Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Olympics

Olympic coverage anywhere is parochial -  people want to see familiar competitors and familiar sports...  Here, coverage on NHK is dominated by Judo.  In fact tonight it has only been judo.

I've asked Hiro (a former judo player) about the rules many times. I understand it's all in the shoulders - shoulder touching mat = point, shoulder touching mat more = more points, shoulder completely touching the mat = a complete point.  

But I still don't get it.... at all.
ABC Aus. radio is blocked for international listeners.... 

Just as well my interest is marginal...

Electricity and politics - Summer 2012 (4)

Much more than last year,  this year is being characterised by systematically organised protests. 
Last week and the week before I went to the protests at Kokkai Gijidou Mae - outside the Prime Minister's official residence. I was there more to see what was happening rather than to protest. I can't say I'm unequivocally in the anti nuclear camp, though obviously the current situation in Fukushima is completely  unacceptable.

Anti nuclear power protests have a long history in Japan, particularly with the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Government efforts to subdue the protests has an equally long history.  (see this article by Daniel Aldrich for an insight into the way the government has operated to get nuclear established.)  In some ways the protests are about much more than nuclear, they seem to be about democratic fundamentals.  Having said that though, I am not sure how widespread the sentiments are; I have heard few reports of protests in other areas.  It will be interesting to see the next election.

Our destination was the corner diagonally opposite.
But crossing the road was banned. It was 4pm, the  protests were
at 6 pm.  I was there with 2 friends who were visiting, and two
of their Japanese friends.  To reach our destination we had to walk
the four sides of the Diet building - more than 1km I guess.
The same people being turned away.  We were on the same side
of the road as the PM house, about 70 m. from where we were.
Plenty of police - who were all very polite, but the numbers
are intimidating.
We were at the corner diagonally opposite the police when we were told to go back.
Protestors were told strictly by organizers that any speeches must only relate
to the anti nuclear agenda.  A key strategy of successful protesting
 - keeping a clear target.
This guy holding a post that I can't explain and neither could the people
near me whom I asked. He was bending the rules by shuffling back and forth in
the pedestrian corridor.  The police tolerated him for a while, but then asked him to
step inside the protesters area. It took the summoning of an obviously older and
more senior police officer to persuade him.
I have yet to see anyone actively defy the police.
Inside Kokkai gijidou mae station - not enough room to get out.
Protestors "we don't need nuclear power"
The Diet building in the background with police and baricades between it
and the people.... symbolic really when you consider that there has been
negligible attention been paid by politicians.
Protests of 27th - the road by the PM's residence (on the other side)
is blocked to traffic.
Graffiti on a post box - "Fuck Nuclear Power".  Intersetingly written on
what looks like a beginners English name tage.
The Post box
I met up with a friend and fellow blogger
Rurousha to go on the 27th July 2012 protests. We met in
Hibiya Park, which is often a site for protests, though the size is too small
to have large rallies.
A marshalling point for participants?  Just near the Ministry of Industry  (METI) building,
between Hibiya Park and the Diet, a group of protestsers had set up shop.
Protests outside METI.

Police keep protestors on a very light leash. Protesters can't move
out of the "protesters area". One side of the foot path is shut off
to enable people to walk along the footpath, but since there is almost
no pedestrian traffic, it serves a double bonus purpose as
preventing protesters from congregating in a more condensed area.

For Rurousha's account with an African perspective, see

Monday, 30 July 2012

Electricity & Politics, summer 2012 (3)

Last year to counter the sudden loss of energy generation capacity drastic measures were taken to reduce electricity consumption, The neon of Tokyo was dimmed; the trains operated on reduced schedules; excess aircon was turned off & temperatures raised;  universities shut early for the summer (in some cases without paying the teachers...). Even though in some ways the effort last year was token, efforts to be sparing with electricity were much more conspicuous, and the situation in Fukushima in someway seemed closer to people. For a flashback to last year 
This year public displays of solidarity with energy saving seem less apparent and  I am sceptical about the extent it remains in people's consciousness, though that may change with electricity hikes at the beginning of September. Today Seibu in Ikebukuro, which has two sets of doors to enter to cut the loss of cool air, had both sets wide open - cold air going straight to the street... I closed them ;).  A couple of weeks ago I walked into a classroom where there the power to adjust the thermostat has not yet been appropriated by the administration.  It was set to a frigid 19 degrees - the lowest it would go....   For homework they always do a piece of writing - I asked them to write about electricity savings.  Their answers were intriguing.  Out of 70 students, not one student suggested ceasing to use aircon  period, though some thought they could reduce the use.  Most answers were in the "causing me no inconvenience" category.

Answers included go to public place during the day time that have aircon so you don't have to pay for aircon at home..., turn the temperature of the aircon up (standard govt. line), turning off the TV, unplugging appliances not being used, a few talked of green curtains, a lot talked of developing alternative energy sources - that part was encouraging since that is their academic field.

When you look at today's electricty consumption in the TEPCO distribution area compared with last year's for the same day it's not very encouraging.  Admittedly it was about 5-6 degrees hotter today than this day last year. I am not sure what is accounting for the difference in electricity usage - as far as I know this year heavy industry is not being put on rotation for energy usage.  I haven't seen any analysis to account for the difference.

One crucial aspect to changing electricity consumption is changing people's thinking, for the generation brought up in aircon, this will be no easy task.

Daily usage & predicted usage - http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/forecast/html/index-e.html

Back in the shops - Fukushima veges

For the first time in months I've seen Fukushima veges in a supermarket near us.In Akihabara there has been a dedicated Fukushima shop with Fukushima veges, but most regular shops err on the side of caution when it comes to perceptions of consumer safety and opt not to stock food stuff sourced from Fukushima.  (The food service industry is a totally different situation; no requirements on labelling the origin of foods mean  particularly at the cheap end of the spectrum, there is strong incentive just to source what is cheapest.)

It's been very tough on farmers in the area. One of Hiro's uncles is involved in fruit and vegetables in Ibaraki. At New Year when they came to Akita they were talking about the irony of "Ganbarou Tohoku" when so many former customers wouldn't touch food from Ibaraki, let alone Fukushima (though some parts of Ibaraki are closer to the plant than some parts of Fukushima.)    The graph below shows the lack of accuracy in categorizing food by political boundaries -  prefectures isn't an accurate way to avoid food from areas that have high levels of cesium.

MEXT via the Japan Times
Cesium readings Sept 2011.

Though the colouring used looks  dubious if you refer to this website

http://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/comparison-japan-mext-fallout-map-cs-137-in-unep-colors-higher-resolution/, but on the other hand the difference in the scale of the map  distorts the picture as well.  

Yesterday we biked to Ibaraki and talked to the same uncle.  He said things are much better there now. He was showing us the piles of documents that certified products as cesium free, and he was saying things have recovered for them now - people are buying Ibaraki products again.  I didn't get a chance to ask him about how the testing is conducted, where and by whom, but it was obviously a great relief to him that they were testing cesium free. (They were testing cesium free from the outset, but it took some time for customers to return.)

The testing will continue for years, as much for gathering data generally to interpret nuclear accident as it is for protecting consumers.  Norway is still having problem with animals over the maximum allowable level of 
http://theforeigner.no/pages/news/chernobyl-still-affects-norway/   Incidentally, I read recently that the Scandanavian cesium limits are 5 times higher than Japan.

People have to make their own decisions about what to eat and what not to, but I was glad to see the tomato and cucumber and bought a packet of each.

A sign in Ikebukuro advertising the fukushima
market in Akihabara.
Cucumber from Fukushima - the precture name is written on
the second line down in small letters.
Cucumbers and tomato from Fukushima.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Last night was hot. I woke up at 4.30 and it was 31 degrees inside.
Officially it was 27 degrees  - we are in a heat island of apartment buildings where 2 aircon per apartment is the norm - never mind how hot that makes it outside...
I looked for the simple fan that requires no assembly,  bought when we had a mid summer visitor.
I couldn't find it. Finding it was this morning's priority....
The days are not so hot at the moment - 34 degrees or so - but the nights.....
I'm not the only one thinking it's hot yesterday, according to today's Japan Today 4 people died of heat stroke and 900 were hospitalised yesterday.

The advice to avoid heat stroke  -

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency is urging people to drink plenty of water, increase their intake of salt, make sure their rooms are well ventilated and use air conditioning.
It's a perennial rant of mine, but why anyone needs to up salt intake in a country with soy sauce as a staple, and a strokes as one of the highest causes of death,  is beyond me...  Aircon!  Great idea, crank up the aircon and the nuclear plants at the same time...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Electricity & Politics summer 2012 p. 2 Yoyogi protest 16/7/12

On Monday 16, Marine Day, a public holiday - unless you work in  some higher education institutions or the retail sector - anti nuclear protesters organised a major rally in Yoyogi Park.  I got there for the tail end of it. I had classes until 2.30 and had planned to go after that, but I'd left my hat at home and would burn to a crisp faster than you can say nuclear reactor...so delayed getting there until almost 4.The pictures are from the footbridges - it was very windy & I was doing my utmost not to have the ipad blow off...

Saikadou hantai - we oppose the restart, Genpatsu iranai - We don't need nuclear power.


The anti nuclear protesters march out of Yoyogi down Omotesando
with the park & stadium in the background
Marching down Omotesando. Protesters are kept to the far left
to disturb traffic as minimally as possible.
It was hot day, not for the faint hearted.
There are often breaks in the marchers - the reason for it is that
police hold marchers back at the traffic lights which is good for
traffic flow but not so good for unity of the march.
There is no civil disobedience in the marching - everything is
very orderly, in total compliance with the law & the wishes of the
police - even when the requests seem intentionally obtuse.
Just as well Tokyo has no real crime...
The very last of  the protesters march down Omotesando
The police giving orders.
Police keep protesters on a very tight leash
Lazy lazy journalism. Two journalists talking to two police on the
footbridge betwen the stadium and the station. The police had out
their notebooks and the journalists copied it down verbatim.
According to one of my professors at Sophia, it is customary
for police to feed news stories to the media, particularly ones
with salacious or gory details. A win win situation - police get their
version of events out, the journos don't have to do any work...
win win unless you factor in the public and democratic principles.
I had dinner with a friend  the other day who occasionally mixes
with serious bigwigs in Japan, and he summed it up well: "at the top
they're all drinking buddies."

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Rolling Stones... before my time...

Hiro bought a can of beer the other day - I was a bit taken a back, a flacid tongue that looked as though it was about to start vomiting... Definitely not within my parametres for happoshu (low tax beer)  buying  - no cute or seasonal imagery. (Parametres that make very little sense to Hiro).
It dawned on me about two weeks later that it's memorial can for the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary...
I guess pop culture has never been my forte.... at least I can say they were before my time...

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Mukojima Hyakken: A park for all seasons

While Hiro's parents were down, I took them to Mukojima Hyakken. It was looking good - a park for all seasons with flowers that are more commonly found in the mountains than in a urban park.

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