Showing posts from April, 2008

Blondie: Earth Day Special

From King Features Earth Day 2008 , where they have a lot more goodies. BTW, Blondie was always my dad's favourite comic. I think he still reads it every day. Absolutely ;)

Green Week

My friends at are involved in a number of projects, including Green Week . It is a campaign to coincide with Golden Week, the long holiday starting this week. They got the support from former environment minister Yuriko Koike, as well as other celebrities. Some of the events to be held from May 2 include (of course) a green party, rice-planting with Tanemaki (billed as eco tourism, but - hint, hint - planting rice is hard work!) and a city gardening project to create a "green curtain" before summer (to reduce the heat wave). Tanemaki also has an ambitious project this summer to gather 1000 people as part of their Soybean Revolution, to increase domestic soy production in Japan, in the hope that society will change if people sow seeds. It is a long train ride from Tokyo to their fertile fields in eastern Chiba. Everyone is welcome: bring your best rubber boots, or enjoy feeling the warm, living soil under your bare feet. Update: I found their Picasa photoalbum from

Gas price and obesity

With gasoline prices reaching new heights, then suddenly declining due to the political situation, drivers have had a few weeks of respite. Now, it seems the taxes will be reintroduced, and Japan's gasoline will be expensive again (just in time for the Golden Week vacation). What caught my eye recently was a possible link between low gasoline cost and higher levels of obesity. What do you think? What kind of world do we want children - and grandchildren - to grow up in? More bicycle lanes, and fewer SUVs, perhaps? A causal relationship between gasoline prices and obesity is possible through mechanisms of increased exercise and decreased eating in restaurants. I use a fixed effects model to explore whether this theory has empirical support, finding that an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15% after five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. Suggested

Tabloid Green

Oh, I just love it. The Sun, a UK gossip newspaper, also known as a tabloid, has an entire Go Green section. Move over, Page 3 girls ! So? When will Japanese girlie mags start to do the same? And when will Japanese rock stars start to care about climate change? 'All you need is veg' says Beatle SIR Paul McCartney is urging the world to go veggie to help in the fight against global warming. The former Beatle has said he is surprised more green groups do not syndicate the idea. In an interview with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Macca said the meat industry world-wide was a major contributor to global warming. "The biggest change anyone could make in their own lifestyle would be to become vegetarian," he said. "I would urge everyone to think about taking this simple step to help our precious environment and save it for the children of the future," he added. Sir Paul said the amount of land and water used t

Nagano: Not Much to Blog About

The weird Olympics-Torch-Relay-Slash- Anti-China-Slash-Free-Tibet-Slash-Pro-China event is over in Nagano, with few arrests and not much to blog about. Except that the old guy caught on photo while being arrested by police hardly looks like the usual kind of pro-democracy campaigner here in Japan. My guess is that he is belongs to some of the fringe groups on the far right, who ride around in black trucks and blare out war-time marches. The flame's next stop is Seoul. NHK World says representatives of Tibetans living in Japan held a news conference in Nagano, calling on China to immediately stop human rights abuses in Tibet: The leader of the group Students for a Free Tibet Japan, Tsering Dorjee, said that when the Chinese government bid for the Olympics, it promised to improve its human rights record. But he said that since then, the situation for Tibetans has only continued to deteriorate. The Paris-based non-governmental organization, Reporters Without Borders , says it will st

"Consumers, by definition, include us all."

In 1962, U.S. president John F. Kennedy had the foresight to deliver a Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest . His speech was in many way visionary, discussing "consumers rights" and noting that "the march of technology - affecting, for example, the foods we eat, the medicines we take, and the many appliances we use in our homes - has increased the difficulties of the consumer along with his opportunities; and it has outmoded many of the old laws and regulations and made new legislation necessary." Today, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced the creation of a Consumers Agency to unify administrative functions in charge of consumer affairs in Japan: "I would like the panel to work to create an organization...that can exercise powerful leadership from the position of consumers," Fukuda said. He told the panel that the proposed agency, which he described as "the control tower of the administration for consumer affairs,&qu

1,000 CDM projects

Some 1,000 projects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in developing countries have prevented 135 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering our atmosphere so far, according to Det Norske Veritas. The projects, known as Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) are defined in the Kyoto Protocol . They allow industrialised countries and companies to finance projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases in developing countries such as Japan. In return the investors are credited with emission rights. AFP notes that CDM projects, which have primarily benefitted China and India so far, are not free from controversy: Critics argue that some dam projects in China have been officially certified as CDMs even though they were partially constructed before being given the certification -- suggesting they would actually be used outside the CDM framework. AFP/Google: Climate projects prevented 135 million tonnes of CO2 Map from Treehugger: 135 Million Tons of CO2 Saved - And Counting (Red dots denote lar

Oil ? Forget about it.

Only six weeks ago, The New York Times tried to minimize its "relentless rise in recent years", noting that "oil prices rose to an all-time record during the day... then pulled back to close below the record." That is how they tell the bad news to the American public: Make it sound pretty bad, but then get that warm, cozy feeling that soon all will be all right. Except, this time it will not. Six weeks ago! What a difference a month and a half makes. Now oil is at $117 a barrel. Who would have guessed. Note the "...Then Recede" in the New York Times headline, six weeks ago. Sorry, editors. It did not really recede, you just made that up. You lied. NYT: Oil Prices Pass Record Set in ’80s, but Then Recede The day’s highest trade, of $103.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, broke the record set in April 1980 during the second oil shock. That price, $39.50 a barrel, equals $103.76 in today’s money when adjusted for inflation. Oil closed Monday a

Shimanto River

About 500 carp streamers are flying over the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture, ahead of Children's Day on May 5th. On Sunday, local residents fixed the streamers onto two wires that extend over the river, as they do every year. Japanese families observe the tradition of raising the streamers, known as koinobori , to pray that their children will grow up healthy and strong. The streamers can be seen across Japan from April until around early May. Shimato River is Japan's last large river with no dams. It is often said that Japan is a country with no natural resources. That is not true when it comes to water - perhaps the most important of all resources for living. Japan's terrain is mountainous for the most part, and the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its perilous weather means the entire country gets abundant rain as well. Photos from Shimanto-City Association of Sightseeing and blogger Rouge Lucifer

Heart Sutra

One for the record. And one for the more fancifully inclined. Some call it the Heart of Wisdom Sutra . If you live in Japan, you may also encounter it at funerals and other special occasions, when Life & Death suddenly start to matter. As they tend to do. [Leader] Maka Hannya Haramita Shingyo [Everyone] Kanjizai Bosatsu Gyo Jin Hannya Haramita Ji Sho Ken Go Un Kai Ku Do Issai Ku Yaku Sharishi Shiki Fu I Ku Ku Fu I Shiki Shiki Soku Ze Ku Ku Soku Ze Shiki Ju So Gyo Shiki Yaku Bu Nyo Ze Sharishi Ze Sho Ho Ku So Fu Sho Fu Metsu Fu Ku Fu Jo Fu Zo Fu Gen Ze Ko Ku Chu Mu Shiki Mu Ju So Gyo Shiki Mu Gen Ni Bi Zets' Shin I Mu Shiki Sho Ko Mi Soku Ho Mu Gen Kai Nai Shi Mu I Shiki Kai Mu Mu Myo Yaku Mu Mu Myo Jin Nai Shi Mu Ro Shi Yaku Mu Ro Shi Jin Mu Ku Shu Metsu Do Mu Chi Yaku Mu Toku I Mu Sho Tokko Bodaisatta E Hannya Haramita Ko Shin Mu Ke Ge Mu Ke Ge Ko Mu U Ku Fu On Ri Issai Tendo Mu So Ku Gyo Nehan San Ze Sho Butsu E Hannya Haramita Ko Toku A Noku Ta Ra Sanmyaku Sambodai Ko

Earthday 2008 photos from


More Earthday 2008 photos from


NHK: Earth Day

NHK World has a brief video report on its Internet website from the Earth Day held in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park for 2 days from Saturday: More than 300 NPO and NGO groups in Japan are participating in the event, addressing people to think about environmental issues and to act kindly toward the Earth. Many tents take up the theme of environmental issues, and some people are selling recycled goods. A group advocating preservation of African gorillas called for a ban on cutting jungles there. The group is appealing for the reuse of rare metals by recovering worn-out cellular phones as part of the effort to hinder reckless mining in Africa. Some groups are selling cloth and miscellaneous goods that are environmentally conscious. A demonstration referring to the G8 Summit scheduled in July in Hokkaido is also being presented. Environmental matters are high on the agenda of the summit. NHK: Earth Day Tokyo 2008 demonstration The five years from 2008 through 2012 represent the First Prom

Earth Day Tokyo Food Focus

Nice focus on food mileage, organic restaurants and good food! Earthday Powered by

Earth Day Tokyo 2008

Date: Sat 19th, Sun 20th, Tue 22nd 2008 Main site: Yoyogi Park Aimed attendance: 120,000 people Theme: Shift to green Concept: The movement to make the world more greener. Guidemap (pdf): Click here This year, the mission for Earth Day Tokyo 2008 is to convey the knowledge and messages that have been learnt from past events and to develop positive impact to people's behaviour. Therefore Earth Day is going to focus on energy, food and agriculture which is essential to our every day lives. Biodiesel, solar power and hydrogen are the main energy sources for Earth Day Tokyo 2008. Not only eco fuel like recycled tempura oil and bio diesel (which powers the main stage), but there will also be an Eco-Mobile - a green-energy powered car - in Yoyogi Park! The talk show has guests who are the pioneers in their field, to discuss visions for a sustainable world and what we can to do make the world more green. Another highlight for this year is the hydrogen-powered generator, which is going to

Green media in Japan

Enjoy this podcast about Japanese kimono fashion, including the fundoshi underwear in a podcast from J-Wave Planet Green (mp3). J-Wave is having a special week now with a lot of interesting radio content. Green TV Japan is also online, with very powerful messages about Earth, our global environment, and great ideas for campaigns, both on a local level and internationally... Meanwhile, NHK is increasing its Chikyuu Eco 2008 programming, which reaches 120 million people. Not bad. Their environmental reporting is getting better too. As for their programs, they have a calender (April) if you want to keep up with all their different programs about environmental issues. TBS and other Japanese channels are also trying to get your attention, with their Green-Power channel on the Internet. And, if that was not getting you to click, how about this Youtube video about the fundoshi?

Non-Religious? Atheist?

Mari and , as well as other bloggers are ahead of me when it comes to the Pitzer College study, claiming that Sweden, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway and Japan are the least religious countries in the world. I respectfully disagree. This study only shows that people in certain countries are less inclined to believe in dogma-based religious movements, such as Christianity, Islam and you name it. Ahem. Not believing in a particular version of the Bible or other scriptures does not mean people do not think deeply about spiritual matters... There is a heated debate about this topic on Japan Probe , but what noone seems to notice is that the study (and the graph) does not appear to be available online. In other words, we have no idea what the researcher(s) actually asked, or how many people were involved in the study, the statistical significance, nor the uncertainty...

Herbal Tea at Alishan Cafe

Do you spend your days alternating cups of tea and coffee, wanting a bit more variety or to escape the constant flow of caffeine but not sure how to go about it? Here is your chance to learn! The Alishan Cafe (a great place for vegetarian food) is hosting a class on herbal tea run by Ando-san, owner of the herb shop Tendrement . Ando-san will cover a wide range of topics including an understanding herbs, how to get the best flavour from them and how to make your own herbal blends. The cafe's friendly staff will also be taking this class so it will be a chance to meet them too! Time: Tuesday April 15th, from 12.30 until 14.30. Place: The Alishan Cafe, Saitama pref. Cost: 1500 Yen (includes the cost of herbal tea and an Alishan Cafe sweet) For more information or to reserve a place please call 0429-82-4823 or email Do visit for herbs, aroma therapy, holistic care and other inspiration.

World Peace Now Tokyo March 22, 2008

Click on the photo for more images from the peace demonstration in Tokyo on March 22, 2008. Join the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War on May 4-6, 2008 at Makuhari Messe, Chiba: The Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War aims to promote the sublime ideal of Article 9 as a world principle. This international gathering from May 4 to 6, 2008 in Tokyo will gather the voices of the world that support and share the spirit of Article 9 as the common wisdom of humanity, heritage of the world, and hope for world peace. The participants - Nobel Peace prize winners, world-renowned intellectuals, NGO activists, artists and civilians - will send the spirit of Article 9 soaring around the world. The Article 9 Peace Walk is a pre-event of the conference. It is entirely planned and organized by citizens who seek to hand messages of support for Article 9 from the peoples of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the many towns along walk route to the participants of the Global Article 9 Conference and

Candles lit in Nagano, Tokyo for peace in Tibet

I don't expect any violent protests against the Olympic torch when it arrives to Japan April 26, but the silent manifestations this weekend send a clear message that people are paying close attention to the recent sad events in Tibet. A local citizens group lit candles Sunday evening at Nagano's Zenkoji Buddhist temple, the starting point for an Olympic torch relay set for April 26, to pray for the victims of the violence in Tibet, while about 300 people held a candlelight march in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. People in Nagano and Tokyo show their support for Tibet at events held Sunday evening People in Nagano (top) and Tokyo (above) show their support for Tibet at events held Sunday evening. A circle of candles was lit at Nagano's Zenkoji Buddhist temple, the starting point for the Olympic torch relay set for April 26, while a candlelight march was held in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward calling for peace in Tibet. In Nagano, about 60 people formed a circle of 177 candles — the num

"Appetizing Beauty"

I have been planning to write about the global food crisis , with rice importing countries like the Philippines suddenly unable to procure enough rice from exporting countries, due to a number of factors. Sigh... But instead I have decided to post two photos from a recent trip to Kyoto. I had a wonderful meal at a restaurant at Kyoto Station, with traditional dishes served in an interpretation of Shojin Ryori . The tempura was excuisit and I loved the okara. There was also some sashimi and bamboo shoots, a seasonal dish in spring, as well as rape seed blossoms. For dessert I was served sakura icecream. Traditional foods carry with them important lessons of food shortages in the past, when people learnt how to treasure what nature provides for us. And I do love simple dishes where each food is cooked carefully, and without much additional seasoning. What you see is what you get. Read more in the book, Appetizing Beauty : Kenzan and Seasonal Dishes published by Miho Museum and Nissha Pr

Where is the butter?

My supermarket has run out of butter and when I asked, the clerk explained that suppliers just cannot keep up with orders. Japanese butter is mostly made in Hokkaido with domestic milk. The shortage is a reminder that food supplies depend on a number of factors, including higher feed costs for dairy cows - Japan imports most of its animal feed. I should mention that I like Japanese butter, it is a very pure product and it tastes much better than other spreads. I avoid margarin, a highly processed product that can never replace butter. Having said that, I wonder why peanuts in Japan are allowed to be called "Butter Pea" (バタピー or "batapii") even though most brands are not made with butter, but use hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats and oils , known to contain unhealthy transfats. Some Japanese potato chips makers also get away with similar fraudulent claims. Yuk.

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Car Transportation Problems Solved!

Production has already begun on a car that will replace those of the internal combustion engine (ICE) variety. Using a zinc-air fuel cell, with fully recyclable zinc, the cars are being produced under joint agreement between GM, Toyota, Tata (of India), and SAIC (of China). The companies have been working together behind the scenes to address the issues of peak oil and climate change, both of which, they all now publicly admit, threaten the the very existence of their industry. Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe was surrounded by reporters after he spoke in Nagoya, Japan, detailing the plan. Through an accelerated buy-back system and licensing of the new technology with other car makers, the companies say they will be able to replace half the existing fleet of ICE cars within just the next eight years. Other technologies, such as all electric and hybrid vehicles will also continue to be developed and freely compete with the fuel cell vehicles, the focus being to totally phase out ICE eng