Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

July 1, 2019

After Three Years Japan Resumes Whaling at all Speed Ahead!

By Yuliya Talmazan

Five small Japanese whaling ships set sail for the first time in more than three decades Monday following that country's controversial decision to resume the hunt for the huge marine mammal.

Crew in orange life vests took positions on the decks as the blue-hulled ships sailed out of the northern port city of Kushiro, some with red banners fluttering from their masts.

The ships will spend much of the summer hunting for minke and Baird's beaked whales, Reuters reported.

Neither species is listed as endangered or threatened in the U.S. by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Japan last year announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an international organization that deals with whale conservation and management of whaling, in a move that sparked global condemnation.

Whale hunting was banned in 1986 by the IWC due to dwindling whale populations, with a worldwide moratorium placed on the practice to allow the species to rebound.

But Japan then began what it called scientific whaling, which environmental groups have decried as little more than commercial whaling in disguise.

"Japan has been whaling in their own waters every single year, despite the moratorium on whaling in 1986," Sea Shepherd, an international non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization, told NBC News on Monday. "The only difference now is that Japan withdrew from IWC last year, finally paving the way for the commission to become focused on conservation."

Image: Whaling ships depart from a port in Kushiro on Monday.Whaling ships depart from a port in Kushiro on Monday.Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP - Getty Images
Norway and Iceland also openly defy the international ban, while an exemption allows indigenous communities in places like Greenland and Alaska to hunt whales.

The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates nearly 32,000 whales have been killed by whaling since the moratorium was imposed.

Japan’s exit from the IWC in December was met with criticism from environmental protection groups. 


Image: Whaling ships depart from a port in Kushiro on Monday.
Whaling ships depart from a port in Kushiro on Monday.Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP - Getty Images
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“It’s clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of year away from the spotlight of international media, but the world sees this for what it is,” said Sam Annesley, executive director at Greenpeace Japan at the time, calling the move "out of step with the international community."

Greenpeace Japan issued another statement on June 10, saying oceans and their ecosystems are under threat from rising sea temperatures and acidification due to climate change, as well as a host of other threats including industrial fishing and plastic pollution.

"Increasingly whales are valued for their crucial role in our oceans, and whale watching is booming for tourism globally. At the same time markets for whale meat are continuing to decline," the statement said.

Whales are directly affected by climate change, plastic pollution, oil exploration, industrial fishing and habitat loss, the organization said.

"While these problems require time to be resolved, there are also threats that can be immediately removed, such as commercial whaling," Greenpeace International said in the statement.

Japan has long maintained that eating whale is an important part of its culture and that most species are not endangered.

It said the commercial hunts will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. However, it promised to stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose district includes the old whaling center of Shimonoseki, has long campaigned to restart commercial whaling, but the industry’s future is far from clear.

Yuliya Talmazan
Yuliya Talmazan is a London-based journalist.

Reuters contributed.
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May 31, 2018

Working Women in Japan So Inspired by Kazuyo Katsuma Coming Out They Came Out With a Term it

 (Katsuma on left)

Translated from japanese by Google Translate: Katsuma who also wrote books on love affairs has talked openly about her own male and female relationships. However, when it became association with women, the story was different. What cared about was the reaction of the family.
When I started dating, I confided to my family. I want to prevent influence from my family watching.
If we define the sexuality of wins, both men and women may be "bisexual," subject to love affair, and "pan sexual" who likes people regardless of gender.
She is not interested in doing so by defining herself. I have loved men in my life, now I love Masuhara. What I loved was that individual, not sex. 🦊

Kazuyo Katsuma has inspired so many working women in Japan that there’s a term referring to those trying to emulate her success. Now, she’s trying to inspire Japanese people in another way.
In an interview with BuzzFeed Japan (link in Japanese) this week, the 49-year-old economics commentator revealed she is in a relationship with Hiroko Masuhara, a well-known LGBT rights activist in Japan. Masuhara made headlines in 2015 when she and her then-partner became the first same-sex couple in Japan to receive a partnership certificate (the couple announced their separation last year).
Katsuma said that (link in Japanese) she decided to come out because she sees it as an “opportunity for society to change.” Katsuma (link in Japanese), a graduate of prestigious Waseda University and Keio University in Tokyo, qualified as an accountant at 19 and worked for McKinsey, Arthur Andersen, and JP Morgan. She has three children—her first when she was 21—and has been divorced twice.
After she began working independently in 2007, she started writing books on women in the workplace, giving birth to the term “Katsumer,” which became part of the country’s zeitgeist when it was a contender for buzzword of the year in 2009 (link in Japanese).
In her BuzzFeed interview, Katsuma said she had feelings for both men and women even in high school, but she was aware that liking a girl was seen as a “bad thing.” After she got married for the first time and had a child, however, she said she became too preoccupied with working and being a mother, and may have “unconsciously” suppressed her feelings as a result.
The turning point came in 2015 when she learned about Masuhara’s same-sex partnership recognition at a high-school reunion, as they both attended the same school. Through an alumnus of the school, Katsuma got in touch with Masuhara, who runs a company called Trois Couleurs, which provides training on LGBT issues for organizations. After Masuhara separated from her partner, Katsuma professed her feelings to her, and the two began to co-habit.
Same-sex relationships are by no means widely accepted in Japan. Though there is no move at the national level to recognize such partnerships, the pace of local governments implementing LGBT-friendly policies has accelerated in recent years. This month, Tokyo’s Nakano ward said that it would begin offering same-sex partnership certificates in August, following in the footsteps of Shibuya and Setagaya wards in the capital. Tokyo’s metropolitan government last month relaxed rules on allowing same-sex couples to foster children, after Osaka last year became the first local government in Japan to do so. In April, Fukuoka became the second major city after Sapporo to recognize same-sex couples.
Masuhara’s former partner, who continues to run Trois Couleurs with her, congratulated the couple in a blog post (link in Japanese), saying she thinks the moment marks the birth of Japan’s “first power lesbians.”
Two days after the story published, Katsuma wrote on her blog (link in Japanese) today (May 30) that she was “surprised” by the widespread interest in her story, but that she would like to “return to normal operations” in the meantime. She then posted tips on making miso soup with frozen vegetables.

November 19, 2017

Another 7 Fleet Destroyer Loses Propulsion, Tug Boat Crashes Into It in Japan's Sagami Bay

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Benfold in Qingdao, China in 2016.

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold in Qingdao, China in 2016.
In the latest of a string of marine mishaps, a U.S. warship crashed into a Japanese tugboat in Japan’s Sagami Bay on Saturday.
The tugboat lost propulsion and drifted into the USS Benfold during a routine towing exercise, according to a press release from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. No injuries or fatalities resulted from the incident, and damage to the Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer ship, was minimal, according to the release.
While the crash was relatively harmless, it adds to a troubling trend for the 7th Fleet: Saturday’s collision in the Pacific was the fleet’s fifth this year. Most recently, in August, the USS John S. McCain collided with a commercial boat off the coast of Singapore, killing 10 U.S. sailors, taking the warship out of commission and prompting a fleet-wide operational pause.  The Benfold, on the other hand, sustained only minor scrapes on its sides. It remains on the water and autonomously powered, though the Navy news release says the incident will be fully investigated. 

October 16, 2017

The Reasons Japanese Business' are Endorsing The LGBT Community

In faraway Toronto, an art exhibition titled “The Third Gender – beautiful Youths in Japan” is an eloquent statement on Japan’s attitude towards gender. Long before the term LGBT came into vogue, Japan went its own way regarding gender definitions, as the exhibition shows. It harkens back to a more relaxed era, depicted in art as the “Floating World”, before the Meiji restoration in the 19th Century opened Japan to Western ideas and concepts, including a more Victorian attitude towards sex roles. That is changing rapidly in Japan, led by big business seeking to tap into the underappreciated market for lesbians, gays and transgender people estimated at US$50 billion.

Japan schools a ‘hateful’ place for LGBT students, says rights group

The online shopping mall operator Rakutan earlier this month announced that it would recognise same-sex relationships for spousal benefits. Under the new rule, employee couples of the same sex can receive the same benefits and treatment as married couples, including condolence leave and condolence payments.
Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) take part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade. Photo: AFP
“We are very proud to support and provide an inclusive work place with services and benefits that recognise same-sex partners,” said Akio Sugihara, managing executive.
Rakuten is known as a trend-setter in Japanese business circles. It made news earlier when it announced that it was demanding that all 13,000 employees learn to speak English for the company to work better in a global setting. But other more venerable Japan Inc. companies are following suit.

Hong Kong to propose hosting the gay Olympics: ‘the Gay Games needs to come here because we need to improve LGBT rights’

The massive electronics emporium Panasonic announced it too would recognise employees in same-sex relationships by conferring on them paid leave and other benefits. One motivation is the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo. It has a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Panasonic aspires to be a prime sponsor.
Drag queens take part in a gay pride event in Tokyo. Photo: AFP
Japan Airlines and its affiliate Trans Ocean Air Company together sponsor the Pink Dot festival on Okinawa, becoming the first Japanese airlines to sponsor a private LGBT event. Beginning this year, JAL will also allow officially certified same-sex couples to share their frequent flier miles as family members. Both JAL and Trans Ocean, based in Naha, rely heavily on tourism.

Indonesian LGBT groups set up safehouses as ‘cacophony of hatred’ reaches fever pitch

“We can see the ripple effect among numerous additional Japanese companies”, says Ayumu Yasutomi, a professor of social ecology at Tokyo University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Asia.
Like its counterpart in the United States, Tokyo Disneyland sponsors an LGBT Pride event. This includes a popular marriage hall, which performs a kind of symbolic marriage ceremony for same-sex couples. Nomura Securities, was one of the first major LGBT-friendly companies in Japan when in 2008 it bought the US investment bank Lehman Brothers and adopted its marriage equality policies.
Two women take part in a gay pride event in Shibuya, which has introduced “Proof of Partnership” documents. Photo: AFP
Hakuhodo DY Holdings, a major Japanese advertising firm, this spring established a think tank, the LGBT Research Institute, to cater to Japanese firms that feel they need to learn more about sexual minorities and their buying habits. “The LGBT market is still largely uncharted territory,” declared institute chief Takahito Morinaga. His research shows that LGBT people tend to spend more on travel, art and pet goods, he says. “I believe there are tremendous big business opportunities,” he said.

Hong Kong’s LGBT community left disappointed by long awaited report on discrimination against sexual minorities

Change is coming, albeit more slowly, in the public sector. The self-governing Shibuya district of Tokyo created quite a stir when in February 2015, it declared that it would begin issuing “Proof of Partnership” documents, providing same-sex couples with rights traditionally reserved for married couples, stopping just short of fully–fledged same-sex marriage certificates.
The Setagaya district quickly followed suit, but since that initial outburst, no other Tokyo district has done so, although the small city of Iga in Mie prefecture became the first government entity outside of Tokyo to issue Proof of Partnership documents for same-sex couples.
A gay pride event takes place in Tokyo's Shibuya and Harajuku shopping districts. Photo: AFP
One might reasonably question that if these districts are issuing documents for same-sex couples that are practically marriage certificates, why not take the next logical step and fully legalise same-sex marriages. The answer has less to do with views on homosexuality, which are fairly relaxed in Japan, as it does to more practical concerns such as inheritance and the definition of the family under law.

Hong Kong’s annual LGBT festival: where pink means party

In Japan, couples can go through any “marriage ceremony” they wish, from the most traditional Shinto wedding ceremony to marriage halls in Disneyland and Hawaii (combining the wedding with the honeymoon). But no one is actually and legally married until they go to the city hall and enter their names in the family register or koseki. For married couples only one family name must appear.
The koseki system performs by itself the roles taken on in other countries through several documents, including birth certificates, death certificates and of course marriage or adoption. So many conservatives are loath to tinker with it.
Two Japanese men take part in an LGBT rainbow rally in Tokyo. Photo: AFP
As a rule, then, Japanese don’t have much cultural hostility to LGBT people. Homosexuality has been legal in Japan since 1880. Neither of the two main religions, imported Buddhism and the native Shinto, has any position on sexuality. (The tiny Christian minority does not much exert influence.)
A law passed in 2002 allows transgender people to change their legal gender after obtaining sex re-assignment surgery. There are no laws governing which bathrooms to use. Indeed, there are occasional signs in front of public toilets saying this stall is gender free.

Two-thirds of Macau’s LGBT community face ‘high’ discrimination, survey finds

The current exhibition of Japanese wood-block prints running in Toronto is itself a fair indication of Japanese attitudes towards gender. In the kabuki theatre men play women’s roles, while in the Takarazuka review women play the men’s roles.
Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) take part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade. Photo: AFP

Japan’s politicians have been slow to react to LGBT issues. In the recent upper house election in July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s manifesto contained some vague language of support for LGBT issues but was placed towards the end of the document.
“The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would probably try to get by without dealing with LGBT issues. Without outside pressure [the Olympics] things might not have gotten this far,” says Akiko Shimizu, associate professor of gender and sexual studies at Tokyo University. “But doing nothing looks bad.”

Actor Ian McKellen urges India to ‘grow up’ in its attitude towards LGBT rights

Japan’s constitution, written by occupying Americans in 1947, goes farther than even the US constitution in guaranteeing women’s rights and specifically places women on an equal plane with men in terms of consent and inheritance, but does not mention partners of the same sex.
For the first time since the war, the ruling LDP has enough votes in both houses of parliament to call a national referendum on amending the constitution, which has never been changed since it was first promulgated.
However, the LDP’s proposed amendments, which it published in 2012, contain no references to same-sex marriage, and indeed, proposes strengthening definitions of family. These proposed amendments can be changed, of course, but it doesn’t seem likely that the conservatives who now dominate the government will be willing to go down that road.
Todd Crowell has been a journalist in Asia for 30 years, in Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan
South China Morning Post

April 6, 2017

Osaka First City in Japan to Recognize SameSex Foster Parents

Osaka has become the first city in Japan to officially recognise a same-sex couple as foster parents.
Unlike many other developed nations, Japan has been accused of having conservative attitudes to LGBT issues.
But officials in the city of Osaka have approved the wishes of a man in his 30s and a man in his 40s to foster a teenage boy.
The government's department of health, labour and welfare says nowhere else in the country has done anything similar.
The Japan Times reported the older of the men as saying: "I am happy we became foster parents [and recognised] as a single household, not just as individuals."
He added the boy is now "living a comfortable life".
The rules around same-sex couples adopting a child in Japan are ambiguous and it's not thought to commonly occur.
According to LGBT website Equaldex while homosexuality is legal in Japan, same-sex marriage is not recognised. 
One survey on its pages suggest 42% of Japanese people support, or somewhat support gay marriage.
A same-sex couple get married
Image caption Other developed countries have much more liberal laws surrounding same-sex couples
The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.
New Zealand, South Africa, Norway and Denmark, as well as others, all followed suit in the years after.
But as recently as 2010 Tokyo's governor caused outrage when he described gay people as "deficient".
Japan has only recently started addressing LGBT bullying in school.
Last month the national government updated its anti-bullying guidelines to include protection for sexual and gender diverse students.
Campaigners hope this latest step could help shift the attitudes of anti-gay sentiment in the country.


March 31, 2017

Japanese Whaling Fleet Returns to Port with 333 Whale Caucuses

AGAIN! Another Year
 A past expedition of the Orca Whale Studying spree

For the second consecutive year, Japanese whalers have returned to port after an Antarctic expedition with the carcasses of 333 whales. The five-ship fleet, put forth by the country's Fisheries Agency, killed the minke whales during a months-long voyage to southern waters for what it calls ecological research.

The agency released a statement describing the mission as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea," according to Agence France-Presse.


The Associated Press reports that Fisheries Agency official Shigeto Hase lauded a successful expedition in Shimonoseki, the home port for Nisshin Maru, mother ship of the Japanese fleet.

"It was great that we have achieved our plan," Hase told those gathered for a welcome ceremony, including the city's mayor and about 200 local people, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. notes. "We will steadily continue our research toward a resumption of commercial whaling."

It is not by chance that the word "research" served as the centerpiece of both statements.

Under the rules of the International Whaling Commission, of which Japan is a member, there has been an international ban on commercial whaling since 1986 — though there is an exception for whaling conducted with ecological research in mind. It is this exception that allows Japan's whaling fleet to embark on its yearly hunt in the icy waters of Antarctica.

 This picture is from a past expedition
Yet many critics view this use of the exception as a fig leaf, exploited by Japan's Fisheries Agency to cover for the practice of reportedly selling whale meat commercially.

In fact, as NPR's Bill Chappell reported in 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that the whaling program — which has been going on since 2005 and killed thousands of minke whales, according to the ICJ — has generated only limited scientific output. Not enough, in other words, to justify the program.

Despite the ruling, and opposition from neighbors such as Australia, Japan refrained for just one year from killing whales on its annual expedition before returning to the practice under a document submitted to the ICW, which laid out the scope and techniques of its resumed program.

Still, the ABC reports that the exception that has allowed for Japan's whaling expeditions might soon see further restrictions:

"Japan will have to submit its proposed catch to a scientific working group within the IWC.
"The commission will ask for further justification about why the scientific program needs to kill the whales to study them."
For conservationists such as Humane Society International Executive Vice President Kitty Block, this change is not enough.

“It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end," she said in a statement, according to the AP.

May 28, 2016

Chronicle of Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima then Nuclear Devastated

Imagine Trump walking around with that football(Nuclear Codes)
Image result for hiroshima bombing                                                                                

Barack Obama visited Hiroshima Friday, making him the first U.S. president to do so. During his brief speech, Obama called for an end to senseless wars and shared his hope for a world without nuclear weapons.
Below is a timeline chronicling the events that make Obama's visit to Hiroshima so significant. Also included are visualizations detailing nuclear weapon statistics by country.

May 7, 2015

Japan is Joining the Gay Rights Movement

 In TOKYO — As the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to sanction same-sex marriage across the United States, gay couples in Japan are belatedly making strides of their own.
Starting this summer, one of Tokyo's largest districts will begin issuing domestic partner agreements that for the first time will give legal protection to gay couples in Japan.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to promote the diversity of society — which means to accept all the people irrespective of sex or sexuality," said Shigeru Saito, director of Shibuya Ward's General Affair's Division.
The new law stops short of conferring full marriage rights and lacks specific penalties. But it will forbid discrimination in housing — a common problem for openly gay couples, according to advocates — and provide other protections, such as ensuring medical consultation and hospital visitation rights, and requiring notification in event of the death of a marriage partner.
The measure will not affect taxes or other benefits regulated by the national government.
Supporters say that despite the shortcomings, the new law may speed awareness and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Japan. According to a 2012 survey by the Dentsu advertising company, about 5% of Japan's population belongs to that community.
"It's good, but it's just a first step," said Olivier Fabre, who heads a gay support organization for Reuters' employees in Japan. "There is still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in Japan about LGBT. There are many people who are very hopeful that this has raised awareness."
Although there is little outright hostility toward the LGBT community in Japan, there hasn't much outright acceptance, either — at least until now.
A Reuters poll in June 2013 found that only 24% of Japanese favored same-sex marriage, the second-lowest of 16 developed countries surveyed. Poland was the lowest.
Western influence may finally be propelling the issue here, said Gregory Noble, professor of comparative politics and public administration at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Social Science. "Just in the last six months or so I have noticed more attention paid to gay marriage, probably mostly because of developments in the U.S."
Conservative groups organized several demonstrations against the Shibuya ordinance while it was being debated earlier this year. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed doubt during a discussion in the Diet in February as to whether gay marriage was allowed under Japan's constitution.
Same-sex marriage has "fundamental implications for the place of the family in our society, and so requires extremely careful examination," Abe said.
Article 24 of the constitution states that "marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes." While that could imply that same-sex marriage is not permitted, some scholars argue that the language is intended only to ensure gender equality between marriage partners.
Abe's wife, Akie Abe, is an open supporter of gay rights.
Patrick Linehan, a former U.S. consul general in Osaka who lived openly with his gay partner, said in an interview last year that attitudes in Japan are changing, in part because of a lack of organized opposition.
"When I first came to Japan in 1988, I was told routinely by everyone that, 'Oh, there are no gay people in Japan,'" Linehan said in a May 2014 interview with Public Policymagazine.
"One thing we don't have to deal with in Japan that we have to deal with in the United States and many other countries are the organized groups that exist solely to fight against gay people," Linehan said. "There are no churches or political parties that stand up against gay groups and say, 'We hate gay people — gay people are the devil.' These organized opposition groups to our very existence are not here."
Maki Muraki, who founded of the gay-support organization Nijiiro Diversity two years ago, said her company provided diversity training for more than 100 businesses in Japan last year, including some of the country's largest.
"The fact that major companies in Japan are now dealing with this issue has a big impact on society. Once the companies start to take action, the general understanding will expand very quickly," she said.
The Education Ministry earlier this year issued a report instructing teachers and schools to expand a program protecting students with gender identity disorder to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students as well.
But the ballot box is where the change may prove most significant. Ken Hasebe, the Shibuya assembly member who sponsored the domestic partner law, was elected mayor in late April. His predecessor also had backed the measure.
The vote, Fabre said, will “send a signal to other politicians that the (LGBT) community is now worth courting."

April 2, 2015

Japan Has First Gay Marriage on Shibuya Ward


Fumino Sugiyama will finally be able to marry his girlfriend of four years. He couldn’t before, because same sex marriages weren’t recognized in Japan, and he is legally a woman.
With a landmark vote Tuesday by the assembly of Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, the district famous as a mecca for trendy youngsters became the first locale in Japan to recognize same sex partnerships as the “equivalent of a marriage,” guaranteeing the identical rights of married couples, including hospital visitations and apartment rentals. 
Sugiyama, who runs a couple of restaurants, said he welcomed the move as a key step in starting a long-needed debate about LGBT issues in Japan – a culture that values harmony so much that being different can get downright traumatic.
“We are not out to change the world,” said Sugiyama, 33, who knew of his male identity since he was in kindergarten and had cried as a child because he didn’t want to wear a skirt. “We simply want the right to be with the person we love.”
The new ordinance applies only to Shibuya, and it’s technically not legally binding, though violators will have their names posted on the ward’s website.
Shibuya – an area with a population of 217,000, including 9,000 foreigners – is also planning an aggressive educational campaign on LGBT issues.
Japanese conservatives, including the powerful politicians of the ruling party, have been unwilling to back the initiative, and protest rallies have popped up in Shibuya.
“A great social ramification will be expected from such a decision,” Mari Sato, a ruling party ward legislator opposed to the move, told the assembly ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “We need much more time to discuss this issue.”
The vote passed, with the majority of the 34 ward’s legislators standing up to show their approval.
Many Japanese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people keep their sexual orientation secret for fear of a social backlash, so the number of people who will take advantage of the change is unclear. But Shibuya is expecting an influx of gay and lesbian people.
The first certificates are expected to be issued in July.
Shibuya ward Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara says accepting diversity matches the friendly, vivacious character of the area – a bustling place known for boutiques, live music and a Silicon Valley-like cluster of startups.
He says young “sexual minorities” live in fear, worrying about their future and grappling with self-doubt. “This is the reality,” Kuwahara told reporters recently. “The purpose is to realize a society where everyone can live in hope.”
Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Masuhara, a rare visible and vocal lesbian couple in Japan, emerged from the Shibuya ward office Tuesday, holding up a rainbow banner that said, “Thank you, Shibuya,” in English.
The couple said they moved to Shibuya four months ago, just to apply for a same sex marriage certificate. They have been together for three years, and held a symbolic wedding at Tokyo DisneySea two years ago.
“To marry the same sex is no different from marrying the opposite sex,” said Higashi, 30, adding that she clutched Masuhara’s hand in joy the moment the ordinance passed.
Sugiyama, who was also in Shibuya to celebrate, acknowledged that the ordinance was just a beginning.
He said he struggled growing up as a transgender in Japan, and hated going to an all-girls school. He never thought of himself as female, even when he was on the Japanese national women’s fencing team.
It was when he was volunteering, sweeping the streets, that he was befriended by a Shibuya ward legislator. Pretty soon, LGBT people were flocking to the volunteer project from all over Japan.
That gradually started raising awareness, recalled Sugiyama, who co-heads an LGBT advocacy group called Tokyo Rainbow Pride.
Sugiyama has had sex reassignment surgery, but under Japanese law he is categorized as a female. This means he would not be able to marry a woman under national law, which does not recognize same sex marriages.
Now he can – in Shibuya.
Still, Sugiyama, who said he plans to have children, turned tearful, reflecting back on the years of pain, especially those he knew who had killed themselves, unable to bear the suffering. He was merely asking society to accept the LGBT lifestyle as an option, he said.
“We are not trying to take away the right of heterosexual couples,” he said. “It is society that must change, not us.”
TOKYO — The Associated Press

January 13, 2015

What is the secret to Japan’s Slender population?


Since McDonald's inaugural golden arches were erected in Tokyo more than 40 years ago, fast food franchises have flourished, but Japanese waistlines haven't. It’s a trend government planners say is thanks to mandatory home economics classes.
Today, there are more than 3,000 McDonald's franchises in Japan. The public has also embraced other greasy chains, such as Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, it's become an annual tradition for Japanese families to down a bucket of deep fried poultry on Christmas Day.
And while Japan's population is not as skinny as it was before the Big Mac came along, they're not as fat as us. More than 25 per cent of Canadians are obese, according to the latest statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). About 3.6 per cent of Japanese adults are overweight.  
Boys cooking
A boy's cooking club at Azabu High School, where home economics is mandatory. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)
"Obesity rates have been gradually decreasing since 2003 in children and teens," says Takuya Mitani, a health education planner with Japan’s Education Ministry. Mitani says the government was able to stabilize the problem through early recognition and an aggressive approach to food education in Japan’s public school system.

Home economics for all

Twenty-two years ago, home economics became a core course, like science and math. At Azabu High, an all-boys school in central Tokyo, students spend hours in the classroom calculating the protein, fat, carbohydrate and calorie-count of various foods. They also whip up balanced meals in the school’s industrial kitchen.
"When I eat a delicious meal, I feel better. When I eat something that is not good for me, I don’t feel good. I feel worse. And so, food has a great impact on the human body," says 16-year-old Teru Arai.
In most Canadian schools, home economics class is an elective. In Japan, it’s mandatory for boys and girls from Grades 5 to 12. Tadaharu Minamino was the first male home economics teacher in Osaka Prefecture. He says making every student take the class has changed Japanese society, for the better.
Growing rice
Students at Sanya Elementary grow rice in buckets in their schoolyard. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)
"People wouldn’t be as healthy as they are now. And gender equality wouldn’t be as prevalent. The boys also learn to sew and babysit. And because of that, we now have this younger generation of men who are contributing to raising their children," says Minamino.
Grade 9 student Kouya Takahashi is part of an after-school cooking club at Azabu High.
"If I didn't learn how to cook in school, I think I'd be eating instant noodles or frozen food. I don't think I'd be cooking for myself," says Takahashi.
The club is supervised by Mieko Saito, the students' home economics instructor, but was created by the teenagers themselves. When I dropped by, a group of boys age 13 to 17 were making a very labour intensive dessert, made of chestnuts. I was told they chose that ingredient because it was in season.
"We don't just teach them about cooking; we teach them about the importance of eating local," says Saito.

Eating local

In the Tokyo suburb of Suginami, colourful plastic buckets line the schoolyard at Sanya Elementary School. Long shards of green grass shoot out of the pink, blue and canary yellow containers. The students are growing rice. About 20 kilometres north in Kawaguchi, students at Shiba Fuji Elementary have also planted the traditional Japanese crop. But they seeded their grains in a nearby rice paddy, run by a local farmer.
When I visited Shiba Fuji Elementary, Grade 5 students were working up a sweat in their home economics class. They had poured the rice they grew into plastic pop bottles, and were taking turns pounding it with a wooden stick to remove the husks. After that, they rinsed it, cooked it and made rice balls.
Sanya Elementary had already harvested its rice and is using it to supplement their school lunch program. I shared a meal with the Grade 2 class, and witnessed food education before we'd even broken bread. A small girl stood up and began what is a daily ritual at Sanya Elementary. She read the entire lunch menu out loud to her classmates. After the meal, students drew pictures of the ingredients they just ate and stuck them to a map of Japan on the wall. Images of plump purple grapes and pieces of ginger were strategically placed in the region they were grown to illustrate the importance of local produce.
Danielle Nerman travelled to Japan under the 2014 Foreign Press Centre Japan (FPCJ) media fellowship. The program is designed to enable Canadian journalists to broadcast and write articles that will give people outside of Japan an opportunity to learn about the country.
By Danielle Nerman, CBC News

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