Showing posts from June, 2006

Kyoto Journal: Ainu art

The Kyoto Journal cover story this month (issue 63) is an interview with Ainu art historian Kitty Dubreuil, by Jean Miyake-Downey and Rebecca Dosch-Brown, that provides an impressive overview of an indigenous culture that is both ancient and still thriving. While Native women are credited for the creation of traditional works of art, little credit is given to those women artists who are also cultural leaders. Of course, we who identify with an Aboriginal culture know it is the women who are at the center of our universe.

Toxic Japan I: Construction sites

Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha Ltd., a chemical products manufacturer headquartered in Osaka, has shown shocking disregard for its corporate social responsibility in responding to accusations it buried huge amounts of toxic material at construction sites. This editorial in Asahi is providing details about the Shocking Pollution Scandal : An Ishihara Sangyo manufacturing plant in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, was ordered by the Aichi prefectural government remove the material, a recycled product made from sulfuric acid waste that is believed to be dangerous to human health. Instead of rushing to remove the substance, however, the company went to court, seeking an injunction to annul the prefecture's order. The recycled product, called ferrosilt, is used to fill holes created by construction work. The company buried 700,000 tons of the material at some 30 sites in Aichi, Mie, Gifu and Kyoto prefectures. The contamination came to light when red-colored water seeped from the burial sites. The l

How many North Korean spies did this man train?

The major South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo is completely rejecting the fabrications put forward by Mr. Kim Yong-nam , who was reunited briefly with his mother yesterday: Who would believe that a wooden raft drifted hundreds of nautical miles out to sea into Northern waters? Or if Kim found himself in waters near the island, a North Korean ship must have infiltrated deep into South Korean waters. And who would believe that a man leading such a happy life in the North did not once in nearly 30 years write to his family in the South, apparently insensible that his mother must be out of her mind with anxiety? Apparently, the press conference felt like a clumsy monodrama that embarrassed both the performer and his audience. The government was there. What will it do? Will it nod sagely, say, “I see, that’s what happened,” and turn its back again? Also, Chosun Ilbo interviews a high-ranking South Korean government official , with details that I have not seen in any Japanese newspaper:

A modest proposal

Japan plans to fight global warming and surging oil prices by requiring all vehicles to run on an environment-friendly mix of ethanol or other biofuels by 2030, according to The Mainichi : The new policy, adopted by the Environment Ministry this month, will require all new cars to be able to run on a blend of 10 percent ethanol, an alcohol fuel made from corn or sugar, and 90 percent regular gasoline, starting in 2010. This is a very modest goal, but at least it is a first step to combat global warming. However, Toyota Motor Co., the world's No. 2 automaker, already meet the new 10-percent standard, and Mainichi also points out that GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler already have produced 5 million flexible fuel vehicles that can run on 85 percent ethanol. So why is Japan's government so terribly modest and satisfied with a 10 percent goal?

A sure sign of summer: Food safety in the news

Food safety is always a big topic in Japan, especially in the summer time. Today, there are several stories in the news, including food irradiation, BSE and a NHK feature program about residues of chemicals on foreign foods. Since Japan imports a lot of its food from other countries, there are often opinion polls that ask people if they trust food from certain countries and so on. For readers in other countries reading such polls, that may seem like a leading question and some may even take it as an example of a xenophobic attitude (Indeed, the Crisscross news site has some of the most ridiculous debates about Japan). In the case of BSE and meat imports from North America, today's opinion poll in Asahi reveals the following: When asked about the planned resumption of U.S. beef imports, 52 percent opposed, compared with 37 percent who supported it. Moreover, 71 percent said they do not want to eat American beef even after the resumption, the highest percentage in surveys that

Nasty school food scandal in Seoul

A mass outbreak of food poisoning at middle and high school cafeterias in Seoul has caused havoc in South Korean schools, caused by the same company that was involved in a similar mass poisoning scandal in 2003: Some schools saw a large number of students go home with food poisoning while others postponed end-of-term tests. Some 91 schools nationwide stopped providing meals, leaving students with no option but to take a lunch box from home. The Education Ministry said Friday some 1,700 students in 25 schools had showed symptoms of food poisoning such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting since eating school meals supplied by CJ Food System on June 16. The cause seems to be norovirus, a common virus that is usually not serious, although people may feel very sick and vomit a lot. Most people get better within one or two days, and they have no long-term health effects. However, sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replace the liquids they lost because of vomiting and diar

How to win the World Cup

All you need is "konjo" (guts) according to the always smiling NHK expert commentator. Frankly, while I did enjoy Beckham's goal in the England vs Equador game, I'm a bit World Cup-ed out after Sweden lost to England, and after no Asian teams made it past the "kesho" -tournament (knock-out) stage. And there is just too much complaining about the referees. I think I will just read the boring but straight forward reporting on the official FIFA pages.

Koizumi to visit "shrine"

Pop Quiz: Which shrine visit this month will not harm Japan's relations with China and Korea? Answer: See below! Source: British newspaper The Times Online in an article that includes a good analysis of Koizumi's term as Japan's Prime Minister: GOOD STATESMAN US relations: Japan has never been closer to, or more trusted by, the country that it relies on for its defence US troops go home: After long negotiations, 8,000 US Marines are to be removed from the island of Okinawa Military revival: After decades constrained by the "peace constitution", Japanese troops are taking part in overseas operations Charisma: He is the first Japanese prime minister whose name people can remember POOR STATESMAN Neighbours: No postwar prime minister has been more hated or shunned by China and South Korea over the Yasukuni Shrine visits UN: Attempts to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council have been rebuffed by the US North Korea: Japan’s insistence on the r

Glad midsommar...

Here are some nice Swedish songs to celebrate midsummer this weekend: Myrra: Taxi Driver Ebba Forsberg: Hold Me Lasse Lindh: Walk With Me

Slow Life Movement

I enjoyed this article in Metropolis Tokyo about Japan's Slow Life Movement . After spending just a few minutes with Yurika Watanabe, it’s obvious that she’s comfortable living life at her own speed. Soft-spoken, intelligent and direct, the 29-year-old manager of a Slow Food restaurant in Kokubunji projects the easy confidence of someone who operates according to the dictates of conscience, not the demands of a watch. “I’m interested in organic food and fair trade because they have a strong connection with people, which I find attractive,” she says. It is not just a trend among a few people, but has also been adopted by several cities and even one prefecture: In 2001, Iwate Prefecture in rural northern Honshu adopted the slogan of "Ganbaranai!" — a sly refutation of the common Japanese "Ganbare!" exhortation to work harder. In doing so, the prefecture turned its back on the rampant development that characterized the ’80s and ’90s, and with it the tendency

Japan vs Brazil 1-4

Wow, Japan actually took the lead in the 34th minute when Keiji Tamada scored. But then: The teams were locked 1-1 at half-time and Japan had held its own against the powerhouse, largely through the superb goalkeeping of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who maintained the excellent form he had showed in Japan's two earlier matches and repelled several shots on goal. Tamada's goal, which came against the flow of play, was the result of a sublime through pass from Alessandro Santos. The Brazil stars started piling on three second-half goals to win 4-1: Storming back into form after being widely criticized in the early days of the tournament, Ronaldo scored two goals -- the 13th and 14th of his World Cup career -- to claim a share as the leading scorer in the history of the tournament. Brazil's other goals came from Gilberto Silva and Juninho. Mainichi has the rest of the story: Japan dumped from World Cup as Brazil turns on the heat . (Photo of Ronaldo scoring behind Kawaguchi

Japan pulling out of "Iraq Inc."

Last night as I was trying to listen to a BBC5 live webcast from the Sweden-England game (the webcast sadly stopped just before the game, for copyright reasons), I heard an interesting interview with author Pratap Chatterjee, who has written the book Iraq Inc.: A Profitable Occupation . In the BBC interview, he was extremely critical of the huge profits that go to private companies such as Bechtel, presumably to "rebuild" Iraq. Nothing of the sort is happening, according the BBC interview. It seems few hospitals or schools have been completed, and the Iraqis have worse water and sewage systems than before 2003. He described how subcontractors go out and take photos to prove that a certain project is finished, while much work in fact remains. But the western executives are too lazy or scared to go out and check for themselves. This, of course, is relevant as Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has just announced that Japan's Self-Defence Forces will pull out of

Sweden vs England 2-2

Amazing for Sweden to draw against England, well done, well done. So England are still without a victory over Sweden since 22 May 1968. And BBC tells us that Marcus Allback scored the 2,000th goal in World Cup history. More trivia: Henrik Larsson's 2-2 goal came 12 years after his first in the World Cup in 1994. Henke has now joined Pele, Uwe Seeler, Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup and Sami Al Jaber as players who managed to net in the World Cup 12 years after their maiden goal in the competition. Henke Larsson appeared in the finals for the 12th time, becoming Sweden's most capped World Cup player ever. Remember his hair style when he played in the U.S.? It indeed seems like ages ago. Henke now equals Kennet Andersson as Sweden's all-time World Cup top scorer with five goals, and also became the 19th player in the world to score at three or more of the competition finals. Well done, well done. Update: Sweden lost to Germany 0-2 and is out of the World Cup.

The Philippines to abolish the death penalty

Amnesty International has welcomed the passage of legislation abolishing the death penalty by the Philippine Congress. The Philippines is the 25th country in the Asia-Pacific region to end capital punishment in law or practice. Now Amnesty International is calling on President Arroyo to follow suit and enact the legislation into law. By abolishing the death penalty, Philippines joins the worldwide trend toward abolition of the death penalty and will become the 125th nation to become abolitionist in law or practice. Amnesty International hopes that the Philippines will motivate others in the region that have not yet abolished the death penalty to follow suit.

Hydrogen buses in Berlin

Football fans in Berlin coming or going from the Olympic Stadium are riding hydrogen buses during the World Cup. Two hydrogen buses are being tested as part of the EU's HyFLEET project. The project continues through 2009. The buses are being tanked at a service station set up by French TOTAL, which is supporting the HyFLEET project as part of its sustainable development program and to contribute to the establishment of a safe hydrogen infrastructure for the future. The station is itself part of the experiment. A steam reformer will generate, on site, gaseous or liquid hydrogen meeting the majority of the fuel needed to feed the buses. Additionally, fuel cells from the Sweden-based Vattenfall will be used to power and heat the tank station. (Photo from the HyFLEET EU Project website. Previous: A green standard for the FIFA World Cup


Japan vs Croatia 0-0 Korea vs France 1-1 Well... Both teams I cheer for (except Sweden of course) played against better teams, and both got draws. However, Japan faces Brazil next, and has already lost its "easy" game (against Australia) while South Korea is on a roll after winning against Togo. Congratulations, Korea, and to all the Japanese fans I watched the game with last night in Yono I can only say lets do the impossible and beat Brazil!!

No "wipe out" today

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday the country is ready to "wipe out" any aggressors who try to start a war with the country, but gave no hints as to whether it is planning a missile test, Kyodo reports. Well, we survived Sunday, so, I'm hoping world peace will begin on Monday. Meanwhile, Japan's foreign minister Taro Aso said Sunday it will be inevitable for the United Nations Security Council to consider imposign sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang conducts a missile test: Aso, who made the remarks during a television program, later said Japan will seek an immediate convening of the U.N. Security Council if North Korea goes ahead with a test-firing of a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile. Kyodo has more details here and if you want to read North Korean official propaganda, the link is here . Yonhap, a South Korean newspaper, has a good analysis here . (Photo of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile from The Daily NK )

Cool Biz update

With summer temperatures now rising - and rising again - fans and air conditioners are spinning. Cool Biz is a campaign to at least make people aware of the effects, and now it seems attitudes to clothing are beginning to change: Nowadays, if you pop into the menswear section of the Takashimaya department store near Tokyo Station, you will find, beneath a Cool Biz logo, shirts made with Japanese textile company Tomiya Apparel's high-tech NanoProof fabric, touted as being porous and quick-drying for the sticky summer days to come. At the rival Mitsukoshi store down the street, mannequins decked out in Armani, Burberry, Corneliani and the like reflect the zeitgeist by all appearing shamelessly un-necktied. "This year, retailers have taken enormous initiatives even without government prodding," said Environment Ministry official Masataka Kiyotake. But the ministry doesn't stop at retailers. To help businesses encourage their staff and others, including visiting salesm

Survey: Majority of Japananese oppose whaling

Most Japanese oppose whaling, according to a Greenpeace survey released Friday ahead of an International Whaling Commission meeting: Sixty-nine percent of respondents to the whaling survey, conducted by the Nippon Research Center, said they oppose whaling in high seas, according to Greenpeace, which commissioned the report. About 25 percent of respondents think whaling should be banned in both the high seas and Japanese territorial waters, the survey revealed. Mainichi has more details here and BBC also had a good article on the whaling debate within Japan. Update : Japan, joined by Norway, Denmark and a group of other nations have won a controversial vote to resume commercial whaling on Monday, according to BBC .

Candle-Night June 17-21 2006

Candle-Night is a grassroot campaign here in Tokyo that I really like. This weekend it is time again. Let's turn off some electric lights and enjoy: Candle Night Summer Solstice 2006. Turn out your lights for two hours on the Summer solstice, June 21st, eight to ten p.m. 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. Let's make a "wave of darkness" spread over the globe together. Also, a nationwide "Lights Down" and CO2 reduction campaign by Japan's Ministry of the Environment, nicknamed "Bl

NHK: What is kemari?

On Saturday, NHK BS1 will broadcast a TV show about kemari, ancient Asian football: Like most places across globe, Japan is caught up with the World Cup soccer finals. The game hasn't been played all that long in Japan, but the country has its own brand of football with a thousand-year-old pedigree. "Kemari" is still played in Kyoto, where it first gained favor among aristocrats. The object of Kemari is to keep one ball in the air, and all players are cooperating to do so. The ball, known as a Mari, is made of deerskin. The ball is stuffed with barley grains to give it shape. The player who kicks the ball is called a mariashi (ball-foot). A good mariashi makes it easy for the receiver to control the mari. Played with loose rules as a fun sport competition at first, by the twelfth century kemari had become highly ritualized by Heian court nobles (like Genji ), who apparently didn't spend all their time writing poetry. (Photo from this Nara tourist promototion web

Sweden vs Paraguay 1-0

I love football again after Freddie Ljungberg scored 1-0 in the 89th minute against Paraguay. England, here we come... Also, it was fantastic to see 50,000 cheering Swedish fans at Berlin Olympia- stadion. OK, Freddie, now you can go back to fashion modelling, all is forgiven. (Photo: )

Host-club workers doing street cleaning

Wow, seems more people than the mayor of Kawasaki City thinks Japan needs to start doing something about all the illegal garbage. Today, Mainichi reports that host-club workers are volunteering to clean up the streets in red-light-slash-bar-area Kabukicho, Tokyo: On Wednesday night some 100 people in the group collected rubbish off the streets, filling about 20 45-liter plastic rubbish bags in just over 30 minutes. The group is named Yacho no Kai (night bird world). It was formed after Maki Tezuka, a 28-year-old host club operator in the Kabukicho district, and three others started performing activities out of consideration for others, such as talking to victims of the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, immediately after the quake struck. "I have found that hosts can be useful in society," Tezuka said.

The mayor of this Saitama town is angry...

...and the reason is spelled "garbage": In Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, more than 500 tons of garbage are dumped illegally every year. Common items unlawfully discarded include home appliances such as televisions and microwave ovens as well as futon. The city spends as much as 50 million yen a year to collect and properly dispose of such items. In other words, citizens are picking up the tab for environmental offenses in the form of taxes. Good point. You and I are the ones who pay for the sloppy dumping of garbage through our taxes. It means less tax yen to more important things like public hospitals, schools and other services. I'm glad the mayor got angry. Indeed, do read Japan has a garbage problem . Everyone needs to participate or the bill will continue to increase - for everyone. Related links: The discussion between Japanese mountaineer Ken Noguchi and American marine ecologist Jack Moyer: NTT Cross Talking about garbage on Mt Everest and Mt Fuji. Want

Japan grappling with immigration

Japan's government plans to compile a central database of foreigners by 2007, aiming to improve services to foreign residents, according to Asahi Shimbun: The Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau is to manage the database, which will contain all foreign nationals registration data, the sources said last week. At present, such data are kept separately by the municipalities where they live. The move will extend to all foreign nationals who arrived in Japan in and after the 1980s, and include current addresses and duration of stay, the sources said. The central database is expected to help facilitate services for foreign residents, such as promoting language training and social insurance programs, sources said. At the same time, the information could also assist in tracking down foreigners suspected in criminal investigations. The article also discusses foreign workers in Japan: The Foreign Ministry and officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have pressed

Education for Sustainable Development

Barbro Kalla, an expert on EDS (Education for Sustainable Development) has been touring Japan recently together with Lena Lindahl. We met up in Ebisu last night and had a great time, good food and interesting discussions. More details on Lena's Sweden Kankyo News wesbite.

Trinidad Tobago vs Sweden 0-0

After the incredibly frustrating goal-less draw on Sunday morning, I have decided to never watch another football game again, and instead turn all my energies into watching shogi , as broadcast on NHK. (Photo from this page, thanks Mari , it made my day)

Preparing for Japan-Australia

Japan plays against Australia Monday night in its FIFA World Cup opening match. According to NHK, many fans are eating the dish "katsudon" (pork on a bowl of rice), as the verb "katsu" also means "to win". About the game, Mainichi has more: Japan will be playing in its third straight World Cup against a team that is making its first appearance in soccer's showcase event in 32 years. Japan coach Zico said Saturday his players aren't worried about Australia's height advantage. "Sure they have a lot of tall players," Zico said. "But they're not all tall and if you mark them properly it's just like playing any other team." Zico and his players know how important it is to secure three points in the Group F opener on Monday. A loss or a draw would be a big setback for Japan before it faces two tough opponents in Croatia and defending champion Brazil. "The match against Australia is huge," Zico said. "T

A green standard for the FIFA World Cup

The World Cup 2006 Football Championships will start in a few hours, and I'm getting ready to see Germany-Costa Rica at my favourite pub in Yono. And Treehugger reports that it will set a new standard in green: On Friday, 26 May, German Football great Franz Beckenbauer joined in at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin to help further promote awareness of the environmental initiative behind the scenes of the 2006 World Cup. Among the many aspects of the Green Goal program, FIFA world cup tickets double as fare tickets for the public transit system--which goes hand-in-hand with the "Berlin Steigt Um" campaign here in Berlin (roughly translated "Berlin changes mode of transport"). FIFA and the Organizing Committee (OC) have also put a lot of effort into the Green Goal campaign: "A comprehensive and ambitious programme such as Green Goal would never have been possible without the dedication and commitment of our partners from the world of business," the

UK journalists urged to boycott Yahoo

CSR Asia , a NGO devoted to Corporate Social Responsibility, notes that the union representing journalists in the UK and Ireland has called on its 40,000 members to boycott all Yahoo Inc. products and services to protest the Internet company’s reported actions in China: The National Union of Journalists said it sent a letter on Friday to Dominique Vidal, Yahoo Europe’s vice president, denouncing the company for allegedly providing information to Chinese authorities about journalists. The union also said it would stop using all Yahoo-operated services. Yahoo has been cited in court decisions as supplying China’s government with information to help them identify, prosecute, and jail writers advocating democracy. The NUJ regards Yahoo’s actions as a completely unacceptable endorsement of the Chinese authorities,” wrote Jemima Kiss, chairman of the NUJ new media council in the letter to Vidal. Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako said the Sunnyvale, California-based company believes it must

Getting ready for the FIFA World Cup

Korean fans are not happy with their team, as they lost big (1-3) to Ghana. The sponsors are expecting a lot from the World Cup, but clearly need to show some Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or this will be a messy event. Daum has published some pretty embarassing photos of the garbage thrown away by Korean fans... South Korea coach Dick Advocaat is concerned according to BBC: He said: "Attack, midfield, defence, there wasn't a single good point." "Game by game our team play has been getting worse and that is very disappointing." Also, Yonhap reports that South Korean civic groups antagonized by the overwhelming attention being drawn to the 2006 World Cup have designed and distributed anti-World Cup stickers in downtown Seoul on Wednesday. An alliance of about 100 civic groups are insisting that vital social and economic issues, directly related to improving the lives of the Korean people, are being overshadowed by the world's largest singl

Cool Biz Asia

Cool Asia 2006 Ambassadors from Asian nations model the summer clothing of their native lands in a fashion show in Tokyo's Shibuya district. Japan's Ministry of Environment is trying to reduce CO2 emissions, and encouraging workers to not wear suit and tie in the summer. Good to see that this idea is now spreading to more countries in Asia. (Photo: Hiroki Hisamatsu/ The Asahi Shimbun)