Showing posts from July, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction: Chichibu Fudasho AND Ano Hana Anime

Like last summer, I have been up in Chichibu for the Fudasho temple pilgrimage, but on my own this time, and on a slow note, taking it all in. There are 34 temples, and by the time I got to number 17, something surreal happened. From April, 2011 a very well done anime was aired on Fuji TV, called あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない (We still don't know the name of the flower we saw that day). Wikipedia: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai "Ano Hana" (That Flower) as it is called for short is a story about friendship and a mystery character that died when they were all very young. It is sad and wonderful. Perhaps, recent events this year, somehow made this powerful story even more relevant. All set in Chichibu, western Saitama, with attention to detail and a great care for catching the way it feels up there in the "hills" about an hour or so from Tokyo. A city that may have been much more lively in the bubble economy days 20 years ago. Yet, why di

Sunflowers For Fukushima

Can growing sunflowers help draw radioactive particles out of the soil in contaminated areas of Fukushima prefecture? Swedish newspaper DN thinks so, and had this lovely photo by Kerstin Joensson, which I thought was too good to not share with you. Also, it had a link to an article in The Telegraph that claims there have been similar projects in Chernobyl. Scientists believe that sunflowers at their full height can absorb large quantities of radioactive caesium, resulting in their growing presence across the Fukushima landscape in order to help decontaminate soil. The Telegraph: Sunflowers heal soil across nuclear-hit Fukushima I'd like to see the scientific reports that are behind this. We know that the levels of Caesium isotopes are extremely high in certain areas in Fukushima, from independent testing . It may take a long time before soil with such levels can be used for farming food again. But anyway, the flowers are pretty and bright! If you want to contribute, try

Support For Japan From French Organic Farmers

This is just such terrific news. The French organic farming movement, Urgenci, has close links with Japanese Organic Agriculture Association (JOAA) and a deep sense of connection with events here over the years. There have been many visits and support for people like Hiroko Amemiya, a researcher working on Teikei, who is a member of Urgenci: "She is is studying the current situation in Japan, in order to design a long-term relief project, centered on small-scale organic farmers. She sent some first general elements about the situation and authorized their publication in our 4th issue of the Special News from Japan ." Now, Urgenci has decided to rename their newsletter, calling it "Teikei" after the Japanese term that was introduced here in the 1970s. I helped JOAA create and edit a book about Teikei last year, thus I'm very pleased. Also, I will be going with JOAA to South Korea in September for the IFOAM World Congress, the first such event in Asia for the or

Some Inspiration (I Hope) As Japanese TV (As We Know It) Is No Longer

Main stream television is going offline tonight here in Japan, so that the "waves" can be sold off to mobile phone providers, i e some large companies that want you to use your iPhone or cell phone or mobile phone, more, rather than actually talking to people. Sayonara, TV. I expect more of us will be relying on the Internet, blogs, and so on for our daily basic advertising-free needs. Or not. It is up to us who blog to provide content and stories and support, if that is going to happen. I still think "main stream media" will have an important role to play. But without bloggers, whistle-blowers, non-governmental organizations, volunteers, comments, suggestions, insights, friendly advice, "hints" (how can I trademark that term - just joking) and the occasional "tweets" the world would be a lot less interesting. Television in Japan has not been very interesting for a while, no big surprise there, as everyone knew it was going to be turned off any

Local Money

I don't think we know what it means, money. We confuse it with currency, exchange rates, gold standards, silver, platinium, salary, loans, fiat currency or just paper money. What is money? We should ask, if we do, wouldn't it be the biggest threat to the central bankers, the IMF... If I made carrots the "Carrot Standard" of world economy, we could all get on with growing carrots. If you were very good at growing really tasty carrots, you could be super wealthy. You would be the Carrot King or PM: "Sir Carrot Emperor, Rule Supreme!" "Lord Carrot, Esquire!" Funny how that is not an option. We tend to think in terms of wealth more in terms of gossip, rumours, FX rates, heritage, and more or less binding legal tenders. So, what is the option? What is a 1,000 Yen legal tender note realy worth? In Waseda, since 2004, they have local Atom community money , perhaps that is a solution? It is also spreading to Sendai and other parts of Japan.

Living in Japan, living on the edge.

After a week of hot weather, in the range of 34-35 C, we are now suddenly faced with a large typhoon. It just started raining heavily here a few minutes ago, with thunderstorms, and the next few days promises to be tough. At least, the heat is not a problem! We knew this typhoon was approaching, as the Meteorological Agency has fancy maps and forecasts. Yet, the force of it is always a surprise. This is what people here endured for hundreds of years, why should we be surprised now? Living in Japan, living on the edge. A large and powerful typhoon was moving toward the main archipelago Monday, with the Meteorological Agency warning of downpours, strong winds and high waves in southwestern and western Japan through Tuesday. Kyodo: Typhoon Ma-on was located about 300 km northeast off Okinawa's Minamidaito Island at noon Monday, traveling northward at about 25 kph, the agency said. The season's sixth typhoon could cause heavy rain Monday in areas ranging from Kyushu to the

Japan Won!!

Exciting game, Sawa scored 2-2 and then penalty kicks, and Japan won. Terrific final. Well deserved! Update: FIFA removes all videos of this amazing game from Youtube. You'd think at a moment like this they would actually want people to watch it, to get more people, especially women, especially in Asia, more interested in playing and enjoying football. Sadly, not the case. Old men still dictate the rules for others. I did find this , but no embedding, but certainly worth your while! "Transcendental moment for Japan..."

Japan-Sweden 3-1

World Cup in Germany, the Swedish ladies lost to Japan in an exciting game. Japan also beat Mexico 4-0 (Sawa did a hat-trick!) but lost to England 0-2. Tonight, or rather Monday morning, Japanese time, it is Japan-US in the finals. Here are the highlights from the Japan-Sweden game, some really good moments, especially captain (No 10) Homare Sawa 澤穂希 who is just terrific, a play maker who also played for Atlanta and Washington DC teams in the US.

Nippori Station Food Market

This weekend there is a fun event at Nippori station, Tokyo. This food and beer fair is becoming very popular and last night, I had some terrific German Weissbier as well as Czech pielsner as the record heat was slowly becoming more bear-able (pun intended). Today and Sunday there will be music as well, with kids playing taiko (big drums) on the small stage, plus jazz and enka by local artists. It will also be a chance to meet farmers from Fukushima, Akita, Niigata and other rural areas, who bring their produce directly to you. Nippori Marushe website (Japanese) The next Earth Day Market in Yoyogi is not until July 31, so do visit the market in Nippori (east exit) instead.

Kan Thinks We Can Do Without Nuclear Power

PM Kan is one brave guy, who is also not a quitter (like his predecessors) and now he is hinting that a debate is needed on Japan's future energy supply. I couldn't agree more, but of course, I have no idea how Kan and the others in charge will solve the most pressing issue: Japan is only 4% self-sufficient when it comes to electrical power. That is very little. Relying on ageing nuclear power plants in a country that is prone to have massive earthquakes and tsunamis will not work. Importing oil? Will not be easy as we are already past peak oil. Importing uranium? Not a long-term, sustainable solution, anyway, and a very dirty mining practice that most of us know very little about. Thus, Kan is right, "I came to believe we should aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear power," Kan said in a televised news conference from his official residence. "We can phase out the dependence on nuclear power plants and achieve a society that can work without nucle

Okinawa Prefectural Assembly Adopts Resolution Against US Osprey Helicopters

Kyodo News says the Okinawa prefectural assembly adopted a resolution Thursday to demand Tokyo and Washington cancel the planned deployment of MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in October next year: While raising concerns over possible intensification of noise pollution around the base in Ginowan, the assembly also referred to risks surrounding the aircraft’s operation, saying it had resulted in “many casualties in repeated crashes at its development stage” and that its deployment would go “against efforts to eliminate the dangers” of the base. The assembly also strongly criticized the Japanese government's claim that the plan is merely a change of aircraft model to be deployed at the Futenma base, saying Tokyo "is ignoring the human rights and the lives of the Okinawa people." Looks like the debate that was stymied last summer - when PM Hatoyama suddenly quit after signing a controversial agreement with

Coastal Area In Tohoku Still Needs Lots & Lots Of Help Part 2

I feel so fortunate to be able to do something for the people in Tohoku, north eastern Japan, who have truly gone through hell the past 4 months. My team from Hanno, Saitama with 4 vans plus a small kei-car that we donated to a shelter went up again this weekend, with 10 people and lots and lots of boxes with food, clothes, sandals, summer hats, futons, mosquito coils, books, manga, toys, some furniture (especially boxes are much appreciated for storage) and other stuff. We started at 1AM and arrived in Minami Sanriku around 8AM, the Tohoku Expressway a very bumpy ride in some parts, and north east of Sendai and Ishinomaki it is rural roads and such beautiful scenery. Much has been done to clear up the debris (particularly by the Self Defense Forces, that have now left the region) and there are lots and lots of cranes and heavy vehicles and trucks removing the rubbish. I also saw some fires with black smoke and that got me very worried about pollution such as PCB, asbestos and other

AKB48 (And Me) In Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture

I went up to bring aid to people in Miyagi prefecture again with a team from my town, but I'm afraid we weren't the main attraction by far on Saturday, as girl band and phenomenon AKB48 decided to do a surprise live at an event the local High School that survived the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. They also visited a local home for elderly people and were amazed that one of the ladies was 84 years old. Isn't that like the total age of all of the AKB48 members, added up together? You can actually see me very briefly trying to run away from the press and all the screaming fans. Anyway, for the first time on this humble blog, I give you AKB48: And of course I promise to resume regular blogging once I recover from heat stroke and girl band dancing... Image from Asahi Shimbun , video posted by one of the millions of fans who follow every move they make. Glad to see that this event caught the eye of the media, Minami Sanriku town will need all the help they can

Exotic Jedi from Japan

LOL, The Exotic Jedi from Japan, Old style Kenjutsu "Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintou Ryu" one of Japan's oldest martial arts, according to Wikipedia, from 1447 (or 1480) by a famous swordsman, Iizasa Ienao from what is now Chiba Prefecture. He practiced both there, at Katori Shrine, and at Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Drive Me Crazy - The Temperance Seven

Nothing serious to report here, it is just hot and humid, a bit of rain, and thankfully no power outages (so far). I like how a lot of people are powering down, and it is a huge collective effort here in Japan right now. Trains are running as usual, but yup, it is a little warmer than last year, pre nuclear armageddon in Fukushima. I'm a little concerned that people think we are back to normal. We are not. We are all, together now, heading for a very interesting journey into a lot less energy waste. It may even become a sort of patriotic thing, this power-down 節電 setsuden thing. We all do it, and it makes it less frightening. At my local Seven Eleven, they have replaced all their old lighting, so I asked the part-time staff - and he had no idea. Funny how a big company can pay millions of Yen to replace ceiling fluorescent or neon lights, but cannot educate their staff. Having said that, I frankly have no idea at all how such fluorescent lamps actually work, compared to ordi

Food Safety, Post March 11 In Japan

Speaking from the view point of food safety and consumers rights, which I have been working on for the past 15 years or so, there is a lot of confusion in Japan right now, and I am not in a position to say anything with great certainty. So is our food "safe" or not? Is enough done to actually check the many different radioactive isotopes and dangerous substances...? Miyagi prefecture just released official data that you may want to ponder. This is the prefecture just north of Fukushima. I visited Miyagi last month, and of course, I do hope they can recover and get back to "normal" as soon as possible. As you can see, no iodine can be found, but some cesium remains. The levels are around 3-34 Bq/kg in blueberry, bamboo shoot, and 49 Bq/kg in plums. Nothing detected in vegetables such as onions or radish. The "safe" limits are considered to be much higher, at 500 Bq/kg. I'd like t

Tokyo Cuban Boys: The Fukushima Connection

Tokyo Cuban Boys was a legendary band, formed by Tadaaki Misago in 1949. They were hugely popular and influential in introducing Latin music to the mainstream of Japanese music fans. They remained at the pinnacle of the Latin/pop music scene for over 30 years until 1980. Latin America is close to the heart of many Japanese people who have relatives that migrated to Peru, Brazil, and other countries across the Pacific Ocean in the early 20th century. Historically, Japan and Brazil has links going back to at least 1908, according to TokyoTopia . One of my first memories in Tokyo, in the hot summer of 1988, was the Samba Festival in Asakusa, Tokyo . It has been cancelled this summer, because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In 2005 Misago's son, Kazuaki Misago, decided continue the Tokyo Cuban Boys band as 'Kazuaki Misago & His Tokyo Cuban Boys'. This top tune is the Souma Bon Uta, a jazzed up version of a local melody from Souma, Fukushima. Eri Chiemi on vo