A ceremony was held yesterday marking the burial of Japanese war dead at the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery (Japan’s tomb of the unknown soldier):
Prime Minister Abe and Princess Takamado attended a ceremony, memorializing the burial of remains from 1,628 unidentified people who died in World War II.
According to Asahi TV, the cemetery now contains the remains of 358,260 unidentified people who died in the war. The latest addition came as a result of Japan’s ongoing effort to recover remains from overseas battlefields. It is estimated that about the remains of 600,000 to 1,300,000 war dead are still out there, waiting to be found and returned to Japan.
Japan Probe was invited to the Italian Chamber of Commerce’s “urban sustainability” seminar. Architects A and O wrote this report for us.
It was a busy Friday afternoon at the Italian Institute of Culture in Chiyoda-ku. At first it was not quite clear how a chamber of commerce and urban sustainability are connected, and there were not many clues to that in the events’ posters. Despite the architecture themed topic, the crowd was largely comprised of dignitaries, reporters and businessmen -in suits and speaking Italian of course-.
It was the opening speeches by Francesco Formiconi, the president of the Italian chamber of commerce in Japan and Domenico Giorgi, Italy’s ambassador, which set the stage for this whole event. Its purpose is to open the 2013 annual meeting of Italian chambers of commerce in Asia and south Africa, and set the mood for its three-day proceedings. Urban sustainability and business might seem like an odd pair, but according to the speakers -sporting only a single architect among them-, we should think otherwise.
The change in East Asia’s economic profile seems to be of great interest to European economies, since according to Italy’s ambassador, East Asia is slowly but steadily moving towards more regional integration. With Japan entering the TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement ) and impeding tripartite negotiations between China, Japan and Korea on further trade agreements in May, “the overall picture of trade flows and investment will change”. If the connection to urbanism is still not clear, we are getting there. Since 2009 for the first time in human history, more than 50% of the Earth’s population lives in cities, and one should not forget that east Asia is home to the world’s largest urban regions, or “mega-cities”.
Consequently, the regional integration of economies brings further questions about the geographic distribution of production, the mobility of workforce and the creation of economic zones that do not strictly coincide with national borders, but instead follow transit networks between urban cores. A very large percentage of the regional wealth is produced in ever expanding urban conglomerates, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan area or the Pearl River Delta in China (an articulated mega city with an estimated population of 50 million). The form that these cities will take will affect the lives of -literally- billions of people and shape the economies of the region. The point that the speakers tried -and managed- to make is that urban sustainability is an urgent matter, because it is a matter of money. We seem to be moving towards a future where we will inhabit one expansive, interconnected, transcontinental city.
The main point that one could get out of the opening speeches was that, the complex systems dictating how cities function, expand and connect to each other will define our economic strategies -especially in the Asia-Pacific region-. While the 20th century answer to issues of urban livability was the protection and preservation of natural reserves in the periphery of the cities and the creation of open green spaces within them, for the 21st century we need to come up with integrated strategies. The urban environment cannot be separated from the natural any more, and there is a lot to be gained by addressing urban regions it as natural systems. Some of the main components of these systems are waste management, energy production and allocation and the compound problem of commuting of ever increasing populations.
The speeches of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation manager Marta Marmiroli and American architect John Mader further explained the technical part of this challenge. For John Mader, the four principles that define a sustainable city are:
-efficient intercity and intra-city transport. Cities should be at the same time more dense, more inter-connected and more liveable.
-resilient and robust land use (mixed use areas as opposed to separation of residential, commercial and industrial zones). Multifunctional urban cores.
-incorporation of Nature in the form of Parks, reserves and even urban food production to reduce energy footprints
On the other hand, Marta Marmilioni was more business oriented in her presentation, which focused on the experimental gradual implementation of a “smart grid” in Japan. Smart grids are networked systems handling de-certified energy production (eg by home solar collectors) and reallocation according to demand and with minimum loss. As cities keep growing, the traditional electricity grids seem increasingly incapable of dealing with fluctuations in production and demand of energy across huge areas. The possible success of this system would make ventures in green energy production in Japan even more profitable, since for the couple of years a “feed in tariff” system is already in place, paying hefty subsidies to investors.
We would have liked presentations on waste management, water use and and high speed-rail but there was a certain lack of technocrats in the event, which was indeed more focused to matters of regional policy in connection to future city development. The seminar was programmed to close with a round table discussion by the Presidents of the Italian Chambers of Commerce from Asian and south African countries, that turned out to be a series of short speeches -no table, no debate and no q&a due to time constraints-. Many of them offered fascinating albeit short insights on urban strategies, as insiders and entrepreneurs in a multitude of Asian and African cities.
Since the raison d’etre of this kind of gatherings is of course networking, the actual closure came with Campari cocktails at the Italian Institute of Culture’s lobby. Again, the thing that most stood out were the suits and people speaking in Italian, albeit this time with drinks in their hands. The proceedings of the 2013 annual meeting of Italian chambers of commerce will apparently follow this weekend, behind closed doors.
A Japanese TV news report about some recent foreign currency investment scams:
The video mentions two cases. The first case took place in Hokkaido, where a 73-year-old woman received a phone call from a person claiming to be from a company that helps people invest in foreign currency. He assured her that if she invested in Uzbek currency, she would no lose any money. The woman was tricked into mailing cash worth 20 million yen to the man.
A 71-year-old woman in Fukuoka prefecture fell for a similar scam. She was told that she could double her investment if she bought Afghan currency. She paid about 32 million yen and received a package of currency that was worth only about 50,000 yen.
The Japanese government has a website that warns people against these kinds of investment scams. Unfortunately, the targets are mostly elderly people, an age group that isn’t exactly known for being able to look stuff up on the internet.
Remember Christopher Johnson, the freelance reporter/photographer who became infamous in early 2012 after he threatened bloggers and journalists who were critical of his poorly-written account of being detained and expelled from Japan?
Well folks, it looks like the Japanese government somehow allowed him back into the country. According to some tweets he made this morning, Johnson apparently attended last weekend’s Tokyo International Literary Festival.
Christopher Johnson replied to her first Tweet by claiming total ignorance of any harassment. He then stated that he was being “framed.”
(Despite acknowledging that his tweets were public and thus would be fair game for bloggers to quote, Johnson continued to post tweets directed at Tabuchi.)
It didn’t take long for Johnson to shift towards what some might read as physical threats. He called on Tabuchi to meet him tonight, promising that he would stop his partner from tearing Tabuchi’s hair out. Woah.
Johnson described the information from Tabuchi’s friends as “false accusations from dubious sources,” and questioned her integrity as a journalist.
It’s an interesting turn of events because Johnson has frequently praised Tabuchi’s articles. This drama feels like a repeat of Johnson’s falling out with Jake Adelstein. In that case, Johnson’s public meltdown on Twitter led to a long-winded “investigative” blog post that viciously attacked Adelstein. Should we now expect an article attacking Tabuchi?
Update: Johnson is now complaining about this blog post.
His call for settling the matter in private is supremely ridiculous, as responded to Tabuchi’s post with public Twitter messages and continues to make more public posts, many of which could appear crazy or threatening to third-party observers.
Today, he has spewed out Tweets denying that he threatened Tabuchi. Johnson has also condemned Tabuchi’s “patho liar” friends.
Despite the fact that Tabuchi made a public twitter post stating that she would no longer directly communication with Johnson, he has continued to direct his Tweets at her, demanding an apology for her “false accusations.”
Johnson chooses to make public tweets to the NYT instead of contacting them privately via e-mail. Hilariously, he thinks he is so important that the NYT will read his tweets and then send him an e-mail!
There were also tweets directed at me, demanding that I edit this post to reflect “reality.”
It’s odd that Johnson feels the need to describe Hiroko Tabuchi as a “junior reporter” who is “unknown.” Regularly writing major articles for one of the world’s most well-known newspapers, she is is hardly unknown, and not exactly “junior” either. But, I suppose almost any reporter is “junior” compared to the illustrious Christopher Johnson…
Update 2: Somebody else noticed Johnson’s emphasis on Tabuchi’s lack of importance. Johnson claims that he is not “belittling” her, but is instead pointing out the truth. And making a public spectacle of his disagreement with Tabuchi’s supposedly untruthful accusations is “showing respect” for her. Um, okay. Whatever you say, man.