Thursday, January 31, 2008

Whales, dolphins, tuna exhaust: what is wrong with Japan's taste?

OK, there was first of all that sushi cop campaign that might embarrass the world's gourmets as Japan launched a campaign Tuesday to certify authentic Japanese food overseas, but insisted it was only promoting its cuisine rather than setting up a "sushi police" and where sushi inspectors and promoters indeed unveiled a logo that will identify "real" Japanese restaurants overseas, a pair of chopsticks holding a cherry petal set in front of a red rising-sun flag.

I knew that The Guide Michelin awards would generate passions in the archipelago.

But now, this is not just a matter of French autocratic gastronomy's views in this case, it is not just a matter of taste, it is a matter of "kuuki", of "atmosphere" in the way passions are enflamed with Japan's taste for marine creatures and islanders voracious appetite. Japan among sea nations as Norway, Greece, France or Pacific nations is always a target. Is it that one does not easily understand what Japan means and wants?

Can't ear Japan since pop icon Ayumi Hamasaki wrote on her fan club website early January that she would continue singing despite losing her hearing in her left ear?!?

No, serious, one example. We 'll talk soon about the "whaling complex" of Japanese authority. I 'll therefore stick to what seems to me as the loveliest creature in the sea: the dolphins.

Twice every year, up to 1.500 to 3.000 dolphins are killed in these so-called ‘drive hunts’. In these hunts, large groups of dolphins are rounded up by speedboats at sea and herded into a bay or harbor, where they are surrounded by nets and then slaughtered, or selected alive for trade in the lucrative aquarium industry.

Taiji is one of several Japanese villages where dolphins are hunted. The town this season has a nationally set quota of 3,015, of a total national quota of nearly 21,000. The actual take tends to be about 30 per cent lower than the quota, depending on demand for the meat. While other villages usually harpoon their quarry out at sea, the particularly bloody killing methods in Taiji have made the town a focal point of animal rights activists worldwide.

In addition to the fishmonger hook there is now a new threat: mercury poison. A series of scientific studies in recent years in Japan have documented high levels of the toxic heavy metal in dolphin meat, and a group of city councilmen in Taiji launched an unprecedented campaign against the hunt several months ago after doing their own tests.

Quote :
"Tetsuya Endo, a researcher at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, in northern Japan, has co-authored numerous studies showing dolphin meat can contain mercury at concentrations many times higher than the 0.4 parts per million allowed by the Japanese government for many types of fish. The highest concentration he has found so far was 100 parts per million from a bottle-nose dolphin, a species whose meat is butchered in Taiji. "This ought to be investigated," Endo said, calling for a government probe into the dangers of eating dolphin. "There are people who eat it a lot, and those people could be suffering health effects."

Well... All tastes are in my nature (Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature"***) Jacques Dutronc said in his famous song of his album: "Brèves rencontres".

Certains l'aiment tôt
Certains l'aiment tard
Certains l'aiment chaud
D'autres tartare

Le plaisir n'a pas de mesure
Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Certains recto
D'autres pétards
Certains verseau
D'autres s'agitent tard

Le plaisir n'a pas de censure
Toutes les tendances sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Certains l'aiment haut
Avec Icare
Certains plumeau
D'autres océdar

Faut pas faire de littérature
Tout est écrit dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Certains auto
Certains motards
Certains métro
D'autres moutard

Le plaisir n'a pas de figure
Toutes les formes sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Certains l'aiment faux
D'autres sans fard
Certains bravo
D'autres bavards

Le plaisir n'est pas la luxure
Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Certains l'aiment tôt
Certains l'aiment tard
Certains l'aiment chaud
D'autres tartare

Le plaisir n'a pas de mesure
Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature

Le plaisir n'a pas de mesure
Tous les goûts sont dans ma nature
Tous les goûts sont dans la nature"

*** Courtoisie des Karaoke de Tokyo
(Text and agency)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Japanese kids shape: thick or stick-thin

How to tackle the obesity epidemic in children, with efforts
hampered by bureaucracy' attempts to stay friendly with the
powerful sometimes unsafe Japanese food industry?

Equally important is how to consider the problem of girls
not eating enough in some cases, starving themselves to
death in order to look attractive? Japanese young girls
aspire to be thin when stick-thin models dominate the
pages of magazines and advertising walls. Pills and medicines
add to the Japanese super diet teas "burning fat" syndrome.

Geo Visitors Map
But this is not just enough disorders.

"Currently in Japan around 10% of the population is
considered obese, up from just 3% in the 1970's. In
America, that number is 30%, nearly 33% of all Japanese
men aged 40-49 are overweight which is up over 11%
in the last 20 years" ... "these people are not clinically
obese, it is highly likely that they will suffer many of
the same symptoms in their latter years."

"As of last year, about half of all Japanese men over the age
of 40 already either had symptoms of metabolic syndrome
(getting fat; having high blood pressure, hypertension and
diabetes; and a prevalence to heart attacks, certain types of
cancer, and strokes, etc.) or were developing it, while just
20% of all Japanese women did so.

Child obesity has triggered commercial opportunities in an
area where you would least expect it: the Video Games Inc.
Besides McDonalds, most parents blame video games and the
consequent lack of physical activity as being a major
contributor to Japanese kids gaining weight."

80% of Japanese kids play video games weekly and do
not walk around during their free time with their noses
stuck in one, 58% play for more than 1 to 2 hours a day on
days off school. Look at them in the subway. Not necessarily
in the richest neighborhood. (Text & agencies)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dr. Kerviel and Mr. Hide

Kerviel, the SocGen trader is responsible for "plain vanilla" futures hedging on European equity market indices and had taken massive fraudulent directional positions in 2007 and 2008 beyond his authority, abusing his knowledge of the group's security systems, SocGen said.

"Societe Generale's report of fraud comes four months after French competitor Credit Agricole SA said an unauthorized proprietary trade at its investment-banking unit in New York cost it 250 million euros. [In Japan] Sumitomo Corp. disclosed a $2.6 billion loss in 1996 on copper trades. The Japanese firm blamed unauthorized trades by its chief copper trader, Yasuo Hamanaka, who was known as "Mr. Copper" in the markets because of his aggressive trading. Hamanaka was sentenced to eight years in prison in 1998." (Bloomberg)

About Societe Generale's Jerome Kerviel, banking experts are still "puzzled by how such big positions of bad bets were allowed to pile up without any oversight by managers." In Davos, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet called on the financial sector to "discipline itself". While refusing to comment directly on SocGen, he said regulation needs to be upgraded to take account of ever more complicated financial instruments.

"There is no way all this trading could have been done in a vacuum without anyone noticing," said Bill King of Ramsey King Securities. "Somebody in the back office or in management, or both, were asleep or turned a blind eye," said King. "Ever notice that when a firm blows up, it's always blamed on a 'rogue trader' ?" (In NYPost)

"With Wall Street in crisis and banks begging for cash, the West has lost its swagger. Can China step in and keep the global economy on its feet?... The current economic crisis has revealed the close connections an interdependencies between the US, the world's biggest capitalist economy, an communist China... When the stock market caught on to what was happening, shares tanked on fears that the US would fall into recession. That prompted Ben Bernanke to slash US interest rates by an extraordinary three quarters of a per cent last Tuesday. (The Observer)

And finally, the Nikkei...
"French bank Societe Generale will aggressively market structured deposits, whose returns are linked to stock or commodity prices, to regional financial institutions. A specialized sales team will be formed to provide products tailored to the needs of each customer. (Thursday edition)"

Products tailored to the needs...?

"The world's biggest financial companies have announced more than $120 billion in writedowns and credit losses as the U.S. housing slump rattles debt markets." (re-Bloomberg)

Societe General's chief executive Daniel Bouton is facing an uncertain future.