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Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Okinawa Dugong Lawsuits

Around 1,500 Okinawans gathered in Naha on a rainy Christmas afternoon 
to publicly voice disapproval of Governor Nakaima's last-minute backroom deal.

Norma Field, professor of East Asian studies at the University of Chicago, and author of the 1991 best-seller, In the Realm of the Dying Emperor: A Portrait of Japan at Century's End (an exploration of Japanese grassroots resistance against resurgent militarism), commented below her signature at the Association to Protect the Northernmost Dugong's petition to save the Okinawa Dugong:
We have done so much irreparable damage to the earth and its inhabitants. But the harm is not distributed evenly.

Okinawa's nature and people are among those disproportionately, unforgivably impacted. This is something Gov. Nakaima is in the precious position of being able to address!
However, Governor Nakaima did not meet the challenge of his historic opportunity to chart a democratic and healing path for Okinawa.  Instead, he fell back into the postwar pattern of bowing to the "Carrots and Sticks" and "Bayonets and Bulldozers" administration of the war-beleaguered prefecture, by accepting PM Abe's offer of a slight increase in the usual subsidies  from Japanese and Okinawan taxpayers ($24 billion over the next eight years), in exchange for breaking his 2010 campaign promise to protect the last habitat of the Okinawa dugong, by approving destructive military landfill to make way for a new mega-base at Henoko.

Satoko Oka Norimatsu and Gavan McCormack predicted Nakaima's eventual flip-flop in their recent book, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States: 
In other words, [former PM] Kan and his closest advisors believed that once elected, Nakaima would betray his Okinawan constituents and cooperate with Tokyo. Whether it would be done by buying or threatening was immaterial.
Peter Ennis has detailed the contexts and recent twists of PM Abe and Okinawa Governor Nakaima's last-minute backroom (hospital) deal. The latter has proven his extraordinary skill at (self-described "sneak") hairpin maneuvers.  Recovered from whatever enabled his prolonged hospitalization in Tokyo, he's back in Okinawa, campaigning for a pro-military construction colleague who is challenging Henoko champion Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine in the upcoming January election. Ennis, a seasoned Japan political analyst, highly admired by journalists in Japan, predicts turbulence ahead.

Okinawa's two major dailies, The Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo, have bitterly protested Okinawa Governor Nakaima's betrayal of Okinawan trust. The latter newspaper said that Nakaima's action will reinforce the negative stereotype of some Okinawan politicians as "gold diggers."

Around 1,500 Okinawans gathered in Naha on a rainy Christmas afternoon 
to publicly voice disapproval of Governor Nakaima's last-minute backroom deal.

The majority of Okinawans still oppose the new base project and anticipated protests have begun, starting on a cold, rainy Christmas afternoon in Naha, the prefecture's capital.

Today's Mainichi's analysis even suggests that "the reform faction comprising the majority of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly may make a motion of no-confidence against the governor, throwing the prefectural administration into chaos."

Inside the Okinawa Prefectural Government Building today.
(Photo via Dr. Masami Mel Kawamura) 

The Japanese government's environmental environmental impact assessment for the massive military landfill is riddled with irregularities and omissions.  When he rejected the first report in 2012, Nakaima then said: "It will be impossible to preserve the lives of residents and the natural environment through the measures included in the impact report."

Kunitoshi Sakurai, a member of the Okinawan Environmental Network, and a professor and former president of Okinawa University, detailed the problems in "Japan’s Illegal Environmental Impact Assessment of the Henoko Base," noting that Japanese backroom environmental assessment procedures and laws do not come close to the standards of other developed countries. The founding chairman of the Japan Society for Impact Assessment, Nagoya University professor emeritus Shimazu Yasuo described the Henoko EIA as the "worst in Japanese history."

Even a former Minister of Defense, Satoshi Morimoto, criticized what he described as the "sloppiness" of the Environmental Impact study and the concealment of “'inconvenient facts' of the appearance of the dugong...He emphasized "the Yambaru forest and rivers, whose biodiversity is recognized under both national and prefectural plans, cannot be protected under the planned relocation."

Earthjustice, the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation (JELF) and Okinawan environmental NGOs are meeting in early January to move forward with a new Dugong lawsuit in the US:
The lawsuit aims to make the U.S. government stop the Japanese government from entering the area for the reclamation work. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of the United States requires its government to protect cultural heritage around the world. If the government’s actions could affect cultural assets in other countries it must take that impact into account.

Based on this law, the plaintiffs are taking action against the U.S. Defense Department in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in order to protect the dugong as an endangered species. They are requesting that the U.S. Defense Department intervene to stop the Japanese government from going into the U.S. military facilities to construct the new air base.

The plaintiffs, including the Okinawa dugong and three Japanese citizens, as well as six Japanese and American environmental associations have brought another action against Secretary of Defense and the United States Department of Defense for violations of the National Historic Preservation Act. They allege that the defendants approved plans for construction of the Futenma replacement facility without taking into account the effect of the construction of the military facility on the Okinawa dugong, which is a marine mammal of cultural and historical significance to the Japanese people...

Lawyer Takaaki Kagohashi, the head of the plaintiff attorneys and representative of the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation, said, “We have to wait to take action until just before the government starts the construction.” He emphasized that because it falls within the authority of the U.S. government, it is possible that the lawsuit in the United States could stop the Japanese government going ahead with the construction by preventing Japanese officials from entering the site.

The plaintiffs are same environmental groups and individuals who filed the Okinawa dugong lawsuit in 2003, which they effectively won. In the interlocutory decision, the judge decided that the dugong is subject to the National Historic Preservation Act, and that the government not evaluating the impact on the dugong was a violation of the law.

Kagohashi said, “We considered protective measures for the dugong in the previous case, but this new lawsuit aims to block the construction involved in the landfill. The American Environmental Law is very strict when it comes to the destruction of the natural environment. Our chances of victory are better in the United States than in Japan.”
The first Okinawa Dugong Lawsuit was filed in 2003. The same federal district court determined in the interlocutory decision of Jan. 2008 that the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) applied to the Okinawa dugong as a protected species.

The new lawsuit will not only take protective measures for the dugong as the original lawsuit did; it will additionally more fully address the issue of military landfill construction. U.S. environmental laws are more comprehensive and impartially administered than Japanese environmental laws. According to legal experts, the issue of whether or not a ban on the construction is in the interests of the general public will be a central issue.

In 1966, Ryukyus postal stamp commemorates the dugong's designation as a natural monument. 
(Image: Save the Dugong Campaign Center) 

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Updates: 

Another (separate) lawsuit will be filed in Naha District Court in mid-January on the grounds that Governor Nakaima's approval does not meet the legal standards and is, therefore, illegitimate; and members of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly plan to demand that Nakaima retract his approval at an extraordinary session expected Jan. 9, 2014. ("Okinawans seek to overturn approval for Futenma relocation work," Asahi, Dec. 30, 2013)
Four Okinawan members (Congressman Kantoku Teruya, Congressman Denny Tamaki, Congressman Seiken Akamine, and Senator Keiko Itokazu) of the Japanese Diet have called for Gov. Nakaima's resignation.  The reason: reneging (in exchange for a "spending spree" and "empty promises") of his 2010 reelection promise to protect Henoko.  (via Ms. Keiko Itokazu, member of the Upper House of the Japanese National Diet, Facebook, Dec. 27. 2013
Gov. Nakaima has rebelled against the will of the overwhelming majority (80%) of Okinawans who oppose military construction at Henoko.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Okinawa’s Struggle at Final Juncture - Protect Okinawa Dugong and Biodiversity of Henoko/Oura Bay

Henoko and Oura Bay, Okinawa

Via our colleague and friend, Dr. Masami Mel Kawamura, at the Citizens’ Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa:
October 6, 2013
Citizens’ Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa
(Okinawa, Japan)

Okinawa’s Struggle at Final Juncture 
Protect Okinawa Dugong and Biodiversity of Henoko/Oura Bay 

The 17 year-long saga of the Okinawan people’s struggle against the US and Japanese governments’ plan to construct a US military base at Henoko/Oura Bay in Okinawa, Japan is at its final juncture. The Japanese government has submitted its application for land reclamation of the waters of Henoko/Oura Bay, ready to move on to the phases of reclamation and construction work. At stake are the rich biodiversity of Henoko/Oura Bay, including the endangered and Okinawa’s cultural icon Dugong, and the life of the local people. The Okinawan people are fighting through this final juncture with support from international communities in forms of IUCN recommendations/resolution, “dugong lawsuit” and IIFB statements.

Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan, consisting of some 160 islands with a population of approximately 1.4 million. The Okinawan people are recognized by UN as an indigenous people although the Japanese government has not recognized them as such.
While Okinawa consists of only 0.6% of all the Japanese landmass, 74% of US military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. A UN Special Rapporteur’s report in 2006 concluded the high concentration of US military bases should be regarded as manifestations of the continuing discriminatory policies and practices and human rights violation against Okinawa. By forcing the US base construction at Henoko/Oura Bay, the Japanese and US governments are further militarizing Okinawa.

The area of Henoko/Oura Bay presents a vulnerable ecosystem while being one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in Okinawa. The endangered Okinawa dugong, rare blue corals, and many other wild wonders inhabit the area and the livelihood of local communities is closely connected to the environment...

Update on US military base construction at Henoko/Oura Bay

Since 1997, the US and Japanese governments have been pushing forward their plan to construct a massive US military base at Henoko/Oura Bay, ignoring the Okinawan people’s opposition to the plan and environmental concerns. However, an enduring fight put forth by people from Okinawa, Japan and international community has not allowed actual construction to take place yet.

In March of 2012, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima submitted his comments on the Environment Impact Statement prepared by the Japanese government for the construction plan. Nakaima contended that, even with the Japanese government’s proposed mitigation measures, it would not be possible to conserve the natural and social environments of the Henoko/Oura Bay area.

In March of this year, however, the Japanese government submitted to Governor Nakaima its application for reclamation of waters of Henoko/Oura Bay for the base construction, pressuring Nakaima to approve the application. Governor is expected to make his decision on the application sometime in December this year or in January of next year.

The international environmental community has been supporting the Okinawan people’s struggle against the construction plan. In 2000, 2004 and 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) adopted recommendations and resolution regarding the conservation of the Okinawa Dugong in the area of Henoko/Oura Bay. In 2010, in the closing statement of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity(IIFB) at COP10, the IIFB expressed its concern with regard to the plan and the construction plan’s potential impact on the area’s biodiversity. In 2012, the IIFB reiterated its concerns at COP11.

Update on Dugong Lawsuit

In the historical case of the “Dugong vs. US Secretary of Defense” or “dugong lawsuit,” the US federal district court in 2008 ruled that the US Department of Defense (DoD) violated the National Historical Preservation Act(NHPA). The court recognized Dugong as a historical and cultural property, applicable by the NHPA, which protects indigenous people’s culture and life. The court found that the DoD did not take into account the military base construction’s possible adverse effects on the cultural significance of the Okinawa dugong, when it drew the construction plan with the Japanese Government. The court ordered the DoD to comply to the NHPA. It is the first case that NHPA was applied to an undertaking outside US and to a creature as well.

In February of 2012, as the construction plan was deemed stalled, the court questioned the status of the construction plan and ordered the case to be closed. However, as the Japanese government completed its EIA and has submitted its application for land reclamation, the case is expected to be reopened anytime.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit has attracted international attention. Dr. Helen Marsh, renowned Australian marine mammals scientist, mentioned the “Dugong lawsuit” in her plenary speech for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, which was held on July 9-13, describing Dugong as one of the most powerful political animals.

For details on “Dugong lawsuit,” see Hideki Yoshikawa’s article “Dugong Swimming in Uncharted Waters: US Judicial Intervention to Protect Okinawa's "Natural Monument” and Halt Base Construction“
http://www.japanfocus.org/-hideki-yoshikawa/3044

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

UN calls Syrian Refugee Crisis "Greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times" • Maronite Archbishop of Damascus likens Syria to Christmas Story


Newly arrived Syrian refugees carry their belongings and children 
after crossing into Jordan's Ruweished camp on December 5.

The UN has called the Syrian refugee crisis the "greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times."  The war has resulted in the biggest humanitarian crisis in modern history.  2.3 million Syrians have fled to makeshift camps in neighboring countries. Half that number are children, whose families and communities have been torn apart. 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced, unable to be reached by aid workers, because of the level of violence. 

Syrian Christians, Shiite Muslims, and moderate rebels have been targeted by foreign (Al Qaeda-backed) Sunni jihadists who have joined the Syrian civil war for their own religio-patriotic reasons.  Weapons sent by the Obama administration to Syrian rebels have been captured by Al Qaeda now in Syria

Last week Amnesty International asked European nations to help resettle more refugees from Syria, "to lighten the immense burden borne by the main host countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan." However, few have responded:
...In September Sweden granted permanent residency to all Syrian asylum-seekers in the country. It was a compassionate decision, but also a logical one: the conflict is showing no sign of ending and refugees won’t be able to return to their country anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Germany announced that it would offer temporary residencies to 10,000 Syrian refugees from the main host countries.

Just this week, Syria broke another record: it is the subject of the UN’s largest-ever humanitarian appeal for the second year running. Half of Syria’s population of 22 million will need humanitarian assistance in 2014. Up to three million Syrians are refugees, 6.5 million are displaced internally and 600,000 refugee children are out of school.
The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus likens the situation of Syrian refugees to the story of Christmas:
Christmas Reflection from the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus - The Refugees before The Crib

Syria, at this Christmas time, resembles very much, the crib: an opened crib, with no doors, cold, deprived and extremely poor.

The Child Jesus doesn't lack companions in Syria - thousands of children who lost their homes are living under tents as poor as Bethlehem’s crib.

Jesus is not alone in his extreme poverty. Syrian Children, abandoned children and scarred by scenes of violence, want to be in the place of Jesus who has parents that surrounding him, cherishing him.

This taste of bitterness is very visible in the eyes of these Syrian children - their tears and their silence.

Some of them envy the Divine Child because he found a manger to be born in and to be sheltered, while some unlucky Syrian children are born under the bombs or on the exodus way.

In her difficulties, Mary is not alone anymore; ill-fated mothers, less lucky, are living in extreme poverty and handle family responsibilities alone without husbands.

The insecurity, the precariousness, of Bethlehem’s crib brings a consolation to these mothers crushed by intractable problems and despair.

The reassuring presence of Joseph at the side of the Holy Family is a source of jealousy for thousands of families deprived of a father - deprivation which breeds fear, anguish and insecurity. Our unemployed envy Joseph the carpenter who saves his family from being in need.

The Shepherds and their flocks, close by the manger, speak to the many Syrian farmers who lost 70% of their livestock in this war. The nomadic life on this biblical earth that dates back to Abraham and even further back, brutally disappears with its ancient customs of hospitality and its traditional culture.

The dogs of the Christmas shepherds have compassion for the fate of the domestic animals in Syria scarred by the deadly violence; roaming amongst the ruins and feeding themselves with corpses.

The infernal sound of war suffocates the “Gloria” of the Angels... This symphony for peace gives way to the hatred, division and cruel atrocities.

May the three Magi bring to Syria’s crib, the most precious Christmas gifts: Peace, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, so that the CHRISTMAS STAR might shine again in our dark nights.

 Let us pray to the Divine Child. Lord, graciously hear us.

 + Samir NASSAR Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WAR IS OVER (If You Want It)


Yoko Ono's holiday message for decades, available for download in 100 languages at http://imaginepeace.com/warisover/.
Dear Friends

Download, print & display these posters
in your window, school, workplace, car
and  elsewhere over the holiday season.

Send them as postcards to your friends.

We say it in so many ways, but we are one.

I love you!
yoko

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Share Your Christmas With Tohoku, Japan!


Jacinta Hin, Jeffrey Jousan, and the others at "Share Your Christmas With Tohoku, Japan" personify good will, good cheer, generosity, and love — everything the spirit of Christmas is supposed to be about. This will be their third "Share Your Christmas" series of gift giving (December to February)  to people in Tohoku, of all ages, who have been affected by the natural disasters and the ongoing nuclear meltdowns.

Their first delivery will be in Fukushima at Esperi, a "farmer's market set up by local farmers trying to overcome the 80 percent drop in vegetable sales since Fukushima Daiichi exploded. It will be an evening of Christmas music, cakes and hopefully many wonderful presents! This is our first pre-Christmas delivery so we can use everyone's support. Please send presents as soon as you can. There will be children, parents and grandparents."

Here's the link to their website: http://www.shareyourchristmas.org/ And to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/512117675563080 (uplifting to follow) and  their message:


Send a personal Christmas present to someone in Tohoku!

Share Your Christmas collects presents and delivers them on your behalf to someone in Tohoku, Japan, affected by the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster of March 11, 2011, and still living in difficult circumstances. We are collecting gifts from now until the end of January. We are especially looking for gifts for our first delivery on December 17. Scroll down for details on how to send us a gift.

To unconditionally share a gift is a small thing in many ways, but for the people of Tohoku it means so much. Connection. Comfort. Love. Someone somewhere cares, is thinking about them, if offering a small piece of their heart from somewhere far away.

This will our third year to bring Christmas joy and warmth to the people of Tohoku. We collect gifts from now until end of January. Our first delivery is December 17, to an organic farmers community in Fukushima. We plan to visit several more places in Tohoku during the first months of 2014. We distribute presents at Christmas parties we organize.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in "Temporary" housing with permanent housing a distant dream and making ends meet is an uphill battle. Many older people have resigned themselves to dying in their temporary residences. The people of Fukushima still live with the fear of the long term effects of radiation and the immediate danger of another accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Every year, fewer and fewer people visit the region and residents move away. People feel that they have been forgotten.

This is why we are going back again this year (and for many years to come) to Share Your Christmas! Please help us bring some warmth to the hearts of the people of Tohoku.

HOW TO SHARE YOUR CHRISTMAS

Pack your gift and post it to:

Share your Christmas,
c/o Jeffrey Jousan
Katsuragi Nesaki 45-1
Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0824
Japan
Tel: 81-29-828-4990

Please wrap the gift in clear wrapping with a bow and card attached. You can write a message, your name and even contact information if you would like the recipient to contact you. You can even include your picture if you like.

We also accept donations in place of presents. We use them to buy party supplies, buy extra presents, purchase needed supplies and cover transportation costs.

For more details on Share Your Christmas, reports on past deliveries and instructions for sending a gift or making a donation, please visit:

http://www.shareyourchristmas.org/
https://www.facebook.com/shareyourchristmaswithtohoku

Thank you in advance for your heart for Tohoku!

Jacinta Hin & Jeffrey Jousan

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今年の"あなたのクリスマス"を、ギフトを贈ることで東北の人たちとシェアしましょう!"Share your Christmas"はクリスマスのプレゼントを集め、あなたの代わりに東北へとお届けする団体です。

2011年3月11日、地震、津波、原発事故の影響を甚大に受け、既に3年が経とうとしている今もなお、数千、数万もの人々が"仮設"住宅で"常設"の自分の家を再び取り戻すことをはるか遠くの夢とし、苦境の中で必死に生活しています。

私たちはそうした方々へギフトを届けるため、今から2014年1月末日までプレゼントを集めています。無条件にプレゼントを集めて送る、というこの活動は数多ある支援方法の中の小さなこと。

けれど、東北で仮設住宅で寂しさに耐えながら一人で暮らしているおじいちゃん、東北を忘れないでほしい、とお伺いした際に私たちに涙ながらに訴えるおばあちゃんたちにとってはとっても大きな意味を持つことなのです。

どこか遠くの誰かから小さな心のかけらを贈り物としていただくこと。
それは、東北の人とつながること、悲しみ、苦しみをやわらげること、愛を感じること。誰かが気にとめていてくれると感じ、そして心に留めていてくれる人のことを考えること。

今回で私たちがクリスマスの喜び、ぬくもりを東北にいる人々に届けはじめて3年目となります。今回は、今から2014年1月末までギフトを集めています。

特に今は、私たちが今年初めてプレゼントをお届けする日:12/17(12/15下記住所に必着)までに送っていただけるよう呼びかけています。最初のプレゼントは福島にある有機農家のコミュニティにお届けします。また、二回目以降のお届けとして2014年最初の2,3カ月間くらいの間に、東北の他の場所もお伺いしようと考えています。

ギフトの送り方は以下をご覧ください。

プレゼントの送り方/
下記の住所に2014年1月31日までにお送りください。
※第一回目のお届け:12月17日に間に合わせるためには12月15日必着です。

〒305-0824
茨城県つくば市葛城根崎45-1
c/o Human Arts Experience
ジェフリー ジョーサン
シェア・ユア・クリスマス

電話029-828-4990
プレゼントは中身が見えるよう透明な袋に入れてください。
新品、新品同様の美品(あなたの家で一度も使われなかったもの、箱から出してほとんど使っていないもの、そして見た目が綺麗なもの)でお願いします。あなたのアイデアでリボンをかけたり、カードを付けてもOK。メッセージを添えたり、もし受け取った方と連絡を取りたい場合は自分の名前や住所を加えたり、自分の写真を入れても!

また、プレゼントの代わりにお金を寄付する形も受け付けています。
寄付いただいたお金は、12/17のクリスマスパーティに使用したり、新しいプレゼントや必要な備品の購入、福島までの交通費負担などに使わせていただきます。

Share Your Christmasのさらに詳しい情報、ギフトの送り方、寄付の仕方、過去のSYC活動の様子、プレゼントの写真などは、下の日本語サイトでもご覧になれます。
http://www.shareyourchristmas.org/シェア-ユア-クリスマス/

お先に、東北のために心の込もったプレゼントを有難う!

Jacinta Hin & Jeffrey Jousan

We found these guys as the sun was going down over Ishinomaki city. They are on top of the foundation of a building that was washed away. It's actually in front of the Manga Museum. It was early July when came across them and the sounds of reggae music (an Ishinomaki original song about never giving up). It was the first time after 3.11 that a felt a sense of hope. When I was there again on 11.11 the stone "Kabigon" was still there. (Jeffrey Jousan) — at Ishinomaki.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hundreds of Japanese citizens are engaged in a crowd-sourced effort to measure Fukushima radiation

Nice article at Yes! Magazine by Erika Lundahl about Safecast, the citizen radiation monitoring in Japan: Measuring Fukushima's Impact: How Geeks and Hackers Got Geiger Counters to the Masses: Hundreds of ordinary people are contributing to a crowd-sourced effort to measure Fukushima's impact:
Hundreds of ordinary people are contributing to a crowd-sourced effort to collect data on radiation levels for scientists and ordinary citizens to use and interpret. The project was launched by SafeCast, an organization formed in the wake of the 2011 earthquake to supplement the sparse data provided by the Japanese government on radiation travel patterns.

"We were completely appalled that there was no way to get this data," SafeCast co-founder Sean Bonner said, "and that people couldn't see what was happening to their environment."

Through online collaboration with scientists and programmers, Bonner and his collaborators engineered an easily reproducible and highly accurate GPS-enabled Geiger counter, which they call the bGeigie. They distributed the first batch of 100 to volunteers who crisscrossed Japan in cars, delivery vehicles, and on foot, collecting data on radiation unmatched in scope and accuracy. To make the information from the bGeigies widely available, SafeCast publishes copyright-free maps of the readings that come in from the devices.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Analyses of state secrets law & fallout


Protest of state secrets law at Hibiya Park. (Photo: Kimberly Hughes) 

Some great analyses on what Abe's state secrets law means and the ripple effects its questionable passage is having on Japanese politics: 



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ten Years of Peace Candles (every Saturday evening) & Prayers to Protect Henoko, Okinawa...


Via Ryukyu Shimpo:
...the “Peace Candle” gathering held on November 24 in protest against the building of a new base marked its tenth year...

The couple prays for world peace, offering “rays of hope” that the governments will give up on building the base.

The gathering started in November 2004. Back then the Toguchis lived with their son Takeryu and newly born twin sisters Kazuki and Wakana in Sedake, which faces Oura Bay where the governments plan to build the base.

They started the protest gathering, with like-minded people then taking part to oppose the plan. They stand beside National Route 329, holding a banner written in English and Japanese saying, “Let’s protect our sea of Henoko.” They wave and call to passersby and people involved with the U.S. military...

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima will decide in December or beyond whether or not to grant approval of the application documents to reclaim land off Henoko.

Takekiyo said, “We will continue to hold the rally until the governments give up on the plan. I want to bring it to an end in this, its tenth year.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Okinawan Heart" Witness for World Peace: From the Pacific War to the Present



Elder survivor pays respects at the Cornerstone of Peace memorial in Okinawa. 


90 million people were killed by state violence in the 20th century — so far the bloodiest century in human history. 20 million people of these war dead (mostly civilians) were killed in Japan's wars in the Asia-Pacific, that began against Korea and China, even before Dec. 7, 1941.

Even after US firebombings decimated all of Japan's major cities, including Tokyo, the militarist government would not admit defeat, until after its loss in the Battle of Okinawa (the last battle of the Pacific War), and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This is why Okinawa, together with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has remained a center of peace activism and peace education in Japan.

Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial:
In late March 1945, a fierce battle such as has rarely been seen in history took place on these islands. The "Typhoon of Steel" that lasted for ninety days disfigured mountains, destroyed much of the cultural legacy, and claimed the precious lives of upward of 200,000 people. The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground fighting fought on Japanese soil and was also the largest-scale campaign of the Asia-Pacific War. Even countless Okinawan civilians were fully mobilized.

A significant aspect of the Battle of Okinawa was the great loss of civilian life. At more than 100,000 civilian losses far outnumbered the military death toll. Some were blown apart by shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while other fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops. Under the most desperate and unimaginable circumstances, Okinawans directly experienced the absurdity of war and atrocities it inevitably brings about.

This war experience is at the very core of what is popularly called the "Okinawan Heart," a resilient yet strong attitude to life that Okinawan people developed as they struggled against the pressures of many years of U. S. military control.

The "Okinawan Heart" is a human response that respects personal dignity above all else, rejects any acts related to war, and truly cherishes culture, which is a supreme expression of humanity. In order that we may mourn for those who perished during the war, pass on to future generations the historic lessons of the Battle of Okinawa, convey our message to the peoples of the world and thereby established, displaying the whole range of the individual war experiences of the people in this prefecture, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Final Staw: "What a Natural Farmer Eats"

(Video: Final Straw)

Via Final Straw, a documentary by Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang:
This series of 'Short Take' interviews offer sneak peaks of characters from the upcoming documentary film, which explores Japanese natural farming and the relationships between people and the environment.

This time around, we meet Osamu Yoshino, a natural agriculture farmer, and Keiko Domae a food activist who started one of Japan's first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) networks. These two individuals worked together to build a successful natural farm by fostering a strong consumer awareness of the relationship between food, farm, and people...

Natural Farming was brought to the modern day agricultural world by two Japanese farmers, Masanobu Fukuoka and Mokichi Okada, and since its introduction has been slowly making its way into communities around the world who wish to create a more sustainable life, and to create closer connections with the land in our towns and cities.

More about Final Straw:
Due for initial screening in Spring of 2014, Final Straw is a cinematic exploration of Japanese natural farming, and...individuals who offer simple solutions to modern issues of sustainability, both on the farm and in the city. The film interacts with a cast of office workers, chefs, musicians, and farmers alike, all of who are students of the late Japanese farmer/philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka.

It all started on a small mist-covered mountain farm in South Korea, and continued to include over 20 natural farmers in East Asia and the USA...And today, with over 1/2 of the world’s population living in urban areas, it seems we need to revisit this connection with nature more than ever before.
More about Osamu Yoshino, Keiko Domae, and the development of CSA in Japan:

Natural Agriculture farmer finds locating a market more challenging than letting go of chemicals (Lisa M. Hamilton, Newfarm.org, Feb. 13, 2004)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Community-Supported Agriculture in South Korea: "Ground Zero for Food Sovereignty..."

The Korean Women’s Peasant Association (KWPA), a national organization of women farmers
 based in Seoul receive the 2012 Food Sovereignty grand prize. 
(Photo: Grist)

In "South Korea: Ground Zero for Food Sovereignty and Community Resilience," published last week at The Nation, Christine Ahn and Anders Riel Muller describe how South Korean small farmers and the communities, food buyers supporting them are challenging the country's industrial elite who want to end traditional organic Korean agriculture and outsource food production to corporate-owned plantations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.  These visionary small farmers helping to pioneer the direction of sustainable agriculture for the world:
...And yet, despite a series of domestic and international policies that have sought to systematically eliminate them, South Korean farmers and peasants are fighting back. They have protested the WTO and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) for two decades, inspiring peasant farmers throughout the global south to mobilize against the free trade regime. At home, they are trying to build a domestic food sovereignty movement that is ecologically sustainable, socially equitable and economically resilient by producing healthy food, creating dignified rural livelihoods and reviving farming communities.

Instead of being blinded by South Korean high-tech bling, our eyes should be on South Korea’s food sovereignty movement. It offers the rest of us robust alternatives to the highly consolidated, industrialized, energy-intensive and chemical-dependent globalized food systems that dominate all of our lives.

In August, we co-organized and participated in a Food First Food Sovereignty Tour where we visited South Korea’s leading organic farms and progressive farmer-consumer cooperatives. South Korea is now a leader in the Asian region in organic production, so much so that the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements set up its offices there. And while there were many inspiring organic farms and gardens, two organizations stand out: the Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA) and Hansalim.

“The food that is being sold by capitalism is sold as a commodity instead of food that sustains us,” explained Jeong-Yeol Kim of My Sister’s Garden, a KWPA project. “That’s why we believe that helping farmers thrive is the only way to fix this food crisis, and the pathway to do so would be to ensure that consumers and every citizen join us in the process of making this come true....

“Children today have no connection to the rural land,” explains Jeong-Yeol. Unlike previous generations, many children today no longer have grandparents or relatives living in the countryside who are connected in any way to farming. “So part of the effort of this partnership is to expose children to food production.”

...hese KWPA projects seek to radically alter the structure of the Korean food system and to de-commodify the linkages between consumers and producers. It has not been in vain. In 2012, KWPA was awarded with the Food Sovereignty Prize for their work to defend the rights of small-scale women farmers in Korea and preserve the cultural heritage of Korean native seeds.

In 1986, even before farmers’ markets and CSA programs became popular in the United States, South Korean farmers and consumers began Hansalim. “Han” in Korean means great, one, whole and together, and refers to all living things on earth. “Salim” refers to domestic activities that must be managed to care for one’s home, family, children and community, as well as to revive and give life.

With 2,000 growers and 380,000 consumer members, Hansalim is among the world’s largest and most successful agricultural cooperatives, creating an alternative economy that supports organic farmers and local agriculture, producing healthy food and protecting the environment in the process. Despite the global financial crisis, its sales have been growing annually by 20 percent.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Restoring the Soil, Restoring Ourselves: Yoshikazu Kawaguchi

Great photography and content about Yoshikazu Kawaguchi 
at filmmaker and photographer Patrick M. Lyndon's website
 Lyndon's and Suhee Kang's film, Final Straw, 
explores natural farming in Korea, Japan, and the U.S.

Ted Taylor's beautiful essay at KJ, "Even in 'Just Enough' There is Abundance," follows farmer Yoshikazu Kawaguchi's return to traditional organic farming and the development of his natural philosophy:
In fact, all life in the natural world is lived, as demonstrated in the interrelationship of all living things. Plants cannot exist without animals, and vice-versa. If there is good harmony between the organisms, plants, and animals, the cycle of life continues. As a farmer, Kawaguchi's role is simply to nurture this natural order, by cutting the weeds back just enough so that new rice shoots can grow, but later her allows the weeds to grow along with the rice in harmony. This leads to wholeness, with everything living together.
Final Straw, an upcoming documentary by Patrick M. Lyndon and Suhee Kang, also explores Kawaguchi's world  (and that of Seonghyun Choi and other natural farmers in Japan and Korea):



Environmental artist duo Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang... are now in the final post-production stage for the Final Straw documentary. Due for initial screening in Spring of 2014, Final Straw is a cinematic exploration of Japanese natural farming, and a philosophical ride through the minds of amazing individuals who offer simple solutions to modern issues of sustainability, both on the farm and in the city. The film interacts with a cast of office workers, chefs, musicians, and farmers alike, all of who are students of the late Japanese farmer/philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka.

It all started on a small mist-covered mountain farm in South Korea, and continued to include over 20 natural farmers in East Asia and the USA. The Final Straw is a story about food, life, and philosophy from individuals who have a great deal of delicious secrets, and a great deal of wisdom to impart about life. Yet, while the Final Straw is a deeply rooted exploration of natural farming, it’s also a film which teaches equally as much about how to live life as it does about how to grow healthy food. And today, with over 1/2 of the world’s population living in urban areas, it seems we need to revisit this connection with nature more than ever before.

Over the past 100 years, our gradual reliance on industry and separation from the natural world have pushed us into the most epically unsustainable and unhealthy time period yet known to humanity.

Food and diet have quietly become the leading cause of death in the U.S., and on a world scale, intensive chemical-based industrial agriculture have caused the deterioration of billions of acres of farmland, the starvation of millions of human beings, and the loss of over 75% of our planet’s agricultural diversity.

The destruction of natural resources continues at an alarming rate, and both governments and food producers are looking for answers to questions of human health and ecological sustainability, with a multi-billion dollar industry leading the charge to find the most economically profitable answer.

It’s slightly amusing then, that that on a few small farms tucked away in the mountain valleys of Japan and South Korea, Patrick and Suhee found a very simple 4,000 year-old answer to this very perplexing modern question.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"War is Over! (If You Want It): Yoko Ono" • Sydney MCA • Nov. 15, 2013 - Feb. 23, 2014


"WAR IS OVER! (IF YOU WANT IT)" opened Nov. 15, 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.  This is the first major survey in Australia of legendary artist, musician and peace activist Yoko Ono. "The exhibition encompasses five decades of practice in diverse media including eight participatory works. Themes include loss, conflict, humanity and the desire for world peace."  Ono designed the interactive parts of the exhibition to encourage collaboration, linked to a central theme of world peace.

Curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, the title comes from a text by Ono and her late husband John Lennon that first appeared in 1969—in the middle of the Vietnam War—across public billboards in twelve cities worldwide, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Toronto, Berlin, Paris, New York, and London.

While other visual artists have also engaged in peace art and activism, Ono is perhaps the most renowned peace artist of our time.  How did the impetus for her highly focused creative work originate?

Ono has explained that a childhood experience of the firebombing of Tokyo awakened her understanding of the human costs of military violence, fueling her peace art and activism for five decades.

Her father was an international banker and moved his family between the United States and Japan, so, as a child, Ono developed positive attachments to both countries. When the Pacific War broke out, she was eight-years-old, living in Tokyo.  She and her family survived (by taking shelter in a basement in their Azabu home) the firebombings of Tokyo, including the massive March 9-10, 1945 raid—the most destructive bombing raid in world history. At minimum, the napalm-fueled bombings destroyed 16 square miles (41 km2) of the city and killed 100,000 people.

In a 2007 interview with Amy Goodman:
I remember, when I was a little girl, a young — you know, when I was very young, one day I had high fever because of just a cold. You know, I had a cold.

And so, my family all went down into the basement to make sure that, you know, they’re alright. It’s a kind of shelter that they created in the garden actually. But I couldn’t go.

And I was just sort of in my bed, and I saw that all the houses next to us and all the places around me were just all fire. I go, "Oh." But, you know, when you’re young, and that’s the only reality you’re working through, you don’t really get totally scared or anything. You know, you’re just looking at it like an objective film or something like that. "Oh, this is what’s happening," you know?

And because of that memory of what I went through in the Second World War, I think that I really — it embedded in me how terrible it is to go through war.
To those who charge that she is "optimistic" or "naive," Ono points out that she is a simply a resilient pragmatist who cares about life and our planet—and does what she can do—which includes encouraging others to do what they can do to support peace building at multiple levels:
Well, you know, most people say, "Oh, you’re so optimistic. I mean, what’s wrong with you?" I’m not really that optimistic.

I am trying to make us survive. And in the course of survival, we don’t have the luxury to be negative. That’s a luxury that we can’t afford.

 And we just have to do what we can do. And I think that instead of getting so upset with some people, you know, or some countries which are doing this, doing that — "How dare they," whatever — I think we should just do what we can do.
 In a Reuters article about this current exhibition, she compares 1969 with 2013:
When John and I stood up, very few people were activists. Now I think 90 percent of the world is activists. If you're not an activist, you'd be considered a nerd maybe.

 (Image: Colin Davidson, The Guardian)

"Pieces of Sky"—WW II German helmets with blue jigsaw pieces inside.
Visitors are told, "Take a piece of sky. Know that we are all part of each other."



"Play It By Trust"/"White Chess Set"
(Photo: Iain MacMillan,© 1966 YOKO ONO)

Shinya Watanabe:"Through her simple alteration of the chessboard
 (a war strategy game), the artist made it extremely hard for the chess players to 
 fight each other, and this creates new relationships between the opponents."



Friday, November 15, 2013

Beautiful Energy - 1st Anniversary Celebration - Tokyo - Nov. 30, 2013

(Photo: Beautiful Energy)

Via Jacinta Hin and Natsu no Color of Tokyo-based Beautiful Energy/The Stand for a Nuclear-Free World.
Beautiful Energy is... born out of the weekly Friday anti-nuclear demonstrations in Tokyo in front of and around the prime minister's residence and Parliament. Through inspired, peaceful action we stand for a nuclear-free world that thrives on renewable energy.

Our current, ongoing project is Candles for Peace. Every Friday, from 6-8pm Japan time, we gather in front of parliament in kokkai gijido, joining the weekly anti-nuclear protest, and create a beautiful display of candlelight to symbolize our intentions...
This group of visionary citizen activists in Tokyo radiate positive (and beautiful) emotional, ethical energy and holistic vision.  They're engaged in outreach and support for Fukushima nuclear refugees, (including bringing hot meals to elder refugees living in a shelter).  Sharing their kind of healing, constructive worldview is a first step in our collective transition from toxic to nontoxic, renewable energy production and use.
In November it will be one year since we lighted our Beautiful Energy candles for the first time. Time for a little celebration!

You are invited to our anniversary party in Tokyo on November 30. Join us for an intimate evening with live music, delicious graceful vegan foods and of course candles!

Date: November 30 (Saturday), from 19.00 – 22.30pm
Place: Bar GariGari (Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Daizawa 2-45-9, .. Building B1 /

http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1318/A131801/13126176/dtlmap/ / opposite Ikenoue Station, Inokashira-line (2 stops from Shibuya)

Charge: 2,000 yen (inclusive vegan buffet foods, music charge and charity donation).

* Vegan foods provided by our Friday neighbors Yuko Ogura and Yayoi Ito of Guerilla Café

* Drinks are not included. Please order at least one drink at the bar

* 500 yen will go to Share Your Christmas (SYC). SYC collects and brings Christmas presents from around the world to people in Tohoku affected by the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster (https://www.facebook.com/shareyourchristmaswithtohoku)

Please bring your own chopsticks, so we may reduce waste and spread eco-energy!

19:00 Start

19:20 Anniversary Speech

19:30 Special Message from people from all over the world♪

19:45 Music time: nuclear-free world songs by Natsu, Chris and other Beautiful Energizers! (details to follow)

20:30 Enjoy conversation with each other!

22:30 End

Kindly let us know no later than November 20 if you plan to attend (and sooner if you can).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

7th Organic Film Festival - Tokyo - Nov. 23-24, 2013


Via Organic Consumers Union:
The 7th organic film festival will be held in Tokyo on November 23-24, 2013.

This will be a great opportunity to catch up with recent trends and watch documentaries from Japan and abroad. The theme this year is “Holding on to the Soil” to reflect the hardships many farmers are experiencing, with special focus on Okinawa and Fukushima.

Location: Hosei University, Sotobori Campus (between Iidabashi and Ichigaya stations on the Sobu line)

Tickets: 1800 Yen (pre order) 2500 Yen ( at the entrance)

For more information please check the official website (J): http://www.yuki-eiga.com/

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Keibo Oiwa on the Localization Movement & Heirloom Vegetable Revival in Yamagata



In Keibo Shinichi Oiwa Tsuji's (14-min.) talk, "Cultural Creatives and Localization Movements in Asia," at the 2013 International Society of Economics and Culture (ISEC)  Economics of Happiness conference, the slow life advocate explores the heirloom vegetable revival in Yamagata, a prefecture in northwestern Tohoku:
Many people feel that localization is isolation. This is totally wrong. In fact, localization is to rediscover and recreate relationships. It restores meanings to relationships.

I will try to illustrate this with one example from Japan.

Shonai is the northeastern part of Japan, in Yamagata Prefecture. At the center of this local food movement is a charismatic chef and restaurant owner, [Masayuki] Okuda. Today he is one of the most renowned chefs in Japan and recognized as one of the slow food master chefs. He is known for his cooking philosophy: The distance that ingredients travel from field to table should be as short as possible. Dinners are served with the freshest of local ingredients, brimming with life energy.

When I met Okuda, he was a young and unknown chef and had just opened his own restaurant in Tsuroka City. He was active in a citizens' group called "Good Water Fan Club" protesting the construction of a dam and trying to preserve underground water wells that were soon to be destroyed.

I asked him why he got involved in this kind of movement. And his answer was, "The kernel of cooking is water." In fact, the region of Shonai was known for good water throughout history, and good sake.

The name of his restaurant, Al che-cciano, sounds to Japanese like Italian, but is actually an expression in Shonai dialect, meaning "It's been always here, hasn't it?".

Just after he opened his restaurant, he became good friends with one of his regular customers, [Hiroaki] Egashira, an agronomist from Yamagata University. Okuda would tell Egashira that, "My mission as a chef is to let people rediscover the quality of almost forgotten local foods, to encourage and support local farmers, and to create a community with a vibrant local economy."

So this rediscovery is what Okuda really meant by Al che-cciano.

Egashira was so happy learning about his new friend's mission as he himself was just launching production of a variety of heirloom vegetables.  Inspired by each other's passion for heirloom crops, Egashira and Okuda formed a team and started to explore the Shonai region, looking for farmers still preserving heirloom seeds...Egashira formed the Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops, with a magazine called Seeds...The forum's researchers have identified already more than 160 varieties of plants which had been, at one point, heirloom crops, transferred from generation to generation, but which had been almost forgotten.  Today, the forum's membership amounts to almost 400 citizens with many different backgrounds.

Kusajima, one of the key figures in the Shonai local food movement, and now a member of the prefectural parliament, is a good example of the new political activism. At the time of the Great Kobe Earthquake in 1995, Kusajima left work in Tokyo, and went to work in the disaster zone in Kobe. It was there he felt, for the first time, that he was part of a community where people willingly helped and supported one another.

He decided to return to his native region, Shonai, where he got involved in environmental issues, and found himself in a community of ecologically conscious people like Okuda and Egashira. With the support of this group, he was elected as a city councilor, and later a prefectural member of parliament, independent of any political party.  Since he played a leading role in the Good Water Fan Club, Kusajima's main campaign was about safeguarding the natural water system.

His thinking has not only been influenced by modern Western teachings, but also stemmed from the ancient nature religion of the region. He's a believer and practitioner of Shugendo...of which one of the traditional centers is the holy mountains of Haguro, in the middle of the Shonai region.

Shugendo is an ancient religion that originated in ancient Japan. It's an amalgamation of Taoism, Buddhism, and Shintoism...In this tradition, enlightenment is achieved by attaining oneness with the kami (deity...or spirits). This enlightenment is achieved by understanding the relationship between human beings and nature...

Another member of the local food movement is [Satoshi] Watanabe, a Shonai native and professional filmmaker. Her second feature documentary is Reviving Recipes, a colorful portrait of a community in the making. The protagonists of this film are Okuda, Egashira, and a local businessman and partners whose mutual collaboration leads to the emergence of a new local economy.

Watanabe explains, "In plants are a living cultural heritage that have been passed through decades and centuries, to provide generations not only food...but also farming methods and cooking methods.  In this day of globalization, however, that heritage had been overshadowed by big-scale market agriculture and was on the brink of being forgotten."

Watanabe shares the view with fellow members of this movement: An understanding of heirloom plants leads to an understanding of food, farming, and all the people involved. To revive and pass on local heirloom plants is not just a means to enjoy the bounty of food, but also to create and strengthen bonds among local people.

He and all the supporters of the film hope that Reviving Recipes will help remedy the serious problems surrounding food and farming today, not only in Japan, but throughout the world.

It is important to note that the local food movement in Shonai has its roots in the movement to safeguard the communal access to deep underground water and seeds. The sense of the commons is the foundation of a community. Starting with air, water, and seeds. This is what global corporations are trying to commodify.

The sense of the sacred is essential for community, especially in a time of global market economy when nothing is sacred and everything is translated into monetary value.

The local food movement in Shonai is inseparable from the local spiritual tradition like Shugendo. I recently interviewed one of the leaders of this tradition, Hoshino...and he defined what the meaning of yamabushi [practitioner of Shugendo] is.  It is a connector. Anybody who connects things and people: that's yamabushi...

It is a connector, anyone who connects.  All of us here might be yamabushi.  It is a community of prayer.

The word for happiness in Japanese is shiawase.  Awase means to relate and to bring together. This implies that being slow is an essential part of happiness.  A slow life is a happy life. A slow economy is not a bad economy. A slow business is not a bad business.  It is an art that restores, discovers, and creates meaningful relationships between humans and nature, humans to the land, to the community...

As we get local, we get better connected.  Our life gets more interesting and exciting. A slow life is an exciting life. But I'm afraid it might be a busy one.
Oiwa Tsuji is a professor of international studies at Meiji Gakuin University, and the co-author (with David Suzuki) of The Japan We Never Knew: A Journey of Discovery (with David Suzuki), a groundbreaking travelogue/history/exploration of Japan's indigenous, environmentalist, peace, and nuclear-free movements.

More: 

"Japan's Heirloom Vegetable Revival" (April 6, 2012, Slowfood.com)

Sloth Club (Japanese)

Slow Japan (Sloth Club blog in English)

More great speakers from the 2013 Economics of Happiness conference on video:  http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/conference-video-gallery-2013.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alex Kerr's beautiful old/new Japanese country houses and the movement to save traditional Japan



Great talk and breathtaking photos by author and historic preservationist Alex Kerr at TEDx in Kyoto on his mission to save Japanese country houses (minka).
Japan is so rich: the natural environment, the fantastic traditional culture, the wealth of beauty and materials and spirit of lifestyle that you find in these old places. It's there and it can be saved.
Kerr uses double-paned windows for energy conservation. If his country houses were updated for solar, renewable energy, that would be even more modernizing, given 3/11's call to shift, downsize energy usage.

The reason small towns in Japan (and elsewhere) are experiencing depopulation is because they were built around local (agricultural, fishing) economies that have been collapsing under the global food industry's drive towards ever-increasing expansion...Japan's food sufficiency is now at 39%; when Alex Kerr came to Japan as a child (1960's), the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate was around 80%.

Kerr's work to restore country houses is one facet of a larger grassroots-driven local revitalization movement that seeks to save traditional Japan's agriculturally-rooted, rural cultures.

Tragically, Tohoku, much of which was stricken by the 3/11 disasters, was the bastion of Japan's sustainable, slow life, organic and heirloom food movement.  Areas in Tohoku not affected by the catastrophes (Yamagata) continue pioneering these shifts.

Elsewhere, young Japanese people are leaving urban areas to return to their rural roots to farm and open organic retreats.  Japanese singer Yae and her mother Tokiko Kato (also a renowned singer) have a farming community in Kamogawa (near Tokyo) that opened during the 1970's.  It's a model of downsizing energy use, revitalizing traditional self-sufficiency, and cultivating simplicity.

During his youth, Alex Kerr fell in love with Japanese country houses and the traditional culture that make up their  landscapes.  He belongs to a distinguished tradition of foreign residents (Lafcadio Hearn, Ernesto Fenollosa...) who worked to preserve traditional Japanese culture because they found the passing of its richness and beauty unbearable.  One can sense this appreciation in the atmosphere of Kerr's restored and beloved country house, Chiiori, in western Tokushima, a prefecture in Shikoku, on the Inland Sea.

Kerr is now acting as an advisor to rural Japanese villages seeking to stem depopulation by building up local tourist economies through restoring country houses (for short-term stays) and revitalizing local culture.

Spurred on by different motives—profit-seeking (sometimes, but not always, mixed with sincere appreciation of Japanese architectural heritage)—foreign and Japanese investors who are renovating older homes for rental income are also part of the drive to save and restore older Japanese houses, especially in Kyoto and Kamukura.  It's great that these minka and urban traditional houses (machiya) are being preserved, however historic preservation springing from this limited motivation may lack the larger vision and quality of Kerr and others who appreciate the multidimensional contexts of traditional Japanese culture.

---

More about the country house that captured Kerr's imagination and heart as a teenager: "Bringing an 18th-Century Farmhouse Back to Life" (Liza Foreman, NYT, Dec. 27, 2012)


Chiiori: Alex Kerr's first Japanese country house. (Photo: Alex Kerr)


More about restoring Japanese traditional houses as a business: 

"Japan’s Forsaken Homes Restored to Historic Styles Yield 80%" (Kathleen Chu and Katsuyo Kuwako, Bloomberg, Nov. 20, 2012)

"Historic Homes in Tokyo Attract More International Buyers" (Desiree Quijalvo, realestateco.jp,  Oct. 30, 2012)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mayumi Oda: On Energy of Change, Feminization, and New Birth of Japan

"Earth Ship" by Mayumi Oda  (Image: Safe Energy Handbook

Longtime nuclear-free activist and visual artist Mayumi Oda shared her wisdom in "On Energy of Change, Feminization, and New Birth of Japan," a 2012 interview with Alice Miyagawa published at Kyoto Journal.  A few excerpts: 
You were interviewed previously for Kyoto Journal following the Tokaimura nuclear accident in the summer of 1999, when you lived in California. You said that you had come to Japan to help empower people, especially women, in response to the government’s negligence in handling the issue. Then, at the turn of the millennium, you moved from California to Hawai’i. That seems to have marked a turning point in your life...

Until 1999 I had really tried to focus my work to let people know the dangers of having nuclear [power plants] on earthquake faults. I couldn’t convince them. I already saw the possibilities of disaster. I thought it would be in Tokai, or Hamaoka, near Tokyo. I was terribly, terribly worried. I had worked nearly nine years in the antinuclear movement. I was very discouraged that Japan was not really responding to the danger.

 I was just very tired, and I felt like I had to rebuild a new life. So I chose Hawai’i to do sustainable living, making a farm, to show people that there’s another way to live. I felt like somebody had to be doing this — not just thinking about the possibility, but practicing it. Hawai’i taught me to live with aloha, within an island. In 2000 I bought the farm [Ginger Hill Farm and Retreat, in Kealakekua, meaning the Path of God], and for eleven years I have worked on it. I have probably educated about two hundred young people, just to live hopefully sustainably through farming, through eating the right things, making medicines, cleansing, healing oneself with herbs and the things that we grow.

I just finished painting a six-panel screen of mostly women marching towards Amaterasu the Sun Goddess — I painted about forty women, with a few men. They are all practitioners of my Goddess Academy, marching from the life they lived, to a more nature-based life, symbolized by Amaterasu — marching from an oil-based economy towards a solar-based economy...


...I painted a Sotatsu screen of the Gods of Wind and Thunder turned into females to bring more of the feminine into culture, especially Japanese culture, which really needs more feminine. Traditional culture has it, but somehow this modern culture in Japan became so Westernized that we gave up a lot of that stuff.

... I felt almost like the women in Fukushima all feel, and so it’s a lot of force and a strength — I felt that these Goddesses can somehow break through something that we are so up against. That’s how I painted those two Goddesses, to bring an energy of change that our country needs at this moment...

These are all yamato-e style paintings, the tradition is extremely old-fashioned. It’s been going on 1,300 years in Nara so I kept that tradition...So I decided that I will focus on this old beautiful tradition that our ancestors used, and with that how can I express who we are now in this time.

In 1993 I did some hand-scrolls called Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty [for] a story that was written by Anne Herbert and Margaret Pavel, right after I became an anti-nuclear activist, so my message was very anti-nuclear, anti-war and anti-violence, and how to live with the peace of others in the land. That was the story behind it. Now it’s a nine-meter scroll.

...So I did this work for the younger generations that we just deprived because of our own luxury, our own wantings, our own electricity, our rich food, we really just left such a legacy to these young people. It feels to me this is an apology — I’m sorry that we did so badly. I’m dedicating this to the younger generations. When I think about it, it just makes me so sad. Our generation was so bad, especially men in my generation, [they] could not think about anybody — they were so caught up in the Japanese becoming so wealthy, so luxurious, they were just awful, awful, so wrong...

...The people who can really make a choice will win, get out and start a new life somewhere in the country, or in other cities. Especially if they have parents in the countryside, they should go back, and start a new life...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fukushima Daiichi disaster workers self-medicating with alcohol to deal with stress, PTSD, depression, negative work environment, poor wages, wage-skimming, substandard living conditions

"Plummeting morale at Fukushima Daiichi as nuclear cleanup takes its toll: Staff on the frontline of operation plagued by health problems and fearful about the future, insiders say," by Justin McCurry at The Guardian:

 Tepco employees wait for a bus at J Village, a soccer training complex 
now serving as an operation base for those battling Japan's nuclear disaster. 
(Photograph: Reuters via The Guardian)

...Even now, at the start of a decommissioning operation that is expected to last 40 years, the plant faces a shortage of workers qualified to manage the dangerous work that lies ahead.

The hazards faced by the nearly 900 employees of Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and about 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined this month when six men were doused with contaminated water at a desalination facility...

...the head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters, "Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don't make silly, careless mistakes when they're motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems."

...70% of Tepco workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown. They have yet to come to terms with that loss and many live away from their families in makeshift accommodation near the plant.

"They were traumatized by the tsunami and the reactor explosions and had no idea how much they had been irradiated," Shigemura said. "That was the acute effect but now they are suffering from the chronic effects, such as depression, loss of motivation and issues with alcohol."

..."Tepco is spending its money on fixing the technical problems, but it also needs people to carry out that work. I'm very worried about the labour shortage. If they don't do something about it soon, the employment system at Fukushima Daiichi will collapse first, not the plant."

...as concern grows over Tepco's ability to address the myriad technical challenges facing Fukushima Daiichi – starting next month with the removal of 1,300 spent fuel assemblies from the top of reactor No 4 – the unfolding human crisis is being largely ignored.
Another eye-opening report on the human costs of the Fukushima clean-up attempt, "Help wanted in Fukushima: low pay, high risks and gangsters," via Reuters:
In reviewing Fukushima working conditions, Reuters interviewed more than 80 workers, employers and officials involved in the unprecedented nuclear clean-up. A common complaint: the project's dependence on a sprawling and little scrutinised network of subcontractors - many of them inexperienced with nuclear work and some of them, police say, have ties to organised crime...

Dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi plant will require maintaining a job pool of at least 12,000 workers just through 2015, according to Tepco's blueprint. That compares to just over 8,000 registered workers now. In recent months, some 6,000 have been working inside the plant.

The Tepco hiring estimate does not include the manpower required for the government's new $330 million plan to build a massive ice wall around the plant to keep radiated water from leaking into the sea...

Japan's nuclear industry has relied on cheap labour since the first plants, including Fukushima, opened in the 1970s. For years, the industry has rounded up itinerant workers known as "nuclear gypsies" from the Sanya neighbourhood of Tokyo and Kamagasaki in Osaka, areas known for large numbers of homeless men.

"Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," said Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance - these have existed for decades."

The Fukushima project has magnified those problems. When Japan's parliament approved a bill to fund decontamination work in August 2011, the law did not apply existing rules regulating the construction industry. As a result, contractors working on decontamination have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo any screening.

That meant anyone could become a nuclear contractor overnight. Many small companies without experience rushed to bid for contracts and then often turned to brokers to round up the manpower, according to employers and workers...

Hundreds of small companies have been given contracts for this decontamination work. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in the first half of 2013 had broken labour regulations, according to a labour ministry report in July. The ministry's Fukushima office had received 567 complaints related to working conditions in the decontamination effort in the year to March. It issued 10 warnings. No firm was penalised...

"Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs," said Hayashi. "But Japan can't continue to ignore this problem forever."
And in-depth background by Paul Jobin: "Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima’s Nuclear Contract Workers" (APJ, May 2, 2011):
In the titanic struggle to bring to closure the dangerous situation at Fukushima Nuclear Plant No1, there are many signs that TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site...

But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.
Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The job is specified as 3 hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen. There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. $122 an hour is hardly a king’s ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels.  But TEPCO and NISA keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin. This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba: Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.
Paul Jobin, "Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk" (APJ, March 26, 2012):
Many prefer to turn a blind eye as it is reassuring to believe TEPCO’s nonsense and the nostrums provided by scholars associated with the nuclear lobby. But there is also a growing awareness of the problem, which can be observed for example through the vast mobilization in the region of Fukushima and Tokyo among citizens and on the Internet...

Temporary subcontract workers who have never entered a nuclear plant before probably have a very vague perception of these risks.

Paul Jobin, "The Roadmap for Fukushima Daiichi and the Sacrifice of Japan's Clean-up Workers 福島第一原発のロードマップと除染作業員" (July 15, 2013):
Public bids are now almost entirely controlled by the construction companies at the top (moto uke) and the yakuza at the bottom;

Though the Ministry of the Environment only authorizes two levels of subcontracting, in practice, the levels of subcontracting are even more numerous than at F1 and other nuclear plants. Between his own employer and Shimizu Construction, the moto uke, Masato has counted 24 levels;

Wage skimming is the norm and many workers only get a tiny portion—if any—of the 10,000 Yen hazard allowance;

The majority of workers receive no health insurance benefits from their employer and for many reasons they do not register for the national health insurance system on an individual basis.