Why it Matters Where Our Food Comes From


REVIEW by Poh Qiying:

Ethical eating habits have been on the rise, and restaurants in Japan are also stepping up onto these efforts.  Narisawa, being awarded the first Sustainable Restaurant Award, practice sustainable ways. For example they purchase mostly local produce (paying close attention to the seasons), and the handling of water and waste is appropriate.

However, because of its growing popularity, sometimes the phrase ‘sustainable restaurant’ is simply used loosely as an attractive label to entice people to consume.  The restaurant itself does not act out what is being said.

It becomes more problematic when the consumers themselves do not understand the importance of sustainable ways and why it is necessary (especially in light of the food scarcity problems).  Thus the restaurant can act as a medium to educate people, while at the same time “bringing nature into the city”.

Therefore, I feel that being sustainable is beneficial, especially in the long run in ensuring and securing our future.  Natural resources are further ensured, and waste is properly used.  The old linear pathways of dealing with any resources are now all connected in a continuous cyclical flow. On the other hand, it is difficult to tell if the corporation truly believes in the idea of sustainability or just greenwashing consumers as mentioned in the article.

“Being green” to me should entail certain sense of time, that whatever we do today is going to benefit in the long run.  These benefits are not only for us humans but also for the environment.  It is also equally important to understand that the inputs (local produce) and outputs (waste) of any system need to be thought more carefully of in the road to ‘greening’.



ARTICLE LINK: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/05/31/food/why-it-matters-where-our-food-comes-from/#.Uh-jrD_t84K

Joe, Melinda, 31 May 2013. Why does it matter where our food comes from [online]. The Japanese Times. Available from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/05/31/food/why-it-matters-where-our-food-comes-from/#.Uh-jrD_t84K [Accessed 27 August 2013]


Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up.” by Yvonne Chang

Reviewed by Dominic

Due to the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan has put a halt on most of its existing nuclear plants. As such, the government is seeking for alternative sources of energy.

The article highlights that Hokkaido is the target of large scale investment for the development of large areas of solar farms for solar energy harvesting as there is ample sunlight available throughout the year.

In the start of the article, the writer begins with the phrase “A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush.” (Chang, 2013).

I believe that the initial portrayal of Japan is of a country that has been constantly engaging in alternative energy sources. However, another image I feel should not be overlooked is that Japan is incapable of handling with the environment even though she has been attempting to engage environmental concerns. The writer argues that, for instance, the national electrical grid is still not well equipped to transmit electricity across the nation from the north to where it is needed.

I interpret the word ‘Green’ to be the efficient usage of resources as well as environmental conservation. The Japanese government has launched a slew of incentives such as the provision of tariffs to lessen the costs of developing solar technologies, but the grid is controlled by companies that operate on different transmission networks. Worse, because of the difference in the frequency of electricity provided, energy produced would not be able to reach many places (Chang, 2013). As such, while Japan may seem to pursue ‘Green’ interests with alternative sources of energy, but I believe that its inability makes it ‘not Green’.


Chang, Yvonne. “Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up.” National Geographic.  August 14 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/08/130814-japan-solar-energy-incentive/


How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project?

News review by Ong Shi Rong

How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project? by Winifred Bird

Bird reports on two projects that aim to protect coastlines by restoring forests destroyed during the Great East Japan Earthquake: the “Green Connections” project (緑の絆再生プロジェクト), started by the Forestry Agency, from Aomori Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture; and the Great Forest Wall Project by Morihiro Hosokawa and Akira Miyawaki.

The article then focuses on the disapproval of such moves from some people like ecologist Yoshihiko Hirabuki, citing that the forests will destroy the native species by taking over their land, which can have far-reaching consequences to biodiversity in Japan. The opponents of such moves also lobby for the Forest Agency to at least assess such moves.

The Forest Agency responded by agreeing to create a team of people to assess such moves (with scant details of this provided) but more interestingly, also countered that needs of people are more important than of biodiversity, citing local laws requiring them to restore the forests since they were made by locals.

It would not be surprising if readers feel that Japan has (unusually?) a lot of control over its environment with all these plans of (RE)making forests and more importantly, the idea that people do have a say over their environment. Notably, the environment and its future too can shape people’s lives.

I am also intrigued by how the different ideas of “green” can be in conflict with each other: The supporters of these plans seem to have a traditional idea of “green” as in having forests everywhere, while those who do not support these plans see “green” as lands (and therefore, animals and plants residing there) untouched by humanity.


Review of “Fuji Rock”

News review by Sebastian Sim


Fuji Rock: Japan’s clean, green and safe 16-year spectacle by Danielle Demetriou

In her article, Demetriou writes about Fuji Rock, the largest annual music festival in Japan held in Naeba in Niigata prefecture. She describes it as a “quintessentially Japanese event, renowned as one of the cleanest, greenest and safest music festivals in the world.” These features entice performing artistes, both local and international, and revellers all over the world to participate in the festival each year.

According to a director of Smash, the music promotion company responsible for Fuji Rock, the festival is “possibly the cleanest festival in the world”, and its ‘green concept” is a central theme. Various “green” initiatives include:

  1. A zero-rubbish policy, where rubbish created is sorted into five categories before being recycled;
  2. Other recycling efforts, including toilet paper made from cups and cigarette packaging and jackets worn by staff made from recycled plastic bottles, among others; and
  3. Minimal corporate intervention and prohibition of sponsorship banners near performing stages, in a bid to present an “untouched countryside”.

The director interviewed in the article mentioned that “being a Japanese festival, the event is not typical of Western festival style”, and if we recall Demetriou’s statement about Fuji Rock being “quintessentially Japan…”, there is a sense that both of them view Japan as a nation actively involved in ecologically-friendly practices and protective of its environment. In other words, there is a suggestion of Japan being a “green” nation.

It seems, therefore, that the article, despite focusing on Fuji Rock, makes a certain representation of Japan and the environment. It is essentially presenting to the reader a Japanese nation which is clean, “green” and unique compared to its Western counterparts. Such implicit representation, in my view, may well construct an inaccurate perception of Japan in the mind of a reader who possesses limited and uncritical knowledge of Japan.


Demetriou, D., 2013. Fuji Rock: Japan’s clean, green and safe 16-year spectacle [online]. The National. Available from:

http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/economics/fuji-rock-japans-clean-green-and-safe-16-year-spectacle#ixzz2cIOzPv8P [Accessed 18 August 2013].

Green News

Welcome to the NUS blog for the module “Japan, the green nation?” from the Department of Japanese Studies.

This blog features posts related to the module, including “green” news reported by students. These are news stories that present Japan or a Japanese institution, person, company, etc. as particularly eco-friendly. Student search for relevant news items, summarize the news, and provide a critical analysis of the news through concepts discussed in class.

We hope that by collecting these news items in one place we can provide an overview of “green” news about Japan. Look for weekly posts!