New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

Article: New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

New nature-friendly condominiums are housing solutions that are increasingly gaining attention due to the rising awareness in environmentally-friendly products. Not only are they an add-on to energy-saving condos, suitable greenery is planted on the condo buildings to create habitats for creatures, allowing its inhabitants to live in harmony with the biodiversity and thus helping to “preserve the local environment” by minimizing damage to the ecosystem.

Representation of Japan and the environment
Japan is seen here as nature-loving; in the article, both the contractor and the buyers are interested in not just a natural environment to live in, but also being closer to the environment and co-existing with nature by incorporating it into their living spaces. They acknowledge that such is a healthy environment for children and future generations to develop in and to learn about the importance of protecting the environment and living in harmony with other creatures. It may also be the direction that Japan is taking in an attempt to obtain a win-win situation for both the Japanese and the environment.

What makes Japan “green”?
The amount of attention and expertise the contractors employed into researching the biodiversity and the many factors to encourage plant growth reflects the Japanese’ understanding of the importance of a healthy ecosystem. Along with the pre-existing energy-saving condos, Japan seems to aim towards being as “green” as possible by to minimize harm to its biodiversity. Additionally, the fact that the ABINC certification exists shows that the authorities and the citizens acknowledge the importance of the ecosystem in Japan. This article shows how the Japanese play their part in protecting nature in their own way, which gives off the idea that the Japanese are nature-loving and “green”.

Relation to ideas in class
The way nature and habitat is “created” is also a way of selectively modifying nature to suit the Japanese housing needs. By adding nature to housing to make it seem practical, environmental and aesthetically pleasing, the contractors might be encouraging co-existence with nature and also adding on to their project to increase attractiveness to buyers. The ABINC certification recognizes whether a project is environmental, but the contractor may have used this very certificate to promote the condo. Buyers, upon seeing that the condo is ABINC certified, might feel better about themselves for buying a nature-friendly apartment, which probably had a huge piece of land and habitat cleared for its construction, thus holding less concern for the loss of environment to development. Hence, is it ethical to believe that “Exploiting nature for human sustenance is not wrong if it allows other life to coexist” (Williams, 2010)? Despite these controversies, the developer’s decision to bring elements of nature into the urban to ensure sustainable living for both humans and the biodiversity makes this condo a positive change (ibid). However, ensuring that the wildlife do not hinder the daily lives of the condo inhabitants and that the inhabitants do not abuse the wildlife living in the vicinity will pose great difficulties for the future management.

(500 words)


The Japan Times. (2016). “New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly”. The Japan Times. Retrieved 30 August 2016, from

Williams, B. (2010). “Satoyama: The Ideal and the Real”. Kyoto Journal, 75, pp. 24-29.

Futuristic Japanese indoor vertical farm produces 12,000 heads of lettuce a day with LED lighting

Article Link:

The article begins by introducing to us an Amsterdam-based company known as Philips Lighting. This company has experimented with indoor vertical farming, and has made major headway in this area. It has 2 trial facilities in Japan, and one them has been reported to produce 12000 heads of lettuce a day just by using energy-efficient LED lighting.

Urbanization is taking place on a large scale in Japan, where most areas are either occupied by modernized cities, or too steep and mountainous for farming to take place. Vertical farming could be the new agricultural solution that Japan needs, and studies have shown that this method can produce a large variety of herbs and plants under controlled environments. This method of farming also saves water, space and energy. The two trial facilities are located in the Shiba and Shizuoka prefectures, allowing fast and easy transportation from the facilities to stores, making sure that customers get the freshest vegetables.

Since centuries ago, Japan has been heavily reliant on agriculture for survival and economic growth. Famous produce from Japan such as the corn from Hokkaido, cherries from Yamagata and strawberries from Nara are grown and exported to foreign countries where they are eagerly lapped up by consumers (Johnston, 2016). However, in more recent times, climate change has rendered farming and agricultural work in Japan to be rather risky business. The irregular weather patterns, which will certainly involve heavier rains and more frequent floods will significantly decrease the quality and quantity of rice and other fruit and vegetable crops. The steady rise in temperature due to global warming is also extremely unfavourable especially for fruit crops (Johnston, 2016).

As such, vertical farming could well be a solution to these modern day agricultural problems and help to complement traditional farming methods. Vertical farming uses no herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, making it organic by nature. There is also no agricultural runoff as all water used for farming is recycled and used again. These reasons, coupled with the fact that it is not limited by the seasonal changes, make vertical farming a very ‘green’ and ideal method of choice.

In the 1st or 2nd lesson, it was mentioned in class that the Japanese tend to be very ‘selective’ about nature, picking out and cultivating only the aspects which they like in a non-natural environment, in the form of Bonsai and Ikebana. Vertical farming has some similarities to this, in the sense that plants and vegetables are first picked from their natural environments, then transferred to high-tech controlled environments which allow optimum growth and harvest. This style of thinking has clearly reaped more benefits in the latter situation than in the former, providing Japan with an alternative method to obtain more food, and boost the economy.


Johnston. E. (2016). Climate change threatens nation’s agriculture | The Japan Times. Retrieved August 28, 2016, from

Shikoku town basks in limelight as it moves toward zero-waste target

Article link:

When its only incineration plant was closed down in 2000 following news that it had failed to meet national dioxin emission standards, the government of Kamikatsu Town in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku, vowed to have its residents produce “zero waste” within the following two decades. Since then, the town has more than halved its annual waste quantities. The secrets to its waste-reducing success, it seems, include meticulous garbage sorting facilities where residents deposit their rubbish into more than 30 categorised boxes, stores selling used household items, as well as eco-friendly business practices, such as “Bring Your Own Bag” initiatives.

At first glance, the town’s current efforts to minimise its waste implies a return to the undefiled state of “onozukara” (Kalland and Asquith, 10) in nature, with residents living in such a manner that evidence of their use and pollution of their natural environment is minimised. Indeed, this article seems to strengthen popular observations of the Japanese as being “one with nature” (ibid.) in their daily living. At the same time, it is rather interesting to note the economic basis of the town’s waste reduction movement: waste minimisation, while appearing to threaten potential business profits, has also brought in new avenues for revenue in the form of eco-tourism. Certainly, Kamikatsu’s relationship with its environment and the waste it produces bears economic tones that will likely continue to influence the progress of its current movement.

Kamikatsu’s “green”-ness is thanks not only to its reduced waste footprint, but also in cultivating locals’ willingness to keep recycling efforts up. This article provides insights into the possibility of inculcating “green”-ness – in this case, minimising pollution through waste – as practice, and not merely accepting it as a value inherent to the Japanese as scholars like Watsuji Tetsurō have promulgated (Kirby 2011, 74-75). Kamikatsu’s residents are “green” not for simply appreciating “codified nature-focused activities and eco-symbols” (ibid., 69), but instead actively aiding the environment in making sacrifices in their daily habits and lifestyles. Indeed, “green”-ness in Kamikatsu is not merely an afterthought but a conscious, continued effort from the very beginnings of usage, manifesting itself not only in recycling practices but also in not “using things that require later disposal” (Fujinami 2016) to begin with.

Reading this article, it struck me that Kamikatsu’s movement towards “zero waste” is also a result of government-led directives (including guidelines on how to sort one’s rubbish) that are very much reminiscent of historical practices to regulate forest usage in Japan. Perhaps Kamikatsu’s waste reduction efforts could be said to be a part of an ongoing legacy of environmental regulation harking back to Japan’s early history. That visitors from other parts of Japan and not only from overseas flock to Kamikatsu for inspiration for their own waste regulation efforts also reminds us that the notion of Japan as a homogenously “green” nation [as Kirby’s (2011) analysis highlights] is an erroneous one. Indeed, this article is useful in helping us to consider the country’s “green”-ness as particularistic to each of its constituencies.

No. of words: 498


Asquith, Pamela J., and Arne Kalland. 1997. Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives. Richmond, UK: Curzon.

Fujinami, Yu. 2016. “IMPACT JOURNALISM DAY: Shikoku town basks in limelight as it moves toward zero-waste target.” The Asahi Shimbun, Asia & Japan Watch. Accessed August 26, 2016.

Kirby, Peter Wynn. 2011. Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Hurdles mar Japan’s renewable energy equation

Newspaper link


The article highlights the obstacles that Japan faces in green energy production (and its eventual substitution of fossil fuels). It starts with a promising “attention-grabbing” project in Chiba Prefecture before turning the article around and focusing on the government’s approval of coal mines.

The article proceeds to show the structural inadequacies, public and private resistance, and biasness within Japan’s energy sector. The article attributes the lack of renewable energy focus due to the reduction in nuclear energy and the urgent need for coal/fossil fuel to fill in the gap.


Representation of Japan and the Environment

Japan was constantly represented as pushing for eco-friendly energy sources despite the obstacles faced. The “hurdles” mentioned represents both natural and man-made issues. These includes barriers to the grid, public perception of nuclear power and laziness towards renewables paints Japan as having to content with short-term coal measures given various limitations placed. Notably, the paper anchors Japan’s focus on the environment in relation to the fallout and reactionary measures from the 3/11 Fukushima fiasco.

The environment that is referred to in the paper is the “Human” environment and not the “Natural” one. This is discerned from government’s lack of attention and effort in meeting quotas set during climate change agreements. Instead, focusing on the well-being of society, ensuring that nature is able to serve the energy needs of the masses.


What makes Japan Green?

Despite the article being fixated on coal and forcing renewables to take a back seat, there are green elements that reinforce Japanese love for “green” and “nature”. First, the floating solar farm – slated to be one of the world’s largest – underpins the eco-friendly goals of Japan. This is described by Kirby as “eco symbols… [giving] a veneer of apparent ecological sensitivity” (2016: 69).

Although the solar industry is failing due to high barriers to the Grid, the initial boom captures their green intent. Additionally, the reliance on geothermal heat instead of electricity for onsen – even in present time – points to their green behaviour.

The government’s reduction of nuclear power plants also depicts a somewhat green approach aimed at preventing another 3/11 environmental problem – recognizing their weakness of being in an active tectonic region.


Ideas for Discussion

The article, analysed through political ecology frameworks, reveals the political and economic motivations of different players – government, public and private corporations – and how the environment is on the receiving end of the resultant degradation (Stott and Sullivan, 2000). The uneven power relations between renewable energy producers and fossil fuel corporations with regard to access of the Grid is a key element in the continued degradation of Japan’s environment –  through physical destruction from coal mines and carbon emissions.

Uneven power relations are also seen when the government produces knowledge in favour of their actions by giving flawed reasoning regarding baseload generators. Also, economic motivations and profits are placed over environmental concerns – seen via local resistance to geothermal energy. While it is indeed sustainable, the innkeepers’ refusal to cede their “access and control over resources” portrays the “complex relations” (2000: 257) of society and nature as described by Watts.

[500 words]



Kirby, P.W., 2016. Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. University of Hawai’i Press.

Stott, P.A. and Sullivan, S., 2000. Political ecology: science, myth and power.

Watts, M., 2000. Political ecology. A companion to economic geography257, p.274.

Harnessing Green Energy: Sewage To Vehicle


Article: “Flush, then fill up: Japan taps sewage to fuel hydrogen-powered cars A hydrogen filling station in Fukuoka, Japan.”

In this article, we learn that Japan is looking for more alternative fuel-energy sources, and they have now turned to what was once considered an unlikely source, one that is being flushed out from every household everyday: SEWAGE! Indeed, Japan is researching on ways to turn sewage into an energy source by producing hydrogen from the bio-gas, making it a cleaner form of energy.

This is not an unexpected development in alternative energy. In California, a similar facility was commissioned, but has since been non-operational. How is Japan progressing when even countries as advanced as the United States is giving signals that today’s technologies are not ready to further this development? This is made possible through the support of the Japanese government, and also strong collaboration between industrial powerhouses, Toyota and Mitsubishi, as well as the Kyushu University, paving the way for Japan to be at the forefront of this green technology.

Then again, where does all this energy go to? Based on the companies involved, you would probably have guessed it right: vehicles. Although Japan is already implementing emission standards (JAMA, n.d.), they are going to take another step further in making zero-emission vehicles a possibility through this technology, by harnessing the hydrogen produced for fuelling hydrogen-powered cars. Despite being setback by natural and man-made disasters, Japan is determined to make known their capabilities in hydrogen technologies at the 2020 Olympics (Deign, 2015).

However, they are not without setbacks. For one, this development is still in the preliminary phases; right now it is taking up massive government subsidies to make this venture profitable for companies. Estimates suggest that without the subsidies from the Japanese government, the cost of hydrogen fuel would far exceed its current market price. To be exact, production cost is ten times as much as the cost of hydrogen fuel in today’s market.

As we’ve learnt from the past, it took twenty years to transition to automatic transmission (Thornton, 1997) and another twenty years for Japan to transition today’s hybrid-electric vehicles (Makinen, 2016). To make hydrogen fuel viable, experts suggest that further subsidies are required to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles by the market (Nikkei, 2014). Only then would there be sufficient demand to make the market for hydrogen-powered vehicles viable.

Despite the vast powers of nature, the Japanese have been trying to shape nature with their hands, this time in the form of hydrogen technologies. Like “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, this article depicts a power struggle between man and nature; man is about to be consumed by a great wave, that is global warming, and the men are desperately trying their best to escape this calamity, unsure if their efforts will bear fruits. This technology is somewhat like Japan’s efforts to quell global warming, but it remains ever so uncertain as to whether their efforts would yield desirable results.



Deign, Jason (2015). Green Tech Media, “Japan Makes a Big Bet on the Hydrogen Economy“.Last accessed on 23 Aug 2016.

JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc.) (n.d.).  “Japanese Government Incentives For The Purchase Of Environmentally Friendly Vehicles”. Last accessed on 23 Aug 2016.

Makinen, Julie (2016). Los Angeles Times, “Flush, Then Fill Up: Japan Taps Sewage To Fuel Hydrogen-Powered Cars“. Last accessed on 23 aug 2016.

Nikkei (Asian Review) (2014). Nikkei (Asian Review), “Japan’s Vision For Hydrogen Cars Lacks Oomph“. Last accessed on 23 Aug 2016.

Thornton, Emily. 1997. Bloomberg, “Japan’s Hybrid Cars“. Last accessed on 23 Aug 2016.


In Japan, Moss gathers new fans


The article describes a growing trend of appreciating moss in Japan, from products which incorporate moss, tours to study moss, and even moss-themed activities such as a moss-ball-making workshop, and a moss mascot. It describes the Japanese affinity with moss by citing the moss metaphor in the national anthem, and how the personification of moss appeals to the Japanese psyche.

Representation of Japan and the environment

The Japanese are seen to be in harmony with the environment. They embrace aspects of nature in their lives through the inclusion of moss-products in their quotidian space, such as moss balls to be hung indoors, and moss finger rings. The article paints the Japanese biome as a bonanza of nature, marvelling at the diversity of moss species to be found in Japan. The Japanese are shown to be eagerly assimilating into this bountiful fudo (Kirby 75), through their study of moss and even engaging in moss-themed vacations offered by resorts.

What makes Japanese ‘green’

The article includes a few instances of Japanese reaction to nature. Manager Hattori mentions that the tending of moss elicits a response of growth, which is appealing to the Japanese. Deriving satisfaction from tending and nurturing nature invites us to see the Japanese as nature lovers, and hence ‘green’.

Prof. Higuchi tells Cambodian officials that moss on temples should be preserved. This constructs the Japanese as green because they promote living alongside nature, rather than separating it from their existence. The juxtaposition between Japan and Cambodia serves to distinguish Japan as greener due to their graceful inclusion of nature.

The article explains the Japanese fascination of moss as transcending mere aesthetic pleasure. It discusses the metaphor of moss, which is seen as intricate and complex, as “[satisfying] a Japanese love of fine detail”, while its toughness “provides a metaphor of permanence”. Because the Japanese are seen to identify with nature on a deeper level, it is implied that they have a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation for nature, thus reinforcing our perception of the Japanese as ‘green’.

Further Discussion

The affection for moss reinforces Kalland & Asquith’s assertion that “It is the small, gentle and intimate aspects of nature that are chosen… for praise in literature and the visual arts” (16). The passive profile of moss is easily ‘tamed’ into novel gifts and products, and can be safely observed on tours.

Ultimately, the depiction of Japanese here conforms to Kirby’s description of using “eco-symbols… [to] give a veneer of apparent ecological sensitivity” (69). Nature has been fetishised, becoming synonymous with the idea of an idyllic, agrarian way of life. It facilitates field trips to mountains and vacations; mediums of escape from the urban.

Interestingly, the article also offers a counterexample to Kirby’s statement that the “most telling commonality is the consistent prizing of the ephemeral in Japan” (83). Prof. Higuchi highlights the appeal of moss on rocks, which symbolises an enduring permanence, and how it is referenced even in the national anthem. Perhaps this is rooted in an appreciation of authenticity, which untouched moss indicates.

  1. Pfanner, Eric. “In Japan, Moss Gathers New Fans; Moss gathers new fans, who watch it grow and rock with it; Lady Gaga’s snub.” Wall Street Journal (Online), 2 Nov. 2015, Accessed 17 Aug. 2016.
  1. Kalland, Arne. and Asquith, Pamela. J. “Japanese perceptions of nature: ideals and illusions.” Japanese Images of Nature. Richmond, UK, Curzon, 1997.
  1. Kirby, Peter Wynn. “The Cult(ures) of Japanese Nature.” Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.