Cormorants, photographed by Japanese princess

Cormorant, Photo: HIH Princess Takamado

By HIH Princess Takamado of Japan, Mon, 07/12/2015 – 10:05:

‘Through the Lens’, Fujingaho Magazine, December 2015

Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado

English translation: Asia Club, WBSJ Volunteer Group (Anna THOMAS & KASE Tomoko)

The first time I encountered the cormorant was in England, when I was about 14 years old. When I heard that the origin of English word “cormorant” was “corvus Marinus,” or “crow of the sea”, I felt like I’d gotten a lot smarter. The word cormorant in Japanese, however, is just one syllable: u (pron. “oo”). I felt sorry for cormorants because when someone spots one, in Japanese they’d just say “Oh, an u.”

There are about 40 species of cormorant in the world. … The non-water repellant feathers of cormorants lead to less water resistance and are suitable for long and deep dives. …

Traditional cormorant fishing in Asian countries such as Japan and China makes use of this mastery. Cormorants swallow what they eat whole, without chewing, so there’s no damage to the fish’s body or taste. You can see ukai, or cormorant fishing, in several places throughout Japan: one of these places is at the Nagara river, where imperial cormorant fishing is performed by masters of the Imperial Household Agency. Japanese word ukai (literally cormorant keeping) is very interesting to me because the focus is placed not on the bird doing the fishing but on the cormorant fishing masters.

Because cormorants swallow fish without chewing, as I wrote before, we call taking what someone says at face value and believing them without thinking “swallowing [a story] like a cormorant.” Looking at cormorants in the wild, we can see them swallow shockingly large fish. There’s also the expression “the eyes of a cormorant, the eyes of a hawk” from the sharp gaze of cormorants and hawks hunting for the prey. This describes their gaze or state of searching fervently, not missing a single thing. Often this phrase is used for people who look for others’ flaws or deficiencies, so it doesn’t give a good impression. “Swallowing like a cormorant” gives an impression of stupidity, while “eyes of a cormorant, eyes of a hawk” sounds sharp and disagreeable. Neither portray cormorants as likeable characters.

Watching cormorants closely, however, and you can find they’re rather charming birds with glossy feathers. The cormorant I encountered in South Africa on the first page had very pretty red eyes. The other three pictures are all of the Great Cormorant which is found in Japan and has clear green eyes.

Sometimes your impression of a person can change if you look into their eyes while talking to them. If you swallow rumors “like a cormorant” or try to find faults with the “eyes of a cormorant, eyes of a hawk” you may become an unlikeable character. I really feel that for every person, we have to make the effort to judge not just by appearances but by taking a good look in their eyes.

Filipina women raped by Japanese army demand compensation

This video says about itself:

Malaya Lola Music Video (2007)

This music video tells of the plight of the Malaya Lolas — a group of Filipino women who were abducted and used as ‘Comfort Women‘ by Japanese soldiers during the second World War.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Comfort women‘ demand compensation from Japan

Thursday 7th January 2016

ELDERLY Filipino women raped by Japanese troops during World War II demanded compensation from Tokyo yesterday.

Their claim follows the Japanese government’s pledge last week of one billion yen (£5.7 million) to compensate the 46 surviving South Korean “comfort women,” as they were euphemistically dubbed by the Japanese army.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also issued an official apology as part of the deal, aimed at easing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Tens of thousands of women across Asia were forced into sex slavery by invading Japanese forces.

Victims’ group Malaya Lolas president Isabelita Vinuya urged the Philippine government to support their demand for justice from Japan.

“We have appealed more than once or twice to our government to help us, support us before Japan so that we can be given justice for the sufferings we went through during World War II,” she told a press conference, adding that many of the women have died without seeing justice.

Ms Vinuya said she was just 13 when the Japanese troops raped women and children in her village of Mapaniqui in Pampanga province.

The troops also razed homes and killed men in the village. Three other women at the press conference said they were teenagers when they were raped.

“Is there a difference in the rape of a South Korean and a Filipino woman?” asked the victims’ lawyer Harry Roque. “The answer is there should be none.”

In 2010, the Philippines’ highest court dismissed a case brought by Ms Vinuya and 70 other women demanding that the government seek compensation from Japan.

South Korean-Japanese governments agree, ‘comfort women’ disagree

This video from South Korea says about itself:

26 December 2015

PRIME TIME NEWS 22:00 Korea not mulling relocation of ‘comfort women‘ statue: foreign ministry

The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun had claimed that the South Korean government was willing to consider to move the monument commemorating Korean women, used by the Japanese imperial occupation army as sex slaves, away from the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This daily is right-wing, with a history of denialism of forced prostitution and other Japanese armed forces’ war crimes during world war II. The South Korean government then denied that Yomiuri Shimbun report.

However, now, four days later …

By Ben McGrath:

Japan and South Korea reach agreement over comfort women

30 December 2015

The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea met Monday in Seoul to formalise a deal over the long-running dispute regarding “comfort women.” The decision will undoubtedly be welcomed in Washington which has been pressuring its two allies to mend their rift so as to collaborate more closely in the US “pivot to Asia” against China.

Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida offered a limited apology over the treatment of South Korean “comfort women” who were forced to act as sex slaves for the Japanese army during the 1930s and 1940s. He promised a one-time payment of 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund to be established by Seoul for the 46 surviving victims.

“The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective,” Kishida said following his meeting with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byeong-se.

“Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women,” Kishida added.

In response, Yun declared that the issue was “finally and irreversibly” resolved, provided “the government of Japan will steadily implement the measures specified.” He also agreed to discuss moving a “comfort woman” statue of a young girl erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011 by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Comfort women” is the Japanese euphemism for women who were forced to work in brothels for the Japanese military during World War II. While estimates vary, approximately 200,000 women from throughout Asia, including Korea, China, and the Philippines, were recruited, coerced, and at times physically forced into becoming comfort women.

The joint statement stopped short of saying that the Japanese military had established the comfort women system or that women were forced into serving at the brothels. This is an obvious concession to the Abe government which has been seeking to whitewash the past crimes of the Japanese military, by claiming that the army did not organize the sex slavery and that the women were not coerced.

However, historians like Yoshiaki Yoshimi have demonstrated using documents from before and after the war that the military established and ran the “comfort women” system. The women were often deceived with the help of middlemen using promises of phony jobs or outright forced into sexual slavery.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye also met with Kishida and reportedly called Abe on Monday. The two leaders held their first bilateral summit in November where they agreed to resolve the comfort women issue, which Park described as “the biggest obstacle to efforts to improve bilateral relations.”

Surviving women in South Korea were critical of the agreement. “It seems neither government cares about the victims,” said Lee Yong-su. Another woman, Gang Il-chul stated: “This is not different from the Asian Women’s Fund. Only the Japanese government’s legal compensation and official apology will be the answer for us.”

The South Korean government will likely have a difficult time selling the agreement. Both major establishment parties regularly whip up anti-Japanese chauvinism to distract the working class from domestic social conditions. In fact, Seoul’s inability to push through a military intelligence sharing agreement—encouraged by the United States—with Japan in June 2012 led to the recent downturn in relations with Tokyo.

The government of President Lee Myung-bak faced public uproar over the agreement. Hoping to save face, Lee provocatively made a trip in August 2012 to the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, becoming the first South Korean president to do so. Nationalistic recriminations followed, including over comfort women, which did not end when Park came to power in February 2013.

Prime Minister Abe worsened relations with a visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in December 2013, angering Washington in the process. The Obama administration has been pressing South Korea and Japan to collaborate more closely so as to facilitate the US military build-up in North East Asia directed against China. The US has military bases in both countries.

President Obama pressured Park and Abe to take part in a trilateral summit in March 2014. Following the meeting, Obama took Abe aside for a private discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other issues. Obama also began applying pressure specifically over the comfort women issue, describing it as an “egregious human rights violation” during a visit to Seoul in April 2014.

Abe started to temper his stance. Despite having promised to do so, Abe stopped short last year of completely revising the 1993 Kono Statement, a limited formal apology for the abuse of comfort women. However, his government did issue a report that called into question the legitimacy of existing evidence used to write the statement. The Kono Statement, named after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, followed the first public revelations in the early 1990s of the abuses suffered by comfort women.

For all of Seoul’s talk about restoring the honor and dignity of the women, it is highly unlikely that the South Korean establishment was unaware of what happened during the war. Many politicians and military figures in the post-liberation period had served as Japanese collaborators in the colonial government or in the army, including President Park’s father, the post-war dictator Park Chung-hee, who was a lieutenant in Japan’s Kwantung Army.

Giant squid video

This 254 December 2015 video from Japan shows a giant squid swimming.

From about this:

December 26, 2015 // 03:09 PM EST

It’s incredibly rare to see a giant squid alive—and it’s even rarer to see it cruising along next to your boat anchor.

The cephalopod was seen cruising Toyama Bay on Japan’s west coast, an area already known for its stunning firefly squid, which glow an iridescent blue and gather in the area to spawn. This squid, however, was an entirely different beast.

Pro-nuclear propaganda sign removal in Fukushima

This video says about itself:

Fukushima Exclusion Zone Swallowed By Nature (new photos)

18 October 2015

Never-Before-Seen Images Reveal How The Fukushima Exclusion Zone Was Swallowed By Nature

Polish photographer Arkadiusz Podniesinski travelled to the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster last month to see the location with his own eyes. When he obtained permits to enter the roughly 20km (12.5 mile) Exclusion Zone, he was confronted with a scene similar to one from a post apocalyptic film. Podniesinski previously photographed the area around the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

“It is not earthquakes or tsunami that are to blame for the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, but humans,” writes Podniesinski on his website. He undertook the project so that he could draw his “own conclusions without being influenced by any media sensation, government propaganda, or nuclear lobbyists who are trying to play down the effects of the disaster, and pass on the information obtained to as wider a public as possible.”

More info:

Audio by Stefan Kartenberg called Letting It go on CCDigMixter.

Abandoned vehicles are slowly swallowed up by nature on a stretch of road near the power plant

Some of the cars have entirely disappeared in the wild grass

Podniesinski shows a radiation reading of 6.7 uSv/h

A chained-up motorcycle is slowly absorbed into the field

These contaminated televisions were collected and piled up as part of the cleaning efforts

Cobwebs hang above the scattered products in this abandoned supermarket

Another photo from within a supermarket feels eerily similar to those from post-apocalyptic movies

This abandoned computer lab covered in animal droppings is from a village near the plant

A dining table with portable cookers ready to prepare food looks like it was left in haste

These go-karts have had their last race in an entertainment park located within the 12.5mile exclusion zone

Musical instruments including a piano litter the floor of this classroom

The earthquake which started the tsunami damaged buildings as well

These bicycles were left behind when residents fled

Classes were interrupted mid-lesson by the disaster

An empty arcade, now without patrons

This aerial photo taken by a drone shows one of the dump sites that contain thousands of bags of contaminated soil

Bags of radioactive soil are stacked one on top of the other to save space

Landowners have been told that these contaminated bags will be disposed of, but many people remain skeptical

Cows started to get white spots on their skin soon after the accident. One farmer believes this is due to the cows eating contaminated grass
“Nuclear energy is the energy of a bright future” reads the sign

From the Asahi Shimbun daily in Japan:

Removal work starts on ‘bright future’ pro-nuclear sign in evacuated Fukushima town

December 21, 2015


FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture–Workers removed lettering of a signboard that praises nuclear energy here on Dec. 21, despite opposition from the slogan writer who became an anti-nuclear activist after the Fukushima disaster emptied his hometown.

Two signboards in Futaba, including one that says, “Genshiryoku–Akarui Mirai no Energy” (Nuclear power is the energy of a bright future), became ironic symbols of the disaster at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. The other sign’s message is: “Genshiryoku–Kyodo no Hatten Yutakana Mirai” (Nuclear power will bring hometown development and an affluent future).

All residents of Futaba, which co-hosts the plant, were ordered to evacuate after the meltdowns.

The letters were removed from one signboard that stands over the town’s main street, which connects National Route No. 6 and JR Futaba Station.

The town assembly decided to remove the signs by the end of March 2016, citing “possible dangers of parts of the signs falling off due to dilapidation.”

However, Yuji Onuma, 39, who wrote the “bright future” slogan when he was a sixth-grader in Futaba, and others asked the town to keep signboards in place “for the sake of passing down the horrors of the nuclear accident and lessons learned from the accident to future generations.”

When the workers were taking down the letters, Onuma, who now lives in Koga, Ibaraki Prefecture, and his supporters held up panels saying, “Does removal mean reconstruction?” and “We cannot obliterate the past.”

The group had submitted to the Futaba government a petition signed by about 6,900 people from the town and elsewhere opposing the removal of the two signs.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa has said the town will keep the signs “in a recoverable condition” at a warehouse, suggesting the possibility that the signs and their pro-nuclear slogans may later go on display at a new facility.

About 3,600 officials and residents have taken part in nuclear disaster drills near Japan’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was the first to be reopened following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, despite warnings over tectonic risks. The drills in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan, within 30 km of the power plant, simulated a serious nuclear accident, Kyodo news reported. At least 1,200 residents who were living within 5 km from the Sendai plant were evacuated by buses and other vehicles: here.

Japan to allow removal of ‘designated waste’ label from Fukushima crisis — Chicago Tribune: here.

Behind the scenes: Waste disposal site a dilemma for Fukushima — The Yomiuri Shimbun: here.