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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Japanese Farmers: “We will continue farming on Japanese soil!”

(2011 Peace Walk from Tokyo to Hiroshima: "Every year, NOUMINREN participates in Peace Walk that starts from Tokyo to Hiroshima. This year‘s walk was very special. In the opening ceremony, Fukushima NOUMINREN member, Hiroshi Miura, spoke. He said, 'My rice fields are 11 km away from the power plants, so I won’t be able to grow rice in my fields anymore in my life. This accident proved that nuclear power plants and human beings cannot coexist. I am committed to continue life-growing farming in a new place and continue making efforts to eliminate the nuclear power plants one by one!' He joined the march and called for abolition of nuclear arsenals and the change in energy policy. Photo: NOUMINREN)

Nouminren (Japan Family Farmer Movement), represents one of thousands of NGOs in Japanese civil society committed to the visionary integration of the best of traditional and postwar Japanese values: simplicity, sustainable agriculture, preservation of local culture and communities, democratic society, constitutional (Article 9) commitment to nonviolent solutions to international conflict, gender equality, human rights, nuclear weapons and energy abolition, environmental protection, and social justice.

Under siege by the nuclear fallout of 3/11 and the threat of the possible TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership "free trade") agreement that would allow heavily subsidized, factory-farmed, genetically engineered, chemically (toxic herbicides and pesticides) treated, cheap foreign food products to flood Japanese markets, thereby threatening the position of high-quality, labor-intensive, organic, locally grown, therefore more expensive Japanese heirloom food products), Nouminren issued this statement via Via Campesina:
“We will continue farming on Japanese soil!”
Tuesday, 28 February 2012

NOUMINREN Youth held its 20th conference in Tokyo on February 11th and 12th this year. Approximately 100 people participated in the conference (the largest ever). For NOUMINREN, this conference was probably its most important in last 20 years as it was the first conference after 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plant accidents. All participants were eager to share and reflect on what they underwent after 3.11 and to use these understandings to overcome their concerns.

On the first day, a forum was held to discuss the issue, "Why we must continue farming on Japanese soil: Understanding how nuclear power plants and the Trans-Pacific Partnership might to destroy us."

In this forum, five panelists (three farmers, one food researcher, and one local community activist) presented their commitment to protect agriculture and food sovereignty of Japan.

The first panelist, Souhei Miura, reported that after the disaster and nuclear power plant accident, he evacuated to Chiba prefecture. However, he decided to go back to Fukushima to farm again. He said, “It is possible to produce safe food in Fukushima if we continue doing the checkups. Nuclear power plant accidents can happen anywhere in the world today, so why don’t I stay and farm in Fukushima, the prefecture I love the most.” This commitment moved many in the audience.

The second panelist, Sumito Hatta, the Director in Chief of the NOUMINREN Food Research Laboratory, discussed its role. He explained that the laboratory’s role is to use scientific methods to enhance the safety of agricultural products and to strengthen the fiduciary relation between producers and consumers. “This is how we can contribute to Japanese agriculture,” Sumito Hatta said.

He also stated that TPP is trying to deregulate the mandatory labeling rule for GM food. “We want to make a new project checking up GM food and the GM rape seeds that falls from shipping trucks. He also explained about the role of the radioactive detector purchased with donations from the people from Japan and the world. He emphasized the importance of sharing all data with everyone who needs it.

The third panelist, Noriyuki Takahashi, a young farmer from Wakayama prefecture, explained why he was such a strong supporter of making soil. He explained that because he wanted to produce delicious and safe crops, he realized the importance of making soil and bokashi (organic fermented fertilizer). He also described how he uses the dumped food from supermarkets to make fertilizer. In concluding, Noriyuki Takahashi stated that “Friendship between living things and soil is important. I am pursuing the farming technique that makes not only human, but every living thing happy.”

The fourth panelist, Ken Aizawa, a farmer from a heavy-snowy mountainous area of Niigata prefecture explained how much he enjoyed farming in such difficult conditions. He said that it takes 2 to 3 times more effort to do weeding on his farm and the results from harvesting are also low. However as Ken Aizawa also pointed out, in such mountainous areas, people are very bonded and he wants the bond to continue. He concluded that consumers buying domestic products will unite cities and rural areas.

The fifth panelist, Shinya Takeda, a staff member of international bureau of NOUMINREN and an organizer of Toke Saturday Market (street artist market) in Chiba prefecture explained why consumers should take a strong interest in agriculture He said there were three main reasons why consumers should support the farmers: (1) because food is essential for humans, (2) because local agriculture is essential for the economy of rural areas, and (3) because sustainable agriculture is essential for keeping the beauty and value of the rural landscape and stopping climate change. He concluded that farming is the most basic human activity, and therefore, “We, both producers and consumers should always respect it”.

After the presentations, the conference participants were divided into 10 groups and had 90-minute group discussion. The members of the groups were a mix of farmers, distributors, consumers, and NOUMINREN secretariats.

Each had a different story to share about the threat of TPP and radioactivity to our food safety.

One of the farmers said that since the accident, he has had a hard time to confidently tell the consumers that his crops are safe to eat, and so he has lost his motivation to grow. A shiitake mushroom farmer from Tako, Chiba prefecture, also shared that he is worried that radiation may be detected in his mushrooms that he planted after the accident. He explained that the direct sale to shops in his town dropped by one-third. A rice farmer from Ibaragi prefecture said that although he grows rice, he is hesitant to give the rice to his newborn baby. A vegetable farmer in Fukushima said that he feels relieved being outside of Fukushima because he does not have to hear all the discussions about radioactivity on the radio.

All the stories were something that would never have been expected when last year’s conference was held. All participants realized that they went through a really tough situation and are still facing it.

In the reception following the panel discussion, the participants talked about their concerns to continue farming and their future dreams. By talking to the people in the same generation, the participants’ dreams prevailed over their concerns and made the conference very happy and energetic to the end, and actually becoming stronger after the conference.

Earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, and radioactive crisis have hit us, and sooner or later a volcano will erupt as some of the scholars predict. But we, the NOUMINREN youth, will continue farming on Japanese soil.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Koto Ward Forcibly Evicts Homeless Persons from Tatekawa River Bed Park: Please Add Your Voice to Petition!


Don't kick us out. Tents are the fortresses of life!

From our friend, student/translator/activist extraordinaire Rayna Rusenko:
Dear Friends,

The Sanya Welfare Center in Tokyo sent me the statement below, protesting a planned eviction, on the morning of February 8th. All individuals and organizations that support this statement should send their names to the Sanya Welfare Center (information given below).

I would also like to add an update. I was delayed in sending this notice because on the afternoon of the 8th, the planned eviction was carried out by guards, ward officials, and police. Homeless persons and their allies who had been protecting the space were forcibly pushed and carried out, and the tent structure belonging to the elderly man was destroyed.

This same man was “detained” in the park following the eviction, surrounded by guards and isolated from his friends. When folks from the Sanya Welfare Center tried to convince the ward officials and guards to leave him alone and let him join his friends, they refused to budge. Ultimately, due to the stress of the situation, a doctor and then an ambulance had to be called for the elderly man. Again, no one he knew was allowed to accompany him to the hospital. Instead, police rode with him in the ambulance. The man is in stable condition. His friends and allies are still in the park protesting the eviction.

If you would like to add your name and/or your organization's name to the petition below, please email the Sanya Welfare Center at san-ya@sanpal.co.jp with the below information.

1) (For Individuals) Name & Affiliation (if applicable):
----or-----
(For organizations) Name of Organization:
2) Can this name be made public? Yes / No

3) Personal message:

Anyone who would like to contact the responsible parties (the Koto Ward mayor and the Waterside and Green Parks Department) directly can reach them at:

Koto Ward mayor
Public Hearing Section
Public Relations Division, Policy Management Department
Tel: +81-3-3647-2364
Fax: +81-3-36474133
Email: https://www.city.koto.lg.jp/pub/req/mail.php?fcon_id=22032 (Online form only, see translated image below for fill-out instructions)

Waterside and Green Parks Department
TEL:03-3647-2538
FAX:03-3647-9287
Email: https://www.city.koto.lg.jp/pub/req/mail.php?staff_id=10371 (Online form only, see translated image below for fill-out instructions)



We also recommend sending your opinion to your local Japanese Embassy.

Feel free to forward/share this information.

(Original Japanese statement can be found here: http://san-ya.at.webry.info/201202/article_9.html

Warmest regards,

Rayna
r.rusenko@live.com
Statement Protesting Koto Ward’s Forcible Eviction of Homeless Persons from Tatekawa River Bed Park

Moves to forcibly evict homeless persons from Tatekawa River Bed Park in Tokyo’s Koto Ward are presently underway. Officials began paperwork for administrative subrogation (a legal procedure for eviction) against 15 structures located in the park at the end of last year and, on February 6th, an order to carry out the subrogation was issued against the last remaining tent, which belongs to an elderly man.

Last month, over 100 guards and workers were mobilized and violence was used to enforce the construction of a fence around the 15 structures belonging to other individuals who had already been forced out by the subrogation. Along with this, without any advance explanation, one-third of the park has been completely shut off. Confined by a fence, the remaining man has been unable to leave to go to work.

Living structures built by homeless persons in public areas such as along riversides and in parks perfectly encapsulate the paradox of unemployment and poverty in our society. They are a form of resistance, as well as a practical solution. Attempting to “reclaim” parks by simply evicting these structures without ever looking to the social and economic problems that force people to live on the street not only fails to create real answers, but also deprives countless numbers of poor people of what meager shelter they have, making survival that much harder. We, the undersigned, stand opposed to the evictions and make the following demands.

1. End the closure of the park immediately

Since January 27th, one-third of Tatekawa River Bed Park (comprising roughly 1km) has been sealed off so that no one may pass through. Homeless persons staying in the park have been locked in by a fence with only restricted entry and exit and, as a result, have been unable to go to work. Tatekawa River Bed Park covers approximately 2.5 km of land and serves as a very important community road for residents that live in the area. Numerous residents have been inconvenienced by the closure of this large portion of the park.

Furthermore, there is no legal basis for the closure whatsoever. The Head of the Waterside and Green Parks Department, Director Araki, has said that “I decided to go through with the closure at my own discretion.” Koto Ward has closed the park as a way of hiding the fact that they are in fact carrying out a hurried eviction of homeless persons from the park, and to hide the presence of the protesting homeless persons from the public. However, for the ward it is too late. The problem is already clear to anyone. The ward needs to immediately open the park to the public once more.

2. The ward must apologize for the violent acts of the guards and its ward employees

On January 27th, ward employees and guards acted violently as they oversaw the construction of a fence designed to close off one-third of the park. They lashed out against homeless persons and allies who were protesting and requesting an explanation for the sudden closure by punching, kicking, and dragging them to remove them.

In particular, the violence employed by one guard employed under Tosnet stood out; he went as far as to remove his uniform badge before engaging in abusive acts that clearly violate regulations set out in the Private Security Industry Act. Ward officials on site not only ordered the guards to act in this way but also displayed considerable malicious intent and initiated a number of violent responses of their own.

A majority of the guards are actually irregular workers burdened by poor labor conditions and low wages. The fact that the ward would use these impoverished workers to forcibly remove another group of impoverished persons from the park is extremely problematic.

The park must apologize for the violent tactics ordered and used by its staff and the guards.

3. Stop the administrative subrogation against homeless persons’ living structures

On February 6th, an administrative subrogation order was issued for the park premises—where only one structure remains. The subrogation date is given as between February 6-10. The man living in this structure is in his mid-60s and is not in the best of health. He is willing to relocate but making the preparations at his own pace and it is not clear whether he will be able to finish within the time frame given. It’s pointless to carry out the forcible eviction of this one man under these conditions.

Also, new warning letters were posted on structures left behind by the other individuals who had been forced out from the park at the end of January. Does this mean that the ward tends to carry out an eviction against these structures? What does the ward think that they are gaining by repeatedly using the same tactics? We demand that the ward puts a halt to the present subrogation and abstains from conducting any more in the future.

4. Stop using fear to negatively influence people’s opinions of homeless persons

On its homepage, Koto Ward explains the closure of Tatekawa River Bed Park as necessary “in order to protect the security of residents”. However, for a number of years already homeless persons staying within the park have developed friendly relations with local residents; greetings are exchanged and some residents share clothing and/or food.

To use violence to close the park and then blame the presence of tent structures for “the problem” threatens spoil the relationship between homeless persons and neighborhood residents. In Koto Ward, there are a number of incidents of youth attacking homeless persons.

On December 11, 2011 one man sleeping in a Koto Ward park was attacked and severely injured with three ribs broken. By engaging in acts like forcibly evicting homeless persons from the park and insinuating that homeless persons are “dangerous”, the ward is only stoking “anti-homeless” flames that underlie attacks on homeless persons. The ward needs to immediately put an end to such fear mongering.

5. The ward must be held accountable for the underhanded nature of this eviction, and agree to direct and serious discussion

Prior to this recent series of evictions, the Riverside and Green Department at the Koto Ward Office had repeatedly assured that they would hold talks and refrain from using force. Assured by these promises, homeless persons in the park had moved to a new location in the park so as to not get in the way of construction.

Little did anyone realize, procedures for the issuance of an administrative subrogation for an eviction were already underway. To act in such a way is extremely underhanded.

The ward must take responsibility and apologize for acting in such an immoral fashion. It must also engage in discussion regarding the current situation while assuring the public that it will never again undertake such deceitful practices.

6. We object to local re-development that drives out the poor

The eviction at Tatekawa River Bed Park is taking place as redevelopment is unfolding in surrounding areas.

In preparation for the opening of Sumida Ward’s Sky Tree in May, there has been a pronounced increase in evictions of homeless persons and environmental “upgrading” in Koto and other neighboring wards.

In Sumida Ward, guards are known to harass homeless persons by threatening, “We’ll have you out of here by the time the Sky Tree opens.” The construction that is currently taking place in Tatekawa River Bed Park is part of a concentrated effort to lure new tourists that will be brought by the Sky Tree.

The newly built Kayak & Canoe Facility at Tatekawa River Bed Park, entrusted to a private corporation, will charge recreation fees. In effect, as our traditional public commons is being chipped away and sold off to private corporations, the poor are being thrown out.

This is nothing more than an attempt to re-make the city for the wealthy alone. We are opposed to the exclusion of the poor and the creation of needless facilities purely for the sake of re-development.

February 9, 2012

The Association of Homeless People in the Tatekawa River Bed Park Area
Sanya Sogidan / Han Sitsu Jitsu
Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer’s Association

Address:

Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer’s Association
1-25-11, Nihontei, Taito, Tokyo
Tel/Fax: 03-3876-7073

Mail: san-ya@sanpal.co.jp
Blog: http://www.jca.apc.org/nojukusha/san-ya/

twitter @sanyadesu

We won't forget the violence used by Koto ward. Stop trampling on our lives!
(Photos Courtesy of the Mkimpo Ninja Blog)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Okinawa Prefectural Govt Panel: Proposed new U.S. mega-base construction would destroy Henoko dugong and coral habitat

Via Kyodo via Mainichi, "Conserving habitat impossible if Futenma moved to Nago: panel":
A panel of the Okinawa prefectural government has concluded that it would be impossible to conserve the living and natural environment if an airfield is constructed in the Henoko coastal area of Nago for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, both in the island prefecture, sources close to the matter said Tuesday...

Based on the panel's report, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is expected to present his opinion to the central government, saying the relocation of the Futenma base to the Henoko area is extremely difficult, the sources said. The central government may subsequently be required to substantially revise the assessment report.

The panel report says the central government's surveys covering 25 areas, including the impact on the habitat of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal, are insufficient and the survey results underestimate the environmental impact, the sources said.

Nago mayor says Okinawa won't accept new U.S. military construction, but existing Nago bases can stay

Via Mainichi, "Nago mayor says Okinawa people cannot stand additional burden":
Susumu Inamine, mayor of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture, on Tuesday renewed his opposition to a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to his city from Ginowan, also in the prefecture, saying local people "cannot stand additional burden."

"The relocation plan is going to be implemented by ignoring the people of Okinawa Prefecture," Inamine told in a speech at a think tank in Washington.

Noting that 11 percent of the total land in Nago is used by U.S. military facilities, Inamine said, "We are not requesting these existing bases to be moved out or we do not deny the Japan-U.S. security alliance."

"But we cannot stand by additional burden stemming from the construction of a new military base," he said...

The mayor, who plans to see U.S. officials, Congressmen and academics during his visit to the U.S. capital, also said the issue should not be treated merely as a domestic issue in Japan but rather "as an issue of democracy and human rights."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Robert Redford Joins Movement to Save Jeju Island

Via Save Jeju Island:
Actor, film director, environmentalist and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Trustee Robert Redford speaks out in support of Jeju Island, “I am moved and impressed that the residents near the coastline have been waging a fierce nonviolent struggle to stop the base. They’ve used their bodies to block bulldozers and cement trucks, sacrificed their personal freedom, been beaten and imprisoned, and paid heavy fines...I think the least that environmentalists, peace activists and supporters of democracy can do is express our outrage.”
Read all of Redford's article, "The Battle for Jeju Island: How the Arms Race is Threatening a Korean Paradise," at On Earth: A Survival Guide for the Planet.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ainu Political Party launch: Reports from Ainu Mosir & Aotearoa

The Ainu Party of Japan (homepage here) was launched last weekend in Ebetsu City, Ainu Mosir (Hokkaido), marking a historical moment for Japan, the Ainu, and indigenous peoples all over the world. This is the first time an ethnic minority group has ever created a political party of its own in Japan.

Maori Party representative and member of the New Zealand Parliament since 2005 Te Ururoa Flavell and his wife Erana Hond-Flavell, a research associate at Te Kōpae Piripono (Center of Innovation) in Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga (Aotearoa/New Zealand Board of Education) joined Ainu Party supporters in their Saturday, January 21st celebrations.

The day of the launch commenced with an Ainu ceremony held outside the snow-covered Ebestu City Community Center. Representative Flavell presented a Taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon to the Ainu Party.

While reports of the new party in English and Japanese are scarce, Maori news sources have been reporting extensively on the groundbreaking launch.



Co-leaders of the Maori Party, Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turi, made a statement in support of the party:
The Maori Party congratulates the Ainu community for their determination to take their policy priorities and concerns into the political landscape in Japan.

We are delighted to acknowledge Shiro Kayano, the leader of the Ainu Party, and to extend our best wishes for their launch on the 21st January.

The recognition of the voices of the Ainu community has achieved momentum in Japan through the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the rights of the Ainu, headed by former Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

Our seven years experience in the Maori Party has confirmed how important it is to create the space for the voices of tangata whenua in national and local politics. Our mission has always been to ensure that ‘every issue is a Maori issue’; and that ultimately we know that what works for Maori, is in the best interests also of Aotearoa.

We join with other indigenous political movements across the globe, to welcome the formation of the Ainu Party, and to extend greetings of solidarity to the wider Ainu community in their determination to make a significant contribution to the political destiny of their land.
- Jen Teeter