Japanese eels, new research


This 2015 video is called The Mystery of the Eel – Documentary Film.

From Kobe University in Japan:

Endangered eel located using DNA from one liter of water

March 1, 2019

Researchers have shed light on the distribution of Japanese eel by analyzing environmental DNA (eDNA) from small samples of river water. This could enable faster and more effective surveys of Japanese eel populations, and help to conserve this endangered species. The finding was published on February 27 in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

Eels are migratory fish that spawn in the ocean and grow up along the coast and in rivers. There are 16 known species in the world, distributed in 150 countries. The Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) is found across East Asia. Since ancient times it has been an important part of Japanese life: as a food source, a subject of traditional poems and art, and sometimes even as a target of worship. However, eel catches have fallen drastically since the 1970s, and in 2014 it was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Most river surveys of Japanese eel use electrofishing. However, this method requires a lot of time and resources, and for widely distributed species it may not collect enough data. Surveys are usually carried out in the daytime, while the nocturnal eels hide among vegetation and dirt.

Rapidly-advancing eDNA technology can monitor aquatic lifeforms through extraction and analysis of DNA present in water, without capturing the organisms themselves. In this study, the team investigated whether eDNA analysis could be used to show the distribution of Japanese eel. They collected 1-liter samples from 125 locations upstream and downstream in 10 rivers in Japan, and analyzed the eDNA from these samples using a Real-Time PCR system. At the same time they carried out an electrofishing survey in the same locations, and compared this with the eDNA analysis results.

Japanese eel eDNA was found in 91.8% of the locations where eel had been confirmed using electrofishing (56 of 61 locations), and eDNA was also detected in an additional 35 areas (mainly upstream) where eel individuals were not found. This shows that eDNA analysis is more sensitive than conventional surveys for detecting the presence of Japanese eel in rivers. Electrofishing data for eel numbers and biomass also positively correlated with eDNA concentrations, showing that eDNA could help us estimate the abundance and biomass of Japanese eel.

In this study, electrofishing required three or more people for each river and took at least three days. Collecting water samples for eDNA analysis only needed two people, took half a day at the most, and data processing was finished by one person in one and a half days. When carrying out a large-scale distribution survey the eDNA analysis method is better in terms of human and time resources.

This method could potentially survey populations on an even wider scale. It is non-lethal, making it ideal for monitoring endangered species. The team is currently using eDNA analysis to monitor eels in Japan and overseas: it can be used as an international unified method for widely-distributed species. This could be a great help in the conservation and sustainable use of eel species worldwide.

The eDNA analysis method is also effective in dealing with the invasion of foreign eel species. For 20 years there have been reports of foreign eels (European eels and American eels) being released into Japanese waterways. These species look the same as Japanese eel, making them hard to detect. They are also long-lived so they may impact the ecosystem over long periods of time. By carrying out a wide-ranging investigation using eDNA analysis, we can swiftly identify foreign eel species and their distribution.

This study was carried out by Research Associate Hikaru Itakura (Kobe University Graduate School of Science), Assistant Professor Ryoshiro Wakiya (Chuo University), Assistant Professor Satoshi Yamamoto (Kyoto University), Associate Professor Kenzo Kaifu (Chuo University), Associate Professor Takuya Sato and Associate Professor Toshifumi Minamoto (both from Kobe University).

Itakura comments: “Concentration of eDNA in rivers is influenced by physical properties such as water depth and the speed of the current. Next we must increase the accuracy of eDNA analysis by clarifying the impact of these physical properties on eDNA concentration.”

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Japanese man marries robot girl


This 21 December 2013 punk rock music video from Scotland says about itself:

The Valves – Robot Love

Live at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms

The Scottish band The Valves wrote this song much earlier, in 1977.

However, now something happens not in song lyrics, but in reality.

From the New York Times, 19 January 2019:

Do You Take This Robot …

When Akihiko Kondo, a 35-year-old school administrator in Tokyo, strolled down the aisle in a white tuxedo in November, his mother was not among the 40 well-wishers in attendance. For her, he said, “it was not something to celebrate.”

You might see why. The bride, a songstress with aquamarine twin tails named Hatsune Miku, is not only a world-famous recording artist who fills up arenas throughout Japan: She is also a hologram.

Mr. Kondo insists the wedding was not a stunt, but a triumph of true love after years of feeling ostracized by real-life women for being an anime otaku, or geek.

Japanese whalers kill whales for dog food


This 2017 video says about itself:

Illegal Japanese whaling filmed by the Australian Government in Antarctica

This is the footage that the Australian Government didn’t want you to see. Since 2012, Sea Shepherd has been a part of a joint fight to get the Australian Government to release rare whaling footage obtained on a 2008 Australian Customs mission to the Antarctic.

Here is the footage that the Australian Government filmed with tax payers’ money, of the Japanese whaling fleet illegally whaling in Antarctica, in Australian waters. The footage was filmed as part of gathering evidence for the International Court of Justice, which found Japan’s whaling to be illegal.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Japan is still killing whales that they don’t even eat

This summer the Japanese will start killing whales again. PETER FROST wonders why

ON Boxing Day 2018 Japan announced that it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial, rather than so-called scientific hunts for the animals for the first time in 30 years.

At the same time it said it would no longer go to the Antarctic for its much-criticised annual killings.

Chief Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his country would resume commercial whaling in July 2019 “in line with Japan’s basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence.”

He added that Japan is disappointed that the IWC — which he claims is dominated by conservationists — focuses on the protection of whale stocks even though the commission has a mandate for both whale conservation and the development of the whaling industry.

“Regrettably, we have reached a decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek the coexistence of states with different views,” he said at a news conference.

Japan faced much criticism earlier last year when its so-called scientific research whaling fleet slaughtered 122 pregnant whales.

In 2014, the international court of justice ruled against the annual Japanese slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, after concluding that the hunts were not, as Japanese officials had claimed, conducted for scientific research but for the commercial whale meat market.

Japan resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2016 under a programme that reduced its kill by about two-thirds.

Australia and New Zealand, as well as several anti-whaling campaigning groups, have done what they can to stop the Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean and they seem to have been successful – the Japanese now say that whaling this summer will only be in Japanese waters.

However the Japanese whaling fleet will again flaunt international opinion and start hunting whales later this year.

Japan will also continue to campaign to end the international ban on commercial whaling, claiming that populations of some whale species have recovered sufficiently to allow the resumption of what Japan claims is sustainable hunting.

Japan sent no fewer than 70 delegates to last autumn’s IWC meeting in Brazil. They argued that the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling was intended to be a temporary measure, and accused the IWC of abandoning its original purpose — managing the sustainable use of global whale stocks.

The Japanese said: “Japan proposes to establish a committee dedicated to sustainable whaling (including commercial whaling and aboriginal subsistence whaling).”

The Japanese proposals would have allowed IWC’s members to decide on quotas with a simple majority rather than the current two-thirds majority from 2020 onwards. This would have made it easier for Japan to buy enough votes to end the ban on commercial whaling.

Votes in favour of whaling come from those nations still involved in the grisly business. Only Norway and Iceland still have commercial whaling fleets and they both support Japan.

In addition a number of small island communities also carry out limited aboriginal whale hunting as part of what are usually claimed to be ancient cultural traditions.

Japan, however, has often bought additional votes supporting whaling from countries by offering advantageous trading terms and other close relationships.

Does Japan need to eat whale meat? No. In fact very little whale meat is actually consumed by Japanese people today.

Much is made into expensive edible dog treats for the small lap-dogs that are so fashionable among affluent Japanese.

When it comes to human consumption a recent poll commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted by the independent Nippon Research Centre found that 95 per cent of Japanese people very rarely or never eat whale meat.

Given how Japan has leant over backwards to justify its whaling, and how much international criticism its getting, you might conclude whale meat is a hugely important part of the Japanese diet.

In fact the amount of uneaten frozen whale meat stockpiled in Japan doubled to 4,600 tons in the 10 years between 2002 and 2012, the last dates for which figures have been published.

It isn’t as if there is a long Japanese tradition of eating whale meat going back centuries. In fact the widespread eating of whale was only introduced directly after World War II by the US General Douglas MacArthur, who effectively ruled Japan during the post-war allied occupation.

World War II shattered Japan’s economy, food was scarce and meat especially so. MacArthur and his occupying administrators decided Japan could and should get much of their protein from sea mammal meat.

In 1946, MacArthur converted two US military tankers to become giant industrial whaling factory ships. A generation of Japanese children grew up eating whale meat as part of their school dinners.

Today for most Japanese, whale meat is little more than a novel culinary curiosity. For those few Japanese old enough to remember eating whale in immediate post-war school dinners it provides an occasional nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Japan’s former top international whaling negotiator Komatsu Masayuki for instance, told the world’s press he had never tried whale meat before he took on the whaling propagandist’s job.

This was the top man putting Japan’s argument for continuing to kill and eat whales saying he had never even tasted whale meat.

Why is it then that Japan is prepared to make itself such a pariah in world opinion? One popular view, and it is certainly the one I subscribe to, is that it is Japanese pride that will not accept other countries defining just what the Japanese nation can and cannot do.

Pride and humiliation are two sides of the way that Japanese people see their position in society and their nation’s place in the world.

If the world in general thinks it can tell the Japanese to stop killing whales, then that might be all the argument the Japanese need to keep up the bloody slaughter.

Some better whale news

Back in last September I wrote about a beluga whale that was spotted in the River Thames.

According to experts the 11-foot (3.5m) whale is still alive and well, and has been spotted regularly almost every week off the Kent coast in the Thames estuary.

Birds, flowers in Japanese art, exhibition


This October 2018 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

Japan Museum SieboldHuis from 7 December 2018 to 3 March 2019 shows the exhibition ‘Kachō-ga. The poetry of Japanese nature’.

For the first time in the Netherlands there is an exhibition about kachō-ga, one of the most important genres in Japanese graphic art and painting. Special loans and masterpieces from the Netherlands and abroad such as woodcuts, folding screens, scroll paintings and photographs make this retrospective a must see for lovers of Japanese art.

I went to see that exhibition on 23 December 2018.

This 8 December 2018 video shows more extensive images of the exhibition.

The SieboldHuis museum writes about it (translated):

The Japanese word kachō-ga literally means ‘images of flowers and birds’.

Though sometimes other animals were depicted as well.

Colourful flowers and birds get all the attention in this exhibition which takes the visitor along the creation and development of this decorative genre. Artists can pre-eminently show their craftsmanship and poetic view of Japanese nature in this genre. The exhibition includes detailed, staged, lifelike, but also stylistic works by famous Japanese artists such as Hiroshige, Hokusai, Seitei, Koson and Hasui. In this exhibition, colourful plants and animals decorate folding screens, scroll paintings, albums, illustrated books, prints in the form of fans and graphic art from the late 18th to the 20th century. The photos by the Japanese top photographer Yoshinori Mizutani give a contemporary look at kachō-ga.

Mizutani’s photos at the exhibition depicted grey starlings and ring-necked parakeets. Both species have recently become numerous in Japanese cities.

You can also see several stuffed birds that were taken from Japan in the 19th century by Philipp Franz von Siebold. The namesake of the museum acquired a versatile natural history collection during his stay in Japan (1823-1829).

Japanese art has a rich tradition in the representation of flora and fauna. Until the 17th century powerful, fabulous animals such as dragons, phoenixes, lion-dogs, birds of prey and tigers were portrayed belligerently. This topic changed when the power of the samurai diminished and the urban culture developed. Rich traders sought refinement and a friendly style, and in the artistic imagination of nature lovely animals were portrayed in subtle and balanced compositions. Flowers and birds became a popular subject not only for aesthetic beauty, but also because of their symbolic function.

This is a folding screen depicting a Steller's sea eagle

This is a folding screen depicting a Steller’s sea eagle.

Mandarin ducks by Imao Keinen (1845-1924)

Also present was this 1891 double woodblock print by Imao Keinen (1845-1924). It depicts a mandarin duck couple in winter. It reminded me of mandarin ducks I have seen in winter in Hilversum harbour, and in spring in China.

This 8 December 2018 video is about the catalogue of the exhibition.

In the late 19th century, large-billed crows became a popular subject.