Sunday, 29 April 2012

Mashiko Pottery Town

On April 18, 2012 Noriko Fukuda drove us to Mashiko. It is one of the most famous pottery places in Japan. It appears as though the entire town sells pottery. The environment in the town is such that even foreigners have felt welcome to 'set up shop here'.
There was a lot of very interesting pottery and one could spend a lot of money in a place like this. It is not transportable as it is quite heavy or I would use it in Canada. No two pieces are exactly alike. Each is a piece of art yet the vast majority is fully functional. We did buy two bowls which we are using to eat rice from.
We visited the place and museums set up by Shoji Hamada who initiated pottery in this town. The buildings are original buildings tranported from their original locations in and around Mashiko in the 1940's. He is deceased and his son to whom Noriko is speaking in one of the Picasa photographs is an old man. Many of the museum buildings are thatched roof buildings and both they and the 'tile' roofed buildings sustained a lot of damage from the 3/11 earthquake. One of the museum buildings has various pieces of art collected from around the world by the founders.
Many homes had stacks of firewood and multi-chambered clay kilns set up ready to fire pottery. Again there was extensive earthquake damage to many of the kilns. The kilns are invariably build on a gradual slope so that a fire can be built at the lower fire pit and the heat flows up through all the chambers.
More photographs can be seen on Picasa at Mashiko Pottery Town.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Yayoi Matsuri or Festival

Yes, my wife is very famous. Apparently there are a number of festivals in various places in Japan that are called Yayoi Matsuri. They are named after the third month which in the traditional Chinese calendar would be equivalent to our month of April.
Anyway on April 17, 2012 we hopped on the Utsunomiya to Nikko train. Just after we sat down the train filled up with a large tour group of hakujin (Caucasians) probably from some eastern European country or country close to Russia.
We got there about 10am and headed in the direction of the temples and shrines. There was one brightly coloured float that we spotted and began taking photographs of. We did not realize that there were about 12 such floats and the one named "Friendship" happened to be one of the last floats. A little further on the float encountered a lengthy slope and the call went out for recruits. Well of course one gaikokojin (foreigner) with a knapsack on his back and a camera dangling from his neck has to grab the very thick rope and quite literally work up a sweat pulling the float up this slope. I was given a small bag of chips and later a small drink of Calpis (yogourt like). There were many food stalls along the way and later I am always a little disappointed with myself in that I am tempted to make the rounds of all the stalls trying all the foods. We also noticed that there were a large number of foreigners everywhere.
There were many delays organizing all the floats before the final ascent to the Futarasan Jinja (shrine). All the while the people jammed inside the floats had to continue playing their instruments in quite uncomfortable circumstances. Finally all of the floats charged past the torii (shrine gate) and up the final slope.
It was lunch time so we walked back to town and found a place to have lunch. After lunch we took the train back to Utsunomiya and had coffee and cake at Tully's near the station. It had threatened rain and rained a bit as we were leaving the festival, but as we drank our coffee it rained "cats and dogs" and I experienced my first thunder and lightning in Japan.
When it had died down a bit we walked back to the Fukuda's condominium and later we went to a shabu shabu Viking style restaurant. After waiting to get in we were challenged with an incredible amount of food that we would cook in one of two broths heated on an induction heater in the middle of the table. After all that I still found space for an ice cream. I am ready to go back there anytime!
Photographs of the Yayoi Matsuri can be seen on Picasa at Yayoi Matsuri.

The photographs of the Viking (buffet) dinner can be seen at Fukuda-San.


Monday, April 16, 2012 we set off from Utsunomiya Station to Ashikaga transferring at Oyama. One of the prime attractions was to see the Ashikaga School (Gakko) which is the oldest university in Japan. We could see from a distance that it was a fascinating place with thatched roofs. As we approach the front entrance we suspect something amiss by the reactions of others that arrived before us. Sure enough on the third Monday of each month the place is closed. Anyway probably just as well, as the Internet indicates that the entrance ticket is admission to the school and one of the venues is a Kanji test, which would have resulted in my immediate expulsion from the school. Anyway we did get some interesting views of the grounds from outside.
We continued on to Bannaji Temple which had Sakura in bloom and a beautiful garden in one corner. The temple is surrounded with a moat and was the site of the Ashikaga Shogun during the fourteenth century. So many temple tourist locations have an over abundance of food stalls, but here there was merely one so after making the rounds we walked up the street and found a small restaurant named Amakara (Arakama) which means sweet and spicy hot. We had very good lunches with katsudon, Indian curry and a nice dessert of anmitsu with azuki beans.
After we continued walking and went up a long meandering stairway to see Orihime Shrine. The top of the hill provided a nice view of the city of Ashikaga.
When we got onto the train platform we were surprised to see close to one hundred students waiting to take the train back home. Apparently Ashikaga has a good reputation with respect to education. We got seats as most of the students preferred to stand and chat. They were well behaved and got off within a few stops.
As the train travelled past Iwafune we again observed the beautiful pastel multi-hued hillsides and took a couple of photographs through the window. Regardless a photograph can never do justice to the subtle beauty of spring in the mountains.
Photographs can be seen on Picasa at Ashikaga.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Nikko is an interesting tourist town in which itself and in the surrounding environment one could spend a lot of time. In the town itself one of the prime attractions is a collection of shrines and temples at one end of town, essentially at the opposite end from where the JR station from Utsunomiya is located. Reasonable bus service is available, but on both of our trips by train we walked from the station to the temples and shrines. As at so many sites we have visited here too, one of the major attractions, Rinnoji Temple - Sanbutudo was being renovated so we decided not to see what was available to be seen inside.
We continued on and saw Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple, Futarasan Shrine and Toshugu Shrine where Ieyasu Tokugawa was buried. Nikko experiences a lot of snow in winter and in a couple of places we did see small piles of snow. There are a lot of foreign Caucasian and Asian tourists here and we could see that some of them had never seen snow before.
The temples here are renowned for their elaborate painted sculptured artwork. We saw some that had been stripped to barebones white and were going to be repainted. Japanese people at that time had never seen animals such as lions, elephants or giraffes yet they sculptured these based on imagination of descriptions they had heard. Giraffes were believed to consume only water and air and were thus very peaceful animals. The famous sculpture of monkey no see, no hear and no speak can also be found here. A stable on the grounds was traditionally used to house horses used by shoguns to visit Ieyasu's gravesite and currently a gray roan was being displayed here for a few hours a day. The horse is a gift from the prime minister of Australia.
We climbed the long flight of stairs to Toshugu Shrine along with a group of bikers younger than us, but obviously not in very good physical condition. At the time the Toshugu Shrine was built only one person, the shogun, was allowed to visit. And eventually the most famous shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa made his last very final trip here. Many people were still coming here to pay their respects.
After making the rounds we walked back to town and found a restaurant in which we each had a noodle bowl set. After lunch we walked back to the JR station and on the way saw preparations for the Yayoi Matsuri (festival) taking place in two days. Large wooden wagons decorated with very pink flowers could be seen. How could anything be so pink, but in Japan anything is possible. A little further up the street were some small trees that had real very pink blossoms just like the festival float's.
We had a delicious dinner at the Fukuda's where we were staying along with another guest, a friend of Fukuda-san whose primary residence is the Nikko area.
Photographs of the day can be seen on Picasa at Nikko.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


On a rainy April 14, 2012 we hopped on the train in Utsunomiya and went to Shirakawa. We got to Shirakawa station and after making some enquiries discovered that due to damage by the 3/11 earthquake the Shirakawa Komine Castle was closed to tourists. We unfurled our borrowed umbrellas and trekked off to the castle grounds. Sure enough barricades prevented our entrance to the castle proper and work was ongoing even in the rain. We entered a cafe on the castle grounds, looked around inside noticing about six men chatting and all but one dressed in identical jackets. We decided to order an udon set which includes the udon noodles in soup and a number of other items including dessert elegantly arrayed on a tray. The food was very good. We had picked up some tourist pamphlets and Yayoi chatted with the six men. It turns out they were volunteer tourist guides. One particularly was very helpful and after lunch he approached us as we were leaving and offered us a ride to the city museum across town. We accepted. He explained that the castle outer or moat walls were deliberately built so that if a pivotal stone was removed by an enemies machinery (or earthquake in this case) that the whole wall would collapse crushing the enemy.
After seeing the museum we walked back to the castle and went into the museum on the grounds. After we went back to Shirakawa train station, had coffee and then took the train back to Utsunomiya. At the Utsunomiya train station we chose one of a number of gyoza restaurants and ate gyoza (a bit like pyrogies) which is an Utsunomiya specialty.
In spite of the rain, thanks to the nice people we met we had a good day.
A few photographs can be seen on Picasa at Shirakawa Komine Castle.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hoshino Home

After the first of what would be three visits to Nikko, we thought it would be a good idea to go for coffee. Of course our hosts had a better idea in mind. We went to drink ocha (green tea) of exceptionally good quality in the Hoshino home. Tea like this cannot be purchased in Canada.
Hoshino-san was away on a fact finding mission (frequent) to Kyoto to learn about and develop new ideas for the Japanese garden surrounding his home. So his wife was left to entertain us. It is a beautiful garden outside with fish in the pond which I incorrectly assumed were dark coloured koi or Japanese carp. The house itself is in the process of being renovated particularly on the inside and as much as possible is being done by the owners. Like many homes especially in this prefecture, there is a kura or storage building in the yard. The Hoshino kura is made of stone and is designed to protect the contents against all harm.
After tea and viewing the house, Fukuda-san took us out behind the house where as a boy he had been chased by a Japanese bear. The question in the back of my mind is why would bears come here? There is a large spring apparently gushing from the rock up on the mountain and this water flows through the length of the property and into the fish pond seen at the front of the house. But behind the house in a series of large terraced ponds are thousands of mostly trout of different sizes, some koi and another Japanese freshwater fish. The fish are raised here and sold to restaurants. In fact some of the trout are raised is such a clean environment that they can be eaten as sashimi (raw fish).
The photographs can be seen on Picasa at Hoshino Home.

Nikko Road

After Ioji temple we were off to Nikko by car (kuruma). We went to see areas on the outskirts and as the Fukuda's put it areas usually only seen by foreigners and of which many Japanese people were not aware of.
Nikko is the place that the people of Utsunomiya are very proud of. We drove along a long avenue with sugi trees on both sides which were probably planted at about the time of the original shoguns or Japanese military rulers. This avenue was only for the use of the shogunate in their travels to and from Edo (Tokyo). I suspect any commoners found here would be in need of heaven's intervention. It is a little surprising to see the adulation given to the shogun's of yesteryear considering that the vast majority of Japanese people would simply exist to provide taxes in the form of rice etcetera to sustain the wealth of the ruling class. Nikko is where the most famous shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa is actually buried. Shizuoka has a memorial site for Ieyasu as he spent a lot of time there, including many of his formative years.
Near the avenue is an ankle breaking footpath which is depicted in many of the photographs on Picasa. This path meanders past many interesting and beautiful sites as well as shrines some of which are due to the monk that first settled this part of the country and so to speak, put it on the map. The trees here are huge as the photographs demonstrate.
Next we were off again to see the famous lake Chuzenjiko up on the mountain, a waterfall named Dragon Waterfall (Ryuzu) due to it torturous path. We saw snow in the mountains and in town one photograph of piled snow next to a parking lot demonstrates how much snow falls in this country.
More photographs can be seen on Picasa at Nikko Road.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ioji Temple

On April 13, 2012 Noriko and Toshiji Fukuda took us to see Ioji Temple in which Noriko has some family connections. The temple and surrounding buildings are quite beautiful as are the grounds and views of the surrounding countryside.
Many of the buildings have thatched roofs and are very old. We were also allowed inside and a lady in charge acted as a guide and also aided us in prayers. Ioji is a quiet temple not normally seen by tourists and is known for being a healing temple.
Photographs can be seen on Picasa at Ioji Temple.

Utsunomiya Futara Jinja

Shinto shrines of all sizes and all possible locations are everywhere in Japan. They are popular tourist destinations for Japanese and Gaikokojin (foreigners). It is sometimes a little confusing to distinguish the shrines from Buddhist temples as both have been heavily influenced by each other, although more recently they have become more distinct. I have stated that Japanese are born Shinto and die Buddhist. Our host, Noriko said that Japanese are born Shinto, are married Christian and die Buddhist.
Yayoi and I had some time on April 12 after visiting Hachiman Yama and walked up one of the major streets of Utsunomiya and seeing the distinctive gateway entered the grounds of the shrine, to enjoy its beauty, observe other people and relax.
The "exit" gate photographed from inside the grounds is displayed here and other photographs can be seen on Picasa at Futara Jinja.

Utsunomiya Hachiman Yama Koen

We got to Utsunomiya midday Thursday and soon four of us were off to see a large park in central Utsunomiya located on an elevated area. Even on a Thursday it was impossible for Fukuda-san to find parking so he dropped three of us off and left us to enjoy the park. A sunny day and everyone wants to enjoy the outdoors. Parents and children were everywhere including enjoying lunch (obento). As in many Japanese parks there was quite a nice play area for kids. And of course it was sakura (cherry blossom) viewing season. The vendors selling various unusual food items were present in certain areas of the park. I would love to make the rounds and try something from each vendor, but the organ responsible for such extravagance can only stretch so far. For example, I love ika or roasted squid. Japanese people think I am really strange since I probably enjoy a larger variety of foods than even they do.
The photographs of this visit can be seen on Picasa at Hachiman yama.


While his wife managed the family hotel in Utsunomiya, Fukuda-san travelled the world as a professional wildlife photographer. We first met him when he came to Winnipeg in order to go to Churchill to photograph polar bears. Yayoi accompanied him on one of these trips, but he may have gone to Churchill about ten times. At one point he ordered a caribou skin outfit from the natives in Nunavut. This was delivered to our place in Winnipeg until he could pick it up. His favourite place is Russia and more particularly certain areas of eastern Siberia. At one point as he was hiding behind a snow blind, waiting for an opportunity to photograph a mother bear and two cubs, when the mother sneakily moved closer and pounced on him. He was able to scare her off, but it may have been the caribou skin coat that both saved him and possibly also acted as an attractant.
Next he targeted the Siberian or Amur tiger. He has recently taken some very remarkable photographs of this magnificent creature. In order to do so he lived in a very small snow hut for many weeks until the tiger sauntered by just where he wanted it to.
He also enjoys carving wooden birds as depicted below. These are found throughout their condominium and the ducklings are found in a room that appears to be dedicated to John Wayne.
And as mentioned he is very fond of Russia and the Russian people. He speaks what appears to be fluent Russian and has been translating a Russian document to Japanese during the past four years. And of course you can guess who has been double checking the Japanese translation.
One evening an elderly man showed up with a container containing a caterpillar that is destined to become a beautiful butterfly. If left free very likely birds would have devoured it. Did I mention that Fukuda-san also has two glass cases of preserved butterflies?
This friend is a character as well. He is a heavy equipment operator and is always in demand. But he would rather travel Japan to see where the butterflies are or whatever else Mother Nature fascinates him with. Apparently he has done this all his life. Even a fall from a thirty meter cliff has not deterred him. He comes from the Nikko area which has very heavy snowfalls, providing work for him when the butterflies are less active.
The photographs of food are from a Viking (buffet) shabu-shabu restaurant. Incredibly good food and rather more food than we would normally eat. We cooked very thinly sliced meats, tofu and various vegetables in two broths sitting on an induction heater which is much more common in Japan than Canada.
More photographs can be seen on Picasa at Fukuda-San.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Tuesday April 10, 2012 I took Muku for a morning walk on the road to Ono where the cherry blossoms or sakura were in full bloom. I took a number of photographs with a camera in one hand and a dog leash. Sakura are the favourite Japanese flower. Cherry trees have been planted in honour of their flowers for hundreds of years. Then at lunch time I persuaded Yayoi to come for a walk along the same route and see the sakura in early full bloom. We met a group of ladies who had the same idea in mind. The ephemeral nature of the blossoms, the subtle colour and the delicate blossoms are some of the reasons why the sakura are admired so much. There are double flowers and some variation in colour, but the single flower with just a hint of pink on a tree that can grow 10 meters high is the most admired.
More photographs can be seen on Picasa at Hanami.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Flower viewing party

It is a tradition in Japan to have a little party when the cherry blossoms (Sakura) are in bloom. This is called hanami with hana meaning flower. Kenji one of Okano-san's childhood friends came by Saturday with his older sister to pick up some veggies from the farm and suggested we have a flower viewing Easter Sunday at lunch. That evening Okano-san's wife Shigeko-san invited us to go to St. Barnabus Anglican church for the Easter service and we accepted.
The church service was followed by a true potluck lunch with a variety of very interesting dishes. We stayed for a while and then rushed back to the farm for the flower viewing.
There is a very narrow lane meandering on the edge of the farm. More than forty years ago when Okano-san's oldest brother was born the parents planted many cherry trees on a stretch of  road. This combined with other plantings has resulted in nearly a kilometre of cherry trees. The ones nearest the farm were only about ten percent in bloom. But any excuse for a party.
When we got there we realized they were in the greenhouse as the air outside had been quite cool. Kenji's sister had brought a lot of food and there were a variety of fruit juices. The conversation flowed freely and later Okano-san's wife Shigeko-san showed up. She works in a school frequently till nine in the evening and we had never seen her out in the farm area before. The three men have been friends since forever. Okano-san the farmer, one friend who is a teacher in Tsukuba and the other is a junior high principal and artist like Okano-san.
When it finally wrapped up lettuce, spinach and Japanese green onion were harvested and given to the friends marking the end to a very nice Easter Sunday.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Weekend Flowers

Although Japan appears to have flowers year round Easter weekend is still a very special weekend and a reminder that spring and renewed hope are here. Yayoi and I have seen many flowers, but one of the reasons is that we have been avoiding northern Japan and even more importantly western Japan on the Japan Sea side because they have a lot of snow and it has been quite cold this winter. The east side or the Pacific Ocean side is moderated by a warm ocean current.
I did some work this morning cleaning up piles of weeds and unsaleable spinach that we had pulled and hoed yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny shirtsleeve morning. At lunch the clouds rolled in and the temperature appeared to plummet. I had promised myself the afternoon off to do a bit of flower photography in honour of Easter weekend.
The photograph displayed here is a humourous prelude to what can be seen on Picasa. It is a "tanpopo" and in places in Japan is actually grown as a flowering plant.
The Picasa photographs can be seen at Easter Flowers.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Japanese Birds

Yayoi has always been excited when she hears the song of the uguisu or according to Wikipedia the Japanese bush warbler. Its song is described as hoohokekyo and Wikipedia confirms what Yayoi has been telling me that the birds learn the song and improve as the season progresses. The description of the song above does not do it justice. It is a very cheerful unmistakeable sound and a sign that spring is imminent. The website Bush-warbler has more information.
The song can be heard on YouTube at Bush-warbler video.
I have been seeing a number of Japanese pheasants with quite distinctive colouration and interesting behavior. The first time I saw one it was just a blur as it flashed by and into the bush. Subsequently they have been playing games of hide and seek with me, such as peeking at me from behind a shrub thinking I cannot see them. This morning I saw a colourful red headed pheasant in an unused remote field after first hearing its eerie call. As I spotted it it ambled into the bamboo and cryptomeria forest. Ths afternoon I saw a hen near our host's pig barn. More information can be seen on Green Pheasant website.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Suicidal Planet

I have been warned not to take an American (Canuck) attitude or impose my criticisms. People in glass houses should not throw stones. But that is not my intention, any criticism is self intended as well, as I frequently detect hypocrisy in my desires and thoughts. Being in and observing another culture simply clarifies thoughts that pre-existed. An analogy that I like to use is the criticism that one feels in a city being visited for the lack of visibility or improper placement of street signs required for navigation, whereas being familiar with one's home town one does not feel the same criticism at home, unless you cultivate a tourist's mind as you travel in your home town (let's ignore GPS navigational aids).

April 1, 2012 we were at a demonstration protesting the danger of keeping nuclear reactors functional. This stimulated thinking. Japan like most developed or developing countries probably is experiencing increased electricity demands each year. Shutting down reactors will not permit unfettered energy demands. So called green sources of energy such as wind turbines and solar panels will not fill the gap in current political environments. Wind turbines are an eyesore protruding from the tops of formerly scenic mountaintops. Unless installed on or incorporated unobtrusively on rooftops, solar panels can also be an eyesore.
Maybe it is time to modify our daily cycles. When the sun rises so should we. When it settles down for the night so should we. Winter in extreme latitudes could encourage partial energy saving "hibernation".

Houses need to be made much more intelligently. There are too many instances of cookie cutter houses. After tolerating non-centrally heated houses I am not certain any more whether American style central heating is essential. One Japanese product that makes a cool room much more bearable at night is the electric heating pad which can be placed n the floor to sit on or under futon heating pads. With proper futons sleeping in a five degree Centigrade room can be quite comfortable.

Why do we tolerate it? A ditch/water canal I observed recently has given me nightmares. I could not believe what people discard. Signs with significant financial penalties are no deterrent. Vending machines and the cans and bottles they dispense are one of the primary sources of roadside debris.
It must be possible to properly dispose/recycle anything easily. Recycling must be built into products. Manufacturers need to take much more responsibility and deliver quality not quantity. Planned obsolescence is not feasible any longer. Appliances should not break down and should be easily maintainable/repairable. Electronics are a major headache with innovations occurring daily. Sending obsolete electronics to other countries to be handled is a very irresponsible answer to the problem.

The measurement of Gross Domestic Product must be eradicated. A country's health is measured by increases in the GDP. What a gross concept! This concept is predicated on an increasing population and increased demands for consumer goods. An increasing population is not sustainable. This is a very unpopular topic, but any thinking person must agree. There are finite resources on this planet and no one person or country has the right to more than their share for themselves or their family. Life is a privilege and a responsibility not a right.
If the GDP flattens out, presumably the investment world will be in chaos. Is a healthy economy really dependent on an increasing GDP? The financial problems currently being experienced by many countries around the globe is a symptom of a flawed system.

An increasing population is a guarantee of eventual collapse of world food supplies. There have been warnings that the world's store houses are losing ground yearly. Agricultural technologies are based on flimsy foundations and cannot be expected to reliably feed the planet much longer. Events such as climate change could wreak havoc with food production.
The waste of food in developed countries is inexcusable. Substantial percentages of food purchased is simply discarded. If you want to eat you should be involved in food production, such as a vegetable garden. Or maybe all of us carnivores should help slaughter some pigs or chickens. Vegetarianism is arguably a positive trend, but some marginal land is only useful for raising livestock. In extreme latitudes an animal diet is the only viable choice. Transportation of food around the world needs to be discouraged in favour of locally grown products.

What is their purpose? Are we leaches on our agrarian neighbours? Population needs to decrease to less than one billion people or a level that people can live on and off the land. If technology (read mobile phones) is necessary it may be required to support a small urban population of experts with the skills to produce for the rest of society.

Transportation is most easily provided in an urban environment. Since cities are likely to remain a fact of life, they need appropriate public transportation that can replace our insistence on the rubber legged quadruped most of is insist on driving. "Public" needs to be defined as government sponsored to such an extent that convenience and expense would encourage everyone to utilize it. Bipedal transportation is the most ideal and people should live close to where they work and where they shop for essentials.

Probably half or more of all products sold today are non-essentials. Advertising is the modern curse and we primitives continue to be susceptible to its allure. Where do the expressions "downsizing" and "minimalist lifestyles" come from? They are obviously a reaction to impulse purchasing of frivolous non-essentials.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Farming in Ibaraki

Apparently Ibaraki-ken is the second largest farming prefecture next to the island of Hokkaido. And what a lot of work it is. As a close look at the photos indicates some plants are protected by a pyramidal white enclosure barely covering the plant and a clear plastic one meter high greenhouse like structure covering the whole row. This greenhouse is partially covered with straw bundles. Later I found out that these plants are the famous Edosaki kabocha (pumpkin) which need to be ready for the consumer in June. Frequently a variety of plants or seeds are planted in holes in plastic stretched over the soil. This acts as a mulch and keeps the soil warm.
The field of purple flowers is the Japanese variation of creeping charlie and today April 2, 2012 these were simply being tilled into the soil. Two of us have spent many hours weeding and collecting this pest as can be seen in the pile in the one photo. Why farmers tolerate this weed and let it grow on the edges of the fields and presumably produce seeds as evidenced by the millions of baby creeping charlies? Is it because in Japanese it's name designates a sitting Buddha? As Kenji, a friend of Akio Okano, states one season of seeds is followed by ten years of weed growth. Organic gardening aside this noxious pest deserves a lot more killer instinct.
When the government today lowered the allowable radioactivity level from 500 to 100 becquerels, Japan will need all the production it can muster.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


It is April 1, 2012 and at 0715h we get in the mini-mini van to drive to a location 30 minutes away. A chartered bus waits for us there. What in Manitoba would be a one hour ride by bus takes almost three hours here.
We are off to Hitachi-naka-shi which is 3km from the Pacific Ocean where a 34 year old nuclear power plant exists in the same prefecture, Ibaraki-ken, where we are currently living. The gathering is to primarily request the closure of this nuclear plant to prevent the possibility of a meltdown such as happened in Fukushima a year ago on 3-11.
When we got there, there was a large expanse of concrete awaiting us with a stage at the apex and food stands and people with petitions to be signed. We made the rounds, bought some vegetables and signed petitions.
The entertainment in the form of music began shortly. People had spread out the ever present blue tarps on the concrete and we sat down. There was current music, folk songs and a trumpeter even played the tune "Amazing Grace" as a request for all of Japan affected by the events of the past year.
Then the speeches began. Besides the politicians there was a son whose father was forced away from the Fukushima nuclear affected area after having farmed there for 30 years.
A mother with a baby on her back was concerned about the effects of radiation on children.
A "salary man" who left Tokyo to farm in our prefecture of Ibaraki which is south of Fukushima, told us that being an organic farmer and selling direct instead of through marketing agencies such as JA saw his sales drop to zero immediately following 3-11.
Many banners and placards surrounded us protesting ageing nuclear plants, nuclear weapons, taxes being raised (when Fukushima needs government support) and other assorted issues.
There were also proponents of wind farms, geothermal energy (Japan is an obvious for this, but other than hot spring resorts, I see little evidence of) and of course solar energy of which quite a few water heating systems and solar electrical panels are seen on roof tops.
And for most of us present it was a chance to get away and enjoy a huge well behaved party.
The photograph shows just a few of what was being reported as a crowd of 3000 people with maybe two policemen present at the entrance to the grounds.