Sustainable Sushi?

Are you concerned about the overfishing of the oceans, but still want to enjoy the delicious sweet raw flesh of fish? The Monterey Bay Aquarium has recently published a guide to what seafood you should and should not eat in specific areas of the United States. There is unfortunately no guide specific for Japan, but there is a US-centric sushi guide that may be of interest to some readers, and may encourage someone to create a version for Japan. (You’ll note that much of it is not useful because it depends on region — uni, for example, appears in all three categories, depending on its origin in the US).

You can download the pdf at the link.

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Vital stats of the Fukushima Nuclear Plants

As there has been some incorrect and/or incomplete information being circulated regarding the details of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants in this post I have translated the vital details of the various reactors of both Fukushima Plant #1 and #2 from their official profile pages at the Tokyo Power Company (which is their owner) website.

Apologies for the bizarre amount of white space, something wacky with the table HTML I can’t fix now, but the information itself is completely legible.

In both tables, the numbered columns refer to the individual reactors of the plants. For example, Plant #1, Reactor #1, etc.

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number One: (福島第一原子力発電所)

This was the first nuclear power plant build and operated by the company. It covers an area 75 times as large as Tokyo Dome, about 350,000 square meters.

Reactor #1

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6


C
O
R

S
P
E
C
S

Output(万kW) 46.0 78.4 78.4 78.4 78.4 110.0
Construction start 1967/9 1969/5 1970/10 1972/9 1971/12 1973/5
1971/3 1974/7 1976/3 1978/10 1978/4 1979/10
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark I マークII
% made in Japan 56 53 91 91 93 63
Primary contractor GE GE・Toshiba Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba GE・Toshiba
R
E
A
C
T
O
R
Heat output(10,000s kW) 138 238.1 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764
Fuel assemblies(length in m) ~4.35 ~4.47 ~4.47
Control Rods(#) 97 137 185
Pressure vessel Gauge(m) ~4.8 ~5.6 約6.4
Total height(m) ~20 ~22 23
Total weight(metric tons) 440 500 750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~32 ~33 ~34 ~48
Cylinder diameter(m) ~10 ~11 ~10(Upper part)
Spherical diameter(m) ~18 ~20 ~25(Lower part)
Pressure control pool volume(metric tons) 1,750 2,980 3,200

T
U
R
B
I
N
E
Rotation speed (rpm) 1,500
Intake steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8

F
U
E
L
Type Uranium dioxide
Uranium capacity(t) 69 94 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number Two: (福島第二原子力発電所)

#1 #2 #3 #4
C
O
R

S
P
E
C
S

 

Electrical output(10,000 kW) 110.0 110.0 110.0 110.0
Construction start 1975/11 1979/2 1980/12 1980/12
Operation start 1982/4 1984/2 1985/6 1987/8
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark II Mark II revised
% made in Japan 98 99 99 99
Primary Contractor Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba Hitachi
R
E
A
C
T
O
R
Heat output(10,000 kW) 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
Fuel assembly total height(m) ~4.5
Control Rods(#) 185
Pressure Vessel Gauge(m) ~6.4
Total height(m) ~23
Total weight (metric tons) ~750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~48
Diameter(m) ~26 ~29
Pressure control pool volume (metric tons) 3,400 4,000

T
U
R
B
I
N
E
Rotational speed(rpm) 1,500
Input steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8
F
U
E
L
Type Uranium Dioxide
Uranium capacity(metric tons) 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
B
U
I
L
D
I
N
G
Nuclear reactor building Height ~58m、subsurface depth~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Turbine building Height above ground ~33m、subsurface depth ~5m
Waste treatment building(Shared facility) Height ~41m、subsurface depth ~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Central exhaust tower Height ~120m、altitude ~150m
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Coverage of Yoshida-ryo piece on CNNGo

Reaction to my recent CNNGo photo/article feature about Kyoto University’s famous Yoshida Dormitory has been very positive. I want to thank whoever it was that submitted it to Boingboing, who kindly linked to it as they have several Mutantfrog posts in past years. I also want to especially thank frequent MF commenter KokuRyu, who posted a link to the piece on MetaFilter, where there have been some pretty interesting comments from people who seem to have experience in other cooperative/squat type housing, making some comparisons between them and Yoshida-ryo.

I am also planning on doing a follow-up piece sometime, discussing a little bit more about the history of Yoshida-ryo and the other self-administered dorms at Kyoto University, as well as some of the  “self run” (自治) student activity areas in the university, and the relationship between Yoshida-ryo and the various squatting protests that have occurred on campus over the years, such as the Ishigaki Cafe and the currently still ongoing Kubikubi Cafe. Since CNNGo would not really be an appropriate venue for this sort of piece, I’m hoping readers can suggest or introduce someplace that might be interested!

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Why are Japan’s beaches so disgusting?

The environment at Enoshima Beach really is a bizarre contradiction for a nation that prides itself on cleanliness and orderly behaviour. I was always led to believe that the Japanese truly respect their natural environment. Or perhaps Enoshima Beach is simply a pressure valve for Tokyoites in summer . . . where they can strip off not just their clothes but also any respect they have for their surroundings.

Matthew Abrahams writing for the Sydney Morning Herald about six months out of season. This is a problem discussed in Japan as well (see this TV report republished on Japan Probe).

There is a ton of amazingly beautiful and (more or less) unpolluted coastline in this country, but it tends to be of the boulder- or concrete-encrusted variety that is pretty useless for beach recreation, like this scene just a stone’s throw from Enoshima.

IMG_0506

I’ll throw out a few explanations of my own for Shonan’s problems.

  1. The few “good” beaches around Tokyo have to accommodate a huge beach-going population — the Tokyo metropolitan area has a population about one and a half times that of the entire Australian continent. Even if most people were meticulously clean, a tiny percentage of bad apples would be enough to spoil the beach for everyone.
  2. Beach visitors in Tokyo generally live very far from the beach (at least half an hour by train) and probably have a more tenuous personal connection to it than your average Australian coast-dweller.
  3. Shonan attracts the lowest common denominator of Japanese beach-goers, as the more well-off prefer to drop a few hundred (or thousand) bucks and visit Guam, Hawaii, Southeast Asia or the Gold Coast. Thus Shonan gets a bigger share of working-class yokels than the urbane Tokyo that many foreigners experience.
  4. As James notes in the Japan Probe piece linked above, Japan has no qualms about drinking in public, and booze consumption inhibits any pre-existing qualms about leaving trash on the ground.
  5. For some reason I can’t figure out, public trash cans are very rare here; if you want to throw something away while walking down the street, you basically have to find a convenience store. Same story at the beach, except there are no convenience stores.
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Fishing on the tetrapods

On Tuesday, I took a long bike trip from my home in Ayase to Kasai Rinkai Park in Edogawa-ku. While I recover (going long distances on a mamachari can be tiring), I will post some photo highlights (you can see the whole album here).

First up we have this guy fishing on the tetrapods. Not sure what he is trying to catch, but maybe these tetrapods in the middle of the river give him a strategic position away from other fishermen.

This photo was taken from the Kasaibashi bridge.

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Energy consumption in Japan: A couple of data points

Just out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at Japan’s energy situation. Here is the US Energy Department profile of the country:

Japan has virtually no domestic oil or natural gas reserves and is the second-largest net importer of crude oil and largest net importer of liquefied natural gas in the world. Including nuclear power, Japan is still only 16 percent energy self-sufficient. Japanese companies have actively pursued upstream oil and natural gas projects overseas in light of the country’s lack of domestic hydrocarbon resources. Japan remains one of the major exporters of energy-sector capital equipment and Japanese companies provide engineering, construction, and project management services for energy projects around the world. Japan has a strong energy research and development program that is supported by the government. The Japanese government actively pursues energy efficiency measures in an attempt to increase the country’s energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Oil is the most consumed energy resource in Japan, although its share of total energy consumption has declined by about 30 percent since the 1970s. Coal continues to account for a significant share of total energy consumption, although natural gas and nuclear power are increasingly important sources, particularly as Japan pursues environmental policies. Japan is the third largest consumer of nuclear power in the world, after the United States and France. Hydroelectric power and renewable energy account for a relatively small percentage of total energy consumption in the country. Total energy consumption from 2003 to 2030 is forecast to grow by 0.3 percent per year on average, relatively small as compared to China’s forecast growth rate of 4.2 percent per year on average, according to EIA data.

According to METI’s energy agency, 58% of Japan’s electricity consumption comes from non-renewable sources such as oil, coal, and liquefied natural gas. That number is a whopping 71% in the US.

Japan energy consumption

As the Energy Dept. indicates, Japanese officials view Japan’s high energy consumption and low self-sufficiency as a potential vulnerability, in both economic and national security terms. For example, Iran’s  status as a major supplier of oil heightens Japan’s interest in the region (and based on pure speculation, might have influenced the Japanese media’s comparatively tame coverage of the recent Iranian election protests).

So remember: when you are enduring higher office temperatures thanks to Cool Biz, you’re not just saving electricity, you’re helping guarantee Japanese security!

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Legless frogs mystery solved

Interestingly, we have two articles on the link between frogs and pollution, with seemingly contradictory results. First the BBC reports that the spate of deformed frogs with missing limbs, a phenomenon which had always been thought to result from man-made environmental pollution, is actually caused by predatory dragonfly nymphs that actually eat the limb-buds from tadpoles, before they develop proper limbs when they metamorphose into frogs.

And then we have this column from Nicholas Kristof, telling us that It’s Time to Learn From Frogs. And what should we learn exactly? That industrial chemicals used in agriculture or in daily household products such as hairspray act as a weak form of estrogen on the body, causing significant sexual organ deformities in embryos of various species. It is well known that frogs are particularly sensitive to environmental pollution, which is why the aforementioned missing limb phenomenon was long thought to have a chemical trigger, but the evidence is mounting that these sorts of environmental pollution are also causing a stark increase in cases of human sexual organ deformity, particularly among young boys.

I can easily imagine some reactionary “conservative” making a pseudo-scientific argument that because we recently disproved a link between industrial chemicals and missing frog legs, we might as well dismiss the second case out of hand. This would of course be a logical fallacy, as the mechanism is clear and the evidence is plentiful, not to mention relevant so far more animal species than frogs, but don’t be surprised if you see someone trying to make such a claim.

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Vicarious Hanami

For those of you unable to enjoy hanami cherry blossom viewing today, you can live vicariously and see people enjoying the hanami at Shinjuku Gyouen in Tokyo on Google Maps. (I’ll be there later today!)

vicarious-hanami

SEE LARGER MAP

(Google maps’s totally lame iframe tags can’t be embedded here, so the above is a jpg; click the link to interract with the map.)

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Philippine Travelogue: Legazpi

March 17, 2009

Despite having our plans of riding the ill-named “Bikol Express” Southrail train from Manila to Legazpi “derailed“, Joosje and I manage to get there by night bus from Manila. We arrive about 9.30AM, exhausted as all hell, catch a tricycle to the Legazpi Tourist Inn (which was the only hotel I have ever been to in the world where they let you stay for two nights and don’ t even ask to see money until you checkout.) It’s raining.

We wander towards the docks, realize you can’t get far down in that direction due to concrete walls and construction barriers, and then instead head into “Victory Village”, which looks from the outside to be a small fish market area on the other side of the concrete wall, through an archway. It turns out to be a 6000 person Barangay (Filipino word for village or neighborhood, which was chosen to replace the Spanish-era word “barrio”). We chat with many people, all very friendly, as we wander through the narrow streets-if you can evven call such narrow pedestrian-only alleys streets, and then a woman tells us we can climb the hill behind the village to get a view of the city and huge volcano (Mt Mayon) beyond. The rain has stopped, and the sun is out. A 12 year old girl, an 18 year old girl, her dog Pipi, and two boys who unusually don’t seem to know any English at all take us slipping and sliding up the hill for an amazing view and after taking it in we slip and slide back down, through what seems to be a mix of mud from the earlier rain and caribou shit, back down to the village. To get onto the path up to the lookout point you have to slip through a barb-wired fence, which is little physical obstical but would probably keep out most un-invited visitors due to appearances.

After we get back down, the woman who had pointed out the way up the hill waves us over to talk. She first introduces herself, Julie T. Bahoy, and then asks if we want to go see the docks and construction site behind the barriers we had balked at earlier. The Barangay runs parallel to the docks area, entirely cut off from it by a tall concrete wall which is prettied up on the dock-facing side but ugly, bare concrete on the village side, aside from the market entrance we had taken, another opening in the middle, and one gate into the construction area and fishing docks. Julie tells us that the construction is for a major tourist destination and resort project known as The Embarcadero. (The project and name both seem inspired by San Francisco’s Embarcadero.) The Embercadero construction has made it more difficult for the villagers to reach their fishing piers, which can only be reached by traversing the construction site itself. Only village residents are supposed to be allowed out to the fishing pier, but Julie says that if anyone asks she will just tell them that she wants to show her friends the fishing boats and not The Embarcadero. In fact, none of the guards or construction workers are very interested, but Julie seems to ejoy the thought of getting away with something.

After looking around the pier area we walk back into the village and have a seat at a small shop  run by her mother. She gives us bottles of generic brand cola and some chocolate snack-cake thing and tells us about herself. The fishing village within Legazpi cityis her home town, and she is educated in a nearby college, with a major in business management. After graduation she was unable to actually work in that field, instead getting a clerical job in a law office, which she did for many years before switching to her current job managing a small office in the city. It does not pay particularly well, and she has some side jobs trading various goods, sometimes involving networking with her sister in Manila, particularly apaca fiber products for export. She might be able to find a better job with higher pay, but says that the company she works at would fail without her, and she does not want to be responsible for putting the others out of work. Yet, she also does not demand higher pay. Her father is a retired machinist for the electrical utility, draws a small pension, and continues to do some machining work from a home shop.

Although much of her time is of course occupied by her dayjob, Julie’s real vocation has been her work on the Barangay Council, where she is the youngets of its seven members. She was first elected as the youth representative at the age of 18 and is now nearing the end of her third, and term-limited final, term. She has always ran, and been elected, as an independent and refrained from the bribe and gift exchanges ubiquitous in local Philippine politics, facts that she is very proud of. She even uses her small honorarium as a council member for purchasing things needed by the village, such as lights, instead of keeping it as a payment. Approaching the end of her final term she is wrestling with the decision of whether or not to try and run for council chairperson, as some are urging her to do, but is reluctant to do so out  of concern that it may be difficult to do so without engaging in the standard corrupt politicking and that it would occupy even more of the time she needs to make money for her family, a conundrum traditionally solved by engaging in the corruption which she so abhors.

Still, she is considering giving it a shot so that she can work for the barangay. And the barangay needs help, fenced in and under threat due to the Embarcadero project. 95% of the village population survives in one way or another from the fising trade, with only about 1 in 20  engaged in external occupations in the city. Naturally, anything that obstructs their access to the sea is a serious threat. While some villagers have temporary work during the construction phase, few of them have enough education to apply for the permanent jobs that will be created upon its completion. There is a free public elementary school inside the village, and like all of the schools I have seen in The Philippines so far it is pleasant and well maintained (the newspapers reported this past week that the Department  of Education was rated least corrupt governmeent department in a public opinion survey) but higher education requires travel outside into the city, which few of the fishing families have the hard currency for.

There are rumors that the project is partially owned by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (always referred to as GMA here), widely considered to be corrupt (one recent survey pegged her as even more corrupt than the late Ferdinand Marcos, which while highly unlikely at least gives a sense of the level of discontent) or at least one of her friends. The wall was constructed without permission of or consultation with the barangay or any of its residents, and unsurprisingly cut across some private land. According to Julie, the Bahoy family house’s lot extends a full 25 meters past the wall, and they have a lawsuit pending over the theft of their land. She says that the developers have offfered to settle for the fairly hefty sum of 20 million pesos (around USD $500,000), but they have documents showing clear title to the land and are not interested in settling. Such a settlement offer implies that they have a strong case, and she even hopes to have the wall itself removed. Unfortunately, many of the other residents lack proper documentation and are even legally considered to be squatting in their own homes, and have no hope of filing a similar lawsuit. Such carelessness in basic legal matters is an obvious result of under-education, but fishing has not historically been an occupation with a great need for men of letters. And with the fishing at risk, they have little or nothing to fall back on. More of the children stay in school than their elders, but probably still not enough. In the face of this situation, I expect that Julie will find herself unable to not run for barangay council president, and will sleep even less.

(As will all entries in this series, this will be reposted with photos added some time after my return to Japan.)

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