Friday, July 31, 2015

Kyoto Journal 83: Food Issue (With An Interview With Me!)

Just published is the 83rd issue of KJ, as it is known among fans. I have some old print issues that I hope will become really valuable at some point (just kidding) from when I first lived in Japan 1988-1993.

This time, KJ is all digital, the topic is food, and what could be more timely?

Japan, Asia and the world face a number of huge challenges, including food safety, food security, seed/genetic/biodiversity concerns, not to speak of water and agro-chemical/fertilizer related concerns. Climate change is already causing havoc.

Fuel? It will not stay cheap forever, and then how do we keep supermarkets and convenience stores up-to-the-last-minute with the latest "fresh" goods? Fertilizers? Not up for grabs forever, either. Add to that land ownership legal battles, and the fact that in many places, farmers are aging and not enough young people are prepared to take over. Plus trade related issues like WTO/TPP and a "spaghetti bowl" of bilateral trade agreements (I refuse to call them "free trade" agreements because they have nothing to do with that).

Go to the KJ website, where you can read much more, and even order the real thing:

Food pervades every area of our existence. It sustains us. It inspires us. It enslaves us. It educates us. It may kill us. It allows us to communicate with the Gods.
Your food is not mine, nor mine yours, but we may share it, and in so doing, what joy.
Few remain silent on Food. And why would one? What a natural topic for discussion, discourse, eulogy, outrage, comedy, reflection, prayer, ire, poetry, love.
Food is simultaneously universal and particular, literal and metaphoric. It is edible, incredible fun, a celebration of life itself. And so many of its greatest exponents and proponents live here in Asia. 
  Kyoto Journal is a non-profit Kyoto-based magazine founded in 1987. Its 8th digital issue and 83rd issue—FOOD!—explores the essence of what we eat, in all of the above aspects.
Guest Editor John F. Ashburne, long-time Kyoto resident, has written for the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Japan Times, Louis Vuitton City Guide Kyoto Nara 2011 and Wall Street Journal Asia, and authored the Lonely Planet Food Guide Japan. He is an ‘undercover judge’ for a famed global culinary award that must remain unnamed.
FOOD!—a delectable feast of articles, essays, interviews, poetry, and fine photography, painstakingly prepared by our all-volunteer international kitchen crew—will be released on August 1st, 2015 (and available for download from Newsstand). Our launch party (a potluck, naturally) will be on July 25th at Impact HUB Kyoto (contact us for more information). 

Oh, and there's an interview with me in this issue. I speak on what we do over at Consumers Union of Japan, and the challenges of working at a small NGO/NPO, and the joys too. Here are two questions and my replies:

How does CUJ view the current attempts to fast-track the controversial and largely undisclosed TPP agreement? How do you see the TPP affecting food producers and consumers in Japan?
As I noted earlier, TPP (and before that, the World Trade Organization*) is a major concern. CUJ went to Seattle in 1999 to the infamous "Battle of Seattle" ministerial, and also particpated in the Hong Kong ministerial. And more recently, we went to Brunei for the 19th negotiation round of the TPP. Let me explain - we participate as "stakeholders" which is a funny name, but that's what we get. CUJ is a member of Consumers International, that has a seat at the table as an observer at such events, if we are lucky. Which means we can try to lobby governments, and other participants. We can also sit in on the Japanese government's meetings each day, so called "briefings" and we can actually ask questions and - complain. While there, we also talk to media. Before and after, we usually have meetings in Tokyo and explain what went on - or what didn't happen. TPP has been particularly frustrating, and yes, there will be a lot of adverse effects on Japan's farming community, should the TPP be imposed on us here. Hokkaido in particular will be hit very hard.

Do you see the aging of Japan's population having any significant impact on production or consumption? Japan prides itself on the uniqueness of washoku, in various forms. Will this country's traditional food culture require any kind of special protection, to be maintained successfully into the future?
Yes and no. As we all grow older, won't we all want to eat better? Maybe we will grow more of our own veggies. Teaching the kids about washoku and the joys of simple life may turn into a growth industry for those elderly with a sunburn and a wonderful smile, as they proudly show off their amazing farming skills! Slow food, local food, organic (yuuki) and no additives/pesticides (mutenka) - so much of that was a reality here until the 1960s, and there are so many people who remember that it can be done. Small scale agriculture has a lot of advantages too.

The traditional cuisine, like kaiseki, will probably prevail, but what's more important is what we will all eat on a regular basis, day-to-day. Soba of course, from buckwheat, but what about ramen (from imported wheat)? Sushi may get increasingly expensive and rare, if ocean resources are not carefully protected (and they are not). Again, I think we will have to go back to a diet of more wholesome grains like genmai (whole rice), and many more seasonal vegetables and fresh fruit. And, you know what, I'm actually looking forward to it!

Top image from Organic Kyoto, and here's a link to Ten Thousand Things, one of my favourite blogs!

*Update: Just today (Friday), Wikileaks revealed that the US NSA has been spying on Japan, especially to find out its stance on trade issues, and it is huge news here...

Wikileaks: Target Tokyo

New files released by Wikileaks show that the US has been spying on Japan, especially trade related issues (and climate change). Very embarrassing for Abe's government, as the TPP negotiations are at a crucial point in Maui, Hawaii this weekend. (Image from July 29, 2015 Maui Protest)

Wikileaks: Target Tokyo

Today, Friday 31 July 2015, 9am CEST, WikiLeaks publishes "Target Tokyo", 35 Top Secret NSA targets in Japan including the Japanese cabinet and Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi, together with intercepts relating to US-Japan relations, trade negotiations and sensitive climate change strategy.
The list indicates that NSA spying on Japanese conglomerates, government officials, ministries and senior advisers extends back at least as far as the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which lasted from September 2006 until September 2007. The telephone interception target list includes the switchboard for the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as "Government VIP Line"; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.
Today's publication also contains NSA reports from intercepts of senior Japanese government officials. Four of the reports are classified TOP SECRET. One of the reports is marked "REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL", meaning it has been formally authorised to be released to the United States' "Five Eyes" intelligence partners: Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The reports demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government, indicating that intelligence was gathered and processed from numerous Japanese government ministries and offices. The documents demonstrate intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations on such issues as: agricultural imports and trade disputes; negotiating positions in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization; Japanese technical development plans, climate change policy, nuclear and energy policy and carbon emissions schemes; correspondence with international bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA); strategy planning and draft talking points memoranda concerning the management of diplomatic relations with the United States and the European Union; and the content of a confidential Prime Ministerial briefing that took place at Shinzo Abe's official residence.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, said: "In these documents we see the Japanese government worrying in private about how much or how little to tell the United States, in order to prevent undermining of its climate change proposal or its diplomatic relationship. And yet we now know that the United States heard everything and read everything, and was passing around the deliberations of Japanese leadership to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The lesson for Japan is this: do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honour or respect. There is only one rule: there are no rules."

Big news at every media outlet here on Friday, including The Mainichi:

WikiLeaks says U.S. spied on Japanese government, companies

TOKYO (AP) -- The WikiLeaks website published documents Friday that it said shows the U.S. government spied on Japanese officials and companies.
The documents include what appear to be five U.S. National Security Agency reports, four of which are marked top-secret, that provide intelligence on Japanese positions on international trade and climate change. They date from 2007 to 2009.
WikiLeaks also posted what it says is an NSA list of 35 Japanese targets for telephone intercepts including the Japanese Cabinet office, Bank of Japan officials, Finance and Trade Ministry numbers, the natural gas division at Mitsubishi and the petroleum division at Mitsui.
The validity of the documents could not be independently verified, though WikiLeaks has released U.S. government documents many times in the past.
Japanese Foreign Ministry press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said Japan and the United States are in communication about the issue of NSA "information collection" but declined to provide details. He added that "Japan will continue to employ all the necessary measures to protect (its) information."
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it was aware of the report but wouldn't say anything further. Mitsui also declined comment, and Mitsubishi did not return a call.
Three of the apparent NSA reports deal with climate change, and the other two with agricultural trade issues, including U.S. cherry exports to Japan.
A notation on one of the top-secret reports on climate change before the 2008 G-8 summit is marked for sharing with Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, according to WikiLeaks. It's not clear if it was actually shared.
WikiLeaks has released similar documents in recent weeks that it said show NSA spying on Germany, France and Brazil.
U.S. spying on its allies became an issue in 2013, when WikiLeaks released documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that showed the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

July 31, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Smart TV? Not So Clever...

The UK consumer organization Which? has recently revealed that so-called "Smart TV" from Samsung and other makers are in fact able to listen in on conversations you may be having in your living room in front of their sets. The "Smart TVs" come with microphones and thus you are not supposed to need a remote control anymore, just tell your telly what you want to watch! How clever is that? Panasonic, meanwhile, says it "advises users not to include any personal information in the voice commands"...

Tracking sounds like something out of Twelve Monkeys or a Tom Clancy novel, but it is real, and not only that, the companies use your every day conversation to listen in for key words. Samsung even sent data about the names of children of one owner, on an open network. It is also used to control the ads you may get - from your TV. Directly into your home.

LG, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba and others have similar versions of similar or the same systems, but Samsung seems to lead the pack in terms of trying to hide stuff from its customers. Which? notes that you can turn off such services, but since the whole point of a "Smart TV" is that it is connected to the internet, and to servers connected to these corporations, you then can't use the "smart" applications and so on.

"T&Cs" means terms and conditions, which are not always easy to understand.

Makes me wonder how much data we share anyway when online, but that is another issue. Who thought that while watching TV, conversations you are having with friends or family end up being recorded real time, and sent to corporate headquarters for careful analysis. All for the sake of making a profit. Here is how Which? found out about the tracking, with the help of Jason Huntley, who first alerted the general public about it back in 2013:

Your smart TV is listening to you and hackers might be, too

However, some clever folks recently discovered that Samsung’s voice search feature – known as ‘automatic speech recognition’ (ASR) – was transmitting and receiving data to a third party provider (Nuance Mobility) on TCP port 443. This port usually carries encrypted data, but in this case the data wasn’t actually encrypted by Samsung.

Could someone listen to what you say to your TV?

With the help of Jason Huntley – who broke the original story about smart TV tracking back in 2013 – we went back to our original data and confirmed that unencrypted voice searches were being transmitted by Samsung. We ran a voice search for ‘panama hats’ and you can see this term unencrypted in the data below.

panama hats copy 

We found that not only was the above practice occurring on Samsung smart TVs (both 2013 and 2014 models), but also on Panasonic sets. Only LG smart TVs we tested actually encrypted the voice searches on TCP port 443 (the Sony TVs we looked at did not have voice control).

 Which? has more:

Smart TV tracking

As we reported in September 2014, smart-TV makers - including those listed above - are able to track and monitor the way you use your television like never before, including what you watch, what buttons you press on the remote and the websites you visit on the TV's browser.
This can have benefits, such as more personalised recommendations of things to watch, but there are also potential downsides. In theory, the TV brands can gather vast quantities of data on you and, in some cases, use that information to make money through posting targeted adverts on your smart-TV service.
You give permission for this to happen by agreeing to your TV's T&Cs. You can decline them and still watch TV. In many cases, however, that results in you losing access to some smart functionality of the TV.
We're calling on the TV manufacturers to be more upfront about what they're tracking, and why, plus give you clearer options to opt out if you want to.  Here's a brand-by-brand breakdown of how to turn any tracking off, and what you lose if you do:
  • Samsung: Samsung tracks you if you agree to its T&Cs. If you decline, you can’t access the smart-TV service. If you do agree you can still turn off tracking of your viewing habits by declining the ‘recommendations privacy notice’ in the smart hub settings menu.
  • LG: As LG has stopped tracking (as of September 2014), it has removed options for you to block it. LG's T&Cs still permit it to track you, and if you decline them you can’t access any apps or the LG Store, although you can still use the web browser.
  • Panasonic: If you don’t accept Panasonic's T&Cs, you lose access to all apps, the web browser and content recommendations. If you accept them, you can turn off tracking of your viewing habits via ‘Menu > Network > My Home Cloud settings > Notice > Stop collecting information’.
  • Sony: Sony tracks you like the rest of the brands, but doesn't do so to provide advertising on your smart-TV service - just to provide you with recommendations of things to watch. You can opt out of tracking by ticking ‘Disable Upload Data’ at the setup stage, however you'll lose the recommendations.
  • Toshiba: You can’t access any of the smart-TV services, including the apps and web browser, unless you agree to the T&Cs. Once you do, you can go to ‘Smart hub Settings - Log Upload agreement - and then click ‘disagree’. This should stop tracking. You lose features such as personalised recommendations and the MediaGuide EPG, but can still use the apps and web browser.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Scooter Trip Videos (1)

Hanno chum Spencer is going to Edinburgh for a theatre job for the festival, but before that, he decided to take his orange Suzuki scooter for a ride north. Amazing images.

He set his camera to take one image every ten seconds, thus the madness, but he is getting better at stopping at cool places.

My music. Using GarageBand, and other tricks of the trade. All rights reserved, 2015.

Love how that works with his videos.

And if you post the videos on your blog can you put a link to ?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Et Tu, Toshiba...?

Amazing how such corrupt practices happen at the highest echelons of companies, that are supposed to provide us with safe nuclear reactors, secure memory chips, and what not.

Toshiba chief steps down over accounting scandal

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Toshiba Corp. said Tuesday that President Hisao Tanaka has resigned to take responsibility for an accounting scandal that a third-party investigation panel has found involved the Japanese electronics maker's top executives.
His predecessors Norio Sasaki and Atsutoshi Nishida also stepped down as vice chairman and adviser, respectively, the company said following a board meeting. Chairman Masashi Muromatchi will double as president.
"I apologize to all stakeholders, including shareholders," Tanaka told a packed press conference after his resignation was announced.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with (a company) pursuing profits," he said. "But it should be based on strict and proper accounting practices."
Tanaka said the company will take the findings of the investigation seriously and create a new Toshiba as its brand has been seriously hurt.
Pressure had been mounting on the conglomerate that makes products ranging from computer chips to nuclear reactors over the improper accounting. The panel said Monday led Toshiba to overstate profits by 151.8 billion yen ($1.2 billion) over seven years in a "systematic" manner.
Sasaki, who serves on various government panels, will quit from all of them, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari told reporters.
The Japan Business Federation said Tuesday that Sasaki had also resigned as vice chairman of the business lobby, commonly known as Keidanren, effective Tuesday. (...)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Seed Saving in Japan, Taiwan, UK

No activity can be more important than saving seeds of the plants we all need for sustenance - but we have mostly forgotten that art, or science.

People here have not given up on traditional ways of seed saving, according to Imaizumi and Akitsu.

What are the moral codes for seed-saving? From the interviews with practitioners in Japan: (pdf)

2015 Food Security and Food Safety for the Twenty-first Century Proceedings of APSAFE2013

ISBN: 978-981-287-416-0 (Print) 978-981-287-417-7 has more:

Seedsavers Reunion in Japan 
Seedsavers as a movement has expanded in Japan beyond belief in the last 12 years. Today the quest for clean food in Japan is linked to varietal diversity. old varieties of fruit and vegetables are a sine qua non of quality. Many organizations are supporting the ideas of local varieties for Japanese health food. Former interns Masami san, Masako san and Taiji san join in a meeting of seedsavers friends in Mie Prefecture near Ise shrine for food, seed, shelter and clothing.

Photo available on facebook page of the seed savers network.

Learn to save seeds: it’s a winner!

Locally adapted high quality seeds are a rare commodity and cost nothing but patience. Then you avoid spraying pesticides that are necessary for over-bred, highly-strung varieties of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, your efforts may become the start of a seed swap adventure with other gardeners (or in your local seed network), whether with neighbours, family and friends, in a community gardens or in a school.
Having met farmers and gardeners in more than forty countries Jude and Michel Fanton, the directors of The Seed Savers’ Network, appreciate that it is gardeners and small land-holders who caretake the food diversity of the world. They are leaving us the living legacy of home-saved seeds that ultimately belong to all of us, and are the responsibility of all of us.
Seed saving peasants, rural and urban gardeners worldwide keep their seed within a friendly active network, and regrow them in their fields and gardens as a living seed bank evolving within culture, and within climate. Institutionalised frozen gene-banks are inaccessible to gardeners and farmers. Increasingly even small seed companies are relying on large corporations for their seed supply.

To remain independent of Big Seed, an increasing number of gardeners and peasant farmers, urban gardeners, small rural landholders are saving their own and gifting and exchanging their seeds with other who also do. No amount of rethoric will change anything. However educating ourselves with other seedsavers in Local Seed Networks do.

In the News

Southern Taiwan forestry expert mulls seed museum

Southern Taiwan forestry expert mulls seed museumSouthern Taiwan forestry expert Chang Wen-ting displays her extensive seed collection at a recent educational event held by Pingtung Forest District Office. (UDN)

A southern Taiwan forestry expert is looking to establish a seed museum and help educate the public on the mysteries of life embedded in embryonic plants.
Chang Wen-ting, a technical specialist with Pingtung Forest District Office at the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau, is known by the nickname Sister Seed for her extensive field knowledge and 1,000 samples collected since 1997.
Discovering a passion for seeds when a forestry student at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Chang said she credits a chance encounter with the seed of Cassia grandis, or pink shower tree, for the lifelong pastime. 

From the UK:

Some useful references
"Back Garden Seedsaving" by Sue Stickland (ISBN 1899233091) is an excellent reference with a good intro to seedsaving plus details about each individual crop.
"Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth.(ISBN 1882424581) tells you simply and clearly what you need to do to save seed of any veg you care to mention using materials you have at home.
"The Seed Savers Handbook" Jeremy Cherfas, (Grover Books, 1996) is also good and also talks in more detail about the reasons that you might want to save your own seeds.
"Breed your own Vegetable Varieties" by Carol Deppe ( Chelsea Green Pub Co; ISBN: 1890132721) is a good introduction to vegetable breeding for the interested amateur. Until 50 years ago, all gardeners were plant breeders - it's not difficult, you just need to know how to do it, and the tradition has been lost. This book will give you the basics, and then if you're interested, the nitty-gritty too.

The Real Seed Catalogue has this advice:

Seed-saving is easy. You'll get better seed than you can buy, even from us. And you can keep your own varieties going for future years. But .. . just as with growing the plants, there are a few key bits of information you need to know to keep varieties pure. It's not hard, you just need to know how to do it. One key thing before you start - you can't save seed from F1 (hybrid) varieties. You need real, open-pollinated seed, like ours. We don't have any hybrid seed at all, for this very reason.

Later, do remember to dry your seed properly, or it will not survive storage. Don't use heat though to dry it - we have a whole info sheet on drying your seed, so read that when you've got it harvested. For now all you need to do is start with non-hybrid seed, & read on to find out how many plants you need to grow, and what to bear in mind to get good seed that is true to type.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Deep River By Hikaru Utada, 2002

Hikaru Utada

I wonder where this wonderful video was made. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean...

Friday, July 03, 2015

Moomin Valley Coming To Hanno, Saitama!?

Well, actually, Hanno City already has a small theme park for kids, centered on the wonderful world of Tove Jansson, the Finnish writer who created the Moomin "trolls" and their special valley, the Akebo-Children-Forest-Park.

But now, Seibu Railways will sell their land at Lake Miyazawa and let a company develop the beautiful area around my favourite spot for walking and getting some forest time - a must for a Swede!

The theme park will have a public space and a theme park space - and I really hope they will continue to allow free access around the entire lake. I also hope the plan to attract visitors using the "Nordic" theme will not just be PR, but a sincere effort. Hanno City has some great Eco-Tourism initiatives and the amount of people showing up to do long hikes and walks through the Oku-Musashi hills around here is encouraging... Recently the Yama-Osusume anime also helped introduce people to Hanno, Saitama.

A theme park at my favourite lake... Well, trust me, I have mixed feelings but at least it's better than yet another golf course. The investment company bought some 187,000 sq m from Seibu Railways, and thankfully, they only plan to build on 307 sq m. Clearly, keeping the forest around Lake Miyazawa must be a priority. Here is their business plan (E, pdf). This is the first Moomin Theme Park in the world, outside of Finland.

Interesting drone video from Lake Miyazawa (actually a dam, built in the 1930s):

News about the development from Tokyo Keizai Online (J): ムーミンパークが"埼玉の奥地"を選んだワケ

I like how they emphasize that you can get here without using a car!

The theme park will be called Metsä, which is Finnish for "forest" - actually Tove Jansson was Swedish-speaking, and the books about the Moomins were initially published in that language. Actually, while alive, she was very antagonistic to attempts to commercialize the characters she created... I wonder what she would have thought about the "official Moomin page" here in Japan!

More about Hanno's links to Moomin (J).

Bonus video - if you can't wait for the above, do bring the kids to Hanno City's Abebo no Kodomo no Mori Koen, and the amazing Moomin Houses here!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Russia To Impose Drift Net Ban North Of Hokkaido

Excellent news: Russia has imposed a drift net ban in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) north of Hokkaido, Japan. Drift nets are the most devastating ways of fishing - if it can be called that. Stretching as far as 32 km, a single net is literally catching everything along that stretch - between just two boats. Large fish and even seals or dolphins get caught too. Seabirds that get in the way are other victims of this indiscriminate way of cheaply and indiscriminately serving the fishing industry with raw materials.

Japan's response? Not a word about how the ban will help to protect the oceans. Not a word about the need to curb over-fishing. Not a word about the need for saving precious marine life. (Read more below about Sustainable Seafood Week!)

The Russian ban will take effect January 1, 2016 according to NHK World:

Hokkaido fishermen seek help over drift-net ban

Fishermen in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido have visited Tokyo to ask for government help over Russia's ban on drift-net fishing for salmon and trout in its exclusive economic zone.

A law stipulating the ban was officially announced on Wednesday after it was passed by Russia's parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

When the law takes effect in January, Japanese drift-net fishing boats will be unable to operate in Russia's exclusive economic zone.

Hokkaido fishermen and their supporters visited the fisheries ministry on Thursday and handed a letter of appeal to Hidemichi Sato, a parliamentary vice-minister.

The letter says the ban will deal a heavy blow to the economy of the entire prefecture as a large number of firms are involved in processing and distributing the catches.

It calls on the government to extend sufficient support not only to fishermen but also to related local industries.

Sato replied that the government will do all it can to help them. He promised to visit Hokkaido and listen to the views of relevant parties.

After the meeting, Hokkaido's Vice Governor Hiroki Arakawa said prefectural officials will quickly work out what kind of assistance is needed by consulting with locals and will submit requests to the central government.

Speaking to reporters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he is concerned that the ban will have a great impact on local industries, mainly in the eastern region of Hokkaido.

Read more: notes that there are 35 Japanese and 16 Russian driftnet fishing vessels in the Russian Far East. Each vessel can deploy 32 kilometers of drifting nets a day. This means more than 1,600 kilometers of nets can be set each day, which is comparable to the length of the eastern shore of Kamchatka.

Driftnet fishing maybe banned in Russia next year

Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Program Coordinator of the Kamchatka/Bering Sea ecoregional Office WWF-Russia says:

Driftnet fishing is devastating. No other type of fishing results in such considerable mortality of non-target species, including seabirds and marine mammals. Even worse, it can hardly be regulated. According to independent observers and officials, driftnet fishing vessels either don’t report bycatch of non-targeted species, or downplay such data significantly – usually the reports contain numbers, which are 11 times lower than the actual amount of bycatch. If legislators pass the law, it will boost on-shore fishing, save millions of species, and put Russia in line with other advanced countries, which have already banned driftnet fishing in their waters.

This is not a new debate, and there is no excuse for Japan not to be better prepared for the Russian ban. Already in 1991, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution against driftnet fishing, proposed by Russia, Canada and the United States. Japan obliged by stopping driftnet fishing in the northern Pacific Ocean:

In 1991, United Nations General Assembly adopted another Driftnet
Resolution (46/215) which called for "a global moratorium on large-
scale high-seas drifrnet fishing effective December 31, 1992.25 In
line with the UN Resolution 46/215, Japan has completely halted
large-scale high-seas driftnet fisheries, including those in North
Pacific Ocean.
Source: Ted Case Studies 

Top image: WWF and the Co-op movement was promoting "Sustainable Seafood Week" in June at Co-op shops and AEON supermarkets. Too little too late? WWF Japan has more (J). AEON, for example, promotes ASC in its CSR/Environment Report (2014), but does not mention anything about driftnet fishing.

There are currently two independent efforts to certify fish and fish products that are more "sustainably" produced than others, one from the oceans ("Marine") and one from fish farms ("Aquaculture"):

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)