Rice paddy artwork

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Photo gems from the Moon


Click to enlarge

From October 2007 to June 2009, Japan’s SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) mission orbited the moon. The mission consisted of three spacecraft. The largest was better known by the nickname the public had chosen for it: Kaguya, honoring a lunar princess of Japanese legend.

During its expedition, the SELENE mission returned a wealth of scientific information from its polar orbit, such as the most detailed map of the moon’s gravity field ever obtained up until that time.

The Kaguya spacecraft also carried cameras, including one with a pair of 2.2 megapixel HDTV sensors that captured the first high-definition video from the moon. Thanks to this clear-eyed video camera, many of Kaguya’s images — especially the shots showing the Earth rising and setting at the lunar horizon — are moving in both senses of the word.

Now the Japanese space agency, JAXA, has publicly released the entire data set from Kaguya’s HDTV cameras. The iconic views are all there…plus some gems that haven’t been widely seen before.

Click through to the blog post and follow any other links along the way. Entertaining, beautiful.

Japanese electric utility admits to coverup during Fukushima nuclear meltdown


Warning sign on the road to Fukushima

The utility that ran the Fukushima nuclear plant acknowledged Tuesday its delayed disclosure of the meltdowns at three reactors was tantamount to a coverup and apologized for it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president Naomi Hirose’s apology followed the revelation last week that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor instructed officials during the 2011 disaster to avoid using the word “meltdown.”

I would say it was a coverup,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”…

And it only took five years and information released in an investigation to prompt a moment of honesty.

TEPCO instead described the reactors’ condition as less serious “core damage” for two months after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, wrecked the plant, even though utility officials knew and computer simulations suggested meltdowns had occurred.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials not to use the specific description under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011…Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the Prime Minister’s Office has banned the specific words.

Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said…Former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied the allegation…

Deny, deny, deny. Political hacks, corporate hacks, still rely on the Big Lie to cover their tracks. If you do a crappy job at preserving the safety of ordinary citizens, you lie and deny – unless you can find someone else to blame.

Thousands protest US bases on Okinawa — murder provokes increased anger over subservience to US military


Click to enlargeAssociated Press

Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa have taken part in one of the biggest protests against US military bases in recent years, weeks after the arrest of an American base worker in connection with the murder of a 20-year-old local woman.

The protesters, many of whom wore black, braved scorching heat to call for an end to the island’s role as host to more than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan…

The protesters also urged the Japanese and US governments to abandon the controversial relocation of a marine airbase from a crowded city on Okinawa to a more remote coastal location on the island, about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo.

They just want the American military gone!

Okinawa’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, told the crowd he regretted being powerless to prevent crimes by US military personnel, two decades after the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen.

That crime prompted mass protests and forced Tokyo and Washington to discuss reductions in the US military footprint on Okinawa, including the relocation of Futenma to a district in the coastal town of Nago, and the transfer of 8,000 marines and their dependents to the US Pacific territory of Guam and other locations.

…Onaga said…“The government … must understand that Okinawa residents should not suffer any more from the burden of the bases.”…

Okinawa was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war, and remained under American occupation until 1972. About a fifth of the island is still under US military control.

Previous Japanese governments with more independence than Shinzo Abe’s actually tried to have the bases removed from Okinawa. They received messages from both George W Bush and Obama reminding them of officially secret treaties signed with the United States as part of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War 2 – giving the US control over Japanese territory essentially forever.

Mitsubishi apologizes, offers $56 million for Chinese forced labour in WW2 — 71 years after war’s end!


Click to enlargeXinhua/Wang Haofei
Sun Yuanxin, 1 of 20 survivors, views remains of hundreds who died at this mine

A Japanese company that used Chinese forced labour in its coalmines during the second world war has agreed to compensate and apologise to thousands of victims and their families.

Mitsubishi Materials, one of dozens of Japanese companies that used such labourers from China and the Korean peninsula, said it would pay US$15,000 to each of the surviving victims and the families of those who have died.

If all 3,765 people entitled to compensation come forward, the total payout could reach US$56m, making it the biggest deal of its kind so far – From Imperial Japan.

“We have come to the conclusion that we will extend an apology [to the victims] and offer the money as a proof of that apology,” a Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said…

The victims hailed the decision a victory in their long quest for Japanese companies to take responsibility for bringing an estimated 40,000 Chinese to Japan between 1943 and 1945 to work in factories and mines amid a wartime labour shortage.

Almost 7,000 of them died due to the harsh working conditions and malnutrition…

Some of the relatives of former labourers, however, were concerned the settlement was in lieu of official compensation from the Japanese government, which insists that all reparation claims were covered by postwar treaties with former victims of Japanese militarism.

I’m surprised they didn’t wait for a nice round number — like 100 years, eh? Just continue the official Japanese policy of doing little or nothing to compensate anyone for the war crimes committed in the name of that militarist nation. Might only be a dozen or so survivors left by then.

They know they will be backed up all the way by Uncle Sugar – who gets to use Japan’s territory as their own private aircraft carrier and military barracks to “interact” with Asia.

Japan kills hundreds of pregnant whales

balina
Click to enlarge

Four Japanese ships returned from a 115-day Antarctic expedition this week on which they killed 333 minke whales, including 230 pregnant females, all under the auspices of scientific research. But according to National Geographic, the whaling expedition violated a 2014 ruling from UN International Court of Justice challenging the scientific legitimacy of such hunts and halting all Japanese whaling. Prior to that, since commercial whaling was banned in 1986, Japan had been skirting the ban by taking advantage of a scientific exemption which allows whales to be killed if it’s done for research, which for the Japanese meant using a little bit of a whale for science and then selling off the rest, which just so happens to be a Japanese delicacy. Japan had then briefly halted their scientific whaling following the 2014 ruling, only to start up again this season after attempting to bolster the scientific value of their expedition and supposedly reduce the number of whales they would kill, although they apparently just went ahead and killed about as many as they normally would.

Japan maintains that it must capture and kill juvenile and adult females in order to determine the age at which minke whales reach sexual maturity. Japan wants to use this data in its quest to demonstrate the minke whale population is healthy enough for regular whaling, Fuchs said. And because it’s breeding time in the southern seas, 90 percent of the females Japanese whalers killed were pregnant.

Thus, as NPR explains, Japan argues that it hasn’t violated the previous ban because the ICJ hasn’t yet ruled on the scientific legitimacy of their new “research” plan, even though the ICJ told them they couldn’t issue any further authorizations for whale hunts. In the meantime, environmentalists in Australia are furious that their government didn’t try to halt Japan’s new expedition, which may have killed minkes within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Regardless, Australia may get another chance to intervene: Japan’s new whaling effort is just the beginning of a 12-year program designed to study – and then sell – 4,000 dead whales.

Lies and more lies and everyone in Japan knows they are lies. Whale meat isn’t even popular as a delicacy anymore. These criminals needs government subsidies to get rid of the meat through school lunch programs. The kids don’t like it either.

Just more of Japan’s stubborn unwillingness to turn loose from useless traditions.

Scenes from the disaster — Fukushima

Five years since the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, progress has been made to rebuild much of the prefecture. Yet within evacuation zones designated by the Japanese government, scars are still obvious. Many evacuees who fled are unwilling to return. Thousands still live in temporary housing outside these zones.

Photographs by Ko Sasaki and Tomohiro Ohsumi…

A house stands in an area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami

A fishing boat swept inland by the tsunami is still left in Namie.

Click through to see more photos. The fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Condom wars between China and Japan


Quick quality control check at Daming

The latest battle in Sino-Japanese relations is playing out in the bedroom, with the holy grail being the thickness of a condom.

Or rather, whose condom is thinner.

On Monday, a court in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu District ruled that Japanese condom company Okamoto must immediately stop advertising its condoms as the world’s thinnest and remove condom packages that say as much from stores, according to the state-run China News Service.

The court said Okamoto’s behavior “violated the principle of honesty for business operators and negatively affected the competitiveness” of Aoni condoms, which are made by Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products, a Chinese condom maker that filed the lawsuit.

Okamoto’s condom sales have skyrocketed recently, in part due to increasing numbers of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan and bringing the ultrathin condoms home.

Daming, a company founded in 1992 that says it has sold 7 billion condoms, filed the lawsuit against Okamoto in September 2014, after the Guinness World Records verified in December 2013 that Daming’s Aoni condom was indeed the thinnest latex winner. The Aoni has an average thickness of 0.036 mm, while Okamoto’s clocks in at 0.038 mm, according to the Guinness World Records.

“We accept the decision and have no plans to appeal it,” an Okamoto spokesman said…

The court has ordered Okamoto to pay a compensation of just one yuan to Daming, a request that Daming proposed in its lawsuit, indicating that the alleged violation likely had little impact on the Chinese company’s business.

Erm, OK. The least likely popular tastes concern food and sex. Especially national differences.

Cripes, I just remembered past dealings in my own working life – with Okamoto Riken. And some pretty salacious tales involving how and why they brought the bicycle company Zebra-Kenko to the United States, BITD.

Har!

10 adventure trips for every photographer


Click to enlargeChad Copeland

If you’re making travel plans for 2016, these ten places are the best adventure trips for photographers to explore and photograph this year.

For photographers seeking inspiration, or adventure-seeking travelers looking to explore, we’ve put together a list of our favorite adventure trips to take this year.

Beyond their beauty, we believe these locations have more to offer than you might initially think. From hidden caves along the Oregon Coast, to snow-capped mountains in Japan, the following locations are not only worth photographing, but also traveling to see a few sites you might not know exist.

One of the delights of making it to being an old fart is memories – and visual reminders/your own photographs – of the places you visited that stick in your mind for their beauty. I’ve been to a few of these places and they are among my favorites.

Thanks to Om Malik for the reminder.

Kyocera begins work on world’s largest floating solar farm


Click to enlarge – one of Kyocera’s smaller projects

The Japanese electronics multinational Kyocera has begun work on what it says will be the world’s biggest floating solar farm.

The power plant is being built on a reservoir in Japan’s Chiba prefecture and is anticipated to supply enough electricity for nearly 5,000 households when it is completed in early 2018.

Space-starved Japan has already seen several floating solar farms built as part of the country’s drive to exploit more renewable energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The shutdown of nuclear plants has seen Japan increasingly reliant on fossil fuel imports that have hit its emissions-cutting ambitions.

The Yamakura dam power plant will see more than 50,000 solar photovoltaic panels cover a 180,000 m sq area, but compared to other land-based plants it is relatively small. At 13.7MW when finished, it would not make the top 100 of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic farms…

Kyocera has already built three floating solar farms, which are much smaller than the new one…

Context is everything. Space constraints have made Japan a world leader in many space efficiencies. Americans are just discovering tiny house living. It’s a way of life for millions in Japan. The same is true for reuse, repurposing technology. It’s already not unusual to find large battery packs designed for electric cars or plug-in hybrids being reused as backups and storage for home solar panel arrays. They’re already used beyond flexible storage requirements for mobile use – and perfectly fine for such a repurposing.