A few more notes on energy conservation

During the very early stages of last month’s disaster I wrote A Note on Energy Conservation, in which I explained why, energy conservation in western Japan would have no immediate effect in relieving the shortage in eastern Japan. This is because Japan’s electrical grid is, for historical reasons, separated into a 60hz grid (same as North America) in the western half of Japan and a 50hz grid (same as Europe) in the eastern half.

I have been collecting links related to the energy situation and several other aspects of the ongoing crisis and recovery efforts and will probably be blogging quite a bit on such topics, but for now I want to just post translations of a series of brief comments on energy conservation in Kanto from Tokyo Vice-mayor Inose Naoki (who I believe will remain in his job allegedly doing most of the real work serving under Ishihara following his unfortunate reelection) that he tweeted a week ago.

#1: The pachinko industry said in a protest message to Governor Ishihara that “the maximum power usage of their 4000 game parlors in the Tepco region” is no more than 840,000 kilowatts” and this is where I learned precise numbers. Before this the only data I had was regarding a sort of “peak velocity” of 320,000 kilowatts. Since Toei and Metro [Tokyo’s subway systems] together are a maximum of 360,000 kilowatts, this is pretty big.

#2: Pachinko parlor electricity consumption is 40% air conditioning, 30% pachinko machines, 20% lighting. To reduce the gap in power supply during summer peak demand time, [we] must reevaluate [our] lifestyles. To speak half-jokingly and half-seriously, the pachinko industry must themselves come forward with plans such as operating only at night, or running without their coolers on during the day.

#3: Drink vending machines use 190,000 kilowatts. The real number may be even higher. Vending machines are refrigerators. The industry is voluntarily engaging in self restraint to halt the cooling function between the hours of 1 and 4 but do we really even need it during the day time? At the very least we do not need them next to a convenience store. Conserving energy at night has no relation with saving energy during peak hours.

#4: Energy Conservation Minister Renho says “vending machines are a large proportion of the drinks industry’s sales” and expressed a “contradictory point of view” regarding industry self restraint, saying “the industry is working to lower energy consumption” (Kyodo). She does not understand the meaning of revising our lifestyles to overcome summer. There is no need to put refrigerators on the street in order to raise the sale price to ¥150 from the ¥90 it is in a supermarket.

#5: The DPJ administration has finally decided to issue government directives, and although there are regulations for both industry specific controls and total volume controls [on energy consumption], they have only issued total volume controls. By issuing only total volume controls,  it will only target electricity contracts of 500 kilowatts and up (large offices), which is only 1/3 of the total. The other 70% is voluntary restraint, and cigarette vending machines fall into that category. This is because they are not using industry specific controls.

#6: Tokyo is a commuter city. Toei and Metro together use a maximum of 360,000 kilowatts during rush hour. Outside of morning and evening rush, they are saving power by reducing service, reducing lighting/AC in stations and cars, stopping one set of escalators where there are two, etc. And compare this with how the pachinko or drinks vending machine industries – which add up to 100,000 kilowatts, are reacting.

#7: Cigarette vending machines are not refrigerators. Beverage vending machines are refrigerators, and guzzle 190,000 kilowatts. It may even be higher in reality. I previously had a number for the pachinko industry of 320,000 kilowatts, but their assertion that it is “no more than 840,000 kilowatts” gave me the real figure. The output of Reactor #1 at Fukushima Daiichi was 460,000 kilowatts. More or less.

#8: The concern is what to do about power use at peak hours. Late at night is not a problem. I have set the hot water heater on the bath in my working area to use electricity at night. I also installed solar panels one year ago. Even though Tokyo has been trying to encourage them the installation rate is low and I put them in myself. Personal experiences are in my book on working as Vice-governor.

#9: Roppongi Hills produces all of their own power. They have a contract with Tepco for backup. This is opposite the usual pattern. In the future, power generation will no longer be monopolized by Tepco. Factories had already begun installing their own power generation but it was expensive and efforts did not move forward. With the nuclear accident, people will start to question the real costs of power generation.

#10: Beverage vending machines. The Tokyo Prefectural Assembly DPJ proposed halting the coolers not from 13:00-26:00 but from 10:00-21:00. Energy Conservation Minister Renho is arguing for something different. In this proposal the Tokyo Assembly DPJ mistakenly wrote that vending machines use 110,000 kilowatts and the cool beverage industry corrected them saying it is actually 260,000 kilowatts. Thanks to that, I now know the real figure.

#11: Changed in electricity consumption. Proper mastery of a proposition is a precondition for linguistic skill. If we look back, the 1990s are not so long ago. Since the 1990s, GDP has not risen, but electricity usage has increased. Therefore, we need to reassess our lifestyles over the last 10-15 years. Why has GDP not risen even though we use more electricity?

Who can and can not donate blood in Japan

[Correction: Accidentally typed Australia at first below, should have been Austria all along.]

There has been a lot of confusion over who exactly is allowed to donate blood according to Japanese regulations, especially foreigners. To try and clarify the situation I have translated the entire list of categories of persons who are NOT allowed to donate blood in Japan, from the Japanese Red Cross official web page.

The biggest confusion is regulations relating to foreigners, especially because of mad cow disease aka spongiform encephalitis (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

The following categories of people are BANNED from donating blood in Japan.

Please do not clog blood donations centers if there is even a chance you fall into one of the following categories, and instead find some other way to help.

Please also note first of all that ANYBODY who has entered Japan in the last four weeks may NOT give blood.

First, the rules relating to BSE/Mad Cow Disease

To clarify the below rules, please calculate your TOTAL amount of time spent in ANY of the countries in categories 1~4 during the relevant risk period for that country. If your total period of time in a high-risk country during a high-risk period is equal to 6 months or more than you are banned from blood donations for life.

Similarly, if you have spent a total of 5 years total in any of the countries listed in all 6 categories during risk periods, then you are banned from blood donations for life in Japan unless a new medical test in the future causes the regulations to change.

Please note that no countries in North or South America are on this list; despite the worries over Canadian/US beef it was never transmitted to humans.

  1. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 30+ days in the UK between the years 1980 and 1996.
  2. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+months in the UK between 1997 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,3,4 in this total.)
  3. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Ireland, Italy, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  4. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Switzerland between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  5. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Australia, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, between the years 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,6 in this total.)
  6. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Iceland, Albania, Andorra, Croatia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Vatican City, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Lichtenstein, Romania, between the years of 1980 through the present day.  (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,5 in this total.)

Next the rules relating to blood parasite diseases.

  • Anybody who has entered the country in the past four weeks.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after visitinga malaria high-risk area within the last year. This is true even if you were only at a resort area of the country. HOWEVER, if you have been specifically tested for malaria and been found negative you may donate blood.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after living in a malaria high-risk area within the last three years.
  • Anybody who has ever lived in a region known for Chagas Disease, AKA American trypanosomiasis. (This is a blood parasite like malaria.)
  • Anybody recently returned from Africa or who has lived in Africa and ever tested positive for African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness.)
  • Anybody who has ever tested positive for babesiosis, another blood parasite most commonly found in tropical regions such as Africa or Latin America.
  • Also anybody who has engaged in medical work, research, field work, etc. in any regions known for similar diseases should not donate blood.

Last are other categories of persons who may not donate blood.

  • Anyone who has or has had heart disease, or malignant tumor,
  • Anyone who has rheumatic fever or is on antibiotics due to risk of rheumatic fever
  • Sufferers from any convulsive disorder
  • Sufferers from blood-loss related diseases such as hemophilia or purpora.
  • Asthmatics
  • Stroke victims
  • Anyone with medicine allergies, nephritic syndrome, chronic inflammation disorders.
  • Anyone currently experiencing extreme hunger or sleep deprivation.
  • Anyone currently taking prescription drugs, except for those such at vitamins with no harmful side effects.
  • Pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers.
  • Anybody with a fever, specifically temperature of 37℃ or higher
  • HIV, hepatitis infected persons (free AIDS testing centers link)
  • Anyone who has ingested marijuana or other psychoactives within the last year
  • Any man who has engaged in homosexual behavior
  • Anyone with a history of sex with anonymous partners
  • Anyone who has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 6 months. Also, since it is often transmitted by shellfish, anybody whose family member has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 1 month. Hepatitis B and C stay in your system, so you are permanently banned.
  • Anybody who has ever RECEIVED a blood transfusion. (Due to the possibility of viruses as yet unknown to medical science.
  • Anybody who has gotten a body piercing (ears included) within the past year.
  • Anybody with a piercing on a mucous membrane such as the lip, tongue, nose, no matter when you got it.
  • Anybody who has gotten a tattoo within the past year.
  • Anyone who has been vaccinated using an inactive vaccine within the past 24 hours for diseases such as influenza, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, hepatitis A, pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus (may not be a complete list)
  • Anyone who was given anti-HBs human immunoglobulin in combination with a hepatitis B vaccine, anyone who was given an emergency rabies vaccine (that is, after being bitten) within the past 1 year.
  • Anyone given a vaccination for mumps, rubella/German measles, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (tuberculosis vaccine), or other mildly active vaccine (live attenuated) vaccine or any hepatitis B vaccine within the past 4 weeks.
  • Anyone vaccinated against smallpox within the past 2 months.
  • Anyone given an antisterum for tetanus, snake bite or other poison, gas gangrene, botulism etc. within the past 3 months.
  • Anyone who has had dental surgery that caused bleeding within the past 3 days.

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



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
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

Rotation speed (rpm) 1,500
Intake steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8

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



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
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

Rotational speed(rpm) 1,500
Input steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8
Type Uranium Dioxide
Uranium capacity(metric tons) 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
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

Site back to normal

Mutantfrog has been apparently hit with some sort of javascript based attack that has been going around, as described by our hosting provider here. Unfortunately, it looks like it will take a fair amount of time to get things back to normal, and I might not have a chance to sit around my computer and work on it until at LEAST Sunday, so please do not visit again until after the weekend is over. Hopefully by Monday everything will be fixed.
The problem seems to have been solved. I’ve removed the nasty code and don’t see any more sign of it, but if you see anything suspicious, please contact me ASAP.

If anyone else running WordPress has been hit with a similar attack, directions for cleaning it up may be found at the link below.


Police oversight in Japan

I love Japan, but there are a few things which I really hate about it. The police are one big issue in my mind.

Case in point: Their recent knife kick. I read an outrageous story on Debito’s blog about a 74-year-old American tourist getting arrested for carrying a pocketknife over the maximum legal length (which was recently shortened). It seemed unbelievable until a commenter there pointed out a similar fate for a Japanese manga artist, and then our own commenter Durf shared a story about getting searched for knives.

Fortunately, my few run-ins with the Japanese police have been tame. I’ve been carded a couple of times while biking around central Tokyo, and once got into a spat with a cab driver late at night which the local koban cop helpfully mediated without even checking my papers. Still, reading others’ experiences makes me believe that police here, while helpful when they want to be helpful, also have an undue amount of power and very little responsibility for misusing it.

On paper, this is not how it should be. On paper, there are officials who oversee the police, both on a national level (through the National Public Safety Commission) and on a local level (through prefectural public safety commissions). They are appointed by elected officials (the prefectural governor/assembly or the Cabinet) and serve fixed terms.

But these are woefully ineffectual bodies plagued by systemic problems, as laid out by Japanese Wikipedians:

  1. Each commission is located on the premises of the prefectural police headquarters and police officers perform its clerical functions, so there is no guarantee of neutrality or confidentiality.
  2. The prefectural government has no authority vis-a-vis the police, so there is no way for local government to investigate or punish the police without going through the commission.
  3. The commissions are often packed with local elites who have little experience or interest in police or criminal justice matters.
  4. This often creates a conflict of interest, because such individuals won’t want to effectively challenge the local police in many instances.
  5. The police end up being taken more seriously and can effectively dictate policy to the commissions. This happens on a local level as well as a national level (between the NPA and NPSC).

For illustrative purposes, the NPSC currently consists of the following individuals:

  • Motoo Hayashi (chairman): LDP legislator and state minister in the Aso cabinet (for disaster prevention, Okinawa and Northern Territories policy, and possibly other irrelevant portfolios as well)
  • Yukio Sato: Former diplomat and president of the Japan Institute for International Affairs
  • Nobuyuki Yoshida: Senior director of the Sankei Shimbun, responsible for its right-wing editorials
  • Yoshiyuki Kasai: Chairman of JR Central
  • Mariko Hasegawa: Professor in the School of Advanced Sciences at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies who apparently specializes in sociobiology and has a strong academic interest in the biology of sexuality
  • Kenjiro Tao: Chief judge of the Hiroshima High Court (an intermediate appellate court), somewhat famous for handing down the verdict against serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki.

CSIS scholar: An aging Japan will lose any hope of controlling its effective sovereignty

Brad Glosserman, a former member of the Japan Times editorial board now with CSIS*,  has a WSJ op-ed (link here just in case) on Japan’s national security situation as its society ages and population declines, taken from a US strategic perspective. It’s pretty grim stuff:

The strategic implications of this shift are equally important. Japan’s demographic transition will act as a guillotine, cutting off the country’s policy options. Most simply, budget priorities will shift. Health care, currently underfunded, will become a considerable drain on the government purse. Defense spending — always a tough sell in Japan — will feel a tighter pinch. Recruitment for the Self Defense Forces, already difficult, will get harder. The reluctance of some Japanese to see their country assume a higher security role will be intensified as the population gets older and more risk averse. Japan will be reluctant to send its most precious asset — its youth — into combat.

Other forces will reinforce Japan’s increasingly inward-orientation. Foreign aid and investment have laid the foundation for Japanese engagement with Asia (and the world). But as the domestic economy dwindles, official development assistance and the investment capital that lubricated foreign relations will shrink. This will diminish Japan’s status in the region as other countries replace Japanese funds.

All won’t be negative: The demographic transition will make it difficult, if not impossible, for other regional powers to demonize Japan as in the past. The bogeyman of remilitarization could be laid to rest for good. This will help eliminate one of the most important obstacles to regional cooperation and provide a real impetus for Asian solutions to Asian problems.

Then he wraps up with some recommendations for how the US can respond to Japan’s demographic changes:

The U.S. needs to be prepared for these contradictory impulses and adjust how it engages Japan accordingly. First, it must abandon the quid pro quo mindset that often characterizes alliance discussions. Japan will have considerably less to contribute to the alliance, but that should not mean the alliance is less important. Discussion should focus on how Japanese contributions serve larger public and regional interests. Japan must do its part and come up with creative ways to share burdens and responsibilities.

Second, the U.S. should shift the alliance’s center of gravity away from military issues. Japanese engagement in this area will become more problematic. If Washington pushes Tokyo harder to make military contributions, it risks politicizing the alliance and undermining its support in Japan.

Third, the U.S. should create and strengthen regional institutions. Regional security mechanisms can pick up the slack as the U.S.-Japan alliance evolves. Other economic and political organizations can minimize tensions in the region. This process should begin soon, while Japan has more influence to maximize its leverage during the creation process. Washington and Tokyo should stop seeing their bilateral alliance and multilateral institutions as zero-sum alternatives. The U.S. should not see this process as a threat to its interests; instead, it should trust Tokyo to see that its interests are respected in these discussions. That would constitute a new form of burden sharing.

Finally, the U.S. has to get its own economic house in order. Washington has relied on Japanese savings — along with those of China and other Asian nations — to finance its profligacy. As Japan ages, it will no longer have those funds to lend to the U.S. This is a potentially wrenching adjustment for America — one that might produce some premature aging of its own.

Typically for op-eds by think-tank people, Glosserman is less interested in making his thoughts clear to the general public than he is in reaching a more sophisticated audience of policymakers. This strategy makes for just this sort of opaque, “wonkish” writing style.

So as the title of this post suggests, I’ll offer the clarity that Glosserman won’t. At the risk of mischaracterizing his argument, here are the points I think he is trying to make:

  • The demographic situation means Japan will get weaker and weaker to the point that it’s too old and financially crippled to credibly defend itself or economically engage with countries in the region.
  • This means the US cannot stop providing a strong defense presence in Japan or else “other countries” will replace Japan as a power in Asia.
  • To get this done, the US needs to pursue a strategy of (1) Pretending the US-Japan alliance is reciprocal by making reasonable demands for Japanese contributions and by not making military issues an explicit focus of the alliance, i.e. stop making loud public demands, (2) Building up regional institutions on terms the US can accept, and do it now before Japan really starts to look bad, (3) Keeping China (and to a lesser extent South Korea) on board as friendly powers so Japan and China can work together on the second piece of the strategy (though he doesn’t outline how to do this); and (4) End the US “reliance on Japanese savings” (that part is light on details as well; I suspect it’s a hastily added reference to the economics topic du jour).
  • If this can be accomplished, a “Beijing-Tokyo axis” can lead efforts to build EU-style integration of the region which will lead to a lasting peace. And they all lived happily ever after.

Got that, Japan? You’re doomed to live out the 21st century as a paralyzed dementia victim, and CSIS is ready to have the US start manipulating you like a ventriloquist’s dummy in America’s efforts to reshape the region.

My brief reaction is that Japan shouldn’t be counted out quite so easily, but America would be foolish not to think realistically in this direction. Funnily enough, he seems to more or less describe America’s existing policy toward Japan (maintain the alliance no matter what), except for a reminder to US leadership that they shouldn’t expect too much of Japan considering where its demographics are headed.

* Glosserman is affiliated with the “Pacific Forum CSIS” located in Honolulu of all places. Sounds like a much more comfortable post than the real CSIS on K Street in Washington.

In defense of unicorns

I have noticed a recent habit of political pundits to mock perceived idealism and naivete with phrases like “rainbows and unicorns.” 

For instance, a commenter on the latest episode of The Young Turks, in explaining that Arlen Spector has never been principled (he was the guy who voted for a bill that he himself argued would set human rights back 700 years), noted that “he was not voted in on rainbows and unicorns.”

In a sign of just how much of a standard cliche this has become, in the Washington Post former CIA Director Porter Goss makes the topsy-turvy argument that making the torture memos public has jeopardized national security: “The suggestion that we are safer now because information about interrogation techniques is in the public domain conjures up images of unicorns and fairy dust.” (Has anyone actually argued that the move makes us safer? I thought the whole point was it is not worth it to torture people even if it does make us “safer” and that the people who pushed for and praised releasing these memos see it as a step in disclosing mistaken and illegal policies that were done in our name)


But you know what? Unicorns are nothing to mess with! It only takes a cursory reading of the animal’s Wikipedia page to prove why:

1. Unicorns are as strong as the Lord: The bible (or rather its translators) considered unicorns “untamable creatures” and noted that God himself was only as strong as a unicorn:

“God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of the unicorn.”–Numbers 23:22

2. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered unicorns to be both real and fierce: The Greeks, for all their polytheism and fantastic mythology, believed that unicorns really existed somewhere in India:

Pliny the Elder mentions the oryx and an Indian ox (perhaps a rhinoceros) as one-horned beasts, as well as “a very fierce animal called the monoceros which has the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant, and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse; it makes a deep lowing noise, and has a single black horn, which projects from the middle of its forehead, two cubits in length.”

3. Unicorns are so insane that they must be placated with virgins to stop their bloodlust (see above painting): In the middle ages, unicorns were used to mix pagan stories with Christian virtues, such that “The original myths refer to a beast with one horn that can only be tamed by a virgin maiden; subsequently, some Catholic scholars translated this into an allegory for Christ’s relationship with the Virgin Mary.”

Moving into Renaissance times, Leonardo Da Vinci had this to say about how to hunt a unicorn:

“The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.”

Bottom Line 

This “unicorns are fuzzy cute happy creatures” concept apparently originates in more modern imagery, particularly the My Little Pony animated series and toys and some other “fairy princess” pop culture. A product of the 1980s, My Little Pony offered saccharine-sweet entertainment for young girls that could not have anticipated the ballooning of ironic humor in the 90s and 2000s. Hence, when Homer Simpson uttered this classic, oft-repeated line:

Ohhh look at me Marge, I’m making people happy! I’m the magical man, from Happy Land, who lives in a gumdrop house on Lolly Pop Lane!!!!…… By the way I was being sarcastic…

it was only a matter of time before someone added a unicorn in there. But as we start to retreat from irony a bit as a society (see the return of earnest saccharine with Disney hits like High School Musical and Camp Rock, along with South Park’s reaction), it might be a good time to stop equating unicorns with frivolous and naive idealism and recognize their historically badass mythological status. I mean, honestly – how happy and nice could an enchanted animal with a deadly sharp horn actually be?

警察庁 v.s. 警視庁 — Distinguishing the National Police Agency from the Tokyo Metropolitan Department

Readers living or traveling in Japan’s capital may note that Tokyo police officers and patrol cars bear the characters 警視庁, or keishichou. At first glance it appears to be the characters for the National Police Agency (NPA), except the middle of the three characters is different — the NPA is 警察庁, or keisatsuchou. Keishichou is the unique name attributed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. For a Japanese speaker even mildly familiar with the structure of government in Japan, this looks peculiar — why is a prefectural police department named in such a way that it appears to be a national agency?


The history begins with the Meiji Restoration, when the keishichou was established in 1874 to protect and police the seat of government. As a police department, it had a unique role from the time of its establishment — some of its officers were organized into a division that fought for the Imperial government in the Satsuma Rebellion. The keishichou at this time served as a prefectural police department, but it was an agency of the government, subordinate to the cabinet, and Tokyo prefecture only had the authority to decide its budget. Later, the department also housed the Tokko special police force, the civilian counterpart to the military’s Kempeitai, taking part in both criminal investigation and counter-espionage functions.

The headquarters of the keishichou was situated just outside Sakuradamon, the southern gate of Edo Castle/Imperial Palace, possibly due to its importance in guarding the emperor, but also because that site was the location of an infamous assassination a decade earlier, and the location of the agency may have been a show of authority. The jolly Victorian structure was unfortunately destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, as witnessed below. (Today, the Keishichou is right next to Sakuradamon gate, and the NPA is in the building next to it.)


During the Occupation, the Keishichou was reformulated under the old police law, and added the imperial police under its jurisdiction, which had previously been a wholly independent branch of authority. During the same time, GHQ set up a similar keishichou in Osaka, which only lasted for the years of the Occupation.

After the Occupation, Tokyo’s Keishichou became an ordinary prefectural police department, but kept its name and retained some of its unique functions. From a jurisdictional standpoint, most prefectures are divided into wards with different departments of the prefectural police having jurisdiction over certain regions of each prefecture. Only Tokyo and Hokkaido have police departments where one department and all of its officers have responsibility for the entire prefecture, without divisions into areas. Also, the keishichou maintains some additional responsiblities, being responsible also for policing the Imperial Family, the Diet, the administrative agencies, the cabinet, the embassies of foreign nations in Japan, and other important people (officers of the keishichou were dispatched to Hokkaido for the G8 summit). The Keishichou is also the only prefectural police department that handles any fire truck activities (typically a separate task handled by the shoubouchou, or Fire Prevention Agency) because the imperial police force have this task especially assigned to them as part of their duties.

Interestingly enough, metropolitan police departments that provide similar functions in other countries, such as Scotland Yard in London and the Paris Prefecture Police are often translated as keishichou as well.

Chomsky on 911 Conspiracy Theories

I don’t even remember why I stumbled across this on youtube, but it’s quite good.

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His thoughts on this issue are almost 100% the same as mine, which I discussed some time ago as part of an off the cuff essay I wrote on conspiracy theories prompted by, of all things, checking up on the history of GPS.

Police statism around the world

After my post the other day, it is worth realizing that, despite worrying trends back home there are no shortage of countries that are far, far worse off. Here are some stories that jumped out at me just in the past few days.

American Filmmaker Arrested in Nigeria

Andrew Berends, a New York-based freelance filmmaker and journalist who was working on a film about the oil-producing Delta region, was arrested on Sunday and held overnight. “They didn’t let me sleep or eat or drink water for the first 36 hours,” he said Tuesday night.

Taiwan Society receives inquiry letter over rally

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday rebutted accusations from the Taiwan Society and others that it was breaching freedom of expression by issuing a letter of inquiry to the group that organized a major rally held last Saturday.

The rally drew tens of thousands of participants protesting the government’s cross-strait policies, and called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, save the economy and help to accelerate the adoption of “sunshine bills.”

Thai Government Cracks Down on Rebellious Websites

The ICT says that 344 of the websites it listed had content it deemed “contemptuous” of Thailand’s royal family, five were considered “obscene,” two featured religious content and one hosted a sex video game.

Thai courts issued orders to shut down about 400 of the websites on the ICT’s list, while the remaining 800 are expected to be blocked by ISPs. The ICT also asked police to help round up sites’ owners, noting that it wants to “bring all violators to trial.”

Chinese Muslims cower under secret police crackdown

Being seen talking to a foreigner is enough to earn a Uighur a minimum of five years in prison and the confiscation of his business. “Please leave here,” said one man in a tea house around the corner from the scene of the attack. “We did hear things, but we cannot talk or we will be taken away.”


Fearful of the growth of an independence movement, and of the motivating effects of religion, the Chinese government has imposed debilitating measures on the local mosques. One popular mosque was even padlocked shut yesterday.

No one under 18 is allowed to visit a mosque, and schools deliberately schedule their classes over the 1pm call to prayer. Nor are imams allowed to broadcast over a tannoy.

Uighur passports are now held by the police, who refuse to let many Uighurs travel abroad. Since May, any Uighur travelling inside of China has been stopped and sent home by the police. They are not welcome at any hotels or guesthouses, under stringent regulations designed to protect Beijing or the other Olympic cities from a possible separatist attack.

And so on. This is just a small sampling of countries besides the US where the government is stepping beyond any reasonable bounds to stifle political dissent. Of these four countries, three are significantly less free than the US today and serve, in various ways, as examples of what governments should not do (the case of Thailand is extra complicated, since with their eternal coups and factions it’s hard to even tell who should be considered the government at any given time.) The fourth country, Taiwan, is particularly complicated case. A military dictatorship and full on police state until fairly recently, Taiwan is a new democracy that was ranked an impressive #32 in last year’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. But the current administration is a return to the formerly dictatorial KMT, and there are serious worries over the possibility of recidivism. In the same ranking, the US was given a dismal 48- having slid precipitously from #17 in the 2002 Index.