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Preview: Kurashi - News From Japan

Kurashi - News From Japan

The "Eco-Blog" - by Martin J Frid

Updated: 2016-01-05T01:29:05.817+09:00


Ikaten - Bigin

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Good Bye 2015 - Xmas Medley (J-Pop)


Thanks to everyone who stayed interested in Kurashi, the blog that started ten years ago, what a journey we have had. UN meetings and local events, updates from my back garden, images of a Japan that I think still is being under-reported. Peace activism and anger at politics that is not inclusive - why I can't vote locally even though I have the permanent visa? The magic of ordinary people making a difference. I might change the setting of this blog to something more private, what do you think...? My pottery also increasingly popular and a fun way to approach Japan in a different way. So, don't be surprised if this blog changes.

Meanwhile, here is a wonderful medley of Japanese Xmas songs from the glorious days of J-Pop and more.

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Soil And Peace Festival - Hibiya Park, Tokyo


(image) Sunday Nov. 1 - Lots of organic farmers and peace activists and artists meeting up at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo. Music and talk shows plus the chance to support climate change groups and meet anti-TPP experts. All GMO-free.

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Hope the weather is better than 2 years ago when I participated, and it rained all day.

The market and the show and everything started back in 2007, thanks to Tokiko Kato and Yae and many, many others. A great way to celebrate harvest and autumn, and join up with so many wonderful people. This is a Japan that the rest of the world can learn a lot from.

 Yae official page (J)

Makes me so very happy to live here.

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And that message comes from Anja (E)

This event is the start of Artists for Farm Aid for Japan.

Following up from the Love Farmers Conference on September 3-6, 2015 第1回ラブファーマーズカンファレンス

Tanemaki official website (J)

Talk show website (J)


WHO And Meat Causing Cancer? Reaction In Japan!


Japanese media reacted on the huge news, from the Lancet study, showing that processed meat can cause cancer. Yomiuri Shinbun, that faithful defender of industry and the silliest ideas from these islands, together with huge ads for "health drinks" and all kinds of un-scientific fads, really, have you seen how page after page are half ads, half "articles" supporting the ads... It had this about the story, but only on its Internet page, not in its printed pages:

Yomiuri Shinbun: 加工肉に「発がん性認定」…WHO外部組織

("Processed meat can cause cancer ... according to WHO advisory body)

So anyway, all media sources here did cover the WHO story.

TBS said, 加工肉に「発がん性あり」、過剰摂取に注意呼びかけ 

("Over-consumption of processed meat can lead to cancer)

while Sankei News noted that ソーセージやベーコンは大腸ガンになるリスク WHO調査結果発表

("Sausage and bacon are risk factor for large bowel cancer, according to the WHO study").

The Mainichi also carried the story:  国際がん研究機関:「ベーコンなど加工肉に発がん性」

("International cancer institute says: "Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer")

Interesting to compare how the BBC covered the news:

Dr Teresa Norat, one of the advisors to the WHO report and from Imperial College London, said there were many factors causing bowel cancer. She told BBC News website: "People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active."

Earth II (1971)


Interesting - if you like a proper Science Fiction yarn, set in space, and don't care so much for the next Star Wars movie. Here is a pretty realistic take at the challenges and conflicts on an imagined International Space Station, before that came to be. The issue is how to defend it, or try to make it stay in peace. Good quality acting, and the kid that gets his toy gun taken away is adorable. From back when the "Red" Chinese were the enemy...

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Terrific music by Lalo Schifrin.(image)

TPP Is Not Going To protect Our Environment


Not a big surprise, but if you follow the news, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is about to change the way business is made. And that takes some legal writ, as most countries are part of other obligations, such as the United Nations. Japan certainly is. But TPP does not care about such deals and treaties. The only ones they could agree on seems to be the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which generally requires countries to ban trade in specific endangered species.

It also seems TPP may suggest that the Environment Chapter will include obligations similar to those contained in the Montreal Protocol on protection of the ozone layer, and the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) -- without specifically subjecting these MEAs to the TPP dispute settlement mechanism.

As I noted back in January, 2014, when Wikileaks first exposed the TPP Environmental Chapter:

...there are a lot of other international treaties that are not covered, including for climate change and biological diversity (with more rules on issues like biopiracy, like the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) that TPP should cover, if it were to be acceptable.

Biological diversity is another area of contention due to the United States failure to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – due in turn to pressure from its biotech industry, which saw the Convention as a direct threat to the introduction of patented genetically modified organisms around the world. As for conservation, which includes a reference to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international agreement among governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and precious plants does not threaten their survival, Japan and all other negotiating parties remain opposed to the US proposals in the TPP.(image)

Mystery Event - What is the GEA International Conference 2015?


NHK, also recently known as the "Abe Channel" said today that the Prime Minister "was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday."

NHK World: Abe: Japan will do its best for climate agreement

But NHK World would not tell us what NGO that was, so I did a search.

Neither google nor yahoo had any hints about a major NGO conference on October 15, 2015, so I went to the home page of the PM, and on its Japanese website (not very international) there was a note about today's event, GEA国際会議2015 (J).

So I searched for that.

And found nothing, neither in Japanese nor in English, nothing about today's "international" event.

Turns out, the "international environmental NGO" is an affiliate of the Japanese government, here: Global Environmental Action (E). Among its "Membership Companies" you get Mitsui and Mitsubishi. "Supporting Members" are Tokyo Gas and TEPCO.

Here is the link to the 2015 Japan GEA promotional pdf file (E)

And even the website of this "international NGO" has no update about today's events, neither in Japanese nor in English (or in any other language).

Not very "non-governmental" - and certainly not very "international" - Do I need to say more?

So, wow, just what did Prime Minister Abe promise to do?

Abe was speaking at a conference of an international environmental NGO in Tokyo on Thursday. He said global-scale action is needed to tackle climate change and that he shares a sense of crisis with leaders of industrialized nations, islands and other countries. Abe said Japan will do all it can in Paris to forge a new global framework that is fair, effective and participated in by all countries. He stressed that Japan will fully use its low-carbon technology to help reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Abe also expressed intent to discuss global warming when Japan hosts the Ise-Shima summit of major nations next May. (image)

Flight Nurse (1953)


I thought this was a terrific film, and as the Korean War is mostly known as the "unknown" or "forgotten" war we could all learn a thing or two from this motion picture, made back when the wounds were still healing. It is the story of a flight nurse, based on a true lady of the sky, Lillian Kinkella Keil, who died at the age of 88 in 2005.

My youngest aunt was a nurse in the Swedish Air Force, so I hope she gets to watch this. Sweden, as a "neutral" power tried to help the cease fire between the north and the south. The film has some baggage, but give it at try, it will help you understand the reality that later made M*A*S*H possible in the 1970s. So, let's not start another war, shall we...?

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TPP and GMOs? So Far, We Have Very Little To Go On.


Germany, France, Japan, and a lot more countries, have totally rejected genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while the US, Canada, Brazil, and a few others can't get enough of it. Even Australia grows the GM canola, and sells it to Japan as food oil. It is not properly labelled here, so Ajinomoto and Nisshin and others can sell it as "Salad Oil". Avoid food oils.So how would the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement influence this state of affairs? Stay tuned, I don't really know. The TPP text is still kept secret. Japan has mandatory labelling laws that help consumers who want to know how their tofu or soy sauce was made. Even potato chips usually carry the label, "Not made from GMO potatoes" so stay tuned, we have very little to go on so far.Update 1: This was just in the US radical magazine Mother Jones - I like this magazine a lot and especially this writer, Tom Philpott:...Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.Hansen-Kuhn also notes that the US trade representative's summary of the TPP contains this line: The "TPP Parties have also agreed to increased transparency and cooperation on certain activities related to agricultural biotechnology"—another way of saying genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. That's vague language, and the TPP's full criteria for GMOs has not been spelled out. But it certainly appears to place pressure on TPP countries that have opted not to use them, like Japan and Peru.Update 2: October 6, 2015: Capital Press• For biotechnology, TPP member countries will use science-based determinations, promote greater transparency in regulatory process and “engage in discussions about appropriate levels of low-level presence,” Vilsack said.Update 3: Meanwhile, in Europe:Germany initiates move to ban GMO cropsGermany has instigated a move to stop the growing of genetically modified crops under new European Union rules, according to official documents.Germany will make use of new "opt-out" rules to stop GMO crop cultivation, even if varieties have been approved by the EU.Christian Schmidt, German's Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, has informed state governments of his intention to tell the EU of Germany's intention to use the new clause, according to a letter from the agriculture ministry seen by Reuters.The move follows pressure from five state governments for a nationwide ban on GMOs instead of the current “patchwork” approach which leaves it up to German states to decide on a ban.Stay tunedEco News from Japan and Asia![...]

TPP Deal Announced Tonight


Historic - and I didn't think it would happen. I was at the Brunei ministerial meeting in August, 2013 and it seemed impossible. That was negotiation round number 19.How would these 12 completely different countries ever be able to agree on anything? This last ministerial in Atlanta was to be a 2 day event, then that got extended to 5 days of hard negotiations. I wonder why NHK* is not saying a word about the demands - and promises - to protect Japan's agriculture, or the concerns about rising costs of medicines. Stay tuned.And there was not a single ministerial round of negotiations here in Japan. That's quite a scandal considering Japan's role in the world economy. Also, it has made it more difficult to get people interested in the many related issues, not just for farmers but for everyone.Update: Now even the announced press conference which was supposed to be held at 22:00 PM Japanese time is delayed... => 2: There will be an anti-TPP demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Tokyo on Tuesday, October 6 at 18:00-19:30  Info in Japanese hereUpdate 3: Note that this is not about "free" trade but how to "manage" trade: 2, 2015The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade CharadeBy Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. HershNEW YORK – As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.Update 4: More comments coming in by email from tpp-allies late tonightCanada's government says:If implemented, the agreement could mean:— Elimination or reduction of tariffs on a broad series of products including pork, fruits, wines and spirits, canola, barley, machinery, minerals and forestry products. As one example, the beef industry expects to see exports triple to Japan, with a multi-year phase-out in tariffs there from 39 per cent to nine per cent.— More foreign car parts likely entering Canada, likely benefiting producers and consumers but hurting some auto workers. Cars will be allowed without tariffs as long as they have 45-per-cent content from the TPP region. That's significantly down from the 62.5 per cent regional-content provision under NAFTA, which mostly kept out pieces from places like China and Thailand. But the formula is more complex than that: the government says it will "encourage" producers to use Canadian ingredients, parts and materials when making goods exported to other TPP countries. (...)US Congress says ( Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is signaling trouble for the newly concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership right out of the gate."While the details a[...]

TPP - New York Times Gets It Wrong, Again


As I'm up late on Saturday night, Sunday morning, waiting for possibly any development from the Atlanta round of negotiations, I access the New York Times.
They have no particular update at this late hour. These talks were supposed to be the last effort by Wednesday. But I'm more disturbed by the sponsor, Syngenta, that appears all over the NYT website. Tonight, it was not what I expected. The Swiss corporation is known for its abuses all over the world. So, now, the NYT is supported by that GMO and pesticide and neonic producing company to provide us with news about the enormous trade deal here in the Pacific?

As I have previously noted here on this humble blog, why do we want a trade pact that allows for more sales of large cars, more milk and more meat, at the same times making it more difficult for countries to regulate medicines?

Isn't this a contradiction in terms? 

Shoko Uhida at PARC has the latest updates in Japanese, with more over at @emi_mumemo

NYT: Fueling Hope ???

Peter Maybarduk, director of a program of the social advocacy group Public Citizen that seeks to expand global access to medicines, called the language put forth by the United States “an illusion, not an improvement. It is a repackaging of the same harmful idea already rejected by many countries.”

Groups of protesters continued on Friday to try to interrupt the closed-door meetings throughout the hotel, shouting “No T.P.P.! No Secrecy!” At least two women were handcuffed and dragged away by security officials.(image)

TPP - The Irony Of Atlanta City & Gambling?


Am I the only one who thinks it is totally ironic that the US city of Atlanta is currently the locus of the "endgame" of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations? A city of gambling, basically. OK, I get it. They do have a sense of humour.

Trade negotiators, as I have observed them since 1999 or so (in Seattle) are like guys in a poker game: They hold on to their hands and try to bluff the others that they won't lose. In the WTO talks, in Seattle, the entire third world, the so-called developing countries, the currently not-so-fortunate card-holders, suddenly stood up and said, enough is enough, this is a silly game, we are not playing anymore. Thus the World Trade Organization was brought to a halt.

And it is like chess. By the time of the "endgame" (this is the 20th round of the TPP talks) you are left with not much room to maneuver, hardly any pieces left, and an opponent with a plan. You never really know how close you are to "chess mate." Thus, the WTO "Development Round" never really went beyond the opening moves.

But - it is also like a casino. You lose a lot, knowing you could win big. Cut your losses, you drink some expensive champagne and pretend you are a big shot. Security cameras all over the place. You also ignore the rest of the population, like farmers and ordinary workers and working families, as you walk around the place in your tuxedo and flash your big grin, thinking only about your own great profits...

Atlanta City, indeed. How the very rich truly know how to flaunt it, and they know they can get away with it. Rarely does the media pick up on the tricks of the trade, and call a spade a spade...

Follow #TPP (E) and Shoko Uchida (J) - do suggest other tags or blog posts.

Top image from U.S. Teamsters


"Clean Diesel" Scandal Hits Japan?


If you follow car news, or wonder about the future of mobility - and/or care about the air we breathe, well, then you must have noticed that Volkswagen was caught on September 3 by the biggest story ever. Diesel cars use engines that are pretty powerful on less fuel compared to gasoline, but they also have more emissions of CO2 and worse, the Nitrogen compounds known as NOx. These combine on hot summer days to form smog and ozone and really bad stuff that will actually kill people.So for a long time, diesel has had a bad rap, so to speak.Then car manufacturers tried to remedy that by introducing all kinds of systems to clean the exhaust. Except, due to the terrific work by a small NGO in the US with just a staff of 25 or so people, it was revealed that Volkswagen had put a computer program algorithm in its engines, that could detect if the car was being tested or not.In other words, if a test was going on, switch on the system to clean up the exhaust, and emit less NOx and other bad stuff. If driving as usual, no clean up system. Up to 40% more NOx emissions, as a result of ordinary driving with this setup.This had been going on since at least 2009 in the VW Jetta, VW Beetle, VW Golf and Audi A3 (and others), according to this notice of violation from the US government (pdf).So, VW is the only company putting illegal software in their cars? We don't know, at this point. Why not?Car manufacturers do the testing, and submit the data to government agencies. Only now can we begin to hope that more independent testing will start.Hats off - congratulations - to the small team of NGO clean air campaigners and experts who brought this to light. That I consider whistle-blowing at its very finest.So-called "clean diesel" was just beginning to take off here in Japan, with all the Japanese car makers trying to introduce new models. VW doesn't sell any of its diesel cars in Japan, so the effect here is perhaps limited. News site calls it the "Diesel Shock" (J) which may stick.But I'm disappointed by the lack of response by serious car news sites, or professional bodies, that may rely on outside sources.And have you ever seen a more tame response than this from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (E)...?Brussels, 23 September 2015 – In light of the latest emission testing news, ACEA recognises the gravity of the situation and is taking this very seriously. However, we cannot comment on an issue affecting one individual company. There is no evidence that this is an industry-wide issue. In the EU, the legal requirements concerning motor vehicle pollutant emissions currently refer to a test cycle performed under common laboratory conditions. All Euro 6 diesel cars on the market have received a Euro 6 approval certificate issued by a member state approval authority that confirms they comply with the legal requirements. Soon, Euro 6 will also require for the first time emissions testing of diesel cars under realistic driving conditions, making Europe the only region in the world to implement such real world testing for cars. The automotive industry is fully supporting the development of this new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test in order to ensure a more robust control on emissions. ACEA hopes that the RDE testing conditions and timings can be finalised urgently, so that the industry can get RDE-compliant vehicles into the market as soon as possible. ACEA will continue to engage with the European Commission and national governments to address the current challenges and ensure that trust and confidence in the car industry and clean diesel technology are maintained.***One big automobile group, the Clean Diesel Promotion Association, (J) has not ev[...]

Not So Smart


If you are a tech geek and like to buy new smart phones all the time, do consider this interesting graph from Compound Interest - not much recycling going on in the smart phone industry, unfortunately. Click to enlarge.

Key quote:

The problem with extracting rare earths is that they don’t tend to occur in particularly concentrated amounts in the crust. As such, the techniques required to extract them are costly and labour intensive, limiting the places in which it’s economically viable to bother extracting them at all. The processes used to extract them can also be environmentally hazardous, which is also a limiting factor; in 2010, China cut its exports of rare earths by 40% based on its concerns regarding pollution. With this in mind, recycling the rare earth elements at the end of their lives would seem to be a no-brainer. However, there isn’t a single rare earth element whose end of use recycle rate is greater than 1%. (image)

No Deal For Abe On Friday?


None of the main stream media has so far noted that PM Abe may have lost a major battle on Friday, as he tried to enact the hugely controversial war bills that could allow Japan to engage in battle abroad. Opposed to this, a large coalition of people who want to maintain the current Article 9 of Japan's post-war Constitution. Over the past days and weeks, massive demonstrations outside the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, and in many other cities as well. It is going on tonight as I type this.So, yesterday, Abe and his right-wing Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (the political arm of the lay sect of 1950s style born-again Buddhist connected to Sokai Gakkai) seem to have failed to use their majority to enact this? Very confusing as main stream media has no updates late Friday. Confusing. Stay tuned for more.Update: Video from outside the Diet late Friday night: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"> Update: As of midnight, NHK World has no news on the failure of "Japan's governing parties" to enact the bills on Friday...NHK World: Japan's security bills may be enacted on Friday Sep. 18, 2015 Japan's governing parties seek to have a set of security bills enacted on Friday. But the largest opposition Democratic Party remains keen to block the plenary session of the Upper House from passing the legislation.The legislation would allow the country to exercise its right to collective self-defense. It would also expand the role of Japan's Self-Defense Forces abroad.Update 2: And of course, as everyone already knows, the bills were passed "early on Saturday morning" since this is what democracy is like in Japan: If you are a LDP lawmaker, you vote as LDP wants you to vote, or else. While this formally also applies to Komeito, apparently, this party has already begun to crumble as its major support base, the Buddhist Soka Gakkai members, are not happy with the party's support for Abe, especially regarding this issue.More analysis here and here. Key quote:Unable to muster support to formally amend Article 9 of the Constitution, which enshrines its pacifist sentiment, Abe opted instead to reinterpret the document for the purpose of his bills, ignoring warnings from scholars and lawyers that they are unconstitutional. The changes reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan’s military to fight to protect its allies, which Abe argues is necessary because of threats from an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea.Eco News from Japan and Asia![...]

How Japan Got Rid of America's Nuclear Weapons, in 1991 and 1992


"A major step forward to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons," Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said modestly.235 The offload was not instantaneous, however. The withdrawal of the nuclear weapons was cleared by President Bush's approval of the 91-92 Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (NWDA) on November 5, 1991, which became National Security Directive 64 (NSD-64),236 but it would take nearly nine months before all nuclear weapons were removed from the fleet. "We could get the weapons home faster," by sending out replenishment ships to bring weapons back, "but it would be dangerous. We don't want a weapon accidentally dropped over the side," a Navy official said.237

Hans Kristensen Japan Under the US Nuclear Umbrella Section 5, "Nuclear War Planning in Japan"


So, How Will the "War Bill" Deal With Nuclear Weapons?


The current debate in Tokyo's Parliament, the Diet, has not mentioned how Japan intends to deal with nuclear weapons, or nuclear defense. The current debate and the panic inside the Diet today is about "collective self-defense" but I am surprised there has been no mention of the role of nuclear weapons.I used to be impressed by how Prime Minister Eisako Sato got the Norwegian Nobel Peace Price, for Japan's three principles: non-production, non-possession, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons.Collective Self-defense. Take a deep breath, and try to define that concept. And tell us what Japan's nuclear umbrella means to you. I have not heard a single word about it, in the news, or the has more:Deployment of Nuclear Weapons in JapanAllegations that the United States brought nuclear weapons into Japan despite the Japanese ban against nuclear weapons in its territory were frequent during the Cold War. Such allegations were always denied by Japanese governments. The newly declassified documents obtained for this report, however, provide important new reinforcement to these allegations. Indeed, references in these documents to U.S. nuclear weapon operations on Japanese soil and through Japanese harbors and territorial waters are commonplace. The strength of this evidence leaves little basis to continued insistence that the United States ever respected Japan's three non-nuclear principles. In particular, the newly declassified documents disclose the following: 1. In 1972, during preparations to establish Yokosuka as the home port of the USS Midway (CV-41) the following year, the U.S. State Department recommended removing nuclear weapons from the aircraft carrier to avoid a conflict with Japan's non-nuclear policy. The Chief of Naval Operations, however, vetoed this move as "operationally unacceptable." Yokosuka subsequently served as the home port for the Midway for two decades. 2. During the 1970s and 1980s, special nuclear weapons training and nuclear weapons handling procedures existed for the USS Midway (CV-41). These special procedures, unique to this vessel, enabled nuclear weapons to be removed from the vessel outside Japanese territory. This capability apparently implemented an unwritten agreement under which Japan would permit the United States to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese ports as long as the United States did not remove offload them to shore.  (...)Nuclear War Planning in Japan, by Hans Kristensen: Close Help         Hans Kristensen Japan Under the US Nuclear Umbrella Section 5, "Nuclear War Planning in Japan"Introduction and SummaryThe Early YearsThe Battle over Okinawa The "Secret" AgreementNuclear War Planning in Japan About the Author Nuclear War Planning in Japan Perhaps more surprising than the routine introduction of nuclear weapons onboard warships and aircraft is the fact that part of the U.S. nuclear warplan itself (SIOP) was built and maintained at Fuchu Air Station. Moreover, facilities in Japan were routinely used for nuclear Command and Control operations to exercise this warplan. The SIOP was the first attempt to bring together under a single coordinated plan the numerous nuclear strike plans of the ever-increasing number of nuclear weapons assigned to ships, submarines, aircraft, and land-based missiles. Incorporating the objectives and guidance of the National Strategic Targeting and Attack Policy, the SIOP governed all attacks on all targets listed in the National Strategic Target List (NSTL). It determ[...]

Do Join The CUJ Facebook Page!


We resisted this for a long time, but social media is a way to reach out to more people. Do join Consumers Union of Japan, and our humble Facebook page, if you are so inclined.

I wish consumer organizations in other countries would also pick up "peace" as a major theme.

How about it?

On the left in the photo, let me introduce Oono-san, who edits the Nikkan Berita website. Cool dude who lives in Chichibu, Saitama. He knows all about Okinawa, if you need a quote (or some history of the issue). Or labour issues, or more. On the right, our very special ladies from the No! GMO Campaign. They know even more about genetic engineering and why we shouldn't be eating the stuff,  than I do.

If you like Facebook, do sign up!


Huge Demonstrations For Peace In Japan - 2015


Events this week could lead to a change in Japan's Constitution, but tens of thousands of people or even more are demonstrating on the streets to keep Article 9, that prohibits Japan from taking part in war zones abroad.I hope that of course, "War is Over" and that Japan will continue to contribute to peace.Great to see such mass events in front of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, where the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito (do google them, why would a Buddhist sect support Japan going to war?) are arguing for Japan's right to collective self-defense and thus stepping into all kinds of war zones.The opposition parties need to get their act together. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> (Kyodo) -- Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the Diet building in Tokyo on Monday amid growing public opposition to controversial national security bills that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to have passed this week. The mass rally in the center of Japan's capital came after a similar one at the end of last month that its organizers said attracted about 120,000 people at the same site. The government-sponsored bills would greatly expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces' overseas activities, including allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of its allies under armed attack even if Japan itself is not attacked. Led by young people including members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, or SEALDs, leaders of opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, and Noble laureate for literature Kenzaburo Oe are expected to take part in the rally. People rally against controversial security-related bills being debated in the House of Councillors, in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo on Sept. 14, 2015. (Mainichi) Click to enlargeThe bills are currently under deliberation in the upper house of the Diet, after the ruling coalition, led by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, pushed them through the lower house in July.Do support our effort to keep Japan out or war zones. I work for Consumers Union of Japan, with a focus on peace. CUJ was founded in 1969 so we have a long history. And we like the new wave of protests: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Drone footage.Do check out Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, or SEALDs, (English)SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) is a platform of emergency actions by students to protect a free and democratic Japan. We are a group of youths from late teens to early 20s. We aim to rethink and enact democracy. We uphold the tradition of freedom and democracy in Japan that has been built for the past 70 years after the World War Ⅱ. Our principal aim is to protect the Constitution of Japan which is fundamental to this tradition. The philosophy of Japan’s Peace Constitution is a proj[...]

Et Tu, Tea???


Do you drink "English tea" from Harrods, or Earl Grey from Twinings? Thinking it is worth the heavy price? Or Kirin's Afternoon Tea? Maybe you think the NGO Rain Forest Alliance label makes it worth even a little extra?So did I, until BBC and others revealed indescribable conditions for the workers at the plantations at India's Assam tea plantations. Shocking.BBC: The bitter story behind the UK's national drinkSeveral of Britain's biggest tea brands, including PG Tips, Tetleys and Twinings, have said they will work to improve the tea estates they buy from in India after a BBC investigation found dangerous and degrading living and working conditions. Harrods has stopped selling some tea products in response, and Rainforest Alliance, the ethical certification organisation, has conceded the investigation has revealed flaws in its audit process. The joint investigation by Radio 4's File on Four and BBC News in Assam, north-east India, found workers living in broken houses with terrible sanitation. This is not just about Britain. Tea from Assam, India is being sold all over the world, including Japan. Unilever, which owns PG Tips and Liptons, says it takes the issues the BBC has raised seriously, but that progress has been made. However, the company recognises "there is still more to be done to raise standards" and says it is "working with our suppliers to achieve responsible and sustainable practices". Harrods says it has removed Doomur Dullung tea from its shelves in response to the BBC investigation, but noted it hasn't bought any tea from the garden this year. Meanwhile Taylors of Harrogate, which owns the Yorkshire Tea brand, told the BBC the company was "extremely concerned" by the BBC's findings and said it was "investigating as a matter of urgency".Lipton.jpTwinings.jpNot a word on these fancy, expensively managed Japanese websites about the recent BBC story.It is easy to search for Assam Tea, and find all kinds of companies in Japan that features it, like Little Mermaid or  Brooks or "Pure Fresh Tea" Tea Club or even Kirin's "Afternoon Tea" - not a word so far about the news about the terrible conditions in Assam, India.Kirin:  ●アッサムインドのアッサム地方の紅茶。水色はオレンジ系の深い赤。枯(か)れた香りと濃厚(のうこう)な深い味が特長です。Kirin clearly cares more about its plastic bottles than about the conditions of the workers harvesting the tea it sells. Pecology? What on earth is going on? Kirin, you can do so much better.Some products even carry the label of an NGO, that should protect biodiversity. Rainforest Alliance tries to defend itself here: The Rainforest Alliance Responds to Allegations Made by the BBC Regarding Tea Estates in Assam, India As with any tropical crop, tea presents a number of environmental and social challenges. The Rainforest Alliance has been aware of these challenges since we began working in the tea sector in 2007. We take the allegations and assertions made in the BBC File on 4 and other programmes seriously and commend the BBC team for highlighting what remain systemic and deep-rooted issues in the tea sector within regions such as Assam. An investigation into the allegations is currently underway.Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms are certified to the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. The SAN is an independent organization consisting of a range of conservation groups including the Rainforest Alliance ( The standards devel[...]

"My Number" Becomes Law In Japan


Today, rather suddenly, Japan's government enacted a law that will give everyone living in Japan an ID number, and that means a lot of changes for our tax system here, as well as the social security/health insurance coverage/plus alpha*It also means Japan joins the ranks of nations where the government and its agencies can get much more data on its citizens. This includes the right to access our bank account information. Employers will be a big part of this system, as people working for firms will get their "My Number" through the company they work for.There is no opt-out, like in the US system (from 1936), or the Swedish system (from (1947) - back in that northern European bastion of civil rights (right...) you can get a temporary ID number if you need it, say for a sensitive medical examination or if you have other special reasons. Something for Japan to consider, as I point out in my September essay for the Japanese magazine we publish over at Consumers Union of Japan (E).Subscribe to Consumers Report thru this page (J) The Mainichi/Kyodo goes further in wondering if this really will be possible to implement, without a lot of pain, for example due to data leaks, and for all the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions here, who do not have a permanent address:Japan enacts law to allow gov't access to personal bank data(...) Following massive personal data leaks from the Japan Pension Service following cyberattacks in May, deliberation of the bill was stopped for three months after it cleared the House of Representatives and only resumed last week. The legislation was modified to delay linking the ID numbers with people's pension data until November 2017 at the latest. The government also aims to use the ID numbers to identify victims of disasters and smoothly deliver assistance funds. With the numbering scheme set to launch in January, concerns are growing over slow preparations by municipalities as well as small and medium-sized companies to update data systems and boost security. Companies will be required to manage all of their employees' ID numbers and include them in tax-related documents. A government survey also showed that of the 55 million households across Japan scheduled to receive the ID numbers by mail, at least 2.75 million, or 5 percent, may not be able to get them as they reside away from their registered addresses. Those people include senior citizens in hospitals and nursing homes.September 03, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)More information:EU Business: “My Number”: Japan introducing Social Security and Tax number System from January 2016Keio University: Japan’s National ID System Poses Risks & AdvantagesMeiji University: Japan’s New “My Number” ID Numbering System:Will it be able to balance privacy and the public interest?EFF: In Japan, National ID Proposal Spurs Privacy ConcernsEco News from Japan and Asia![...]

How To Think About TPP, And Celebrate - Updated With Links


The last TPP Ministerial in Hawaii did not get the results that governments and corporations wanted. I think we need to celebrate.

We do not want more trade in cars, more trade in milk and meat. We don't want extended patents that will make medicines more expensive. And why should copyrights benefit Disney forever?

If we really care, the lack of results at the last TPP round actually mean that the amazing movement of citizens and consumers and environmental and labour activists - we won. We fought the system and it lost.


East Asia Forum: Will the TPP endgame get tangled in old spaghetti?

Huffington Post: TPP Threatens Access to Affordable Medications for People Around the World

Washington Post: Why NAFTA passed and the Trans-Pacific Partnership failed

The Sydney Morning Herald: Should Australia be wary of the TPP? Yes, Minister.

The Mainichi: Japan's TPP benefits limited as U.S. mulls taking 20 years to remove vehicle tariffs


LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The United States, Canada and Vietnam plan to remove import tariffs on Japanese automobiles over a period of 10 to 20 years under current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, it has been learned. The United States, the largest importer of Japanese cars, would take around 20 years to remove tariffs, meaning that for Japanese manufacturers of finished vehicles, benefits from the Pacific Rim free trade agreement would be limited for the time being. (...)

South Korea, a rival to Japan in trade, has already reached a free-trade agreement with the United States, under which the U.S. will eliminate tariffs on vehicle imports from South Korea in 2016. When the TPP comes into effect, it therefore seems unlikely that the Pacific Rim agreement will immediately boost Japan's competitiveness in exports to the U.S. 

The United States accounts for over 30 percent of Japan's exports of finished vehicles.


Guest Post Over At Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)


Guest post over at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about copyright issues and the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations – did Japan move closer to the US positions during the recent Maui talks in July, 2015? With Jeremy Malcolm, formerly at Consumers International: Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will see a wide range of changes sweeping the economy and the community, in areas as diverse as food safety/food security, country of origin labeling rules, and copyright. As a staff member of Consumers Union of Japan, I am concerned about all of these issues—but I’m writing here about the copyright changes, which unlike in many other TPP countries have sparked national attention.Copyright has been a sticking point for Japan in its trading relationship with the United States dating all the way back to 1945, when Japan was required to award the victors of the Second World War with 10 years of additional copyright protection. The U.S., Australia, and New Zealand are still benefiting from that even now, and Japan has asked for this to be rolled back in the TPP.But the U.S. negotiators are demanding the opposite: like five other TPP countries, Japan is being asked to extend its copyright term by another 20 years, from life of the author plus 50 years as the Berne Convention requires, to life plus 70 years, and even longer for corporate-owned works. This is a proposal that Japan has considered repeatedly and rejected on the grounds that it would not benefit Japanese creators. Yet the U.S. will not take no for an answer.In addition, Japan is being asked to adopt stricter copyright enforcement rules, including sky-high statutory damages awards, and the ability for police to take criminal action against alleged copyright infringers, even if the copyright owner does not file a complaint.Japanese Creative Sector Speaks OutThe Japan Playwrights Association, the Japan Theatrical Producers Association, and the Japan Theatre Arts Association jointly issued an appeal, opposing the Japanese government’s participation in the TPP negotiations. Their appeal expresses strong concern that controversial issues on intellectual property rights are negotiated without any prior public debate in Japan.Read the rest at EFFEco News from Japan and Asia![...]

Kyoto Journal 83: Food Issue (With An Interview With Me!)


Just published is the 83rd issue of KJ, as it is known among fans. I have some old print issues that I hope will become really valuable at some point (just kidding) from when I first lived in Japan 1988-1993.This time, KJ is all digital, the topic is food, and what could be more timely?Japan, Asia and the world face a number of huge challenges, including food safety, food security, seed/genetic/biodiversity concerns, not to speak of water and agro-chemical/fertilizer related concerns. Climate change is already causing havoc.Fuel? It will not stay cheap forever, and then how do we keep supermarkets and convenience stores up-to-the-last-minute with the latest "fresh" goods? Fertilizers? Not up for grabs forever, either. Add to that land ownership legal battles, and the fact that in many places, farmers are aging and not enough young people are prepared to take over. Plus trade related issues like WTO/TPP and a "spaghetti bowl" of bilateral trade agreements (I refuse to call them "free trade" agreements because they have nothing to do with that).Go to the KJ website, where you can read much more, and even order the real thing: Food pervades every area of our existence. It sustains us. It inspires us. It enslaves us. It educates us. It may kill us. It allows us to communicate with the Gods.Your food is not mine, nor mine yours, but we may share it, and in so doing, what joy. Few remain silent on Food. And why would one? What a natural topic for discussion, discourse, eulogy, outrage, comedy, reflection, prayer, ire, poetry, love. Food is simultaneously universal and particular, literal and metaphoric. It is edible, incredible fun, a celebration of life itself. And so many of its greatest exponents and proponents live here in Asia.   Kyoto Journal is a non-profit Kyoto-based magazine founded in 1987. Its 8th digital issue and 83rd issue—FOOD!—explores the essence of what we eat, in all of the above aspects. Guest Editor John F. Ashburne, long-time Kyoto resident, has written for the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Japan Times, Louis Vuitton City Guide Kyoto Nara 2011 and Wall Street Journal Asia, and authored the Lonely Planet Food Guide Japan. He is an ‘undercover judge’ for a famed global culinary award that must remain unnamed.FOOD!—a delectable feast of articles, essays, interviews, poetry, and fine photography, painstakingly prepared by our all-volunteer international kitchen crew—will be released on August 1st, 2015 (and available for download from Newsstand). Our launch party (a potluck, naturally) will be on July 25th at Impact HUB Kyoto (contact us for more information). Oh, and there's an interview with me in this issue. I speak on what we do over at Consumers Union of Japan, and the challenges of working at a small NGO/NPO, and the joys too. Here are two questions and my replies:How does CUJ view the current attempts to fast-track the controversial and largely undisclosed TPP agreement? How do you see the TPP affecting food producers and consumers in Japan? As I noted earlier, TPP (and before that, the World Trade Organization*) is a major concern. CUJ went to Seattle in 1999 to the infamous "Battle of Seattle" ministerial, and also particpated in the Hong Kong ministerial. And more recently, we went to Brunei for the 19th negotiation round of the TPP. Let me explain - we participate as "stakeholders" whic[...]

Wikileaks: Target Tokyo


New files released by Wikileaks show that the US has been spying on Japan, especially trade related issues (and climate change). Very embarrassing for Abe's government, as the TPP negotiations are at a crucial point in Maui, Hawaii this weekend. (Image from July 29, 2015 Maui Protest)Wikileaks: Target Tokyo: Today, Friday 31 July 2015, 9am CEST, WikiLeaks publishes "Target Tokyo", 35 Top Secret NSA targets in Japan including the Japanese cabinet and Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi, together with intercepts relating to US-Japan relations, trade negotiations and sensitive climate change strategy.The list indicates that NSA spying on Japanese conglomerates, government officials, ministries and senior advisers extends back at least as far as the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which lasted from September 2006 until September 2007. The telephone interception target list includes the switchboard for the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as "Government VIP Line"; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.Today's publication also contains NSA reports from intercepts of senior Japanese government officials. Four of the reports are classified TOP SECRET. One of the reports is marked "REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL", meaning it has been formally authorised to be released to the United States' "Five Eyes" intelligence partners: Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.The reports demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government, indicating that intelligence was gathered and processed from numerous Japanese government ministries and offices. The documents demonstrate intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations on such issues as: agricultural imports and trade disputes; negotiating positions in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization; Japanese technical development plans, climate change policy, nuclear and energy policy and carbon emissions schemes; correspondence with international bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA); strategy planning and draft talking points memoranda concerning the management of diplomatic relations with the United States and the European Union; and the content of a confidential Prime Ministerial briefing that took place at Shinzo Abe's official residence.Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, said: "In these documents we see the Japanese government worrying in private about how much or how little to tell the United States, in order to prevent undermining of its climate change proposal or its diplomatic relationship. And yet we now know that the United States heard everything and read everything, and was passing around the deliberations of Japanese leadership to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The lesson for Japan is this: do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honour or respect. There is only one rule: there are no rules."Big news at every media outlet here on Friday, including The Mainichi:WikiLeaks says U.S. spied on Ja[...]