JAPAN, as I see it
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JAPAN, as I see it
It's my home-town. As going in & out for the last 40years, I see Japan a little different.
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How Japanese education works against critical thinking | Autonoblogger

I was recently asked to write some recommendation letters for a graduate of the university where I work. She is now in the UK and wishes to apply for an MSc. I wrote the following in my letter of recommendation:

Generally speaking, Japanese education, especially at the secondary level and even at the tertiary level, requires the memorization of a large number of facts. Demonstration of understanding of the significance of those facts is not a high priority, nor is the development of critical thinking skills. Even in smaller classes at university (for example “seminars”) which might be assumed to provide an environment conducive to the exchange of opinion and the testing of one’s arguments by means of debate, such debates or other oral activities which might be considered normal, indeed vital, in higher education, are unfortunately rarely to be found. The dynamics of Japanese groups and the protocols of Japanese communication tend to strongly prohibit such activities, with the result that skills of self-expression (stating an opinion and defending one’s thinking) and of critical thinking are sadly weak in the majority of graduates from institutions of tertiary education in this country.
This has both negative and positive implications: the negative ones are obvious; as for the positive, the fact that it is Japanese group dynamics and communication protocols that tend to so strongly inhibit the development of these skills means that it is highly possible for a Japanese, taken out of a Japanese environment, to learn and develop these skills. I quote from a recent academic article which discusses Asian students studying in Western universities (in this case, in the United States): “Speaking of Chinese students, Harris (1997:43) maintains that ‘many are serialist learners by acculturation not personal inclination’; given the opportunity, they will respond positively to alternative approaches with which by nature they are more in sympathy. Harris goes on to conclude: ‘if this is correct, it follows that it is feasible to bring such students to a point of greater learning versatility by the use of educational techniques designed to do just that.’ He makes the further point that [Asian] students may …become more flexible as their confidence increases.” (Harris, R. “Overseas students in the UK system”, in D. McNamara and R. Harris (eds). McNamara, D and Harris, R.(eds.). 1997. Overseas Students in Higher Education. London: Routledge. )
(Plagiarism and the culture of multilingual students in higher education abroad, Sowden, Colin, ELT Jounral Vol. 59/3, July 2005, p.228).

So, the theory is that Japanese students also might flourish and develop critical thinking and other skills necessary, once they are taken out of the environment that stifles the activities necessary for critical thinking to develop. To test my theory, I wrote to another former student who is now here studying this, asking him how he thought his education in Japan had (un)prepared him for studying in the US, especially for a Master’s program. This is his reply:

Well, my list will be endless if I think of what I unprepared/underprepared for a MA.
writing
reading
speaking
listening
note taking
critical thinking
discussion
relationship with professors (how much can i be friendly to them? How much can i get help from them?)

I would say that what I UNDERprepared is all academic English skills, especially in writing. Japanese people well know that they definitely need more work in oral skill, but they often tend to think “my writing will be okay even though it’s not good right now.” In a graduate program, in my experience, professors’s expectations to students’ writing skills is very high, higher than in undergrads….Taking writing classes for 6 months before getting to grad school was not enough for me. I needed more writing experience at the undergrad level. I think I didn’t learn how to write in detail (paraphrazing, summarizing, making topic sentences, etc).

And unprepared things were, as you see, analytical/critical thinking. I never learned the importance of finding a deep meaning/description in texts. Good writing is based on good analytical reading. I could read. I could look up a dictionary; but I had real hard time ‘reading meanings’ between the lines (what theory? Based on what assumption?). Japanese students tend to just read, not getting used to interpreting the texts or interpreting the interpreation that an author made (Among my reading requirement are Derrida/Geertz/Foucault… yes, reading is also crucial for writing well).

But the biggest obstacle for me to survive in a MA program is Discussion. I knew how hard the reading and writing would be before getting into the MA, but I didn’t imagine that in-clas discussion was that hard… teachers may ask student to be a discussion leader. Was I ready to lead an in-class discussion? Heck no. you know being able to talk and being able to discuss are different matter. i can speak English/talk with classmates, but I couldn’t discuss a topic with classmates (and in front of a professor). So discussion was what i unprepared most, I guess, because I didn’t know how to prepare.

Basically, I was unprepared/underprepared in all stuffs. So were other Japanese students and will be, I think. You know that is because of my long experience of “jyugyo wo ukeru”(= receiving a class, being presented a class by a teacher) in the japanese education system. I think i didn’t have much experience of “jyugyo wo toru” (+ take a class from school/teachers). Discussion and critical thinking were, have still been, very foreign to me.

Umm… Japanese’ abilities and suitableness for taking an MA program… Umm… Generally Japanese students who go overseas for a graduate school are very motivated and industrious. In Japan, going to grad school is not as common as in the US ( or in other countries?). Going to graduate school is very rare action for Japanese. “Positively abnormal”, I would say! Strong motivation must be in japanese grad candidates’ heart, and they will make the best effort to be successful in a program.
another possible advantageous thing that Japanese have is the ability to co-operate with people. I believe Japanese students are good at group studies or projects since they have a good sense of harmony ( and the attitude that they won’t say ‘no’!)….Adding to your comment, all Japanese have 12 years’ experience of passive learning (though 1st&2nd grades of elementary school could be exceptional). Teachers talk, students listen and take notes, period. It is very hard for us to adjust to active learning suddenly at a college or oversea. The passive learning has alerady been normalized in them. Analyzing what teachers/textbooks present and rising a hand are foreign custom in Japan, at least in Japanese education, i think. Presenting your own opinion in class and share it with classmates is seen as just show-off. Non-active attitude in class is defintely culturally constructed and normalized.

When new [Japanese] students come to PSU and ask me for some tip to survive American school, I always say “Get used to making mistakes.” this is my rule of thumb to learn a foreign language. I may have got used to making mistakes too much recently(LOL). recently I focus more on better conversation flow (how smoothly can i converse with native speakers) rather than grammatical accuracy in my speaking. I don’t if this is good or not. but I believe that “getting used to making mistakes” was one of the biggest breakthrough that i had experienced. Now I speak English ok even in class because I accept the fact that i make mistakes. Classmates know that i am not American. I don’t think like ‘i take a risk’ any more because having/presenting my own opinion is not a show-off here in the US.

Japanese college students will be fine with active learning environment once they get to feel okay about making a mistake!!

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Japan's Economy Suffers Misguided Pundits, Not Export Competition And Low Birthrates

Japan's Economy Suffers Misguided Pundits, Not Export Competition And Low Birthrates | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

As is well known now, Japan’s economy recent entered into a “recession” of the fraudulent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) kind.  Importantly, the downturn proclaimed by the astrologists who populate economics, along with their confused Keynesian enablers in the press, isn’t really a recession.

As Intermarket Forecasting’s Richard Salsman haspointed out, the Japanese “recession” merely proves what is well known intuitively: governments can’t create economic growth as much as they can reschedule it.  GDP is a Keynesian creation of the first order, and as it’s focused on consumption, it’s no surprise that a technical recession has taken shape.

With Japanese legislators having telegraphed a 3 percent rise in the country’s consumption tax, Japanese consumers merely pushed up their consumption ahead of the increase.  This rescheduling of purchases increased “growth” prior to the tax hike, and then it decreased the consumption that confused Keynesians view as growth once the tax was implemented.  Japan’s underlying economic fundamentals only changed insofar as the worthless number that is GDP missed the obvious rescheduling of purchasing by Japanese consumers.

Despite this, Japan’s alleged decline very predictably attracted the attention of economic pundits eager to apply their astrology to the infinite decisions made by millions of Japanese every millisecond of every day.  They presume based on a change in the artificial number that is GDP to understand what ails one of the richest economies in the world.

Notable here is that Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle recently took to the airwaves to explain to her flock that “better policy can’t save Japan.” According to McArdle, increased competition from other exporters along with demographics that resemble that of “an assisted living facility” render policy toothless.  You can’t make this up.

In McArdle’s defense, the notion of increased global production (exports) weakening growth prospects has been confusing pundits long before she picked up a pen.  What she and the others on whose shoulders she stands presume isn’t something to pay much mind to.  If anything, increased global production (meaning once again, “exports”) represents only good things when applied to Japan, along with all other countries in what is a “closed” world economy.

Seemingly missed by McArdle is the simple economic truth that we produce in order to consume.  Or better yet for those sold on the economically bankrupt notion of “export led growth,” to export is to import.  By definition.  To believe otherwise as McArdle apparently does is to presume that still impoverished countries like China are inhabited by individuals focused on working feverishly to export without any material enhancement in their individual standard of living in return.

The problem with such a belief is that it’s discredited by observable realities.  One doesn’t need to visit China to know that its cities are increasingly populated with gleaming shops selling goods from producers around the world, including from the U.S. and Japan.  And while the Chinese used to suffer living conditions that would make the poorest of Americans shudder, it’s increasingly the case that apartments and houses are going up everywhere in order to fulfill the demands of Chinese seeking the “import” reward of higher living standards in return for their exports....

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Shinzo Abe talks to The Economist

Shinzo Abe talks to The Economist | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

AS HE campaigns for a snap general election due on December 14th, how does Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, plan to put his widely expected victory to use? Will he move faster on economic reform, or concentrate his energies on efforts to change Japan’s war-renouncing constitution? How did he get on with China's President Xi Jinping when the two leaders met in Beijing last month? What are his plans for next year’s 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. And could Japan’s relations with South Korea be on the mend?

Mr Abe met Dominic Ziegler, Asia editor of The Economist, and Tamzin Booth, our Tokyo bureau chief, in the former Kantei building in Tokyo. The residence’s history is entwined with that of Japan’s darkest period: in 1932, young military officers entered and shot to death the then prime minister, Tsuyoshi Inukai. Within four years the militarists were in charge. 

The prompt for the interview was the upcoming election, but the conversation ranged widely: through structural reform in the labour market, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, the rise of China and Japan's dispute with it over the Senkaku islands (known to the Chinese as the Diaoyu). It closed with an exploration of controversies surrounding Japan’s wartime past. Mr Abe struck a confident and relaxed tone, even on difficult subjects. He emphasised that his economic programme, known as Abenomics, was, and would remain, his priority. A full transcript, using the words of Mr Abe's interpreter and lightly edited for clarity, is available below. 

The Economist: Recently you seem to have been a whirlwind of activity. You’ve done a lightning tour of the Asia-Pacific region, three major summits in three different cities. You broke the ice with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, and in Brisbane you had a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Australia and the United States. No sooner were you back than you declared the date for a snap election and you dissolved the Diet. It seems, and this has often struck us at The Economist, that you think of yourself as a man in a hurry, a man with a mission.

Shinzo Abe: We don’t have much time—that’s how I see it. The world is moving fast, in the context of a globalised economy. In East Asia, China is indeed rising, and many other countries around the world are trying to up their competitiveness.

In that context, two years ago Japan’s competitive position looked lost. Japan was about to fall off the world stage. Fertility rates are falling, and our population is ageing. We’re now seeing the absolute level of our population actually shrinking. That’s a very big challenge, and meanwhile Japan is confronted with a huge national debt. As I see it, Japan had to catch up, moving at the speed of the world, which is to say, very fast. And so we needed to speed up our reform of Japan as well.

Now, the 21st century is the one in which Japan really must regain economic strength as well as competitiveness. We are a democratic country, we feel that we cherish the value of freedoms and the rule of law and so forth. And as a democratic country—and as a pacifist nation—we really would like to make a contribution to the region as well as the rest of the world. This is something that I really want to say as a clear message to the rest of the world. This is the firm determination I have, and I am going ahead with reforms, sometimes in the face of severe opposition, but I am determined to do it. In order to do it more resolutely, I decided to dissolve the lower house of the Diet so that we can have strength in holding a solid majority.

The Economist: Typically, journalists hear from politicians about domestic policy and about foreign policy—two different strands. But it seems that you see it as all one. Is that the case? Do you look at Japan’s being strong at home and strong abroad as a part of the same package?

Mr Abe: Well, from the time of my birth to when I reached my 30s, Japan was in its prime in terms of economic strength, growing very robustly, and with that background, Japan’s showing in the world was growing too. At the time, I thought this good trend would continue for a very long time to come, and I also thought that Japan would be a country of much greater importance to the world. But it didn’t turn out like that, because for the past 20 years, we’ve stagnated. During that time, we've seen the emergence of other strong global players. And so there is no way that we can separate our domestic policies from our diplomacy. We have to have a strong economy to have a strong diplomacy; and with strong diplomacy and a strong foreign policy, we can in turn ensure peace and stability in the region. And in the international community, our stronger influence will ensure smoother progress in [building relations and] getting things done.

To make sure Japan’s competitiveness improves, I have already visited 50 countries, helping Japan boost its infrastructure-related exports to the rest of the world. It used to be ¥3 trillion two years ago, but that figure has grown to ¥9 trillion—a threefold increase. So economic diplomacy is also important. Economic diplomacy and foreign diplomacy should be done as one, and that’s how I will continue.

The Economist: I’d like to ask about the personal views and experiences that inform your view of Japan and the world. During your years in the wilderness after your first term as prime minister, before you came back, what conclusions did you draw about Japan and the world? Was one of them that, in effect, China was eating Japan’s lunch, both economically and diplomatically?.....

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The Osaka imam who represents Islam's growth in Japan

The Osaka imam who represents Islam's growth in Japan | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

An Egyptian legal scholar based in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, says he is working to increase understanding between the Japanese people and the more than 100,000 Muslims who live among them.

Islam has gradually put down roots in Japan. There are now around 60 mosques, many of them established in former private homes.

Mohsen Bayoumy, 55, the imam of one such mosque and a central figure in the Japan Halal Association, says awareness of the faith is on the rise.

Not only are there more restaurants serving halal meals cooked in accordance with Islamic dietary laws, but waiters at nonhalal restaurants often ask Muslim customers about their needs, he said.

Bayoumy was born in a Cairo suburb in 1964 and achieved the feat of memorizing the Quran, Islam’s central holy book, when he was 9 years old, under the influence of his devout civil servant father. He studied Islamic learning at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, one of the world’s premier centers of Islamic scholarship.

Al-Azhar posts scholars at mosques worldwide, and in 2000 it dispatched Bayoumy to Kobe.

Bayoumy knew little about the nation except that it had achieved rapid economic development after World War II — and had only a small number of Muslims.

There were only a few mosques in postwar Japan, but the oldest, founded in 1935, was in Kobe.

Muslims began arriving in significant numbers during Japan’s late-1980s bubble economy, in search of jobs. They included young people from Pakistan and Indonesia.

Some of them subsequently married Japanese citizens and became permanent residents. They then began raising funds to convert ordinary homes into mosques and community centers, or to buy low-cost prefabricated homes for the same purpose.

That was the environment which Bayoumy found when he arrived. Over the course of the 10 years he spent in Kobe he saw an increase in Japanese people adopting Islam after marrying Muslims or otherwise being exposed to Islamic culture.

“I have witnessed around 600 Japanese citizens converting to Islam,” Bayoumy said.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Kobe mosque received a number of telephone calls denouncing Islam. Bayoumy would speak with the callers calmly, saying: “We have nothing to hide. Please come here and talk with us.”

Bayoumy moved from Kobe to Ibaraki in 2010, where he became the “imam” (leader) of a mosque created in a two-story house by visiting Islamic students in 2006. One Indonesian worshipper said he welcomed the arrival of an imam, without whom it would be difficult to study the faith in Japan.

Bayoumy hosts study sessions on Saturday evenings attended by around 20 Asian and Middle Eastern Muslims from the Kansai region.

During one recent session a reporter heard Bayoumy telling those present that on pilgrimage to Mecca they must wear seamless folds of white cloth. The audience of bearded men listened and took notes.

Islam has various disciplines that seem far removed from Japanese dietary traditions, such as a ban on the consumption of pork and alcohol.

When a Japanese follower asked if he might attend his family’s Buddhist memorial service, Bayoumy said he should attend but without reciting the Buddhist sutras.

“Allah orders us to have good relations with families and neighbors,” Bayoumy said.

He wears another hat, too, as head of the screening committee of the Japan Halal Association, a position he assumed several years ago. The role requires Bayoumy to visit food processing plants across Japan to examine whether their products are handled in accordance with Islamic dietary laws.

Hikari Miso Co., a maker of fermented soybean paste in Iijima, Nagano Prefecture, was certified as a halal plant by the association in 2012 and began exporting its products to Islamic markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East.

“We would like to raise annual production of (halal) products to 1,000 tons in around 2018 to increase sales in the Islamic world,” said an official in charge at the company.

Bayoumy said he has always wished “to become a bridge between Japan and Islam.

“Deference is the most important thing for mutual understanding,” he added. “Respect as friends creates a peaceful society.”

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6 facts about Japan’s downbeat economy

6 facts about Japan’s downbeat economy | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Japan is a long ways away from the skyrocketing growth the country enjoyed during its post-World War II “economic miracle.” Last week’s lower than expected GDP figuresshowed Japan slipping into its sixth recession since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The world’s third largest economy faces long-term challenges, including pessimistic forecasts from the Japanese public, the hollowing out of Japan’s working-age population and nation's exorbitant public debt.

 

Here are six facts about Japan’s economic gloom:

1Japan’s optimism about its economic future nosedived earlier this spring, according to year-over-year data. Just 15% of people in Japan expected the country’s economic situation to improve in the “next 12 months,” down from 40% who were similarly hopeful in spring 2013, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office. That’s thesmallest share expecting improvement in any of the 44 countries we surveyed.

 

2Two-thirds (67%) of the Japanese see the public debt as a very big problem, according to our survey conducted before April’s tax increase. The primary reason for this hike, from 5% to 8%, was to reign in the national debt, which had ballooned to over 240% of Japan’s GDP. More Japanese see public debt as a “very big problem” than they do the lack of employment opportunities (45%), inflation (31%) or economic inequality (28%).

3Japan’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64) is expected to plummet to 55.2 million in 2050 from 81.2 million in 2010, a 32% decline, according to UN data. In 1970, 69% of Japan’s population (71.4 million) was of working age, compared with 64% in 2010 and just 51% projected in 2050.

 

 

4Meanwhile, the country’s population is getting old, fast. Japan’s elderly population is expected to grow to 39.6 million in 2050 from 29.2 million in 2010, a 35% increase. The country’s median age is expected to rise to 53 from 45.

These trends are going to put a lot of pressure on Japan’s working-age population down the line. By 2050, there will be 72 elderly people (ages 65 and older) for every 100 people of working age, doubling the 2010 ratio of 36 per 100. Indeed, Japan’s old-age dependency ratio is among the highest in the world. Looking at other top economies, Japan’s not alone. Germany’s ratio is projected to be 60 per 100 in 2050, France’s is 44, China’s is 39, and the U.S.’s is 36.

5While unfavorable demographics don’t necessarily portend economic doom, more than eight-in-ten (87%) in Japan view the growing number of older people in their country as a major problem, according to our spring 2013 survey. By comparison, 67% in China see this as a major problem, as well as 55% in Germany, 45% in France and 26% in the U.S.

6Japan’s rapid aging may also be become a social and economic burden for today’s children (or tomorrow’s workers). Just 14% of people in Japan say that children today will be better off financially than their parents. That’s among the most pessimistic views in all 44 countries we surveyed.

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Changing Corporate Culture Key to Closing Japan’s Gender Gap (104th position)

Changing Corporate Culture Key to Closing Japan’s Gender Gap (104th position) | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
Japan has one of the lowest female labour participation rates among OECD countriesThe Closing the Gender Gap in Japan report identifies priority actions for promoting gender equality in JapanIntegrating women into the economy is an efficient use of a nation’s human capital endowment and important for economic growthDownload the full report here

Tokyo, Japan, 3 June 2014 – Gender parity is imperative to Japan’s competitiveness and addressing long-term economic challenges brought on by an ageing workforce, low fertility and an acute talent shortage, according to the Closing the Gender Gap in Japan report published today by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey & Company.

According to the report, the rate of female participation in Japan’s labour force is only 63%, compared to 85% for men. It is one of the lowest female labour participation rates among OECD countries and 79th globally. Among the employed, 35% of women are in part-time employment, compared to 10% of men.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014 in Davos, Switzerland, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe identified Japan’s female workforce as the country’s most underused resource and stated his intention for 30% of all senior leadership posts to be occupied by women in 2020.

“This is an ambitious target, but it is also attainable one, provided it is backed by the correct mix of interventions, exchange between companies to share their experiences and strong support across all stakeholder groups to create a level playing field,” said Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director, Head of Gender Parity Initiatives, at the World Economic Forum.

Despite some improvements in recent years in terms of the economic participation of women in the workforce, Japan continues to fall behind relative to other countries, ranking 104th out of 136 countries on the Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Index. To close the gap and better leverage the female talent base, the report points to five areas where Japanese companies can improve their gender parity strategies. They include: 

Visible leadership and commitment to gender parity from chief executive officers and other top leadersMeasurement and target setting to track gender parity goalsAwareness and capacity building, including training for male and female managersIncentives and accountability for all managers on gender parity goalsImprovements to the work environment and work-life balance

Research shows that 80% of Japanese companies have adopted elements around parental leave and other work-life balance policies, but only 20% of companies have established programmes around talent development, which is essential for women’s progression.

“This report highlights the specific need for Japanese companies to focus on talent development as they look to advance women in their organizations,” said Georges Desvaux, Managing Director of the Tokyo office of McKinsey & Company.

The report shows that gender diversity is increasingly being recognized as a necessity for reputation and serves as an impetus for change in some Japanese companies, while others have made gender diversity a strategic priority to leverage the gains from diversity-fuelled innovation and improve insights into consumer behaviour.

Findings from Closing the Gender Gap in Japan are drawn from surveys of companies conducted jointly with the Keizai Doyukai and J-Win, as well as from the World Economic Forum’s Japan Gender Parity Task Force, which serves as a platform for private-private and public-private dialogue and analysis to support the efforts of multiple stakeholders on closing the gender gap.

Notes to Editors

Download the report at http://wef.ch/cjgg14
For more information on the Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme:http://wef.ch/gender
View the best Forum Flickr photos at http://wef.ch/pix
Become a fan of the Forum on Facebook at http://wef.ch/facebook
Follow the Forum on Twitter at http://wef.ch/twitter
Read the Forum blog at http://wef.ch/blog
View upcoming Forum events at http://wef.ch/events
Subscribe to Forum news releases at http://wef.ch/news

The World Economic Forum is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation in the spirit of global citizenship. It engages with business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is independent, impartial and not tied to any...

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Noe, Ito, 1895-1923

Noe, Ito, 1895-1923 | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

A short biography of Ito Noe, a courageous Japanese woman who broke with her social conditioning and became a champion of both women’s liberation and anarchism.

Ito Noe
Born 1895 - Kyushu, Japan, died 1923 - Tokyo, Japan

Ito was born in 1895, to a family of landed aristocracy, on the southern island of Kyushu. After graduating from Ueno Girls High School, she was forced against her will into an arranged marriage in her native village. She soon ran away to Tokyo.

In Tokyo, women had been developing progressive ideas since the 1870s. Hiratsuka Raicho founded the Seitosha (Blue Stocking Society) and brought out its magazine Seito (Blue Stocking) which gave space to women to develop their literary, aesthetic and political capabilities. Ito joined this group in 1913, at the age of 18, and became one of its editors from 1915 to 1916. Skilled in several languages, including English, she translated articles by the anarchist, Emma Goldman, on the situation of women.

Ito later married the writer Tsuji Jun (1884-1944), who had taught her at school in 1912, but left him to have a passionate love affair with the charismatic anarchist firebrand Osugi Sakae in 1916.

Free love
Ito and Osugi believed in the concepts of free love. Osugi at this time was conducting an affair with the leading woman anarchist, Ichiko Kamachiko. Unfortunately, the theoretical concepts of free love collided with human jealousy and Kamachika attacked Osugi with a knife and severely wounded him. The mass media used this incident to attack Ito, Osugi and Kamachika for their ‘immorality’ and the anarchist movement in general. This caused problems in the anarchist group in which Ito and Osugi were involved and many comrades split with them.

Ito worked with Osugi in promoting the anarchist movement, as well as developing her ideas on women’s liberation. She helped found the socialist women’s group Sekirankai in 1921. She produced over 80 articles for different publications, as well as translating the work of European anarchists like Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. In addition, she produced several autobiographical novels, which charted her life from adolescence, through breaking with tradition, to reaching her emancipated and anarchist outlook. They included Zatsuon(Noises) in 1916 at the age of 21, and Tenki(Turning Point) in 1918.

In 1919, with Osugi, Wada Kyutaro and Kondo Kenji, she brought out the first Rodo Undo (Labour Movement) magazine, which sought to link anarchism to the industrial working class and many branches of an organisation with the same name were set up.

Earthquake
Two years later, in September 1923, shortly after the birth of her seventh child, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Japan.

As often happens in the aftermath of an earthquake, many fires broke out and more people were killed by these than by the quake. A total of 100,000 died and as many as two million were left homeless.

Rumours began to spread, encouraged by the authorities, that various ‘unpopular’ groups were responsible for starting fires and causing other mischief to aggravate the situation. As a result, mobs attacked many immigrant Korean and Chinese workers, and the police used the opportunity to murder anarchist and socialist militants. Thousands were killed. Among them were ten socialists in Kameido in Tokyo, as well as Ito Noe, Sakae Osugi and his six year old nephew, Tachebana Munekazu. They were taken into custody on 16 September and all were
beaten and strangled in the cells of the dreaded Kempei-tai secret police. Osugi had been No. 1 on their death list for a long time.

Several days later, the bodies were found in a well, where they had been left to decompose. At the trial which followed the discovery of the murderer, a secret policeman, Amakasu Masahiko, on orders from Emperor Hirohito, was given just ten years’ gaol. Released by personal order of Hirohito, four years later, and assigned to ‘special duties’ in Manchuria, he finally committed suicide in 1945, before his crimes could be avenged by the many anarchists after his blood.

Earlier in 1924, Wada Kyutaro, a comrade of Ito and Osugi, had attempted to kill Fukuda Masataro, the general in charge of the military district where they had been murdered, who had passed on orders from Hirohito to the secret policeman.

Ito was well aware of the consequences of being an anarchist in Japan at that time. In 1911, Kotoku Shusui, the leading woman anarchist, Kanno Suga, and ten other anarchists were framed on flimsy charges of attempting to kill the Emperor and subsequently executed.

In his autobiography, Bertrand Russell recounts how he met Ito Noe in Japan in 1921. “She was young and beautiful... Dora [Bertrand Russell’s wife] said to her: “Are you not afraid that the authorities will do something to you?” She drew her hand across her throat, and said, “I know they will sooner or later”.

 
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A suspicious death

A suspicious death | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Dec 31st 2010

LAST March a Ghanaian who had lived illegally for years in Japan, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, died in police custody at Tokyo's Narita airport during his deportation. An immigration official expressed regret to his Japanese widow—but the ministry dragged its feet in investigating the incident. Two official autopsies failed to determine a cause of death. Exasperated, Mr Suraj's widow filed a complaint in June to learn what happened that day, and see justice done.

At last the gears are starting to move. On December 28th the police in Chiba, the region outside Tokyo that is home to Narita airport, presented a report to prosecutors documenting the case against ten immigration control officers who were involved in the botched deportation. Although they are reported to have continued working as normal since Mr Suraj's death, they could face charges of violence and cruelty resulting in death, a Chiba police officer told the Japan Times. (The English-language newspaper has published strong coverage of the case, in stark contrast with the Japanese press, which has largely ignored it.)

The incident makes for an unflattering emblem of Japan's controversial immigration policies. The country restricts immigration, on the view that it could undermine traditional Japanese society and mores. Foreigners are blamed for many of modern Japan's ills, from street crime to drugs. Meanwhile, Japan's deportations have long been criticised by rights groups for their excessive use of force. Gagging individuals to restrain them is said to be a common practice. Apparently this is just what happened to Mr Suraj.

It took a dubiously long while for the police to conclude their investigation. Now it is up to the prosecutors to act. May they do so expeditiously, that justice delayed might not be justice denied. 

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Why deadly Japan volcano erupted without warning

Why deadly Japan volcano erupted without warning | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

The death toll at Japan's Mount Ontake volcano climbed to 36 Sept. 29, with rescue crews still searching for missing people.

The eruption caught the hikers by surprise this weekend. More than 250 people were exploring shrines and resorts at the 10,062-foot-high peak, the country's second-tallest volcano.

But just a month ago, in Iceland, anyone with an Internet connection knew exactly where new magma was tunneling underground before the Bardarbunga eruption began. Earthquakes, GPS and volcanic gas "sniffers" plotted out each new advance. (Magma is molten rock underground, whereas lava is molten rock flowing on the surface.) [Stunning Pictures: Japan's New Volcanic Island]

Japan has a similar high-tech network for watching its volcanoes. But Saturday's killer outburst was likely a phreatic eruption, a shallow steam explosion that is nearly impossible to predict, experts told Live Science.

"If you have a monitoring system in place, it's very unlikely that deeper activity will go unnoticed," said Philipp Ruprecht, a volcanologist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. "We have very little information or science to help the monitoring people with phreatic eruptions."

Sudden surprise

A phreatic eruption is just water and heat. Think of the inside of a volcano as a solid rock "oven" heated by magma. Earthquakes and shifting magma often jiggle and crack the rock. When a new crack opens in the oven, a blast of heat escapes, similar to opening a kitchen oven's door. If groundwater leaks into the crack, the water immediately flashes into steam from the intense heat. This violent transformation pulverizes the surrounding volcanic rock. Steam occupies much more space (or volume) than water, so it expands outward in all directions, punching a hole in the side or top of the peak.

"No magma actually erupts, it's just broken-up old rock that's been obliterated," said Margaret Mangan, scientist in charge at the U.S. Geological Survey's California Volcano Observatory in Menlo Park, California.

Cracks can open without warning, Mangan said. On the other hand, frequent or more severe earthquakes at a volcano with a history of phreatic eruptions could mean it's time for more vigilant monitoring, she added.

Earlier this month, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) had warned of waxing and waning volcanic tremors at Mount Ontake. Tremors are small, nearly imperceptible earthquakes. Officials did not raise the volcano's alert level from normal, or Level 1. There were no signs of rising magma, such as changes in the ground surface or gases steaming from the peak, JMA said in a Sept. 28 statement.

Phreatic eruptions sometimes come before lava erupts, like a volcano clearing its throat. The incredible bang from the 1883 Krakatau eruption in Indonesia, heard "around the world" was from a phreatic eruption. Huge lava blasts followed. And similar explosions can occur when magma meets water, which volcanologists call phreatomagmatic eruptions. Some of these magma-water blasts leave behind giant, bomb-like craters called maars.

However, no one has seen fresh lava at Mount Ontake since Saturday's eruption.

The Japan Meteorological Agency currently has alerts and warnings for 11 volcanoes, including Ontakesan, as it is called in Japan. The last phreatic eruption at Mount Ontake was in 2007. Its last volcanic blast was in 1979.

Deadly ash flow

Saturday's explosion triggered a pyroclastic flow, a mix of ash and volcanic gas that billows outward at hurricane speeds and crucible-like heat. It's likely that many of the hikers trapped in the pyroclastic flow survived either because they were on the edge of the ash cloud or because it was relatively cool, though no one knows at this time. Scientists will determine the conditions once the volcano is safer to approach.

A pyroclastic flow triggered by jetting lava can reach nearly 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds exceeding 100 mph.

"It's a hazard that you don't run away from, because they're just moving too fast," Mangan said. [Video Crews Recover Bodies from Japan Volcanic Eruption]

About 200 people are thought to have survived Saturday's deadly blast by scrambling down the mountain through the choking ash clouds or sheltering in huts and lodges. Their harrowing tales include eerie darkness, rocks raining from the sky and struggling to breath in the thick ash. A phreatic explosion tends to produce very fine ash particles, Ruprecht said. The ash covered 2 miles of the mountain's south slope.

"It's like being in a sauna while you're being blasted by a dust storm. It's hard to imagine how they were able to breathe," Ruprecht said.

Volcanic gases such as sulfur dioxide can also suffocate those trapped on the mountain, and rocks flung at high-speed can crush people and cause fatal head wounds. A phreatic explosion killed five people at Mayon volcano in the Philippines last year.

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Japan's Cutthroat School System: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S.

Japan's Cutthroat School System: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S. | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

"No Child Left Behind." "Race to the Top." The names suggest mobility, progress, moving on up and not falling back. The goal of education, according to these national education initiatives with their standards and testing, is forward motion and competitive advantage, progress and success, both in an unabashedly economic context. President Obama talks about how we need to "invest in our young people" in order to compete in a global marketplace.   Bill Gates, too, argues we need standards in order to become "more competitive as a country."

In this, as in so many other things, Japan preceded us. In her new book,Precarious Japan, anthropologist Anne Allison returns to the Japanese education system that she discussed in some detail in her 1995 monographPermitted and Prohibited Desires. As Allison says in both volumes, the Japanese education system after World War II was built around highly competitive and rigorous high-school testing, which required enormous discipline and study. The goal was to prepare students for equally arduous employment in Japan's industrial capitalist economy, where men worked basically all the time. (InPrecarious Japan, Allison relates one anecdote of a man sleeping at his desk for no extra pay.) Good scores on tests ensured good jobs in Japan's corporate economy. For their part, Allison writes, Japanese women were expected to stay home and focus all their time and energy on preparing children for their exams. In Allison's words, they "worked hard at love." Family, school, and work thus fit into a single seamless system of economic striving that "catapulted Japan to the heights of global prestige as an industrial power."

Again, in many ways, the Japanese experience seems to echo the dream of education reformers and policy-makers in the United States: strong parental involvement, rigorous testing, discipline, and study in school leading to disciplined workers competing successfully in the global economy. Obviously, every detail isn’t as appealing as every other. The relegation of women to the domestic sphere would not be popular in the U.S., for example. But overall, Japan's system can be seen as a prototype; the dream we Americans are now striving for.

The one problem being, as Allison shows, that that dream has already turned to dung. Japan's bubble economy burst in the ‘90s. Its amazing, decades-long post-war economic boom turned into post-post-war economic stagnation. Precarious Japan chronicles the unraveling of the home/job/school unity on which Japanese capitalism was based. Through a combination of economic contraction and neo-liberal restructuring of the economy, the lifetime salaryman jobs which were to be the reward of success in high school dried up. Today one-third of Japanese workers are irregularly employed, including 70 percent of all female workers and half of all workers between 15 and 24. A full 77 percent of the irregularly employed earn wages less than poverty level, and so are working poor.

There are a couple possible lessons to take from Japan's experience. On the one hand, you could perhaps argue that it shows that test-oriented education does not actually promote global competitiveness; that Japan's focus on testing and rigid connections between school, home and family, stifled creativity and created an insufficiently flexible economy. This is the critique that University of Oregon Professor Yong Zhao makes of our emphasis on testing in the U.S. From his perspective, the goal of global competitiveness is the right goal, but to get there we need education that focuses on creativity and innovation rather than test-taking.

Perhaps though the problem, though, is not with the methods we are using to link education to economic advancement, but linking education and economic advancement in the first place.  Uncertain work and falling wages have contributed to the precariousness in Japan that Allison discusses, but they aren't its only cause. Rather, she suggests, the unified emphasis on economic achievement and global advancement as the social purpose has left people with few resources with which to confront hard times. The path from family to school to corporation in the context of expanding capitalism underwrote people's social place to such an extent that without it, many individuals become placeless.

 

In this context, Allison talks at some length about the Japanese social phenomenon of hikikomori, which began to emerge in the early 1990s. Hikikomori are effectively non-spiritual late capitalist monks; male young adults who "withdraw and remain in a single room they rarely, if ever, leave," sometimes for years. Generally hikiomori are isolated in their family homes and remain dependent for minimal care on their parents, who they may not even interact or speak with. Estimates of the number of hikikomori range between 100,000 and 700,000. Close to a third of them start out as kids who refuse to go to school. One hikikomori Allison talks to named Kacco says, "As long as I performed well in school, things were okay. But once I started to deviate just a little—they [parents, teachers] went to the extreme and started treating me incredibly coldly." Kacco adds, "now as the economy has fallen, we've all become strangers to one another. Society today is very cold." Allison discusses this coldness in other contexts: the isolation and abandonment of many elderly people; the disconnected lives of the growing ranks of part-time workers, many of whom have no permanent residence but go from net-café to net-café, logging on to seek the next days employment.

The Japanese school system oriented fanatically towards capitalist achievement seems to have reproduced or helped create capitalist social atomization. The notorious bullying in Japanese schools has actually been seen by many parents and teachers as a feature not a bug. Students can be targeted for failing to do well academically (Allison discusses one girl bullied for her failure to learn kanjiquickly enough.) "[T]he parent who refuses to pamper their bullied child…, thereby forcing them to become tough as nails, is something of a Japanese ideal," Allison writes. "Tough love," she adds, leads to toughness and success, "Japan as number one."

Again, though, that link between competitive schooling and Japanese triumph has broken apart over the last decades. In light of that, and of our own protracted ongoing experience with economic precariousness, it might be worthwhile for the U.S. to reconsider our current focus on schools as engines of economic attainment, either individual or national. Do we want all our students constantly rushing in a race to the top, even if, life being what it is, that top is sometimes not a mountain but a cliff? Is education entirely about succeeding economically? Or might there be other, more important kinds of success, involving connection, community, and rootedness? Both Japan and the U.S. could stand to think about whether we want to concentrate on getting schools to produce good workers, or whether we would rather have them help to make good human beings.

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Japan to Defy IWC Whaling Ban in 2015

Japan to Defy IWC Whaling Ban in 2015 | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
Japan has killed about 3,600 whales since it launched its so-called scientific whaling program in 2005, resulting in only two peer-reviewed papers since then.

 

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) ruled Thursday that Japan's scientific whaling program is illegal, a decision that Japan has called “regrettable.”

 

The IWC's non-binding resolution states that Japan's whaling is not really for research puposes.

 

“We urge Japan to abide by the decision of the IWC and to refrain from launching more hunts outside of the process set up today,” said Aimee Leslie, head of WWF’s delegation at the IWC meeting in Slovenia. “If Japan truly wants to advance whale conservation as it says it does, then it should not circumvent these new IWC rules.” 

 

Japan maintains that its whaling program is solely for scientific purposes, despite whale meat being widely sold commercially in the country.

 

"We are now carrying out preparations for a new plan for scientific whaling to resume in the 2015/2016 year, a plan that takes the International Court ruling into account," said Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. 

 

The IWC decision follows an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in March that ordered Japan to halt its whaling program because it was not actually being used for its purported scientific purposes.

 

Australia has also filed the complaint against Japan in the Court.

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Whaling meeting votes against Japan's hunt

PORTOROZ, Slovenia (AP) — An international whaling conference voted Thursday against Japan's highly criticized plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic next year, but Japan vowed to go ahead anyway.

A resolution adopted at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia, said Japan should abide by the International Court of Justice's ruling that its whaling program is illegal because it isn't for research purposes.

Immediately after the resolution was adopted by a 35-20 vote, Japan announced it will launch a new "research" program that will resume hunting in the Antarctic in 2015. TheU.N. court ruling said some "scientific" whaling is allowed under very strict conditions, which Japan said it would meet.

"We will be providing and submitting a new research plan in the Antarctic Ocean so that we implement research activities starting from 2015," said Joji Morishita, head of Japan's delegation. "And all these activities are perfectly in accordance with international law, scientific basis as well as the ICJ judgment."

Approval from the commission's scientific committee isn't mandatory, but Japan's resumption of Antarctic whaling without the body's specific consent after a one-year pause would likely face intense scrutiny. Japanese boats caught 252 minke whales in the Southern Oceans in 2013, according to the IWC figures.

Australia led the opposition. Many conference member countries believe Japan's whaling program is not for research, but commercial purposes — producing meat and oil.

Animal protection groups welcomed the passage of the resolution, but denounced Japan's decision to ignore it.

"Additional action is needed to encourage and persuade the government of Japan to reconcile itself to the emerging global consensus for whale conservation, instead of whale killing, in the name of science in the 21st century," said Patrick Ramage, director of the whales program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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Japan to restart whaling programme

Japan to restart whaling programme | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

The Japanese government has vowed to restart its controversial whaling programme in the Antarctic next year.

The move comes despite the International Whaling Commission's vote on Thursday that the programme is illegal because it is not for research purposes and should stop.

Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the IWC's decision was "regrettable".

Japan maintains its annual hunt is solely for research.

But the meat from the slaughtered whales is sold commercially in Japan.

Participants at the IWC's meeting in Slovenia passed the non-binding resolution with a 35-20 majority.

It was adopted from an International Court of Justice ruling earlier this year stating that Japan's hunt did not meet the requirements to be "scientific".

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RWB supports legal action against secrets law - Reporters Without Borders

RWB supports legal action against secrets law - Reporters Without Borders | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Reporters Without Borders regrets that on 10 December, when the entire world was celebrating the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Japanese government allowed a draconian law on state secrets, one that violates the constitution and limits media freedom, to take effect.

Passed a year ago by the Japanese parliament, the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS) provides for sentences of up to 10 years in prison for whistleblowers who leak “state secrets” and for journalists and bloggers who report information they obtained “illegally” or sought from whistleblowers.

The new law is also dangerous because of the vagueness of the criteria used for classifying information as a “state secret” and the lack of transparency with which the government is allowed to act.

Reporters Without Borders supports the legal action taken by a group of 43 independent journalists – led by Yu Terasawa, a freelancer and Reporters Without Borders “Information Hero” – in an attempt to get the law overturned on the grounds of unconstitutionality.

In a statement released on 10 December (see below), the journalists said they are also now trying to rally a majority of parliamentarians in the Japanese Diet in an attempt to get the law repealed.

As well as arguing that the law is unconstitutional, they point out that the government pushed it through parliament a year ago regardless of strong public opposition and then, in October, ignored 24,000 online comments critical of the enforcement order and implementation guidelines.

“This law clearly violates Japan’s constitution,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of he Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “By refusing to recognize the existence of the principle of general interest and by flouting the public’s right of access to information, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s government is taking Japan back 50 years.

“What if the nuclear power issue and the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster were classified, or if the government wanted to cover up a case of corruption? There is no provision for oversight of the government and the size of the possible jail terms would deter most journalists from investigating a classified subject.”

Ismaïl added: “We urge the government to repeal this draconian law as the group of 43 independent Japanese journalists have requested.”

Protests were already organized when the law was adopted in 2013. Another one was organized on 10 December outside the office of the prime minister, who claimed on 18 November that the law was concerned only with spying and terrorism, and not matters of general interest.

Japan is ranked 59th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

(Photo : Makiko Segawa)

Statement by Japanese journalists about the legal action:

Tokyo Legal Action on Unconstitutionality of “The Secrets Law”

December 10th, 2014

Plaintiff’s Group and Legal Team for The Secrets Law Legal Action

Today, December 10th, the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, or “The Secrets Law”, is enforced.

We have been taking legal action to try to stop enforcement of the law, due to its unconstitutionality. The enforcement of the law will not put an end to our efforts. In the days to come, we will continue our court challenge and attempt to win the case, and furthermore we are going to take stronger actions to insist on abolishment of the law.

“The Secrets Law” was passed forcibly last December, ignoring public opinion. Opinion polls conducted just after the enactment of the bill showed the majority of people were against it.

Then in October this year, the government ignored 24,000 public comments on the enforcement order and guidelines of “the Secrets Law”. Even though the enforcement order and guidelines still have significant issues such as vague designation criteria, they were endorsed by the Cabinet.

Bad laws are normally exposed over time, as their interpretation and implementation are extended. However, “the Secrets Law” has been contrary to the principle of the sovereignty of the people since the beginning.

The immediate concern after the enforcement of the law is the arbitrary designation of secrets by the government, with the accompanying erosion of the “freedom of the press” and people’s “right to know”.

Furthermore, under Prime Minister Abe with his slogan of “Take Back Japan” and in the name of “the right of collective self-defense”, “the Secrets Law” will be a key in creating a regime “able to go war”.

A lot of information will be hidden under the cloak of the Secrets Law, and we can predict authorities will abuse power without oversight by the people. For instance, there is even the possibility of creating an autocratic regime outside the constitution, similar to the “Enabling Act” established in Germany under the Nazi regime.

To ensure this does not happen, ...

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Historic Kyoto temple first in Japan to offer gay weddings

Historic Kyoto temple first in Japan to offer gay weddings | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

TOKYO —

Gay marriage is still not legal in Japan, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for LGBT couples dreaming of tying the knot in Nippon. Joining big venues like Tokyo Disneyland, an ancient Zen temple in the picturesque city of Kyoto is offering gay weddings in traditional Japanese style.

Established in 1590, Shunkoin Temple follows Zen Buddhism and is an important site for a 20th-century school of thought that blends Zen and Western philosophy. They also take a strong stand on human rights, with their website proudly declaring, “Shunkoin Temple is against any forms of ‘Human Rights Violations’ in the world. No religion teaches how to hate others. Religion teaches how to love and respect others.”

Not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, priest Takafumi Kawakami says of their wedding services, “We welcome every couple regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.”

In fact, the temple officially began providing gay weddings in 2011, but given the conservative nature of Japan, the service hasn’t been widely publicized or recognized here, but the temple is working hard to attract overseas couples both through their English website and through a new partnership with hotel Granvia Kyoto and tour operator Out Travel Asia to offer a 10-day wedding package tour.

By the way, if you happen to be in Kyoto, Shunkoin offers Zen meditation classes in English and has temple-style accommodations, so even if you aren’t looking for a venue for your gay wedding, you can throw a little love to this awesome LGBT ally and have a great cultural experience at the same time.

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Japan to Launch Asteroid-chasing Spacecraft Tonight: Watch It Live

Japan to Launch Asteroid-chasing Spacecraft Tonight: Watch It Live | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Japan is poised to launch an ambitious asteroid-chasing spacecraft tonight (Dec. 2) on a mission to bring samples of a space rock to Earth, and you can watch the space action online.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch the Hayabusa2 asteroid probe at 11:22 p.m. EST (0422 Dec. 3 GMT) from Tanegashima Space Center, with JAXA officials offering a live webcast of the liftoff.

You can watch the asteroid mission launch webcast live on Space.com, courtesy of JAXA, beginning at 10:25 p.m. EST (0322 GMT/12:25 p.m. JST). At Tanegashima, the local time will be 1:22 p.m. Japan Standard Time on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at launch time. [Japan's Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Mission in Pictures]

 

The Hayabusa2 mission will send a spacecraft, three rovers and a small lander to the asteroid 1999 JU3, a space rock that is thought to contain water and organic material. It should take Hayabusa 2 about four years to reach the asteroid, then two more years to return samples of the space rock to Earth in late 2020, according to a JAXA mission description.

JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission will examine asteroid 1999 JU3 using an orbiter, a French/German lander and a rover. The spacecraft will fire a small impactor at the asteroid to excavate subsurface materials and then scoop those up for a return to Earth.

Asteroids are believed to be the building blocks of the solar system, representing a time billions of years ago when the area was little more than rock and ice. Over time, small chunks of material coalesced into the planets and moons we see today.

Hayabusa2 is a successor mission to the first Hayabusa, which launched in May 2003 and arrived at asteroid Itokawa in September 2005. Despite several glitches, that first mission managed to picked up a few grains of asteroid material and return them to Earth in a sample-return capsule that landed in the Australian outback in June 2010. This material has since been distributed to scientists worldwide.

Major changes to the sampling mechanism have been made for Hayabusa2, including an improved seal, increasing the number of sample compartments from one to three, and a backup mechanism that can pick up samples if Hayabusa 2 makes a sudden stop.

As with the predecessor mission, Hayabusa 2 will use an ion engine to make the journey to and from the asteroid. This method of propulsion will use about a tenth of the power a similar chemical-propellant engine would require, JAXA said in a statement.

"While Hayabusa has recorded a number of [the] world's first achievements, Hayabusa2 is aimed at enhancing the reliability of asteroid exploration techniques," JAXA officials wrote in a mission description. "At the same time, Hayabusa2 will challenge to obtain new technologies such as creation of artificial craters, high-speed communications in deep space, and new observation instruments."

The mission was originally slated to depart Nov. 30, but was postponed after clouds with ice were projected to be in the launch area.

JAXA is also streaming live launch views via its website, YouTubeandUstream.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 11 am ET to correct the name of Hayabusa2, per JAXA.

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Hackers reportedly attack Sony Pictures, threaten to release data | The Japan Times

Hackers reportedly attack Sony Pictures, threaten to release data | The Japan Times | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Sony Pictures’ computer network has reportedly come under cyberattack, with hackers threatening to release key information from the group’s entertainment division.

Sony did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But the news site The Next Web reported that all Sony employees at the Los Angeles unit were ordered home and to stay off the company network.

A source within Sony told the news site that “a single server was compromised and the attack was spread from there.”

An image posted on the Reddit social network from an individual claiming to be a former Sony employee showed a page with the words “Hacked by #GOP.” It was unclear what GOP stands for, but some reports said the hacker group is called Guardians of Peace.

The posted image said unspecified demands must be met by Sony or important files would be released.

The website Geek.com said the hackers leaked a large file containing spreadsheets and what appear to be passwords.

“We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” the message posted on Reddit said. “We continue till our request be met . . . If you don’t obey us, we’ll release the data shown to the world.”

The Sony Pictures website appeared to be functioning normally Tuesday.

The Hollywood Reporter said it had confirmed the breach but that the aims of the hackers were unclear.

A Sony statement to the entertainment publication said that “Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced a system disruption, which we are working diligently to resolve.”

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Japan remains near bottom of gender gap ranking

Japan remains near bottom of gender gap ranking | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Japan has one of the worst levels of gender equality in the developed world, below that of Tajikistan and Indonesia, coming in 104th out of 142 assessed countries in 2014, according to a study released Tuesday by the World Economic Forum.

It rose one notch from 105th in 2013, the WEF said, citing slight improvement in areas such as women’s pay. It noted, however, the percentage of female lawmakers remains one of the worst of any nation.

The gender gap report by the Swiss organization was compiled based on data earlier this year and therefore did not take into account Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s appointment in September of five female ministers.

 

The WEF said economic equality between men and women will not be achieved globally for another eight decades.

The report says women’s achievements and opportunities in the workplace are 60 percent those of men, up from 56 percent in the first such report in 2006. On this basis, parity will be achieved only in 81 years.

“Much work still remains to be done,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF’s gender-parity program and lead author of the report. “The pace of change must in some areas be accelerated.”

“Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman. “But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice.”

The report analyzes women’s status in the economy, education, politics and health.

Iceland topped the list for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Finland and Norway, also unchanged from the previous year.

The United States ranked 20th, China 87th and South Korea 117th.

Japan ranked 37th in the health and longevity category, 93rd in educational attainment, 102nd in economic participation and opportunity, and 129th in political empowerment, a measure of the proportion of female lawmakers.

On the economy category, the WEF noted that Japan has “the lowest percentage of women on boards of listed companies.”

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ejcjs - The Fascist Next Door? Nishitani Keiji and the Chuokoron Discussions in Perspective - Xiaofei Tu

ejcjs - The Fascist Next Door? Nishitani Keiji and the Chuokoron Discussions in Perspective - Xiaofei Tu | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Introduction

In this paper I address the alleged nationalistic, even fascistic, tendencies in the thought of the Kyoto School philosophers, focusing on Nishitani's views expressed in the now notorious Chūōkōron discussions. This topic has generated some hot debate in the scholarly circles both in Japan and in the West, with much vehemence and rhetoric from both the defenders and detractors of the Kyoto School. In this paper, I intend not to reiterate the accusations and defenses on the two sides; rather, I hope to move the debate to a new direction with a two-fold effort. First, I place Nishitani back in the historical, cultural and political ethos of his time by drawing comparison to Yan Fu, a Chinese thinker who was active shortly after the Opium War. Attempting a sympathetic understanding from the perspective of a Chinese, I believe I am able to shed new light on Nishitani's wartime remarks and his thinking behind them. Geographically, historically, and culturally, Japan is a close neighbor to China, hence the title of this essay. Second, I proceed to question some presumptions of the critics of Nishitani.

The Chūōkōron Discussions

From November 1941 to November 1942 the widely respected journal in Japan Chūōkōron held a series of three round table discussions with four young scholars from Kyoto Imperial University: Nishitani Keiji, Kosaka Masaaki, Suzuki Shigetaka, and Koyama Iwao, and published the transcripts. The topics of this series of discussions were 'The World-Historical Standpoint and Japan,' 'The Ethics and Historicity of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,' and finally 'The Philosophy of All-Out War.' Clearly, these purportedly scholarly discussions were inspired by current events, i.e., the eventually mischievous war effort of Japan against China and the Allied Forces. After the war an aura of infamy came to surround this event and the discussants involved, which were denounced as symbols of the intelligentsia's cooperation with the wartime Japanese regime. The critics saw the act of the aforementioned scholars as a thinly disguised attempt to glorify the war, and to provide the philosophical underpinnings for Japanese fascism. In their contribution to The Cambridge History of Japan, Tetsuo Najita and H. D. Harootunian have the following to say about Nishitani and his discussion partners:

[The] group's central purpose was to construct what they called a "philosophy of world history" that could both account for Japan's current position and disclose the course of future action. But a closer examination of this "philosophy of world history" reveals a thinly disguised justification, written in the language of Hegelian metaphysics, for Japanese aggression and continuing imperialism. In prewar Japan, no group helped defend the state more consistently and enthusiastically than did the philosophers of the Kyoto faction, and none came closer than they did to defining the philosophic contours of Japanese fascism.1

Similar sentiments and opinions are found in the works of other prominent scholars such as Bernard Faure.2 Such sweeping generalizations and accusations seem to be unfounded when we look at the relevant historical and intra-textual evidence. In the wartime Japanese political climate, many Japanese intellectuals found themselves divided into either the camp of the ultra rightwing nationalists or the ranks of the Marxists and anarchists. The Kyoto School philosophers were viewed by their contemporaries as the 'middle-of-the-roaders'.3 And by virtue of their philosophical and political positions, they were assaulted by their enemies on the two opposite ends of the political/ideological spectrum. After the war, Nishitani remarked, 'During the war we were struck on the cheek from the right; after the war we were struck on the cheek from the left.' Indeed, at the time of their original publication, the Chūōkōron discussions were extremely popular with young intellectuals facing military service precisely because of their free thinking outlook and refusal to conform to the state ideology. The intellectual independence and moral courage in these discussions spurred anger among the extreme right demagogues, who charged, rightly we have to say, that these were 'disinterested analysis of bystanders,' both 'seditious' and anti-war. Well known is the comment of a Japanese military officer that the Kyoto School philosophers should, together with American and British war prisoners, be rounded up and bayoneted.4

Moreover, according to the report of Horio Tsutomu, there was another...

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1868-2000: Anarchism in Japan

1868-2000: Anarchism in Japan | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
A history of the once-influential anarchist movement in the Japanese Islands in the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

Today Japan brings to mind to mind high tech corporations, stressed out primary school students and a gruelling work ethic that demands loyalty to the company. One hundred and thirty years ago it was a very different place, predominantly agricultural and ruled over by a fuedal elite. In 1868, these rulers decided to industrialise the country and create a highly centralised state. For this reason, the Japanese experience of capitalism is different from that in many European countries.

Here, aristocrats were replaced (either gradually or by revolution) by a rising class of businessmen. There, the aristocrats became the new businessmen. The culture of feudalism wasn't rejected and replaced, rather it was remained and provided the background to the new society. This meant that Japan at the turn of the century was a country that was becoming more industrial and yet remained extremely conformist. It was in these difficult conditions that anarchism ideas first took hold in Japan.

The movement was to be dramatically influenced by the world wars in which Japan played a leading part. Three phases are evident: from 1906-1911, from 1911-1936, from 1944-present day.

Ideas have to come from somewhere. In Japan anarchist ideas were first popularised by Kotoku Shusui. Born in a provincial town in 1871, he moved to Tokyo in his teens. His political ideas developed on the pages of a number of papers he wrote and edited. Though these early newspapers weren't anarchist, they were liberal enough to bring him to the notice of the authorities. He was imprisoned in 1904 for breaking one of the many draconian press laws. As it is for many, prison was to be his school.

There he read anarchist communist Peter Kropotkin's 'Fields, Factories and Workshops'. In prison he also began to consider the role of the Emperor in Japanese society. Many socialists at the time, avoided criticising the Emperor, in contrast Kotoku began to see how the Emperor was at the centre of both capitalism and the power of the state in Japan.

Following his release from prison he emigrated to the USA. There he joined the newly formed Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW, also known as the Wobblies), a syndicalist trade union, strongly influenced by anarchist ideas. In the US he had access to more anarchist literature, reading Kropotkin's 'The Conquest of Bread'.

On his returned to Japan in 1906 he spoke to a large public meeting on the ideas he had developed while in the US. A number of articles then followed. "I hope" he wrote "that from now on the socialist movement will abandon its commitment to a parliamentary party and will adapt its method and policy to the direct action of the workers united as one".

In the following years the anarchist-communists concentrated on spreading information about anarchism, through the production of oral and written propaganda. Although the work they did was similar to work Irish anarchists do today, the conditions they had to operate in were very much more difficult. Faced with continuous police harassment, some anarchists considered turning to more violent methods. In 1910 four of these were arrested following the discovery of bomb making equipment.

This was the opportunity the authorities were waiting for to comprehensively clamp down on dissent. Hundreds were taken into custody. Finally 26 were brought to trial. Though they were charged with plotting to kill the emperor, in reality they were being tried for having anarchist beliefs. All but two were sentenced to death. 12 had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, and 12, including Kotoku, were executed. Following his death, many activists fled into exile. Those that stayed faced repeated imprisonment.

Yet despite these exceptionally harsh conditions, the movement did not die. The end of the First World War brought a period of spiralling inflation, which led to rice riots in many towns and cities. The new industrial workers began to organise and labour disputes increased. The Russian Revolution caused intense debate in Japan, as elsewhere; how can we create a better society? What should that society look like? This flourishing of opinion was temporarily dimmed, following the tragic murders of two anarchists, Osugi Sakae and his partner Ito Noe.

In 1923, a major earthquake hit Japan. More than 90,000 people died. The state took advantage of the turmoil and hysteria that followed. The two anarchists, along with Osugi's six-year-old nephew were seized by a squad of military police and beaten to death. The brutality of the murder compelled some anarchists to seek revenge. Once again, anarchist attempts at retribution were met by state repression that struck indiscriminately.

However, all was not lost. Indeed anarchist organisations were growing as never before. In 1926 two nationwide federations of anarchists were formed. The following years were characterised by intense debate between anarchist- communists and anarchist syndicalists. At issue was the central question as of what was the best method with which to build towards a revolution. Hand in hand with their theoretical discussions, these anarchists were active in struggles over wages and working conditions.

War however once more loomed on the horizon. As the state began to move towards external confrontation with Manchuria, it also began to silence internal opposition. A new wave of repression ensued. Although the anarchist movement adopted many strategies to survive, the state was determined to succeed. With the beginning of the Second World War, all anarchist organisations were forced to shut down. The anarchists themselves had to maintain a low profile, hiding their political ideals from public view.

Post-war, Japan was under the effective rule of the United States. Their political policy for the country see-sawed between trying to artificially create a 'right' and a 'left' political party, to trying to remove all left wing influences from politics. Heavy investment and a rapidly growing economy were accompanied by a clamp down on trade union autonomy. Although the anarchists re-grouped and re-organised, they found it difficult to flourish in these conditions.

The movement today is much smaller than before, and from the UK it is difficult to find much English language information about them. There are a few websites around by anarcho-syndicalists and -communists, and some small collectives active in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo that we at libcom.org know of. No doubt they face many of the same problems that we do; how to show people that they don't have to just make do, how to convince people that an alternative is possible and that they have power to create it.

Perhaps the economic turmoil that Japan is now experiencing will lead people to criticise and reject the current system. If that happens, hopefully Japanese anarchists will be able provide a vision of society based on freedom and equality, begin to rebuild the movement, so once more anarchist ideas have mass influence.

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The truth about the peer-reviewed science produced by Japan's whaling

The truth about the peer-reviewed science produced by Japan's whaling | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

Japan claims southern ocean whaling had led to 666 peer-reviewed papers, but international court says there are just two.

 

Japan’s commissioner to the International Whaling Commission [IWC], Joji Morishita, sparked consternation on Wednesday when he claimed that Japan had published 666 peer-reviewed papers based on its scientific whaling programme in the Antarctic.

That figure contrasts wildly with the number cited by the International Court of Justice [ICJ] when it halted the Antarctic hunt in March.

In its ruling, the ICJ judges upheld Australia’s claim that Japan, having published just two peer-reviewed papers since 2005, had failed to fulfil its scientific brief. Those papers, Australia added, had been based on data obtained from the slaughter of just nine whales.

The presiding judge, Peter Tomka, said at the time that Jarpa II – the name given to Japan’s research programme in the Antarctic since 2005 – had produced little of scientific value.

“In light of the fact the Jarpa II has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited.

“Japan shall revoke any existent authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program.”

The Institute of Cetacean Research, the semi-governmental body in Tokyo that overseas the hunts, did not respond to queries on Thursday, but states that Japan submitted 130 peer-reviewed papers based on Jarpa and Jarpa II between 1988 and 2013.

A list of the papers, their authors, the subject matter and date of publication appear on the institute’s website. The vast majority are either unpublished or appeared in reports for the IWC, not journals that peer review papers before publishing them.

But Patrick Ramage, director of the global whale programme at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the ICJ figure of two is the only internationally recognised assessment of Japan’s scientific contribution.

“That’s a lot of dead whales per paper and a lot of tax subsidies from the people of Japan in return for some poor science,” Ramage told the Guardian from Slovenia, where the members of the IWC are holding their biennial meeting.

“Japan is talking about the quantity of paperwork rather than the quality of peer-reviewed papers. There has been a blizzard of working papers submitted by Japan to the IWC scientific committee, but these are not the same as scientific papers for peer-reviewed quality scientific journals.

“Morishita was making a conscious effort to confuse the committee on this point, but the world court was very clear on this. He was advancing a specious cultural argument, suggesting that Japanese scientists should not be held to recognised international standards.”

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Taiji officials: Dolphin meat 'toxic waste'

Taiji officials: Dolphin meat 'toxic waste' | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

For what is believed to be the first time anywhere in Japan, elected officials have openly condemned the consumption of dolphin meat, especially in school lunches, on grounds that it is dangerously contaminated with mercury.

In an exclusive interview with The Japan Times held in Kii Katsuura, Wakayama Prefecture, on July 19, Assemblymen Junichiro Yamashita, 59, and Hisato Ryono, 51, from the nearby whaling city of Taiji said they had found extremely high mercury and methylmercury levels in samples of meat from pilot whales killed inshore by Taiji hunters and put on sale in that locality.

The pilot whale, or “gondo” (Globicephala macrorhynchus), is the largest of the dolphin family of small cetaceans. This species is among some 2,300 dolphins slaughtered annually in Taiji, after the mammals are herded in “drive fisheries” into small coves, where they are speared and hacked to death. Similar hunts elsewhere in Japan are estimated to account for at least another 20,000 small cetaceans annually.

The Taiji assemblymen, who are both independents, also condemned the growing practice of feeding this meat to children in their school lunches — describing it as no less than “toxic waste.”

The random samples tested by the two assemblymen were bought at supermarkets in Taiji and nearby Shingu, and were similarly sourced to the meat served to children in whale-meat lunches at Taiji schools. Such lunches may also have been served in schools in other prefectures, the Taiji officials said.

Yamashita and Ryono defied the code of silence traditionally shrouding sensitive issues, especially one that could threaten the economy of their small, isolated fishing town on the scenic Kii Peninsula.

Asked why, they said local people were getting very anxious about food safety in Japan. Recent reports of contaminated products from China have heightened their concerns, they said.

Yamashita explained, “We’re not against traditional whaling, but we heard claims that pilot whales are poisoned with mercury, and we discovered that some of this meat from a (drive fishery) was fed to kids in school lunches.”

He said that although they had doubted the pilot whales were contaminated with mercury, they decided to have certified lab tests carried out nonetheless.

“We tested some samples — purchased at the Gyokyo supermarket in Taiji and Super Center Okuwa in the nearby city of Shingu,” Yamashita said, adding they were “shocked” by the results.

One dolphin sample had a mercury content 10 times above the health ministry’s advisory level of 0.4 parts per million, with a methylmercury readout 10.33 times over the ministry’s own advisory level of 0.3 ppm.

Another dolphin sample tested 15.97 times and 12 times above advisory levels of total mercury and methylmercury, respectively.

The results prompted the two officials to describe dolphin meat as “toxic waste.”

In fact, the dolphin levels were higher than some of the mercury-tainted seafood tested during the tragic Minamata mercury-pollution disaster of the 1950s, according to Dr. Shigeo Ekino of Kumamoto Medical Science University in Kyushu. In that episode, thousands were sickened, disabled or died in the toxic chemical disaster.

Ekino is famous for his breakthrough study of brain specimens from deceased Minamata disease victims that reveals how even low levels of methylmercury can damage or destroy neurons.

After they received the test results, the Taiji lawmakers, anxious about the possible toxic effects of pilot-whale meat consumed by local schoolchildren, quickly contacted Masahiko Tamaki, an official of the Wakayama pre-fectural health section, and showed him the test results from their samples.

Yamashita said, “He (Tamaki) seems to think he has to do something, but doesn’t know how to do it.”

Tamaki was hesitant to confront the mercury issue due to possible repercussions, and offered no solutions, Yamashita said, adding, “The Wakayama health section simply told me they didn’t want to upset Taiji people.”

But Yamashita said: “According to the high mercury result, if they continue, the people will be harmed — this harm, spread through school lunches, is terrible because children will be forced to eat mercury-tainted dolphin.”

Despite the Taiji pair’s urgent health concerns, however, Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen plans to build a new slaughterhouse for processing meat from pilot whales and other dolphins caught during globally condemned drive fisheries there.

He also wants to expand the provision of school lunches containing pilot whale meat.

Ryono said, “We may not be able to prevent the building of a new slaughterhouse, but we will continue to appeal to Taiji people not to use dolphin for school lunches.”

Meanwhile, concern over 12 dolphins currently in “capture pens” in Taiji is mounting as the mammals await imminent shipment to a dolphin aquarium in the Dominican Republic. This has prompted Yamashita and Ryono to write an urgent letter to Max Puig, environmental minister of the Dominican Republic, protesting importation of the dolphins, saying his environmentally friendly island state would be accepting “toxic waste.”

Top researchers in Japan’s medical community have also voiced concern about the high levels of mercury found in small-cetacean food products.

Ekino told The Japan Times: “Everyone should avoid eating dolphin meat. If people continue to eat dolphin, there’s a high probability of them having damage to their brains. . . . No government agency is studying the problem — no scientists in Japan want to study the subject; it’s very political.”

Award-winning U.S. neurologist David Perlmutter echoed Ekino’s sentiments in a telephone interview, saying, “I totally agree with Dr. Ekino when he said everyone should avoid eating dolphin meat — the consumption of dolphin meat is a profound health risk for humans.”

Referring to Japan’s health advisories warning pregnant women that consuming dolphin meat “can be harmful to the fetus and to young children,” Perlmutter, who has a private practice at his clinic in Naples, Fla., said, “If it’s a risk for pregnant women and children, why is it safe for anyone else?”

Tetsuya Endo, a professor and researcher at Hokkaido Health Science University’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences, affirmed the other doctors’ condemnation of small-cetacean food products.

In a terse e-mail sent to this correspondent, Endo said, in reference to dolphin meat, “It’s not food!”

In 2005, Endo published the results of a three-year study on random samples of cetacean food products sold throughout Japan, and concluded all of it was unhealthy because of high levels of mercury and methylmercury.

However, Hideki Moronuki, deputy director of the government’s Far Seas Fisheries Division of the Resources Management Department, in an interview with The Japan Times, maligned Endo’s study, calling it “misleading information.” When pressed, though, he failed to substantiate his accusation.

Endo, however, responded to The Japan Times in an e-mail, saying, “If he (Moronuki) has any basis for his comments, he has the responsibility to show it because it is deeply related to human health.”

Moronuki was specifically asked if there was a mercury problem with dolphins. His response: “No.”

He acknowledged that doctors’ reports (of high mercury levels) may be correct, but claimed, “I don’t think it causes a problem with consumers.”

When asked if he thought consuming dolphin meat was dangerous, he said, “No.”

But he conceded that eating too much dolphin meat could be “dangerous.”

Moronuki was also asked if he felt responsible for the poisoning of his own people. He replied: “No. I am responsible for the management of the dolphin fishery, that’s it.”

This bureaucrat’s attitude flies in the face of certified copies of six test reports commissioned and paid for over the past year, each showing high mercury levels in the meat put on sale from all dolphin species tested. That data have been made freely available by The Japan Times to the appropriate Japanese government agencies and officials.

Despite this hard data, government authorities have consistently displayed a sense of apathy toward these matters, and what many informed commentators regard as dangerously cavalier attitudes in dealing with urgent health issues affecting their citizens.

Makoto Tanaka, assistant director of the health ministry’s inspection and safety division in the Food Safety Department, would only say that he is seeking an international standard for establishing a new advisory level for consumers of mercury-tainted food products.

The health ministry has been aware of the mercury problem in small cetaceans (not to mention in the meat from great whales) for many years, but so far it has refused to ban the sale of such food products.

In particular — despite unequivocal scientific test results — it has failed to require the posting of warning labels for consumers of dolphin meat.

This approach continues despite an advisory order, Kan Nyu Dai 99 Ban, established July 23, 1973, under which a warning was issued to prefectural and local governments by the then director of the environmental and health agency, stating that mercury in seafood must not exceed the advisory level of 0.4 ppm.

Although still in effect, enforcement of the advisory order by governors and mayors has been lax and unchallenged.

But the reaction around the killing coves of Taiji was swift in confronting the two assemblymen’s health concerns.

On the one hand, Gyokyo, the leading local supermarket, pulled pilot whale meat off its shelves, and will not resume its sale, according to Takuya Kondo, assistant director of the health ministry’s Department of Food Safety’s Standards and Evaluation Division.

Kondo said, “The (Taiji) government has to comply with . . . provisional regulations. . . . They are not supposed to sell (dolphin meat) if it is over the advisory level of 0.4 ppm for mercury.”

Yamashita and Ryono believe many people in Japan are unaware of the (health) problems related to consuming dolphin meat, and they say they want to educate people through an Internet blog currently posted by the Save Japan Dolphins coalition, an international conservation group.

But it would be a lot more straightforward if this issue was addressed in a more open and accountable way by officials.

Instead, a pervasive sense of paranoia seems to loom over any investigation of the mercury contamination of foodstuff in Japan.

On this reporter’s initial visit to the test lab, my sample of dolphin meat was at first rejected for testing by lab officials, who greeted me with a file of my articles on the barbaric dolphin slaughter in Taiji, and the toxicity of cetacean meat sold in Japan.

One lab official said: “Sometimes happens big problem, I must confirm your purpose. . . . We cannot stand in opposite position of Fishery Agency. . . . If you publish our report, we’ll have to close the lab.”

The lab later conducted the test after learning the test-sample result would determine whether a potentially dangerous public-health hazard existed.

Also, during the dolphin drives and the animals’ subsequent slaughter in Taiji, I was stalked nonstop by shady-looking characters just a few meters behind me wherever I went. Police also attempted to question me several times and, to my considerable consternation, all seemed to know my name exactly as written on my driver’s license — even though only my hotel had a copy of my license.

It was very unsettling.

Perhaps the two courageous assemblymen may have sounded the final death knell to Japan’s dolphin slaughter by focusing the spotlight on the toxic products of this butchery.

But how many Japanese may already be adversely affected, so many years after the danger of this cruel trade has been known?

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Japan volcano rescue efforts resume

Japan volcano rescue efforts resume | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it

As the rescue effort resumed on Sunday, more than 500 Japanese soldiers and police headed for the area.

"It's very hard to know what's happening on the mountain now and things could change," said one official with the government of Nagano prefecture, quoted by Reuters.

A spokesman at Otaki village said a military helicopter surveying the summit had rescued a man and a woman.

"It found the two people waving at it," the spokesman told AFP news agency.

"Originally, the rescuers thought it might be difficult to go near them because ash could rise (and damage the helicopter), but the conditions were better than they believed," he added.

Video footage posted online showed hikers scrambling to descend as ash and steam enveloped them.

"All of a sudden ash piled up so quickly that we couldn't even open the door," Shuichi Mukai, who worked in a mountain hut just below the peak, told Reuters.

He said the hut quickly filled with hikers taking refuge.

"We were really packed in here, maybe 150 people. There were some children crying but most people were calm. We waited there in hard hats until they told us it was safe to come down."

Mount Ontake last erupted in 2007.

The mountain, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, is a popular place to see autumn foliage.

Japan is one of the world's most seismically active nations but there have been no fatalities from volcanic eruptions since 1991 when 43 people died at Mount Unzen in the south-west.

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The truth about the peer-reviewed science produced by Japan's whaling

The truth about the peer-reviewed science produced by Japan's whaling | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
Japan claims southern ocean whaling had led to 666 peer-reviewed papers, but international court says there are just two

 

Japan’s commissioner to the International Whaling Commission [IWC], Joji Morishita, sparked consternation on Wednesday when he claimed that Japan had published 666 peer-reviewed papers based on its scientific whaling programme in the Antarctic.

That figure contrasts wildly with the number cited by the International Court of Justice [ICJ] when it halted the Antarctic hunt in March.

In its ruling, the ICJ judges upheld Australia’s claim that Japan, having published just two peer-reviewed papers since 2005, had failed to fulfil its scientific brief. Those papers, Australia added, had been based on data obtained from the slaughter of just nine whales.

The presiding judge, Peter Tomka, said at the time that Jarpa II – the name given to Japan’s research programme in the Antarctic since 2005 – had produced little of scientific value.

“In light of the fact the Jarpa II has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited.

“Japan shall revoke any existent authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program.”

The Institute of Cetacean Research, the semi-governmental body in Tokyo that overseas the hunts, did not respond to queries on Thursday, but states that Japan submitted 130 peer-reviewed papers based on Jarpa and Jarpa II between 1988 and 2013.

A list of the papers, their authors, the subject matter and date of publication appear on the institute’s website. The vast majority are either unpublished or appeared in reports for the IWC, not journals that peer review papers before publishing them.

But Patrick Ramage, director of the global whale programme at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said the ICJ figure of two is the only internationally recognised assessment of Japan’s scientific contribution.

“That’s a lot of dead whales per paper and a lot of tax subsidies from the people of Japan in return for some poor science,” Ramage told the Guardian from Slovenia, where the members of the IWC are holding their biennial meeting.

“Japan is talking about the quantity of paperwork rather than the quality of peer-reviewed papers. There has been a blizzard of working papers submitted by Japan to the IWC scientific committee, but these are not the same as scientific papers for peer-reviewed quality scientific journals.

“Morishita was making a conscious effort to confuse the committee on this point, but the world court was very clear on this. He was advancing a specious cultural argument, suggesting that Japanese scientists should not be held to recognised international standards.”

According to the cetacean research institute, the aims of the scientific research include improving the management of minke whale stocks in the southern hemisphere, as well as studying the role of whales in the marine ecosystem and the effect of environmental change on whale populations.

An official in the international affairs division of Japan’s fisheries agency said the vast majority of the papers mentioned by Morishita had been submitted to, and closely scrutinised by, the IWC’s scientific committee.

“Even if those papers are not peer-reviewed, committee members can ask questions about their contents and criticise them,” the official said.

Masayuki Komatsu, formerly Japan’s chief negotiator at the IWC, said Japan had submitted a large number of papers to the scientific committee ranging from data on stocks and age structure to pregnancy rates in whale populations.

“Both the ICJ and Morishita are correct,” said Komatsu, now a visiting research professor at the International Centre for the Study of East Asian Development.

“The ICJ is talking about papers that are available to the outside world because they appear in prestigious scientific journals. The papers Japan’s submits to the IWC are not necessarily peer reviewed, but members of the scientific committee all get to see them.

“Japan is not to blame here. Its papers are rejected by scientific journals simply because they are based on data acquired through the killing of whales. That’s why peer reviewed papers in journals are limited in number.”

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Japan seeks backing for whaling despite UN ruling

Japan seeks backing for whaling despite UN ruling | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
PORTOROZ, Slovenia (AP) — Japan sought international backing Wednesday for its highly criticized plan to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic next year, despite a ruling against it by the top U.N. court.

 

Japan negotiated at the International Whaling Commission conference in Portoroz, Slovenia, to amend a resolution about global whaling criteria so that it would allow Japan to engage in "scientific whaling."

That plan, which would lead to the killing of hundreds of whales, triggered a clash between pro- and anti-whaling countries at the meeting.

Whaling for research purposes is exempt from the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, and Japan wants to conduct additional hunts on that basis. But in March the U.N. International Court of Justice ruled Japan's program isn't scientific and produces little research.

The court said some "scientific" whaling is allowed under very strict conditions, which Japan said it would meet.

Joji Morishita, head of Japan's delegation told the conference: "The court judgment only says that Japan should revoke existing authorization or a permit for its (previous hunting activities,) not the other special permit activities."

But Australia, which leads the opposition to Japan's plan, said Tokyo has failed to convince the meeting that its planned hunting is not for commercial purposes : producing meat and oil.

Australia's commissioner Michael Johnson said his country believes "that lethal scientific research is simply not necessary."

Approval from the commission's scientific committee isn't mandatory, but any attempt by Japan to resume whaling in the Antarctic after a one-year pause would likely face intense scrutiny.

Animal protection groups said that if the resolution is amended, it would be against the International Court of Justice ruling.

"It would harpoon the court decision and return Japan to whaling in the Southern Oceans," said Patrick Ramage, the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Whales Program director.

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Japan defies IWC ruling on ‘scientific whaling’

Japan defies IWC ruling on ‘scientific whaling’ | JAPAN, as I see it | Scoop.it
Tokyo announces new round of culls in the Southern Ocean despite a majority ‘no’ vote at International Whaling Commission

 

Japan has responded to a non-binding International Whaling Commission (IWC) vote to impose strict limits on its ‘scientific whaling’ programme, by announcing that it will proceed with a new round of culls in the Southern Ocean next year regardless.

The 65th meeting of the world’s whale conservation body voted by 35 to 20 with five abstentions in favour of a resolution by New Zealand, requiring members to put future scientific whaling programmes to the IWC’s scientific committee and the biennial commission itself for guidance.

Had Japan respected the vote, it would have extended until 2016 a one year moratorium that Tokyo declared after the International Court of Justice judged it in breach of IWC rules on scientific whaling.

But Japanese diplomats at the summit in Slovenia said that they would not be bound by the resolution because they took a different interpretation of the ICJ ruling, and would proceed with the new round of research whaling in the Southern Ocean that they had already declared.

“We are disappointed with their announcement,” Gerard Van Bohemen, the leader of the New Zealand delegation told the Guardian. “We thought it important that there was a strong statement agreed about the interpretation and application of the court’s decision but in the end it wasn’t possible to reach consensus on that.”

“We urge Japan to abide by the decision of the IWC and to refrain from launching more hunts outside of the process set up today,” said WWF’s Aimee Leslie. “If Japan truly wants to advance whale conservation as it says it does, then it should not circumvent these new IWC rules.”

Amid heated wrangling between pro- and anti-whaling nations, a beefed-up version of the original resolution was submitted with provisions for whale sanctuaries, added by Chile. Van Bohemen said these were “so inflexible that there was no point in trying to resolve the other harder issues as we were never going to achieve consensus.”

Japan argued that the sanctuaries text went beyond the remit of the ICJ’s ruling, but it’s declared intent to resist any delay to its 2015 whaling programme, would also have prevented it from honouring the original resolution.

Tokyo should now present details of its planned whale cull project later this year, ahead of a meeting of the IWC’s scientific committee which should take place in early 2015.

Later today, the IWC will vote on proposals for the creation of a South Atlantic whale sanctuary, and on Japanese coastal whaling.

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