Japan’s “Chinese dumpling scandal” intensifies

6 February, 2008

Further to Saturday’s story, “Chinese dumplings off the menu in Japan. Again“, the Japan Times is today reporting that a second toxin has been found in Chinese-made gyoza:

Another type of pesticide has been detected in “gyoza” dumplings made by Tianyang Food, the Chinese company under fire over its suspected link to recent food poisonings in Japan, a distributor of the dumplings said Tuesday.

The Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union said the dumplings, which were produced June 3, contained an organophosphate pesticide called dichlorvos in concentrations so high — 110 parts per million in the dough and 0.42 ppm in the ingredients — that eating only two could affect a person’s health.

Read the full story: “Second toxin found in Chinese ‘gyoza’

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Fabrica exhibition in Tokyo

5 February, 2008

Fabrica

Benetton’s advertising campaigns are always striking. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that the company’s founder, Luciano Benetton, founded an institution to nurture the creative talents of new and emerging artists: Fabrica.

Fabrica’s Les Yeux Ouverts exhibition is currently at Shiodome Italia in Tokyo, featuring a selection of the most important works from the 14 years since its inception. One of the biggest displays features a project for “Colors” magazine (see photo, above).

Date:
18 January – 2 March 2008

Venue:
Shiodomeitalia Tokyo Shiodome Shio-site n.5, 2-14-1 Higashi-shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0021.

Admission:
Adults: ¥700; Students: ¥500

Interview with Fabrica’s General Manager, Alfio Pozzoni, at PingMag.

Further information from Tokyo Art Beat.


Tokyo hit by snow, for once

4 February, 2008

Snow in Tokyo

East Asia is currently suffering a very harsh winter, with some parts of China seeing their heaviest snowfalls in 100 years. Even Tokyo is suffering, which is a rare event indeed.

More than 200 people were injured and one man died after yesterday’s snowfall in the Kanto region. Road and rail services were affected, although most routes were back to normal by this afternoon.

No further snow is forecast for Tokyo this week.

(Further information from AFP: “One dead, more than 200 injured in Japan snow“)


Chinese dumplings off the menu in Japan. Again

2 February, 2008

Gyoza

The biggest news story in Japan this week was – and still is – the gyoza (Chinese dumpling) food poisoning scandal:

On Wednesday it was reported that at least 10 people suffered vomiting and diarrhoea after eating dumplings imported from China, which were alleged to have been contaminated with insecticide. By Friday afternoon the Yomiuri Shinbun was reporting that that 511 people nationwide claimed to have been affected.

The manufacturer, Tianyang Food Processing, has been told by the Chinese government to halt production and exports, and recall all of its products. Meanwhile, four officials are to be dispatched to Japan to aid in investigating the matter.

Needless to say, the media frenzy surrounding the incident has led to the general public steering clear of imported Chinese food. Scandals such as this tend to rear their head at least three times a year here; in July last year a vendor in Beijing was found to be selling dumplings stuffed with shredded cardboard (link). There was absolutely no link between this incident and food that had been exported to Japan, but still, it was enough.

In other countries, a minor food-poisoning scare would seem an unlikely cause for a major diplomatic spat, but it appears that politicians are having a field day:

Japanese Chief Cabinet Minister Nobutaka Machimura said on Friday he thought Beijing was taking the incident seriously.

“China’s response has been very speedy. It’s stopped production and started inspections,” Machimura told a news conference.

Experts are also calling for careful handling of the issue so as not to harm ties between the two countries.

China Daily

More from the China Daily: “Officials to visit Japan over food poisoning“.


Wood – it’s the future

26 January, 2008

Wooden car

Japan intends to use wood biomass to produce fuels and other products currently made from petrol.

The Ministry of Agriculture will provide 1.2 billion yen in the next financial year on projects that will improve the efficiency of cellulosic plants, which use enzymes to break down waste wood into ethanol.


Why Japan hunts whales

24 January, 2008

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda today defended his country’s “scientific” whaling programme to the BBC, claiming that Japan was not breaking any laws by continuing to hunt whales around Antarctica. He also levelled criticism at environmentalists’ and foreign governments’ reactions to the issue:

“I don’t think it is right for the discussions to turn emotional, especially with the recent violent act against the Japanese research vessel. Should that lead to more emotionally-charged debate, then I feel that would be very unfortunate. So we should try to continue with our efforts to try to explain that we are engaged in this research whaling activity from a scientific viewpoint.”

Despite the extensive news coverage, many Japanese I spoke to about whaling had no firm opinion: some were strongly opposed to it, of course, but the majority – especially the older generation – viewed the killing of whales as no better or worse than killing other marine species (it is worth noting that young people in Japan hardly ever eat whale meat, in fact few I spoke to had even tried it).

Whale meat is not exactly the most popular – or most expensive – food on the menu in restaurants. In 2005 schools in Wakayama began offering whale meat to their students. However, the meat first had to be fried in breadcrumbs or minced into burgers before before the kids would even touch it.

So, why does Japan spend so much time and money with whaling, when it is so damaging to its reputation among the international community? “Preserving traditional Japanese culture” is a common excuse, though it’s more likely due to the incestuous nature of relations between the Japanese government and the fishing industry. Employees from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries often land themselves cushy jobs in the private sector for a much higher salary than they could ever achieve as a civil servant. Companies in the fishing industry, on the other hand, gain valuable inside knowledge and, hopefully, a sympathetic ear in the halls of power.

(BBC News article: “Japanese premier defends whaling”)


The UBS Art Collection on display in Tokyo

22 January, 2008

99 Cent

Investment bank UBS has, thanks to its numerous acquisitions, managed to build a quite impressive art collection. From the 2nd February to 6 April the Mori Art Museum will host a selection of UBS-owned works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky (whose fabulous “99 Cent” you can see above), Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Admission is ¥1,500 for adults, and ¥1,000 for students.

Date:
2 February – 6 April, 2008.

Venue:
Mori Art Museum
53F Roppongi Hills, Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi Minatoku, Tokyo, Japan 106-6150.

Admission:
Adults: ¥1,500; Students: ¥1,000.

Visit the Mori Art Museum’s official site.


Japan’s self-defence force to do battle with Jamie Oliver

12 January, 2008

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force plans to release a collection of over 200 recipes on its website this year, in an apparent effort to encourage housewives to take an interest in their activities.

Unfortunately, the recipes are only available in Japanese, with today’s special being crab pilaf. Apparently curry is served on weekends to remind sailors what day of the week it is – are calendars banned on warships, I wonder?

The MSDF’s official cookery page is here.


Futuristic farmers

12 January, 2008

From the Mainichi Daily News:

Strap-on robot suit takes the pain out of backbreaking farm work

A robot suit designed to take the backbreaking factor out of farm work by assisting the movements of users has been unveiled here.

The “farming robot suit,” developed by a team of researchers led by Shigeki Toyama, a professor in the graduate school of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, has been tested on farms. Researchers hope to have the technology in use in 2 years and develop it into a product and begin selling it in four years.

Read the full story here.

China blamed for worsening smog in Japan

28 November, 2007

According to the Japan Times, this year has seen a record number of photochemical smog warnings issued across Japan, with China apparently being the main culprit.

Chinese power stationWith China’s rapid economic growth, scientists are concerned that pollution from Chinese power stations and industry is having an increasingly damaging effect on the health and well-being of people, animals and agriculture here.

Japan is currently a world leader in energy efficiency. The country uses one-third of the amount of energy that the U.S. needs to produce one unit of GDP, and one-ninth of the amount needed by China. The Japanese government claims energy production is now 30% more efficient than in 1973.

However, Japan is not quite as environmentally conscious as these figures may suggest. More than 77% of the country’s rubbish is incinerated, partially offsetting any reduction in emissions. The Japanese are also increasingly seeking a more luxurious lifestyle, which places further strain on a country with little natural resources of its own.

Japan committed itself to cutting emissions to 94% of 1990 levels by 2012. However, emissions are currently almost 8% above 1990 levels, making this target difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, China’s output of nitrous oxide – the gas primary responsible for smog – has increased almost four-fold in the past 25 years. Prevailing winds carry airborne pollution east, with the west coast being particularly badly affected.