Showing posts from June, 2007

Frog Zen

Thanks Andi.

Thai cooking in Japan

Would you like to learn real Thai food cooking? May Kaidee's Vegetarian Restaurants serve traditional Thai cuisine and Chinese items, as well as a variety of fruit shakes and other herbal drinks & teas. This is a home-style restaurant with low prices & friendly service! Currently visiting Japan, May offers an excellent Bangkok cooking class, maybe the best vegetarian cooking class from Thailand. Click here for more information about May Kiadee's Vegetarian Restaurant website.

Venus and Saturn

After it gets dark, look in the west for Venus and Saturn near the horizon. Venus is the big bright object. Saturn is the small yellowy orange dot near it. (From Skywatching )

Speed-eating causes arthritic jaw

Few things make me really disgusted. Speed-eating is one of them. The point of the contest is to eat as many hot dogs as quickly as possible. The event was invented in 1916 in Coney Island, the amusement Park, by the American sausage company called Nathans. The winner gets a silly-looking yellow belt and it is currently in Japan, where it stands in a secure display case here in Saitama near the Nakazato Danchi campus. The "champion" of speed-eating is a young Japanese guy. Today there is news that he has developed an arthritic jaw. He says to BBC that he is in so much pain he can barely open his mouth. The revenge of the jaws...? In a world where over a billion people still don't have enough food, why the fascination with speed-eating? I can understand that in 1916, noone cared much about these issues. But isn't it just a freak-show? Is he mentally ok in his head? And what makes people want to watch these people? The PR effect for the food company is obviously hug

Govindas in Nakano, Tokyo

"Pure vegetarian restaurant non violence food" Cheers... Menu Map Address: Govindas 東京都中野区中野 5-17-10 Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Nakano 5-17-10 Tel:03-3387-8998

Meat No Hope Co.

Inspections of processed beef products have started across Japan following the fraudulent mixing of beef with other meat by Meat Hope Co., according to Yomiuri Shimbun: The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry plans to completed the inspection of processed food, such as croquettes, hamburger and meatballs, that are labeled as made from beef within a month. The ministry will purchase products that claim to be made from beef and send about 100 samples to the Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center, an independent administrative institute, for testing to determine whether the labels on the products are correct. Results of the inspection will be released by early August, the officials said. Great news for vegetarians all over Japan: We don't have to wait until early August to find out if meat sold in Japan is what the meat companies tell consumers it is, or not. We avoid the stuff anyway. Yomiuri Shimbun: Meat Hope sold fake beef to 18 companies Asahi Shimbun: Ministr

Japan for Sustainability E-Mail Newsletter

Japan for Sustainablity has a E-Mail Newsletter service that I really like. The current issue introduces Chubu Recycle Citizen's Organization (CRCO) , a Japanese non-governmental organization in the Chubu region of central Japan: It was established in October 1980 by volunteers concerned about the modern disposable society and environmental destruction. Their principle is to "start from what they can do." They believe that each and every person has to cooperate in creating a recycling society. Other news is about the "EcoLeaf" label, refurbished PCs, the Hokkaido New Energy Prize, and Soka City in Saitama: Thirty-two families were certified as "Green Families" at an Environment Fair held by Soka City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan on January 27, 2007. They were selected from 146 families who had been participating in a campaign, "The Soka City Green Family Declaration," started in April 2006 by the city government and a group of citizens and

Peace 9 Party in Shibuya

Tonight June 26 and next Sunday July 1 there will be dance parties in Shibuya and Ebisu for people who like music and Article 9 of Japan's peace constitution. Read more on the website .

Denial: Peak Oil

I added a new blog on my blog roll, called Floating Down Denial , about Peak Oil and its consequenses. Good, essential reading.

New job

I have gotten a new job. It is a real "kurashi" job at a place I have sometimes mentioned here on my blog, called Alishan Organic Center . I will be there part time for now, to be able to continue other commitments until the end of September. I will have to move: Something I look forward to. The new place is near green hills and a river and farmland, and far from concrete. About 10 minutes away there is an ancient shrine that looks like this:

Candle Night Summer Solstice 2007

"CandleScape" is now open! This website displays messages in many languages from participants around the world. Post your message at the CandleScape website. More information on Candle Night ... A Candle Night event will be held on June 22, 2007, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., at Makas Café in Seattle and also on June 23, 2007 a Candle Night event will be planned during the 2007 World Press Photo exhibition at the Eslite Gallery in Taipei. And on June 24, 2007, Japanese and South Korean non-governmental organizations will hold a "Lights Down" event. At 8:00 p.m., the lights in Tokyo Tower will turn off, and candles will be lit across Shiba Park. At 9:00 p.m. the N Seoul Tower will turn off the lights, and a candle performance will be held there.

Unsafe Japanese levees?

Staying on the topic of rivers and levees, let me quote from an Asahi editorial on June 14: The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is currently inspecting the safety of levees of all class-A rivers nationwide. By the end of last year, the ministry had examined about 60 percent of the levees. It found that more than one-third were not strong enough and needed enforcement. These embankments take up a total of 2,400 kilometers and must be constantly monitored. The inspection found that parts totalling 55 km need fixing immediately. But the enforcement of these dangerous segments cannot possibly be done in time for this year's rainy season. The project will take three years to complete at a projected cost of 11 billion yen. In addition, there are 105 km of weak embankments for rivers managed by prefectural governments. Clearly, measures to reinforce the weak parts of embankments must be implemented as quickly as possible. What is worrisome, though, is the fact that detai

Arakawa River (getting all philosophical)

The Arakawa River is a mighty system that starts in the mountains of north western Saitama prefecture and ends in Tokyo Bay. It is one of the main rivers that people here have had to battle over the years, as it often floods when there are heavy rains and typhoons. The map from ARA shows the risk of severe flooding in major parts of Tokyo: Up to 2 meters is indicated by pink colour on the official map. The worst recent flood was in 1947, which prompted those in charge to build concrete embankments to try to avoid damage and save lives. In fact, the entire river that flows through Tokyo (with branches called Sumida and Kanda) is manmade. The photo from 1910 shows similar damage. As millions of people live near this river today, it is also an important park and recreation area, and many festivals are held aroud the year. "River Day" will take place July 7 (Tanabata Festival - celebrating the stars) on the Arakawa River and feature lots of events including outings on boats. You

Star navigation

I don't know how my ancestors, the vikings, were able to navigate: that is lost knowledge unfortunately. Of course they knew the stars well, and could manage on the sea in ways that I can only dream of. So I have been fascinated by the story of the Polynesian Voyage to Micronasia and Japan. Hokule'a's and Kama Hele's arrival in Yokohama on June 9, 2007, culminated a five-month, 8,000 mile journey that expanded the boundaries of Hokule'a's world and created new stories from new experiences. I want to thank Pacific Islander for writing about this journey, and linking to the blog of the crew. The journey began on January 11, 2007 with Hokule'a and Kama Hele departing from Honolulu. "Sail On to the Western Sun"started as an opportunity to retell stories such as King David Kalakaua's 1881 visit to Yokohama, and the events that followed, including the study abroad program sending Hawaiian youth to Japan for the first time as part of a globalized ed

Bad idea: Lead in toys for kids

Toys by US company Thomas have been recalled due to lead in the paint. "Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects", notes the American Consumer Product Safety Commission , in charge of the huge recall. Name of Products: Various Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys Units: About 1.5 million Importer/Distributor: RC2 Corp., of Oak Brook, Ill. In other words, over a million toys were imported from China and noone paid attention until now? I like wooden toys that don't have lead in the paint. Hey, lets do away with the paint alltogether. I know I do like this : The products of the Take-g Toy’s are produced by a unique mixture of the traditional craft skill, or Yosegi-Mokuzougan, and modern designs that optimizes original texture of high-quality material...

Shibuya River (yup, there it is)

I walked past Shibuya River last night, it was glittering under the stars, yet it is but a miserable drain embanked in concrete. You will find it just south of Shibuya station on the west side along Meiji Dori (Highway 305). Some NGOs are making an effort to revitalize this river, hoping to making it "green" again by 2012. One group is Toziba , and, starting in 2001, many groups created Earth Day Money as a local currency, to support clean-up campaigns and maybe get Tokyo City to start considering a major project...

More from Hu Jintao's visit to Sweden

News agency Bloomberg has quoted Hu Jintao, from a speech made at the Sweden-China Trade Council at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, as saying: "China remains the largest developing country in the world, and it needs to make long-term and hard efforts to modernize itself. The most pressing task facing China is to grow its economy and increase people's welfare." Hu emphasized that he is committed to sustainable development of China's economy. President Hu's economic outline included: • Reducing 'energy intensity' by 20 per cent through 2010 • Increasing opportunities for foreign businesses • Improving laws and provide legal protection for intellectual property rights • Continuing to open up the service industry in areas such as banking, insurance, and securities President Hu also stated that his country is firmly committed to peaceful development. The dinner hosted by the Sweden-China Trade Council was attended by top directors from Swedish companies such

SIPRI Yearbook 2007

SIPRI has released its 2007 Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, including a chapter on global military expenditure: Between September 2001 and June 2006, the US Government provided a total of $432 billion in annual and supplemental appropriations under the heading ‘global war on terrorism’. This increase in US military spending has contributed to the rise in budget deficits, government debt and outlays on servicing these debts since 2001. Taking both immediate and long-term factors into account, the overall past and future costs until year 2016 to the USA for the war in Iraq have been estimated at $2267 billion. In 2006 China’s military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, for the first time surpassing that of Japan and hence making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world. Japan decided, for the fifth consecutive year, to reduce its military spending in 2006 and to focus its military budget on missile defence.

Trendy organic in Tokyo

Organic food is becoming increasingly trendy in Japan, reaching into the mainstream. It is also becoming fashionable, in that special Japanese way: When will we see organic Louis Vuitton bags...? Some might argue that it is moving too far away from the compost heap. This weekend, Takako Okamura will hold a workshop at Aveda Pure Cafe in fancy Minami Aoyama. Cost: 6,000 Yen (including ingredients, drinks and an organic gift). What caught my eye is that it is produced by Juliette , an agency that does very stylish projects for major magazines such as Frau and Spur. Emi Kanda's Tokyo Editor's Life is lovely blog with many photos from France. Simply beautiful. To nourish body as well as spirit, Aveda offers the Pure Cafe, serving soups, sandwiches and salads prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients that have been organically grown. And to help eliminate waste, the Pure Cafe avoids using disposable dishware, encourages customers to use refillable coffee cups, and offers a lunch

Demonstrations for human rights

Hu Jintao's visit to Sweden was greeted by human rights demonstrations, demanding an end to the death penalty in China, and recognition of freedom for Tibet... Amnesty International is a very active and respected NGO in Sweden. Their demonstration in Gothenburg pointed out that China needs human rights "now". Sweden's Prime Minister Reinfeldt presses Chinese leader on human rights "I told the president, which he already knew, that we are strong supporters of human rights, that we think it is important to respect international agreements and that it is important to have a political dialogue where you discuss the foundations of human rights," Reinfeldt told reporters.

Hu Jintao in Sweden

Chinese President Hu Jintao accompanied by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf steers the replica of the 18th century Swedish merchant ship "Gotheborg" as they attend a ceremony for the return of the vessel from a China tour, in Goteborg, Sweden, on June 9, 2007. Sweden's prime minister and China's president discussed trade issues and China's role in combatting global warming. Earlier in the day, Hu, who was accompanied by a large trade and business delegation, met with Swedish business leaders. Among those he met were Peter Wallenberg, the patriarch of the powerful family financial dynasty whose holdings include telecoms group Ericsson, household appliances maker Electrolux, Saab Scania and the SEB bank. Wallenberg's son Jacob, the current chairman Investor holding group, and Jacob's cousin Marcus, chairman of SEB, were also in attendance, as well as Ericsson's chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg and chairman Michael Treschow. Hu attended a ceremony where c

Environmentally-friendly exhibit in Beijing

NHK reports that the Chinese government has launched a week-long campaign for environmental protection and energy saving. In Beijing today on Sunday, Mayor Wang Qishan opened an exhibit of environmentally-friendly industrial products. In his opening speech, Mr Wang expressed his determination to turn the Chinese capital into a pollution-free and energy-saving modern city. China has been under international pressure to boost its energy efficiency and preserve the environment as it is the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States.

I want you (3)

Stuff made of wood, desire.

Number 9

I wonder if John Lennon knew about Japan's constitution, and had it in mind when he made " Revolution Number 9 ", the track that The Beatles released on the White Album in 1968. Yes, I have always liked Revolution (You Tube). Peace groups in Japan are concerned about the recent attempts by the government to change Article 9 of the constitution, the article that renounces war. Activists are concerned that Japan might aquire nuclear weapons (which the country does not have today, thankfully, and does not need). A group of activists are currently doing a long walk all the way from the nuclear power plants in Matsue city in Shimane prefecture to Rokkashomura in Aomori prefecture. That is a long walk: blog here . They started in March and they should arrive just in time for Earthday Rokkasho June 23-24 . The map of their walk is here (in Japanese). If you want to support them, why not purchase their t-shirts with a nice design of the number "9". Goods for sale here

Kanako Otsuji in the news

Kanako Otsuji is making the news as a candidate for the coming upper house elections. This is her campaign poster (Japan's parliament building can be seen in the background): Otsuji is on a mission to become Japan's first openly gay member of parliament. AFP/Yahoo: Lesbian politician aims to change Japan's attitudes to gays

Climate "deal" at G8?

German Chancellor Merkel "hails" G8 climate deal, claims to have brought the US into UN-led negotating process. Is this 'a huge success' ? It appears that the Americans have signed up to be part of a United Nations process to find a successor to the Kyoto protocol on global warming which expires in 2012. A "deal"? I will look forward to reading the fine print. This is what Japan wanted, but can we please have a "deal" in terms of mandatory targets , not just soundbites! In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050. The Times: G8 strikes greenhouse gas deal, says Merkel BBC: G8 leaders 'agree climate deal' Der Spiegel (English): G-8 Claims Breakthrough on Climate Change I am immediately reminded of Beethoven's 3rd

Illegal surveillance in Japan

Reuters reports that Japan's military illegally gathered information on the activities of ordinary citizens in 2003 and 2004, including those who opposed the dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq. Surveillance activities were carried out on ordinary citizens as well as journalists, photographers and artists: The surveillance covered some 293 groups and individuals, including high school students, and in some cases mentioned specific names or included photographs taken at demonstrations... Boston Globe: Japan's military watched citizens: Communist Party Asahi: GSDF kept files on peace groups Mainichi: Japan's army monitoring civic groups This is of course illegal unless cleared by the authorities. As it were, I participated in a peace demonstration in Okayama in March 2003. If the government has any cool photos of me from that event, I would love to see them.

Swedish Midsummer in Japan

Today is Sweden's national day, but the two photos are from a Midsummer celebration in Mugikusatouge, way up in the Japanese alps in Nagano prefecture. Swedish food was served, including smörgåsbord 「スモーガスボード」 the buffe style supper which Japanese people usually call "Viking". The "May Pole" is called midsommarstång in Swedish and is an ancient pagan fertility symbol. Great hats too. Anyway, don't the photos just speak for themselves. A lovely time was obviously had by all. Glad midsommar?! Photo Copyright Takahashi Kazuhiko, pls mention that and Kurashi News from Japan if you repost them :)

Crude Oil

Oil, what does it mean. Crude oil, what a term. Crude. The fossile fuels we let others pump up from the ground, ship to us, refine it, and use, use, use. We pay, and they do the work. We have no ideas about the conditions they are experiencing. We just assume the stuff is there. Always. Pandabonium , my blogging friend here in Japan, has made a post on his blog about the ABC documentary called Crude . I will watch it. Will you? It is available on the Internet. You can find out what oil is all about. Will you? Or do we, the consumers, prefer to be ignorant? I wonder. The movie is called "Crude - the incredible journey of oil", directed by award-winning Australian filmmaker, Dr Richard Smith. "Coming in the wake of rising global concerns about the continued supply of oil, and increasingly weird weather patterns, award-winning Australian filmmaker, Dr Richard Smith takes us through time: from the birth of oil deep in the dinosaur-inhabited past, to its ascendancy as the ind

Climate change on the G8 agenda

IHT reports that climate change is among the items expected to top the G-8 summit agenda of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he left on for the international talks in Germany: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a newcomer to the Group of Eight summit, has made climate change a priority for the meeting. He plans to present a proposal, unveiled last month, calling for the world to aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 as part of a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Ahead of his departure, Abe told reporters that other G-8 nations' responses to the proposal have generally been positive, though differences remain. "There is still a gap between the European Union and the United States, so Japan needs to take the initiative to steer toward a direction that each country can approve of generally. I feel that is our major responsibility," Abe said. Reuters has more (but makes no reference to Shinzo Abe's efforts): Cracks on Climate as G

Ecocon 2007

College students in Japan are making a contest called Ecocon 2007 with participants from major universities all over the country. Shiori Sugimoto is from Osaka and goes to Teikyo University in Tokyo. She and her friends are all students but they want to do something for society and the environment. " Maido! " They get my prize for the most enthusiasm at the Eco Life Fair and Eco Park events here in Tokyo, June 2-3. Runner up: One project I like is Suseco , a free magazine designed and produced by students. The name is a combination of "Sustainability" and "Ecology". Asuka Fujisawa is art director and Toshiki Tazawa is one of the writers who I talked to this weekend. These groups are all looking for volunteers so if you have some free time and good ideas, why not contact them and see what you can do together.

Japan Youth Eco League

In 1994, young Japanese people created a network called Eco League (English website! Wow! Well done!). Midori Kitahashi is their international team teamleader, and she will travel to the G8 meeting in Germany to participate. Next year, Hokkaido in northern Japan is host for the G8 meeting, so she hopes to meet many active people in preparation for that. Japan Youth G8 will also hold events in Japan in June 2008 in Tokyo. Eco League is the main contact point for UNEP youth activities in Japan, with some 200 groups in the netowrk. I'm too old though, their age limit is 16-29! Eco-League, which is the networking organization wich consists of most youth organizations in Japan. It was founded in 1994 by youth themselves. It holds national and local conferences, namely "youth ecology gatherings", several times a year, to which around 1000 youths participate to share their best practices and know-how of activities. It also has some projects, for example a pre-new worker's c

Eco Park

Kirakusha is a project to let kids play with wood and learn about nature at the same time. Mr Masayuki Ogino makes small blocks of wood - and kids love it. He comes from Yamanashi prefecture and has lots of energy. He loves wood, and he loves to tell you about it. I was glad to see NHK making space for about 20 different NGOs and NPOs, like Kirakusha. There was also stage with a eco fashion show with recycled materials, a dance performance and lots of talk shows. Koen Dori in Shibuya, the main street from the station to NHK, will continue to have events until June 10. Here is the NHK Kankyo website . The tema is 明日のエコではまにあわない ("Eco tomorrow will not be enough") or a sense that we had better start doing something today, or it will be too late.

Bright ideas

Imagine a town where every house has solar panels on the roof, instead of using fossile fuels or nuclear energy to make electricity... These kids will no doubt grow up to become engineers with bright ideas for the future! They couldn't stop watching the toy trains running around inside the display, powered by solar cells.

Reduce CO2 emissions

Many of my friends in Japan and other countries are involved in environmental education projects or "education for sustainability". It means trying to find clever ways to communicate the messages that are essential for getting people to change their lifestyles. How do we explain that old air conditioners from the 1990s are much worse than modern ones? At the Eco Life Fair, two huge CO2 containers made this very clear. The left one contains 349,000 l of CO2 while the one on the right contains 157,000 l of CO2. By changing your air conditioner to a new model, you can help reduce CO2 gas emissions!

Eco Life Fair in Tokyo

I had a great time at the Eco Life Fair and took some photos, hope you enjoy seeing what is going on here in Tokyo and Japan. This event was sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and some large companies, so it wasn't as wild as for example Earthday. Having said that, I also felt Japan is indeed taking a lead in the field of sustainable development and environmental protection. What is lacking is sustainable funding for NGOs and more recognition for the work that many volunteers are doing.

"I love Eco"


Eco Life Fair

Here we go again, another Tokyo festival this weekend with the word "Eco" as the theme. This time the sponsor is Japan's Environment Ministry and it looks huge, judging from the booths they have already set up in Yoyogi Park, in front of NHK Hall, in Shibuya. The event is Saturday and Sunday June 2-3. Also, NHK is promoting " Eco Style Street " this weekend. Eco Life Fair 2007 is a very nice website, but couldn't they have at least some information in other languages? I'm not saying English only, but how about Chinese, Korean...? The information about these types of activities could be a great source of inspiration aroud the World. Lectures, music, booths and foods... Another fun-filled weekend ahead! If you are interested in what NGOs are doing in Japan, this is also a great opportunity to get information and make new friends. List of participating NGOs/NPOs with websites here . Japan's Ministry of Environment (English website)

Japan: Peaceful country (after Norway)

According to an interesting study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UK think tank, Japan ranks 5th in the world as a peaceful country. Polling behind Norway, New Zealand, Denmark and Ireland, Japan is the only Group of Eight country to fall in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index — the first study of its kind to compare peace on a worldwide level. The ranking uses 24 indicators, including the number of external and internal wars fought, the level of respect for human rights and the import and export of major conventional weapons, in attempt to provide a quantitative measure of peace that is comparable over time. "Japan is politically stable and measures of societal safety and security such as the level of violent crime, the likelihood of violent demonstrations and the number of homicides receive very low scores," the report states accounting for the positioning of the country. The United States ranks at 96th place out of the 121 countries, just ahead of Iran... S