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From Beijng to Tokyo, from Seoul to New Delhi, LinkAsia takes viewers into media about Asia – from Asia – offering unfiltered insight into one of the most diverse, fast-paced regions of the globe.

 

The LinkAsia blog features in-depth analysis from expert contributors and LinkAsia producers, as well as transcripts from NHK Japan reports.

 

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LinkAsia News Brief

Farmers and Markets Team up to Deliver Fresh Produce by Text Message

And in Japan, farm fresh is now just a text message away. Farmers and grocers have teamed up to feed the growing demand for fresh produce through farmer's markets. There are now more than 17,000 of them in Japan. Customers love the cheaper prices and fresh produce. NHK shows us how managers of one market have found a way to ensure their apples are even crisper, and greens even greener.


Reporter:

Every year more than a million people pull into this parking lot in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo. This is one of Japan's busiest farm markets. Last year it sold over 5-million-dollars' worth of produce. There's a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, all sourced from 150 local farms. The big draw is price. Most items cost 10% less than an ordinary supermarket.


Shopper:

There's such a great variety. I shop in many different places, but I always end up coming back here.


Reporter:

The secret to the market's success?  A great selection of produce that's literally farm fresh. Nothing is left to chance. Each purchase is logged and analyzed at the cash register. The data is then sent direct to suppliers, the farmers themselves. Akemi Ikeda supplies more than 30 varieties of vegetables to the market. Even out in the fields she's kept in the loop.


Akemi Ikeda:

It's from the farm market.


Reporter:

Each farmer gets data on their sales sent to them by text message once an hour.


Akemi Ikeda:

Twenty bunches of chrysanthemum greens. I'll pick some more straightaway.


Reporter:

Right away, Ikeda starts pulling up more of the greens. She and her husband tie them in bunches, then rush them over to the market.  This is how the market always keeps its produce fresh, by adjusting supply to meet demand in real time.


Akemi Ikeda:

It's really encouraging to see how much I've sold each day. It's great.


Reporter:

This just in time supply system was set up by the market's manager, Yuzuru Matsumoto. Matsumoto has overseen a sharp rise in business. In the past five years, the number of visitors has risen by over 25%.


Yuzuru Matsumoto:

We try to look at it from the customer's point of view, and give them the service they want. We're always looking to improve the way we do things.


Reporter:

There's another factor that helps to motivate the farmers. The market lets the growers set their own prices for their produce. It takes just a 15% commission. Everything else goes to the farmers. The farmers coordinate closely with the market staff in deciding which vegetables to grow.


Market Employee:

As for the spinach between December 27th and the 31st we were about 300 kilograms short.


Farmer:

I'm thinking of sewing some after my tomatoes. If I put in 2- 300 square meters, that should be about right.


Reporter:

Holding regular meetings like this has changed the way the farmers think about their crops. Makoto Watanabe started working the land 7 years ago. He now grows six kinds of carrots. Most of these are new varieties that he'd never thought of before.


Makoto Watanabe:

It's really fun coming up with new products to sell and ways to create a market for them.


Yuzuru Matsumoto:

I think the producers feel much more involved as participants in this business.


Reporter:

From the field to the market and then straight to customers. It's an approach that works for everyone.

 


 
 

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Could This Japanese Solution Provide Millions of Asians with Clean Water?

And now to a problem that's affecting hundreds of millions of people in Asia. More than 650 million don't have clean water to drink. A city in Japan says it has a solution. Here's NHK with the story.


Reporter:

Regional municipalities operate almost all the water work systems in Japan. The city of Kitakyushu in western Japan provides clean tap water to the city’s 490-thousand households. The city developed a water-purifying machine with the private company 15 years ago. Micro-organisms attached to activated carbon dissolve the pollutants. The machine is half the price of other technologies. It uses less chlorine to disinfect the water. Kitakyushu officials started promoting the technology with private firms from 2010 to emerging economies in Asia.


Kazuya Kubata, Waterworks Bureau:

Kitakyushu has a long history as a city of technology and manufacture. It's our mission to take  action. That’s something we must do.


Reporter:

Kitakyushu officials are now turning their attention to Vietnam. Haiphong is the country’s third biggest city. Raw sewage and industrial wastewater is discharged into rivers. The river water is purified for use in tap water by adding lots of chlorine. But that combination can generate harmful substances. Citizens boil tap water for drinking and cooking. They want clean water that their children can safely drink.


Parent:

I don’t feel safe using tap water. I feel uneasy. Because I have small children. But I don’t have any other choice.


Reporter:

Kitakyushu officials told their counterparts at the Haiphong Water Authority about their water purification technology. The Vietnamese officials liked what they saw and decided to start using the Japanese system. It went into operation last month.

The Haiphong officials based their decision on low cost of the Japanese system and the fact that it uses less chlorine. The machine succeeded in eliminating most of the pollutants.

The Japanese system has caught the attention of officials in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s biggest city.

They started testing at this month. That could lead to a deal worth almost 20 million dollars. Seven other Vietnamese cities have also asked Kitakyushu officials to do on site service.


Ho Chi Minh City water official:

Providing people safe water supply is one of our biggest goals. I hope their technology will bring us good results.


Kazuya Kubota:

If we want to get orders from abroad. We need to go into the field with local officials, and talk with them about what needs to be done.


Reporter:

Kitakyushu officials have high hopes for their work in Vietnam. They hope it will encourage Japanese companies to work together to design water resource management systems and win orders from overseas clients.

 

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Pyongyang: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
North KoreaBefore it closed, Kaesong was bringing the North Korean government about a hundred million dollars a year. Re-opening it seems to indicate the regime is anxious to concentrate on economic renewal. And, there are signs the North's economy is getting better. At least in the capital, Pyongyang. Japan's public broadcaster NHK was able to send a crew to North Korea in August and early September. It found some changes -- and some things that haven't changed at all.

Reporter:
This is becoming an increasingly popular way to get around Pyongyang. Just a few years ago the number of taxis were few and far between. But this driver tells me they are now on the rise.

Taxi driver:
Our supreme leader Kim Jong-un says he wants to increase the number of taxis in Pyongyang to 1,000. There are already more than 500 on the streets.

Reporter:
A six kilometer ride costs just three dollars. It may not sound too expensive, but for the average citizen here it's about one-tenth the monthly wage. Taxis are still very much reserved for the rich. But the government says more and more people are becoming members of the upper class. This residential area of Pyongyang is covered with high-rise buildings where only the most privileged classes can afford to live and many more towers are currently under construction. The city plans to build enough condominiums to house 100,000 newly wealthy citizens, people who have made fortunes as the central government started allowing small-scale private businesses a decade ago. Most have capitalized on foreign investment, mainly from China. They can be seen buying imported goods by the bag full. And even buying North Korean made tablet computers. Even though one unit costs five times the average monthly salary.

North Korean citizen:
Pyongyang has changed a great deal. Our comrade Kim Jong-un's initiatives are producing fruitful results.

Reporter:
But then there's the North Korea the government doesn't want you to see. Driving out of the capital is like going back in time. The road turns from paved to bumpy. A steady stream of cars replaced with ox-pulled carts and vehicles that run on charcoal. Most people still rely on bicycles to travel around. But North Korean officials don't talk about these issues. They'd rather focus on what they say is the country's rising rich, and government policies that have stimulated economic growth like this ski resort about three hours from Pyongyang. Currently being built by some ten thousand soldiers and students, officials say it's expected to be completed this year. It will boast 11 ski slopes, a high class hotel and a heliport.

Won Kil-u, Physical Culture and Sports Vice Minister:
This resort aims to be profitable. But it's also a place where the North Koreans, including the young can enjoy skiing.

Reporter:
And there's this project, already complete. A suite with an ocean view at this beach resort costs USD$262 for a night.

Resort Guest #1:
We came from Pyongyang.

Resort Guest #2:
I feel very good. People can enjoy themselves at resorts like this thanks to the profound love of our leader Kim Jong-un.

Reporter:
A luxury getaway for North Koreans lucky enough to benefit from the government's economic reforms. Officials want to give the impression the entire country is booming. But the contrast between the capital and the countryside are just a different story.
 
 

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Are Chinese Voting with Their Feet?

 
 

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Stock Fights: Korean Store Owners Push Back Against Corporations

 
 

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