Monday, April 29, 2013

Marshall Islander Darlene Keju's Historic Call for a Nuclear-free Pacific & World

In a speech to the World Council of Churches on April 29, 1983, Marshall Islander Darlene Keju described the human consequences of the US nuclear test bombings of the Marshall Islands:
When the US tells us, they are there to protect us, we turn around and ask them, "Protect us from whom? We have no enemies. In fact, our Marshallese does not have a word for 'enemy'.

The Marshallese are dying now...I, too, have 3 tumors in me...And I'm frightened. I don't know whether I should have children or not because I don't know whether I'll have a child which is like a jellyfish baby. I don't know whether I'll have a child which has 6 fingers. A child that has horns on his head.

"We don't know what is going on. All we know is that we must travel throughout the world and share this experience from the bombs so we stop this before it gets to you. Remember, we are the victims of the nuclear age. Don't become a victim."
Darlene's speech motivated establishment of networks of faith-based, nuclear-free, and environmentalist groups in Europe to focus on issues in the Pacific. She received a master's degree in public health and founded Youth to Youth, then was diagnosed with cancer in 1991, which caused her death in 1996, at the age of 45.

You can learn more about why Darlene was speaking at the WCC Assembly in 1983 in the soon-to-be published biography, DON'T EVER WHISPER, by Giff Johnson, which will be released in the summer of 2013.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Noh Workshop @ HUB Kyoto, where things appear and disappear

"Is it comfortable? Good, it shouldn't be!"
Noh means skill, noh means talent.humorous Dr. Diego Pellecchia reminded us of an often overlooked definition- possibility! Last Sunday, Diego led a workshop at  Kyohakuin, the venue for the HUB Kyoto initiative to bring change makers together in one place. Indeed, in a gorgeous venue with such a rich history, the possibilites truely are endless.

Originally the residence of a Nanga (Chinese literati style) painter in the Meiji era, HUB founding member Lucinda Cowing explained that following the Second World War, Kyohakuin became a finishing school for girls. Here, they were trained in the traditional arts, including tea ceremony and calligraphy, but also Noh theatre. Hence it is believed that the recently-restored Noh stage was built during this period.

Diego started the session by describing how he first began exploring his possibilities with Noh when he met Monique Arnaud in his home of Italy in 2006. After taking Noh classes from her there, he decided to pursue a PhD focusing on the reception of Noh theatre in Europe at the Royal Holloway University of London,  Drama, and Theatre Department.

Currently he is a student of Kongo school of Noh at the International Noh Institute in Kyoto. He also is a researcher at Ritsumeikan University and gives Noh workshops internationally. This workshop was his first in Japan.

For some of the participants, it was their first experience with Noh.  Others like former dancer Julien de Vries, used to watch Noh every Sunday at midnight on NHK. Another participant/observer was photographer Stéphane Barbery who took some stunning photos of the workshop that are available here.

Before moving on to Noh chanting and Noh movements, Diego explained how Noh represents the potential for things to happen. Noh starts with an empty stage. Things appear- the music, the masks, the costumes, the dances, the chants. When the performance is over- they disappear. Diego reminded the workshop participants to keep this in mind as they tested themselves at becoming one with the Noh chanting and movements.

"Noh is like a mirror- it is honest, it reflects."
The workshop focused on a shimai, a self-contained unit of a full Noh performance, entitled Oi Matsu, the Ancient Pine.  Oimatsu is the first shimai that Diego ever learned. It depicts how the protagonist Sugawara Michizane, after being expelled to Chikuzen, Kyushu from Kyoto, would long for days of old.  He reminisces on the plum and ancient pine trees that used to adorn his courtyard in the capital when the next day they appear to him in his Kyushu residence.  Click here for a synopsis of the entire play.

According to the Samurai Archives:
Oimatsu, literally "old pine tree," is an auspicious Noh play depicting, symbolically, an old pine tree. In this play, as throughout Noh and other theatrical and artistic traditions, the pine represents longevity and strength, especially through difficulties, as the pine is evergreen through the winter.
The participants would become the traveling ancient pine tree.

After leading the participants through the chants for the shimai, Diego explained how the performers, no matter what their size, would form a strong skeleton for the large and heavy Noh costumes that they would wear should they perform. The masks would block a large part of their vision— it's normal to be restricted to one eyehole, and not be able to see one's toes —they  so Noh performers must know the stage like the back of their hand. This also is why Noh performers seem to move as if they are sliding across the stage. Diego guided the workshop participants through the movements in their new skeletons.

"Focus on reproducing a beautiful shaper. You are now an old pine visiting from Tokyo to Kyushu."
All of the participants, experiencing Noh as performers for the first time, took a while to feel comfortable with the movements and chanting, which although steming back from 650 years ago, were very new to them.  It is no wonder that Noh performances take years of dedicated training to perfect the simple yet very technical movements.

Diego ended the workshop saying, " When you see a Noh performance, I am sure that you will think of it differently."
For those who missed this workshop, there will be more to come and Diego will be appearing for the first time as the shite lead role in a full production of a Noh play at the bi-annual International Noh Institute performance on June 29th, 2013. 

-Posted by Jen Teeter

“Chasing Rainbows: LGBT Communities in Japan Gain Slow Yet Steady Social Recognition.”

It’s shaping up to be a pretty busy year for LGBT folk in the metropolis.

Since my last piece highlighting lesbian happenings in Tokyo and beyond—which was written two years ago—so much has gone on that I hardly know where to begin.

May as well start, then, with perhaps the most exciting event in the lineup: Tokyo Rainbow Pride—make that, in fact, Tokyo Rainbow Week. Yes, folks: an entire week chock-full of events celebrating LGBT culture—including film screenings, family picnics, foreign embassy receptions, talk sessions on various social problems continuing to face seku-mai (sexual minorities), and even an outdoor run—right here in our own metropolis. Who said we couldn’t keep up with other gay world capitals?

“Events will be focused around the following three main topics: Knowing, connecting and having fun,” explains the event website. “We aim to convey this message not only around Tokyo, but hope to have our message of the importance of accepting and respecting diverse lifestyles reach and extend throughout Japan, Asia, and the rest of the world.”

TRW follows on the heels of several additional initiatives recently spearheaded to help make the lives of LGBT individuals in Japan a bit easier by encouraging more social acceptance. Haato wo tsunagou gakkou (the “Connecting Hearts School” project), following the long-running NHK television series of the same name, was launched as a sort of resource clearinghouse for LGBT individuals seeking to find information. Similar to the “It Gets Better” Project begun in the United States to prevent queer* youth suicide, the Japanese website features numerous video messages from seku-mai and straight allies alike (including a number of famous individuals) with the resounding message that you are not alone—and there is nothing wrong with you. A great explanation of the project in English, along with links to several of the videos, may be found on this blog post from the Stonewall AJET website. 

Additional initiatives in this regard include Collabo, whose “lesbian life support” offers resources including study groups and a telephone hotline; Good Aging Yells, which spearheads LGBT-related projects such as shared housing and support for older individuals; and the Koyuki Café—an event series put on by lesbian activist (and former Takarazuka Revue actor) Koyuki Higashi to discuss various issues relating to LGBT life.

Koyuki and her partner Hiroko—who appear in one of the Connecting Hearts videos profiled in the Stonewall blog—recently became Japan's first same-sex couple to hold a public wedding ceremony in the Tokyo Disneyland theme park. Although Japanese law presently offers no legal recognition, protection or benefits to non-heterosexual couples, the ceremony made news headlines around the countryincluding a 20-minute in-depth piece that aired on Fuji TV, which covered the pair’s wedding story from both personal and social angles.

“To have been able to hold a wedding ceremony with my beloved partner brought me so much joy that I can hardly express it,” Hiroko told me in an e-mail interview. “Many LGBT individuals in Japan continue to have a hard time, as we tend to remain invisible within society—almost as if we were surrounded by barriers. And while more and more countries around the world are offering legal protections to same-sex couples, we have not yet reached the stage in Japan where this issue has begun to be discussed publicly.

“In Japan, (homosexuality) is not objected to on religious grounds; instead, people are discriminated against due to somehow diverging from what is considered ‘normal’,” she continued. “I think that many people may simply have never been exposed to sexual minorities, however, and so I intend to continue speaking out about this matter as often as I can.”

One event that has continued to help bridge mainstream and queer communities over the years is the Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, whose 22nd run will take place this July, and which screens films from around the world that give a glimpse into LGBT life. Similarly, the smaller and yet no less enjoyable Asian Queer Film Festival, scheduled for the end of May, also promises to bring viewers deeper understanding regarding the lives of sexual minorities in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.  

Indeed, it does appear that Japan’s cultural and artistic spheres may be far ahead of the government in terms of nudging the country onward in the direction of social acceptance for sekumai communities. In addition to queer niche magazines such as the lesbian Novia Novia and the gay male, certain heterosexual publications are beginning to venture into queer territory as well, with special features on same-sex couples appearing in magazines such as the fashion-oriented Tokyo Graffiti (forthcoming) and the ever-edgy VICE.

And lest you think Tokyo’s culinary establishments are being left out of all this rainbow action: think again. Gossip Café in Omotesando, and Rainbow Burritos in the Shinjuku gayborhood, both offer fantastic food while also regularly hosting both organized and informal gatherings for queer folk.

As the country continues to inch slowly forward in the direction of full acceptance for its LGBT citizens, then, Japan’s rainbow community in Tokyo and beyond will continue to do its thing: quietly reaching out and building community. And you can be pretty sure that they will be having a pretty good time doing it.

Kimberly Hughes is a freelance translator, journalist and community organizer based in Tokyo. For more information, see She may also be reached at

*A word originally carrying derogatory connotations, “queer” has been reclaimed with pride to serve as an umbrella term for those outside of the mainstream with respect to sexuality and/or gender (often used similarly to ‘LGBT’).

--Kimberly Hughes 

(Originally published in Being A Broad Magazine, April 25, 2013.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

Via Keibo Shinichi Oiwa Tsuji on FB

We can't put this better than our friend, eco-blogger Martin Frid, at Kurashi
I was lucky enough to walk through the Earthday market in Tokyo today, a regular Sunday. If you haven't tried it, you haven't experienced the more aware youth in Japan, all the NGOs, the amazing farmers markets, the hemp clothes, the organic tea, the hippie vibe. This is a city that cares about the environment, the state of the planet, the wholeness. We are all connected.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pass the unwanted plutonium: Weapons grade plutonium shipped from France to Japan today

Greenpeace protests shipment at Cherbourg- Photo courtesy of La Stampa
Weapons-grade plutonium has been shipped from France for use in a MOX reactor in Takahama City, Fukui that is not in service. The fuel will travel past over 70 different countries along the way, many of which have been protesting the transport. There has been no environmental assessment of the impact of the radioactive shipment and countries along the way have not been adequately consulted. (See Green Action statement against the shipment in Japanese)
Opposition to the shipment has been felt not only in Japan, but around the world. Green Action, Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Joint Action for Nuclear Free Korea,   Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), and Friends of the Earth, are urging U.S. Secretary of State Senator John Kerry to take action to stop the shipment due to the following concerns:

  • No demand for plutonium fuel in Japan , no possibility for its use now, utility admits it is undetermined whether or not the fuel to be transported will be used ;
  • Japan continuing to acquire, stockpile and attempt to scale up its use of weapons-usable plutonium, including efforts to start-up and operate the Rokkasho reprocessing plant;
  • A flawed U.S. policy of supporting Japan’s plutonium program which does not contribute to, but on the contrary distracts from stabilizing on-going non-proliferation efforts in East Asia;
  • Japan’s program and its U.S. support undermining on-going U.S. Republic of Korea (ROK) Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (123) negotiations, including encouraging ROK to seek reprocessing and separated plutonium;
  • The impact of the shipment on exacerbating further tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, particularly in relation to the nuclear program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); and,
  • Inadequate transport security plan, including for passage through the Korea Strait.

 CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood stated:
"Given that the upcoming shipment is being made at the request of AREVA because it has become tired of storing the fuel in France – and that KEPCO is reported as being undecided as to whether the MOX fuel will ever be used – these Barrow ships are doing little more than playing ‘Pass the Plutonium Parcel’ with a batch of unwanted and dangerous fuel."
 According to NHK world, on Monday French activists held protests against the shipment:
About 50 activists gathered at the northwestern port of Cherbourg on Monday... The activists wore headbands with the Japanese slogan saying "Stop MOX" and called for a halt to the delivery... A spokesperson for the activists said France is pressuring Japan by sending the fuel over when the country is trying to decide on new energy policies. 
For a video of the convey click here.

Videos of protests, courtesy of NHK here.

STOP MOX- Courtesy of Greenpeace Cherbourg Twitter Account

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exhibition of Ainu woodwork and more at Yokohama Takashimaya

 From April 17th to the 20th, the 5th annual "Wood work, Wooden shapes" exhibition is being held on the 8th floor of Takashimaya in Yokohama

Nibutani-born Ainu artist Maki Sekine, whose carved wooden obon (tray) is seen in the poster above will have her woodwork and atush (elm bark carvings) on display. Maki Sekine just returned from Aotearoa (New Zealand) where she took place in the Aotearoa Ainumosir Exchange Program and some of her pieces on display are inspired by her interactions with Maori people she met there.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Safe until proven otherwise": Japanese court rejects demand to shut down Ohi nuclear power plant; plaintiffs to immediately appeal

"Illegitimate ruling: Lessons of Fukushima unlearned" (Courtesy of U-Stream)
Crowds gathered outside Osaka District Courthouse yesterday April 16, 20113 only to find the judge rejected the injunction put forward by 262 residents of Fukui, Gifu, and six other prefectures in the Kansai region on March 12, 2012 to provisionally shut down Ohi nuclear power plant units 3 and 4.
“The court ruling is stating there is no legal requirement in Japan to meet the first golden rule of nuclear safety, the ability to shut down a reactor within the required time in the event of an accident/earthquake. This is not true. Ohi received its licensing permit on the premise that it met this shut down time limit. The Fukushima Daiichi accident would have been much worse if the reactors had not shut down properly on 11 March 2011. It’s a travesty that after Fukushima, a court would say that Ohi is prima facie safe until it’s proven otherwise.”
This statement was made by Aileen Mioko Smith director of Green Action after the decision. Units 3 and 4 were restarted by Kansai Electrical Power Company (KEPCO) despite massive protest concerning under assessed fault lines running under the plant and control rods which do not meet regulation standards. Aileen Mioko Smith and Hideyuki Koyama, director of Osaka-based Mihama-no-Kai are co-lead plaintiffs in the case.

Although fault lines under the plant are still under investigation by scientists, the judge arbitrarily ruled that movement under the plant is most likely due to landslides. Furthermore, the court ruled that even if the plants control rods do not operate within 2.2 seconds, this is not a regulation that power plants must meet. Although the licensing permit for operation of Units 3 and 4 was issued on the basis of the 2.2 standard, the court upholdS KEPCOs argument that 11 seconds is enough time to shut down as long as the safety of the nuclear fuel can maintained.

 Mihama-no-Kai criticizes the recklessness of the court:
"This decision is trampling on the hearts of the survivors of the Fukushima nuclear accident...A large earthquake due to the interaction of 3 fault lines under the Ohi plant can happen tomorrow." 
The plaintifs are now planning for an immediate appeal.

For more detailed information on the key arguments of the case visit:

On April 20th, supporters of the appeal will gather from 6:30pm to 20:45pm at  L Osaka Main Building 7th Floor room 709. The meeting is being held by Ooi Genpatsu Tomeyou Hanketsu Kai (Group to Sentence Ooi Nuclear Power Plant to Shut Down).

Awaiting court decision outside Osaka District Courthouse
- Posted by Jen Teeter

Monday, April 15, 2013

Isn't it time to cut military spending to fund human needs in Japan?

(Photo: Shiho Fukada,  The New Yorker: "People wait in line to receive a charity meal in Kamagasaki, Osaka. Once a thriving day-laborer’s town, Kamagasaki today is home to about twenty-five thousand mainly elderly day laborers, with an estimated thirteen hundred who are homeless.")

In January 2013, Tokyo increased military spending for the first time in 11 years: to 4.68 trillion yen ($52 billion).

Meanwhile, 310,500 people in Tohoku remain in temporary housing; Fukushima nuclear meltdown radiation is still uncontrolled; and Japanese people overall are becoming increasingly unemployed, under-employed, and even impoverished.

1 in 6 (more than 20 million) people in Japan live without food security, under the poverty line. In the last 10 years, over 700 Japanese people have starved to death.

According to the Gini Index (“the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income in a country”), in Japan has gone from .25 (1993) to .33 (2008). Japan also has one of the OECD's highest poverty rates (15%), close to Mexico's. It is even higher for the elderly.

At the same time, the consumption tax and government debt has increased.

Isn't it time to cut military spending to fund human needs in Japan?

(Tokyo already has the world’s sixth largest military budget.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"LIFE IS A TREASURE" (Nuchi Du Takara) monument groundbreaking ceremony @ Okinawa Peace Prayer Park - APRIL 22, 2013

"LIFE IS A TREASURE" (Nuchi Du Takara) monument groundbreaking ceremony - APRIL 22, 2013 at OKINAWA PEACE PRAYER PARK:

Nuchi Du Takara "Life is a Treasure" monument groundbreaking (Hikoshiki) ceremony will be on Monday, Earth Day April 22nd from 14:00, at the "Okinawa Peace Prayer Park". The "hinpun" monument will be completed on Saturday June 8th World Ocean Day.

The monument will be at the "Cornerstone of Peace" (Everlasting Waves of Peace). Un-veiling and blessing ceremony will take place on Sunday June 9th from 14:00, everyone welcome.

Charity Live will be held at the Okinawa Peace Prayer Park Hall (Okinawa Heiwa KinenDou) from 14:00~

Adults: ¥3,000 / Children and Students free.
Performance by Ishihara Emi, Karate, Ryukyu Buyo etc,

Other live events that support this project will be announced under the "Blue Peace Live".

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Handprint Cherry Blossoms Bring Hope to Miyagi

Via Asahi:
"Handprint cherry blossoms of hope are in full bloom"

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Prefecture--Although cherry blossoms are not in bloom yet in the Tohoku area, a handprinted painting of a tree in full bloom can currently be seen in the Ogatsu district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake. 

About 200 people including some from other parts of Japan, gathered together on March 30 and 31. Participants added their palm prints in pink and red paint to a white plastered wall, forming cherry blossoms on an illustrated tree.

The wall, which is four meters long and 40 meters wide, was built at Arahama beach in December as a canvas to express messages of hope.

“Because reconstruction has been stalled, I wanted to create an opportunity for people to come together here,” said Akira Komatsu, 38, a vice chairman of the committee for the canvas project. “I hope people's spirits will be raised by looking at this handmade cherry tree.”