Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sketches of Myahk explores indigenous Japanese roots - still alive in northern Japan & Okinawa

スケッチ・オブ・ミャーク 宮古島スペシャル

Koichi Onishi's documentary film, Sketches of Myahk, is a fascinating exploration of Japan's obscured indigenous heritage still extant in northern Japan and  Okinawa:
"I think Aomori connections with ancient Japan are much like those of Miyakojima," said Onishi, adding that he intends to shoot his next film in Aomori Prefecture.

Miyako is pronounced "Myahk" by locals. Two types of songs have been handed down through generations: "Aagu" folk songs that differ in style from traditional verses of the main Okinawa island and "kamiuta" sacred songs...

"Aomori (Prefecture) is home to the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site and many other ruins from the prehistoric Jomon period (14,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.). Psychics closely related to folk beliefs like 'itako' shamans are still very much alive in our everyday lives," Onishi said. "(Aomori and) Miyakojima share a common bond in the way they retain traces of ancient Japan."
More about this beautiful film at Asahi.

Background: DNA research has confirmed that Ainu and Okinawans are direct descendants of Japan's first people, the Jomon, who entered what is now known as the Japanese archipelago through the area now known as Sakhalin, original home (along with the Kuriles, Hokkaido, and northern Tohoku)  to Ainu. Therefore Ainu and Okinawan cultures give us a sense of the richness of indigenous Japanese (Jomon)  culture.

Geneticists have also confirmed that mainland Japanese have descended from intermarriage of Jomon and later immigrants from Asia who brought rice and metal culture to Japan during the Yayoi period which lasted from around 300 BCE to 300. The later-comers entered the archipelago through Kyushu. New findings show that cultural exchanges went in multiple directions, with Asian mainlanders adopting Jomon culture as well as the other way around.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Is fracking the US for LNG (liquified natural gas) the answer to Japan's energy needs?

Trailer for "Gasland", Josh Fox's documentary film that details the 
fracking industry's ecological impact on rural America

The largest natural gas drilling boom in American history is drastically impacting the natural landscape and small town culture of the rural United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has let loose a drive to exploit American shale gas deposits, the so-called "Saudia Arabia of natural gas" now increasingly marketed for export to keep prices (and profits) high.  The cost: earthquakes and hazardous water contamination.

Fracking involves injecting massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals (including benzene and lead) at high pressure into the ground to fracture shale rock, thereby releasing natural gas. The toxic chemicals and methane seep into nearby drinking water, contaminating it and making it combustible. In Pennsylvania and Appalachia, radioactive Radium 226 is released during fracturing; creating radioactive fracking waste (too radioactive) for hazardous waste dumps).

Fracking chemicals are linked to bone, liver and breast cancers; gastrointestinal, circulatory, respiratory, developmental as well as brain and nervous system disorders.

Via Gasland
"But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown."
Moreover, is fracking the US for LNG (liquified natural gas) the answer for Japan's energy needs and a path to a "nuclear-free" Japan? And at what cost to rural communities and family farmers throughout the US?

Via Texas Sharon, a website run by rural Texans negatively impacted by fracking:
We get the impacts, Japan gets the gas: Japan buys into shale gas boom:

This explains why so many Japanese news stations have been in the Eagle Ford Shale recently. Most of the stations did not want to learn about impacts or talk to people who are suffering. They wanted happy stories for happy Japanese people who will happily cook their noodles and warm their buns using Texas gas. Only one group is interested in the impacts.

On Friday, while Texans were too busy being happy about the weekend, Obama approved another permit to export our domestic fracked gas...

This contract is for 20 years to export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet per day. Two of Japan’s largest utilities have contracts to buy LNG from the Texas facility for 20 years.

A massive infrastructure buildout and, with the rapid decline rates of fracked shale gas wells, lots more drilling will be required to meet the demands of this contract.

Texans get the impacts to air, water and land, Japan gets the gas, the Fracking Mafia gets the profit.
The Sierra Club on the TPP, Japan, and fracking:
Japan -- the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas – is seeking to import the dirty fuel from the United States. Exporting natural gas would raise domestic energy prices, harm the middle class and U.S. manufacturing, and significantly increase the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That means we’ll be paying the price here, with more fracking in our backyards, near our schools, and next to our hospitals – only to help a handful of big gas companies profit by shipping natural gas overseas.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Citizens seek justice for Fukushima residents, evacuees as Japanese government continues pursuing nuclear program

Setsuko Kida, one of the most impassioned speakers amongst the six persons profiled in the  award-winning  documentary film Women of Fukushima, has recently returned to Japan from Geneva, Switzerland, where she addressed the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights during its hearing on issues related to Japan held at the end of April.

Kida, who was forced to evacuate her home (which was located between the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear reactors) following the disaster of March 11, 2011, has remained a tireless campaigner over the past two years for the Japanese government to recognize the rights of Fukushima citizens and give just compensation for their suffering. Her work includes attending various speaking events and street campaigning in Tokyo (including the ongoing Friday night anti-nuclear demonstrations in front of the Prime Minister's residence), where she reminds those in Japan that the ongoing repercussions of the disaster in their country are far from over.

Kida was accompanied on her trip to Geneva by Women of Fukushima producer Jeffrey Jousan, who spoke on her behalf in front of the UN Committee, as she does not speak English. Allotted only three minutes, the brief speech nevertheless poignantly and powerfully delineates the many problems that continue to face Fukushima residents following the crisis:

Setsuko Kida and Jeffrey Jousan, United Nations, April 29, 2013

In an e-mail sent to me from Geneva, Kida said the following:
It makes me sad that I have to come here and make an appeal regarding facts that the Japanese government is trying to cover up and hide from the rest of the world. I came here to let people know that Fukushima is still here, as well as to reveal the fact that the Japanese government is attempting to reinvigorate its nuclear power program in the name of economics--a move that endangers the very existence of civilization itself.

While here, I will only be able to circulate translated materials and make a short presentation. I am not sure about the extent to which this kind of lobbying will have an impact upon the committee members, but one thing is sure: continuing to merely protest in front of the Japanese Prime Minister's residence will do nothing to change the politicians in this country. If the same crowd of nearly 200,000 people were to come here and surround the UN buildings in Geneva like they did in Tokyo last year, I have no doubt that the Japanese government would get completely panicked.  In any case, the fact that a nuclear refugee such as myself has to come here on my own to make this kind of appeal makes me feel very much alone.
Kida's visit to the United Nations follows that of Katsutaka Idogawa, the courageous former mayor of Futaba Town near the nuclear reactors, who resigned in protest of the national government's failure to adequately provide for the safety of Fukushima citizens.

In Tokyo, meanwhile, citizens have wrapped up a ten-day hunger strike to protest the government's attempt to force them out of their tent outside the economic ministry offices, which they have been using as a base for grassroots anti-nuclear voices from Fukushima and elsewhere since the days following the 3.11 disaster. The hunger strike was held in the lead-up to the lawsuit, which began hearing arguments on Thursday, May 24th.

Speaking at the tent on the last day of the hunger strike, campaigner Michiko Saito (featured in the video below) told me that she has been protesting the use of nuclear power for the past 40 years--particularly following the accident in Fukushima--whose citizens she says have unfairly borne the burden of the nuclear power plants that are largely used to power electricity in the Tokyo metropolis. "Many of my friends from the movement have already passed away, and I feel horrible that they never got to see their dream of a nuclear-free Japan realized within their lifetimes," she explained."

Tokyo-based anti-nuclear activist Michiko Saito

The tent has consistently served as a space for citizens to speak out against a number of issues related to the anti-nuclear struggle, including the evacuation of children from Fukushima. A ruling is expected soon in a lawsuit on the matter, whose lawyer Toshio Yanagihara was quoted as saying, "I don't understand why an economic power like Japan won't evacuate their children - something even the fascist government did during World War II. This is child abuse."

Also taken up by activists in Japan have been efforts by the Japanese government to export its nuclear technology overseas. One such country is India, whose Prime Minister Singh is due to visit Tokyo next week, when he is expected to move closer toward signing a nuclear agreement with Japan's Prime Minister Abe. Citizens in India continue to protest several proposed nuclear power plants including one in the southern region of Koodankulam  -- the construction of which activist and author Arundhati Roy has likened to a "crime."

In anticipation of Prime Minister Singh's visit to Japan, activists in Japan and India are jointly spearheading a citizen's petition aimed at stopping the agreement from moving forward, which may be signed here. According to the petition:
Japan must refrain from exporting nuclear technology to other countries, especially non-signatories of the NPT and CTBT. The current policy option of exporting nuclear energy to countries like India, Vietnam, Jordan etc… are totally unjust while Japan is reeling under the huge financial losses posed by the Fukushima accident and its citizens are observing massive protests to demand a nuclear-free future and the victims of the triple meltdowns remain uncompensated.
       Anti-nuclear tent in front of Japanese economic ministry following end of hunger strike, 5/22/13

--Kimberly Hughes

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Former Mayor of Futaba Town in Fukushima Appeals in 8 European Countries

Katsutaka Idogawa on protecting the right to evacuate: "The  20mSv/y limit 
dose is madness. Being exposed to radiation is an exposure to violence."

Katsutaka Idogawa, former Mayor of Futaba Town, the site of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, will travel to France, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, and Switzerland.  He will be reaching out to municipal leaders and citizen groups about the ongoing situation in Fukushima.

Seven days after the disasters of March 11, 2011, Idogawa temporarily evacuated town residents 45 kilometers away to Kawamata City. After witnessing ashes floating down from the sky, fallout from the explosion at reactor no. 1, and measuring radiation levels on his dosimeter, he came to the conclusion that the only way for the people of Futaba to be safe would be to be as far as possible. Without waiting governmental advice, he put the safety of the people first and arranged for the town to be relocated to Saitama prefecture.

On May 12 he will meet with citizen groups at Penly Nuclear Power Plant in Le Havre, France on the English Channel where fires in April 2012 led to radioactive leakage. For a map of nuclear sites in France visit the Greenpeace France the Nuclear Around You page. From May 13-15, he will participate in an international conference aboard Peace Boat on its way to Stockholm.  Participants include:
Fire at Penly Nuclear Power Plant April 2012
After meeting with experts, politicians and citizens working on nuclear issues at an event organized by ICAN Sweden, IPPNW Sweden, and the Sustainable Sweden Association on the 16th, he will travel to the location of planned nuclear power plant at Pyhäjoki, Finland to meet with the mayor and citizens from the 17-18th. Despite protests, Toshiba has won the bid to build this plant making it the 6th plant in the country. According to the Nuclear Heritage Network, the site of the proposed plant, on the untouched Hanhikivi peninsula, is an important nesting area for almost twenty endangered bird species and migrating arctic birds. Furthermore, the plant is at risk of having no access to cooling water in the winter months due to pack ice in the gulf of Bothnia.

Signs warning of the radiation that goes hand in hand with the
 impending nuclear plant at Pyhäjoki. For more images click here

From May 19-22nd he will visit Helsinki and Latvia, making his way to the Middelgrunden Wind Farm in Copenhagen for May 24-25. He will end his tour with a presentations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire on Article 9 & a World based on Democracy, Human Rights, & International Law

(Article 9 monument on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. Photo: The Asia-Pacific Journal)

Via The Global Article 9 Campaign:
Message from Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate, Co-founder of The Peace People, Northern Ireland:

I write to support Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and to appeal to the Japanese people and government to protect this wonderful Article 9, which is so important and a treasure for all of humanity.

This article is a commitment to peace and against war by the Japanese people and has since its inception given great inspiration not only to generations of Japanese people but many people around the world.

Being the only people in the world to experience the horror of nuclear war, Japan has carried out its great role to call the world to abolish nuclear weapons and war. With the spread of nuclear weapons and the ongoing policies of some governments of occupation, militarism, and war, there is a moral and spiritual responsibility for Japan and its people to increase their voices and efforts to call the world back from the brink of nuclear war and destruction.

A massive peoples movement is spreading around the world demanding the human family move beyond militarism and war to a world based on democracy, human rights and international law.

The Government of Japan can help lead this movement at the United Nations and amongst the world's nations by discussing Article 9 and the proposal that such an article could be included in every country's policy and constitution. This would be real leadership by the peace loving Japanese people who knows the suffering and pain of nuclear weapons and war and such a commitment would give hope to civil societies and governments trying to build a world based not on threat of violence and war, but on real democracy, human rights and international law.