Saturday, April 24, 2010

Niigata's "Disaster Food"! A pack that will save your life!

Kobe earthquake, 05:46 am, January 17, 1995, magnitude 7.3, 6500 souls lost

In Japan where a natural disaster is prone to happen, whether or not we will learn from the past, from mistakes and those of others, in case of disaster, the best is to plan for a better future. How? With imagination and sense. But it helps to have comprehensive and immediate response with emergencies teams quickly dispatched on site, enforced with the involvement of special units (hospitals, Self Defense Forces, police, firemen, humanitarian organizations, Red Cross, NGOs')

Most needed: Immediate transport units (helicopters) which are required for rescuing victims our of their mountains and isolated farming villages. In case of nuclear power plants or chemical factories, it is necessary to send immediate Hi-Tech specialized rescue teams, perceptive to threats and helped by professional communicators.

Japan rescue team (Courtesy of Japan Ministry of Defense)

In 2007 in Niigata a fire broke out in an electrical transformer at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. The fire was extinguished within two hours. But the earthquake also caused a leak of radioactive gases and the plant tried to conceal it to the local press.

In other words, emergency crisis answers are to be developed and personnel trained and updated. After earthquake for instance, survival has 3 requirements: Water, Food, Roof. I'll focus on food rescue after this most insightful report in Niigata region, on the sea of Japan, thanks to the help and organization of the Foreign Press Center, Japan (FPCJ), the Niigata prefecture and the Niigata city-hall's administration.

Disaster food?

It means food products must be developed specifically for disasters and calamities. Here in Japan scholars and administration have joined hands to develop a new "disaster food" kit. This will be the topic during October 16 and 17 Niigata APEC Ministerial Meeting on Food Security. Many people in Niigata are involved in agriculture in various forms, and they are working hard to produce and deliver safe and tasty food. Having experienced two major earthquakes in 2004 and 2007, Niigata is leading Japan in the field of research and food supply at times of natural disaster.

Researchers of Niigata university elaborating high pressured eggs

The significance of Niigata as a major food production base is growing. In 2008 Niigata City and Yokohama City concluded an agreement on cooperation in critical phases, and they are prepared to help each other when a natural disaster occurs in one of the cities. If a great disaster occurs in the Kanto area, Niigata will help them by supplying food to Greater Tokyo.

In Japan compared to other countries as seen after the US Katrina disaster, people do not loot going for whatever they need to survive and protect one’s security when surrounded by desperate people resorting to desperate actions to feed themselves and their families.

In Japan people stay put and wait for government instructions, if it ever comes! In Kobe 1995 earthquake (Hanshin seism) no-one at the highest governmental level gave any instruction to coordinate and organize aid to victims under Socialist Prime Minister Murayama who felt powerless restrained by a cautious and irresponsible reading of the Constitution and especially because there was no law and still there IS NO LAW in Japan on Crisis Management.

A couples of hours after the earthquake that jolted the whole region, as I witnessed in Kobe, being the first French journalist reporting live for the French Radio and Television, such a magnitude of disaster caused thousands of deaths, more after in the next 48 hours, because of no help, and added death among abandoned food-less populations in the 5 days following the seism.

The Japanese government had refused to authorize in the early minutes following the earthquake to dispatch the only units which had the logistics to assist people in need, the Self Defense Forces based nearby in Himeji. A crucial and lethal error as sated by Crisis Management specialists such as Tokyo Governor Adviser Shikata Toshiyuki, an opinion shared by numerous scholars and disasters reliefs operators in and out of Japan. A reason why foreign nations such as France, US, sent immediately specialized units to try to save lives in the Hyogo prefecture.

Lessons were partially learned in the Niigata earthquakes...

A region with a past record of suffered repeated seisms:

The Niigata Chūetsu Earthquakes (中越地震) occurred at 5:56 p.m on Saturday, October 23, 2004. On the Richter scale, the moment magnitude of the earthquake is estimated at 6.9. (For comparison, the Great Hanshin earthquake, which devastated much of Kobe, measured a magnitude of 7.3)

2007 July 16, again a strong earthquake with estimated magnitude of 6.8 hit Niigata prefecture and its vicinity at 10:13 a.m. 14 deaths. The earthquake measured higher 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in Chuetsu region of Niigata and northern Nagano prefecture, including Kashiwazaki-city and Nagaoka-city, Niigata. 300 houses were collapsed and about 10,000 people have been evacuated to shelters in Niigata prefecture at this point. his shallow crustal earthquake was followed 13 hours later by a deep focus magnitude 6.8 quake roughly 330 km to the west, 350 km below the Sea of Japan. (Foreign Press center Facts and Figures data)

The two earthquakes were generated by different mechanisms. The first earthquake was caused by deformation within the crust of the Okhotsk plate and the second quake was likely caused by faulting resulting from internal deformation of the subducted Pacific plate. Given their different mechanisms and physical separation of at least 10 rupture lengths, the second earthquake is not considered an aftershock of the first. Shallow earthquakes cause more damage than intermediate- and deep-focus ones since the energy generated by the shallow events is released closer to the surface and therefore produces stronger shaking than is produced by quakes that are deeper within the Earth. Two days after the initial earthquake, an aftershock occurred, registering 4 shindo in Izumozaki, Niigata.

Quotes of Foreign Press center "Having bitter experience of not being able to deliver food in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995), the food industry vocally supported Niigata, where more than 1,000 food-related companies are gathered, to tackle the challenge to deliver "disaster food" for the sake of the victims, and this move is picking up momentum now. It is the Niigata University Local Collaboration Food Science Center which plays the central part in this movement. In industry-academia-government collaboration, it tries to reform, enhance and enlighten the "knowledge" related to food, hoping to "contribute to the development of the food industry in Niigata prefecture." It consists of researchers from various faculties at Niigata University.

Having also experienced earthquake disasters twice, it has looked at earthquake disaster reconstruction from the perspective of food. Collaborating with local companies, it conducts wide-ranging research and development including the kinds of emergency food truly needed in disaster-hit areas, food processing using ultra-high-pressure treatment equipment, and research into the quality and taste of food. In cooperation with this center, Foricafoods Corporation, which is located in Uonuma city, Niigata, has succeeded in commercializing "Rescue Foods" that are warm and tasty just like normal meals even in disaster areas without lifelines. In this tour, you will receive a lecture on disaster food by Visiting Professor Shigeru Beppu at Niigata University (who is also Director of Foricafoods Corporation), and cook and taste "disaster food". You will also look at an experiment in food processing using ultra-high-pressure treatment equipment." End of quotes.

Foricafoods Corporation produced "Disaster Foods" products that self heat using special chemical shown to the press at Niigata University, Uonuma city, Niigata prefecture. The university and local food companies produce tasty, healthy and easy to use meals for emergency relief.

"Disaster Foods" is self-heated food using chemicals

Here is the presentation of the sample of disaster food, a survival kit made for victims with numerous added values: it can be served hot after a 20 minutes of a chemical reaction and there are several menus answering to the nutritious requirement in case of emergency situation.

"Rescue Food" demonstration by Professor Shigeru Beppu of Niigata university

Highlighted too is the necessity of developing a "disaster medical kit" for immediate support of the person placed in extraordinary circumstances, medicines, vitamins, first aid support, vitamins, vaccinations. A concept the administration should develop to help the population to store such vital items at home and in the car.

Food Security

At Niigata Toki Tower Convention where the APEC meeting will be held in October, I met Governor Izumida and Mayor Shinoda who highlighted their expectations of a successful session on APEC Food Security based on their experienced in this region strategically placed at a crossroad in the Eastern Asia.

Niigata Mayor Shinoda and Governor Izumida

Having prospered as a seaport town, Niigata is a highly urban functional city with a rich natural environment. Facing the Sea of Japan, the city is blessed with water resources including the Shinano River, the Agano River, and the Fukushima-gata tideland, and rice paddies, making the city known for its large production of food such as rice, vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural products. With a population of 810,000, Niigata is also a largest hub city on the Japan Sea coast of Honshu mainland, and is expected to further develop as a gateway to East Asia. This is where I encountered the work of an extraordinary farmer who became a "food industrialist".

When research, green, water and farming become a top industry

Niigata being designated as a production center for mitsuba (trefoil), a chervil-like herb, by the government, Green's Plant Maki produces and sells, besides mitsuba, about 20 types of fresh herbs for cooking, and 11 types of baby leaves. It owns three farming plants including the 10,000㎡-size greenhouse that is the largest in scale in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions. It annually ships out 230,000 cases of mitsuba and 240,000 packs of fresh herbs to markets in and out of Niigata prefecture. Fresh herbs are sold on the basis of orders from each market, and they are popular enough for restaurant chefs to order directly sometimes. 

President Kaoru Wakabayashi,65 lives with the motto of "making people healthy by giving safe and secure vegetables". He succeeded in producing safe and secure vegetables with high nutritional value by introducing new farming technologies.

For example, activate all the water need for the plants with a technology called "FFC technology" before use. This technology solved problems specific to tank farming such as bacteria that grow in water, and the perishable nature of vegetables. Through this, returns of vegetables from supermarkets sales declined, and their vegetables are reputed to have a long life on supermarket shelves.

As President Wakabayashi said "the most important component in vegetables is water, so we must use really good water for farming. Water that is good for vegetables is also good for the people who eat them." While cheap, foreign-produced vegetables sell well, this company competes on quality and taste. And I can say, he has the talent to prove that after 65 years old, far from thinking of retiring, Wakabayashi-san is at the top!


Fresh and crispy veggie

Having fresh products and offer them to the community in cities, it is the concept that existed for hundred of years in France. Here is a report from the Mainichi shimbun on the newest concept here: "Le Marché Japon"

"... The markets offer products developed and grown by farmers using organic methods. Hirokuni Hanami, a 31-year-old member of the Sambu Vegetable Network, a farm cooperative in Sambu, Chiba Prefecture, said one of the nice things about the market is that "We can tell customers how carefully we have plowed the field to cultivate vegetables." "Normally, we don't have a place for face-to-face selling," he said in Yokohama while treating customers to carrots, celery and ginger marinated in soy sauce. Moreover, by talking to customers, Hanami said he can get an idea of what they want and factor this into his production process..."

There's nothing like a fresh green salad, right?

✍✍✍ How Disaster Food will save you:

"Emergency food is so important that everyone should have some stored. In today’s world it isn’t a question of if you will need to draw upon your emergency food resources, but when. How many 7-plus magnitude earthquakes have you read/hear about lately? It seems like they don’t make earthquakes the way they used to. They are of greater and greater magnitude with more and more destruction and loss of life. And don’t for one second believe that those survivors involved in these catastrophes who were unprepared didn’t wish that they had access to emergency food supplies. When I say emergency food, I am also including water with that because the elixir of life is even more important than solid food for sustaining life. But, having emergency food isn’t weird, it isn’t excessive worry, and it isn’t hoarding. And none of thatwould matter anyway if you were in an emergency situation going hungry."

A report realized thanks to the help and organization of the FPC, Foreign Press Center, Japan , the Niigata prefecture and city-hall administrations. They are all to be thanked for their warm welcome and insightful discoveries about Japan's window of technology and quality of life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bangkok's Silom district threatened by grenades attacks

Breaking news: Friday morning, hundreds of riot police moved in front of a barricade erected by "red shirt" protesters in Bangkok's Silom business district early on Friday and told them to dismantle it, television said. Television pictures then showed some protesters pouring what a TV reporter said was fuel onto the barricade, which is made up largely of tyres, with sharpened bamboo poles inserted. I killed in clashes.

In the latest violence in Bangkok, Thursday night, five grenades were fired from M-79 launchers at BTS Saladaeng station and nearby areas last night from unknown launch sites killing three people among them an elder woman and wounding more than 70, including a foreign tourist from Australia. Following demonstration of pro-government protesters who waved national flags to show their opposition to the red shirts and a House dissolution by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Images report of the Bangkok Post

The spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, confirmed that all five grenades were fired from M-79 launchers and said in an interview with Thai PBS that the first three rounds landed on the BTS Skytrain station, the fourth on the sky-walk under the station, and the fifth in front of the Bank of Ayudhya branch. He said dispersal of the red shirts during night time was not possible.

Sansern said the grenades were not fired from high positions but possibly from Lumpini Park or from a red-shirt stage close to the Saladaeng intersection. He added that soldiers were not holding their rifles in high positions but were standing on guard and trying to locate the launch sites. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called an emergency meeting of security officials. Citing intelligence reports, Abhisit said in the evening before the attacks that the armed men in black, who had blended in with the red shirts during the April 10 violent clashes, were now dressed in white, and that it was not easy to separate women and children among the demonstrators in case crowd dispersal was needed.

At around 9.40pm, repeated loud bangs were heard among red shirts prompting a hurray from Silom residents. It turned out later that the red shirts had lit firecrackers to celebrate the attacks on the Silom residents. The Nation writes.

Over 60.000 thousand troops are now dispatched in the critical areas of the capital Bangkok. Observers say that law will be restored by force after the red-shirts rejected talks with the Abhisit government.

Foreign embassies called upon their nationals to refrain from visiting the financial and governmental districts of the capital. Citizens of France are advised to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated page

Sources: Reporter's noted, The Bangkok Post, The Nation, MAEF

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thailand: one step up towards anarchy

Red Shirts waiting for the clash with Army!

After April 10 worst political violence Thailand has seen in 18 years, leaving 25 people dead and more than 800 wounded, Thailand's political crisis extends to the northeast and the South, rural areas of the "Land of smile" as Red Shirts demonstrators blocked a train carrying military vehicles. Thousands of red-shirted protesters in the northeastern province of Khong Kaen yesterday blocked nearly 300 soldiers from traveling south of the country, as they feared the troops were reinforcements for an imminent crackdown on the protest in Bangkok.

The red-shirted group mobilized by community radio stations gathered at the railway station in the afternoon to stop the Thai National Railways train with 80 troops and 21 military vehicles aboard. Colonel Omsin Trarungruang, commander of the eastern Ban Pai district police, failed to convince protesters into releasing the military officials. Sabina Sar, a red-shirted leader, said, agencies quoted, that protesters would detain the soldiers in Khong Kaen for at least five days on instructions from leaders of the red group in Bangkok.

Thai authorities clarified the train was to send reinforcement to the south of Thailand where more than 4,000 people, Buddhists and Muslims, have been killed in six years of unrest in the largely Muslim, rubber-rich region bordering Malaysia. Also yesterday, alleged terrorists blew a grenade at a police station in Pattani province, leaving at least two dead and 42 others injured. Adding to the violence, a 20 kg bomb hidden in a car exploded less than 50 meters away from the police station, wounding another 17 people and damaging more than 10 vehicles nearby.

Red Shirt" protesters built a bamboo and tyre barricade in Bangkok Silom Road financial and red district

In Bangkok, "Red Shirt" protesters and security forces remained locked in a potentially explosive standoff in downtown Bangkok, near Silom road where banks, companies, hotels, and renown Patpong road are located not far from the river Menam Chao Prayah. One reason why the Red Shirts camp around Silom road is to target the ex Prime Minister and General Prem Tinsulanonda, faithful and close to the King of Thailand. Also a hand grenade was thrown into the compound of the Prem Tinsulanonda Foundation last night, a police officer confirmed.

Meanwhile, last night, added sense of anarchy came from the three neighborhoods' citizens who gathered on the Silom Road near the Dusit Thani Hotel. They exchanged abusive words and threw bottles to the red-shirt protesters who threw back two Molotov cocktails at Silom people, prompting them to retreat. Bangkok residents continuously tried to break through the line of police to clash with the red-shirt protesters who surged towards the Silom people as well. Government soldiers in full combat gears now guard nearby sections of the capital, in an increasingly tense standoff which could explode.

An Army Coup d'Etat?

Fear of a military coup rises as tension and anger escalate among soldiers. During the April 10th street battles, the military lost a senior officer and suffered scores of other casualties among its troops, who were mostly equipped for riot control rather than lethal combat. Calls are made to open negotiations to end 40 days of confrontations and chaos in the capital city with consequences for the economy and for tourists as some of the capital's finest hotels sent guests packing for fear of violence at their doorsteps.

So far, anti-government protests have cost lives and tailored a new pattern of fear among the population while the tourist industry is severely damaged, loosing hundreds of millions of Bahts, alarming the Asean regional powerless union except Vietnam's communiqué and Cambodia who called for a regional Summit, and the US government, maintaining bilateral military cooperation, calls for a truce and dialogue among parties.

Meanwhile in Japan, the question with no answer is: who killed the Japanese Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto?

Quotes of today: Reports in the local Asian press. "The political battle becoming dirtier by the day by Supalak Ganjanakhundee of The Nation with today's editorial from the Bangkok Post "Negotiation is best way out" . Thailand lost its legendary smile as Thailand’s poor have 'decided that docility is a thing of the past,' an Op-Ed in the New Straits Time: "Thai elite in denial over new Thailand" and also this video report of embedded on YouTube.

Sources: The Nation, The Bangkok Post, Wire news agencies, New Straits Time, China Daily, Dawn, Reporter's notes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mourners pay farewell to Hiro, a reporter killed in action

Hiro Muramoto, 43, Japanese cameraman shot dead in bloody clashes between Thai troops and anti-government protesters last Saturday was cremated Sunday after a service attended by hundreds of mourners. "I could not believe my ears when I confronted the great shock and the unbelievable reality," a Tokyo-based television cameramen said in a tearful address read at the funeral.

"The Freedom of the Press Committee of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan mourns the killing of Reuters cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto in Bangkok while covering the clashes between the government troops and protesters, and condemns the barbaric act of targeting a well-known Japanese journalist, and offers our sincere condolences to his family."

Tokyo's jolly life as an "Alien"

French Mother and Child, by Yoshitora, Yokohama 1861

Foreigners in Japan are officially registered as "Uchujin"... as Aliens!

Personally I do not have yet an opinion about it. "I'm in transit" my honorable 'sempai' friend Alfred Smoulard told me once on top of the Denki building, after decades of intense life and work in Japan where he had married his wonderful Japanese wife whom we sometimes meet at the press club. But the topics of foreign residency status and their rights go far beyond every day life, it's a way for Japan to apprehend how the nation will project itself in the global society. It also means there is quite a lot of racial prejudice and segregation here. Does it sell under the new Hatoyama democrat administration...?

The first Lady of Japan, Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, a lifestyle guru and ex-dancer from Japan's renown girls-only Takarazuka theatrical troupe, once said she was abducted by aliens while she slept one night 20 years ago, and added she travelled to the planet Venus. She won't be contradicted by current high profile of LDP Ishiba Shigeru, ferocious conservative, military strategist and who told me the other day at a press luncheon I organized that he believes in UFO... Whatever. A lot of expectations are placed by the first lady into her husband Yukio Hatoyama program: "Politics full of love". It could deliver a sudden change vis vis the way foreigners are considered in the archipelago, the first of them would be to give permanent residents the right to vote at local elections. But in Japan, the idea does not flow as fast as one could hope.

Japan has a very low number of foreign population, the native population is over 127,510 millions souls with 22,7 % over 65 years old and as of the end of 2008. 912,400 foreign nationals were registered with the government as permanent residents. I have the figure of 2,217,426 registered foreigners representing 1.74% of the population. The real number is certainly more adding the sweat shop, restaurants, night clubs, and factories of the archipelago, Chinese citizens in particular. Among them, 420,300 were special permanent residents, including Koreans and Taiwanese who lived in Japan before and during the war and were forced to take Japanese nationality, and their descendants. The remainder are general permanent residents.

Embassy of France, Takanawa, by Hiroshige II, 1869

Foreign nationals cannot vote in national or local elections, and changing the law has long been a controversial issue, particularly under the administrations of the LDP, whose conservative ranks, but not all of them, have argued against granting suffrage, insisting that permanent foreign residents must first become naturalized citizens.

In 2008 nevertheless Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers had made an ambitious proposal to raise the ratio of immigrants in Japan to about 10 percent over the next 50 years. "There is no effective cure to save Japan from a population crisis," the proposal said. "In order for Japan to survive, it must open its doors as an international state to the world and shift toward establishing an 'immigrant nation' by accepting immigrants and revitalizing Japan," a bunch of politicians said then headed by ex-LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, his group of about 80 lawmakers had helped draft a "Japanese-model immigration policy".

Hirohiko Nakamura, then an Upper House lawmaker and secretary general of the LDP group, expressed also the idea that increasing the recognition of refugees is on the LDP reformists ticket agenda -Masuzoe Yoichi-san eventually-. The group proposed accepting up to 1,000 asylum-seekers and other foreigners who need protection for humanitarian reasons. The proposal also said a foreigner who has lived in Japan for 10 years or longer should be given nationality if the person wishes to become a Japanese citizen.

The group also adds citizenship should be given to all permanent residents and that its definition of "immigrant" is the same as that used by the United Nations, and can count individuals who have lived outside their home countries for more than 12 months. This includes asylum-seekers, people on state or corporate training programs, and even exchange students.

But LDP is now in the fog.

In charge are DPJ heavyweights Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and "redoutable" Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, they are advocates of giving foreigners the right to vote at the local level, and the party has been preparing to craft the legislation it has been calling for since the party's launch in 1998. But! The government scrapped a plan to submit the bill during the current Diet session after encountering fierce opposition from the financial services minister joined by conservative intellectuals and key executives from five political parties.

Western Hotel at Tsukiji, by Hiroshige III, 1868

"Lawmakers oppose giving foreign residents right to vote" reports Kyodo news

Quotes: "A group of conservative lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties on Saturday voiced their opposition to proposed legislation to enfranchise permanent foreign residents for local elections. Shizuka Kamei, who leads the People’s New Party, addressed a gathering of people against the proposed legislation in Tokyo, saying, ‘‘The right to vote for foreigners will ruin Japan." Kyodo news wire reports today. These politicians were among the thousands who gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to rally against granting foreign residents voting rights for local elections. Even "Your Party" leader Yoshimi Watanabe whom I received at a press luncheon at the press club to talk about "reform of Japanese politics..." reform, realignment, modernization, internationalization... You know, the full speed formula with atthe end the frustration to see that nothing moved.

"10,257 people attended the convention at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo including representatives of prefectural assemblies writes Japan Times . In an opening speech preceded by the singing of the "Kimigayo" national anthem, Atsuyuki Sassa, former head of the Cabinet Security Affairs Office and chief organizer of the event, expressed his concern about granting foreigners suffrage. "I was infuriated when I heard of plans to submit to the Diet a government-sponsored bill giving foreign residents voting rights. Granting suffrage to those without Japanese nationality is clearly a mistake in national policy." Sassa pointed out that 35 prefectures have adopted statements against granting foreigners suffrage, up from less than half that number in January. "Our local governments clearly do not desire granting suffrage to foreigners," writes the Japan Times.

Dead end for the Tokyo's jolly life as an "Alien" ? The Dejima's spirit is still remaining after all these years as if no international enlightened law had penetrated the shaky pattern of Japan soil, including the Hague Convention on children...? It's up to you Prime Minister and good luck.

Dejima, painting 1820

To end this, now the "Numbers" by courtesy of the Ministry of Justice and the site of At the end of 2008 2,217,426 registered foreigners in Japan, 1.74% of the population.

Chinese 655,337 (29.6%)
Koreans 589,239 (26.6%)
Brazilians 312,582 (14.1%)
Filipinos 210,617 (9.5%)
Peruvians 59,723 (2.7%)
Americans 52,683 (2.4%)
Others 307,205 (15.2%)

And from 2007, other nationalities:

Britons 17,328
Germans 5,915
French 8,780
Italians 2,373
Spaniards 1,755
Russians 7,346
Australians 11,033
NZ 3,603
Canadians 11,459
RSA 592
Indians 20,589
Iranians 5,165
Israelis 749

And for the little ones, this reference

Blog on the subject "I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien…"

Sources:, Japan Times, Japan collection, Ministry of Justice, NHK, Kyodo, 20th Century Fox, Reporter's notes.

Painting by Bakufu, Japanese Garden, 1950