Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

The cost of no-nukes? 28 November, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 1:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

We’ve had a spate of announced price rises from electricity companies the last few days – first Tokyo, then Osaka and yesterday Kyushu. Not small either, in the region of 10%~20%, and most unwelcome to us consumers and industries alike. The word is that closing down nuclear reactors has meant more use of oil and gas which have to be bought on the increasingly tight world market.

These rises still have to be approved by the government, which will probably trim them down a bit, but there’s a strong message coming out that denuclearization will cost money. A lot of money. Of course this is coming just before an important general election of which the outcome is totally unclear, and in which abandoning nuclear energy is becoming a major issue. It has overwhelming public support and more and more polititians are jumping on this bandwagon in a desperate effort to get re-elected.

Electricity companies, and the business community in general, have invested a lot of money over the years in nuclear power and are strongly opposed to change. Of course burning oil and gas is not a long-term option either, and alternative renewable energy sources will be expensive, especially at first, but the timing of these price rise announcements is rather suspicious…

Kepco’s electricity bill increase has industries worried | The Japan Times Online.


…the heat goes on… 13 July, 2011

Filed under: city,news,seasons — johnraff @ 2:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

…and is likely to for quite a while. It’s still only the start of July, the peak will probably be around the end of the month and the first cool breeze of autumn doesn’t usually arrive till some time in September. Had to water the garden this morning for the first time this year.

The TV news was telling us that some three times as many people had died of heatstroke as at the same time last year. Meanwhile with several nuclear power stations either shut down or destroyed by tidal waves electric power supplies are on the edge. Here in the Nagoya area it’s not as bad as in Tokyo, but still every evening along with the weather forecast there’s a power forecast: whether the generators are likely to hold up or not. Today the percentage of available power likely to be used was 89% – considered “stable” apparently. They don’t want any more old people and children to die from the heat, so along with the appeals to economise on electricity are reminders not to overdo it. Quite tricky.


The Rainy Season 3 June, 2011

Filed under: seasons — johnraff @ 2:38 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

It was officially announced last week – Thursday or so – that the Rainy Season had begun in the Nagoya area. The end of May is very early, usually it’s the around second week of June, but that doesn’t mean it will end early apparently, just be longer than usual. I may have mentioned it before, but this is not my favourite season here by any means. The summer can be incredibly hot and sweaty, but I still prefer it to the six weeks of humidity we now are heading for…

…that said, it’s actually quite pleasant today. You do get breaks – it’s not rain from beginning to end.


Hamaoka 21 May, 2011

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 2:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Maybe you’ve heard of the Tokai Earthquake. The expected epicentre is a bit west of here, in Shizuoka prefecture, but near enough for the predicted magnitude of over 8 to do plenty of damage in Nagoya. Our house was built fairly recently to the more stringent standards that came in after the Kobe earthquake, so I’m hoping we’ll be OK. Whatever, it’s definitely on its way – this quake has occurred regularly every 100~150 years, and the last one was in 1854 so it’s overdue. The probability of it happening in the next 30 years has been estimated at 87%.

Now, right in the centre of where the Tokai Earthquake is expected is the city of Omaezaki, and right there, on the coast, is the Hamaoka nuclear power station. It’s hard to believe that permission was granted to build this even after the danger of earthquake damage had been pointed out in official reports, but there seems to have been an unholy coalition between the previous LDP government, the nuclear and construction industries, and even sponsored university professors and the media, all of which have set Japan on the way to generating a large proportion of its electricity from nuclear energy. Read the Asahi newspaper’s interview with Taro Kono, one of the few LDP Diet members to oppose nuclear energy: (English translation).

In the context of having to reduce, almost eliminate, cabon dioxide emissions if the world is to remain inhabitable for human beings, replacing oil-burning power stations with atomic energy seems to make some sense as a temporary stop-gap, even if the cost of disposing of used fuel rods and of dismantling old power stations is probably huge, and still somewhat unknown. The recent earthquake in Tohoku, though, has reminded us just how enormous the costs of a nuclear accident could be. Of course earthquakes are a fact of life in Japan, and though the power stations are supposed to have been built so as to withstand major shaking and high tidal waves, we have now seen how the best laid plans of mice and men…

The implications of a nuclear disaster within a couple of hundred kilometeres of Tokyo and Nagoya just don’t bear thinking about. Imagine having to evacuate Tokyo!!! So is an energy policy centred on nuclear power feasable for Japan? Prime minister Kan seems to have decided not, at least till they can harden the things up considerably, and two weeks ago he asked the Chubu power company to close down the remaining two reactors of five which were in operation at Hamaoka – a request they couldn’t really refuse.

So what now? The nuclear lobby are kicking hard, making quite reasonable claims that renewable energy is nowhere near being in a position to take over, or cheap enough even if the windmills and solar panels could be put up quickly. Public opinion, though, is with Kan on this, even though his overall popularity is pretty low, and the mood now is very much into economy. A bit of effort – turn down the air conditioners, turn off some lights, stagger days off, introduce Summer Time – and power consumption this summer might be cut by 15%. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. The point is that once a consensus has been reached the Japanese have been known to move quite fast. Revolutionary changes have taken place here still within living memory, and the Edo era wasn’t all that long ago.

Maybe we can afford some cautious optimism. Maybe Japan will catch up with Europe on the use of renewable energy and set an example for a less wasteful lifestyle – “mottanai” started here. Maybe Japanese technology will take the lead in developing new sources of energy. Maybe between us the more sane places in the world can bring America on board too…

All we can do is hope that this disaster might trigger the action needed to avoid the far worse disasters staring us in the face.


Animals again 9 November, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The last couple of weeks there have been news reports of bears. Appearing in all kinds of places they shouldn’t – the other day a lady came home to find one in her kitchen – and sometimes attacking people. These are big dangerous animals with sharp claws and teeth and people sometimes get killed. This would have been unheard of a few years ago when all the bears were in the north of the country, but wild animals are becoming a problem in the countryside.

Life with things lurking in the bushes has been a regular theme around here though. The first year we arrived there were some nice yams growing in the field, of which I dug up some and left the smaller ones to grow next year. No such luck – the wild boar got to find out about them, and dug all the rest up. We had regular visits from them – they are strong animals and dug big holes in the ground, throwing large rocks about the place. When all the yams were gone, over a couple of years, they tried bracken roots but I think they must have found everything that wild boar like because they don’t come round so much these days.

The big menace these days (apart from worrying about bears) is the deer. Their numbers are increasing apparently, and they eat any young shoots and leaves they can find.  We never used to have any problem at all growing all kinds of things but these days I usually find fresh droppings around when we arrive on Sunday, and anything not inside the 3m net I put up to keep them out will get munched as soon as it appears. Other attackers in the past have been monkeys – they go for things you can pick like pumpkins or eggplants, so with the deer on the leaves and boar for roots they’ve got everything pretty well covered. Oh yes, there are crows who like tomatoes too. Other more harmless creatures that have shown up around the place are rabbits, fieldmice, weasels (or are they stoats?), tortoises, toads, snakes, pheasants, grouse (?), tanuki, and probably others I’ve forgotten…

What’s going on? Well, there are various reasons apparently – a big one must be the post-war boom in forestry when a lot of the natural forest was replaced with spruce and cedar plantations: dark dreary places where nothing grows, and nothing can live. This is made worse because there’s no longer any money in it, so everything’s neglected and tangled up with dead branches. Another is that as the rural population dwindles – all the young people moved out to the cities and those who are left are getting old – the villages are also half-abandoned and the area between vegetable fields and forest, the so-called satoyama, is reverting to wildness, so animals can get right up to the fields. Again, there are fewer hunters around now. Young kids aren’t attracted to all the blood and entrails that go with it.

Although the weather seems to have been getting warmer for a while now this summer in particular was very hot and the crop of acorns and other things that bears and their friends like was bad. Bears have to have a good feed before they hibernate, so have been forced to check out peoples kitchens.

There are hungry bears in the woods.


Farmlog 29th August 2010 31 August, 2010

Filed under: countryside,incidents — johnraff @ 2:24 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
  • This heat is getting to people. Tempers are getting short. We stopped off at the bank again on the way out because it’s a handy location and saves making a special trip. While I was inside there was an angry car horn – I looked out to see a car pulling out of the sideroad that ours was partially blocking. This guy had smashed our door mirror and snatched the ignition key. Found the key on the pavement but T was a bit upset as you can imagine. No, she shouldn’t have parked like that, and if the radio had been turned down a bit she’d have heard the horn, but still… It was a middle-aged guy apparently, not the young idiot you’d imagine. Maybe that bank just has bad karma, for our mirror anyway.
  • It’s starting to look like Autumn. The angle of the sun is getting longer, and the insect chorus is getting more and more colourful. Different crickets and grasshoppers join in as the day moves from afternoon to evening. There’s a bit of a breeze sometimes, and at night it was almost cool. That doesn’t stop the daytime from being swelteringly hot though.
  • Drove back on Monday on a beautiful late Summer afternoon, with hordes of little red dragonflies flying over the ricefields where the harvest is just starting to be taken in.
  • min temp 19°C max 32°C

Farmlog 7th February 2010 1 March, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:00 pm
Tags: , , , , ,
  • For once it’s clear and sunny, but freezing cold. This is supposed to be a mild winter but there’ve certainly been some cold bits too.
  • Driving out from Nagoya we had spectacular views of white mountains in the distance. Ena on the right, Norikura (I think) on the left and the holy Mount Ontake right ahead. There is a whole Ontake religion, with some dedicated temples and annual ceremonies when hundreds of white-garbed devotees climb to the summit. It’s also an active volcano, which erupted not that long ago.
  • Kids playing in an interior car park – running between the cars: incredibly dangerous but parents, if they were around, not saying a word.
  • A yowling cat turned up from somewhere and stayed under our floorboards for the evening. Lost its way in the snow?
  • While filling the bath our well ran dry. There’s an electric pump which sends the water to our taps, so it’s just like a normal water system, until it runs out, which happens sometimes if there hasn’t been much rain lately.
  • At 2:00AM, visiting our outside toilet just before I went to bed, there was a strange whooping sound, just once. I’ve never heard that sound before and have no idea what it was – some kind of owl?
  • Monday was cloudy, but a bit warmer. Still wet, mushy and basically miserable. The well refilled overnight fortunately.
  • The cat was still around in the morning.

Min temp -7°C, max 5°C


Farmlog 1st February 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Overcast, wet, chilly, soggy, windy… just like the UK where I came from – forget all that stuff about how delightful the Japanese Winter is! Even the birds have gone away somewhere.

Even so, some shoots are coming up through the melting snow…

Min. temp -7°C, max. 5°C


Farmlog 18th January 2010 29 January, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:20 am
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s still cold. The climate septics (sic) must be having a field day with this Global Freezing we’ve been having lately, and two weeks after our snowbound New Year there’s still snow on the ground (maybe it melted once in between) and we had to leave the car at the top of our drive because the slope is too steep with snow on it.

Monday was beautifully clear, but at ten in the morning yesterday’s slush was crispy at minus 2 °C. Those migratory birds were still flying around like a swarm of bees.

NB From this year I’ll be recording the maximum and minimum temperatures for the week up to the day of the post, not for the previous 24 hours as was the case last year.
Min temp -7°C, max 4°C


Farmlog 21st December 2009 30 December, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

One day in Amsterdam some 35 years ago, with a heavy grey sky overhead and the wind blowing the sleet into my ears, I swore I’d never again put up with a North European winter… and so it has proved to be, barring a couple of Christmas visits. The wind, the wet, the short dark days: sorry, it might appeal to the poetic side of some people but I set out for Asia that Spring. Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India: each country was warmer, and cheaper, than the last and eventually in the South of India I was living in paradise, on about $30 a month.

Of course that can’t go on indefinitely and I wound up in Japan in search of some gainful employment. Now here there is a winter I have to admit, but it’s much more tolerable, at least in Nagoya. For a start, it’s dry with plenty of sunny days when it can be quite warm outside in the daytime. With the latitude of Crete, the sun here is a good bit higher in the sky than in the UK. It can be windy sometimes, but it’s really not so bad, and quite short- from December to February, roughly. On the Sea of Japan side it’s a different story though: there the wind comes in across the sea picking up lots of moisture which it drops when it hits the mountains, and that region gets some of the highest snowfalls in the world! Just in the last two days they got over a metre in the north of Gifu prefecture, not all that far from our country place; that same cold wave gave us a foot or so at the farm and even Nagoya got a sprinkling.

So when we drove up on Sunday it was still overcast, and as we got into Gifu there was more and more snow on the fields around. Luckily the snowploughs had been through and we didn’t need tyre chains – putting those on in freezing winter weather is one job I hate – but the entry to our side road needed clearing with a spade so we could park the car. Once you get inside and the oil heater cranked up it’s quite warm enough though.

On Monday we were back to the norm – a beautiful day in fact without a cloud in the sky and the snow was dazzling. It was worth driving out after all!

Min temp -3.5°C max 2.5°C


%d bloggers like this: