Volcanoes in Japan--Bad News and Good News

The tragic--and without any warning whatsoever--eruption of Mt. Ontake showed Japan the dark side of its many volcanoes. Is there a bright side? Yes! Geothermal energy, a serious alternative to nuclear power generation.

Here is something from The Japan Times online:

Mount Ontake obliterated the nuclear lobby’s argument that seismic sensors and global positioning technology can predict eruptions that may threaten reactors. This one came out of nowhere — like a huge bolt of lightning, survivors say. Even if we knew that one of Japan’s other 100-plus active volcanoes was about to blow, Tokyo Electric Power or Kyushu Electric Power can’t move reactors or toss huge protective domes over them. All Japanese authorities could do is evacuate surrounding areas to lop a zero or two off death-toll figures.

It’s time Japan started heeding the advice of environmentalists like David Suzuki to go geothermal. In 2012, the Canadian geneticist and author joined the board of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation at the urging of Softbank founder Masayoshi Son (who has been investing big in renewable energy projects). Since then, Suzuki has rarely missed an opportunity to try and shame Tokyo into scrapping its reactors.

“Geothermal can be a huge source of energy and very quickly,” Suzuki told Bloomberg News in March 2013, on the second anniversary of the meltdown at Fukushima. “It is an opportunity being squandered in the drive to get the reactors up and running again.”


Can you say "Henoko"?

Most people don't even know where it is, but it is probably the keystone to Japan's future as a peaceful, prosperous country where everything works and quality of living is reasonably good for almost everyone. Or, Japan can follow the US down the slippery slope of militarism to become an environmental and moral junkyard. Henoko, on Okinawa Island, has been tossed to the military machine like a bone to a rabid dog: take this! stay away from the rest of us!

Here is what The Japan Times Online reports about the people's reaction to the Henoko deal:

Thousands march on Henoko base site

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Aug 23, 2014

NAGO, OKINAWA PREF. – More than 3,500 demonstrators marched to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday in the largest show of anger to date against the new American base being built off Henoko Bay to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in crowded Ginowan further southwest.

Lining the road four deep for 700 meters and crowding the hillsides, the protesters chanted “Stop construction” and “Save the Bay” after assembling in the morning. Some came from as far as Hokkaido, many with their children in tow.

Okinawan legislators and peace campaign leaders gave impassioned speeches against what they called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s re-militarization of Japan and railed at the perceived discrimination of Okinawans.

The largest welcome was given to anti-base Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who was re-elected in January on a strong anti-military platform. Wearing a cape decorated with multicolored dugong, the endangered mammal threatened by the project, he greeted the crowd in Okinawan.

Inamine likened the situation on Okinawa to World War II, when more than a quarter of the civilian population died, saying that this time, the island was not under attack by the U.S. military, but by the Japanese government.

“We all need to work together to save Henoko Bay,” he said. “You can all help. We’ll never give up.”


Down the slippery slope!

What does the world really want to buy from Japan? What makes the consumer heart go pitty-pat? What does everyone wish they could bring back from Japan? I'll bet you didn't say missile parts.

Japan doesn't need to join the military-industrial complex to make a living. So why are they doing this? Today's top story in The Japan Times online:

First arms export set for approval under new rules: Nikkei report

Jul 6, 2014

Japan is set to approve its first arms export following the relaxation of a self-imposed ban as the nation seeks to boost its global military and economic stature, a report said Sunday.


Some More Thoughts on Japan's Peace Constitution

There is an excellent commentary in today's Japan Times online, from a gentleman in Kansas. I know we are not in Kansas, but this article makes good sense. Here's a sample:

Turning to the rule of law, the primary principle at the foundation of the rule of law is that no person or agency is above the law. Its very essence is the idea that there is one set of laws to which every person and entity is subject, and which is applied equally to all. Thus, not only is the government subject to the law, but government power must be exercised through and in accordance with the law, and not through the use of discretion or arbitrary fiat.

A further and important aspect of the rule of law is that the law must be generally accessible and intelligible, meaning that laws are sufficiently clear, precise and predictable.

Laws must also be susceptible to change, but only in accordance with established mechanisms, and in conformity with democratic principles.

So: (1) No one, not even (make that especially) the Prime Minister, is above the law. (2) There is a legally-prescribed mechanism for change, and it is not arbitrary fiat. (3) Being "clear", "precise" and "predictable" is important.

To see the complete article, go to http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/06/27/commentary/japan-commentary/reinterpreting-article-9-endangers-japans-rule-of-law/#.U64BtbmKAiQ


Caution: Democracy at Work

When most of the nations of the world (with a few notable exceptions) have not started a war in decades, there are those who are ready to say, "This is what world peace looks like." Japan is probably the only one among the non-war-starting nations to actually have a clause in the Constitution that prohibits war. Most of us want to keep it that way.

What happens when the people want one thing and the Prime Minister (not elected by popular vote, by the way)wants something else? We will soon find out.

Here's what the Japan Times reports about popular opinion vs the Prime Minister:

55% now opposed to Abe’s collective self-defense push, survey says

Kyodo, JIJI

Jun 22, 2014
Public opposition to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to overturn the ban on collective self-defense jumped to 55.4 percent from 48.1 percent last month, according to the latest survey.

In a nationwide telephone poll conducted by Kyodo News over the weekend, 57.7 percent of respondents said they are also against the Abe administration’s methods, which involve reinterpreting — rather than formally amending — the war-renouncing Constitution, while just 29.6 percent expressed support.

The survey also revealed that 62.1 percent of respondents were concerned the scope of Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense would expand once the ban is removed, and 74.1 percent said the ruling LDP-led coalition should not set a time frame to end discussions on the issue.


A Word from an Okinawa Princess

If you go to the promontory called "Manza-mo", before you can look out over the sea, before you notice the jewel-like colors of the water and the fish-shaped rocks jutting above the waves, you will see a poem carved into a rock. The poem goes: "Be still, and watch the colors change, at peace forever, 'til all the fish turn into stone."

Be still.
Read the poem again.
Let the tide turn toward peace, again and forever.


Doing the Right Thing About Agent Orange

A first! Even though the government still denies that this could happen, the courts ruled that the veteran Marine's testimony made sense and that the evidence backed up his claim. This is a step toward doing the right thing by those who serve their country.

From the Japan Times online edition:

Ailing U.S. veteran wins payout over Agent Orange exposure in Okinawa

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Mar 17, 2014
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has granted compensation to another former service member for exposure to Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era. Dated October 2013, the award was made to a retired marine corps driver suffering from prostate cancer that, the presiding judge ruled, had been triggered by his transportation and usage of the toxic defoliant on the island between 1967 and 1968.

The decision to grant the claim comes in spite of repeated Pentagon denials that Agent Orange was ever present in Okinawa.

According to the ruling of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the unnamed marine alleges he came into contact with Agent Orange while transporting it in barrels and rubber bladders between U.S. military ports at Naha and White Beach — a navy installation on the island’s east coast — and a warehouse on Kadena Air Base. He also claims to have sprayed the defoliant in the Northern Training Area, in the Yanbaru jungles, to keep back foliage and reduce the risk of forest fires.

The former marine was able to identify the barrels he helped to transport as the infamous Vietnam War defoliant due to the tell-tale orange stripes painted around their middles.

The retired service member had first applied for compensation in 2004 but his claim was initially rejected. Following appeals by the veteran, Judge Mary Ellen Larkin ruled in his favor last October, stating, “While neither the service department nor DOD confirms the presence of Agent Orange on Okinawa during 1967 and 1968, the veteran offers a highly credible, consistent account that he was directly exposed thereto during those years while performing his assigned military duties.”


A survey of the communities directly involved in nuclear power generation shows that people are overwhelmingly AGAINST restarts. Here's what The Japan Times online has to say about this:

The Fukushima tragedy justifies nuclear skepticism

by Jeff Kingston

Mar 15, 2014

The findings of a Kyodo survey conducted in February this year reveal a stunning level of reluctance to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors in the host cities, towns and prefectures that stand to gain from revving them back up.

The nation’s 48 viable reactors are generating no electricity at present — and no local subsidies as long as they are idled. However, the spigot of financial inducements would open up again if the local governments in question were to green-light reactor restarts.

Despite this lure, though, only 13 out of the 135 villages, towns, cities and 21 prefectures situated within 30 km of a nuclear power plant responded to the survey saying they would unconditionally approve bringing local reactors back online if the Nuclear Regulation Authority vouched for their safety; another 24 would do so only if certain other conditions were met. It is a stunning rebuke that less than 10 percent of those authorities are keen to sign up for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nuclear renaissance despite all the foregone benefits. It’s not what one would expect given the high subsidy-addiction that afflicts these hosting communities.

(for the full story, go to The Japan Times online)


Radiation Levels in Tokyo: Some Numbers

Here is something from Bloomberg news reported in The Japan Times online edition about relative radiation levels. The commercial flight factoid surprised me.

Tokyo radiation less than the level in Paris

by Jacob Adelman


Mar 11, 2014

Data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health show atmospheric radiation levels in the capital are at the same level as before the Fukushima nuclear disaster started three years ago and are below those in Paris and London.

The average radiation level in central Tokyo was 0.0339 microsievert per hour in Shinjuku Ward on March 6, data showed. That’s about the same as the day before the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami caused three reactor core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, 220 km to the northeast.

That reading compares with 0.085 microsievert in London and 0.108 microsievert in Seoul on March 3, and 0.057 microsievert in Paris on Feb. 27, according to a compilation of world monitoring sites on the website of the Japan National Tourism Organization. Radiation levels in central Tokyo were as high as 0.809 microsieverts per hour on March 15, 2011, before declining to 0.0489 microsievert by the morning of March 18.

Radiation occurs naturally in the environment. While a careful search could still reveal trace levels of Fukushima-linked radioactivity in Tokyo, it now barely registers over readings from background sources, such as solar particles, rocks and soil, said Kathryn Higley, who heads the nuclear engineering and radiation health physics department at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“You have this widely ranging natural background,” Higley said in a telephone interview. “It varies because of the geology. It varies because of your elevation.”

Radiation levels in central Tokyo on March 15, 2011, peaked at about 24 times the level of the day before the accident, prompting thousands of expatriates to flee the country over the following few months.

Last year’s record number of foreign visitors and rising enrollment at international schools show how those concerns have abated, as Tokyo’s radiation readings fall below those in other major cities.

New York recorded 0.094 microsievert an hour on May 31, 2011, according to the last available Geiger counter reading from Background Radiation Survey, a project where owners of the equipment feed their readings into a central database.

By comparison, a commercial flight exposes passengers to about 10 microsieverts per hour, according to the Health Physics Society’s website.


Vulnerability + Empathy = World Peace

A simple equation, and it starts with trouble on a huge scale: the whole world, any place at all, is vulnerable to earthquake, pestilence, flood, drought, tsunami and any number of natural disasters. The following excerpt from The Japan Times online suggests some steps toward building the resilience that enables recovery from large-scale disasters. The excerpt is from a proposal by Daisaku Ikeda of Soka Gakkai International.

"I believe that immeasurable value could be brought to an entire region through cooperation regarding extreme weather and disasters among neighboring countries — the possibility of transforming their understanding of and approach to security.

Above all, the unpredictable nature of extreme weather and natural disasters and the sense of vulnerability they provoke can open the door to empathy and solidarity across national borders.

Furthermore, measures to enhance security in this way would not lead to what has been called the “security dilemma,” a vicious cycle in which the steps that one state takes to heighten security are perceived by other states as an increased threat, causing them to respond with similar measures, only leading to further mistrust and tension. The knowledge, technology and know-how that facilitates cooperation in the area of disaster relief is such that its value to all parties is enhanced through sharing."

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International and founder of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. His 2014 peace proposal can be read at ⤢www.sgi.org.


Japan: Once Upon a Time (2)

Japan now makes regularly scheduled expeditions to Antarctica, and for years, the ship the explorers sailed on was the Shirase. The ship was named for Nobu Shirase (1861-1946), who got his start as a niche explorer on an expedition to the Kuril Islands--in the area opened up by Takadaya Kahei.

Nobu Shirase took on another cold ocean when he led an expedition to Antarctica. On his first try, the ice kept him away. More than glory, he treasured his crew members. When the Antarctic ice proved impassible, he withdrew to Australia. Penniless, he and his crew were rejected by the Australian public, but embraced by a former member of the Shackleton Expedition to Antarctic--to the extent that they could make a second attempt to reach Antarctica.

This time, they were able to disembark at two locations, burying mementoes of their expedition as solid evidence of their presence on the icy continent.

Nobu Shirase is, to me, the embodiment of prudence plus daring plus master of the art of the possible. On the first attempt, ice prevented the ship from reaching the continent. On the second attempt, they reached the shore of Antartica but were faced with a 300-foot vertical cliff of ice. Shirase and his crew set to work carving a stairway in the ice, step by slow step, until they reached the top.

There is a famous story from the golden age of the samurai, about a samurai and his blacksmith. A certain Lord prepared two buckets of boiled rice, challenging the samurai and the blacksmith to pound the rice into the smooth paste known as mochi. The samurai attacked the rice with the flat of his sword, smashing away ruthlessly. The blacksmith took one grain of rice, placed it on his anvil, squashed it with his hammer, and repeated the process grain by grain until he was done.

It was the blacksmith who won the contest, and it was Nobu Shirase who not only reached Antarctica but was able to return home to Japan with ship and crew safe and sound, successful in the end.


Japan: Once Upon a Time (1)

When we think of the great voyagers of the world, names like Columbus and Magellan come to mind. Here is a good opportunity to think about what I call the "niche" voyagers, explorers who went where others didn't think to go. One of my favorite niche voyagers is Takadaya Kahei.

Takadaya Kahei was born in a land of mild waters, in a part of Japan then called Awaji, near what is now called Kobe, in 1769. He found work as a fisherman, and as soon as he could afford it, he bought his own ship. It was a ship unlike any the western world has ever used. Why? Because in those days, Japan was a closed country and ships were deliberately built to be unfit to go very far: no sturdy sides to keep out wild waves, no protected cabins for shelter on long trips, no Viking dragon-boat sort of industrial strength steering system.

Still, Takadaya Kahei went as far as he could make his boat sail: to Hokkaido, a huge northern territory not yet incorporated into Japan. What did Hokkaido need? Rice! Salt! Sake! Takadaya had those. What did Hokkaido have to sell? Marine products like salmon and edible seaweed. Takadaya Kahei had a ready market for all of them.

There is a lot more to tell about this intrepid merchant seaman. If you go to Hakodate, a port city in Hokkaido, by all means visit the Takadaya Kahei museum where the tools of his trade are on exhibit. Takadaya Kahei was a man who made boatloads of money in the kinds of trade we today call "win-win" transactions. He was a merchant who not only did well but also did good. Hakodate became a wonderful place to live, largely because of the efforts of Takadaya Kahei.


Meanwhile, back in Fukushima...

Before you read another word, this needs to be said. This episode of withholding data is NOT an example of what can happen with Japan's new secrecy protecting policy. This is about a public utility keeping the public uninformed, and it is about news being reported as soon as it became available.

Now, on to the latest revelations about the damage to sea water, from Jiji press, through The Japan Times online edition:

Regulators expected to demand detailed explanation for latest evasion

Tepco hid record-level radiation data last July


Feb 11, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not tell the public until recently that massively high levels of radiation were found in groundwater collected last July at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, even though the utility was aware of the data that month, according to sources.

Tepco released the data on Feb. 6 showing that the groundwater contained a record 5 million becquerels per liter of radioactive strontium-90.

When Tepco reported the data to the Nuclear Regulation Authority last week, it initially claimed that it had only recently compiled the data, NRA sources said.

However, the embattled utility later corrected the timing, apparently showing that it had withheld the record readings, the sources said.

The withholding of the radiation data looks to be the latest in a long line of missteps for the utility, experts said.


Grabbing the Wrong End of the Stick

Boy, did they get this one wrong. People voted for Mr. Masusoe because they like his priorities and because they understand the difference between what Tokyo as a local entity can do and what the national government can do. Can you say "spin doctor" at work?

Here is something about the Tokyo election from The Japan Times online:

The defeat of two anti-nuclear candidates, including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, in Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election has given the central government a boost of confidence as it prepares to move forward with an energy policy supporting the use of atomic power.

“We plan to compile a feasible and balanced Basic Energy Plan (for medium- to long-term energy policy),” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Diet committee Monday morning.

Nevertheless, Hosokawa’s attempt to focus attention on nuclear policy — a politically sensitive issue since the Fukushima nuclear crisis started in 2011 — appears to have put more pressure on Abe’s government to refrain from rushing toward endorsing a draft energy plan that has been criticized for its strong pro-nuclear tone.


Tokyo's New Mayor

Yesterday's election had a poor turnout, possibly due to an unusually heavy snowstorm. The voters who did turn out in spite of the snow and ice elected former health minister Yoichi Masusoe. There is a lot of love being shown to a candidate whose priority is the health and welfare of the people.

The 25 cm of (not quite knee deep) snow surely influenced voter turnout, but it also needs to be said that votes can be cast at government offices during the week before the official election day.

It may be more reasonable to assume that voters understand that "big posture" issues like ridding Japan of nuclear power generation may be important, even desirable, but nuclear power plants are not an issue that Tokyo has any control over. They are in the national government's domain. Whether or not Grandma gets home nursing and whether or not your child finds a place in day care--these ARE issues that fall within the Tokyo mayor's mandate.

The people who did turn out to vote on Sunday showed that they understand politics a lot better than some of the professionals.


Mt. Fuji is beautiful, but what if...

Seismologists and volcano experts such as Dr. Masaaki Kimura, graduate of Japan's Tokyo University and the Lamont geological institute in the US, have observed preliminary signs of a potential eruption of iconic Mt. Fuji. It is thinkable that, within our lifetimes, possibly within the next ten years, Mt. Fuji will erupt. If so, the greatest risk to people living in the vicinity will be from volcanic ash. Do you have goggles in your disaster kit? Dr. Kimura reminds us that volcanic ash is a lot like grains of ground-up glass.

Meanwhile, the government is making contingency plans. The Japan Times online has this to say:

"Mount Fuji, a 3,776-meter volcano, straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi and is close to the border of Kanagawa. The iconic mountain, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site last year, has erupted many times in the past.

The 470,000 people live in areas where 30 cm or more of volcanic ash is expected to fall based on data from the previous eruption in 1707 and a Mount Fuji hazard map prepared by the central government in 2004.

In these areas, wooden houses are at risk of being crushed under volcanic ash, which becomes heavy after absorbing rain."

(for the complete article, please go to The Japan Times)


Agree or Disagree?

Would owning the responsibility for these tragedies help?

Today's Japan Times online carries a letter from people who believe it would:

U.S. and Japanese apologies for war crimes could pave way for nuclear disarmament

Acknowledging responsibility for the atomic bombings and atrocities in Asia could serve as first steps toward a world free of nuclear arms

Special To The Japan Times

To see the whole letter, please follow this link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/02/05/voices/u-s-and-japanese-apologies-for-war-crimes-could-pave-way-for-nuclear-disarmament/#.UvK77DGmoiQ


NY Times re Japan's National TV (NHK)

from The New York Times on Japan's NHK and Prime Minister Abe's Agenda:

These are hard times for the broadcaster, NHK, which is widely considered the country’s most authoritative television and radio news source and like its British equivalent, the BBC, has been troubled by scandal.

But the current controversies at NHK have also stoked Japanese liberals’ fears about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his supporters, who critics believe are behind what they call the efforts to muzzle criticism amid a push to impose an expansive right-wing agenda.

Related Coverage

Japan’s Public Broadcaster Faces Accusations of Shift to the RightJAN. 31, 2014

Japan Official Under Fire for Saying Public Broadcaster Won’t Criticize GovernmentJAN. 27, 2014

The prime minister is already pressing for more patriotic textbooks and has pushed through a secrecy law that will allow Japan’s notoriously opaque government to hide more of what it does. The actions come as Japan is mired in an emotional tug of war with China and South Korea over their fraught wartime history and recent, potentially explosive, territory disputes.

“What I am worried about is that NHK will become loyalist media, become the public relations department of the government,” an opposition lawmaker, Kazuhiro Haraguchi, said in unusually harsh criticism in Parliament on Friday. NHK is “part of the infrastructure that forms the basis of our democracy.”


So Close to China, Geographically and Culturally

With a large Chinese population--in addition to cultural and geographical proximity--Japan welcomes Chinese New Year. If you are in western Japan, here is a festival worth seeing:

Nagasaki lights up for the Chinese New Year

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer, The Japan Times

Jan 30, 2014
Enjoy the Chinese New Year celebration in style at the Nagasaki Lantern Festival 2014, which kicks off on Jan. 31 and runs for two weeks in the city’s Chinatown and surrounding areas.

After Portuguese ships arrived at its shores in 1571, Nagasaki became a major trading port in Japan, and parts of it remained open to foreign trade even during the Edo Period (1603-1868) sakoku (closed-country) policy. Today, as an international city, it’s home to one of the three biggest Chinatowns in Japan, the others being in Yokohama and Kobe.

The highlight of this new year celebration is a display of 15,000 colorful Chinese lanterns, which will line the streets of Chinatown and Chuo Koen park and light the way to the Kofukuji Temple.


From the World of Literature

Japan offers two prestigious prizes for literature. One, the Akutagawa award, is to encourage new writers. The other, the Naoki award, honors authors of popular fiction. Here's what The Japan Times online has to say about this year's winners: they are all women.

Literature prizes elevate women

Jan 25, 2014

Japan may rank extraordinarily low — 105th out of 136 countries — on the world gender gap index, but this year’s winners of two famous literary prizes were all women, an irony that will surely not be lost on the prizewinners and their readers.

The winner of the 150th Akutagawa Prize was Hiroko Oyamada for her novel “Ana” (“Hole”), a story with a woman as the central character.

The two authors who shared this year’s 150th Naoki Prize, Makate Asai and Kaoruko Himeno, also focused on women. They deserve congratulations.

All three authors winning this year’s Akutagawa Prize, for up-and-coming writers, and the Naoki Prize, for popular literature, focused in large part on the experience of women.

Oyamada’s work focuses on a young woman who resigns from work and moves to a rural area, where, after falling in a hole, mysterious events start happening.

Asai’s work describes the fate of women during the end of the Edo Period and Himeno’s explores the everyday life of her female protagonist in Shiga Prefecture.


Meanwhile, back in Okinawa...

The news about noxious chemicals discarded carelessly by US military installations in Okinawa gets worse and worse. Uncle Sam's ears are about to get boxed good and proper, because now it isn't just the Okinawan housewives who are angry. Mothers of military dependents attending school on the US bases are seeing red, too--in the form of dioxin contaminating the land where there children go to school.

Here's what The Japan Times onlines reports. (for the full story, go to The Japan Times online)

Kadena moms demand truth

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Jan 21, 2014
Six months ago, dangerous levels of dioxin were discovered near two U.S. Department of Defense schools on Okinawa Island — but only now are many service members based there learning the full extent of the contamination.

Parents whose children attend the potentially poisoned facilities at Kadena Air Base claim the Pentagon has failed to inform them of the risks or investigate whether the pollution extends onto the school ground. Many are accusing the military authorities of endangering their children’s health and now they have formed a group to demand answers.

The focus of parents’ fears are the playing fields of Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School, facilities operated by the Department of Defense for the children of U.S. service members.

Last June, construction workers unearthed more than 20 chemical barrels on civilian land bordering the schools.

Following tests the following month, the barrels were found to contain high concentrations of dioxin, a substance that can cause cancer, immune system damage and developmental problems in children. In nearby soil, dioxin levels measured 8.4 times the legal limit, while water peaked at 280 times the level considered safe. The land had once belonged to the adjacent air base but was returned to civilian use in 1987


A word about swimming with ... mollusks

If you had to choose, would you like to swim with dolphins or swim with mollusks? The wise choice is... mollusks. But why?

There is a place in Japan where dolphins love to swim, and their reason to choose that location is mollusks. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet of tender, succulent mollusks--a favorite food for dolphins. Happy dolphins, unhappy mollusks. The dolphins can come and go, but the mollusks can't. All they can do is sit there in their shells and wait to be eaten, but nobody cries for mollusks. Everybody loves dolphins.

It's only natural. Dolphins are cute. They smile for the camera. Mollusks don't. They sit there, day in and day out, sucking in seawater and spitting it out. They do this because that's how they get their food. It isn't pretty, but it works. In with detritus-laden seawater, out with detritus-free seawater. All day, every day, Mother Nature's sea filtering mollusks do their thing.

What do dolphins do, besides performing amazing aquatic gymnastics and gobbling up mollusks? I beg your pardon if this sounds gross, but after they've eaten, they poop. You can think of it as feeding the mollusks, if you like.

What happens when the water-filtering mollusks get ahead of the dolphins? The sea water stays clean, and a lot of mollusks live to be harvested--and sold--by happy humans who also like to eat.

What happens when the pooping dolphins get ahead of the mollusks?


We will have that answer if the noisy humans who choose one animal to love and ignore the rest of Mother Nature's creatures succeed in ruining the balance between dolphins and mollusks in Taiji Cove.

We interrupt this hiatus to talk about ... dolphins

A note to the new Ambassador from Japan:

Ms. Kennedy-san, do you think it's proper for the nation famous for feedlots, hormone injections, and other inhumanities perpetrated on innocent cattle, pigs, and chickens held in squalid captivity awaiting death to tut-tut-twitter about humane treatment of animals? Have you an opinion to share about the wolf-pack slaughters? Any comments on the absence of bees in almond orchards?

When you have solved these moral dilemmas, let us know and we will listen with deep interest.