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Showing posts from 2016

John Denver singing "The Strangest Dream" at an anti Vietnam war protest march in 1971.

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John D says: "On April 24th, 1971, my friends and I marched in Washington D.C. against the war in South East Asia. This was one of the largest protests against the Vietnam war which was now spreading into Laos and Cambodia."

Alicia Bay Laurel - Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream - sung in Japanese and in English

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Alicia Bay Laurel performs - "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," a visionary peace song written by Ed McCurdy in the late 1940s, along with a translation of the lyrics into Japanese created by singer/songwriter Maiko Kodama in 2013. Alicia is offering this video in hope that many people will learn this song and join her in singing it on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bombing of a human community, August 5, 2015, in Hiroshima, Japan. She is hoping to have the event live-streaming on the Internet so that people can attend from wherever they are. The lyrics in both languages, including a phonetic rendering of the Japanese lyrics for English speakers, plus a guitar chord chart, are at http://www.aliciabaylaurel.com/LastNi...
2014年9月1日公開
ア リシア·ベイ·ローレルは、1940年代後半にエド·マッカーディによって書かれた先進的な平和の歌 "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" を、2013年シンガー/ソングライター児玉真衣子によって訳された日本語の歌詞と共に歌っている。2015年8月5日は、原爆が人間社会に最初に落とさ れてから70年。アリシアは多くの人がこの歌を学び、2015年8月15日前夜に…

Four Kanji Idioms Explained

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Interesting take on the four kanji idioms that contain a lot of meaning, from Nippon.com...



The phrase 一期一会 (ichigo ichie) also has the meaning of “a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.”



Never Say Die

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight” has become a popular inspirational quote in English, extolling the virtues of perseverance in the face of repeated setbacks. An online search for related images will find countless motivational posters as well as a few tattoos. It is a translation of 七転八起 (shichiten hakki),(*1) one example of a yojijukugo, or four-character idiomatic compound.
As the name indicates, these vocabulary items consist of four kanji strung together. They appear mainly in written Japanese, holding the reader’s interest by pepping up prose, while conveying a disproportionate weight of meaning in just a handful of characters. Like English proverbs, many are obscure or literary, but some are extremely well known. They are first studied in elementary school, and the most co…

The Genki Frid Clan...

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...That would be me on the left, having just turned 50 this summer, my father Henry who is 80 years old and surprisingly genki (No meat diet, but some dairy to help him gain weight), and Johan, Ph.D. and younger brother and father of two very bright kids (Jens & Lykke). Missing is mother Karin who passed away on July 25. Namu Amida Butsu...

Heart Sutra & Mountains

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Lovely video of Japan's tall peaks, to the sound of monks reciting the Hanya Shinkyu, or Heart Sutra.




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I did a guest post over at Joan's terrific blog, Japan Farmers Markets, thought I should share it here too:


Martin offered this guest post as an update on what's happening there and to bring an insider's perspective. Enjoy! - JB
I work part-time at Nippori Marche and thought I'd talk a bit about what it takes to help run a (small) market one weekend a month in Tokyo. As Joan points out in her fabulous monthly listing of events and farmers markets, this is a lively event with a focus on good food and fresh fruit and vegetables. It all started six years ago, when the good people who own the event square in Nippori joined up with Arakawa-ku and decided that they wanted to create opportunities for farmers to meet their customers directly, in a city that doesn't have a lot of event squares with available space for this kind of activity. It really started from scratch and we have never cancelled a single day, rain, snow or shine. In fact, I think “shine” is the worst, when…

How to Fire in a Gas Kiln...

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Pretty educational video this, how to do it properly in your own handmade kiln, with Stedmark #100 burners. Love his accent. "Trying not to panic...."





And here you see his results:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmGMR95FRtE

Japan's Green Party

Writer Winifred Bird has done us all a favour and interviewed the good people over at Japan's Green Party, which was formed in 2012. Read it over at Nippon.com.

Despite this heightened awareness of issues core to the Greens’ platform, the party has yet to see a matching leap in support for it, Ishizaki says. “In the longer term, though, our party plays an important role by simply existing. We’ve got members in place here and there around the country as members of municipal assemblies, representing citizen interests. Each of them is fighting single-handedly to protect values like human rights, pacifism, and the environment. For people like these, the Greens can be a vessel for their hope that one day someone representing their views will join the National Diet. All we can do is hold on to our vision and goals, strengthen our network, and do the steady work to expand our organization.”

UK Votes Out Of The EU

I'm really sorry and worried that the UK has voted to leave the EU. Most of voters in cities voted for the remain, but countryside voters were against. It shows a sense of bias that the EU has only benefited rich people in large cities.

Indeed, I can agree that farmers are usually left out of the Brussels quagmire debates. And so many others, like here in Japan, are old people living in the rural towns that do not feel much benefit from Trade Liberalization and large shopping centers that offer all kinds of imported goods at low prices, mostly from China. But why does this translate to the right-wing vote?

I'm from the southernmost province of Sweden. We voted for joining the EU some 20 years ago. Sweden did join, but later opted out of the Euro. Since then, the EU has grown to include 28 countries. It may have been more manageable and more democratic back then. But why did the UK right-wing Cameron government embark on this stupid vote in the first place? Incredibly foolish. …

MOX Fuel at Ikata in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku

I was hoping this would not happen. Protesters are also outside the plant. They read out a statement protesting the insertion of nuclear fuel into the No.3 unit. The statement said the system for transmitting electricity to the plant cannot withstand a powerful earthquake and the plant's safety cannot be guaranteed. A stable power supply is needed to maintain the cooling of the reactor. One of the protesters said that in view of the powerful temblors that struck Kumamoto, the operator should not rush the process of inserting fuel into the reactor.

NHK World: Fuel loading begins at Ikata No.3 nuclear reactor

Workers have begun loading nuclear fuel into a reactor at the Ikata power plant in western Japan. The operator plans to restart the reactor in late July.

They started removing units of fuel rods from a pool on Friday, and placed them into the No.3 reactor one at a time. Sixteen of the 157 units of fuel rods are the type of fuel called MOX, which is a mixture of …

Fukushima Coverup: Nuclear Reactor Core Meltdown

Now it is rather official. Back in March 2011, as events unfolded, we were not told the truth. We saw the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear reactors live on TV. But we were not told the rest of the story:

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The head of Tokyo Electric Power Co. apologized Tuesday over his predecessor's instruction not to use the term "core meltdown" in describing the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in the early days of the crisis, calling the instruction a "coverup." "It is extremely regrettable. People are justified in thinking it a coverup," TEPCO President Naomi Hirose said at a press conference in Tokyo. The remarks came after a report published last Thursday said then President Masataka Shimizu instructed a vice president, who was taking part in a press conference on March 14, 2011, not to use "core meltdown" in describing the state of damaged reactors. The report suggested that efforts were made…

Post Peak Oil

When I started Kurashi some 10 years ago, the issue of peak oil quickly was brought to my attention by some great people that knew a lot about energy issues. The blog to follow back then was The Oil Drum and there were others. Since then, it is thought that peak oil did indeed happen around 2006-2008, so we are now in an era of uncharted territory, which some of us started to prepare for back then. I focus on consumption issues and what is called "Responsible Consumption" - meaning we should consume resources that are finite (like oil) as little as possible... Thus I have no car, try to buy locally produced food, and care about my electricity bill. I also make some of my own veggies, although that is just a small step in the right direction, I know.

Thanks Pandabonium for the link to Our Renewable Future, a book and website that is a great resource about this era. Nice to see that the debate has matured to this level (despite what you may see in the mainstreem press in some …

Bhutan 100% Organic

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Koa Tasaka, head of Consumers Union of Japan where I work, has a great affection for Bhutan, the small kingdom north of India. He is impressed by their agricultural practices: they have announced that the entire country will become 100% organic.

The Guardian: Political parties in the Himalayan kingdom unite to eradicate chemical fertilisers and pesticides as part of its Gross National Happiness programme

Agriculture and forests minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, who held the post in the previous government, say there is a united commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
While no formal timeframe has been put in place, both politicians believe that the goal is within sight as long as practical natural solutions can be found to the pest and disease problems still affecting a few crops. In order to speed up the search for these answers, Bhutan recently brought together experts on organic agriculture from across the world.

Congratulations, C W Nicol

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko listen to C.W. Nicol as they walk together in Afan Woodland in Shinano, Nagano Prefecture, on Monday. | POOL / KYODO
Emperor and Empress visit central Japan forest managed by British-born author C.W. Nicol Kyodo

Jun 6, 2016 SHINANO, NAGANO PREF. – Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Monday paid a visit to woodland restored by British-born writer and environmentalist C.W. Nicol in Nagano Prefecture.
The couple took a stroll in Afan Woodland in the town of Shinano, with the Emperor asking Nicol the names of various plants. As he walked through the forest, the Emperor said, “It feels good.”
The wooded area, which takes its name from a forest park in Wales, had been cut down and was neglected for more than 40 years until the 1980s. The 75-year-old author, who now has Japanese citizenship and has been a columnist for The Japan Times since 2002, has long been involved in efforts to restore its original ecosystem by taking care…

To Tougei (or to Mingei)

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Japan has an ancient tradition of making pottery, that goes way back into the mists of millennia.... OK, I'll stop there. Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of learning traditional pottery, tougei (陶芸, lit. pottery art, ceramic art). My teacher is in Tokorozawa and has a couple of kilns, including a nobori-gama that I hope we will use one day - it's wooden fire gives the most interesting hues without using glazes. I also make my own stuff here at home in Hanno, which I fire at a friend's place in Ogama, Chichibu, western Saitama. We are thinking of building a nobori-gama there, too, in the forest.

Mingei (民芸, lit. folk art) is a popular movement with museums all over Japan, many that display pottery items and local ceramics, especially those made by unknown potters, masters in their own right, but guys and gals who didn't have the kind of luck to make pieces for rich people, but for the benefit of us ordinary folks. I'm a bit unsure where I would…

Katazukeru: What to do with our Parents' Stuff

Below, a good read in the Daily Gomiuri, aka The-Japan-News, aka Daily Yomiuri (lit. Read-Sell) about the issues facing us youngsters now in our 40s and 50s as we have to deal with our parents' stuff. Because die they will and they will leave attics full off stuff. Do we just throw it all away? Do we hire firms to come and pick it all up? Do we sort through it, and more importantly, do we sort through it all?

Decades of consuming, if not a century since industrialization began in earnest, and consumerism that made it all so easy to accumulate. But not just stuff stuff. Also personal things like letters, photos, super 8 home movies. Stuff that actually meant something.

Hope they translate that book, “Katsuo ga Isonoke o Katazukeru Hi” (The day Katsuo cleans up the Isono household), by Aya Watanabe.

Like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, there is a lesson here, somewhere (if I can only find it, where did I put it..…

Jupiter and Moon

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Cool view of the sky, I like that I can find out what that bright thing near the moon is - Jupiter.

Ken E is invited to join the new Kurashi Experience.

Earthsky says: Jupiter’s four major moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – made it possible for math-savvy astronomers to compute the mass (heaviness) of Jupiter. This giant world has the mass of 318 Earths.

How do astronomers know the mass of Jupiter?

As darkness falls on May 14, 2016, use the moon to find the king planet Jupiter. Watch for them. They will be a sight to see in your sky on Saturday evening. And soon gone far, far away again. You'll also see Saturn and Mars in May!



Refined By Fire

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An Anagama is a wood fire kiln used in traditional Japanese pottery where the gas and ash act as a natural glazing agent for ceramics.

This short documentary features Clayton Amemiya, a Hawaii-born artist who was originally taught in Okinawa by sensei Seisho Kuniyoshi.

Clayton has been perfecting his Anagama technique for 40 years and become a master craftsman of this Japanese art form.

Jupiter, Moon...

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...watch for that bright planet next to the Moon, that's Jupiter.

With binoculars, your can see at least four of Jupiter's moons.

Ancient Babylonian astronomers used calculus to find Jupiter 1,400 years before Europeans
ABC Science By Stuart Gary Updated 29 Jan 2016

Ancient Babylonians Tracked Jupiter With Calculus
Jan 29, 2016

The earliest known examples of mathematical and geometric astronomy have been identified in a series of ancient Babylonian cuneiform tablets. An analysis of the tablets, reported in the journal Science, reveals ancient Babylonians were able to calculate the position of Jupiter using geometric techniques previously believed to have been first used some 1,400 years later in 14th century Europe. “These texts are the earliest evidence we have from antiquity of mathematical astronomy,” said the study’s author Dr Mathieu Ossendrijver, a historian on Babylon…

Shiga Prefecture - The Water Story

I get my clay from Shiga Prefecture and this article explains the unique features concerning the water in Harie, near Lake Biwa.

Mainichi: Shiga: Land of Water

The Harie district in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, reminds one of good old Japan, with traditional tiled-roof houses lining the streets. Located roughly 1.5 kilometers from Lake Biwa in the northwest part of the prefecture, it is a place full of natural beauty, with fish swimming in numerous canals and streams that transect the district. For some 300 years, residents have fostered a unique water culture that centers around "kabata" -- a water supply system that utilizes the region's abundant underground water. The water originates in the Hira Mountains in western Shiga Prefecture. At each household in Harie, pipes are sunk about 10 to 20 meters into the ground to obtain the underground water. This spring water -- which the people of Harie refer to as "shozu," or living water -- flows into…

Mahler Symphony No 2 Resurrection Seiji Ozawa 小澤征爾 NJpo Nagasaki Peace concert

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Gustav Mahler Symphony No 2 C minor Resurrection Symphony Auferstehungssinfonie
Seiji Ozawa conducts New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Nagasaki Peace concert
グスタフ·マーラー交響曲2番ハ短調復活小澤征爾は、長崎平和コンサートの新ジャパン
­·フィルハーモニー管弦楽団を行っています
1.Allegro maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck (With complete gravity and solemnity of expression) 0:00
2.Andante moderato. Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen. (Very leisurely. Never rush.) 23:43
3.In ruhig fließender Bewegung (With quietly flowing movement)36:00
4.Urlicht (Primeval Light). Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht (Very solemn, but simple) 47:03
5.Im Tempo des Scherzos (In the tempo of the scherzo) 52:25
6.Langsam, Misterioso 1:09:49

A young Ozawa as a contestant on "What's My Line" in 1963

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Nova: Earth's Magnetic Fields

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And how does pottery help reveal these things? Watch until around 19 min. 

Since the 1970s, the magnetic north pole has moved more than 1500 km at a rate of 10 kilometres a year. In the 1980s, this increased to 30 km a year. Today, the Pole travels 50, even 60 km - close to 150 metres a day.

Scientists don't quite know why its speed has increased these past 20 years. The magnetic pole is moving northwest of the geographic pole and may soon be across the Arctic Ocean in Siberia.
To find their bearings, sailors the world over must know the exact angle of difference between the two geographic and the magnetic north poles: the 'magnetic declination.'

The magnetic pole moves from the North to the South and vice versa every 250,000 years on average and does it very suddenly. Over 180 reversals have been recorded already.

Yes! Magazine: Unsurrendered (First Nation in Canada)

http://reports.yesmagazine.org/unsurrendered/

Do read, and cry. We call it gråta in Swedish, to cry. I like how languages try to create the emotion using the (probably ancient sanskrit) cr or gr sound, but in Japanese it is just "naku" which isn't very strong. I bet there is another word for really heartfelt tears, though.

To just totally wonder what on earth some humans are on earth for, if just to inflict pain and suffering, for profit, while others try to recover that inherent beauty of old forests and pure streams and a living that does not harm other humans. You could argue that hunting and fishing also will cause karmic relationships that are not so good for those who kill, but these are northern lands. Difficult to survive there without it.

Impressive that these people never gave Canada the right to take their lands away.

Now, oil companies want to export the bitumen to China... How long will that last? These people have been there for ages. Maybe they even came f…

Country of Origin Labels in Japan

This is a topic I happen to care a lot about, especially after the US lost a case with the WTO, ruling that its COOL legislation went against its NAFTA obligations with Canada and Mexico.  The EU has the same rules, so how WTO could ignore the global attempts to provide consumers with this kind of information is mind-boggling. These WTO rules are called "Technical Barriers to Trade" (TBT) meaning they are not sanitary rules, which involve all kinds of barriers countries may wish to put up to stay unhealthy food out.

And, yup, note that processing companies (meaning they import a lot or all of their ingredients, or even entire packaged foods) are not happy with this.

From JA Agri-News:

Consumer Affairs Agency and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries jointly set up a panel to consider how to expand a list of processed food items to be covered by the mandatory labelling system of origin of ingredient. At the first meeting of the panel held on Jan. 29, people of or…

ChemChina Buys Syngenta

This is huge news today, state-owned ChemChina pays some 43 Billion $$$ for Swiss agrochemical biotech giant Syngenta. Syngenta was approched by US Monsanto last year who offered even more, but for antitrust reasons, that might not have been a good match, so Syngenta turned them down. Last year, Dow and DuPont also agreed to merge, creating another giant. What it reveals is that the main players in the US/European chemical/GMO sector are having major difficulties.

Incidentally, last year I did a study of Syngenta for Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign. I may have to revisit that and publish it in English as well.

ETC Group is the NGO that has followed these companies closely for a long time. They are very critical of the concentration of power that is emerging.

The Big Six agrochemical corporations (BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta) that dominate commercial seed and pesticide markets worldwide now insist they must get bigger, faster if the world wants food …

Documentary: Bikes vs. Cars

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I love my work. Friday I had the great pleasure of interviewing Swedish documentary film maker Fredrik Gertten, who is in Japan for the first time. He had an event later in the evening at Waseda University, which is minutes from our office at Consumers Union of Japan. We had a long talk about his previous two films, about banana plantations workers in Nicaragua, who were harmed by a pesticide used by Dole. Fredrik got sued in the process of making his initial documentary, Bananas! so he promptly made another film, Big Boys Gone Bananas, about how Dole tried to stop the first film from being screened in the US at places in LA and Sundance Festival. Fredrik won, by the way.

His new film, just released, is about another powerful industry, the ones that make cars. A billion of them on the roads, as of now. And cities like LA are more congested than ever, with some 70% of the public infrastructure devoted to - cars. Sao Paolo, Brazil, the figure is 60%. And only way to combat that is to ta…

TPP Minister Amari Resigns Over Bribe

Unbelievable, but then again, just what you'd expect :)

It was revealed by a whistle-blower, which I find interesting, but not much has been said about that.

The Mainichi is properly shocked:

A scandal involving money and politics has once again rocked the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Akira Amari, minister in charge of economic revitalization, has stepped down over allegations that he and one of his secretaries received cash from a construction company official in return for doing the firm a favor. The resignation of a Cabinet minister playing a leading role in promoting the prime minister's "Abenomics" policy mix and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact has dealt a serious blow to the Abe administration. At a news conference on Jan. 28, Amari admitted that he had accepted cash on two occasions and that his secretary received 3 million yen in secret donations. As such, it is only natural that Amari has stepped down as a member o…

Ghibli's From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)

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Set in Yokohama, up in the hills that overlook the busy deep harbour, this anime is about a girl who misses her father who is away on a war mission.

Tokyo doesn't have a harbour that can provide access to large ships, thus Yokohama was built in the late 19th century. Thus Poppy Hill, and the houses up there, overlooking the bay.

Umi raises the naval signal flags each morning, every single day, hoping father will be back from Korea, hoping it may help him find her, hoping for a safe journey for all the sailors

... - I didn't know that there were a lot of civilian Japanese boats and supply ships used by the US during the Korean War. But this timeline is slightly ambiguous, Tokyo has already been awarded the 1964 Olympics.

Hey, did you know that Tokyo was actually set to have the 1940 Olympics, after Berlin (1936). Small world.

The hit song "Sukiyaki" features, but it was not about the food at all. The lyrics has the singer as a lonely guy, holding his head high, remem…

Ghibli's The Racoon Wars (1994)

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Nope, I'm not going to turn Kurashi into a Ghibli fan club, but this is a film I very much wanted to see so when it suddenly appeared on Youtube I was delighted. Pom Poko tells the story of Tama New Town and its "development" in the late 1960s, from the point of view of the racoon dogs living in the huge forest there. Soon, there wasn't much space left for them, or any other living creatures either.



What's so great about Ghibli is the way they incorporate ancient Japanese myths into modern tales. I didn't know that tanuki, the racoon dogs, were such a prominent part of folk tales here, and that they are said to have transformation skills. Watch some anime, learn a lot.

But while it is also a very sad story, it encourages us to fight, perhaps violently, but more cleverly. Anime and "comics" in the West - I'm looking at you, Disney - creates fluffy make-believe with romance and happy endings only. Frozen seems to be just the latest in a long line …

Drone Footage of Amazing Islands in Kagoshima, Japan 4K (Ultra HD) - 鹿児島

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Ancient Trees

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There is, I'm told, an ancient Greek proverb, that is most likely much more ancient than the Greeks, that adores the man who plants a tree in which shadow he will never sit.

I have been to Yakushima three times, and there are some very old cedar trees there, but also many stubs, as temples had to be built in Kyoto and such places. There is even the memory of a certain Buddhist monk who educated the islanders that felling ancient trees was not a sin. I wonder what he personally gained from such advice. How tragic for the ancient trees, but, perhaps the monk was more concerned about the welfare of the human souls trying to survive on that remote Satsuma island.

I got a small bonzai peach tree on a visit to Mito, in Ibaraki prefecture. It is a famous site, and I was happy to have the tiny tree in its Mito pot in my garden. Then I planted it and it took root, and by now several years later, the tree has grown to about three meters tall. What a joy for that tiny bonzai plant. I cut som…