Showing posts from January, 2016

Documentary: Bikes vs. Cars

I love my work. Friday I had the great pleasure of interviewing Swedish documentary film maker Fredrik Gertten, who is in Japan for the first time. He had an event later in the evening at Waseda University, which is minutes from our office at Consumers Union of Japan. We had a long talk about his previous two films, about banana plantations workers in Nicaragua, who were harmed by a pesticide used by Dole. Fredrik got sued in the process of making his initial documentary, Bananas! so he promptly made another film, Big Boys Gone Bananas, about how Dole tried to stop the first film from being screened in the US at places in LA and Sundance Festival. Fredrik won, by the way. His new film, just released, is about another powerful industry, the ones that make cars. A billion of them on the roads, as of now. And cities like LA are more congested than ever, with some 70% of the public infrastructure devoted to - cars. Sao Paolo, Brazil, the figure is 60%. And only way to combat that is to t

TPP Minister Amari Resigns Over Bribe

Unbelievable, but then again, just what you'd expect :) It was revealed by a whistle-blower, which I find interesting, but not much has been said about that. The Mainichi is properly shocked: A scandal involving money and politics has once again rocked the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Akira Amari, minister in charge of economic revitalization, has stepped down over allegations that he and one of his secretaries received cash from a construction company official in return for doing the firm a favor. The resignation of a Cabinet minister playing a leading role in promoting the prime minister's "Abenomics" policy mix and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact has dealt a serious blow to the Abe administration. At a news conference on Jan. 28, Amari admitted that he had accepted cash on two occasions and that his secretary received 3 million yen in secret donations. As such, it is only natural that Amari has stepped down a

Ghibli's From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)

Set in Yokohama, up in the hills that overlook the busy deep harbour, this anime is about a girl who misses her father who is away on a war mission. Tokyo doesn't have a harbour that can provide access to large ships, thus Yokohama was built in the late 19th century. Thus Poppy Hill, and the houses up there, overlooking the bay. Umi raises the naval signal flags each morning, every single day, hoping father will be back from Korea, hoping it may help him find her, hoping for a safe journey for all the sailors ... - I didn't know that there were a lot of civilian Japanese boats and supply ships used by the US during the Korean War. But this timeline is slightly ambiguous, Tokyo has already been awarded the 1964 Olympics. Hey, did you know that Tokyo was actually set to have the 1940 Olympics, after Berlin (1936). Small world. The hit song "Sukiyaki" features, but it was not about the food at all. The lyrics has the singer as a lonely guy, holding his head hig

Ghibli's The Racoon Wars (1994)

Nope, I'm not going to turn Kurashi into a Ghibli fan club, but this is a film I very much wanted to see so when it suddenly appeared on Youtube I was delighted. Pom Poko tells the story of Tama New Town and its "development" in the late 1960s, from the point of view of the racoon dogs living in the huge forest there. Soon, there wasn't much space left for them, or any other living creatures either. What's so great about Ghibli is the way they incorporate ancient Japanese myths into modern tales. I didn't know that tanuki, the racoon dogs, were such a prominent part of folk tales here, and that they are said to have transformation skills. Watch some anime, learn a lot. But while it is also a very sad story, it encourages us to fight, perhaps violently, but more cleverly. Anime and "comics" in the West - I'm looking at you, Disney - creates fluffy make-believe with romance and happy endings only. Frozen seems to be just the latest in a long

Drone Footage of Amazing Islands in Kagoshima, Japan 4K (Ultra HD) - 鹿児島


Ancient Trees

There is, I'm told, an ancient Greek proverb, that is most likely much more ancient than the Greeks, that adores the man who plants a tree in which shadow he will never sit. I have been to Yakushima three times, and there are some very old cedar trees there, but also many stubs, as temples had to be built in Kyoto and such places. There is even the memory of a certain Buddhist monk who educated the islanders that felling ancient trees was not a sin. I wonder what he personally gained from such advice. How tragic for the ancient trees, but, perhaps the monk was more concerned about the welfare of the human souls trying to survive on that remote Satsuma island. I got a small bonzai peach tree on a visit to Mito, in Ibaraki prefecture. It is a famous site, and I was happy to have the tiny tree in its Mito pot in my garden. Then I planted it and it took root, and by now several years later, the tree has grown to about three meters tall. What a joy for that tiny bonzai plant. I cut