Showing posts from June, 2005

Kyoto City doing nothing to reduce CO2 emmissions

Photo from Al in Kyoto  Found a sarcastic blog that points out how the city of Kyoto is doing next-to-nothing to reduce emmissions of green house gasses. Unfortunately, as Al in Kyoto points out, as a result of a lack of leadership from Central Government and from Japan's local territorial authorities, Japan's emissions have continued to increase. To date the Kyoto City and State Governments have failed to implement policies that would facilitate achieving any of the goals outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. They have, so far, only served to provide a useful example of how unwilling political leadership can stand in the way of moving toward actual reduction in C02 emissions. Thanks to Richard Evanoff at the International Green Network for the info!

Air pollution: Higher tax for car owners in China

Just as I was writing about air pollution and environmental problems in China, I found this news. It seems China is considering linking a special tax to engine emissions levels, and making sure car owners have to pay directly. This is an attempt to clean up the air in Chinese cities. The China Daily reported on Monday that under the new tax rules, the tax burden on cars with an engine capacity over 3.0 litres could be as high as 15 to 20 percent. At present, a 3 to 8 percent tax was paid by manufacturers before cars entered the market, the paper said. "Those who buy cars with higher emissions will be taxed more heavily," Feng Fei, director of the industry department at the State Council's Development and Research Centre told China Daily in an interview. A report released in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that of the ten most polluted cities in the world, seven could be found in China. Sulfur dioxide and soot caused by coal combustion are two major ai

Strong opinions in the Japan-US beef battle

The chief of a delegation of Japanese lawmakers probing U.S. countermeasures for mad cow disease criticized the U.S. Agriculture Department on Saturday for pressing Japan to resume beef imports without trying to understand the sentiment of Japanese consumers. "They are telling Japan that U.S. beef is safe, so buy it, using only seller's logic, and they don't understand how Japanese, who are sensitive to food safety, feel about the issue," said Kenji Yamaoka, chairman of the House of Representatives Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee. Meanwhile, the debate in the US about food safety is also fierce... Click here to read more about the BSE debate in the US

Glad midsommar

Keitai photo  Well, it's Midsummer's Day in Sweden, and it is hot here in Saitama... 30 degrees... I'm posting a photo that Ruri took today with her mobile phone. That's me on the left, Ruri in the middle and her friend Juri from Finland on the right. They came by to talk Swedish and listen to some music. Ruri is lucky, she is going to Vasteras, Sweden for one year on a Rotary scholarship. Lycka till! Click here to listen to Swedish radio (webbradio)!

Square melons? No way!

Square melon I feel passionately about food, and I think it should be as natural as possbile. So, when I hear about "square melons" I get a kind of creepy feeling. No way! The price is about 10,000 yen. Let's boycot this stupid product...

McDonald's ad banned in China

McDonalds in China According to People's Daily, fast food giant McDonald's was pressured recently in China to withdraw a new commercial which was found insulting to various consumers. The ad describes a Chinese man kneeling before a vendor and begging him to accept his expired discount coupon, but being refused. The advertisement goes on to say people don't have to worry about McDonald's coupons expiring, since their validity lasts for a whole year. Many cities which had showed the commercial stopped screening it on Tuesday, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Tianjin, Xiamen and Xi'an. "What a shame that the commercial portrayed Chinese consumers as willing bend to such a petty interest!" said a lady surnamed Yuan, who complained to a consumer's petition hotline. McDonald's China branch faxed domestic media a statement on Tuesday, saying it just wanted to be humorous.

The effects of China's development

Shanghai air  I'm reading about Lester Brown's report "Learning from China: Why the Western Economic Model Will not Work for the World" and, as usual, trying to think about our planet. Nuclear power is too risky, and oil is not enough. As for food, our oceans are overfished, farmland is lost to building bigger cities, and we just had a warning last night on NHK to save water. We are nearing the limits of Earth's capacity to support our current consumption patterns. Earth cannot provide America-like or Japan-like lifestyles for China's population. And what about - everyone else? Who will tell everyone: "Sorry, you cannot have what we have!" Here are some numbers, if you prefer that. Today, per capita GNP in the US and Japan is about $38,000 annually, while China's per capita GNP is about $1,000. China seems to want to reach the same level, using the same strategies, making the same mistakes. By 2031, income per person for China's project

Blogs in Japan

I have seen reports that the number of blogs in Japan totalled 3.35 million at the end of March 2005, and that about 16.51 million people visit blogs at least once a month. Blog provider Hatena Co is stating that they are currently signing up 10,000 new bloggers a month. According to Mainichi Shimbun, Japan's biggest providers of free blogging services include Yahoo Japan and Rakuten, but most popular is Livedoor. Livedoor has a reputation as paradise for Japan's eroggers. That is a new word for people with an Erog (Erotic blog). Do a google search on the word "erog" and see what you find! Actually the blog trend was faster in Korea than in Japan. For example, Yahoo Japan's blogging site uses technology from Yahoo Korea's blog site, launched there in late 2003. But other than the technology back end, the systems are independent. Funnily enough, the US Yahoo still has not launched any blog service! Korea’s top five most popular portals are Naver, Daum, Nate

The effects on Tokyo from a nuclear disaster

On June 22, 2005 Japan Offspring Fund is arranging a seminar with experts on nuclear safety. The seminar will focus on safety issues and recent revelations regarding the Hamaoka nuclear reactors. Speakers include Konagaya Minoru, Stop Hamaoka Network, Shizuoka prefecture. Click here to read more about the most dangerous nuclear power plant in Japan Earthquakes do happen frequently in Japan. Yet the Japanese media seems reluctant to report about this topic. I used google and found a website that lists serious seismic activity in Shizuoka prefecture: Click here for data about strong earthquakes in the Hamaoka region (Source: International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering) Title: “The effects on Tokyo from a nuclear disaster at the Hamaoka reactors due to a major earthquake” Location: Shokuryu Kaikan Hall, Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku 3-3-6 Tokyo Time: 18:45-20:45PM Subway stations: Kojimachi (Yurakucho line) or Hanzomon (Hanzomon line) Admission: 500 Yen

IKEA bans midsummer TV commercial

Ikea, the Swedish furniture store has decided not to allow a German commercial to be aired on TV. It is really funny, but actually the commercial is a bit much... What do you think? Click here to watch the banned IKEA commercial! It was supposed to be on air now this week, just before midsummer, the Swedish holiday! The facts · 1 million customers visit Ikea every day · The average customer makes 3.5 store visits per year · The average age of a customer is 42 · 60 per cent of them are female · 150 million meatballs a year are served in Ikea restaurants · Ikea has 84,000 'co-workers' (staff) · 20 per cent of Ikea sales are made in Germany · 145 million catalogues are printed in 48 editions and 25 languages · There are 202 Ikea stores in 32 countries

Swedish Midsommar...

Raising the "midsommarstång"  Right now is "Midsommar" in Sweden, and one of the ancient traditions is to raise a Midsommarstång and celebrate with lots of good food and drink, as well as dancing all night, as the sun never sets...
Midsommar...  Typical Swedish "Midsummer festival" schedule: 12-16 Midsommarbuffe’serveras i restaurangen 13:00 Vi klär midsommarstången, alla som vill får hjälpa till! 16:00 Midsommarstången reses 16:10 Midsommarlekar och dans vid stången. Kjell Eliasson och Miriam Blomberg med släkt och vänner. 16:30 Barnteater 18:00 Folkdansuppvisning med Linde folkdansgille 19:00 Full fart med Inger och Bengt. Underhållning för hela familjen. Clownen Zack, akrobatik, allsång och tävlingar. 21:00 Ringlekar krig midsommarstången. Axel Henriksson 21:30 Sång och musik i midsommartid . Anna Garus piano, Linda Nordin Johansson sång. Entré 60: - 00:00 MidnattsGudstjänst med nattvard Bengt Isacson 00:30 Nattsudd i restaurangen. Karaoke m.m.

Candle Night Summer Solstice 2005...

Candle Night June 2005  Turn out your lights for two hours from June 18 to the summer solstice, June 21st, eight to ten p.m. Sometimes an idea appears, and it is just beautiful. Turn off the lights... So simple! Do something special - Read a book with your child by candlelight. Enjoy a quiet dinner with a special person. This night can mean many things for many people. A time to save energy, to think about peace, to think about people in distant lands who share your planet. Pulling the plug open the window to a new world. Awakens as to human freedom and diversity. It is a process, finding a larger possibility of the human civilization. By turning off lights for only two hours, we will be all loosely connected. The Japanese NGOs behind this suggest that we all make a "wave of darkness" and let it spread over the globe together. On the evening of summer solstice, June 21st, for two hours from 8 to 10 p.m. - - turn out your lights, take it slow. Please click here for mor

Illegal GE rice in China

7 April 2005 Wuhan, Hubei Province, CHINA Xudong Grain Market in Wuhan - one of the grain markets in Hubei where Greenpeace found Genetically Engineered (GE) rice being traded. (c) Greenpeace  This news makes me so angry. Greenpeace has found illegal Genetically Engineered rice in China. Some GE rice seeds that were sold in the markets were advertised as a product of New Technology Company of Huazhong Agriculture University. This company is owned by the same University that is responsible for field trials of GE rice in the Hubei region. It is estimated that up to 29 tons of GE rice seeds have been sold in Hubei this year, and if no recall action is taken, the seeds could produce up to 14,500 tons of GE rice when harvested. Rice is such an important food and should not be manipulated like this. In addition, Greenpeace notes that China is a major exporter of rice and it is expected that the contamination scandal may have significant trade and market impacts, pa

Gorgeous Gemini

Kagaya  Isn't it a great picture of unity? From Born in Saitama (just north of Tokyo) in 1968, Kagaya spent his childhood in wonderment of the stars in the sky, and never stopped painting them. He has had a successful career as an illustrator for astronomical books and magazines, and many of his works have been turned into jigsaw puzzles, among other products. Since 1996, he has worked exclusively in the digital medium.

Earthquake predictions in Japan

I am really worried about earth quakes. I mean, seriously, they are BAD. And, in Japan they are REALLY BAD because this is a country with a lot of people, and a lot of earthquakes. I am going to quote a Japan Playboy article now, although I have no idea if it can be scientifically verified or not. It says, dogs and cats are good at predicting such disasters. According to their article, a professor of veterinary science at Azabu University says that plenty of pets in the Kobe area -- 30 percent of cats and 20 percent of dogs -- detected the Great Hanshin Earthquake that demolished Kobe and killed over 6,000 in 1995. He says that the dogs that knew about the temblor created such brouhaha their owners had to take them outside and thus avoided being caught indoors when the quake struck. Well well well, doesn't everyone (and his dog) have a blog these day? Click here to go to The Ohta Lab Eartquake Monitor Website...

Food safey problems in Korea

Korean government agencies including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have failed to regulate the supply of tainted food, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) reported according to The Korea Times. The report says many agricultural and livestock products containing insecticides and antibiotics in excess of regulated standards were distributed to consumers between January 2002 and August 2004. The report is based on the BAI’s inspection of 29 central and provincial government agencies nationwide for three months from last September. Ministry officials also failed to ban the circulation of livestock that had tested positive for antibiotics. According to the report, 14 government offices, including a Seoul office, neglected to inform the public of 865 out of 2,227 violating farms and distributors. Consumers, as tax payers, expect the government to keep up the pressure on food producers. What message does this send to the public? It is very worrying that food with residues

Ecolife Fair in Tokyo this weekend

Ecolife Fair in Tokyo This weekend there was an "Ecolife Fair" in front of the NHK buildings where I work, in Shibuya. Lots of tents and booths, and a great atmosphere. The sponsors clearly want people in Tokyo to think about what everyone can do to protect the environment. For example. the campaign "Team 6%" wants to lower CO2 emissions with 6 percent, Japan's target under the Kyoto protocol. I wonder if many foreigners in Tokyo pay attention to this? Hey, it is time to take a close look at your consumtion!

Shikata ga nai...

Why do people live so long in Japan? According to government data, the number of people in Japan above 90 years old has reached one million. Rowan Hooper notes in an interesting article in The Japan Times today that it could be due to Japan's culture of shikata ga nai (it cannot be helped). If something happens, Japanese people will often say "shikata ga nai" and get on with the situation, without rupturing blood vessels in frustration. He thinks that the easygoing nature of the Japanese, exemplified by "shikata ga nai," could partly explain the long lifespans in this country. He also suggests that it could be due to Buddhism. While most Japanese don't chant and meditate like monks every day, the culture is steeped in Buddhism, even if it's not obvious. Buddhism and "shikata ga nai" keep blood pressure down, then that's a good thing for longevity. Please click here to read the article

Food safety scandal at Seoul kindergarten

Food safety scandal at kindergarden  I just got this from someone I trust in Seoul: SBS, the South Korean news channel, has uncovered a food safety scandal at a Seoul kindergarten. You can cut & paste to watch their broadcast here: mms:// navernews/0002/2005/0610/00046901.wmv If the sentence was written 50 years ago, during the Korean War, Koreans could understand it. But, if that is about today's news? Boiled porridge with left-over foods from yesterday and even older...? It is today's hot issue in Korea.. It is a real situation from a kindergarten in Seoul, Korea. The kindergarten was making porridge with norimaki, katsudon, rice cakes, and some other left-over foods. Such "garbage porridge" has been given to little kids for 3 months, and they got horribly sick after eating it. SBS reports that children at the kindergarten got atopy, moles, enteritis, and so on. According to the confession of the teacher of the kindergar

Japan football history

In its early days, football was associated to 'kemari' - an ancient Japanese ball game connected with the Shinto religion. Japanese fans stood bemused as they witnessed the birth of football in September 1873 when British naval officer, Archibald Douglas organized a game with his men. In 1888, Japan saw its first competitive game as Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club took on the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club, a rivalry that continues to the present day. As football reaches the public, the Japan Football Association was formed in 1921. Their first impact on the world stage was at the Berlin Olympics where a group of college students represented Japan to mark their entry into world football. In the 1960s football became more popular and better organised. Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics and again Japan entered a team. This time they progressed to the last eight, where they were beaten by Argentina. Japan's best moments were to come in the 1968 Mexico Olympics where they wo

Japan-North Korea tonight

Happy Ogasawara!  I should be working on my NHK program for tomorrow's broadcast, but it is about Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi's goal of making Japan an intellectual property-based nation, and tonight I am hoping for another goal ! Japan is playing a crucial football game against North Korea, and the Japanese need only a draw to reach their third straight World Cup finals in Germany next year. Japan defeated Bahrain by 1-0 and reached its third victory in Group B of the Asian Qualifiers second stage. The only goal was scored by the midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara, at the 34th minute of the first half. That's Ogasawara in the photo, I bet he is looking forward to the game tonight, too!

Firefox - best product of the year

PC World has just announced its list, 100 best products of the world 2005, and Mozilla Firefox is number one! As you might have noticed, I even have a banner for it on my blog. That is because it is free, easy to download, and "just plain better". I know almost nothing about computers, so when a friend recommended that I replace Internet Explorer, well... I was rather skeptical at first. But, he said even I would be able to do it! And it was true. Firefox is an open-source program. On their website, they ask: "Is there some bug that really bothers you? Instead of just reporting it, feel free to fix it". No wonder it has attracted millions of users in just a few months.

“The most dangerous nuclear power plant in Japan ”

Local Shizuoka TV A local Shizuoka TV station has reported about a recent police investigation, where the technician responsible for safety designs at the Hamaoka nuclear power plants in Shizuoka prefecture explained why he altered safety data to conceal design flaws. “I had children and there was not enough time”, he said. 33 years ago he worked at Toshiba, which built the reactors for Chubu Electric Power Co. Today, he is 63 years old and lives in Tokyo . He has recently testified and admitted falsifying and altering safety testing data related to earthquake tests. The testimony revealed that when various vibrational tests were performed, data showed that the design could not withstand a major earthquake. Several attempts were made to strengthen the design, but tests still showed problems. In spite of this, the construction went ahead and the building, Hamaoka's second reactor, was completed in 1971. Based on these tests, an additional three reactors were constructed, in

20th case of mad cow found in Japan

A 4-year-old Holstein cow in Shikaoi, Hokkaido, has been diagnosed with mad cow disease — the 20th case in Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Monday. Analysis of the meat and internal organs confirmed the diagnosis as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, as mad cow disease is formally known, the ministry said. Kyodo News has no details about why the cows are not healthy in Japan. Consumers must be confused and wondering what is going on. On the other hand, it is impressive that Japan is testing every single cow, to find out how serious the problem is. I guess I should add that I do not eat meat!

Seminar: If there is an accident at Hamaoka...

If there is an accident at Hamaoka...  On June 22, 2005 Japan Offspring Fund is arranging a seminar with experts on nuclear safety. The seminar will focus on safety issues and recent revelations regarding the Hamaoka nuclear reactors. Speakers include Komagaya Minoru who is very concerned about what will happen if there is an earthquake in the Hamaoka area. Title: “The effects on Tokyo from a nuclear disaster at the Hamaoka reactors due to a major earthquake” Location: Shokuryu Kaikan Hall, Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku 3-3-6 , Tokyo Time: 18:45-20:45PM Subway stations: Kojimachi (Yurakucho line) or Hanzomon (Hanzomon line) Admission: 500 Yen

My head hurts

The bow taut. Twang! The arrow strikes your eye. By the pain of your darkness the moon rose. (From Beyond Self , Translated by Young-Moo Kim and Brother Anthony) This is a zen poem by Korean writer Ko Un. I have been reading about his poetry today, after staying up all night working on a big translation project. My head hurts... This is the (long-and-winding) story about how I found Ko Un: I was reading the news on a Korean newspaper website, and got interested in the story about former dictator Park Chung-Hee. When I searched for more stories about him, using google, I came accross an essay called "A Scandinavian View of Ko Un's Poetry" by Jesper R. Matsumoto Mulbjerg, from a conference on 'The Poetic World of Ko Un' two years ago at Stockholm University, Sweden. Because that lecture appeared on a website of Changbi Publisher, which also has an article about the dictator, I was able to find out more about the poet... Synchronicity...? Jesper R. Matsumoto Mul

Anger at Fukui decision

The Supreme Court upheld Japan's approval of an experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor this week, paving the way for the reopening of a plant that was shut down a decade ago by an accident and cover-up. The Monju reactor uses plutonium fuel instead of conventional uranium. Environmentalists were outaged by the ruling, according to Asspciated Press. They say the reactor's plutonium-based technology is dangerous. Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action, a Kyoto-based environmental group, called the ruling "shocking." "If there's an accident it could be disastrous," she said. "We haven't read the reasons for the court's decision yet, but it's astounding that the court could rule this way." The nuclear energy industry in Japan, however, has been plagued by safety violations, reactor malfunctions and accidents. The Fukui region also was the scene of Japan's deadliest-ever accident, when a corroded cooling pipe - carrying boiling wat

Fukui nuclear reactor poster

Fukui nuclear reactors poster  Well, well, well! This month, I might as well focus a little on Japan's nuclear reactors, starting with this great poster. Don't you just love it: "Cute" nuclear reactors. It makes you feel much safer, doesn't it. Almost... kind of... cosy! Wouldn't you just love to have a couple of those in your backyard? No?? Fukui is home to 15 reactors out of a total of 52 across Japan. Credit goes to Lewis Packwood, Fukui-ken, who took the photo, so I guess I had better give the link to his (rather funny!) blog: Please click here for An Englishman in Nyu-Gun

Bye bye, Barseback

The two nuclear reactors near Malmo, Sweden have now both been shut down. They were started in the mid 1970s. One of my first memories as an "activist" was collecting signatures against them. It is a huge victory for the Swedish environmental movement. Swedish anti-nuclear campaigners have pressed for Barseback to be shut down after we voted in 1980 to stop using nuclear power and phase out all nuclear plants across the country over the coming decades. Barseback is near Copenhagen, Denmark, where resistance to nuclear power is strong. An accident at Barseback would potentially have devastated an area where 4 million people live. In addition, even a technologically advanced country like Sweden still has not figured out what to do with the radioactive waste. Hopefully, the decommissioning of Barseback will inspire other countries to also reconsider nuclear energy.