Thanks a Bunch, Ike! (2)

Here's what Kyodo news adds to the nuclear power story:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Declassified papers show U.S. promoted atomic power in Japan

The United States used atomic power cooperation with Japan in the 1950s to ease the Japanese public's aversion to nuclear weapons and remedy their "ignorance" about such energy, declassified U.S. papers showed Saturday.

The U.S. move, which eventually led the world's only country to have suffered atomic bombing to embrace nuclear power, was initially devised to counter the antinuclear sentiment among the Japanese public after a tuna boat, the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, was exposed to radioactivity from a 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test while operating at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific.

The documents, collected by Kyodo News at the U.S. National Archives, show that President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration, concerned about Japan's possible exit from the Western camp, accelerated cooperation with Japan in atomic energy technology to contain antinuclear and anti-U.S. sentiment among the Japanese.

In a memorandum to U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles, dated May 26, 1954, Eisenhower said he was "concerned about the Japanese situation," and asked Dulles to help "have a better idea of what it is now possible for us to do to further our interests in Japan."

Thanks a Bunch, Ike!

Key players got nuclear ball rolling
Cash paved the way even amid safety doubts on high, ineptitude

Staff writer (The Japan Times)

OSAKA — How did earthquake-prone Japan, where two atomic bombs were dropped at the end of World War II creating a strong antinuclear weapons culture, come to embrace nuclear power just a few decades later?

Therein lies a tale whose main characters include two former prime ministers, a suspected war criminal, CIA agent and postwar media baron, and "Japan's Charles Lindbergh," a flamboyant pilot who encouraged people to search for uranium in their backyards.

It also involves thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, engineers and the pronuclear media collectively known as Japan's "nuclear power village."


The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Someone joked that, because of the high cost of energy, the light at the end of the tunnel would be turned off. Well, now it is turned back on.

Here is what Natsuko Fukue of The Japan Times reports:

"The Diet enacted Monday a ¥2 trillion second extra budget for fiscal 2011 to finance disaster relief and reconstruction since March 11, one of the three conditions laid down by Prime Minister Naoto Kan for his exit.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the main opposition forces, supported the extra budget, whose passage was delayed from Friday due to a boycott last week by LDP lawmakers of a televised Upper House Budget Committee session.

The extra budget, worth ¥1.99 trillion, allocates ¥275.4 billion to pay for damages suffered by victims of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including money to monitor the health of Fukushima Prefecture residents.

It also earmarks ¥377.4 billion in financial support for quake and tsunami survivors, including securing new loans for indebted individuals and businesspeople who need to rebuild their livelihood or companies. The supplementary budget also sets aside ¥800 billion for postquake reconstruction.

Kan said last month that he would "hand over my responsibility to the younger generation" after passage of three key bills.

The other bills concern issuing deficit-covering bonds and the establishment of a mechanism for power companies to buy solar power at fixed rates."

What's in a Name? (2)

A symbol of Hino, erected in the central park in front of the city hall

What's in a Name?

There is an attractive suburb in the western part of Tokyo named Hino City. Hino is written with the characters for "fire" and "field". How did it get this name?

One rather poetic explanation is that, because three rivers converge in Hino, sparks shoot off the water like sparks struck from a flint.

Another explanation is more prosaic. Since the most ancient days of human habitation (about 10 thousand years into the past) Hino has been a grassy plain. When grass gets dry, it burns.

Yet another explanation attributes the naming to the period of warring states in Japan when Hino, as the first high ground to the west in the flat area around Edo/Tokyo bay, was where military signal fires were set alight.

There is probably a little truth to all of them. Which one captures your fancy?


It's Working!

Yes, there is voluntary electricity rationing in Japan. According to the NY Times, the strategy is working. There have been a few cool days this month, but there have also been plenty of scorchers. At least one Tokyo-ite (me) found a letter in the mailbox from which the ink had melted.

Here is what the Times had to say:

"Already a leader in conservation, Japan consumes about half as much energy per capita as the United States, according to the United Nations Population Fund. But it has been pushed to even greater lengths since the nuclear disaster even as it tries to revive its economy. The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the resulting backlash against nuclear power have left only 17 out of Japan’s 54 reactors online as the nation steels itself for August, the hottest month of the year.

Preliminary figures indicate that regions under conservation mandates have been able to meet reduction targets and even exceed them, providing a possible model of conservation’s potential when concerns about global warming are mounting. In the Tokyo area, the government is pushing to cut electricity use by 15 percent between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays to prevent blackouts — and on Thursday, for example, that target was met compared with last year."


Takadaya Kahei, merchant extraordinaire

Take a look at my statue, and think of what you might know of me by my appearance. Yes, you are right that I lived during the shogunate, a contemporary of the western world's George Washington. However, I much preferred trade to life by the sword and preferred to make peace rather than war. How can people trade when they are at war?

I was born on an island not far from Kobe, a city in mid-Japan that you probably have heard of, but it was in Hokkaido that I made my fortune. Do you see the map I am holding? I explored the island of Hokkaido and the islands that lead beyond Hokkaido to Russia. I opened them all up to trade. And what did I do with most of my profits? I poured a fortune into the building of infrastructure.

Hokkaido is blessed with an enormous, sheltered, natural harbor at Hakodate. I gave it wharves and warehouses. I filled it with ships, and not just my own. But anyone will tell you, it was the Takadaya brand that made it a success.

Come visit my company's original premises the next time you're in Hokkaido. We're easy to find, a few minutes away from the water, across the street from the red brick warehouses that still form the liveliest marketplace in Hakodate.

Do you know me?


Got Juice? It's in the Car

AP news reports a Prius solution to household electrical blackouts:

"Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will donate emergency power supply systems linked to its Prius hybrid cars to prefectures in the area ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The systems will be fitted to about 40 of the automaker's Prius hybrids.

Hybrid vehicles can be used to store and generate electricity because it is partly an electric vehicle that runs on a high-quality battery.

Toyota's hybrid technology has already been helping in quake-affected areas, which suffered massive blackouts, as an emergency source of electricity.

The automaker said the positive reviews for its Estima hybrid minivan, which comes with regular electrical outlets to plug in and run household appliances for up to two days, are prompting it to make it available as an option for the Prius within a year."


Oriental Dragons

Interested in traditional Japanese arts? There is a charming review of a current exhibition, written by CB Liddell, in today's Japan Times online. Here's what he has to say about oriental dragons, which might surprise those who are only familiar with the Harry Potter sort of dragon.

"Although dragons are often conceptualized as fire-breathing monsters, in Japan they are more often seen as deities associated with particular bodies of water. Nihonbashi's dragon, it seems, has ancient roots.

Some of this can be traced in "Tawara-no-Tota," an illustrated book from the 17th or 18th century. This shows Tawara-no-Tota Hidesato, a legendary warrior, defending a bridge against a rampaging dragon that is perhaps symbolic of the often wild power that Japanese rivers can unleash after a heavy rainstorm."

For the full article, go to the arts section of The Japan Times online version, July 21.

Peace Boat at Yokohama

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Kind of Cruise

Some go on cruises to relax; others go to teach. Peace Boat is the teaching kind. Here is what Kyodo News reports about Peace Boat, that set sail from Yokohama on Tuesday.

Peace Boat gets under way carrying antipoverty message

Yokohama — The latest round-the-world voyage by the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat that kicked off this week features an antipoverty photo exhibition in a tieup with the U.N. Development Program.

The Oceanic cruise ship left Yokohama on Tuesday on the 74th voyage organized by the Tokyo-based NGO aimed at promoting international exchanges.

The photo exhibit to be held in some of the cities it will visit on its 101-day voyage through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, highlights the work being done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

"I hope people will acknowledge that developed countries are responsible for ending poverty," Peace Boat international coordinator Yoko Takayama said while the vessel was still docked in Yokohama.


Another Way to Share the Pain?

Kyodo news reported:

The meat of six cows shipped from a Fukushima Prefecture farm at the heart of growing concerns over radioactive beef has been distributed to at least nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, and some was believed consumed, local government officials said Tuesday.

"Eating only a portion of the meat will not cause a great deal of damage to one's health," said Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge food safety.

Cesium 137 has a half-life of about 30 years, while the half-life of cesium 134 is about two years. If it enters the body, it may spread to muscle and other organs, and cause cancer.

Right. Cancer. If we all eat a small portion, does that mean we get only small cancers?


Solar, Wind and Geothermal Shine!

Here's what The Japan Times' Eric Johnston reports about an initiative from the private sector:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Son's quest for sun, wind has nuclear interests wary

Staff writer

In late March, while engaging in volunteer work and making efforts to restore telecommunications networks in the quake-stricken Tohoku region, Softbank Corp. founder and Chairman Masayoshi Son met with evacuees from the area surrounding the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Days later, he returned to Tokyo and declared pursuit of a new energy policy, one emphasizing renewable sources, such as solar, wind and thermal energy, was needed.

In April, Son announced he would personally donate ¥1 billion to establish a foundation for that purpose.

The amount he's committing, and the political support he has received from local and national leaders, have sparked a national debate on the future of nuclear power versus renewable, and put the atomic power lobby on the defensive.

Take this with a grain of salt: the gov't predicts...

According to a government panel on earthquakes, the seismic faults most likely to produce the next big earthquake are in Kanagawa Prefecture (the Miura peninsula) and Tokyo (Tachikawa). There is, of course, no time line for this prediction.

These results of the expert panel's conference were broadcast on NHK-TV, Monday, July 11.


True! Pay Attention, Please

A warning from Kyodo news agency:

As the mercury rises to levels unseen in decades and amid the nationwide power-saving drive, health experts are warning the public of the risk of heatstroke if they refrain too much from using air conditioning.

The elderly, people with illnesses and small children are particularly susceptible, the experts said, adding that while raising the temperature setting in refrigerators saves power, it increases the risk of food poisoning.


The New Neckties

The temperature is in the 90s and humidity in the 50s. Wanna wear a necktie?

No? You sure?

Some of the new ones are cool, in the literal sense of the word. I have one in my freezer right now.

The freezer style consists of three parts: a long, narrow tube that freezes solid; a similar tube stuffed with a gel that chills but doesn't freeze; and a terry cloth covering. You push the ice and gel tubes into the cover and clip it around your neck with the soft gel side next to your skin. It keeps you cool until the ice melts. Then you have to pop it back into the freezer for an hour or so.

Here's a more popular style, no freezer required. It starts out as a narrow, baby blue strip of cloth that is perfectly flat. You dip it into a bowl or basin filled with water and watch the back section swell for a minute or two. It thickens, but isn't too thick to fit inside a man's shirt collar. Then you give it a quick wipe with a dry towel so the ends won't drip and tie it on like a jaunty, slim scarf.

Whole offices and factory floors are populated by men and women wearing these. One company president I know keeps a box of the scarf style on his desk, handing them out to visitors and staff like Halloween candy. They are a boon when electrical power for air conditioning is in short supply.

Ingenuity--the new electricity!


What Does Hope Look Like?

One sign of hope after the tsunami and earthquake disaster is, in fact, a sign. Made of broken bits of his own home, it is a wooden signboard put up by a tsunami survivor spelling out the Japanese word "Ganbaro!"

Hang on!
Give it all you've got!

That's what the "Ganbaro!" spirit is.

A Japanese essayist, Daisaku Ikeda, who is known for unflagging optimism that springs from his Buddhist faith, wrote about three very conspicuous signs of hope in these troubled times:
(1) Human solidarity--cooperation from around the world and within communities
(2) Courage--selfless deeds by the known heroes and the unsung ones, too
(3) Youth in action--young people using their physical strength, their creativity, and their vigorous will to rise above disaster to put their communities back on their feet.

It's an inspiring essay. If you have the chance, please go to the Japan Times online and read the whole thing: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20110628a3.html