Tag Archives: Japan

Where’s the World Headed & the Rise of Cities, a Quickie

4 Oct

Scotland recently came close to pulling out of Great Britain. What’s that about? As the day of the vote drew near I’d see stories on the theme: If Scotland goes, what next? Catalonia? Quebec? Vermont? Is the world falling apart?

Maybe?

Is that good or bad?

Interesting question. Perhaps large nation states like the USA, China, India are too be to succeed and too big to fail. At the Federal Level America is approaching a stalemate. If the nation is ungovernable, what happens to national politics? Does is devolve to mere divide and plunder? Is the nation state obsolete? If so, what’s next?

I’ve been seeing books about cities, most prominently Benjamin Barber, If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Has anyone read it? Here’s the blurb:

In the face of the most perilous challenges of our time—climate change, terrorism, poverty, and trafficking of drugs, guns, and people—the nations of the world seem paralyzed. The problems are too big, too interdependent, too divisive for the nation-state. Is the nation-state, once democracy’s best hope, today democratically dysfunctional? Obsolete? The answer, says Benjamin Barber in this highly provocative and original book, is yes. Cities and the mayors who run them can do and are doing a better job.

Barber cites the unique qualities cities worldwide share: pragmatism, civic trust, participation, indifference to borders and sovereignty, and a democratic penchant for networking, creativity, innovation, and cooperation. He demonstrates how city mayors, singly and jointly, are responding to transnational problems more effectively than nation-states mired in ideological infighting and sovereign rivalries. Featuring profiles of a dozen mayors around the world—courageous, eccentric, or both at once—If Mayors Ruled the World presents a compelling new vision of governance for the coming century. Barber makes a persuasive case that the city is democracy’s best hope in a globalizing world, and great mayors are already proving that this is so.

Sounds good, but is it valid?

Meanwhile I’ve been reading Christopher Goto-Jones, Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction (2009). Though I know a bit about manga and anime, I’m certainly no expert about Japan; so I can’t judge the book against current scholarly literature. But, taking the book at face value, it tells a fascinating story (I’ve only read 2+ of 5 chapters). I’ve just been through the second chapter, “Imperial revolution: embracing modernity,” which is about the Meiji Restoration. What’s interesting, and compelling, is how drastically Japan was able to remake itself within a generation or two.

When Admiral Perry landed in 1853 the country was ruled by the samurai class. By 1880 the samurai class had dissolved, though The Samurai and its bushidô (way of the warrior) creed had become enshrined as a national myth.To be sure, this was no popular democratic uprising, nothing like it, but still, the change was dramatic. And it was not imposed from the outside (that wouldn’t happen until the late 1940s).

Could something that drastic happen in the United States? Inquiring minds want to know.

Extra! Extra! Japanese Government Funds Distance Education on the Rez

1 Nov

No, it hasn’t happened yet. But who knows, stranger things have happened.

By “the rez” I mean, of course, the reservation. In this case I have no particular reservation in mind but rather am thinking of all 300+ of them as a collective entity that encompasses 2.3% of the landmass of the United States. While most of them are rather small, a few are quite large, with nine larger than the state of Delaware while the lands of the Navajo Nation are roughly the size of West Virginia.

What’s interesting about these Indian reservations is that the tribes possess tribal sovereignty, which means that in some respects these reservations are foreign nations. That’s why a few tribes have been able to get rich from gambling casinos on the rez. Federal and state laws don’t apply on the reservation, and if the reservation happens to be in the middle of are populated by people with money they’d like to gamble away, when then come on down!

But I’m not interested in gambling. I’m interested in poverty. Many reservations are, in effect, third world countries within the territorial United States. Over a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty as compared to 15% nationally. Poor people generally get lousy education and that, in turn, makes it difficult for them to work their way out of poverty.

And that’s where the Japanese come in. As I indicated in my post on Takeshi Utsumi, the Japanese government funds distance education in third world nations. Why not fund distance education in these third world nations that just happen to live within the territorial boundaries of the United States of America? Continue reading

Tokyo’s Newborn Baby Panda Dies – Japan Real Time – WSJ

11 Jul

The birth on July 5 of the zoo’s first baby panda for 24 years and its progress during its first few days of life attracted broad news coverage in Japan.

National broadcaster NHK ran breaking news headlines over its normal programming to announce the birth, and death, of the cub, while newspapers gave daily updates on the cub’s milk intake and published front-page photos of Shin Shin cradling the pinkish newborn — weighing a mere 133 grams at birth.

Could it be that the Japanese, caught in the awful resonance of Fukushima, had pinned their hopes on this baby panda? Is the future that fragile?

via Tokyo’s Newborn Baby Panda Dies – Japan Real Time – WSJ.

Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech – Michael McAteer – International – The Atlantic

26 Mar

Emperor Akihito expressed mild skepticism about nuclear power in a speech on the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Evening TV news and newspaper accounts failed to mention these remarks. Many Japanese fear the fix is on.

While [the Emperor’s] statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a “formidable task” yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government’s official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the “formidable task” is “overcome.” This, again, contradicts the government’s position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.

via Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech – Michael McAteer – International – The Atlantic.

Activists challenge Japan’s “nuclear village” – Nuclear Power – Salon.com

27 Feb

The Japanese government has been incompetent in response to Fukushima and the Japanese people have begun organizing and protesting,

…several community-based initiatives, protests and rallies have sprung up in the past year. Volunteers have set up a popular website where users crowd-source local radiation levels. Mothers are testing school lunches for radiation. And perhaps in a nod to the Occupy movement, antinuclear activists have camped out in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo for more than four months and refused orders to leave. Citizens are also becoming increasingly vocal toward public officials.

“You see people yelling and interrupting these bureaucrats, which I’ve never seen at public meetings,” said Aldrich. “What I’ve been seeing from Fukushima and elsewhere is ‘rituals of dissent’ — local people not willing to be talked down to, not willing to be ignored.”

via Activists challenge Japan’s “nuclear village” – Nuclear Power – Salon.com.

Yakuza labor structure formed base of nuclear industry – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun

5 Feb

Many jobs in the Japanese nuclear industry are controlled by Yakuza, Japanese gangsters.

Crime syndicates and illegal businesses flock to nuclear plants where workers toil under harsh conditions. But the problem does not stop there.

“The disguised subcontract has thrived at nuclear plants across Japan because the power utilities, which wish to save on personnel expenses, have turned a blind eye to the picture,” said Masahiko Yamamoto, a 54-year-old former nuclear plant worker in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, who is engaged in campaigns against nuclear power.

via Yakuza labor structure formed base of nuclear industry – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.

Fukushima residents tour German renewable village ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

1 Dec

A group of Japanese from the Fukushima area visited Germany to learn about sustainable energy.

The group, organized and led by representatives of Greenpeace Japan, arrived Wednesday in the northeastern German village of Feldheim to learn how its 145 residents have taken advantage of the energy generated by a nearby windfarm and a biofuel plant that burns the waste from a local pig farm to become an entirely self-sustaining, energy-positive village.

via Fukushima residents tour German renewable village ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion.

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