Sunday, November 29, 2009

2009 Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy Concludes Successfully in Tokyo

The Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy, which held its first meeting in the Philippines in 2007, wrapped up its second conference in Tokyo on November 10.

Over 400 people from some ten Asian countries attended the four-day event, which was held in Tokyo's Aoyama district at the dual venues of Aoyama Gakuin University and United Nations University. The forum featured sessions examining the solidarity economy within both global and Asian contexts, as well from a number of additional perspectives including microfinance, fair trade, social welfare, local agricultural initiatives, and international finance regulations.

The program also included three site visits to see the fledgling solidarity economy in action, including an organic farm in Ogawa-machi, Saitama; social enterprise initiatives in Yokohama; and local citizen actions in Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa.

One of the primary conference organizers was the Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), an organization with roots in the era of Vietnam War protests. Together with its newly created sister organization, PARCIC (PARC Interpeoples' Cooperation), PARC continues to focus on strengthening ties between Japan and other Asian countries with a number of grassroots-level initiatives.

From the 2009 Forum website:

The Solidarity Economy (SE) is an alternative framework for economic development that is based on the principles of solidarity, equity in all dimensions, participatory democracy, sustainability, and pluralism. The solidarity economy framework seeks transformation rather than band-aid solutions, yet rejects an one-size-fits-all blueprint. It isn't an abstract theory nor pie-in-the-sky utopianism. Rather, it pulls together and builds upon the various elements of solidarity-based economy that already exist. Some are new innovations,some are old, and we already have a variety of experiences in Asia. And the journey of creation is ongoing.

A number of recent English-language reports on the solidarity economy in Japan and beyond may be found on the forum's website here and here. The website of the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy, based in the Philippines and subtitled "Building an Alternative and Compassionate Economy", also has extensive information on how the solidarity economy is taking shape throughout Asia, including links to various member organizations' websites. Reports from the Tokyo event may also be found in its "Solidarity Asia" section, here and here.

The Third Asia Forum is planned for Malaysia in the fall of 2011, with a preliminary meeting scheduled to be held in Bangalore in August 2010.

"To go forward with the solidarity economy, we must change our mindset at the local and territorial level to build a holistic approach, taking into account the challenges of globalisation," said event organizers in an initial post-forum report. "Our networking process takes time, but since Asia has more than 50% of the planet's population, it is of strategic importance."

--Kimberly Hughes

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nov 28 (Osaka) 29 ( Kyoto): Kan Iltchul, a Halmoni (Korean for grandmother), shares her story

The Shogen Shukai (The Testimony Assocication) and the Kyoto division of the All-Japan organization to find a Proper Settlement for the Former Military Comfort Women invite "comfort women" from Asia to share their experiences with the people of Kansai every year. This year's guest will be survivor Ms. Kan Iltchul from Korea, who will bravely share her horrifying experience being coerced into becoming a war time "comfort woman" (ianfu) by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Ms. Kan Iltchul was born in 1928 and now lives in a small city near Seoul Korea in the "House of Nanumu (Sharing)." This house was founded in 1992 to be a safe place where former Korean "comfort women" could share their mutual experiences and support each other. Mr. Ippei Murayama, a young Japanese staff member working at the house will accompany her to Kansai. There will also be a movie screening at a different venue of My Heart Will Not Lose, a film about Sonshindo Halmoni, who was taken to China as a "comfort woman" She brought a lawsuit against the Japanese government for the atrocities committed against the "comfort women" during and around WWII.

The "comfort women" system was constructed during World War II as an explicit attempt to protect Japanese troops from venereal disease and shield women in conquered territories in Asia from rape by Japanese soldiers. The system would eventually enslave 50,000 to 200,000 women living in all parts of East Asia and Australasia to become victims of infectious disease and violence while not achieving any of the system's original objectives. Not all women sent overseas to serve the Japanese soldiers were abducted, however, once made a part of the forced prostitution system for the military, they were treated like indentured slaves based on a historical and institutional precedent marking women as second-class citizens. Towards the end of the war, "comfort women" were forced to provide free sex for kamikaze corps and to intercept telegraphs across enemy lines in the place of soldiers. Many "comfort women" were murdered because they were considered a liability or embarrassment if captured by the enemy. The Japanese government has yet to issue an official apology for the suffering that former "comfort women" faced and continue to deal with in their everyday lives.

Last year's events were haunted by the presence of extreme-right wing groups including Zaitokukai, intent on disrupting the event. Zaitokukai's membership is opposed to granting Zainichi Koreans and foreigners any "special" rights in terms of compensation, visas, et cetera. Next to their announcement of the event this year on their website, they have proclaiming "Let's pulverise the terrorists of the soul!"However distrubing their announcement be, their presence at the event shows the complexity surrounding the issue, and their desire to be involved in discussions. It is important to have meaningful dialogue with all parties involved in order to find the best solution- to discover the motivations for groups to resist a settlement in favor of the thousands of "comfort women." As Nelson Mandela has stated: "You make peace with your enemies not with your friends."

Nov 28th, Sat. (Osaka)
Listen to the voices of the former "Comfort Women" and Settle the Issue in Law Now!
Host: Shogen Shukai (The Evidence Association)
● 2:00(open 1:30)~4:30pm (Japanese)
●1000yen (general)/500yen (students)/Free(all JH students and younger)
★Osaka Kitaku Center- Large Hall
Access: Right in front of JR Tenma Station, Subway Ogimachi
★In addition to the talk there will be a mini Concert by a Zainichi Duet!♪
◇Contact: 080-6185-9995

Nov 29th, Sun.
All-Japan organization to find a Proper Settlement for the Former Military Comfort Women (Kyoto Division)
● 2:00(open 1:30)~5:00pm (Japanese) sign language interpretation available.
● Large Meeting Room, Hitomachi Kouryuukan.
●500yen (general)/300yen (students)/Free(18 or younger; all HS, JH students)
●5:30pm~ Friendship meeting, at the same venue.

Nov 28th, Sat and Nov 29th, Sun (Osaka)
Movie Screening: My Heart will not Lose
●11/29- 11:00am
●500 yen
(proceeds will go towards the construction of a Women and War Human Rights Museum
★Day Center- Heartful Momodani (Map)

-Jen Teeter

Monday, November 23, 2009

Italian-Japanese peace group: Petition to Save the Only Peace Studies university course in Italy

Peace education is under siege not just in Japan. In the US, military and privatization proponents have stepped up the militarization of public education. Arne Duncan, Obama's secretary of education, increased openings of public military schools in minority and low-income neighborhoods in Chicago when he was superintendent of Chicago public schools. Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the US, and perhaps the world--10,000 students from middle school through high school participate in some form of military-focused education. Duncan, a corporate lawyer, not an educator, is now bringing this agenda to the rest of the country.

In Italy, where educators created a liberatory childhood education philosophy, Reggio Emilia, during the postwar period (in the northern Italian city of the same name--an anti-fascist center during the Second World War)--now the only university peace program is under attack.

"Seeds Beneath The Snow" is a non-profit peace organization based in Pisa, Italy, that "aims to inform Italian civil society about their counterparts in Japan working on peace, nonviolence, human rights and the environment - and viceversa."

They're calling for supporters for their PETITION TO SAVE the ONLY PEACE STUDIES UNIVERSITY COURSE in Italy: Pisa University's "Scienze per la Pace:
The university course in Pisa, the only one of its kind in Italy, was set up out of a need for an international culture of peace which came about after the Second World War, when several institutions were created in northern Europe and the USA, and which are still operating today. Our studies, which are needed more and more, offer us the opportunity to find alternative, non-violent solutions to conflict resolution. Our interdisciplinary approach is fundamental for the analysis of what is happening in the world. In our opinion peace doesn't mean the mere absence of conflicts, it does mean active construction of a better reality. Therefore, the quest for peace is led by a scientific approach and a strategic study of various proposals and specific methods.

We think that our country needs the continuity of the non-violent culture of our philosophers and masters that are studied all over the world, such as Aldo Capitini, Danilo Dolci, Lanza dal Vasto, Lorenzo Milani, Tonino Bello, Ernesto Balducci. This cultural continuity must remain in the academic world of the Italian university. Teaching and training are necessary to avoid the decline of non-violent philosophy, culture and experiences. Our course is based on them and we think they are the only tools for a real change in our society. If Scienze per la Pace ceased to exist, the will to defend democratic institutions both in Italy and in the rest of the world without using arms would be even weaker than now. Peace studies cannot fail to be included and not have equal dignity within the Italian university system. The Italian University needs a thorough course of peace studies to create new cognitive and ethical foundations for politics and social action.

In an Italian and European context which is daily more and more more impervious to the needs of those on the other side of Mediterranean Sea, in a geographic zone where the reply to the recent economic and financial crisis can only be an alternative model of development for some time now a fierce attack on culture in our country has been in act, an attack on any different voice and dissonant idea. The meaning of the word "peace" is being impoverished. But there were some in Pisa who were able to start up this different school. Today this course is in danger of being halved, frustrating its purposes, its project. There are several reasons: from the government's cuts to the lack of any real support inside the university for the existence of this course, which does not fit into the normal scheme of things.
or send a mail to salvascienzeperlapace (at)

Signed by the Students Assembly of Scienze per la Pace
Pisa, 25th September 2009
Most of the signatories so far are Italians who would be buoyed by more global solidarity from other supporters of peace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Satoko Norimatsu's translation of Muneo Narusawa's article: "What is happening to Hiroshima, the Peace City?"

Protesters against "Towada," leaving for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean. The banners read, "Do not allow SDF to participate in the War!" and "Do not kill Article 9!" (Photo: Peace Link Kure)

Peace and intercultural educator Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog based in Vancouver, Canada is the best blog on the interrelated issues of Article 9, peacebuilding and historical healing.

In two recent posts, Norimatsu translated and summarized a disturbing and compelling article, "What is happening to Hiroshima, the Peace City?" by journalist Muneo Narusawa published in the August 21 edition of the Weekly Kinyobi..

The first part describes the clash between peace activists and ultrarightists over nuclear policy:
Right-wingers' black-painted trucks violently drove into the crowd of people in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Those people were protesting against the event in which Toshio Tamogami, the former Air Self Defense Force Chief of Staff was going to give a talk titled "Doubting Hiroshima's Peace." These protester held a banner that said, "Hiroshima's Anger to Tamogami."

At 6 P.M., on August 6, 2009, 64 years after the first atomic bomb was dropped, this part of Hiroshima, "hibaku city"("bombed-city")and a symbol of the international peace and anti-nuclear movement, was thrown into an uproar with confrontation between right-wingers and peace activists. Tamogami was about to give a talk at a hotel close to the Peace Park. The talk was hosted by the Hiroshima chapter of "Japan Conference (Nihon Kaigi)," the national network of ultra-conservative organizations, which were connected to the ultra-nationalist politicians like Shinzo Abe, and Tomomi Inada.
Narusawa also described how ultra-rightists in Hiroshima have worked to eliminate its peace education program: " In 1997, 95% of the elementary and junior high schools in Hiroshima had year-long peace education curriculum. By 2004, it was down to 37.5%."

Norimatsu notes that when Narusawa wrote this article, "It was just before the landslide defeat of Liberal Democratic Party in the General Election of August 30th. The LDP was behind all these nationalistic trends in the recent education, symbolized by Shinzo Abe's changing of the Fundamental Law of Education. Hopefully with the new DPJ-led government, things like the reduction in peace education and promotion of patriotism in education will subside. However, it will be hard to gain back what has been lost. Educators and policy makers in Hiroshima should know the global consequences of such moves. If we don't even teach the children of Hiroshima about Hiroshima, how would we expect children in other areas to? "

The second part of the summary describes how Hiroshima is surrounded by the US military and Japanese maritime SDF:
...Between Ujina Port and Kure Port, which is not far from the A-bomb Hypocentre, is a heavily concentrated military zone where one quarter of Maritime SDF (Self Defense Force) warships are based.

Kure Port is MSDF's biggest submarine base, and also one of the major bases for overseas dispatching of SDF troops. Since 2001, the replenishment vessel "Towada" departed from Kure for seven times for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the U.S. military in the Afghan and Iraq Wars. This Spring, "Sazanami" and "Samidare," two destroyers were dispatched to off the coast of Somalia from Kure. As I walked along the shore line of Kure, I saw Stars and Stripes flaunting. It was the U.S. Army's Akizuki Ammunition Depot Headquarters. The Headquarters were instrumental in the Vietnam War, First Gulf War, the Afghan and Iraq Wars.
The rest of the article is a critical and reflective probing of the contradictions in Hiroshima's self-described identity as a "peace city:"
Hiroshima, the "International City of Peace," which calls for "abolition of nuclear weapons," is not just surrounded by these military bases with advanced "conventional" weapons, but troops have been dispatched overseas from its own backyard. "Hiroshima" never talks about these facts, let alone all the other wars going on in the rest of the world.
Norimatsu sees real hope for real change with the election of Hatoyama--not only because of the new prime minister but because his election has buoyed the many grassroots peace and democracy activists in Japan. She asserts that we "must eliminate war in our own minds" if we want to achieve peace in an interview for KJ's Global Article 9 issue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Greenpeace Japan: End of Japanese whaling in sight! • Letter-writing campaign for the release of Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato & Toru Suzuki

                             Humpback whale off the coast of Tongo (Photo: Greenpeace/Paul Hilton)

Greenpeace Japan has great news to share: the end of Japanese whaling may be in sight! At this link they have a wonderful video thanking their supporters and an action where supporters can send letters asking the Japanese Supreme Public Prosecutor's office to reopen the investigation into whale meat embezzlement:
A major review of Japanese government spending could spell the end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Commissioned to cut wasteful programmes by Japan's new government, a review committee has proposed massive cuts in subsidies to a body which funds the so-called whaling research programme.

Without government subsidies, the whaling programme would be doomed...

In particular, two activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, sparked a domestic debate in Japan in June 2008 when they revealed widespread corruption in the government-supported programme. They set off a backlash from powerful interests, and found themselves arrested for "stealing" whale meat which they had presented to police as evidence of embezzlement.

Junichi and Toru were arrested with the TV cameras rolling, and our Greenpeace offices were raided by police who seized supporter lists, documents, and computer disks in an attempt to intimidate our staff and supporters and deter our efforts. Junichi and Toru still await trial and face up to ten years in prison for the "crime" of exposing a misuse of public money.

But despite the charges, they have not been quiet. Both activists have spoken out against the cost of the whaling programme and the fact that only a handful of fat-cat bureaucrats really profit from the programme. Last year alone it cost 8 billion yen, or nearly US$90 million, to run the annual Southern Ocean whale hunt. Of that, 1.2 billion yen, or more than US$10 million, came from government subsidies. The rest is in theory covered by the sales of whale meat...

We first brought whaling to the world's attention in 1975 when activists put their own lives on the line by navigating small inflatable boats in front of the harpoons. We have opposed whaling operations in countries including Australia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Iceland, Spain, Norway and Russia and exposed and shut down pirate whaling operations. Over the years, our tactics have widened to include consumer pressure -- which was crucial in getting western corporations such as Gortons Seafood to distance themselves from whaling, financially isolating the whalers -- and domestic efforts in Japan aimed at communicating the cost of whaling to the 71 percent of the Japanese public that do not support it. In 2008, we suspended our voyages to the Southern Oceans in favour of concentrating efforts on domestic pressure in Japan, including "Operation Silver Bullet" -- our ongoing investigation into whale meat embezzlement and scandals in the whaling industry.

Today, it seems that strategy is paying off. All of us who have worked together on this issue for decades are holding our breath -- that an end to Japanese whaling could well be on the way.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gavan McCormack on a clash of civilizations: Nuchi du takara (Okinawan sanctity of life) versus violent militarism

In "Okinawa's Turbulent 400 Years," published at Japan Focus in January of this year, engaged scholar Gavan McCormack, author of Client State: Japan in America's Embrace,writes about the value conflicts underpinning citizen resistance to US militarism in Okinawa. He interweaves his analysis with background on the US military occupation of Okinawa and insights on related short-sighted, short-term, destructive capitalistic growth processes that threaten not only the well-being of Okinawans, but also the survival of everyone on our planet.

McCormack says the reason for Okinawans' passionate resistance of US militarism (and Japanese militarism before that) stems from the culture's pacifism rooted in a life-affirmative ethos:
Throughout Okinawa’s 400 years, two sets of contradiction have persisted: between Okinawan deep-seated peace orientation and the imposed priority to war and subjection by force, and between Okinawa’s multicultural and open, Asia-Pacific universalism on the one hand and “mainland” Japan’s dominant identity construct, defined by rejection of Asia and assertion of superiority, in forms often constructed around the emperor as divine, on the other.

According to one story, probably apocryphal, as King Sho Nei in 1609 chose non-resistance to the superior force of Satsuma, he uttered the words Nuchi du takara. Whether or not he ever spoke them, these words have come to be understood as a statement of Okinawan value. Sho Nei’s submission did not mean surrender. Facing physically superior opponents, submission was unavoidable, but conscience and value were not to be appropriated by force.

In two particular respects, this essay explores the contradiction between Nuchi du takara, the affirmation of the supremacy or sanctity of life, as the expression of Okinawan values and the competing principles imposed from outside: the priority to force (in the extreme form war, and therefore death over life) on the one hand, and the priority to growth, expansion, conquest, extended under fundamentalist capitalism to involve the appropriation and exploitation of nature itself over stability and conservation, on the other.
The US bases on Okinawa only contribute to 5% of the prefecture's economy.  They're not needed, and, in fact, impede the development of tourism and other industries.  Moreover, The US and Japan have repeatedly told Okinawans that the next new agreement means the end of bases. But after a string of broken promises, Okinawans now see through the US tactic of "bait and switch." In 1972, the US and Japan promised the "reversion" of Okinawa to quiet protests. This resulted in no change. And the latest, moving Futenma to Camp Schwab doesn't do away with pollution, noise, and assaults in Okinawa, it just moves them to another part of the island that has been relatively untouched since the US began their occupation:
Okinawans had imagined that “reversion” would bring them under the constitution, release them from the parameters of force and restore something of their ancient ideal of demilitarized, peaceful islands. It was not to be. The Okinawan people would never have chosen a permanent military identity, so the political challenge facing the Japanese state has been to neutralize the opposition to militarization and to secure the compliance of the Okinawan people to an agenda whose core is priority to the US alliance over the constitution, to military over civil or democratic principle, and to the interests of the Japanese state over those of the Okinawan people. Reversion, therefore, had to be built on deception and trumpery, bribery and lies. The post-reversion state used smoke and mirrors to try to create a theatre capable of deceiving and persuading on a mass scale.

The deceptions were thinly concealed. What was called “reversion” was actually purchase, at a cost greater even than Japan had paid a few years earlier to compensate South Korea for four decades of colonialism; “return” was also “non-return” since the bases remained (and Japan would pay the US to continue occupying them) and those who attempted to expose the truth of the deal were pursued mercilessly and their truths denounced as lies (continuing to this day, despite the emergence of proof of their truth from the US archives). When mass discontent against the bases threatened to boil over, a new round of “reversion” was promised, but again deception was the keynote: “reversion” actually meant substitution, modernization, expansion; the scale of the new works was concealed by calling them a “heliport,” and the expression “seiri shukusho” (base reduction) was chosen to try to convey the impression that overall that was what was happening.

Since Nago was the centre of opposition and the popular struggle centred there was able to block and frustrate the state design for a full decade, 1996 to 2005, money was poured into it to try to divide, weaken and corrupt it. Nobody, even the Governor, could openly state a preference for construction of a new base for the US over preservation of Oura Bay, with its newly discovered blue coral and its dugong colony, or the adjacent Yambaru forest and its creatures, so the Governor adopted the tortuous logic of arguing that the planned Cape Henoko structure would not really be a “new” base because it would in part be constructed on the site of an existing one.
US military bases in Okinawa (click on it for a larger version.( Image: Japan Focus)

McCormack charges that "Chicago-style" neoliberalism as the ultimate cause for Okinawa's continuous occupation for over 400 years:
Capitalism in 1609 was in its very early, mercantilist stage, but that same ruthless drive, expansionism, and search for profit that drove the European exploration, conquest, and colonial expansion has continued to morph through different phases, eventually becoming the dog-eat-dog neo-liberalism whose bankruptcy has become so plain today. The Edo state tried in vain to resist it and to preserve intact its own social and economic order. With the modern, Meiji state, Japan launched full pelt into its own version of expansion at all costs, first colonial, then post colonial...

In its most untrammelled, pure, market and profit-driven mode, “Chicago”-style capitalism has brought the world economy to the brink of collapse. Even more importantly, it has stretched the fabric of the earth to breaking point, putting at risk our survival as a species. The earth warms, the polar ice caps melt, the glaciers and the coral reefs shrink, the seas rise, the deserts advance, the polar bear, the tiger (and countless other species of land, sea, and sky) are endangered. Our present trajectory offers the prospect of gradual decline into chaos, punctuated by water wars, oil wars, food wars, and epidemics.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peace Not War Japan’s Film/Live Music Festival Highlights Citizen Movements: Mt. Takao・Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest・ Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Japanese singer UA, speaking from Takae Village, Yanbaru, Okinawa: "Yes, there are problems here...but these are actually reflections of what is occurring inside ourselves. We must remember that we have the power of dreams, since as we know, dreams can often be strong enough to change the world.”

The Kunitachi Peace Film and Live Music Festival, a three-night event organized by Peace Not War Japan, wrapped up last week at a small live music house in the western Tokyo town of Kunitachi. Held from November 1st-3rd, the festival featured a lineup of performers, speakers and documentary films to raise awareness and funds for peace-related issues in Japan and beyond.

The first night’s theme highlighted efforts to halt construction of a highway bypass tunnel through Mt. Takao, a popular nature spot located about one hour west of Tokyo. The evening featured two films: "Mt. Takao—24 Years of Memories" documenting the history of the dedicated citizen movement to protect the mountain from destruction; and “Little Goblin’s Wish”, a creative short film highlighting nature scenes from Mt. Takao. The second film featured musical accompaniment by Tengugakudan (“goblin band”), named after the long-nosed tengu goblins which Japanese folklore has long associated with the forests of Mt. Takao. The band, which played a set later that evening, also regularly performs at various festivals and events to raise awareness for the plight facing Mt. Takao. A video of the band performing at the Satsukimirai festival held in May 2008 at the Artcomplex Center of Tokyo is here.

Following the screenings, Masako Sakata from the eco-action group Kenju-no-kai spoke frankly about the environmental damage that threatens to worsen on Mt. Takao should the partially completed tunnel project continue. “When similar construction took place recently in another prefecture, the mountain started to gradually die off, along with many species of living creatures,” she lamented. “Since all mountains are connected,there is no doubt that the same thing will happen to Mt. Takao if the project proceeds.”

Tengakudan's lively set featured a belly dancer, a dancing tengu, a double bassist, a violinist, and a guitarist who doubled as a Tuvan throat singer. Between songs, lead singer Mocca echoed Sakata on the idea of connection amongst living beings:“I have only one message for those forces that seek to separate living things, whether they be national borders or mountain highways," she told the audience passionately: “We are all one and the same. And just as water flows, separates and then comes back together; so are we all meant to be connected as one—not divided by unnatural boundaries.”

With Tengugakudan’s soulful groove and the positive energies of the evening’s speakers energizing the crowd, the evening finished off with Sakata encouraging everyone present to get involved—no matter how intimidating they may find the idea of political action. “We recently had a visitor from southern India who told us he was part of a movement where tree huggers actually convinced construction workers to lay down their tools and go home,” she recounted. “With the same dedication, we can help save Mt. Takao.

The theme of the second evening was that of militarism—in particular, the Winter Soldier testimonies of Iraq Veterans Against the War members from the U.S. military. A screening was held of the documentary “Fuyu no heishi” ("Winter Soldier" in Japanese), which portrayed the testimonies of former soldiers regarding the atrocities that they committed against Iraqi civilians, as well as the criminal folly of the military system that had forced them into the war to begin with. The screening was followed by a Q and A session with director Junichi Tabo, a freelance journalist with experience reporting from Kuwait and Iraq during both recent wars. “When I brought two U.S. Iraqi war veterans to Japan in September for a nationwide speaking tour, they were absolutely floored by the fact that so many ordinary Japanese citizens showed up to hear them speak,” Tabo recounted.

Reggae singer Takeru, who performed the same evening with an extremely positive and laid-back groove, summed up the feelings of many: “I’ve heard unbelievable reports that many commanders in the U.S. army actually order their subordinates to engage in war games. When you consider the real-life suffering that war causes for everyone, however—the soldiers included—the situation is obviously anything but a game.”

A portion of the evening’s proceeds went toward the Collateral Repair Project (CRP), a grassroots-level project to support Iraqi refugees that was started by two women in the U.S. together with two displaced Iraqi women in Jordan. Communicating daily by e-mail, the team raises and then distributes funds to help less fortunate Iraqi refugees get back on their feet. “For Iraqis living on the edge, every unforeseen expense becomes a crisis,” explained CRP co-director Mary Madsen, who is based in Oregon in the United States. “We see emergencies every day regarding the basics of everyday living—food, heat, blankets, medical supplies, rent for those facing eviction, etc.—with the numbers growing, and each new case seeming worse than the last. If we can intercede in one crisis, even just once, it very often stops an escalation and compounding of events.” Funds raised from the Kunitachi event went toward purchasing a much-needed refrigerator for Haiyat, a widowed Iraqi refugee woman with six children. Further information on the CRP's activities and how to support Iraqi refugees is here.

The third and final night of the event was dedicated to the movement to protect the “Broccoli Forest” in the village of Takae in Okinawa’s Yanbaru region. Named for the lush greenery of the local trees, which actually resemble spears of broccoli, the forest is said to have one of the most diverse arrays of wildlife species in all of Japan. Nevertheless, the U.S. military plans to build helipads (a shortened term for helicopter landing pads) in the village, threatening the living beings and the natural lifestyle of those living there.

Kondo Ichiro of the citizen group Yuntaku Takae (which translates roughly to “relaxed chatting in Takae”, highlighting the region’s laid-back spirit), explained to the evening’s crowd that a lawsuit had been filed against the participants of the sit-in movement to protect the forest. As a result, the defendants were prohibited from any further organizing—including posting any details of the sit-in on their blog. “It is up to others to lend a hand to the movement, since our voice has been stifled at the source,” he explained to the audience. A link to information in English on the citizen movement to protect the village may be found here.
"Peace Takae" T-shirts and other goods for sale

Kondo’s talk was followed by a showing of the documentary film Kukuru, which portrays the citizen movement in Takae while focusing on a performance given in the village by famous Japanese singer UA.

Taking an interesting spiritual angle, UA commented: "Yes, there are problems here...but these are actually reflections of what is occurring inside outselves. We must remember that we have the power of dreams, since as we know, dreams can often be strong enough to change the world.”

The video also featured the clearly politicized voices of several local residents.“The danger we are facing here, which threatens to poison the environment for our children, is surrounding us—and yet nevertheless remains invisible,” said one woman. “And whether we’re talking about Takae, Henoko, or places as far away as Rwanda, it is all part of the same problematic system, in which we are all actually complicit without even realizing it.”

Another resident commented, “It is extremely painful to think that soldiers are being trained here to go and kill people in other nations.”

“We read in the paper one day about the ‘agreement’ between the Japanese and U.S. governments to build these helipads, but this was certainly no ‘agreement’ on our part,” said yet another local resident, echoing the deep sense of anger and betrayal on the part of many citizens in other areas of Okinawa regarding the issue of U.S. military bases in the prefecture.

A portion of proceeds from the events went toward supporting the work of Kenju-no-kai, the Collateral Repair Project, and Yuntaku Takae. Peace Not War Japan thanks all participating artists, who are listed here. PNWJ will continue combining music, dance and positive action for peace at the second annual Harukaze: Spring Love event, to be held next spring in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. More information to follow!

- Kimberly Hughes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Actualize Ainu Self-determination Workshop @Kyoto Sunday, November 22nd- Featuring Kawamura Kenichi and Oki Dub Band member Kano Rumiko!

Pressured by the United Nations adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Japanese government is finally making a move to renew their policies about Ainu people. In deliberating these policies, it is paramount that the policies are not be decided in favor of Wajin, the majority Japanese, but rather understood as an issue of Ainu people’s self-determination. When it comes to the issues of Ainu people, shouldn’t Ainu people themselves be in charge of making decisions?

We have invited two Ainu guests from Yaunmosir (the island of Hokkaido) who have been active in various Ainu activities. We hope to learn and think deeply about the rights of indigenous people and the relationship between Japan and the Ainu people while also enjoying Ainu songs and dances.

Date: November 22nd (Sunday)
Time: 17:30-20:00 (17:00 Open)
*There will be a dinner with the guests after the event. Please stay and socialize if you are interested.

Guest: Ainu rights advocate Mr. Sinrit-Eoripak-Ainu (Kawamura Kenichi) & Musiciaon Ms. Kano Rumiko (from the world reknowned Oki Dub Band)

Venue: Kazenone (7-2 Shimoyanagi-cho Tanaka Sakyo-ku Kyoto 606-8204)

Organized by Ainu-Okinawa wo Kangaeru Kai and other volunteers
Blog in Japanese:
(Correspondence in English, Spanish, and Japanese. We will have a go at other languages)
Fee: 1000yen, 500yen (student discount, etc. please ask if you have special circumstances)

Below you'll find Sam Dreskin tagging the billboard now displayed at Hyakumanben in front of Kyoto University.

The government has neglected to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people for years because recognizing their indigeneity means coming to terms with Japanese history, in particular, the Japanese colonization of the Ainu people and their land. This recognition comes in conflict with Japan’s desires for control over the distribution of resources, as confronting Japan’s colonial history comes part and parcel with providing apologies, compensation, and other rights.

The United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted in 2007 and it was publicly recognized in the eyes of international society that indigenous peoples around the world are entitled to indigenous rights. The declaration marks a breakthrough since Columbus’ colonization of the Americas- a global trend to revitalize collective indigenous rights.

In accordance with these international trends and pressures, the Japanese government recognized the Ainu people as indigenous people last year. The government has created a consultative body on Ainu issues and is in the midst of drafting new policies. However, their report is by no means satisfactory; although some constructive suggestions have been made, the report does not discuss the need for an apology and compensation for Ainu people.

Before discusisng each policy recommendation, we have to ask why Wajin have the right to decide the future of the Ainu people. In the consultative body on Ainu policy that met this year, there was only representative. If Ainu people are restricted from make decisions about their issues by themselves, if we look away from the issue of self-determination, then can we really assure the true revitilization of their rights?

-- Jen Teeter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Over 460,000 support round-the-clock Sit-In • New Petition to STOP Pluthermal (MOX) nuclear power generation in Kyushu!

(Protesters in Kyushu. Photo: MIRAI website)

Local opposition groups have set up tents for a 24/7 sit-in in front of the head office of KYUDEN (Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc.) in the center of Fukuoka City, Kyushu. Over 460,000 citizens are demanding that use of MOX fuel at Genkai be suspended.

(Protest display in front of Kyushu Electric Power Co. head office, Photo: MIRAI website)

They are protesting planned pluthermal (MOX) program at the Genkai nuclear power plant--in tandem with negotiations with KYUDEN and Saga prefectural government. (Kyushu Electric was one of the ethical Japanese utilities companies that cut crude oil imports from Sudan over concern about oil revenues being used to fund the Sudanese government’s genocide in Darfur --hopefully the company will listen to the voices of those who are concerned about the extreme dangers of pluthermal nuclear energy production to the lives of people living in Japan and nearby Korea).

“Pluthermal” is a Japanese word which combines two English words, the “plu” of “plutonium” and "thermal". Pluthermal refers to the utilization of 'plutonium' fuel in commercial ('thermal') nuclear power plants. The fuel is commonly referred to as plutonium uranium mixed oxide fuel, or MOX fuel. Many critics are saying the Japanese government is promoting this dangerous and expensive project because they want to lead in the world in advanced nuclear technology and then to export this to other countries, especially Asian countries. The Japanese government plans to introduce pluthermal to other nuclear plants throughout Japan (Fukui, Niigata, Fukushima, among other prefectures) despite widespread opposition by residents. The next target for pluthermal conversion is the Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime, Shikoku--located directly on an active tectonic faultline.

One of MIRAI's supporters is Aileen Mioko Smith, founder of Green Action: Working for a Nuclear-Free Japan. She is the wife of the late photojournalist William Eugene Smith, renowned for his photographs of victims of Minamata. Aileen is a dedicated anti-nuclear activist who has supported local opposition groups quite actively as well as she has a lot of data and information how pluthermal nuclear generation is extremely dangerous. (We are going to post on her work on this soon.)

The Steering Committee for MIRAI (Future) are posting reports of the protest on their website (only in Japanese, good photos). South Korean citizens are also very concerned--Saga is closer to South Korea than to Tokyo. No Base Stories of Korea has great background and coverage.

MIRAI and other local opposition groups are now collecting endorsements for their petition to stop Pluthermal Project before December 2--when KYUDEN is planning to start operation in full blast.

Please help stop pluthermal generation at Genkai nuclear plant by endorsing this PETITION. It will be submitted to the Japanese national government, Saga Prefecture local governments and Kyuden:

Both individuals and groups can endorse--please write the name of your country after your or your group's name.
(Citizens in Kyushu signing the petition)

Already in Japan more than 670 signatures for the Japanese-language version of the petition were collected in only 2 days. From small local grass-rooted groups to large national organizations (including NGOs, social movements, trade unions, groups of young parents, food-safety groups, & consumer unions); organic food shops/restaurants; kindergartens, and rock-n-roll bands and artist groups have already expressed their support.

The English-language version of the petition will help demonstrate international concern about the dangers of pluthermal nuclear generation and solidarity with the over 460,000 people in Japan who want this plan stopped.

(Nuclear power plants in Japan. Image: International Nuclear Safety Center)

(More about citizens' movements against MOX here at this Sept. blog,"Nuclear Status Industry Report 2009: The Renaissance of nuclear energy is much exaggerated (with the possible exception of Monju)." The blog spotlights nuclear energy analyst Mycle Schneider's report at the The Right Livelihood (Alternative Nobel) Award website:
The study provides the facts and figures of nuclear power around the world that fly in the face of the stunning international nuclear revival propaganda.

435 units operate in the world, that is 9 less than in 2002. For the first time in nuclear history not a single new nuclear unit in the world has been connected to the grid for over two years. One quarter of the units officially under construction have been listed there for over 20 years and over one half has had repeated delays. The economic costs have sky-rocketed rather than gone down as in the case of other energy industries.
Schneider won the 1997 Right Livelihood Award jointly with the late Takagi Jinzaburo, who invited Schneider to the 1991 International Conference on Plutonium in Omiya. The two saw similarities in France's and Japan's treatment of nuclear power; they began work together on the issues of waste and plutonium shipments between the two countries.
With Japan and France hosting the two remaining large-scale interests in plutonium use, and MOX (uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel) being the only use for plutonium outside fast breeder reactors (FBRs), Schneider started work with Takagi on a two-year intensive international research project on 'A Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX in Light Water Reactors', which was realeased in November 1997. In December 1997, France shut down its Superphénix FBR. In Japan, after several accidents and scandals, public confidence in the industry decreased dramatically.
Citizens across Japan have organized in opposition to Pluthermal, including the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network in Hokkaido, profiled at the Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) of Tokyo.)

-- Jean Downey

Sunday, November 8, 2009

All Prefecture Okinawan Rally Today: No more US military bases!

Henoko Bay

The All Prefecture Peoples Rally in Okinawa was held today demanding for no more U.S. bases in Okinawa, the same day that an Okinawan man passed away after a possible hit and run accident linked to a vehicle used by U.S. military personal. Okinwans are holding an "All Prefecture Peoples Rally" today demanding for no more U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Longtime Okinawan activist Shouichi Chibana mentioned the rally at the "We Can't Go on Like This: Japan & the World" anti-war demonstration in Kyoto last month. He said the DPJ made an election campaign promise for a total review of the air field plan for Henoko Bay, Nago City.

                       Mr. Chibana (left) at the Anti-War Rally in Kyoto on October 11th. (Photo by author)

Okinawan protesters are addressing the relocation of Futenma Air Base. Three options will be deliberated: continue with plans to bulid a new base on the seashore of Henoko; chose another location to rebuild the airbase; or to abandon all plans to build a new base completely.

                          Aerial photo of Futenma Base:the (Photo: Okinawa Prefecture website)

The rally is scheduled just prior to Obama's visit to Japan on November 12 and 13th to make sure the U.S. president understands the Okinawan people's objection to plans to build a new air base and their dissatisfaction with U.S. military presence in Okinawa in general.

-- Jen Teeter

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FOR GAZA FROM KYOTO, Vol. 2: Naked Mozart, Salads in Space, & Oh My Cow & more @ Urbanguild in Kyoto, this Friday, Nov. 6

We're seeing notices for "For Gaza From Kyoto, Vol. 2" all over real Kyoto and virtual Kyoto:

Deep Kyoto linked to a fascinating interview with Sean Roe, creator of the JunKroom: "a multidisciplinary event combining music, dance, video and other visual arts. Originally held literally above the junk room of a recycling shop, the event became popular and is now regularly held in the Kiyamachi club Urban Guild. Sean Roe himself is a one-man multidisciplinary event, combining within himself the roles of performance artist, DJ, photographer, teacher and organizer" and a principal part of “For Gaza," a group that raises awareness and funds for Japan International Volunteer Center's aid for Palestinians.

We also found a notice at this intriguing blog––Liralen42––with a name as mysterious as those of the bands playing at the event.

What does "Liralen" mean? And is 42 a significant or arbitrary number? Why is Mozart naked? Are Salads in Space as healthful as Salads on Earth? What do Butoh-inspired dancers cook? How long have spacemen lived in Kyoto?

From Kyoto For Gaza Vol. 2 @ UrBANGUILD will feature music and politics with guest speakers, films and discussion!

7:00pm until 1:00am (Doors open at 6:30pm)
Advance and student tickets: 1600yen (includes one drink and a raffle ticket)
Door: 1900 yen

Proceeds go to the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) whose vision is to "realize a society where all people can live in harmony with each other and with nature" through "Community-based Sustainable Development; Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation; Disaster Relief and Reconstruction; and Grass-roots Networking"

JVC's activities in Palestine include "providing nutritional, educational and cultural support for children; addressing problems that threaten peoples' lives such as the separation wall; and exploring the possibility of income generation in an impoverished economic situation. Moreover, we will try to build peace at grassroots level by analyzing and transmitting information through these activities." For more information in English about their activities in Palestine/Occupied Palestinian Territories, click here.


Inouratomoe( Fantastic Klezmer Band that will get your feet tapping)

Naked Mozart (Performance Art Meets Classical Music Improvisations on Violin)

Salads In Space with Yangjah (Improvising Spacemen who cook with a Butoh inspired dancer)
舞踏ダンサーYangjahとインプロ・グループSalads in Space のコラボ

Hanaarashi (Kansai Based Butoh Performance Dance Company)

Oh My Cow (Disco dancing pranksters and noise makers)

The Pumpkins (Folk Rockers)

(Eclectic music selection)

URBANGUILD (tel/fax:075-212-1125)
181-2 Zaimoku-cho, new-Kyoto bldg. 3F,
Kiyamachi Dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Directions: (Click here for a map):

From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori
(This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream
Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo) approximately 150 meters. Its on the 3rd floor of New Kyoto Building- access by elevator or stairs.

(Getting Down at FOR GAZA FROM KYOTO, Vol. 1, May 2009 . Photo found at For Gaza Website)