Category Archives: Eco

Eco is for ecological. Green being and green thinking.

You Ought to Know The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Taking a quick poll of current trending news, using that word loosely, you will notice that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is largely missing from the media. Why?One reason is due to the U.S government stalemate over the fiscal ceiling that, if left unresolved, could lead to ramifications we could sum up as cray banger.

    The Trade-Pacific Partnership, Initially under the acronym TPSEP, planned to liberalize trade in the Asia-Pacific region among  Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand. After several negotiations with original members new candidate countries are being considered into the agreement; some of which include Mexico, the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan. The United states began courting the TPP in early 2008 under the Bush administration’s leadership and now under Obama’s administration is being completed.  The TPP’s main priority is to “free” trade among partners to dilute barriers that stifles economic growth, i.e, tariffs and corporate restrictions.

    Japan voiced its interest in the TPP in early March 2013 to improve its trade in Asia especially after China advanced its position as the second largest economy–one Japan once held. The agreement would give Japanese corporations larger access to different markets; an overall positive outcome to minimize China’s growth within Asia as the  largest exporter. Concerns have grown among anti-globalization, environmental, and consumer-labor groups that the trade pact would stiffen nation business growth; in other words,Japan would become dependent on foreign companies similar to Mexico during its NAFTA treaty with the U.S and Canada.

    The Citizens Trade Campaign, a social and environmental trade policy group, pointed out that the TPP special provisions for corporations are “a wishlist of the 1%…[that] of the 26 chapters under negotiations, only a few have to do directly with trade….new rights and privileges [are enshrined] for major corporations while weakening the power of the nation states to oppose them.”  More concerning is that a larger majority of  information on the TPP meetings stem from Wikileaks and the Citizens’ Trade Campaign leaks. For instance, Intellectual Property Watch reported that $25,000 dollars were raised for Wikileaks to collect and publish drafted text from current TPP agreements because most has been redacted from the public domain and shared chiefly with industries. The shrewd secrecy in these negotiations concern Japanese as the chief majority of proposals  involve fields in government procurement, competition policy, labor standards, intellectual property, financial service, investment, telecommunications and environmental standards.

    One goal of the TPP is to eliminate tariffs and some of those involve what are labeled “sacred precincts.” Japanese tariffs cover about 9,018 specific items, of which the “sacred” categories of rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar account for 586. If current tariffs on all those items were maintained, according to The Mainichi, Japan would still eliminate tariffs on 93.5 percent of trade goods in the TPP zone. It is widely believed, however, that TPP negotiations are shooting for tariff elimination on more than 95 percent of items.Farmers in Japan have been protesting the TPP agenda for a while now. The Liberal Democratic Party, however, has vowed that it would seek to maintain tariffs on vital “national trade goods” including rice, wheat and barley. It was a clear move meant to reduce worries among voters that food safety would be jeopardized for trading consensus. Even if, the Mainichi notes, tariff protections are maintained for certain agricultural products and dropped for processed items, there is still a real possibility that domestic industries would take a hit under the TPP.

    Japan has fared well under Shinzo Abe’s leadership since 2012 winning its bid for the 2020 summer Olympics, raising exports, and taking a modest step out of recession. Consumer spending rose 0.9% and public sector infrastructure spending, part of Japan’s stimulus package, rose 0.8%, which is all good news for the country. Japan, however, faces  a wave of declining prices; a good thing for the average Joes who can now buy more with the same amount of money. For companies, however, if deflation persists for too long then their profits decline; thus, setting into motion a slew of policies that are meant to offset this scenario that involve cutting labor, closing manufacturing facilities, and reducing employee wages. For Shinzo Abe, TPP’s allure is the possibility that it could open new markets for the country in locations where it does not have strong footing. Nonetheless, he risks letting outsiders dominate Japan if he acquiesces to any compromises drafted by other nations such as the U.S; as to how Abe will handle the ramifications of the agreements is unknown. One thing is certain, Japan has much to determine before it can safely procure its citizens that Japanese  businesses, foods, and jobs will not be negatively affected. In the meantime, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) indicates the Japanese economy may see some advances against deflation fairly soon–continuing a string of welcomed reports.

Dance Walk Japan!

We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii...
We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii…

This year I discovered the pleasures of `dance walk` as a way to travel in Japan. It has become my favorite means of transportation and has taken me to visit one of Japan`s World Heritage sites, as well as to explore the area around where I live in southern Japan, and to see things with a new sense of discovery.

I would like to share a mini-`how to` manual with you so that you might try it too in Japan or wherever you are! I will also show you a few of the sites in Japan I have visited through this combined means of exercise and expression.

For dance walk travel, you don`t need much. I recommend these basics:
1. a backpack with easy-to-move-in light clothes for dancing,
2. an i-pod with music you might like to choose in advance to go with the mood of the site and what you wish to express
3. a video camera so you can share the experience
4. a friend or collaborator who shares your enthusiasm and openness, who is not shy to be with you as you will be dancing through the trip!

camera ready

5. (optional) Yoga Mat for stretches in your room and a small overnight kit if you will be staying overnight

take some time to stretch in your room...
take some time to stretch in your room…

As the idea of dance walk is discovery, it is best to travel with an empty mind and an open heart. Every site has its own special nature, so the first thing to do when you arrive at the site is to `greet it` with your movement. Breathe in the sights, the architecture, the sky, the trees, the flowers. If the moon is out, what luck you are in! Greet the moon with your gestures, connect with the sun…feel into your breath, and whenever you are ready turn on the music, begin to listen and feel your own rhythms, listen to your body, and let yourself move–in all directions— from the heart!

I learned in a dance workshop about `greeting` a site and asking its permission. Just as you would to a dance partner, when you dance walk in a site, it is a beautiful thing to `ask` if it is o.k. for you to enter. This can be done through gesture, breath, a short meditation or a simple offering of something you bring from nature or from your heart.

I recently went to Miyajima, one of Japans National Treasure sites located a ferry ride from Hiroshima, to do a dance walk by the famous orange torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. You may know of this site famous for the shrine that appears to float in the sea at high tide.

The video of the dance walk became seven segments, starting in the morning hours before sunrise (the ocean tide and tide and travellers had not yet come in) where me and my video collaborator were the only ones in the site; to the sunset hours where we met some travelers who shared a dance with me in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

I also had a chance to dance with deer who roam the island, but as enthusiastic as I was for the chance to meet them through my dance, they showed indifference. Still those moments when I sat on the grass face to face with a deer were amazing memories for me!! They are part of the dance too. You can see the segment that has my `dance` with the deer here:

Part one starts with greeting the famous torii here and continues here as its power and the power of the tides bring me into both backwards and spinning movements that brought me a deep reverence for the site.

Whether it is a famous site, or a backstreets road, allow yourself to connect with the surroundings and be open to new movements and experience. Don`t hold back! Enjoy the movement! People might think you are a little strange, but the beauty is, people might think that anyway so it gives you a little freedom to go the extra step, to add a little shimmy or sway into your walk, and hopefully to connect with people heart to heart on your travels.

Other dance walks I have done this year include a Cherry Blossoms Dance Walk, and most recently a Rainy Season Dance Walk to dance by a pond of lotus flowers but it rained so hard I just got a short scene! My dream is to go to a dance walk on Mt. Fuji! And little by little to have others join with me in the dance through Japan…
Next time won`t you dance with me!

My dance walk in Miyajima begins here:

and you can find an assortment of dance walks here

Joanne G. Yoshida teaches Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance in Oita, Japan, where she has lived with her husband and daughter for fourteen years.
Feel free to share your comments and questions about her Dance Walk Japan or any of your dance walk plans!! Like Joanne`s Yoga Dance Walk on Facebook HERE.

miyajima peace statue

Floating Wind Turbine Arrives in Fukushima

 Iwaki, Fukushima Pref., July 1 (Jiji Press)–A floating wind turbine to be used for an offshore power generation project arrived at Onahama port in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Monday.

Member institutions hope that the project, commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will help facilitate the reconstruction of Fukushima, one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

   The wind turbine was made at a Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. <7003> plant in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, eastern Japan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Fqe1WGoGy94

Read the rest of the story: Floating Wind Turbine Arrives in Fukushima.

Hotaru-bi no Chakai: A Tea Gathering in the Fire of Fireflies

For anyone set to visit Kyoto this weekend, there’s one event Japanese haven’t failed to celebrate at the Shimogamo Shrine. Wondering what this is? Here’s all you need to know about the Hotaru-bi no Chakai.

Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan which is located north of Kamo and Takase Rivers of north-central Kyoto. The shrine dates back to the prehistoric periods and the first reference of the Shimogamo was of a fence repair dating back to 2BC.

The shrine has served as a central religious aspect for Kyotoites. It has said that the shrine played a significant role in the Heian period when prayers for the capital where held in that area. In countless tales, of which includes “Tale of Genji”, Shimogamo Shrine has been featured.

Today, this Kyoto shrine has been registered under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shimogamo contains 52 building all of which are recognized as iconic Cultural Properties. A number of events take place at the Shimogamo Shrine of which include the Hotaru-bi no Chakai

About Hotaru-bi no Chakai:

Hotaru-bi no Chakai is the event held at the beginning of June which is a special tea gathering done amidst the glow of live fireflies. “Hotaru” translates to firefly while “bi” refers to fire. “Chakai” on the other hand means tea gathering. This event shows the true essence of Japanese tradition where one of its aims is the preservation of Tadasu no Mori, “The Forest of Justice,” which surrounds the Shimogamo Shrine.

Hotarubi no Chakai

For the event, around 600 fireflies are released over the stream called Mitarashigawa which serve as invites to the grandiose tea gathering. Usually, a reservation is required for one to attend the ceremony but there are other programs of the Hotaru-bi no Chakai open to the general public.

If you are ever in the area, make sure to check the Shimogamo Shrine. Other than the Hotaru-bi no Chakai, the ancient “Juni-hitoe” where 12 layers of the kimono will be shown and various dance performances are set for the night. Twenty long established stands also sell around the area at 1pm where the popular Kyoto souvenir, yatsuhashi and the common rice dumpling, mitarashi dango is being sold.

Japan: Online Archive for March 2011 Disasters to Open Thursday

The Japanese internal affairs ministry said Tuesday that it will open a Web site Thursday to allow people to search for photos and video clips related to the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.

The online archive contains some 200,000 items related to the disasters, together with about two million items about other earthquakes and nuclear power.

The Web site is designed to pass down records of the disasters to future generations, help rebuild badly affected areas and take measures against disasters.

An English version of the site is also available.

Read the rest of the story: Online Archive for March 2011 Disasters to Open Thursday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oBiCcCjdBY&feature=player_embedded

Japan: Kumamoto Issues Air Pollution Warning caused by PM2.5

The Kumamoto prefectural government has become Japan’s first municipality to issue a warning over air pollution caused by PM2.5 under provisional state guidelines introduced last week.

The Kumamoto government issued a warning Tuesday on its Web site and by e-mail after the daily average level of PM2.5, or particulate matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size, was forecast to exceed 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

At 5 a.m. (8 p.m. Monday GMT), the level reached 91 micrograms per cubic meter of air at Kumamoto’s Arao government building. The level was 90 micrograms at 6 a.m. and 101 micrograms at 7 a.m.

Read the rest of the story: Kumamoto 1st in Japan to Issue PM2.5 Warning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL_o_jOHk6U&feature=player_embedded

Environment Ministry of Japan huddles on what to do about China smog

Officials of the Environment Ministry and about 130 municipalities nationwide met Monday in Tokyo to boost cooperation on measures against possible high concentrations of toxic smog spreading to Japan from China.

The ministry briefed the officials from major cities and prefectures on the current air pollution situation and its possible impact on people’s health in Japan, caused by so-called PM2.5, an air pollutant found in such smog that covered 25 percent of China in January.

PM2.5, hazardous particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, or 2.5 thousandths of a millimeter, in diameter, can be absorbed by the lungs and lead to heart and lung disease.

The Environment Ministry also explained measures listed under the emergency action program it announced Feb. 8, including a plan to create guidelines for municipalities to issue alerts in case of high concentrations of toxic smog.

Read the rest of the story: Environment Ministry, regions across Japan huddle on PM2.5 countermeasures.

Scientists Warn Pacific Tuna Stocks Have Plummeted

The Pacific bluefin tuna, fished relentlessly for decades, is in trouble.

A report issued this week by fisheries scientists on behalf of fishing nations, including the United States and Japan, shows that decades of uncontrolled overfishing have left stocks vulnerable, with conservationists warning that there is a real possibility of their collapse.

The fisheries scientists, working for an organization known as the International Scientific Committee to Study the Tuna and Tuna-Like Species of the North Pacific Ocean, spell out the crisis in unusually stark language.

The current biomass of the Pacific bluefin “is near historically low levels and experiencing high exploitation rates above all biological reference points commonly used by fisheries managers,” they write. “Based on projection results, extending the status quo (2007-2009) fishing levels is unlikely to improve stock status.”

Read the rest of the story: Pacific Tuna Stocks Have Plummeted, Scientists Warn.

Fight cancer! – Eat Rice!

Rice consumption may help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, a study has suggested.

Professor Ann Richardson of the University of Canterbury said more than 2800 Kiwis were diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and it was “very possible” dietary changes were associated with world cancer trends.

“Rapid increases in the incidence of bowel cancer in Japan and Hong Kong have been linked to dietary changes which have occurred in these countries over the last 50 years,” Stuff.co.nz quoted her as saying.

Per capita, rice consumption declined by almost 50 per cent in Japan over the past 20 to 30 years.

Read the rest of the story: Eating rice may help fight cancer.

Japan shedding nuclear by 2030s under new policy

Japan is expected on Friday to propose abandoning nuclear power by the 2030s, a major shift from policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that aimed to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply.

But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unpopular government, which could face an election this year, also looks set to call in the meantime for the restart of reactors idled after the 2011 disaster if they are deemed safe by a new atomic regulator.

Japan’s growing anti-nuclear movement, which wants an immediate end to atomic power, is certain to oppose any such proposal to secure electricity supplies.

A shift from nuclear means Japan should seal its position as the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and third-largest purchaser of oil to feed its power stations.

Read the rest of the story: Japan seen exiting nuclear by 2030s under new policy.