main areas of concern.

1. Decontamination treatments
The US authorises slaughterhouses to use decontamination treatments on carcasses, on a massive scale. Chemicals like chlorine and peroxyacids are used to wash meat at the end of the production line. Such treatments are not allowed in the EU due to insufficient evidence as to their efficacy and the potential risk to consumers’ safety. TTIP should not be used as a vehicle to allow these treatments within the EU.

2. "Farm-to-fork approach

In the EU, food safety is guaranteed by the ‘farm to fork’ approach, meaning that food safety must be ensured throughout the production chain. This approach minimises the risk of human contamination with poisonous bacteria carried by farmed animals, either via consumption or transmission from the production environment. As such, it has greater public health benefits than ‘end-of-line’ pathogen reduction treatments focussed only on the food pathway. BEUC is aiming to prevent any potential negative impacts TTIP could have on consumers’ wellbeing.

3. Growth promoters and antibiotic resistance
The growing problem of antibiotic resistance knows no border and causes many deaths on both sides of the Atlantic every year (25,000 in the EU). BEUC is calling for a ban on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on animals bred for food and we oppose the lifting of bans on the import of meat treated with hormones or growth promoters because of TTIP.

Aside from the aforementioned concerns, TTIP does present some opportunities for both blocs to step up cooperation in the food sector. Although currently not part of the negotiating trade agenda of the EU or US, we see positive potential for consumers for example in:

- Food traceability
Recent scandals involving supposed beef products tainted with horsemeat in the EU as well as poultry and tomatoes in the US show a need for both partners to advance their practices. TTIP is an opportunity to put more effective food traceability systems in place.

- Food alert systems
Under TTIP, trade barriers will open so a broader range of foodstuffs will circulate in a wider market. Therefore, sharing food safety information effectively and quickly in emergencies is also an area where we see potential for cooperation between the EU and US.

Forget about China.

The US is the world's dirtiest food exporter.

Not saying Chinese foods are safe, or not, just noting that if an importing country like Japan makes THE effort, imports can be managed through a) investments in food safety measures and education at the production plants, b) global standards like FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius, c) investments in food safety monitoring and inspection at points of import, like Japan does.

Meanwhile, I will stick to a meat-free diet.

Graph from Sankei, from MSN. Data from Japan's Ministry of Health (2013)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chinese Food Scandal, Japan Reacts

Again, a food scandal involving unsanitary practices at a major meat processing company. It happens everywhere, not only in China, but this time, the ramifications are huge for the cheap meat/fast food retailers like McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks and even FamilyMart in Japan and others around the world.

First, it was thought that the Husi company in Shanghai only supplied local Chinese outlets with hamburgers and chicken products.

Quickly, on Tuesday we learnt that here in Japan, McDonald's and FamilyMart (Sankei, J) use the same supplier.

So much for consumer choice in the 21th century. Economists tell us we will get more and more at lower prices, while what consumers get is just more of the same, and the only way we know how it is produced is when whistle-blowers reveal the outrageous conditions. Plus, we get all that fun and bright advertising, of course. Which we pay for, indirectly, but still.

This case started to unravel as a clever and courageous camera team got inside the dirty factory. Way to go.

Food Safety News: Chinese TV Report Prompts McDonald’s and KFC to Drop U.S.-Owned Supplier

China’s Dragon TV has thrust a Chicago-area meat supplier into the arms of its crisis communications team with public apologies and promises for quick corrective action. But Aurora, [Illinois]-based OSI Group could not act fast enough to stop McDonald’s and Yum! Brands Inc.’s KFC from cutting business ties with its Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd.
Late Sunday, the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration shut Shanghai Husi down.
Dragon TV’s aired report purportedly shows workers at Shanghai Husi picking up meat from the factory floor as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh meat. Workers were also recorded as saying that customers would not buy the company’s products if they knew what was going on.
Both McDonald’s and KFC used Shanghai Husi as a meat supplier.

As far as I am concerned, after years of working on food safety issues, the cause of this is not the young manager who makes a wrong call, although he should know better. The pressure comes from the owner of the factory, who knows he is but a cog in a wheel of a larger concern that is listed on Wall Street like any other producer, be it cars or tanks or wind shield wipers... And the consensus among those who share the same profit-only mind set is what makes them order people to:

The report showed an e-mail from management, which allegedly asked employees to extend the expiry date of 10 tonnes of frozen beef. The meat, reportedly already green and odorous, was reprocessed, refrozen and repackaged with a new expiry date, the report alleged.
The report featured footage showing staff picking up food from the floor and throwing it into processing machines.
Discarded Chicken McNuggets, a McDonald's staple, could be seen being reprocessed until they passed inspection. The report indicated that clients did not know about the practices.

Even your chicken or meatballs at Ikea may have been tainted (meatballs often contain all kinds of meat, not just "beef products" that can contain all kinds of meat and other stuff - like "edible offal" from cows, do search for that, if you have the guts, pun intended...):

Swedish retailer Ikea also said it had bought chicken meat for its mainland branches from the factory between September 2012 and August last year, adding that it was "highly concerned about the ingredient quality issue".

Source: South China Morning Post

And how they lie to cover up?

According to Bloomberg, "The meat was sold to locations in China and Japan, Heidi Barker, a U.S. spokeswoman for McDonald’s, said in an e-mail. The facility had only supplied the Shanghai market, not all of China, she said. In Japan, McNuggets was the sole affected item"

Not true, as FamilyMart has later tonight announced that they also had to recall meat products that came from the Husi factory in Shanghai. More details from Bloomberg:

This is the second time in less than two years that McDonald’s and Yum have been hit by a food safety issue involving Chinese suppliers. In December 2012, Shanghai authorities said that tests conducted from 2010 to 2011 by a third-party agency found high levels of antibiotics in eight batches of chicken supplied to Yum by Liuhe Group Co. The company also supplied McDonald’s in China at the time. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Desperate Days For The US Meat Industry?

No wonder the US meat industry is so desperate to push Japan and other importing countries to further "liberalize" meat markets. US meat consumption is rapidly decreasing, so producers want to increase their exports. Simple, but their tactics may be about to backfire.

What the US pork and beef people face is a complete collapse back home. Not much talked about, but here are the facts:

The USDA’s latest figures show that Americans are continuing to turn away from meat. Meat consumption reached a high of 201.5 pounds per capita in 2004 but has dropped steadily since then, reaching 181.5 pounds in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. The last time meat intake was at this level was 1983. These figures show that the average American is consuming 20 pounds less meat each year, compared to a decade ago.

From Dr. Barnard's blog: Meat-Eating Falls to Lowest Level in 3 Decades

(Hat tip to Pandabonium!)

No wonder the US Pork Council, the Dairy Foods Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and lots of others (including meat producers in Australia and other countries) complain so loudly that Japan tries to avoid cheap imports of unhealthy foods...

The American Meat Institute is a massive organization with a lot of weight (pun intended) in Washington DC. Read more on their website:

Five meat and poultry organizations thanked President Barack Obama for the Administration's efforts in the ongoing TPP negotiations...

As Dr. Barnard notes:

Skipping meat has many advantages. People who avoid meat are thinner than meat-eaters. In a 2009 study published by the American Diabetes Association, meat-eaters had an average body mass index (BMI) of 28.8, well above 25.0, the upper limit for a healthful weight. But people who avoided animal products had an average BMI of 23.6. Avoiding meat also cuts the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and improves blood pressure.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Support And Enjoy Aizu Wakamatsu In Nippori, Tokyo

Do you like farmers markets? If you are in Tokyo, do explore Nippori for the monthly Marche events, and get a chance to buy fresh vegetables and lots of food from all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Kagoshima and Okinawa: The people who grow it, know it.

Nippori Yume Donya (J)

This weekend the focus is on Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima, as the local farmers and the city office decided to support a great summer dance event, with all kinds of surprises.

Do wear a yukata if you are so inclined. Saturday evening should be a lot of fun! I'm also told a television team will be covering the event, so if you do get caught in front of a camera, there is your chance to be on national TV!

East exit from JR Nippori station, you'll see the green tents once you are out of the station.

I like how we can create events, and go beyond the usual structures. We need good people who make an effort. In Japan, the JA people are great, they do a lot of good, but we need more than that to provide services that reach out to consumers, in new ways. We need teikei. We need people like Nippori Yume Donya that can cut, cut, cut through rules and make their events be happy, happy, happy. We create events because we like to meet people we trust.

Nippori Yume Donya (J) and Nippori Marche got the Food Action Award in 2012.

I like how this market has kept its focus on special products. The Japanese term is 特産品問屋 in other words, this market does not sell just anything, but carefully selects and screens its vendors.

Arakawa-ku is also very particular about health standards, ok, that is something I do agree with, but sometime the rules are too much. For example, the Pakistani vendor can sell his curry with nan, but not with rice. What kind of sense does that make? Having said that, it is great that the city and the people responsible for the event have avoided any kinds of claims. You have no idea how much this can bear down on events like this in Japan.

Most of the veggies on sale are non-pesticide (無農薬). Many other foods are local and unique in the sense that the product can only be made in that particular place.

Do explore.

Joan says:

I like to think of it as a day full of sunshine and vegetables and fun. A handful of folks joined me at the Nippori Farmers Market on Sunday for some good food and conversation. Not a one of us walked away empty-handed, and at least two of us carted home spaghetti squash. (I like to think my trips to the assorted farmers markets around town help prepare me for our various hiking expeditions.)

Some of the yummy delights on hand!
The only disappointment of the day was the absence of Onaya-san and her scrumptious manju, but that was more than made up for by the presence of a group of farmers from Ibaraki. My word, but their produce was beautiful - mizuna, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum greens), negi (long onions), daikon, kuri (chestnuts), and some very cute squash - and they were good fun. Thankfully, I snagged their last bag of kaki (persimmons) and a very nice bunch of red radishes. Our salad doth overflow. I hope to visit them some time in the next year to enjoy their company and help out a bit as I can. I suspect it will be a blast.

Thanks to those who made it out with me to the market and for a stroll about Yanaka afterwards. It was a perfect day!

Shisaku: Urban Harvest Tokyo

Eliminating the economic inefficiency sounds excellent. Possibly increasing the size of homes sounds great. However, the actual costs to society imposed by these little fields seem trivial as compared to the benefits being enjoyed by all.

Go to a local market... Isn't it great to be able to talk to the people who make your food, and voice any concern you may have?

Economic inefficiency? Try explaining that to the young people who are eager to start farming in Japan.

More about Nippori Marche on Joan's blog, Japan Farmers Markets, Nippori Farmer's Market: A Little Market Only by Some Standard

The Nippori Farmer's Market is what I would call “off-the-grid.” It's not part of the larger Marche Japon gig or the all-organic Earth Day Markets series, but rather is the brainchild of the owner of a nearby mansion (condominium) owner who wanted to “do something nice” with the plaza space in front of the high rises. 

Based on my first visit I'd say this effort is a successful one. The Nippori Farmer's Market is small – about 30 to 40 vendors – but very pleasant with a remarkably good selection of items. Fresh vegetables, rice, cheese, seedlings, baked goods, fruit, and prepared foods to be eaten on the spot as well as those for snacking were all on hand. (I recommend without reservation Tatsuko Onaya's homemade manju and Ringo no Hana's steaming bowls of hearty tonjirou. We sat down for much-needed breaks at their respective tents to enjoy our food and take in the atmosphere of the market.) Vendors from Hokkaido, Niigata, Gunma, Aomori, and Aizu Wakamatu sported everything from potatoes to fish to apple vinegar to cabbage to nanohana to dried natto and bath salts.

Photos from Joan's blog Japan Farmers Markets

Update: In spite of rain, the events went ahead today as planned! What a crew.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Love Earth Thanks Event In Yoyogi, Tokyo, Saturday July 12

This should be a lot of fun.

Moving on from the success of the Earth Day events...

Globe-straddling eco event Earth Day has found a particularly receptive audience in Japan, where the two-day gathering in Yoyogi Park consistently draws over 100,000 people each year. It's an opportunity for charities, NPOs and eco-conscious businesses to flaunt their wares and draw new recruits, but many people just go to enjoy the art, vibes and free music. If you're one of the capital's long-suffering vegetarians, too, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to the Earth Day Kitchen zone for a good selection of herbivorous eats. Time Out we also get Love Thanks Earth in Tokyo!

Or is it Love Earth Thanks?

This is a gathering that has already held festivals in Fukuoka, Kyoto and Wakayama this year.

And it just gets better and better.

So, what to expect? Lots of music, healthy food, and inspiration from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) like Vegetarian Society of Japan.

NPOs (Non-Political Organizations) is another term often used, while some of us joke that we really are "non-governable organizations..."

Yoyogi is in the very center of cool Tokyo, near Harajuku and Shibuya stations.

Just south of the huge park.

Have a great weekend!

And for more details about where you can purchase fresh food directly from farmers, try Joan's blog, Japan Farmers Markets with regular updates.