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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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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.

 

 

 

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Reporter:

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.


Reporter:

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.


Reporter:

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.


Fisherman:

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.


Reporter:

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.


Reporter:

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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Thailand's Rice Farmers Add to Protests in Bangkok

Thailand Rice Farmers

 Protests in Thailand aren't letting up. For months anti-government demonstrators have filled the streets of Bangkok. They're calling for an end to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. With her main offices blocked by protesters, Yingluck moved to a temporary office within the defense ministry and protesters have rallied to shut her out. With the latest on the unrest in Thailand, here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

 

Reporter:

Anti-government protesters are targeting businesses linked to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s family in their drive to force her to resign.

 

Demonstrators led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban gathered near a property development firm owned by Yingluck’s family. Thailand’s elite and middle class form the core of the anti-Thaksin faction. They want Yingluck to resign and eliminate the influence of her older brother, former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra. He now lives in self-imposed exile.

 

Yingluck now has another political crisis on her hands. More than 2-thousand protesting farmers drove from Central Thailand to Bangkok on Thursday in a convoy of farm vehicles. They want the government to make good on its pledge to buy rice for about 40% more than the market price.


Rice Farmer:

We don’t go back until we get our money. We’ve been waiting for four or five months. If we weren’t running out of food to eat, we wouldn’t have come.

 

Reporter:

The elite and the middle class say the Thaksin family has used government money to buy votes, mainly in the northern and northeastern parts of Thailand. Yingluck, earlier this month, went ahead with a general election. But protests caused officials to cancel voting in nearly 20% of the country’s electoral districts. Thailands’ Electoral Commission rescheduled elections for late April, but on Wednesday decided to postpone voting in those constituencies until an unspecified date. Thailand’s political divide seems only to be deepening as anti-government protesters vow to topple the government.

 
 

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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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Abe's Aggressive Stance Puts Japan at Odds with Neighbors
Japan textbooksJapan's relations with its neighbors are getting worse. The most recent cause for friction is Japan's move to revise history and geography textbooks for middle and high school students. The books would say that a couple of small islands close to Korea's easternmost coast belong to Japan. Japanese call them Takeshima, the Korean name is Dokdo. South Korea has a coast guard station on the biggest island - itself only a rocky outcrop. The new textbooks will also say disputed islands in the East China Sea are sovereign Japanese territory too. There will be no mention of China's claims in the forthcoming books. Japan's minister of education defended the policy.

Hakubun Shimomura:
This policy is not directed towards China nor South Korea. It is something that should be included in education, seeing that Senkaku and Takeshima are both Japanese territories. We are simply including contents that thus far have yet to be taught.

Shimomura went on to say the current texts don't give Japanese students ammunition to debate the territorial issues with their Chinese and Korean counterparts. Students in those countries are taught the disputed islands are theirs. School curricula are only the latest problems facing Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to an opinion poll done by our Japanese broadcast partner, NHK, his popularity is slipping. The cause of the decline seems largely due to his rocky relations with Japan's neighbors. Here's NHK's report.

Reporter:
Prime Minister Abe started the year talking about something he mentioned again and again last year. He used his New Year media conference to emphasize his determination to revitalize Japan's economy.

Shinzo Abe:
It's time to take offensive action to end deflation. It hope that improved earnings among companies will lead to higher wages and more personal spending.

Reporter:
Abe's next challenge comes in April when the five percent consumption tax rises to eight percent. He's trying to minimize the impact with a 50 billion dollar stimulus package. Prime minister Abe took office at the end of 2012 following his Liberal Democratic Party's monster lower-house election victory. Then, the LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, consolidated their hold on power in July by winning the Upper House. Abe's support rating hovered around 60 percent for most of the past year. That's higher than many of his predecessors during the past decade. But NHK's opinion poll in December suggested Abe's support dropped by 10 percentage points, and the latest poll indicates it hasn't quite recovered. In some ways the survey reflected how the public felt about his policy shift. After a year in power, he seems to be focusing on implementing some of his long-held goals. Last month, his ruling coalition passed a controversial secrecy bill. The law gives the government authority to designate official information as "special secrets." Many respondents to the December poll said they were concerned it may infringe on the public's "right to know." Then, before the end of 2013, Prime Minister Abe went to Yasukuni Shrine. The visit angered leaders in South Korea and China. The US government expressed "disappointment" as did many Japanese citizens. Abe is now pushing for Japan to be allowed to exercise the "right of collective self-defense", or the right to defend allies that come under attack. But to do that he needs to change the long-standing interpretation of the constitution that Self-Defense Forces can only protest Japan. Members of the LDP's coalition partner have already raised concerns.
 
 

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