Residents on Edge of Evacuation Zone Return Home
In Japan, some residents of one city in the Fukushima evacuation zone are being allowed to return home.  More than 300 people from one district in the northeastern city of Tamura were forced to evacuate following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that destroyed a nuclear reactor. Tamura is about 12 miles from the plant, right on the edge of the radioactive zone. With more on their homecoming, here’s Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
People in the neighborhood had to leave their homes right after the accident three years ago. But government officials found that radiation levels were relatively low. So workers could contaminate the area before other parts of the evacuation zone around the plant. But most evacuees from the area say they don’t plan to return home in the near future. Some of them are worried there may still be pockets of high radiation. Hideyuki Tsuboi says his parents will return home. Tsuboi, his wife, and their three young daughters will stay in temporary housing in another part of Tamura.

Hideyuki Tsuboi:
It’s our responsibility as parents to ensure a safe life for children. That’s the main reason we decided not to go back.

Government officials plan to give dosimeters to people moving back to the neighborhood.  More than 80,000 people from the evacuation zone still can’t return home.

The government is in charge of removing radioactive substances from the evacuation zone around the nuclear plant. The area includes  all or parts of 11 cities, towns and villages. But the cleanup effort doesn’t include a zone with high radiation.  As we mentioned earlier, officials on Tuesday lifted the evacuation order for the city of Tamura. Environment minister Nobuteru Ishihara says the government also  finished clean up work in two other towns and a village on schedule.

Nobuteru Ishihara:
We will continue monitoring radiation levels to  confirm that the effect of the decontamination work lasts. We will do our best to rebuild those areas We will also do all we can to speed up decontamination of other areas to complete the work on time.

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Pakistan May Negotiate a Ceasefire with the Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban wants to extend a ceasefire with the government. The ceasefire was declared to allow negotiators to try to find an end to seven years of horrific violence. Here’s Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with negotiators for the Pakistani Taliban earlier this month in the capital, Islamabad. The government has been in talks with the largest insurgent group since February. One March 1st, the Pakistani Taliban unilaterally announced a month-long ceasefire. Youssef Shah, a negotiator for the Taliban told AFP on Tuesday that the top priority for the next phase of talks is to extend the ceasefire. It’s due to run out next week. Experts remain divided over the real motivation for the Taliban sudden announcement. Just beforehand, the Pakistani military launched massive air strikes against the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. Some analysts say the Taliban opted for a ceasefire as a ploy to buy time to prepare counter attacks. Pakistan has long been a terrorist hotbed, but with multi-national combat troops due to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan by the year’s end, experts say stability in Pakistan is extremely important for the whole region.

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Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban Wins 2014 Pritzker Prize

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is being honored for his innovative work..He’s won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often called the industry’s Nobel Prize. He’s been devoted to humanitarian relief efforts, designing and building temporary structures using easily obtainable materials like paper tubes and sand bags. For more on Shigeru Ban, here’s Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK.


Jury members announced their decision on Monday. The US prize honors living architect who make a significant contribution to humanity. Ban's works include the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France. He's designed other cultural facilities and residences in countries around the world. But jury members made special note of Ban's creative designs for disaster situations. He used paper and wood, for example, to build a temporary cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand. The original building was devastated by an earthquake three years ago. In the same year, Ban turned shipping containers into multi-storey housing units for people in northeastern Japan. They had lost their homes in the earthquake and tsunami. Pritzker prize jury members said Ban creates quality architecture to serve society's needs.


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Fishing for Secrets: Glimpsing the World's Biggest Dolphin Hunt

The car glided swiftly out of Lima, skimming past brightly-lit barrios before plunging into the darkness of the desert road. We were heading for a midnight rendezvous with a shark fishing boat. The owner of the rough and ready vessel had agreed to show us how they catch sharks in Peru: by killing dolphins and using the bloody chunks as bait.

Rumors of an illegal dolphin harvest have swirled around Peru for years, a secret slaughter involving thousands of dolphins, dwarfing the high seas drama of the annual whale hunt in Antarctica.

Known as "sea pigs" by fishermen in Peru, dolphins are reportedly harpooned and diced up on deck, before being skewered onto hundreds of hooks strung out on long-lines at sea to attract sharks. It's a bloody business - but it can save fishermen hundreds if not thousands of dollars in costly fish bait every trip. Dolphin meat is particularly enticing to sharks, and while substitutes are available, to the hard-bitten men who brave these high seas, all that matters is that it is free.

Marine biologist Stefan Austermuhle and his NGO, Mundo Azul, have  campaigned tirelessly on the issue of dolphin hunting in Peru for over a decade. And it was he who offered to help us in Peru finding a boat to take us out fishing. While I sat with my family in Brighton, I received the call from Stefan that I had been both hoping for and dreading: he was able to get a boat to take us out on a hunting trip, in exchange for help with fuel costs, and on strict condition of anonymity.

A week after receiving the call I found myself standing nervously on a quayside in a deserted fishing port at midnight on the Peruvian coast next to my friend cameraman Alejandro Reynoso. We were heading for a week in the Pacific ocean with illegal dolphin hunters, embarking on a voyage that would eventually prove that the hunt is real -- but that very nearly cost us our lives.
Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit
Out of sight and out of mind, the Peruvian dolphin hunt carries on to this day. Photo: Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit

Our vessel for the week was a tiny wooden 40 foot vessel, open-decked but for a little wheelhouse and a cramped hole in the bow with four tiny bunks for six people.

Far from the prying eyes of the police force or customs, the rickety boat crept out of port and into the heaving swell of the Pacific ocean. Despite the discomfort I slept immediately, adrenaline, jetlag and fear temporarily overcome by the lull and sway of the vessel as it began the 600km trek south to where the sharks lie.

By first light, all reference points of land and civilization had gone. I awoke disorientated in a grey fog of clouds, drizzle, waves and wonder; every hour that passed taking us south and into the storm swell that had closed the ports shortly after our departure. Overcome with seasickness, day and night slipped into each other. Somehow time passed: nauseous hours spent on deck, gazing at the blank horizon, or lying in my bunk, dreaming of better places.

When planning the expedition, I'd had naive visions of stringing up a hammock; reading books; or shooting clever images of the fishermen at work while we slugged our way out to sea. It was a hopeless fantasy against the cold, damp reality of life at sea on a Peruvian fishing boat: food twice a day in a dog bowl-shaped silver dish; nowhere to sit, nothing to do.

Peru's parched desert coastline cascades into the cold waters of the Pacific ocean; nutrient-laden currents providing sustenance to vast shoals of anchovy; which in turn attract whales, seabirds and sharks from across the Pacific to feed in these rich waters.

These waters produce 10% of the world's fish catch, predominantly in the form of Peruvian anchovy, a tiny oil fish and a cornerstone of the trophic pyramid that is sucked out of the oceans by the millions of tons every year for use in salmon, pig and poultry feeds around the world. Much of the meat and smoked salmon that we eat will have been fed on fish from the waters we are sailing upon. It is a controversial practice, a crucial ingredient to factory farming meat systems producing the world over, but one that is eroding the health of the ecosystem in Peru say conservationists.
Drawn to the cold upwelling of plankton, the vast shimmering shoals of anchovy create enormous buffets for other animals to thrive upon. Journeying through this great feeding trough of the Eastern Pacific, there were moments to lift the heart:  light pouring through the grey and illuminating one of nature's great feeding spectacles - thousands of seabirds dive-bombing anchovy shoals in the ocean while dolphin pods corralled and fed from around the sides; air and ocean-bound predators, utterly at home in the hostile grey waters. Fleeting companions in the isolation, they would merge back into the grey as quickly as they first arrived.


The crew kept busy, fixing ropes, scrubbing decks, storing food provisions, and preparing an enormous steel harpoon that lay on deck. We were settling into a routine, the days were ticking by. Then a cry came up that changed everything.

'Chenchos!'  screamed the captain from the wheelhouse, literally 'fat pigs'; the name that Peruvian fishermen give for dolphins and the plentiful meat that they can supply. It was our third day, and the boat was passing another shoal of anchovy under siege from diving seabirds and dolphins. Only this time a pod of dolphins had broken away from the feeding grounds, and was heading for our boat to bow-ride, half a dozen of them leaping in turns through the water racing to our boat. Within seconds the music in the wheelhouse had been turned down and the crew was poised. The captain stood on the bow clasping a steel harpoon tipped with a double-edged razor-sharp point, attached to rope held by another crew member on the side of the vessel. Ale and I leapt into position to film just behind the hunters. Waiting by the gunwale I could hear Ale on the bow behind the harpoon handler, cursing as he struggled to tried to tie himself to a rudimentary harness with one hand whilst holding the camera with the other as the vessel soared and sank in the lumpy swell.

The dolphins were under the bow, taking it in turns to surf the wake that the boat was creating. In other circumstances, a beautiful sight - but this time would be different. The crew member clutching the harpoon stood silently, arms outstretched and ready to strike, familiarizing himself with the rhythm of the dolphins as they surfaced for air. A momentary pause, then he threw it down - 30kg of razor sharp tubular steel plunging into the arch of a dolphin's back as it swam alongside the bow. A cry went up in excitement from the crew, and seconds later everyone was scrambling about, Ale and myself gazing on in horror as the line flew from the boat. A dolphin beak emerged 50 yards from the boat, tugging at the taught rope, trying to swim away, it's efforts diminishing as it became gradually enveloped in a thick cloud of its own blood. Two of the crew dragged the line in, the dolphin still desperately kicking its fins, but there could be no miracle escape from its bloody fate. As the boat drew closer, a shiny steel gaff hook was plunged into the soft skin of the dolphin's head, and it was hauled aboard, intestines pouring out of its twitching body. A crew member sharpened a knife and casually began to slice off the fins, tossing them into the sea before peeling the skin off the dolphin's back in long strips, amidst a thick puddle of bright red dolphin blood.

The engine revved up and the crew resumed their work. The salsa music came back on the speaker and a cry for lunch came up from the cook. Crouched next to the warm skinless carcass, a crew member handed me a bowl of soup. I vomited, struggling to contain my emotions amidst the intimate brutality of what I had just witnessed. Ale and I gazed at each other in silence, making eye contact from across the deck, but unable to communicate how we felt about the killing or portray any emotion. To do so could be dangerous, even lethal in the tiny tinderbox-like conditions of the fishing boat 100km from shore. Our vessel ploughed on, sailing ever further south into the dreadful grey swell, parallel to the desert coast en route to the thin sliver of temperature gradient on the chart that was the best fishing ground for sharks. The boat had its dolphin bait.


Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit
A Peruvian fisherman slicing up dolphin meat for use as sharkbait. Photo: Jim Wickens/Ecologist Film Unit.


As we neared the fishing grounds, the crew became more focused. The deck was hosed down, supplies repacked and ropes carefully coiled before the bait could be cut up. The dolphin lay flensed in the corner, a long section of the corpse sliced out of it and carefully chopped into long slivers ready for the bait box. While one team diced the dolphin, another pair cut up the fish they had brought with them, salted mackerel, bought at considerable expense, that would be halved before being tossed in with the dolphin in the bait box. Our captain explained the benefits of using the dolphin as he watched over the proceedings from the wheelhouse.

"Dolphin meat is effective for the blue shark. When you cut it, it bleeds a lot. And the blue shark likes fat, and the dolphin is pure fat. I understand that to hunt the dolphin is illegal. But for me, it's a necessity, I do it to keep my bills down. I can minimize my costs, because the bait for shark is very expensive. The majority of boats that fish shark carry the spear gun with the spear ready to use".

We had watched one being killed. But the captain was planning to kill at least two on this trip if he had the chance, one of a dozen voyages for sharks over the year that he planned to undertake. With over 1000 shark boats across Peru at the last count, the figures for this illicit dolphin hunt clock up to almost unthinkable numbers. It's hard to tie down a figure, but experts suggest at least 10,000 dolphins may be killed every year in Peru alone, making it by far the biggest cetacean hunt on earth, almost 10 times higher than the Japanese dolphin drive in Taiji for example, made infamous in 'The Cove.'

An upsurge in shark meat consumption over the last decade within Peru, the high price paid for shark fins from the Far East combined with the ever-rising cost of mackerel for use as fish bait - another species exploited for use as a feed ingredient in factory farms - all play a part in beginning to understand the prevalence of the widespread Peruvian dolphin hunt today.


By dawn we had arrived. With a signal from the captain the first buoy was dropped into place and two crew members crouched in the stern, carefully skewering salted mackerel and bloody chunks of dolphin intermittently on the leaders attached to miles of longline, as the boat slowly chugged away from the first buoy. Two hours later and the hooks - almost a thousand of them - were spread out in the water.  Everyone slept, crammed into the bow as it lulled with the engine off, floating alongside the longline 100km from shore. In the light of the setting sun, the crew donned Waterproofs, welly boots and drank soup enriched with Maca, an energy-giving Peruvian root, to prepare themselves for the night ahead. Shakira soundtracks serenaded us from the wheelhouse speakers, and the crew took up positions ready for the haul.

Ale and I watched in the darkness, cameras ready, as the longline, leaders and empty hooks were picked up and coiled by the crew until the first shout came up. The engine slowed and spotlight shone down into the dark waters below. Our first shark. A svelte, silvery-blue shape gradually appeared in the waters; half-drowned the blue shark appeared drunk, lazily kicking away at the line which drew it ever-closer to the surface. Swimming underwater, the blue shark is astonishingly beautiful, an archetypal ocean wanderer, whose soft-fin features, blue tubular torso and wide eyes endow it with a gentle elegance rarely afforded to sharks.  Hauled over the gunwale, the four foot shark slammed on the deck surface, thrashing in the waterless environment for an instant before the team set upon it. Brandishing a knife, a crew member pinned it down with his knees before slicing off the snout just below the shark's eyes. Its entire jaw had been cut away beneath its soft wide eyes. A long thin rod was rapidly inserted inside the gaping hole all the way down its spinal column and the thrashing ended. Its belly was cut, the insides washed away and the shark was tossed to the leeward side of the deck, the first of a dozen sharks they would catch, kill and butcher during the night. Far from the romance afforded it in recent years from a spate of celebrity chef food programs, I saw in that instant that industrial fishing is little more than a seafood slaughter line, and a bloody brutal one at that.

An hour into the haul the engine slowed amidst excited shouts from the deck hands. All four of them dropped their work to help tug in the line. Excitement built until a vast black shape appeared from the depths. A full grown thresher shark, several hundred kilos in weight with an elongated tail fin 6 feet on it's own. A football sized crater shone deep red in it's head, a wound that I took to be another shark feeding on the line, but was in fact caused by humboldt squid, a large and aggressive species rising from the Pacific depths at night to feed close to the surface, an animal that the crew told us they quietly feared more than the shark.

By three in the morning, an hour when reality begins to slip, Ale and I found ourselves crouching by the mast, fighting sleep and the cold winter wind. Then the cry for squid came up. Struggling to pull the monofilament, the crew grappled and swore, heaving until a dark mass came into view. A humboldt squid in the flesh. Elusive hunters from the deep, this one had risen to feed and had ensnared itself on one of the hooks. As soon as it reached the surface the 6 foot squid began to hiss, it's flailing tentacles ready to pounce. The crew made us move back, carefully approaching the creature as it lay rolling on the deck, it's ghoulish beak opening and snapping ready to bite its attackers. Within minutes it was butchered, sliced and thrown to the back of the boat, a slab of calamari dispatched to the growing pile of carcasses at the lee of the boat. 

Another blue shark came up to the surface, smaller this time but very much alive and thrashing in the water; but in a cruel torturous twist, it had vomited up its swim bladder. Rapidly sliced and diced, I watched as the belly was opened up. Dozens of perfectly formed baby sharks slid out of their mother's entrails, writhing in the waterless expanses of the deck. It was too much for Alejandro and I, having sat back for days and passively observed proceedings on the boat. We both waved at the crew, pleading with them to put the live baby sharks in the sea. It became a comedy for the crew, a novelty as the baby sharks were rounded up and tossed over the side, a torchlight following their first clumsy movements in the ocean.

At dawn the captain agreed to take us back to shore before carrying on with their two week fishing trip. The mood lifted as we neared the coast, the crew chattering away in their bunks about the best chicken restaurant they planned to briefly dine at before returning to sea, and no doubt relieved at the prospect of being finally rid of the camera team who had filmed their every move for the last five days. As land neared, two humpback whales surfaced by the boat, we cheered and the light dropped.

About three km from land, I stood on the bow scanning the horizon while the crew lay in their bunks chattering away. What looked like two more whales appeared 100m in front of us, their silhouettes just visible amidst the dying light. My heart dropped. Not whales. They were rocks. I shouted and the captain turned the vessel sharply left and summoned the crew from their bunks.  We motored gently forward. Then a distant roar sounded. Sensing what was about to happen, the captain turned the boat hard to port as the outline of a towering wave appeared in the searchlights of the boat, building up ever higher over a submerged rock directly in front of the bow. The enormous wave rose high above the vessel and broke on top of us. We were all thrown off our feet. A moment of watery silence sliding around in disbelief, and then terror. The crew began to scream. The boat lay limply in the rocky waters, waterlogged amidst a shoal of rocks and pitched at a horrible angle.

Another wave built up and broke onto us, smashing through the wheelhouse windows and throwing the vessel onto rocks. My shoes and glasses has been ripped off by the force of the breaking waves, and in the panicky blur I rushed to Ale who was struggling to hold on to the torn remnants of the steel derrick. We interlocked arms ready to be thrown into the water with the next wave. I looked around in the darkness calculating as best I could. Cold dark waters, unpredictable currents and a host of predators that I had spent the last week documenting, lay within. I rushed to the stern of the boat and made a soggy phone call to Stefan on land. The crew were using poles to lever themselves off the rocks and then, mercifully, a smaller set of waves lifted us off the rocks - floating us away from the danger into the night calm as suddenly as we had being thrust upon them. We scanned for more rocks while the crew frantically dug through the stores, ice, salt, fish thrown overboard in a desperate bid to locate and patch up leaks in the hull. Cold, wet and bruised, unpredictable waves of shock ran through the people on the boat, fighting for our lives amid anger that the captain had brought the vessel so carelessly into rocks, silence from the horror of the giant waves and pain from the torn muscles ripped from holding on to the boat with each crashing wave.

Eventually a small boat appeared on the horizon, skillfully summoned by Stefan to guide us into the port and onto shore. One hour later we bade farewell to the crew. Dolphin hunters, deep sea butchers and now, strangely, friends as well, we hugged and bade the briefest of farewells; before being ushered into a waiting car and driven out of the eye of the port authorities into the silence of the desert.

The author would like to gratefully acknowledge Stefan Austermuhle and Mundo Azul for their enormous help whilst in Peru, and also The Foundation for Deep Ecology, Blue Voice, the Pulitzer Centre for Crisis Reporting and the Victoria Stack Family Trust whose financial backing and assistance helped make this project happen.



About Jim Wickens:


British journalist Jim Wickens helped set up Ecostorm, an environmental investigative unit in 2003 that has pioneered undercover and investigative reporting techniques around the world.


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China's Fishermen Set down Their Nets and Pick up Arms
The long-simmering territorial dispute between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea is about to get hotter. China is giving some of its fishermen military training so they can help defend China's claims to three quarters of the sea. Here’s  Japan’s NHK.
This is Tanmen, a fishing village on Hainan Island in southern China. Local government officials are spending almost 17-million dollars to improve infrastructure They are making this village a base for China's maritime activities.

Here fishermen who build boats are eligible for local subsidies.
If certain requirements are met, they must fish for at least three months in waters in the South China Sea, south of this line.To encourage them to do that, the government also pays a fuel subsidy.
Fisherman Chen Zebo receives this payment and another financial incentive.

Chen Zebo:
I receive the special daily allowance for fishing in the South China Sea. I receive about 300 dollars a day for my boat.

Some fishermen like Chen also serve in the militia, performing maritime assignment for the local government. They receive military training including how to fire weapons. The maritime militia is set up on certain parts of southern and eastern China’s shores. It's estimated that several million Chinese serve in both the sea and land militias.

Members of the militia from Tanmen served in the war against Vietnam and other conflicts. They carried weapons and gave other non-combat support for the regular army.
Now, just over two hundred belong to the militia in Tanmen. They aren't usually armed, but they are required to radio the Chinese authorities as soon as they sight foreign ships or fishing boats.
President Xi Jinping visited Tamnen last year. He ordered the militia to gather information from the open sea and help with construction on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Chen once fished in the region where China and the Philippines are embroiled in territorial disputes. Philippine authorities detained him for short time. But he still believes it’s his duty to protect this area of the sea.

Chen Zebo:
If anything happens in the sea, I'll notify the Chinese authorities right away. If it weren’t for the fisherman of my village, the South China sea would've been occupied by some other countries."
A government run Chinese institution, that researches the South China Sea says, this militia activities play a important role in upholding China’s sovereignty.

Wu Shicun:
This undertakings are ways to protect China's maritime interests. Fishing and economic activities in the South China Sea are an important means of demonstrating China's presence.

In return for generous government incentives, these fishermen sail to the South China Sea to cast their nets. And while there, their unofficial duty is lookouts for their government. These activities send a clear signal that China is determined to assert itself in the area.

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Chinese Women Swoon Over Their Love from the Star

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Japan's Stem Cell Discovery Under Scrutiny
Earlier this year scientists in Japan published groundbreaking stem cell
research. Their findings were viewed as a game changer- simplifying the
process of regenerating cells, and significantly reducing the time it takes to
do so. Needless to say this offered hope to quickly replace damaged cells or
grow new organs for sick and injured people. But their published findings hit
a snag "there have been reports that other scientists have been unable to
replicate the Japanese team's results" leading to speculation that the
research was flawed. Here's NHK with more.
NHK Stem Cells--
Rioji Noyori:
I would like to first and foremost express my deep regrets that articles published in ‘Nature’ by our scientists are bring into question the credibility of the scientific community.

Masatoshi Takeichi is the director of the RIKEN Center for   Developmental Biology. He oversaw the work of the research team. He too apologized. Takeichi  said he advised the authors to quickly withdraw the papers and  conduct the experiment again.The researchers led by Haruko Obokata claimed to find a way to create a phenomenon called STAP, Stimulus Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency. They said their approach made cells flexible enough to  develop into any type of tissue. But scientists elsewhere questioned the findings. Investigators from RIKEN are examining 6 aspects of the papers. The look that photos that are appeared to have been tempered with, to show STAP cell's growing. And they looked at photos of placenta that appeared to come from different tests.

The investigators concluded the ways the researcher dealt with data in  these cases was not appropriate. But they said that this did not amount to wrongdoing. The investigators  said they need to look further into  four other aspects. One of the key aspects is photos of tissues allegedly created from STAP cells that determine that the photos came from Obokata’s doctoral thesis. The images showed tissues produced with cells from a different source.

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Japan Marks the 3 Year Anniversary of 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami

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Fukushima's Displaced: Life After 3/11

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami flooded the Fukushima Daiichi power facility, and caused a nuclear meltdown at three of its reactors. Since then workers have been scrambling to store the massive amounts of radioactive water, well over 90 million gallons, and keep it from leaking into the ocean.

At least 18,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami. And more than 270,000 people were displaced by the disaster. Efforts to rebuild homes will take years. That situation is especially complicated in Fukushima, where people have been dealing with damage from the tsunami as well as the effects of the nuclear crisis. And three years later, people in the region are still waiting to learn when and if they'll ever be able to return home to restart their lives. In the meantime, they're stuck in temporary housing. With more on how they're getting by, here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.



One of the few pleasures Soiichi Saitou enjoys these days is spending time with his dog.

Souichi Saitou:

I walk my dog every morning and evening. That helps me more than anything. I don't have to think about anything when I'm with you right?


Saito tries not to dwell much on how life used to be in his hometown Futaba. His family farmed there for more than 500 years. They were particularly proud of their spinach. It won prizes for its high quality. Saito did worry about one thing, his house and field were about three kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. He was concerned that an accident could occur at the plant, particularly that it could be hit by a tsunami. His worst fears came true. He remembers the repeated discussions he had with staff from the nuclear plant.

Souichi Saitou:

I had asked the plant's operator over the decades to protect the plant against tsunamis. They just laughed and said that kind of accident would never happen.


The nuclear accident forced Saitou and other residents to flee. He now lives in another city about 40 kilometers away.

These temporary houses were built as a quick fix solution, but about three years later, they still serve as the main residence of evacuees. Saitou shares a small unit with his wife and his mother. They say the idleness of living in temporary housing has weakened them physically and mentally. They miss the days when they worked hour after hour in the fields. But their hometown is still off limits because of high radiation. Residents need special permission to go back. This footage was taken when Saitou visited his house about a year after the disaster. He was able to stay for only a few hours. He was devastated by what he saw. His spinach greenhouses were overgrown with weeds. And rats had invaded his home. Still, Saitou did not give up hope that someday he would return. But last year he received another shock. The government announced a plan to build a storage facility for nuclear waste in Saitou's home town. His property is on the proposed site. The facility would hold radioactive soil collected from areas across northeastern Japan for 30 years. Saitou knows if that plan goes through, he'll never return to Futaba.

Souichi Saitou:

I remember my hometown and I wonder why were we forced to leave? Why do we have to be here? I want the government to decontaminate our land and save our community no matter how long it takes.


Many evacuees are still living in limbo three years after the disaster. Saitou is still hanging on to the hope that he'll be able to return to his house and farm, a hope that he knows is growing more distant by the day.     


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Onomichi Denim Project Looks to Sell 'Worn-in' Jeans

Onomichi Denim Project


NHK WORLD English- Designing Denim

How much would you pay for a pair of jeans that someone's worn for a year to give them that broken in look, unique to the way that individual wears them? One Japanese company is heading a campaign to do just that. And they're hoping it will revive its local economy.






This temple in Onomichi City in Hiroshima prefecture was built more than 600 years ago. Its chief priest is wearing not traditional robes, but denims. And the chef at this sushi restaurant famous for using locally caught fresh fish is also wearing jeans. The priest and the chef are part of the Onomichi Denim Project now underway in this western city. The organizers are asking people of all ages and from all walks of life to wear their denims for a year. Participants include carpenters, doctors and ship builders. The goal of the project is to make bonafide used denims.

Its leader is Yukinobu Danjo. His family runs a generations old sewing business in Onomichi. They once owned several plants, but cheap imports have forced them to scale down their operations over the past decade. 

Yukinobu Danjo:

I grew up here and I'm a part of Japan's manufacturing industry. I don't want to abandon it.


Danjo wanted to create special denim clothes that would help revitalize the local textile sector. This thought prompted him to get creative with people in and around Onomichi. He asked for help from a renowned local denim designer. They decided to create a special kind of vintage denim through techniques used up to the 1960s. The thread was died at this 120 year old firm. Only the outer part of the thread was dyed. So the core remained white. The technique creates beautiful shades of color and patterns when the fabric is rubbed.

Yukinobu Danjo:

The different movements each person makes while wearing the jeans create unique patterns. After being worn many times, the denims don't just become old or used. They become like vintage jeans.


The Onomichi Denim Project aims to tell each person's story through denim. The denim takes on something akin to a real feeling. Danjo visits a participant at a fishery cooperative in the city.


It looks like the knees are faded well, maybe too much. But isn't it better for pants to be faded more evenly?

Yukinobu Danjo:

No no, your way is best.


Fisherman Nobuchika Tagashira participated in the project. He has worn the jeans almost every day for the past year. They have faded greatly and turned yellow due to exposure to seawater and the wind.

Nobuchika Tagashira:

I grew to like the jeans after wearing them for the first six months. Then I was eager to see what they would be like after the full year.

Yukinobu Danjo:

If all the workers in Onomichi wear jeans as their work pants we can build a new denim town. I'll be overjoyed if that helps revive Onomichi in a way we haven't seen in a long time.


The people of Onomichi have collaborated to create a new style of denim, and the jeans will go on sale next month. But that isn't the end of the story. A second denim project is under consideration, and could lead to another round of unique creativity for this celebrated textile heartland.


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