Showing posts from January, 2015

TPP Protests, Ag and Pharma and More

Kyodo reports that Japan mulls concession on rice in TPP negotiations TOKYO, Jan. 30, Kyodo Japan has offered to import more rice from the United States in response to strident calls from Washington to make a concession toward concluding Pacific Rim free trade talks, negotiation sources said Friday. During bilateral talks, Japan has proposed a plan to increase annual rice imports from the United States by some 50,000 tons as part of its quota for an emergency stockpile under the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative, the sources said. Japan has sought to protect its key farm products -- rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy and sugar -- as exceptions to the tariff-abolishing TPP. As rice, the staple part of the Japanese diet, is especially regarded as off-limits, agricultural lobbyists and lawmakers with close ties to farmers could react sharply against Tokyo's plan.

Eco Links For December 2014-January 2015

I could probably do better, but here are a few links that caught my eye recently. Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott provides a lot of convincing arguments and links that These Ubiquitous Chemicals May Be Making Us Stupid Kids exposed to the highest levels of two common phthalates in the womb had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at the lowest levels. Do avoid. But do read. The Asahi gives us a hint that should be made more generally available; clearly, this is not advice "to Japanese men" but to all of us. Is this really the level to what newspaper editing has been reduced to? Anyway, important study. Scientists to Japanese men: Eat your veggies, reduce stomach cancer risk January 05, 2015 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN Japanese men can reduce their risk of developing lower stomach cancer simply by eating a lot of vegetables, researchers at the National Cancer Center and other institutions found.

Japan: Tourism Troubles

I write a monthly column for Consumers Union of Japan's newsletter, and the theme for January is tourism. You have probably seen them, and read the statistics. Over 13 million tourists entered Japan in 2014, a record high. In fact, the number has doubled in the last 10 years. And for 2020, the government aims for 20 million. Of course there are a lot of wonderful things to do and see. Possible troubles would usually be laughed off, a smile will save the day. There is an old saying, "When you embark on a journey, you will have a story to tell..." Except, Japan is not prepared for this level of foreign interest in its culture or favourite places. In my column, I wonder why there is no place for redress or complaints, as more tourists will increasingly be encountering difficulties or disappointments. That's only natural, it happens at all popular destinations. But here, hotel staff often don't speak English, taxi drivers are an elderly bunch with a slow learnin

FY 2015 Budget: More Money For Solar, Renewable Energy

More money to efforts to get Japan more firmly on the track towards renewable energy? Green Gift is a project I really like. It encourages grandparents to give money to their children/grandchildren for use of renewable energy-based power. Specifically, when grandparents give money to their children/grandchildren for the installation of solar power generation facilities or fuel cell-based co-generation systems, such money is exempted from gift tax. I believe this is the first such project in the world. Green Gift means grandparents can make a gift that contributes to the global environment while their children/grandchildren can reduce utility costs and gain an income from selling solar electricity. Also, the installation of low-carbon-emission facilities and renovations for adding energy-saving facilities are expected to create business opportunities for local device/parts makers and contractors, energize local economies and revitalize local communities. This system

Performance Calligraphy!

I have been wanting to post about this for a while, there is this great movement to do group calligraphy, set to music, and it's like a mad dance really. Groups of students clad in traditional hakama from different high schools even compete, in the annual Shodo Performance Koshien ... This is hard work and takes serious practice. It all seems to have started at a high school in Ehime, Shikoku, in Shikokuchuo, a town that specializes in making calligraphy paper. The movie, Shodo Girls even made it to Cannes in 2010. Saitama students from Matsuyama (first video below) are known to spend hours perfecting their cool routine. Monday is Coming-of-age holiday, so here is a big cheers to all the youngsters in Japan! Enjoy the videos.

Early January Food Post...

Today is Nanakusa Day, when people who like food traditions enjoy a set of seven herbs or 草 (kusa) which also means weeds, including tender greens and turnips that are added to rice. One explanation I heard in the temple way back is that after over eating on the treats during the New Years Holiday, it was time for a simple fare. It is also the first harvest of the year, which is nice to celebrate. I also learnt a new way to preserve veggies. 糠 (nuka) is just rice brans, the left overs after rice is polished. Thus you get classic nukatsuke, a way to keep anything from carrots to leafy greens a little longer. You also need salt, and I added about 100 g sea salt to 1 kg nuka. You can get nuka in most supermarkets, but do avoid the more pricy ones with flavourings and all kinds of bells and whistles... Damien taught me a clever way to do this. Usually, people do nukatsuke in large deep pots, but since you need to move things around once or twice a day, that gets really messy. In a

Space Dandy - Ravel

Happy New Year, or as we say in Swedish, Glad fortsättning (Happy continuation..) just like in Japan, where there are 2 different greetings, one before, and one after the actual event.. But isn't it kind of curious that 正月 Shougatsu is celebrated religiously on December 31 each year at all shrines and temples, as a great tradition, even though the current calender was only introduced in the Meiji era? Trying out some new equipment tonight, so, here we go, Space Dandy, a crazy anime that went viral as long ago as  last year. Recommended by my pals Spencer and Sharadan (hat tip). Anime, definitely, humour, maybe? Lovely tune by Ravel. Song - Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte