Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Green Leaders Coming Up!














Signed up yet? If not, I can't recommend enough that you get busy and do so. As mentioned in an earlier post, the event will be all in Japanese, but it still presents a great opportunity to meet other people who think about being green in a wide variety of ways. Whether it's a farmer's market, sustainable building, or alternative energy ideas, you're sure to find someone there interested in and working on the same topic.

Here, to further whet your appetite, is a post that first appeared in October, 2010 at greenz offering an overview of a panel discussion about then upcoming COP 10  in Nagoya. (Some links may not work, as greenz sadly closed down their English site.)

On the cusp of the  COP10 discussions now underway in Nagoya, participants a the October Green Leaders Event got a basic primer in the issues at stake and recommended remedies.
Added to the vast web of relationships that is biodiversity, speakers at October’s event  - Masahiro Kawatei from the Citizens Network for the Convention on Biological Diversity; Masako Konishi, Climate Change Leader for World Wildlife Fund – Japan; and Yasunori Tanaka, Itabashi Ward Assemblyman – interwove threads of law, education, funding, and advocacy to create a protective netting to stave off future exploitation and ensure the survival of our planet.
Global Guidelines to Ensure our Survival
Urging the audience to see biodiversity as integral to culture, as well as our livelihoods and ultimate survival, Masahiro Kawatei looks for legally binding international rules. Taking a strong stance in opposition to all genetically modified organisms (GMO), Kawatei’s group believes laws are the best protection.
Such safeguards would not only help level the playing field between developing and developed countries, but encourage global citizenship. According to Kawatei, realizing an individual relationship with biodiversity results in better consumer choices, living a sustainable life, and supporting sustainable work in our communities.
Biodiversity is the basis for all life. All people are users of it, and if they can relate it to themselves they will act voluntarily,” said Kawatei. He advocates using CEPA (the Programme of Work on Communication, Education, and Public Awareness) as the common language to link citizen activism to government and business in support and protection of biodiversity.
We need to move government, and citizens need to keep an eye on government in order to bring business along. Citizens, government and business need to work together on issues of biodiversity,” he said.
Linking Deforestation, Biodiversity and Climate Change
Masako Konishi advocates  for the protection of developing nations and their resources in order to slow climate change and preserve biodiversity. Like Kawatei, she believes regulation and education are key components in this process.
Focusing on deforestation as one of the primary culprits behind climate change and staggering losses in biodiversity, regulations could effectively stall slash and burn agricultural practices as well as illegal logging.  Requiring developed nations to share financial as well as scientific gains with developing countries would ensure funding to reeducation and retraining.
The overlap between climate change and biodiversity in this area is clear,” she said.
Waiting for rules to be made and agreed upon, though, means the loss continues unabated. Projects such as REDD+ and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) bring people and organizations together to start work for change now and creating models for the future.
Such programs help get not just funds from developed countries to developing nations, although that is key. If a developing country takes action then they get funds. It’s a carrot and stick method,” said Konishi.
Yet, as a member of the audience so aptly put it, the challenge of individual consumer choice remains. “The real drivers of deforestation are the developing nations products. We need to change product consumption and use to something more sustainable,” said her friend during the question and answer period.
How a Firefly Thinks about Biodiversity
As an assemblyman, Yasunori Tanaka thinks about education, advocacy, and regulations every day. Surprisingly, he’s also thinking about biodiversity, but from a slightly different angle: a firefly’s.
Describing the work he’s done in collaboration with researchers and other groups from across the community in effort to bring the much-beloved firefly back to one of its traditional homes now gone ultra-urban, Tanaka guided listeners through the web of biodiversity he regularly navigates with the firefly.
As the clean water, soil, and grassy expanses they rely on gave way to spreading development and changes in agricultural practices, fireflies steadily declined. Reversing polluted conditions and creating green space made it possible for fireflies to begin returning and even thriving.
Restoring their natural habitat, of course, also resulted in improving human habitat. The grassy spaces they call home result in cooler temperatures even in the most urban of areas, while clean air and water speak for themselves. Other indigenous species also returned – such as maruhanabachi ground bees – to assist with pollination as their habitat was restored.
Despite these fantastic results, funding remains an obstacle. To meet this challenge, Tanaka drew in community support by creating a local CSR program. Involving businesses as well as individual community members means educating people about biodiversity and driving change from the ground up.
We need to think about the diverse behaviors of various living organisms and how we are all intertwined. It’s important to address many things to see biodiversity as it exists around us and to see it’s impact on our lives,” said Tanaka.
Missed this one? Never fear!
November Green Leaders Forum (GLF11): Global Green Entrepreneurs
Monday, November 15th @ British Council from 7pm to 9pm (Doors open for snacks and mingling at 6:30pm.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: February 25th and 26th

More good food available this weekend! Be sure to look for miso making kits at the Earth Day Market along with the usual mix of winter vegetables and greens. And don't forget to look for more great citrus including yummy yuzu. Oh, the possibilities are just endless!

Sunday, February 26
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month will also feature a great selection of organic wines and some nifty music! 
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, the curry I had during my last visit from one of the vendors was plate-licking good. (I refrained, but only just.)
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday in February
A recent first visit to this market was well worth the trip for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji.
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
Another nice market not far from the sumo stadium in Ryogoku it's worth casing out for the neighborhood as well as the vendors.
11am to 5pm
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Another great market somewhere in size between Kichijoji and the United Nation's Univeristy Farmer's Market, it often features from a particular growing region as well as heaps of farmers and producers from nearby Chiba and Saitama, too.
Every Saturday and Sunday in February
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of the station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Green Leaders Back on the Calendar!

Green Leaders, a unique forum in Tokyo that brings together from all sectors of the green movement, looks like it's getting ready to get rolling once again after a brief hiatus. A great monthly event, I'm looking forward to getting involved again, catching up with old acquaintances and meeting some new folks, too. And while it's all in Japanese, it definitely is worth a visit. (The snacks are always amazing!)

To further whet your appetite, following is an article I wrote for greenz in November, 2010 covering the panel discussion that kicked off Global Entrepreneurs Week (GEW) in Japan that year. (I don't have the photos from the event handy, so I just substituted something attractive. Enjoy!)

Kicking off Global Entrepreneurs Week (GEW) week in Japan, the November Green Leaders Forum offered up a scintillating tell-all of ecopreneurism. Jacob Reiner, President and Chief Architect of Eden Homes and founder of Earth Embassy, Donald Nordeng, President of Ecocert, Shuichi Ishibashi of Energy Literacy Platform, and Tsuneyuki Fujioka of Fam-Fam (both winners of the British Council’s E-Ideas Competition) joined the British Council’s Huw Oliphant to share their thoughts on doing eco-business in Japan.
Creating Capital
When asked about their greatest challenge as ecopreneurs, panelists responded almost unanimously with one word: capital. From having enough at the right time to finding it to using it wisely panelists viewed capital as a double-edged sword. Fujioka observed that having too much can result in complacency and failure, while Reiner warned against risking too much at one time. Ishibashi, whose group is in the process of conducting a broader test of their product, found the search for capital itself quite challenging.
I’m an engineer. My colleagues are engineers. For the business side we have no one, and we’re creating links now to such resources. We’ve been helped and supported by other organizations, but capital is now our biggest challenge,” he said.
True to their innovative natures, panelists also offered creative ideas for finding the capital needed to move a project forward.
At the beginning you only have passion. Energy is the only thing that exists. We needed advice from various designers, and we could only say, ‘We’ll be able to pay you back when we succeed.’ Maybe people can physically help you in their spare time. Volunteer time has the same value as money,” Fujioka said.
Nordeng suggested creating micro-lending programs like Kiva or those run by the Grameen Bank.
It’s a common capital activity where the neighborhood gives you money and you pay them back as you can. It’s a creative system that gives you money as you need it,” he said.
A Balancing Act
Creating capital of any kind requires determination and drive, which can require compromise. As ecopreneurs, balancing the interests of the planet, the community, and the company may feel overwhelming. Focusing on creating a solid product helps even out the scale.
The issues you face depend on what level your business is at. The first issue is to balance your ideal and reality. If you start from environmental issues you are more idealistic, but the buyer is  not so conscious. If you  have a good product at a good price, the eco factor will be the last push for the consumer to buy it,” said Fujioka.
Nordeng offered similar advice to budding business owners sorting through the maze of opportunities and options.
Know your business and be able to say no to projects or clients that don’t fit your model. Get to know your customers in order to build a network and community of support for yourself. Stick to your niche so people know who you are,” he said.
Invest in Community
Throughout the evening panelists repeatedly pointed to community as a key to  success. Reaching out and forging bonds with investors, volunteers, advisers, mentors and customers can mean the difference between success or failure. Fostering these relationships creates a circle willing to lend support – financial, physical, or positive public relations – at any time.
Reiner attributes much of the success of his company to the community partnerships he forged early on and still maintains.
We’ve been able to do this because of the locals and their support. Make friends with the people around you. Seek mentors and let them help you,” he advised.
Ishibashi agreed.
I think the most important thing is to build a network. Everyday I meet someone new and pioneer new relationships,” he said.
Building that relationship, according to Nordeng, requires solid communication from “the  company to their buyer and finally the customer” of who you are and the kind of work you do.
Think Outside the Box
When asked for ideas that would benefit ecopreneurs in the future, answers varied. Possibly the strongest advocate of community-building, Reiner suggested opening up private spaces for public use. Turning lawns into gardens and filling empty conference rooms with community meetings were just a few of his ideas.
There should be a little alley (in Omotesando) with stalls where start-ups could sell their goods. Factories should open up an end of their floors to share tools. Open up resources to the community to mix a top-down, bottom-up approach to create space for entrepreneurs,” he offered.
Nordeng, perhaps reflecting the recent COP10 discussions in Nagoya, advocated expanding  accounting and accountability systems to include biodiversity.
The value of the biosphere is not accounted for or included in GDP. Sustainability doesn’t just include humans. Incorporating the non-human element will make the GDP more accurate,” he said.
Perhaps an additional challenge ecopreneurs face is not only keeping their doors open for one more day, but remaining a catalyst for societal change as the business evolves and grows. According to Fujioka, small business owners need to be cautious as well as innovative.
Everyday I think there’s no meaning to what I do if it’s not sustainable. There is always a challenge to the balance between the ideal and what works. The most important point is the survival of the business. Provide a service and social innovation should be the outcome,” he concluded.
Tokyo Green Leaders Forum
Tokyo Green Leaders Forum is a free monthly networking and learning event bringing together 100 Green Leaders from all across the community. Check out the next events and come on along!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: February 18th and 19th

Word from Tokyo friends tells me it's cold there, but that only means the vegetables stay fresher longer on the way home! And it gives market-goers a good excuse to try some of the food vendors circling the edges of the markets. (Seriously, there's a great curry one over at the UNU Market. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.)

Photo Note: I couldn't take a photo of the vendor, but she was part of a cooperative group of mugwort growers from Akita Prefecture. I am having a love affair with mugwort (kusa) daifuku mochi since moving to Japan, but I'd no idea of its great medicinal qualities. She offered this most lovely soap and even a tea. I came away, of course, with one of each.

Sunday, February 19
11am to 5pm
A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and tea seedpods.

Kichijoji Market
An errand last month found me happily face to face with the Kichijoji Market in all its glory, despite heavy, cold rains. A terrific two days of seasonal vegetables, fruits, homemade treats, and even some fun activities for those whipper-snappers!
Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19
10am to 5pm
Map

Note too, a December visit to Tokyo's Earth Day Market revealed the occurrence of a new occasional organic market in Kichijoji. This one takes place in Inokashira Park - a perfect spot for a market if ever there was one - and promises only to grow. I remain hopeful that some of our Mitaka growers will move in and strut their stuff. Watch for the Earth Day version the first weekend in March!

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, the curry I had during my last visit from one of the vendors was plate-licking good. (I refrained, but only just.)
10am to 4pm

Saturday, February 18
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
8pm - ?

Every Saturday in February
A recent first visit to this market was well worth the trip for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji.
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
Another nice market not far from the sumo stadium in Ryogoku it's worth casing out for the neighborhood as well as the vendors.
11am to 5pm
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Another great market somewhere in size between Kichijoji and the United Nation's Univeristy Farmer's Market, it often features from a particular growing region as well as heaps of farmers and producers from nearby Chiba and Saitama, too.
Every Saturday and Sunday in February
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of the station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: February 11th and 12th

Heaps of markets on this weekend in Tokyo, and while I'm still tromping about the wilds of the Midwest I just know there are vegetables I'm missing. I've already been craving daikon and our house salad, even though a recent hearty serving of roast parsnips, beets, brussel sprouts, potatoes, and garlic gave me a fair amount of comfort. Head on out and grab some extra mochi with a glorious bunch of komatsuna for me!

Photo Note: Another producer from the Yurakucho Farmer's Market. The weekend we went featured Akita Prefecture foods and those who make them possible. This lovely gentleman let me sample and then sold me one of the more unique items I've tasted yet: smoked daikon. Absolutely killer flavor with a nice bit of crunch to make an unexpected pickle-type treat that I've not tasted the like of ever before.


Saturday, February 11 and Sunday, February 12
A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y.
11am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, the curry I had during my last visit from one of the vendors was plate-licking good. (I refrained, but only just.)
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday in February
A recent first visit to this market was well worth the trip for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji.
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
Another nice market not far from the sumo stadium in Ryogoku it's worth casing out for the neighborhood as well as the vendors.
11am to 5pm
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Another great market somewhere in size between Kichijoji and the United Nation's University Farmer's Market, it often features from a particular growing region as well as heaps of farmers and producers from nearby Chiba and Saitama, too.
Every Saturday and Sunday in February
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of the station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Osaka Farmer's Market Overview in Kansai Scene

Tokyo is not the only city in Japan brimming with markets. I've written about markets as I find them in our travels, but not yet offered an overview. Kansai Scene, a magazine for Osaka and the surrounding region, gave me the chance to do just that. With the help of a friendly reader (who I hope to meet in late March over fresh vegetables at a new market in Nara!) I put together this feature article letting folks know what's going on in that fair city.

Take a look, feel inspired, and hit the road!

As always, watch for my weekly market calendar for Tokyo, and feel free to let me know if there's a market to be covered. The world needs to know where to find good food.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tokyo's February Farmer's Markets














While I'm not there at the moment (February is our annual trip to family and friends in America.), Tokyo's Farmer's Markets carry on and promise to be as good as ever. While the plums get ready to blossom and the camellias are already showing off, make plans to spend some time at one of these great markets!

Photo Note: Taken at the Yurakucho Farmer's Market featuring Akita growers and producers. Now that was a yummy few hours!

Saturday, February 4
11am to 3pm
A once-a-month outreach effort by the students running a neighborhood grocery featuring fruits and vegetables from independent farmers.

Sunday, February 5 and Sunday, February 19
11am to 5pm
A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and tea seedpods.

Saturday, February 11 and Sunday, February 12
A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y.
11am to 5pm

Kichijoji Market
An errand last month found me happily face to face with the Kichijoji Market in all its glory, despite heavy, cold rains. A terrific two days of seasonal vegetables, fruits, homemade treats, and even some fun activities for those whipper-snappers!
Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19
10am to 5pm
Map

Note too, a December visit to Tokyo's Earth Day Market revealed the occurrence of a new occasional organic market in Kichijoji. This one takes place in Inokashira Park - a perfect spot for a market if ever there was one - and promises only to grow. I remain hopeful that some of our Mitaka growers will move in and strut their stuff. Watch for the Earth Day version the first weekend in March!

Sunday, February 26
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month will also feature a great selection of organic wines and some nifty music! 
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, the curry I had during my last visit from one of the vendors was plate-licking good. (I refrained, but only just.)
10am to 4pm

Saturday, February 18
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
8pm - ?

Every Saturday in February
A recent first visit to this market was well worth the trip for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji.
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in February
Another nice market not far from the sumo stadium in Ryogoku it's worth casing out for the neighborhood as well as the vendors.
11am to 5pm
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Another great market somewhere in size between Kichijoji and the United Nation's Univeristy Farmer's Market, it often features from a particular growing region as well as heaps of farmers and producers from nearby Chiba and Saitama, too.
Every Saturday and Sunday in February
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of the station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!