Thursday, December 24, 2015

Good Bye 2015 - Xmas Medley (J-Pop)

Thanks to everyone who stayed interested in Kurashi, the blog that started ten years ago, what a journey we have had. UN meetings and local events, updates from my back garden, images of a Japan that I think still is being under-reported. Peace activism and anger at politics that is not inclusive - why I can't vote locally even though I have the permanent visa? The magic of ordinary people making a difference. I might change the setting of this blog to something more private, what do you think...? My pottery also increasingly popular and a fun way to approach Japan in a different way. So, don't be surprised if this blog changes.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Soil And Peace Festival - Hibiya Park, Tokyo

Sunday Nov. 1 - Lots of organic farmers and peace activists and artists meeting up at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo. Music and talk shows plus the chance to support climate change groups and meet anti-TPP experts. All GMO-free.

Hope the weather is better than 2 years ago when I participated, and it rained all day.

The market and the show and everything started back in 2007, thanks to Tokiko Kato and Yae and many, many others. A great way to celebrate harvest and autumn, and join up with so many wonderful people. This is a Japan that the rest of the world can learn a lot from.

 Yae official page (J)

Makes me so very happy to live here.

And that message comes from Anja (E)

This event is the start of Artists for Farm Aid for Japan.

Following up from the Love Farmers Conference on September 3-6, 2015 第1回ラブファーマーズカンファレンス

Tanemaki official website (J)

Talk show website (J)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WHO And Meat Causing Cancer? Reaction In Japan!

Japanese media reacted on the huge news, from the Lancet study, showing that processed meat can cause cancer. Yomiuri Shinbun, that faithful defender of industry and the silliest ideas from these islands, together with huge ads for "health drinks" and all kinds of un-scientific fads, really, have you seen how page after page are half ads, half "articles" supporting the ads... It had this about the story, but only on its Internet page, not in its printed pages:

Yomiuri Shinbun: 加工肉に「発がん性認定」…WHO外部組織

("Processed meat can cause cancer ... according to WHO advisory body)

So anyway, all media sources here did cover the WHO story.

TBS said, 加工肉に「発がん性あり」、過剰摂取に注意呼びかけ 

("Over-consumption of processed meat can lead to cancer)

while Sankei News noted that ソーセージやベーコンは大腸ガンになるリスク WHO調査結果発表

("Sausage and bacon are risk factor for large bowel cancer, according to the WHO study").

The Mainichi also carried the story:  国際がん研究機関:「ベーコンなど加工肉に発がん性」

("International cancer institute says: "Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer")

Interesting to compare how the BBC covered the news:

Dr Teresa Norat, one of the advisors to the WHO report and from Imperial College London, said there were many factors causing bowel cancer. She told BBC News website: "People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Earth II (1971)

Interesting - if you like a proper Science Fiction yarn, set in space, and don't care so much for the next Star Wars movie. Here is a pretty realistic take at the challenges and conflicts on an imagined International Space Station, before that came to be. The issue is how to defend it, or try to make it stay in peace. Good quality acting, and the kid that gets his toy gun taken away is adorable. From back when the "Red" Chinese were the enemy...

Terrific music by Lalo Schifrin.

Friday, October 23, 2015

TPP Is Not Going To protect Our Environment

Not a big surprise, but if you follow the news, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is about to change the way business is made. And that takes some legal writ, as most countries are part of other obligations, such as the United Nations. Japan certainly is. But TPP does not care about such deals and treaties. The only ones they could agree on seems to be the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which generally requires countries to ban trade in specific endangered species.

It also seems TPP may suggest that the Environment Chapter will include obligations similar to those contained in the Montreal Protocol on protection of the ozone layer, and the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) -- without specifically subjecting these MEAs to the TPP dispute settlement mechanism.

As I noted back in January, 2014, when Wikileaks first exposed the TPP Environmental Chapter:

...there are a lot of other international treaties that are not covered, including for climate change and biological diversity (with more rules on issues like biopiracy, like the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) that TPP should cover, if it were to be acceptable.

Biological diversity is another area of contention due to the United States failure to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – due in turn to pressure from its biotech industry, which saw the Convention as a direct threat to the introduction of patented genetically modified organisms around the world. As for conservation, which includes a reference to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international agreement among governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and precious plants does not threaten their survival, Japan and all other negotiating parties remain opposed to the US proposals in the TPP.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mystery Event - What is the GEA International Conference 2015?

NHK, also recently known as the "Abe Channel" said today that the Prime Minister "was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday."

NHK World: Abe: Japan will do its best for climate agreement

But NHK World would not tell us what NGO that was, so I did a search.

Neither google nor yahoo had any hints about a major NGO conference on October 15, 2015, so I went to the home page of the PM, and on its Japanese website (not very international) there was a note about today's event, GEA国際会議2015 (J).

So I searched for that.

And found nothing, neither in Japanese nor in English, nothing about today's "international" event.

Turns out, the "international environmental NGO" is an affiliate of the Japanese government, here: Global Environmental Action (E). Among its "Membership Companies" you get Mitsui and Mitsubishi. "Supporting Members" are Tokyo Gas and TEPCO.

Here is the link to the 2015 Japan GEA promotional pdf file (E)

And even the website of this "international NGO" has no update about today's events, neither in Japanese nor in English (or in any other language).

Not very "non-governmental" - and certainly not very "international" - Do I need to say more?

So, wow, just what did Prime Minister Abe promise to do?

Abe was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday. He said global-scale action is needed to tackle climate change and that he shares a sense of crisis with leaders of industrialized nations, islands and other countries. Abe said Japan will do all it can in Paris to forge a new global framework that is fair, effective and participated in by all countries. He stressed that Japan will fully use its low-carbon technology to help reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Abe also expressed intent to discuss global warming when Japan hosts the Ise-Shima summit of major nations next May.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Flight Nurse (1953)

I thought this was a terrific film, and as the Korean War is mostly known as the "unknown" or "forgotten" war we could all learn a thing or two from this motion picture, made back when the wounds were still healing. It is the story of a flight nurse, based on a true lady of the sky, Lillian Kinkella Keil, who died at the age of 88 in 2005.

My youngest aunt was a nurse in the Swedish Air Force, so I hope she gets to watch this. Sweden, as a "neutral" power tried to help the cease fire between the north and the south. The film has some baggage, but give it at try, it will help you understand the reality that later made M*A*S*H possible in the 1970s. So, let's not start another war, shall we...?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

TPP and GMOs? So Far, We Have Very Little To Go On.

Germany, France, Japan, and a lot more countries, have totally rejected genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while the US, Canada, Brazil, and a few others can't get enough of it. Even Australia grows the GM canola, and sells it to Japan as food oil. It is not properly labelled here, so Ajinomoto and Nisshin and others can sell it as "Salad Oil". Avoid food oils.

So how would the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement influence this state of affairs? Stay tuned, I don't really know. The TPP text is still kept secret. Japan has mandatory labelling laws that help consumers who want to know how their tofu or soy sauce was made. Even potato chips usually carry the label, "Not made from GMO potatoes" so stay tuned, we have very little to go on so far.

Update 1: This was just in the US radical magazine Mother Jones - I like this magazine a lot and especially this writer, Tom Philpott:

...Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Hansen-Kuhn also notes that the US trade representative's summary of the TPP contains this line: The "TPP Parties have also agreed to increased transparency and cooperation on certain activities related to agricultural biotechnology"—another way of saying genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. That's vague language, and the TPP's full criteria for GMOs has not been spelled out. But it certainly appears to place pressure on TPP countries that have opted not to use them, like Japan and Peru.

Update 2: October 6, 2015: Capital Press

• For biotechnology, TPP member countries will use science-based determinations, promote greater transparency in regulatory process and “engage in discussions about appropriate levels of low-level presence,” Vilsack said.

Update 3: Meanwhile, in Europe:

Germany will make use of new "opt-out" rules to stop GMO crop cultivation, even if varieties have been approved by the EU.
Christian Schmidt, German's Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, has informed state governments of his intention to tell the EU of Germany's intention to use the new clause, according to a letter from the agriculture ministry seen by Reuters.
The move follows pressure from five state governments for a nationwide ban on GMOs instead of the current “patchwork” approach which leaves it up to German states to decide on a ban.

Stay tuned

Monday, October 05, 2015

TPP Deal Announced Tonight

Historic - and I didn't think it would happen. I was at the Brunei ministerial meeting in August, 2013 and it seemed impossible. That was negotiation round number 19.

How would these 12 completely different countries ever be able to agree on anything? This last ministerial in Atlanta was to be a 2 day event, then that got extended to 5 days of hard negotiations. I wonder why NHK* is not saying a word about the demands - and promises - to protect Japan's agriculture, or the concerns about rising costs of medicines. Stay tuned.

And there was not a single ministerial round of negotiations here in Japan. That's quite a scandal considering Japan's role in the world economy. Also, it has made it more difficult to get people interested in the many related issues, not just for farmers but for everyone.

Update: Now even the announced press conference which was supposed to be held at 22:00 PM Japanese time is delayed... =>

Update 2: There will be an anti-TPP demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Tokyo on Tuesday, October 6 at 18:00-19:30  Info in Japanese here

Update 3: Note that this is not about "free" trade but how to "manage" trade:

OCT 2, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh

NEW YORK – As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

Update 4: More comments coming in by email from tpp-allies late tonight

Canada's government says:

If implemented, the agreement could mean:

— Elimination or reduction of tariffs on a broad series of products including pork, fruits, wines and spirits, canola, barley, machinery, minerals and forestry products. As one example, the beef industry expects to see exports triple to Japan, with a multi-year phase-out in tariffs there from 39 per cent to nine per cent.

— More foreign car parts likely entering Canada, likely benefiting producers and consumers but hurting some auto workers. Cars will be allowed without tariffs as long as they have 45-per-cent content from the TPP region. That's significantly down from the 62.5 per cent regional-content provision under NAFTA, which mostly kept out pieces from places like China and Thailand. But the formula is more complex than that: the government says it will "encourage" producers to use Canadian ingredients, parts and materials when making goods exported to other TPP countries. (...)

US Congress says (

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is signaling trouble for the newly concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership right out of the gate.

"While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short," Hatch said in a statement, likely in reference to the United States' inability to secure 12 years of patent protection for biological drugs, as he had demanded.

"Over the next several days and months, I will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether our trade negotiators have diligently followed the law so that this trade agreement meets Congress' criteria and increases opportunity for American businesses and workers," Hatch said. "The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the United States should not settle for a mediocre deal."

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who along with Hatch and Sen. Ron Wyden drafted the trade promotion authority bill, is reserving judgment for now.

"[O]nly a good agreement ... will be able to pass the House," Ryan said in a statement. "I am reserving judgment until I am able to review the final text and consult with my colleagues and my constituents. In particular, I want to explore concerns surrounding the most recent aspects of the agreement."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has fought against fast track and TPP, vowed to "do all that I can" to defeat the agreement in the Senate.

"Wall Street and other big corporations have won again," the presidential candidate said. "It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense."

Update 5: Foreman says, "TPP means 18,000 tax cuts..."

Update 6: Sierra Club, perhaps the most respected US environmental organization, says:

Monday, Oct. 5, 2015

Sierra Club: Congress Should Reject Polluter-Friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership
After much controversy, U.S. and Pacific nations strike a flawed trade deal

ATLANTA -- Today, the New York Times reported that the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached a trade deal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Sierra Club has been working tirelessly to expose the threats of this deal on communities, the environment, and our climate.

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

"Despite widespread, international opposition, the United States government is moving toward signing a trade deal that threatens our families, our communities, and our environment.

“Amazingly, the public is still not able to see the contents of a completed pact that has been negotiated entirely behind closed doors. But we know enough about the pact to understand that, if passed, it would undermine decades of environmental progress and threaten our climate. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would empower big polluters to challenge climate and environmental safeguards in private trade courts and would expand trade in dangerous fossil fuels that would increase fracking and imperil our climate. The TPP’s environment chapter might look nice on the surface but will be hollow on the inside, and history gives us no reason to believe that TPP rules on conservation challenges such as the illegal timber or wildlife trade will ever be enforced.

"Congress must stand up for American jobs, clean air and water, and a healthy climate and environment by rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

Image of Japanese farmers protesting in Tokyo on September 30, 2015 from Agri News

Key quote from Japanese JA, in a unique collaboration with other farm groups:

The demonstration was hosted by four farmers’ organizations including Japan Family Farmers Movement. After the rally, they met with a farm ministry official and urged the government not to expand rice imports, as reported to be mulled in the TPP negotiations, considering that rice farmers are already suffering from declining rice prices. They also submitted a letter of request to farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Update 7 (thanks Tom): The Guardian has more details than any other media source so far. Well done. Image - isn't it pathetic that there is only one female trade minister at the table, from Peru.

I would argue that trade negotiations are too caught up in male testosterone to really benefit the entire population as such...?

The TPP would give Japan’s automakers, led by Toyota Motor Corp, a freer hand to buy parts from Asia for vehicles sold in the United States but sets long phase-out periods for US tariffs on Japanese cars and light trucks.

Update 8: The New York Times thinks the TPP is going to do the "environment" a lot of good because it will "strengthen international environmental enforcement agreements" but the only example is CITES, the effort to protect illegal trade in items like elephant tusks. However, the NYT forgets that there are a lot more international conventions that the TPP does not mention (because the US is not a signatory to them). Typical trash article from the NYT, if you ask me, with a lot of information about stuff that has nothing to do with the TPP deal just reached in Atlanta.

The agreement complements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as Cites. The Cites agreement provides a list of animals and plants for which international trade is banned or restricted, and it is the world’s primary treaty to protect wildlife, with roughly 175 countries as members. Under provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, countries would be required to enforce laws and regulations to protect wildlife covered under the Cites agreement from illegal smuggling, or risk economic sanctions.

Which country in this region does not have laws already that incorporate CITES? China, I suppose, but they are not part of TPP. Rather than CITES, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has set the highest standards for protecting wildlife, but the New York Times perhaps hasn't heard of it... CBD is a global agreement addressing all aspects of biological diversity: genetic resources, species, and ecosystems. (But the US is not a signatory...)

Stay tuned.

* Weird, but the NHK journalist at the press conference in Atlanta was the only one to start his question by offering his "congratulations" to the ministers for concluding the deal. NHK has become the Abe Channel, indeed. Top image of a clearly disappointed and humbled trade minister Amari from - NHK World

Sunday, October 04, 2015

TPP - New York Times Gets It Wrong, Again

As I'm up late on Saturday night, Sunday morning, waiting for possibly any development from the Atlanta round of negotiations, I access the New York Times.
They have no particular update at this late hour. These talks were supposed to be the last effort by Wednesday. But I'm more disturbed by the sponsor, Syngenta, that appears all over the NYT website. Tonight, it was not what I expected. The Swiss corporation is known for its abuses all over the world. So, now, the NYT is supported by that GMO and pesticide and neonic producing company to provide us with news about the enormous trade deal here in the Pacific?

As I have previously noted here on this humble blog, why do we want a trade pact that allows for more sales of large cars, more milk and more meat, at the same times making it more difficult for countries to regulate medicines?

Isn't this a contradiction in terms? 

Shoko Uhida at PARC has the latest updates in Japanese, with more over at @emi_mumemo

NYT: Fueling Hope ???

Peter Maybarduk, director of a program of the social advocacy group Public Citizen that seeks to expand global access to medicines, called the language put forth by the United States “an illusion, not an improvement. It is a repackaging of the same harmful idea already rejected by many countries.”

Groups of protesters continued on Friday to try to interrupt the closed-door meetings throughout the hotel, shouting “No T.P.P.! No Secrecy!” At least two women were handcuffed and dragged away by security officials.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TPP - The Irony Of Atlanta City & Gambling?

Am I the only one who thinks it is totally ironic that the US city of Atlanta is currently the locus of the "endgame" of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations? A city of gambling, basically. OK, I get it. They do have a sense of humour.

Trade negotiators, as I have observed them since 1999 or so (in Seattle) are like guys in a poker game: They hold on to their hands and try to bluff the others that they won't lose. In the WTO talks, in Seattle, the entire third world, the so-called developing countries, the currently not-so-fortunate card-holders, suddenly stood up and said, enough is enough, this is a silly game, we are not playing anymore. Thus the World Trade Organization was brought to a halt.

And it is like chess. By the time of the "endgame" (this is the 20th round of the TPP talks) you are left with not much room to maneuver, hardly any pieces left, and an opponent with a plan. You never really know how close you are to "chess mate." Thus, the WTO "Development Round" never really went beyond the opening moves.

But - it is also like a casino. You lose a lot, knowing you could win big. Cut your losses, you drink some expensive champagne and pretend you are a big shot. Security cameras all over the place. You also ignore the rest of the population, like farmers and ordinary workers and working families, as you walk around the place in your tuxedo and flash your big grin, thinking only about your own great profits...

Atlanta City, indeed. How the very rich truly know how to flaunt it, and they know they can get away with it. Rarely does the media pick up on the tricks of the trade, and call a spade a spade...

Follow #TPP (E) and Shoko Uchida (J) - do suggest other tags or blog posts.

Top image from U.S. Teamsters

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Clean Diesel" Scandal Hits Japan?

If you follow car news, or wonder about the future of mobility - and/or care about the air we breathe, well, then you must have noticed that Volkswagen was caught on September 3 by the biggest story ever. Diesel cars use engines that are pretty powerful on less fuel compared to gasoline, but they also have more emissions of CO2 and worse, the Nitrogen compounds known as NOx. These combine on hot summer days to form smog and ozone and really bad stuff that will actually kill people.

So for a long time, diesel has had a bad rap, so to speak.

Then car manufacturers tried to remedy that by introducing all kinds of systems to clean the exhaust. Except, due to the terrific work by a small NGO in the US with just a staff of 25 or so people, it was revealed that Volkswagen had put a computer program algorithm in its engines, that could detect if the car was being tested or not.

In other words, if a test was going on, switch on the system to clean up the exhaust, and emit less NOx and other bad stuff. If driving as usual, no clean up system. Up to 40% more NOx emissions, as a result of ordinary driving with this setup.

This had been going on since at least 2009 in the VW Jetta, VW Beetle, VW Golf and Audi A3 (and others), according to this notice of violation from the US government (pdf).

So, VW is the only company putting illegal software in their cars? We don't know, at this point. Why not?

Car manufacturers do the testing, and submit the data to government agencies. Only now can we begin to hope that more independent testing will start.

Hats off - congratulations - to the small team of NGO clean air campaigners and experts who brought this to light. That I consider whistle-blowing at its very finest.

So-called "clean diesel" was just beginning to take off here in Japan, with all the Japanese car makers trying to introduce new models. VW doesn't sell any of its diesel cars in Japan, so the effect here is perhaps limited. News site calls it the "Diesel Shock" (J) which may stick.

But I'm disappointed by the lack of response by serious car news sites, or professional bodies, that may rely on outside sources.

And have you ever seen a more tame response than this from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (E)...?

Brussels, 23 September 2015 – In light of the latest emission testing news, ACEA recognises the gravity of the situation and is taking this very seriously. However, we cannot comment on an issue affecting one individual company. There is no evidence that this is an industry-wide issue.
In the EU, the legal requirements concerning motor vehicle pollutant emissions currently refer to a test cycle performed under common laboratory conditions. All Euro 6 diesel cars on the market have received a Euro 6 approval certificate issued by a member state approval authority that confirms they comply with the legal requirements.
Soon, Euro 6 will also require for the first time emissions testing of diesel cars under realistic driving conditions, making Europe the only region in the world to implement such real world testing for cars. The automotive industry is fully supporting the development of this new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test in order to ensure a more robust control on emissions. ACEA hopes that the RDE testing conditions and timings can be finalised urgently, so that the industry can get RDE-compliant vehicles into the market as soon as possible.
ACEA will continue to engage with the European Commission and national governments to address the current challenges and ensure that trust and confidence in the car industry and clean diesel technology are maintained.

One big automobile group, the Clean Diesel Promotion Association, (J) has not even bothered to update its website, and there are many other sites trying to convince Japanese car buyers that diesel is the hottest thing.

Not so fast, please.

I took until today (Thursday September 24) that this hit the news big time in Japan:

Top graph shows how few diesel cars are sold in Japan (0.1%) compared to Europe (40-70%).

Update: The Wall Street Journal thinks Japan's "big bet" on hybrid cars will benefit from the VW scandal.

Update 2: More trouble ahead, according to The New York Times? Key quote:

Some believe that using software to cheat on laboratory results goes beyond Volkswagen. While officially stated fuel efficiency and carbon-dioxide emissions figures have steadily improved over the years, real-world tests showed no corresponding improvement, according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, an advocacy group based in Brussels. In fact, the group’s testing found that the average diesel car was producing emissions five times as high as what was permitted. Some vehicles from BMW and Opel emitted 10 times as much pollution on the road as in the lab. The difference between the lab and real-world results swelled to 40 percent last year, on average, from 8 percent in 2002, the group also found.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not So Smart

If you are a tech geek and like to buy new smart phones all the time, do consider this interesting graph from Compound Interest - not much recycling going on in the smart phone industry, unfortunately. Click to enlarge.

Key quote:

The problem with extracting rare earths is that they don’t tend to occur in particularly concentrated amounts in the crust. As such, the techniques required to extract them are costly and labour intensive, limiting the places in which it’s economically viable to bother extracting them at all. The processes used to extract them can also be environmentally hazardous, which is also a limiting factor; in 2010, China cut its exports of rare earths by 40% based on its concerns regarding pollution. With this in mind, recycling the rare earth elements at the end of their lives would seem to be a no-brainer. However, there isn’t a single rare earth element whose end of use recycle rate is greater than 1%.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

No Deal For Abe On Friday?

None of the main stream media has so far noted that PM Abe may have lost a major battle on Friday, as he tried to enact the hugely controversial war bills that could allow Japan to engage in battle abroad. Opposed to this, a large coalition of people who want to maintain the current Article 9 of Japan's post-war Constitution. Over the past days and weeks, massive demonstrations outside the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, and in many other cities as well. It is going on tonight as I type this.

So, yesterday, Abe and his right-wing Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (the political arm of the lay sect of 1950s style born-again Buddhist connected to Sokai Gakkai) seem to have failed to use their majority to enact this? Very confusing as main stream media has no updates late Friday. Confusing. Stay tuned for more.

Update: Video from outside the Diet late Friday night:

Update: As of midnight, NHK World has no news on the failure of "Japan's governing parties" to enact the bills on Friday...

NHK World: Japan's security bills may be enacted on Friday

Japan's governing parties seek to have a set of security bills enacted on Friday. But the largest opposition Democratic Party remains keen to block the plenary session of the Upper House from passing the legislation.

The legislation would allow the country to exercise its right to collective self-defense. It would also expand the role of Japan's Self-Defense Forces abroad.

Update 2: And of course, as everyone already knows, the bills were passed "early on Saturday morning" since this is what democracy is like in Japan: If you are a LDP lawmaker, you vote as LDP wants you to vote, or else. While this formally also applies to Komeito, apparently, this party has already begun to crumble as its major support base, the Buddhist Soka Gakkai members, are not happy with the party's support for Abe, especially regarding this issue.

More analysis here and here. Key quote:

Unable to muster support to formally amend Article 9 of the Constitution, which enshrines its pacifist sentiment, Abe opted instead to reinterpret the document for the purpose of his bills, ignoring warnings from scholars and lawyers that they are unconstitutional. The changes reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan’s military to fight to protect its allies, which Abe argues is necessary because of threats from an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How Japan Got Rid of America's Nuclear Weapons, in 1991 and 1992

"A major step forward to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons," Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said modestly.235 The offload was not instantaneous, however. The withdrawal of the nuclear weapons was cleared by President Bush's approval of the 91-92 Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (NWDA) on November 5, 1991, which became National Security Directive 64 (NSD-64),236 but it would take nearly nine months before all nuclear weapons were removed from the fleet. "We could get the weapons home faster," by sending out replenishment ships to bring weapons back, "but it would be dangerous. We don't want a weapon accidentally dropped over the side," a Navy official said.237

Hans Kristensen Japan Under the US Nuclear Umbrella Section 5, "Nuclear War Planning in Japan"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

So, How Will the "War Bill" Deal With Nuclear Weapons?

The current debate in Tokyo's Parliament, the Diet, has not mentioned how Japan intends to deal with nuclear weapons, or nuclear defense. The current debate and the panic inside the Diet today is about "collective self-defense" but I am surprised there has been no mention of the role of nuclear weapons.

I used to be impressed by how Prime Minister Eisako Sato got the Norwegian Nobel Peace Price, for Japan's three principles: non-production, non-possession, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons.

Collective Self-defense. Take a deep breath, and try to define that concept. And tell us what Japan's nuclear umbrella means to you. I have not heard a single word about it, in the news, or the debate. has more:

Deployment of Nuclear Weapons in Japan
Allegations that the United States brought nuclear weapons into Japan despite the Japanese ban against nuclear weapons in its territory were frequent during the Cold War. Such allegations were always denied by Japanese governments. The newly declassified documents obtained for this report, however, provide important new reinforcement to these allegations. Indeed, references in these documents to U.S. nuclear weapon operations on Japanese soil and through Japanese harbors and territorial waters are commonplace. The strength of this evidence leaves little basis to continued insistence that the United States ever respected Japan's three non-nuclear principles.
In particular, the newly declassified documents disclose the following:
1. In 1972, during preparations to establish Yokosuka as the home port of the USS Midway (CV-41) the following year, the U.S. State Department recommended removing nuclear weapons from the aircraft carrier to avoid a conflict with Japan's non-nuclear policy. The Chief of Naval Operations, however, vetoed this move as "operationally unacceptable." Yokosuka subsequently served as the home port for the Midway for two decades.
2. During the 1970s and 1980s, special nuclear weapons training and nuclear weapons handling procedures existed for the USS Midway (CV-41). These special procedures, unique to this vessel, enabled nuclear weapons to be removed from the vessel outside Japanese territory. This capability apparently implemented an unwritten agreement under which Japan would permit the United States to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese ports as long as the United States did not remove offload them to shore. 


Nuclear War Planning in Japan, by Hans Kristensen:

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    East Asia Nuclear Policy Project
Hans Kristensen Japan Under the US Nuclear Umbrella Section 5, "Nuclear War Planning in Japan"

Nuclear War Planning in Japan
Perhaps more surprising than the routine introduction of nuclear weapons onboard warships and aircraft is the fact that part of the U.S. nuclear warplan itself (SIOP) was built and maintained at Fuchu Air Station. Moreover, facilities in Japan were routinely used for nuclear Command and Control operations to exercise this warplan.
The SIOP was the first attempt to bring together under a single coordinated plan the numerous nuclear strike plans of the ever-increasing number of nuclear weapons assigned to ships, submarines, aircraft, and land-based missiles. Incorporating the objectives and guidance of the National Strategic Targeting and Attack Policy, the SIOP governed all attacks on all targets listed in the National Strategic Target List (NSTL). It determined the targets to be attacked, the efforts to be expended against each target consistent with the value or the target, and integrated individual strikes for mutual support through the establishment of attack corridors, timing, and by other means.199
In the Pacific, the activation of the SIOP had a major impact on nuclear war planning and necessitated major revisions of nuclear war plans in the region. Besides the task of maintaining up-to-date intelligence upon which to base revisions to the target list, and planning for use and delivery of weapons, approximately 30 members of CINCPAC's staff were engaged in analyzing existing plans and conducting war games on the PACOM portion of the SIOP. CINCPAC maintained permanent representation with the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff at the Strategic Air Command's Omaha headquarters, as well as other representatives who served there on a temporary basis.200
The most important change involved CINCPAC's General War Plan (OPLAN 1-61), which contained the plans for use of U.S. forces in a general war with the Soviet Union in the period April 1961 to June 1962. OPLAN 1-61, which replaced CINCPAC's General Emergency Operation Plan 1-58 from 1958, included 10 annexes, one of which (Annex E) contained the Nuclear Planning Data and Target Lists for General War. The annex defined the targets to be destroyed during the initial nuclear attack and those targets that would require a pre-described level of destruction or neutralization during operations following the initial nuclear attack.201
Another major change involved Operations Plan 23-61 (OPLAN 23-61), which contained the plans for U.S. military operations in support of British forces during a forced withdrawal from Hong Kong. If China attempted to push out Britain with military force, the U.S. Pacific Command would if necessary respond with nuclear weapons. The nuclear annex (Annex E) to OPLAN 23-61 was completed in December 1961.202
A third change occurred in Operations Plan 27-60, which governed the defense of South Korea. OPLAN 27-60 was based on the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan, and the Unified Command Plan. It was also based on UN resolutions regarding UN military assistance to South Korea, the Mutual Defense Treaty, and other agreements between the U.S. and the South Korea, as well as the Declaration of the Sixteen Nations Relating to the Armistice from July 1953. OPLAN 27-60 also provided for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of renewed communist aggression against South Korea, and a new nuclear annex (Annex E) was completed in August 1961. Despite the inclusion of nuclear forces in OPLAN 27-60, CINCPAC remarked that "the extent of operations in Korea are not to prejudice the primary task of securing Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines."203
The perceived threat to Japan was important for the Japanese government's attitude towards U.S. nuclear operations in Japan. During U.S. preparations for two high-level talks between the U.S. Ambassador and the Japanese government in early 1963, the Ambassador made numerous references to the Chinese Communist threat to Japan. Yet CINCPAC intelligence believed that this threat had been overrated, considering that the prime threat was the Soviet Union. The overt threat to Japan would occur only in a general war situation, CINCPAC intelligence concluded, and would be primarily a Soviet threat.204
The SIOP Planning
The SIOP depended upon reliable Command and Control facilities in Japan and upon the cooperation with Japanese defense forces. Some of the Command and Control facilities were located in Japan and on Okinawa. Following the nuclear exercise High Heels II in September 1962, for example, which was the "most successful test of PACOM's communications system to date," two facilities listed for inclusion in Defense Communication Agency (DCA) Mid-Range Plan included Camp Drake, Japan, and Fort Buckner in Okinawa.205
In some cases, joint U.S.-Japanese exercises even involved nuclear operations. One of three air defense exercises held during 1962 with the Japan Air Self Defense Forces (JASDF), for example, had the objective to test coordinated air attack, air defense capability, and "nuclear broadcast procedures." The exercise included forces from the Pacific Air Force, 7th Fleet, Strategic Air Command (SAC), and the JASDF.206
The use of bases in Japan for strategic nuclear command and control operations continued in the mid-1960s when Yokota Air Base, together with Clark Air Base in the Philippines and Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, was designated as a dispersed operating site for Strategic Air Command's (SAC) new airborne command post aircraft. These specially equipped EC-135 aircraft, code-named Blue Eagle, would be kept airborne in a crisis to ensure continued command and control of U.S. nuclear forces despite a Soviet nuclear attack. During September 1965, Blue Eagle aircraft visited Yokota Air Base, as well as Clark Air Base and Kadena Air Base.207 During routine operations (DEFCON 5 and 4), Battle Staff Teams would make an average of three deployments a month to Blue Eagle support facilities in Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines. Under increased defense conditions, deployment of staff and aircraft to the dispersal sites would escalate.208
Before long, however, not only would U.S. bases in Japan be used to support the SIOP, but part of the nuclear war plan itself was actually built there. In 1967, CINCPAC established the Pacific Operations Liaison Office (POLO) in Fifth Air Force facilities at Fuchu Air Station. POLO was responsible for the production of various planning documents for the execution of the SIOP. It also built PACOM's SIOP Reconnaissance Plan (Preplanned Reconnaissance Pacific (PRERECPAC)), and functioned as the nuclear operations liaison in the Western Pacific area. One of the branches at POLO was the Deputy for Command Center and Nuclear Operations branch, which included the Airborne Command Post Branch and the Nuclear Operations/Safety Branch.209
Planning and maintaining the nuclear war plans was a continuous and time-consuming process, and Fuchu Air Station was a frequent host for SIOP planning conferences. In October 1966, for example, CINCPAC directed his PACOM Operations Liaison Officer to hold the fifth annual PACOM Reconnaissance Conference at Fuchu Air Station. The conference planned and coordinated the use of reconnaissance assets under the SIOP to maximize target enemy coverage.210
As SIOP planning became more computerized and flexible, the need to located part of the function in Japan disappeared. Eventually, POLO was disestablished on July 15, 1972 in order to permit elimination of the Fifth Air Force's redundant and costly automated data processing facility at Fuchu, and the SIOP functions transferred to facilities at Kunia in Hawaii.211
While the nuclear port visit debate raged in public, routine maintenance of the nuclear war plan was maintained in secrecy throughout the 1970s. In October 1974, for example, CINCPAC conducted a review of its emergency action procedures. In addition to Japan (and Okinawa), the team visited Guam, Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan to inspect the nuclear war fighting capability of facilities in those locations. This included: Command, Control, and Communications (C3) systems; the PACOM alert notification systems and procedures; the use, control, and storage of Sealed Authenticator Systems (SAS); emergency action procedures; and All-Source Information Center (ASIC) procedures. Units of interest were SIOP units, Emergency Action Message relay stations, command centers, and ASICs.212
Nuclear Command And Control Operations
Likewise, CINCPAC's Airborne Command Post (ABNCP), called Blue Eagle, exercised Command and Control of nuclear war during a number of deployments to Japan. Continuous air-borne alert had been canceled in January 1970 due to cost, and the aircraft maintained on a ground alert capable of taking off on short notice. In 1974, however, CINCPAC introduced a new "deployed ground alert" concept, in which Blue Eagle held random 24-28 hour ground alert watch periods in conjunction with bi-monthly deployments to forward airfields in the Western Pacific. Deployed ground alert periods were randomly scheduled to Yokota in Japan and Kadena on Okinawa, as well as to Clark Air Base in the Philippines and Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taiwan. By the end of 1974, a total of 20 deployed ground alerts to these bases had been carried out.213
A special objective of these deployments during 1974 involved the maintenance of communication with selected nuclear ballistic missiles submarines and nuclear-armed aircraft carriers deployed near Japan. The Navy normally used its own TACAMO C-130 aircraft for this function, but resources for TACAMO aircraft had been temporarily reduced. Yokota and Kadena (as well as the Clark and Kang air bases) had been chosen because they bordered the patrol areas for the ballistic missile submarines. From one of these bases, the Blue Eagle aircraft could quickly reach an operational orbit within VLF/LF/HF range with the capability to relay SIOP emergency action messages to the submarines.214
Testing of the system had begun in February 1973, and through January 1974 a total of 21 missions had been flown to maintain SIOP communication with the strategic nuclear submarines. The tests, however, demonstrated that communication could not be guaranteed. Best reception was in range up to 1,200 nautical miles, but during the 21 missions flown, only 12 reports had been received from the submarines. Analysis of 40 SSBN reports indicated that they had only received 21 emergency action messages. The overall success rate from the aircraft to the submarines was 52.5 percent. Testing continued through the year, usually with three operations a month to selected submarines, aircraft carriers, and Naval Communications facilities in Guam, Japan, and the Philippines.215
Throughout the 1970s, Blue Eagle deployed ground alert exercises to Japan continued. In 1975, for example, Blue Eagle conducted ten deployed ground alert exercises at Kadena (Okinawa) and Yokota Air Base in Japan, and at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.216 Routine deployments to Yokota and Kadena continued in 1978, and in September that year, the Japanese Defense Agency Command Center Overseas Study Team visited the airborne command post.217 Again, during 1979, Yokota and Kadena were among four bases in the Pacific receiving "the most frequent" airborne command post visits.218
Just as strategic nuclear submarines had exercised with airborne command post aircraft around Japan in the 1970s, strategic nuclear submarine operations continued throughout the 1980s. One tragic reminder came in April 1981, when the strategic nuclear submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) collided with the Japanese merchant vessel Missho Maru while "on routine operations" only 110 miles south-southwest of Sasebo, Japan. Two Japanese crew members were killed and another 13 rescued by Japanese destroyer after the Missho Maru sank.219
The incident sparked a political furor in Japan, straining U.S.-Japanese relations only a month before a scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Zanko Suzuki and President Ronald Reagan. The United States was criticized because it waited 24 hours before notifying the Japanese authorities. After two days of furor, President Reagan and other U.S. officials expressed regret over the accident but refused to say what a strategic submarine was doing so close to Japan (only 20 miles outside the 12-mile limit) or whether it was carrying nuclear missiles.220
Airborne Command Post aircraft deployments to Japan continued throughout the 1980s and have continued into the 1990s. In December 1991, for example, a ABNCP aircraft deployed to Yokota Air Base in Japan and Cubi Point in the Philippines to provide alternate command authority (ACA) to the region.221 Again in November 1992, an EC-135 aircraft deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan and Osan Air Base in South Korea. During the deployment, battle staff training "covered all facets of the SIOP and theater nuclear [Command and Control]." Moreover, site surveys were conducted at each location to determine the feasibility of using those locations as Alternate Command Facility (ACF) sites. While Osan AB was found to be only marginally satisfactory, logistics support for the deployment at Kadena AB was considered "outstanding."222
Communication Facilities
In addition to such operational deployments, the U.S. also established a number of unique communication facilities in Japan that supported execution of U.S. nuclear war plans. This included Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) facilities that were one of the major components of the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) that provided the means for the U.S. National Command Authorities (NCA) and subordinate commands to direct U.S. nuclear and non-nuclear forces. DSCA ground stations were installed at Camp Zama near Tokyo in 1981, at Fort Buckner on Okinawa, and at Misawa Air Base at Honshu.223
By the mid-1980s, Japan had become the host to the most extensive U.S. nuclear infrastructure in the Pacific with over two-dozens sites housing nuclear related facilities. Four of the U.S. Navy's six facilities designed to contact submerged submarines via very-low-frequency (VLF) transmissions, for example, were located in the Pacific; one of these was at Yosami in Japan. Moreover, four of five specially converted LORAN-C navigation beacons for communication with nuclear Trident submarines in the Pacific were located in Japan.224
These facilities were frequently involved in exercises that simulated execution of nuclear war plans. During the CINTEX-CRIMEX 85 exercise in February-March 1985, for example, the Seventh Fleet took part in an evaluation of the WWMCCS during a simulated period of deteriorating international political-military relations resulting in a large-scale conventional war and limited use of tactical nuclear weapons.225 Already by the early 1990s, however, the DSCS's capacity was already proving too limited to handle the ever-increasing amount of Command and Control data.226
The Nuclear Offload
The endless battles with non-nuclear countries over nuclear port visits, along with the overall thaw in the Cold War, gradually eroded the justification for maintaining tactical nuclear weapons at sea. During Congressional hearings in 1988, the U.S. Navy had pledged its commitment to modernizing its nuclear stockpile "through vigorous and sustained efforts."227 But behind the scenes the Navy had already taken its first steps toward a denuclearization of its combat fleet.
In early 1989, the U.S. Navy acknowledged that it had decided to scrap three tactical nuclear weapon systems: the ASROC ship-launched anti-submarine rocket; the SUBROC submarine-launched anti-submarine rocket; and the Terrier ship-launched anti-air missile. As a result, nearly 1,200 nuclear warheads would be removed from 142 ships and 27 submarines. While the move dramatically reduced the number of nuclear-capable ships, another 2,490 non-strategic nuclear weapons would remain in the fleet.228 The withdrawal of ASROC, SUBROC, and Terrier nuclear warheads was completed in early 1990.
Meanwhile, pressure was building in the White House for a complete removal of tactical nuclear weapons from the fleet. President Bush's national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, reportedly "leaned on" Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney to eliminate the weapons in an effort to undercut growing opposition in Scandinavia, the Pacific, and the Far East to nuclear port calls. Senior aides to Cheney, who opposed removal of nuclear cruise missiles from submarines, were overridden when Admiral Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, made it clear that he did not object.229
On September 9, 1991, the idea had progressed so far that CINCPAC ordered his component commanders and the Commander for U.S. Forces in Korea to study the role of non-strategic nuclear forces in the Pacific. In doing so, CINCPAC reminded that non-strategic nuclear forces had played an important role in U.S. policy since the Korean War. Although their principle rationale related to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War confrontation, he pointed to new threats in the future, including the break-up of the Soviet Union, the refocus of U.S. national military strategy on regionalism and forward presence, the resurgence of ethnic and cultural conflicts, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.230
But events evolved too fast for any study. Only two days later, on September 11, the CJCS directed CINCPAC to develop a plan for the removal of nuclear artillery projectiles, nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles, nuclear strike bombs, and nuclear depth bombs "at the earliest opportunity."231
Then, on September 27, 1991, President Bush announced that all nuclear weapons would be offloaded from U.S. Navy surface ships and attack submarines and all ground-based nuclear weapons would be withdrawn to the United States. "From Saturday on," Pentagon spokesperson Pete Williams said shortly after the announcement, "no U.S. Navy surface ships or attack submarines have deployed from their ports with any tactical nuclear weapons on board."232
The move solved the Japanese dilemma. Not only had the U.S. government announced in public that nuclear weapons would no longer be present on surface ships and attack submarines. It also said there would no longer be a need for a Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) policy for the vessels, the practice that had so complicated the relationships with Japan and numerous other countries around the world. The NCND policy would remain in effect, however, for strategic submarines and for bases and Air Force facilities where nuclear materials are stored "for obvious security reasons," the Pentagon said.233 For naval forces, a "modified" NCND policy was ordered:
    It is general U.S. policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, attack submarines, and naval aircraft. However, we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specific ships, submarines, or aircraft.234
"A major step forward to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons," Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said modestly.235 The offload was not instantaneous, however. The withdrawal of the nuclear weapons was cleared by President Bush's approval of the 91-92 Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (NWDA) on November 5, 1991, which became National Security Directive 64 (NSD-64),236 but it would take nearly nine months before all nuclear weapons were removed from the fleet. "We could get the weapons home faster," by sending out replenishment ships to bring weapons back, "but it would be dangerous. We don't want a weapon accidentally dropped over the side," a Navy official said.237 Warships that had sailed on overseas deployments even a few days before the announcement still carried their nominal load of nuclear weapons. At the time of the announcement, the U.S. Navy had several hundred nuclear strike bombs and depth charges onboard half a dozen aircraft carriers. Another 100 or so nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles were onboard attack submarines, cruisers, and destroyers. The USS Eisenhower (CVN-69) battle group, for example, had departed Norfolk Naval Base on the U.S. East Coast barely a week before the announcement. It carried a standard loadout of 100-120 nuclear bombs and depth charges onboard the carrier, and several nuclear Tomahawk missiles onboard the submarines, cruisers, and destroyers in the group.238
The initiative required the withdrawal of over 2,000 nuclear weapons worldwide,239 and for CINCPAC it meant that nuclear weapons would be "removed at the first opportunity from ships homeported overseas."240 By late February 1992, the Navy said it was "getting pretty close to having most of them [the nuclear weapons] off-loaded now." As more of the nuclear-armed ships returned to port, Admiral Crowe said the Navy was "down to a handful of ships" that still had them onboard.241 Finally, on July 2, 1992, President Bush announced that all nuclear weapons had been withdrawn.242
Despite the offload, CINCPAC was initially directed to retain the capability to regenerate and/or re-deploy naval nuclear weapons in a timely manner, and to ensure that storage and other necessary support infrastructure was maintained. Nuclear annexes to Operational Plans and non-SIOP options were to be maintained, and the annexes should include planning factors, timelines, and rationale to regenerate and/or re-deploy sea-based tactical nuclear weapons systems.243
For the surface fleet, however, the option to re-deploy nuclear weapons ended only a few years later, when the U.S. decided as part of the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review that surface ships and aircraft carriers should no longer have the capability to carry nuclear weapons at all. For cruisers and destroyers this meant loosing the ability to carry and launch nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles. For the aircraft carriers, this means that for the first time since the 1950s, flat-tops were no longer part of the U.S. nuclear strike force. Only attack submarines would continue to train and plan nuclear Tomahawk missions, although their weapons would be stored on land under normal circumstances.
The benefits from these events to the Japanese government were immediate not only because of the U.S. initiative itself, but also because other nuclear powers operating in the waters around Japan soon followed suit. In connection with the arrival of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible to Yokosuka in July 1992, for example, the British Embassy in Tokyo readily confirmed in a letter to the Japanese Peace Resources Cooperative that Royal Navy ships and aircraft "no longer have the capability to deploy nuclear weapons."244 Japan's nuclear battle was finally over.

The Buddhists at Soka Gakkai/Komeito and others who have actively voted for and keeps on supporting LDP and the current government, if they care at all, may they remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and find a better way forward for Japan. How can they call themselves Buddhists, is my question? How can they support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who's grandfather was part of Japan' deal in 1960 to pretend that Japan is an independent country... How can Komeito continue to pretend to be anything like the parties in Europe, like the German Christian Democratic Union, with leaders like Adenauer or Merkel. What are they thinking?

Interesting documentary about the origin of nuclear weapons, and how accidentally the Bikini Islands and the nearby ocean region got contaminated. And Japanese fishermen got badly hurt.. Without warning from the USA. And much more. Key to this story is also Andrei Sakhharov, Soviet scientist and peace advocate, who got the Nobel Peace Price in 1995.

This is way back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and we should be so much better at dealing with these issues, in 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Do Join The CUJ Facebook Page!

We resisted this for a long time, but social media is a way to reach out to more people. Do join Consumers Union of Japan, and our humble Facebook page, if you are so inclined.

I wish consumer organizations in other countries would also pick up "peace" as a major theme.

How about it?

On the left in the photo, let me introduce Oono-san, who edits the Nikkan Berita website. Cool dude who lives in Chichibu, Saitama. He knows all about Okinawa, if you need a quote (or some history of the issue). Or labour issues, or more. On the right, our very special ladies from the No! GMO Campaign. They know even more about genetic engineering and why we shouldn't be eating the stuff,  than I do.

If you like Facebook, do sign up!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Huge Demonstrations For Peace In Japan - 2015

Events this week could lead to a change in Japan's Constitution, but tens of thousands of people or even more are demonstrating on the streets to keep Article 9, that prohibits Japan from taking part in war zones abroad.

I hope that of course, "War is Over" and that Japan will continue to contribute to peace.

Great to see such mass events in front of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, where the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (do google them, why would a Buddhist sect support Japan going to war?) are arguing for Japan's right to collective self-defense and thus stepping into all kinds of war zones.

The opposition parties need to get their act together.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the Diet building in Tokyo on Monday amid growing public opposition to controversial national security bills that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to have passed this week.
The mass rally in the center of Japan's capital came after a similar one at the end of last month that its organizers said attracted about 120,000 people at the same site.
The government-sponsored bills would greatly expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces' overseas activities, including allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of its allies under armed attack even if Japan itself is not attacked.
Led by young people including members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, or SEALDs, leaders of opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, and Noble laureate for literature Kenzaburo Oe are expected to take part in the rally.

People rally against controversial security-related bills being debated in the House of Councillors, in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo on Sept. 14, 2015. (Mainichi)
People rally against controversial security-related bills being debated in the House of Councillors, in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo on Sept. 14, 2015. (Mainichi)

The bills are currently under deliberation in the upper house of the Diet, after the ruling coalition, led by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, pushed them through the lower house in July.

Do support our effort to keep Japan out or war zones. I work for Consumers Union of Japan, with a focus on peace. CUJ was founded in 1969 so we have a long history. And we like the new wave of protests:

Drone footage.

Do check out Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, or SEALDs, (English)

SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) is a platform of emergency actions by students to protect a free and democratic Japan. We are a group of youths from late teens to early 20s. We aim to rethink and enact democracy.

We uphold the tradition of freedom and democracy in Japan that has been built for the past 70 years after the World War . Our principal aim is to protect the Constitution of Japan which is fundamental to this tradition. The philosophy of Japans Peace Constitution is a project that is yet to be accomplished. In order to protect our Constitution which is currently in danger, we state a clear vision with focus on Constitutionalism, Social Security, and National Security.

The situation of Japanese politics continues to worsen. In 2014, the Secret Protection Law and the right to collective defense have been forcibly passed, severely undermining the fundamental ideas enshrined in the Constitution of Japan. In the meantime, a new social security system needed to deal with the rising rate of poverty and aging population does not seem to be emerging. Another challenge is posed by the increasing tension among East Asian countries. In this coming July, the Abe administration will pass a series of security laws that will enable Japan to execute the right of collective defense abroad. The ultimate aim of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is to amend the Peace Constitution after the Upper House election next year. We believe we are in a critical period this year for the future of Japan.

We as the young generation have to be the ones to think about these issues and present a realistic vision. We ask all the liberals across the conventional political spectrum to form a united front to protect Japan’s tradition of liberal democracy. We also urge each and every member of the society to face up to this task, think through the issues at hand, and take actions. The actions each of us takes in the coming months will become a shield that will protect freedom and democracy in Japan.

Top photo from Kyodo. by