Showing posts from June, 2008

Isahaya Bay: Saga Court rules in favour of local activists, fishermen (and the environment)

On June 27, 2008, activists and fishermen won an important victory in Saga Prefecture court, as it ruled in favour of the plaintiffs regarding the controversial dam at Isahaya Bay. The court said the government must keep the dike gates open for at least five years to allow the bay to regain its original environment and provide sufficient time for a thorough investigation. The local court even castigated the ministry for its stance, noting that Tokyo is guilty of “obstruction of evidence.” I thought this was worth a longer post, which you will have to read over at Treehugger .

Organic Agriculture Conference

食・農・環境の未来を「ゆうきの一歩」から Food, Farming, and the Future of the Environment: Organic is one Step Forward


Some fun things going on this weekend: Anti-G8 acitivists are holding meetings in Tokyo to discuss globalization, issues of poverty, labor, discrimination, war, violence, gender inequality, social exclusion, environmental destruction, abuse of human rights, food safety, agriculture, minority, and public order. G8 Action Network (English) Big organic agriculture conference about the links between food, farming and the future of the environment at Sankei Plaza in Otemachi, Tokyo (tel/fax 03-3946-1237) Click here for details (Japanese) Tojiba, a non-profit organization I really like, I holding a soy bean planting event on Sunday in Chiba prefecture, as part of their Soy Revolution Campaign. Do join if you like getting your boots muddy! Tojiba Tanemaki (Japanese) Updates about other events over at Sarajeen's website Tokyo Community News

Fertilizer prices to go up by 60%

Japan's largest wholesaler of fertilizers says it will raise its prices by an average of 60 percent in July, as a result of a global surge in prices of fertilizer ingredients. NHK reports that Japan's National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, or Zenno, announced its record-high price increases at a news conference on Friday (Actually it was top news last night at NHK's 21:00 Newshour - the second news was about North Korea's nuclear program). Prices of nitrogen-based fertilizers will rise up to 63 percent and phosphorus fertilizers will rise up to 74 percent. Prices of compound fertilizers made of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will rise from between 45 and 112 percent. Zenno says the cost of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium has doubled or tripled from last year. The surge in prices is attributed to a growth in crop production as the global population expands. China, the world's largest producer of phosphorus, accelerated the trend by restr

Tokyo leads the way to combat CO2 emissions

It is great to see cities and states get tough on greenhouse gas emissions. California enacted a cap on global warming emissions in 2006, and yesterday the Tokyo metropolitan assembly adopted an ordinance requiring large businesses to reduce their CO2 emissions to specified levels, the first such obligation in Japan. By 2020, factories and offices will be required to reduce their CO2 output by 15-20 percent of the average amounts emitted from 2005 to 2007, sources said. A maximum fine of 500,000 yen will be imposed against those that fail to meet their targets. This mandatory program will start in 2010. Satoshi Yamashita, director at Tokyo’s environmental policy planning section, told Reuters that the new limits would help Tokyo reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2021, compared with 20 years earlier. By then, of course, we will probably not be living in an oil based economy anymore, and people will be wondering what everyone was thinking back in the noughties . Tokyo is

Mokutou! (黙祷)

Tonight on the news I heard the call, " Mokutou! " at least two times. First, it was a moment of prayer by the rescue workers in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, as they have tried to find survivors from the big earthquake last week. Second, the same call was heard as the survivors in Okinawa (NHK video), southern Japan, marked that it is 63 years since the end of the final battle there. Mokutou means something like silent prayer, or a silent minute. I searched a bit using google and found a nice thread on a judo/aikido blog called E-Budo , where people discuss what this moment of silence means to them. It is often called mokusou in the martial arts world, and could be called "meditation", according to some. (Another commentator was reminded of " furitama ": shaking the balls, an exercise with a specifically religious aim, at least in the beginning.) Blogger Markaso notes: "In my Dojo, where we practice Go Jyu Ryu, we do a Mokusou before and after a pr

Summer Wine

The Corrs and Bono, what else can you ask for? Maybe Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, 1967 ? Glad midsommar...

Turn off the lights, and take it slow...

Saving energy is easy. According to the Ministry of the Environment Japan, more than 65,000 public facilities and businesses turned off their lights here in Japan last night on June 21, 2008. Major landmarks including the Tokyo Tower, the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, the Clock Tower in Sapporo, and the Tsuutenkaku in Osaka joined the campaign. Impressive. The lovely Candlenight website is a bit slow tonight, give their busy servers a rest and check it another time ;) Meanwhile, I'm glad to see that this campaign has really taken off in Korea . (Click to enlarge)

East China Sea Gas: Not Worth Fighting About

China and Japan have "struck a deal" to jointly develop a gas field in the East China Sea. This comes after many years of diplomatic wrangling, often with loud nationalistic overtones. However, these gas deposits are not going to help either country very much. As noted by Jun Okumura (thanks!), who spotted the data about the the Chinese oil equivalent of the natural gas reserve estimates for three of the fields: Shirakaba/Chungxiao: 63.8 million bbl Kashi/Tianwaitian: 12.6 million bbl Kusunoki/Danqiao: 15.2 million bbl Asunaro/Canxue: NA Now look at this: Shirakaba/Chungxiao: 174.8 thousand bbl/d Kashi/Tianwaitian: 34.5 thousand bbl/d Kusunoki/Danqiao: 41.6 thousand bbl/d Asunaro/Canxue: NA Jun Okumura notes: "That’s how much you can extract every day if you use up the entire reserve in a single year. Take a more reasonable, say 20-life span for the gas fields, and you get an idea of how trivial the gas fields really are." Source: Yomuri Shimbun (in Japanese) Triv

International Surfing Day

Read more over at Treehugger: Surf's Up! And Thumbs Down for Rokkasho

NHK: Police arrest 2 Greenpeace members

This is being reported by NHK this morning: Police in Japan have arrested 2 senior members of the Japanese branch of the environmental group Greenpeace on suspicion of theft of whale meat and unlawful entry. Police in Aomori prefecture arrested the 2 officials, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, on Friday morning, and raided the office of Greenpeace Japan in Tokyo. The 2 men are suspected of removing a parcel without permission from a delivery service company in Aomori city in April. The parcel contained whale meat, which a crewmember of the Japanese whaling research ship Nisshin Maru had mailed to his home. Greenpeace Japan revealed last month that it would file a complaint with Tokyo prosecutors against Nisshin Maru crewmembers for embezzlement of whale meat. The group said the box was one of at least 47 sent by Nisshin Maru crewmembers to their homes and other addresses. It also said intercepting the box was not illegal, as it used the box as evidence, and had no intention of obt

"Kids Want to Save the Planet Too"

Just some cool photos I found on the Mizube Center for Supporting Children’s Waterside Activities website today, as I was writing a post about kids and environmental education for Treehugger: Kids Want to Save the Planet Too

Squid strike

More than 60 fishermen representing a national organization of squid fishing associations gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday. NHK says this is the first of a 2-day suspension of operations by more than 900 boats around Japan: The fishermen say fuel prices are 2.4 times higher than 5 years ago, and that going out to sea will only create losses. The organization's deputy chairman Hiroyuki Noto said at the rally that the fishers need fundamental measures by the government to stop the abnormally sharp rise in fuel prices that is killing them. Participants chanted slogans calling for help to sustain their operations. Later, they visited the Fisheries Agency and handed over a letter asking the government to help them pay for fuel and to cut fuel taxes. Associations of tuna and mackerel fishers are also planning to stop going out to sea. The moves are expected to affect the shipment and prices of marine products. Do watch the video at NHK World: Fishermen urge government support for fuel Fish

Floods, floods and more floods

Time to stay calm. In the US, the Mississippi is flooding, putting large areas of farmland in Iowa under water. Cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are also under water. And in India ... And in China ... And in North Korea ... I used to live in Iowa, it's a great place with a lot of Scandinavian descendants. Maybe that's why I feel so sad to see these great plains covered with muddy water. I know the people there will fight hard to get back to normal again, but what is normal? * Corn and soybean prices stayed near record levels as millions of acres of cropland have been lost or damaged in the world's largest grain exporter. Meat prices also soared, in line with the costs for feeding cattle, hogs and chickens. * Corn prices at the Chicago Board of Trade soared above US$8 a bushel for the first time on Monday and stayed near there on Tuesday in fears Midwest farmers will not be able to grow anything on as many as 5 million acres (2 million hectares). * The problems add up

Ever heard about "Virtual Water"?

I recently started having to think about a topic called Virtual Water . It is a way to assess how much water a country needs to be "sustainable" especially in terms of its food supply. It tries to illustrate the idea that when goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water. Japan in particular imports a lot of foods. Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment here have brought up the subject. MOFA takes the position that since Japan imports food, the country " actively assists the water supply of developing countries, including drinking water and agricultural water." That is only partly true, since most of Japan's imports are from developed countries such as North America, South America and Australia. MOE, however, takes a different approach. It understands the seriousness of the issue more in terms of how we as consumers here in Japan are influencing water supplies all over the world. They even have a chart where you can calcul

Origags from the British Origami Society

I know next to nothing about origami, the art of folding paper into all kinds of shapes and figures. So when I was researching the post I did for Treehugger, about big old trees and the zigzag paper ornaments at Japanese shrines , I was delighted to find the website of the British Origami Society. And, it turns out they used to have a special origag feature, a comic created by Roberto Morassi in the 1970s. Introduction by David Lister here . Fifty-nine Origags were published in British Origami over a period of ten years. There would have been sixty, but the subtle nuances of English tabooed words misled even Roberto, so one Origag was censored by the then editor. Sadly no trace of it seems to have been preserved and that is our loss. But what an astounding achievement! I can only look on with admiration as cartoonists relentlessly contribute to newspapers, day after day and year after year. How do they do it? Watch them all, starting here !

Thank you Kurashi News from Japan visitors!


Zigzag Papers

Really old trees are really amazing! If I get a chance this weekend, I will go hiking somewhere nice with old-growth forest northwest of Tokyo. Could be tricky to find though, as much of what we see today is planted or restored forest areas, and you’ll rarely see magnificent trees with huge trunks and foliage reaching for the clouds. Near many shrines in Japan however, there are special, sacred trees decorated with hemp ropes and white paper ornaments. David Lister at the British Origami Society has tried to find out more about these Zigag papers in Shinto shrines : The origins of these zigzags is lost in antiquity. My first impression was that they stood for lightning, but when I was in Kyoto I asked a Buddhist priest about this and the idea had never occurred to him. Although he was a Buddhist and not a Shinto priest. If it had been an idea that was known in Japan, I am sure he would have been familiar with it. The other suggestion I have come across is that the zigzags originated as

How Should We Measure Progress?

How much economic growth is enough? Even as we bring the Earth to the edge - massive biological die-off, climate change, energy resource depletion, soil erosion, water pollution and depletion, etc. - the politicians move cautiously in their responses, having made economic growth the top priority. Even well meaning "greens" speak of "sustainable growth" - an oxymoron on a finite planet. We need a new paradigm regarding how we define and measure progress. June 6th marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. In his first major presidential campaign speech on March 18, 1968, Robert Kennedy had warned against measuring ourselves by wealth alone. His message is even more relevant today: “Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but that GNP — if we judge the U

Korea: Amazing

Amazing. Hundreds of thousands of protestors pack the 16-lane Sejong street in downtown Seoul, Tuesday night - the largest public demonstration since last month when Koreans began to hold candlelit rallies to protest US beef imports due to fears about Mad Cow Disease. South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and the Cabinet offered to resign en masse Tuesday, taking responsibility for the intensifying political crisis triggered by the government's failure in negotiations regarding US beef imports. The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said Han tendered his and the Cabinet ministers' resignations to President Lee Myung-bak after chairing a weekly Cabinet meeting. Han had already admitted his failing in communicating with people over key policy issues and claimed responsibility for escalating anti-government street demonstrations. Rallies were held in major cities across the nation, including Seoul, Busan and Gwangju. KBS: Record Crowds Join Protest Rallies Across N

NHK: Alan

Ashita e no Sanka roughly translates to “Song Sung for Tomorrow”... The lyrics were penned by Nojima Shinji, a famous movie and TV drama scriptwriter in Japan. The composition was the work of Kikuchi Kazuhito, who frequently works with popular artists like Ayumi Hamasaki. To top it all, alan’s Tibetan-style vocals were showcased in their full glory bringing the listener an epic and powerful title track. One can clearly note how alan sets herself apart from the typical newcomers. Her vocals suggest years of vocal training and practice. Her low-notes are not particularly striking and are fairly soothing. However her high-notes are definitely something unique and unusual and are bound to attract attention in the future. The chorus is particularly powerful, where alan unleashes her so called “wailing” which sounds so haunting. It’s fairly impressive how alan manages to hit those high notes and hold them for so long, while managing to sound like she was in control throughout the whole track

The Mansion: An Inconvenient Truth - The Opera

Not enough Australian humour on this humble blog!? OK, guilty as charged. So here it is, dear patient readers, The Mansion, An Inconvenient Truth - The Opera . It is complete with a sad polar bear, Al Gore’s failed attempts to insert a .jpg photo on Powerpoint, and that special hydraulic lift scene. I don't want to write a letter I just want to make the world better And if you liked that, why not spend a few minutes with the News Lab, as they explain why gas prices continue to rise! Oh, and how about this hilarious statement: Speaking before a trip to Japan on Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged the G8 to "apply the blow-torch" to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [to get them to pump more crude, apparently] but G8 energy ministers appeared unwilling to take that route. Reuters: G8 energy ministers look inward on oil, spare OPEC

Candle-Night Osaka

Turn off your electric lights. For more information, visit Candlenight (In Japanese) Shinichi Takemura at Kyoto University of Art & Design produced this award-winning Tangible Earth as a way to communicate how fragile our planet is. He calls it the Earth Literacy Project . Videos here . Since 2003, he produced the Candle-Night for millions, a lights off, energy conservation movement to call attention to the global environment. What is Candle-Night?

Tokyo - the new California?

Treehugger, a green website that has rapidly grown into a major portal for environmental blogging and opinion exchange, notes that Tokyo is the New California : Tokyo's mayor has seen the (green) light and is taking major steps to introduce a climate change programme for the city despite Japan's reticence nationally on the matter. Mayor Shintaro Ishihara is a 75 year old self-acknowledged rightwinger who has decided to go it alone and impose strict curbs on local green house gas emissions. Some have compared his initiatives to those of California's Governor Schwartzenegger's differences with the Bush administration. As of 2010 Tokyo will impose caps on emissions on its largest polluters, along with credit trading for those who go over the limit. Financial Times has more details, quoting Yurika Ayukawa, a climate activist and academic, who believes Tokyo's effort could be "crucial" to shaping national policy ahead of the G8 summit: "There is pressure f

Save energy!

A government white paper called Tuesday for households to save energy as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in Japan. The white paper, Kyodo notes, mentions that household energy consumption in Japan has increased 44% in 2005 from 1990. Energy used for hot water represents 30% of overall energy consumption in Japanese households, the white paper said. It proposed that Japanese households try to save energy by "shortening showers by 1 minute a day and introducing solar power and energy-efficient water-heating systems." According to NHK, the white paper says the use of renewable energy such as solar power is spreading rapidly in Europe and Asia, and the global market for renewable energy has grown by 40 percent in the last 10 years, to about 670-billion dollars. But: [The white paper] points out that Japan lags behind in this area. The paper says eco-business has grown only by about 10 percent in the last decade in Japan, and that new installation of solar power is act

Vegan and vegetarian update

Mae Kaidee 's cooking classes last year were a huge success. She is back in Japan for another set of workshops at Alishan Organic Center in Koma, Saitama. She will show you how to make vegetarian patties, green curry and tom yum soup. Workshop Schedule: Date: June 4th (Sun) 8th (Sun) 11th (Wed) and 15th (Sun) Time: There will be workshops in both the morning and the afternoon. Morning workshops are from 11am – 1pm and afternoon from 2pm – 4pm. Price: 5000 yen per workshop with a 1000 yen discount for two or more classes. *Thai massage will be available on June 6th and 13th and Mae will be cooking Thai food for Alishan Cafe on June 7 and 14. Do watch her video! Let me also mention that Herwin from Holland (I met him at the Brown Rice Cafe in Tokyo last year - a nice place to start if you are looking for good vegetarian food) is planning a new edition of his great little Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide . He claims that while the 2007-2008 edition covered 51 restaurants (with 25 in Tok

ELO: Twilight

NHK reports that gasoline prices went up 10 yen today to 170-180 yen per liter. That's over $6 per gallon. And that kind of reminded me of Twilight , the ELO song that I liked a lot back in the 1970s. Lyrics by Jeff Lynne: Just on the border of your waking mind There lies... Another time Where darkness & light are one And as you tread the halls of sanity You feel so glad to be Unable to go beyond I have a message From another time... You brought me here, but can you take me back...? Last Train to London is pretty good too! Any suggestions for more songs about trains? Do leave a comment!