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Working to Reduce Plastic Bag Use

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, December 31, 2006 Posted: 11:57 AM JST

(by Junko Edahiro, Kazuhiro Okada, and Keiko Hoshino) - Japanese supermarkets, convenience stores and other retail stores generally provide shoppers with free plastic bags to carry their purchases home. Some are reused as garbage bags, but many are simply thrown away. Plastic bags are made from petroleum. In Japan, growing public awareness of resource and waste issues has led to various efforts to reduce plastic bag use.


Giving Disposable Chopsticks a Life Cycle

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, December 31, 2006 Posted: 11:50 AM JST

(by Junko Edahiro and Kazuko Futakuchi) - Japanese people eat with chopsticks, and most chopsticks used in Japan are made of wood. Chopsticks are also used in South Korea, North Korea, China, and Viet Nam, while in Southeast Asia they are normally used only for eating noodles.

Japanese food culture and chopsticks are inseparable. Most Japanese people have their own personal pair of lacquered chopsticks at home that are washed and reused like cutlery. However, when we eat out or buy cold boxed rice lunches, we usually use the disposable chopsticks provided and throw them away after use.


Eastwood's Movies about Iwo Jima Raise Warnings

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 26, 2006 Posted: 10:50 AM JST

The Japan Times has an excellent article today about Clint Eastwood's two movies about Iwo Jima, written by Kiroku Hanai. Hanai feels that Eastwood's take on Iwo Jima is strongly anti-war and also fair: "Unlike past U.S. war movies, this film shows both the good and bad sides of the Japanese Army, he writes.


Counting Birthdays

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, December 24, 2006 Posted: 04:48 PM JST

Today's my birthday and that got me thinking on a great irregularity in the Western way of doing things. I can't even start to count the Westerners who have complained to me over the years that Japanese are not logical and that this country is full of contradictions. The truth is of course that no culture is truly logical, nor without contradictions. How do you explain this glaring Western one away?


New Education Law Fosters Discriminatory Behavior - Educator

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, December 24, 2006 Posted: 08:38 AM JST

Masaru Okazaki, school teacher and author of "Gakko Saihakken!" (Rediscovery of schools), writes in an Asahi opinion piece that schools' increasing focus on scholastic ability fosters discriminatory behavior. "Today," Okazaki writes, "schools tend to apply one yardstick to rank children: scholastic ability. This creates disparities among children that could foster discriminatory behavior. This is a product of competition-oriented educational reform that attaches great importance to grades. Ranking schools by test scores is nonsense. It is also degrading to children."


China-Japan Joint History Study

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 22, 2006 Posted: 11:34 AM JST

China and Japan will begin a joint history study from December 26. Both countries have each appointed a 10-member team to conduct the research. The teams will conduct a study of 2000 years of history between China and Japan with an expected strong focus on the Japanese occupation of China during World War II. The study is an attempt to further improve ties that were extremely strained while Koizumi was Prime Minister.

Last year Japan Focus published an excellent interview with German freelance journalist Gebhard Hielscher in which the importance of joint history studies was brought to the fore. This interview is certainly relevant now so we republish it here:


2055: Japan's Population Collapses, North Pole has Vanished, but Pakistan will be Rich...

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, December 21, 2006 Posted: 03:27 PM JST

Japan's population is predicted to fall to less than 90 million by 2055 the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday. Japan now has close to 128 million inhabitants. The prediction is based on the assumption that the Japanese fertility rate remains as it was in 2005, when the average Japanese woman gave birth to 1.26 children during her lifetime.


Nearly half of Japanese Fathers Short of Time with Kids

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Posted: 12:15 AM JST

About 40 percent of Japanese fathers have problems securing time with their children, according to the FY2005 international survey of education at home released on August 1, 2006, by the National Women's Education Center, Japan.


NPOs Devise Business Model to Revitalize Lake-Area

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Posted: 12:13 AM JST

Aiming to purify the water and preserve surrounding ecosystem of Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, a business project with ecological intervention is in progress under an agreement sealed in October 2004 by two nonprofit organizations and an agricultural company, namely the Asaza Fund, Eco-Town Hokota and the Guild. They process alien fish species and non-commercial fish caught in Lake Kasumigaura into fish meal, so that regional farmers can use it as fertilizer or livestock feed. The business set up a brand name for agricultural products grown with the fish meal and started marketing it in February 2006, thereby building up a regional recycling business model.


Rail Travel Promoted as an Effective Way to Cut CO2 Emissions

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Posted: 12:10 AM JST

One person traveling one kilometer by rail generates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are only one-sixth of emissions generated traveling by air and one-tenth of emissions generated traveling by car; thus, a shift to rail travel is an effective way to reduce CO2 emissions. These figures were in a report released in August 2006 by the Kiko (Climate) Network, a Japanese non-governmental organization engaged in anti-global warming initiatives.


Red Data Book Completed for All Endangered Fauna

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Posted: 12:05 AM JST

The Japanese Red Data Book for insects was revised and published in August 2006. With this edition, the Red Data Book series now cover all animal taxa in Japan.


Turn Off the Lights!

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 19, 2006 Posted: 05:50 PM JST

Turn off the lights and take it slow, for two hours from 8 to 10 p.m. on the night of December 22, 2006 (your local time). Candle Night encourages people to turn off the lights and spend some quality time in the candlelight.


From Flags of Our Fathers to Letters From Iwo Jima: Clint Eastwood’s Balancing of Japanese and American Perspectives

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 19, 2006 Posted: 03:07 PM JST

(by Aaron Gerow) - History, like the cinema, can often be a matter of perspective. That’s why Clint Eastwood’s decision to narrate the Battle of Iwo Jima from both the American and the Japanese point of view is not really new; it had been done before in Tora Tora Tora (1970), for instance. But by dividing these perspectives in different films directed at Japanese and international audiences, Eastwood makes history not merely an issue of which side you are on, but of how to look at history itself.


The Case for Japanese Constitutional Revision Assessed

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 19, 2006 Posted: 02:58 PM JST

(by Koseki Shoichi; translated by Richard H. Minear) - There’s been much discussion of constitutional revision in Japan. In November 2005, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its formation, the Liberal-Democratic Party published its “Draft of a New Constitution.” In this rapidly changing world, it’s quite risky for a developed country to make a constitution with an eye to the 21st century. Why? Because this is an age in which the nation-states that shape the modern era are changing dramatically, and because we still can’t see what lies ahead.


Japan ruling party official calls US A-bombing 'crime'

Kjeld Duits, Monday, December 18, 2006 Posted: 05:33 PM JST

Conservative politician Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has called the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki a "crime," acorrding to a report by Kyodo. Several overseas news media like the International Herald Tribune, Zee News, the Melbourne Herald Sun and related Australian newsmedia have already jumped on the news.


Is Japan Moving to the Right?

Kjeld Duits, Monday, December 18, 2006 Posted: 12:55 PM JST

Last week Japan's Upper House enacted a law to teach patriotism at Japanese schools, and another one to upgrade the defense agency to a full ministry. As a lower ranked 'agency' it had less influence. The two measures are widely interpreted as an attack on Japan's strongly felt postwar pacifism. Especially because pre-war education played such an important role in preparing Japanese to sacrifice themselves for the state. A large number of media reports both in Japan and abroad sounded clearly worried.


Kjeld's Work at Exhibition in the Netherlands

Kjeld Duits, Saturday, December 16, 2006 Posted: 08:34 AM JST

The Dutch National Archive (Nationaal Archief) and the Kunsthal Rotterdam next year organize a unique exhibition about work of 17th century cartographer Johannes Vingboons. My photographic work will be part of this exhibition.


Japan is Starting to Pollute Again

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 15, 2006 Posted: 06:36 PM JST

In the 1950s and 60's Japan was known as the world's worst polluter. During the 1970's however, it created a pollution miracle that earned it the world's admiration. Even environmentalists agreed that Japan had done an incredible job. A 1977 OECD report said that "Japanese trends in environmental quality ... are on the whole ... more favorable than in other countries."


Company Bans Overtime

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 15, 2006 Posted: 05:22 PM JST

Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd., known for its "Mujirushi Ryohin" brand, under which it designs and manufactures clothes and various other products for wholesale and retail, is in principle to ban overtime after 7 pm. This new step, to be launched in January 2007, is aimed at employees in the headquarters and those whose duties require them to stay in the office after seven; they will now be required to report the reasons for overtime in advance.


Starting Salaries of 2006 Graduates Mark First Positive Growth in Three Years

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 15, 2006 Posted: 05:19 PM JST

According to the 2006 Basic Survey on Wage Structure published in November by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the average starting salary for new university graduates this year increased to 196,200 yen, 1.2 percentage points above the previous year. The average salary for male graduates was 199,800 yen (an increase of 1.6 percentage points) and for female graduates 190,600 yen (an increase of 0.7 percentage points). All the figures showed positive growth for the first time in three years.


UK Lawyer Wants to Ban Japanese Dog

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, December 14, 2006 Posted: 12:31 PM JST

A lawyer in the UK has called on a ban of the Japanese Akita breed, after some Akitas were involved in attacks on children. In an article in the Western Mail, Paul Rowland describes Akitas as having "a tendency towards violence, particularly towards young people."


Foreign Minister Aso Faces No-confidence Motion

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 13, 2006 Posted: 09:21 AM JST

Foreign Minister Aso faces a no-confidence motion over his recent pro-nuclear comments. Yesterday three opposition parties -- the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party (PNP) -- agreed to jointly submit the motion to the Diet. Aso has recently repeatedly made comments that Japan should discuss nuclear weapons. These and other comments made me express my worries about Aso early this month.

The three parties and the Japanese Communist Party previously demanded twice that Aso be dismissed. Both attempts were thwarted.

Keywords: national_news

Japan's Byzantine Election Laws

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 12, 2006 Posted: 03:01 PM JST

Eric Johnston of the Japan Times has written an excellent article about Jane Singer Mizuguchi, the American wife of independent Kyoto Prefectural Assembly Member Hiroshi Mizuguchi. The article is especially interesting for what it reveals about Japan's election laws:


U.S. Academic to Talk on Yasukuni Shrine

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 12, 2006 Posted: 02:48 PM JST

The Japan Foundation Kyoto Office is hosting a seminar on Yasukuni Shrine at 6 p.m. Dec. 14 at Otani University in Kita Ward, Kyoto. The speaker is John Nelson, an associate professor of East Asian religions at the University of San Francisco and one the foundation's research fellows for 2006.


Who Was Responsible for the Pacific War?

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 8, 2006 Posted: 08:49 AM JST

The Yomiuri Shimbun earlier this year published an excellent series of articles on Japan's War Responsibility. This series has now been published as a book: Who Was Responsible?, From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor. The book is prized at USD 40.00 and comes highly recommended by people like Henry A.Kissinger, Alvin Toffler, Francis Fukuyama, Donald Keene and others.


UN Adopts Japan's Draft Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 8, 2006 Posted: 08:02 AM JST

Japan's draft resolution on nuclear disarmament "Renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons" was adopted by an overwhelming majority yesterday (New York time: Wednesday, December 6) at the Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly.


Thinking the Unthinkable: Toward Japanese Nuclear Armament?

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 6, 2006 Posted: 08:04 AM JST

(by C. Douglas Lummis) - The following dialogue reads rather like the classic dispute between the Pacifist and the Realist ( “To protect the peace, prepare for war”; “But one mustn’t . . .” ) carried to a higher level. But quantity becomes quality: when you are talking about nuclear weapons, the conversation is no longer the same as when you are talking about swords or even firearms. This is what Emmanuel Todd doesn’t seem to grasp, while Yoshibumi Takamiya (at least partly) does.


Ryuichi SAKAMOTO: From Bach to Rock to Pop . . . and the Fate of the Corporate Earth

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, December 6, 2006 Posted: 07:57 AM JST

Japan's expat rebel with many causes blends music and a wider world view

Former Japanese pop heart-throb and musical pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto talks to David McNeill about music, the state of the planet -- and why he still reluctantly lives in New York City.


Japanese Tourism Gets Real

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 5, 2006 Posted: 09:32 PM JST

Kansai is getting serious about so-called 'real-experience' tourism, which is helping to revive farming and fishing villages. Wakayama Prefecture, a pioneer in this field, now attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually. Many are attracted by real-experience tourism. The real-experience boom is partly thanks to the 'Wakayama Real Experience Club,' a non-profit organization headed by Hiroshi Tone. Tone believes that the era of package tours that rush you through tourist attractions and monuments, and tourism business that touts convenience and creature comfort is over.


Osaka Exports to China Set All-Time Record

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 5, 2006 Posted: 09:11 PM JST

Exports from the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga, Nara and Wakayama prefectures) in October increased for the 55th consecutive month to 1,337.6 billion yen. That is an increase of 9.3% compared with the same month last year. Imports increased for the 33rd consecutive month to 1,070.5 billion yen, a year-on-year increase of no less than 16.5%. Both export and import numbers were records for October according to a preliminary trade report released by Osaka Customs on November 29.


Young Salaried Workers Dissatisfied with Annual Incomes

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, December 5, 2006 Posted: 12:33 PM JST

Career Design Center Co., Ltd., a company which manages websites for job-switchers, carried out an Internet survey targeting approximately 700 salaried workers in their 20s and 30s, and found that an increasing number of workers are dissatisfied with their current annual income levels, now that the economy is recovering. Japan has reportedly entered its longest post-war phase of economic growth, but many firms, it seems, are still cautious about pay raises.


Why the US Should Remember its Role in Forcing Open Japan When Commemorating Pearl Harbor

Kjeld Duits, Monday, December 4, 2006 Posted: 04:05 PM JST

In a few days, the US commerates the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It has generally been described as an unprovoked "sneak attack". Celebrated writer George Feifer, author of Breaking Open Japan, begs to differ. He has written an excellent article on Commodore Perry's forced opening of Japan in 1853. This event had immense implications on history and lead straight to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It teaches us extremely important lessons that we seem not to have learnt.


Foreign Minister Taro Aso Announces "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity."

Kjeld Duits, Saturday, December 2, 2006 Posted: 12:19 PM JST

The Daily Yomiuri today reports that Foreign Minister Taro Aso has unveiled "a new foreign policy vision that will help promote democracy and economic development in Southeast and Central Asia and Eastern Europe." Why does this make me feel so uneasy?


DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Awards

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 1, 2006 Posted: 03:57 PM JST

DAYS JAPAN has announced the 3rd DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Awards. Almost three years have passed since the monthly photojournalism magazine was launched. During this period they never changed their strict policy of telling the truth from the side of victimized citizens.


A Great Hosting Company

Kjeld Duits, Friday, December 1, 2006 Posted: 10:17 AM JST

This year I moved several of my sites to Media Temple. Over the years I have had lots of troubles with hosting companies, so I was wondering how MT would work out. They are absolute magnificent. If you are looking for a new hosting service, or are dissatisfied with your current one, I can highly recommend MT. They are always ready to help you out, and really on the ball. What really blew me away is what happened this week:


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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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