Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vote by March 15th for sustainable Tokyo-based solar-sail cargo ship Greenheart - nominated for Royal Dutch Society of Engineers Prize

Your vote for Greenheart counts- Even in Dutch!
Via Jen Teeter in Kyoto, please check out the latest from Greenheart, a visionary renewable energy project based in Japan:
Creating the world’s first solar-sail cargo ship tailored to fit the needs of marginalized coastal communities is an idea that has propelled a small Tokyo-based international team closer to winning a major engineering prize far from home shore.

International NGO Greenheart Project is but one of 10 nominees for the Vernufteling Prize, to be awarded by the Koninklijk Instituut Van Ingenieurs (the Royal Dutch Society of Engineers), De Ingenieur and Technish Weeblad magazines, and a Dutch association of consulting engineers, NLingenieurs. The finalists were chosen from a field of more than forty submissions based on four criteria: innovation, economic worth, technological advancement, and social value.

The Vernufteling Prize is awarded annually to the initiative that is developing an imaginative project that promises to have a significant social and economic impact. Competitors were asked to respond to the challenge of creating ideas that both embody the social importance of innovative technology. The competition also seeks to make the important work of engineers more visible and widely recognized.

In line with the Dutch word Vernufteling, a portmanteau of inventor, engineer and a lot of creativity, entrants are encouraged to utilize a combination of new and existing technologies to solve real world problems. The winning project also must show potential to attract young people to technical studies and inspire them.

Over the past eight years, 83 engineering firms have submitted a total of 376 ideas, projects and innovative solutions to the Vernufteling Prize. In 2013 Arcadis took home the award for their innovative Winterhard Wissel which keeps railways free from snow and ice in the winter.

As Gert Schouwstra, a Dutch consultant at AA-Planadvies, who nominated Greenheart Project explained, “This project can really work. This year, we shall see how Greenheart will prove itself.”

Greenheart ships are customizable to meet the needs of the end user, whether they be used for fishing, fisheries monitoring, , ecotourism, cargo or passenger transport.

A unique feature is an open source platform which ensures that the end-users can have a say in how future ships are built without the financial and technical burdens of paying for patent rights.

Intentionally designed to be small scale at 32 meters in length and 220 tons, the vessels are designed to be easy to repair and service while maintaining the elegance of a yacht. Through its foldable mast/crane the ship can be maneuvered under bridges allowing greater upstream access, and lift items large and small on and off of shore, whether cargo, a haul of fish or even floating debris such as nets during an environmental cleanup mission.

Greenheart class ships promise to play a hefty role in restoring economic and ecological balance to transport in vulnerable and remote coastal communities, while setting an example that vessels powered by renewable energies are a practical alternative to fossil-fuel based fleets.

Voting by the general public is open from February 25th to March 15th through the Van Dag de Ingenieur (Day of the Engineer) website. After tallying up the votes, the Vernufteling prize winner will be announced on March19, 2014 at High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

To vote for Greenheart...

1. Go to this site:
2. Choose "AA Planadvies-Groen vrachtschip voor eilandengroep" from the pull down menu at the top of the page
3. Put in your name and email address
4. Click Stemmen (Vote).
*No need to check any of the boxes there (The page is in Dutch and English)
The Vernufteling Prize is awarded annually to the initiative that is developing an imaginative project that promises to have a significant social and economic impact. If we win it will give us the wide public exposure that will propel us to finishing the construction of the boat and getting more people interested in joining us in changing the paradigm of shipping and waterway transport.

Drawing upon, and endeavoring to be compatible with, the rich sailing traditions of coastal communities, Greenheart is working to radically amplify access to the oceanic commons and distant markets, while interacting with the environment in a more equitable and just manner. Greenheart is intentionally open source small-scaled, durable, adaptable, affordable, energy-efficient, solar/sail cargo ship that is easy to service and repair. It expects to rearrange the balance of opportunities among rich and poor by making safe, long distance sea travel accessible to marginalized and excluded sectors of the world population.


The Greenheart Project is an international non-profit organization founded in Tokyo, Japan with offices in Europe and Japan, preparing to build the world’s first fuel-free, container-ready commercial vessel. The small sail-solar ship is specially designed for use by communities in marginalized coastal communities and can serve as a mobile solar power station. It will be built in Chittagong, Bangladesh and launched as early as this year.

To learn more about Greenheart Project visit:
Pat Utley, Greenheart Director
P: +81-3-5606-9310

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Don't Forget Fukushima: "...if people don't make an effort to raise my voice, then no one outside of Japan will know what's happening. And that is...soul-destroying."

Via Greenpeace:  Over one hundred thousand Japanese people have been forced to leave their familial homes and livelihoods because of the second largest nuclear plant fallout in history. They have been ignored by their government and TEPCO, owner of the disaster site. They fear life will get even worse if they are forgotten by the world.  So Greenpeace brought six activists to Fukushima to see and listen.

Here is the page with links to the stories of Minako Sugano (mother of young children), Kenichi Hasagawa (former Iitate Village dairy farmer, now a nuclear refugee), Hiroshi Kanno (another former Iitate farmer, now a nuclear refugee), Tatsuko Ogawara (organic farmer) , Katsutaka Idogawa (former mayor of Futaba, an evacuated village), and Kenji Fukuda (a lawyer who advocates for 3/11 victims): "Fukushima: Don't Forget"

Many thanks to Fresh Currents on FB for a head's up re the video of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) press conference of the six activists, "Bearing Witness to the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster."

The press conference began with testimony from the Fukushima victims who all shared that it is their moral duty to tell the world about the nuclear catastrophe, especially given the inadequate response by the government and Japanese media to the catastrophe, and to a clean energy future for Japan and the world.

One of the striking themes from the global witnesses for Fukushima is how the catastrophe has raised global awareness about  the dangers from the nuclear industry. (In the years since 3/11, locals worldwide have began to speak out about nuclear issues in their own backyards, attributing their newfound outspokenness to Fukushima.  People are speaking out about uranium mining pits, nuclear waste, nuclear fuel plants, nuclear weapons, depleted uranium plants and depleted uranium weapons in their backyards).

Another theme is that people now realize governments and nuclear energy companies are incapable of controlling nuclear accidents. Chernobyl was written off as the an accident by a bumbling managers. Initially 3/11 was excused as the result of an unpreventable natural disaster, but we know now that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima was preventable. TEPCO was incompetent and negligent.

A final theme is that Fukushima is an ongoing, planetary issue. It's not over.

Hisayo Takada. Greenpeace Japan Climate and Energy campaigner, pointed out that it's possible forJapan to end dependence on nuclear and fossil energy, and shift directly to renewable energy, combined with increased conservation efforts. In so doing, Japan could be a global model for clean energy policy.

(7:28) Minako Sugano, mother and former kindergarten teacher:
This is time I should be spending with my children -- and losing that makes me hate nuclear power plants even more.

So when I come to speak to you about my experience, I'm also thinking, 'Why do I have to do this?' I'm just a mother. Why should I spend time doing this when I should be spending it with my children?

But if people don't make an effort to raise my voice, then no one outside of Japan will know what's happening.  And that is even more soul-destroying. (crying...)
(8:10) Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba:
While the primary cause of the disaster was the tsunami, in fact, the real underlying cause of the disaster was that the managers had fallen asleep at the wheel and evaded their responsibilities.

Right at the moment in Japan, the regulatory authority only debates in terms of natural disasters being the only threat causing nuclear power plant accidents

And unbelievably and terrifyingly, among the regulatory authority and the managers, none of them have experienced on the front line themselves. And the real cause of the accident was that the people in charge don't have any experience, on the front line, where it counts. And without reflecting upon this at all, or thinking about why this is wrong, they are now, trying to restart nuclear reactors in Japan.
(10:15) Kenichi Hasegawa, former dairy farmer:
The biggest problem in Japan now is the deliberate cover-up of the levels of radiation that people have been exposed to and the health problems they have. There is a continual, purposeful concealment of facts that the media in Japan will not properly report.

So, what we need is for foreign countries to put pressure on Japan and hopefully bring the truth to light.
(13:08) Jean-François Juliard, Greenpeace France Executive Director:
...This is not just a natural disaster. You can't just build new infrastructure...and say, 'Okay we can forget about the accident.'

We cannot convey how important it is for the people of Fukushima to keep their stories alive....This is why I'm here, to take these stories back to my country...

Japan should not export nuclear materials to other countries. Japan should not relaunch new reactors. It has to be a nuclear-free country forever. This is not just a responsibility for the Japanese people, but for the whole world...
(16:45) Sundarrajan Gomathinayagam, director, Hard n soft technologies pvt:
The people of  a small village in the southernmost part of India have been putting up a spirited fight against the Koodankulam nuclear plant for more than two years. We owe this spirit to Fukushima. People have learned about the dangers of nuclear power after the catatrophic accident that happened in Fukushima. We woke up and are standing against the dangers because of Fukushima.

We know all is not well in Fukushima...Minako Sugano has charged us to take her voice to all the mothers across the globe; she believes it is the voice of the mother has the power to change things in the future...
Yoon Ho Seob, Green Designer and Professor Emeritus in Kookmin University:
The Fukushima disaster is clearly an ongoing global catastrophe, an unmistakable mistake in our era. The rights of Fukushima people to live healthy and happy lives have been violated...

Right after the March 2011 disaster, I felt the disaster was different from other disasters; something is very wrong, to the point I can't ignore. Then immediately I had a discussion with my family to decrease our energy consumption as much as possible...

The current situation of the victims and what they have gone through gives a clear impression that no government and no company can control a nuclear accident and protect people...Still the South Korean government is planning to increase nuclear reactors from the current number of 23 to 39, although the nuclear density is the highest in the world.  Also, we have millions of people living near nuclear power plants in Korea. If a nuclear accident happens in South Korea, the scale will be the highest in world history...

If we put our knowledge together, we already have cleaner and better options...
(38.08) Hisako Tanaka:
Currently about 12-13 percent of Japan's energy comes from renewable sources. That includes hydropower from water dams.
In-depth Background: "Toward a Peaceful Society Without Nuclear Energy: Understanding the Power Structures Behind the 3.11 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster" by Nishioka Nobuyuki, Translated by John Junkerman (APJ: Dec. 26, 2011):
Japan has experienced more exposure to nuclear bombs and radiation than any country on earth. August 6, 1945—Hiroshima. August 9—Nagasaki. March 1, 1954—Lucky Dragon No. 5. And March 11, 2011—Fukushima. Japanese people have repeatedly been the victims of radioactive contamination. And each time, they have pledged their opposition to nukes. With 3.11 as a starting point, the world is attempting to pursue a new way of living.

We aim to create a society without war that has no use for armies, bases, soldiers, and weapons. That society is also a no nukes society, free of nuclear power.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Kyoto Journal: Emerging Futures From Tohoku

Rensho-an, Koriyama, Fukushima (Photo: Kyoto Journal)

Great interview with Tohoku volunteer Bob Stilger by Mizuho Toyoshima and Lucinda Cowing at KJ.  In " Emerging Futures From Tohoku," Stilger describes how the vibrant and diverse civil cultures of Tohoku, a center for the slow and local movement, are rebuilding a post-3/11 Japan from the grassroots in myriad ways:
A week ago, Sunday, we had a delightful small, reflective dialogue at a place called Rensho-an in the town of Tamura near Koriyama, Fukushima. There was a group of maybe twenty people, most of them from the Tamura area, a few from other parts of Fukushima and elsewhere. Rensho-an is a beautiful space built by one Watanabe Shumei, a prolific artist and a man who enjoyed life. Over the course of Watanabe’s life — he died 7 years ago — it was a retreat space for people who knew of Watanabe’s work to come and spend time with him and Jinko, his wife. Jinko is now turning Rensho-an into a “learning center for life.” So, people came together just to be with each other, and to look back over their journeys these past few years.

After that dialog, I hosted a gathering of leadership from the Transition Town Movement in Japan and others from our Tohoku Futures Network. We spent two days to exploring what has transitioned in learning that might be useful in Tohoku at this important time.

After my meetings in Fukushima, I went to Otsuchi for the last of a series of four Future Sessions meetings, where people had come together to discuss what they could do themselves to make Otsuchi a better place to live. Some people in Otsuchi complain there that there are no longer any jobs; almost all fishing boats were destroyed in the tsunami. But those who attended the meeting are taking a different perspective and saying, “What do we have and how can we use it?” One of the ideas that they are working on is to make use of a local network of underground streams known to be incredibly pure and fresh, which enabled them in the past to cultivate wasabi, and also produce tofu. Now one idea is to recreate an industry centering on wasabi and tofu that last existed in the 1800’s, and tourism as well... thing that has come up in many conversations is that conditions in each part of Tohoku are extraordinarily different. It is evident the coastal areas of Miyagi and Iwate have more in common with each other than they do with more inland areas of those same prefectures. When you visit Sendai, which is inland Miyagi, you find most people just want to get back to the old normal, whether or not they liked the old normal. That is not what is going on in the coastal areas. There is a sense that 3/11 opened up a new future, now it is a matter of finding out what it is and how to we create it...

There is a growing discontent over globalization, and in Japanese businesses much of this stems from not feeling connected to the people who buy and use their goods and services. Many are asking, “How do we relocalize?” This is one example of collective culture, in which the good and relationships of the whole takes precedence over that of the individual. The negative side of that is of course the idea that “the nail that sticks out gets pounded down” and feelings of “I don’t want to stand out.” That said, I have noticed over the past three years that the challenge of individuating from a collective culture is smaller than that of creating a collective out of an individualistic culture. 3/11 was a kick in the ass for people to stand up for what they believe, but they are doing this while staying connected to the collective at the same time. I think this is the energy we need all over the world: the capacity to differentiate while staying connected.
Bob Stilger charts his observations in "Fukushima's Future," published at Open Democracy:
In less than a day, nearly 18,000 people were dead or missing, and almost 300,000 were homeless. The old normal was gone. Today, communities in the region are struggling to reinvent their lives, but what will their future look like in a context that is permanently changed?

...People in Fukushima live in one of three broad realities.  Some are still overwhelmed with despair, since everything they know and love has vanished.  Some would leave Fukushima in an instant if they had a way to relocate elsewhere.  And others have declared that “this is our home, so we will make a new life here together.”  They know that the past is gone and that an unknown future is waiting to be born.

For many, this is not just a matter of regaining property or livelihoods, it’s a profoundly spiritual question that centers on the meaning of happiness and the quality of life...

This transformation is one of ordinary people who are raising their voices and using their hands, reaching out to each other, taking one step forward and then another, to build new lives in a place that they call home.

Friday, February 21, 2014

IMA 3-Year Anniversary @ Tokyo this Sunday: Celebrating awakening, resilience, compassion, community as we transition to a Post-3/11 World

Right: Poster for Jeffrey's Jousan's "Tohoku Laughing"; Right: Dean Newcombe and Justin Berti of IMA. 

Until 3/11, nuclear plants supplied one third of Japan's energy; they're all offline now. However, they're poised for restarts in March. Instead of systemizing the radical energy conservation efforts instituted right after the Fukushima meltdowns and aggressively supporting a shift to renewable energy, the Japanese government and energy companies have turned to global-warming fossil fuels: oil, coal, LNG (liquified natural gas) to make up for the loss. Because of this increase in imported energy (compounded by a monetary policy aimed at devaluing the yen), Japan posted a record trade deficit in 2013, an economically unsustainable situation used to justify the planned return to nuclear power. 

However, the proposed restarts won't be met with complacence. Heightened awareness and social energy in post-3/11 Japan has given rise to deepening collaboration between old and new Nuclear-Free activists, Japanese people and expats, across interrelated issues (organic, local, slow, low-consumption, fossil-free, renewable energy, fair trade), and across borders.

This month a lot of this amazing energy is visible above radar. Canadian environmentalist Severn Cullis-Suzuki (daughter of David Suzuki) is traveling throughout Japan, screening Occupy Love, Velcrow Ripper's third film in his "Fierce Love" trilogy about nonviolent grassroots environmental and social change movements.

And one of the founders of Beautiful Energy, Dean Newcombe, has been spotlighted in a nice feature by Liane Wakabayashi at JTThe Japan-based Scottish model, founder of Intrepid Model Adventures, shared his story about how he was spurred to personal action after witnessing the plight of 3/11 survivors.

Knew Dean Newcombe and his colleagues are dynamic, but didn't realize the breadth, depth, interconnections of their activities. It's a little hard to keep up: volunteering and raising funds for reconstruction in Tohoku; bringing hot meals to and supporting nuclear evacuees from Futaba; supporting fair trade; raising funds for typhoon reconstruction in the Phillipines; instituting a scholarship fund for an orphanage in Bali; supporting Hafu David Yano's NGO which is building a school in Ghana; initiating Beautiful Energy's Nuclear Free/Renewable Energy advocacy every Friday in Tokyo; and screening socially significant films.

The charismatic leader and networker  explained how serendipity, combined with intentional support of authenticity, snowballed his initiative in Tohoku into many directions :
“One of the surprises that perhaps I didn’t expect,” says Newcombe, “is that the volunteers that worked with me in Tohoku would step forward to suggest Tohoku-related support projects that we could do in Tokyo.”

“I want them to apply skills they were born with to make right what they believe is wrong. Deep down we all see what is wrong and unjust in this world. It’s just our choice whether we do something about it!”
This Sunday, IMA and related groups are celebrating their three-year anniversary all day at the Pink Cow in Tokyo.

2pm – A documentary film "Tohoku Laughing" (笑う東北) by Jeffrey Jousan (30 minutes)

Events include the screening of Tohoku Laughing" (笑う東北), a 30-minute documentary by Jeffrey Jousan:
Filmed in September 2012 in Miharu, Fukushima, Ishinomaki, Kitakamigawa, Oiwake Hot Spring and Minami Sanriku

It took about 2 years after the Tsunami but people in Tohoku that we met started saying that they could finally laugh again,as if they had entered a new stage in dealing with their horrific experiences. Everyone's process of dealing with these events continues and will continue for some time.

This is a little film to share the healing and life affirming power of laughter, from the awesome people of Tohoku. Please come to Tohoku and laugh!
This post sounds like a valentine, because it is, to all at Beautiful Energy, Hot Meals for the People of Fukushima (双葉町交流プロジェクト( and IMA, MTM, et al., with appreciation for their efforts (born out of compassion), creating ripple effects, bringing people together in unexpected ways to help actualize the best in each other and a peaceful, affirmative, life-sustaining world.

(Photo: Beautiful Energy)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Irankarapte! Ainu to Aou Concert event @Osaka, Feb. 23, 2014

Irankarapte! Ainu to Aou Concert event   日本語以下 

Sunday, February 23rd 13:30 to 15:30 (Doors open at 13:00)

Irankarapte Ainu to Aou! Irankarapte- Let's meet Ainu!

Song and dance concert based on beautifully illustrated Ainu picture books. Through this concert event children can learn about Ainu in an easy to understand way.

Entrance free!!

For more information contact:
Osaka Shimin koryu Center North

(*Still looking for people to help out with the event, so if you are available get in touch through the minaminanokai facebook page:

2/23日曜日 13:30(受付13時)〜15:30
主催:大阪市立市民交流センターすみよし北 指定管理者 公益財団法人住吉隣保事業推進協会


「イランカラプテ アイヌとであおう」


【最寄駅】 南海高野線「住吉東」下車 5分 阪堺電気軌道「神ノ木」下車 5分


Stories from the spirit world and heart of Ainumosir @ Sakaimachi Garow, Kyoto - February 22, 2014

Ainu Art Project founder, artist and storyteller Yuki Koji will be in Kyoto for the first time in years to share his new hanga (woodblock prints) and stories from the world of the spirits. Nagane Aki will also be performing on the mukkuri and tonkori and tea and snacks will come with entry. **English translation not available.

Stories from the spirit world and heart of Ainumosir (note the play on words in the Japanese title!)

2/22 (Saturday) 15:00 doors open 15:30 event starts
Location: Sakaimachi Garow (
Nearest station: Karasuma Oike
Entrance fee: 2800円(with reservation 2500円)

For more information contact:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Deep Kyoto: "Taking my time getting to work this morning (in snowy Kyoto)"

Nishi-Honganji, Western Temple of the Original Vow," 
one of two Jōdo Shinshu (Pure Land Buddhist) temple complexes in Kyoto.
(This & more beautiful photos of Kyoto in the morning snow: Deep Kyoto)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Severn Cullis-Suzuki "Love is the Movement" Japan Tour • Simultaneous screenings of Velcrow Ripper's Occupy Love

"If you can’t fix the environment, please stop breaking it!” Severn said to the world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. She was only twelve years old. A video of her speech presenting environmental issues from a youth perspective went viral, and Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known around the world as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes." 

Severn, daughter of Japanese Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki, is now 34-years-old and an environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility. 

For the first time in six years, Severn returns to Japan for “Love is the Movement” – a series of talks about the future of the human race in the face of global environmental crisis. Issues covered include the localization movement, the fair trade movement, and other movements that focus on quality of life for our children and future generations. 

Severn Suzuki will be at Kyoto's Ryukoku University on February 21st.
Details (in Japanese) here:

Other stops include Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Shiga. 

Simultaneous screening of Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper's Occupy Love, the third film in the inspirational "Fierce Love" trilogy about global grassroots nonviolent environmental and democratic movements. 

Schedule (Japanese):

Details on the "Love is the Movement" Tour (in Japanese) here:

All about Severn Suzuki here:
"Love is the Movement" on Facebook (in Japanese):

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snowy Weekend in Tokyo

"Snowy Weekend in Tokyo" (Photo: Kimberly Hughes) 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kurashi: No "cheap" nuclear power for Tokyo, regardless of who wins governorship

Via Martin Frid at Kurashi, who explains why Tokyo won't be supplied with s "cheap" nuclear power, regardless of who wins the Tokyo governorship:
But the reality is that for Tokyo citizens, there is very little possibility of nuclear power plants to provide energy for the city's bright lights. Consumers, who vote, should know that only a handful of nuclear power plants that may provide energy to the metropolis are even candidates for restarts.

A reminder: Currently, none of Japan's 48 nuclear power plants are online. Japan has completely gone off the nuclear "heroin" drug.

But 16 are applying for restarts as of February 1, 2014.

Of those, only two would be in any position to provide Tokyo with electricity. Those are reactors 6 and 7 in Kashiwasaki Kariwa in far away Niigata prefecture. Both were severely shaken by the earthquake back in 2007, so we know they are not yet confirmed to be safe as such. No other reactors that may provide Tokyo voters with energy are about to be restarted.

I went on a tour back in 2008 at the world's largest nuclear plant in Kashiwazaki Kariwa in Niigata prefecture, western Japan. It has seven nuclear reactors that are currently all undergoing repairs after the massive earthquake in July, 2007. The PR from Tepco, the electricity company that runs the plant, was confusing at first, (BBC) and it is clear that damage was more severe than initially reported...

As for the rest, such as the controversial Hamaoka reactor southwest of Tokyo, they have recently built a huge 22 meter high wall hoping that will stop a potential tsunami. And that would not be providing Tokyo residents with juice for their heated toilets, air conditioners, rechargeable gadgets, or else. And I know there are any number of factory owners and businesses that hope for cheap electricity, but it just is not going to happen.

The Tokyo election on February 9 is not about nuclear power, because the capital of Japan no longer has any number of nuclear plants to provide it with "cheap" electricity.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Greens Japan back Kenji Utsunomiya as Tokyo gubernatorial candidate: "We won't forget the people of Okinawa and Fukushima."

(Via Kenji Utsunomiya on FB) 

At the 2.2 Hachiko Square, Shibuya, Tokyo campaign rally, Tokyo gubernatorial candidate Kenji Utsunomiya praised Okinawan citizen democracy and acknowledged the suffering of  people in Japan's sacrifice zones. Okinawa, a prefecture the size of Rhode Island, hosts over 30 military bases; and 290,000 people from Tohoku, including 160,000 nuclear refugees, remain in temporary housing limbo, three years after 3/11: 
The people of Okinawa did not sell their soul for money...We won't forget the people of Okinawa and Fukushima.
Backed by the Greens, Utsunomiya came in a far second in the last Tokyo gubernatorial election. His campaign is considered a long shot by many; in 2012 he received around 15% (968,960) of the vote compared to LDP candidate Naoki Inose's 65% (4,338,936). However, analysts may be underestimating the momentum for democracy, social justice, and peace in Japan. Moreover, it's uplifting to see so many people in Tokyo express solidarity with the people of Okinawa and Fukushima, and who look at Okinawa as a source of inspiration for their own movement for participatory democracy.

Inose resigned in December, after one year of office, because of allegations of corruption. Utsnomiya's major opponents are LDP candidate Yoichi Masuzoe (an ally of current PM Abe), former PM Morihiro Hosokawa (campaigning with former PM Koizumi),  and General Toshio Tamogami. Similarly to Utsunomiya, Hosokawa  favors a nuclear-free stance and an environmentally-friendly Olympics; however the two candidates diverge on policy details, as well as overall vision. The other two are pro-nuclear and favor lavish spending on the Olympics.

Kenji Utsunomiya, a former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, has dedicated his career to addressing structural poverty and social justice issues (including multicultural inclusion). He specialized in poverty-related law cases, including victims of predatory lending overcome the burden of multiple loans.  He served as honorary mayor of a makeshift village for homeless workers in Tokyo's Hibiya Park in 2008. He speaks to the plight of many, especially youth, who suffer from irregular employment, deepening structural poverty, and resulting increased homelessness in Japan.

Since the collapse of Japan's Bubble Economy in 1991 and, again, since the 2008 US housing bubble crash that affected the international economy, the postwar Japanese middle class society and Peace Constitution have come under assault.  The nation's zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) has long decimated any expectation of savings income for Japanese retirees, who have had to use up their shrinking principal for living costs. The current administration's quantitative easing monetary policy maintains a zero interest rate, thus creating easy money. This benefits speculative borrowers, fuels new bubbles, and hurts the ordinary Japanese person.

51% of Japanese single-parent households are living in poverty. Japan’s welfare system only assists 18 percent of people under the poverty line. Last year, the administration raised the consumption tax to 8%.  Moreover, PM Abe has cut welfare benefits and increased military spending last summer, reported Tomohiro Osaki in "Abe set to squeeze the poor."

Surrounded by mother and children supporters at a rally in Ginza on Feb. 4.
Kenji Utsunomiya: "Childcare, work, education are serious issues."  

In a talk given at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo, the charismatic candidate detailed Tokyo's many socio-economic problems and how he would solve them:

• 43,000 elderly individuals  in Tokyo are waiting to get into a care facility.

• Day care: The official number of children on a waiting list is 8,000 children, but the actual number is probably actually closer to 20,000.

• Under former Governor Ishihara, no new public housing was constructed. Meanwhile, 750,000 housing units are empty in Tokyo. Would introduce a program for Tokyo to pay rental fees of empty units and provide them to residents as public housing.

• Initiate a subsidy program for the working poor. Problem of employment a serious problem for young people. Sad truth young people in Japan no longer to have much hope. They are treated as temporary workers. Exploitative "black companies" that use up young workers. Outlaw them in Tokyo, to prevent people from dying from overwork.

• Tokyo disaster prevention program. Subsidies to reinforce buildings and fireproof wooden homes. Start a movement from Tokyo throughout the nation to abolish nuclear power.

• Support the movement for a nuclear-free Japan from Tokyo to other regions. Work to help the evacuees and victims still living in Fukushima.      

• Address bullying in schools; work to create vibrant, hopeful school cultures.

• Stop the de facto revision of Article 9 by halting efforts to engage Japan in "collective defense."  Would work to defend the Japanese Constitution and to dispatch messages of peace to Asian neighbors.

• Simple and environmentally-friendly Olympics and Paralympics.    

Utsunomiya responded to a question about the South China Sea tensions by saying that  the era of using war to resolve territorial conflicts is over. He added that diplomacy is a better way to address international disputes, and explained that Tokyo and other autonomous local governments are able to convey messages of peace to Asian neighbors, even if the national government is unable to do. He suggested that peace-based messages would ensure an amicable atmosphere which would foster the success of the Olympics.

Utsunomiya emphasized that the international sporting event, is, after all, a festival and celebration of peace and friendship.  He compared prewar aggression to increasing geopolitical tensions of recent years: Tokyo was supposed to host the 1940 Olympics, however this was not realized because the war between Japan and China began to escalate around that time. Also, in 1939, World War Two began in Europe. 

When asked why he had not considered merging his campaign with Morihiro Hosokawa (they share a Nuclear-Free stance),  Utsunomiya replied that the former PM's association with Junichiro Koizumi, another former PM (2001-2006), was problematic. During his administration, Koizumi spearheaded neoliberal deregulation that deepened structural poverty in Japan. The insecurity of temporary workers, including loss of homes, may be traced directly to Koizumi's policies. Moreover, their platforms diverge on issues of  poverty, welfare, education, the Japanese Constitution, collective self-defense, state secrets, and the TPP.

In a Jan. 10 article at JT, Reiji Yoshida provides background on the Tokyo election:
Tokyo has as many as 10 million voters... Experts... said most Tokyo residents are unaffiliated swing voters without loyalty to any of the established parties...Their voting behavior is often affected by hot-button issues of the day or candidates who draw intense media coverage, rather than pork-barrel public works spending or organized election machines, the usual weapons for LDP candidates in local elections...
According to the Green Pages, a publication by the US Green Party, the Green Party (Midori no Tou) was formed in 2012 from a former party, Midori no Mirai (Green Future), to reflect Japanese nuclear-free,  fossil-free, environmental, pro-democracy movements. They support renewable energy, oppose the export of nuclear power technology, and the Trans-Pacific Partner­ship (TPP). Greens Japan calls for an economy centered on local production and consumption, improved social security programs through fair sharing of tax burdens, and revitalization of participatory democratic processes.