How To Sleep: Try Japan’s Kaizen Method To Cure Insomnia and Sleep Anxiety



Photo by Getty, Unsplash / Lead image design: Alessia Armenise

Having trouble falling asleep? The Japanese word ‘Kaizen’, which means ‘change’, could transform your bedtime routine and help tackle insomnia. Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely essential for our mental and physical health.

Rather than being a time when the body completely shuts down, as is sometimes said, it is actually an active time when your body repairs cells, processes information and strengthens itself. Many of the exact ways in which this happens are still a mystery to scientists, but they all resolutely emphasise its importance for good health and wellbeing.

The National Sleep Foundation lists a number of reasons for why we need sleep, including:

  • Helping us to solidify recent memories
  • Storing and processing long-term memories
  • Growing muscle
  • Repairing tissue
  • Producing hormones
  • Restoring and rejuvenation

It is easy to acknowledge all of these benefits but if, like me, you suffer from bouts of insomnia, actually going about having a good night’s sleep is another matter. The amount of sleep you need each night is different for every person, and very dependent upon your age and how much activity you have undertaken during the day. Most people will need between seven and nine hours every night.

Almost everybody will have intermittent bouts of insomnia but if you are finding that you still feel really tired even after several nights of proper sleep or are regularly sleeping for less than six hours per night then do, of course, contact your doctor or a sleep specialist.

For people who think they could benefit from even slightly improved sleep, then Kaizen techniques are a great way to alter your existing sleeping habits and adopt a new, healthier bedtime routine. Not getting enough sleep or waking up in the night for long periods can be caused by external sources of stress: worries about work, friends, family or big life changes, such as getting married or moving house.

Kaizen can be used to reduce these sources of stress and better cope with them when they do arise – but there is also lots that can be done to improve your bedtime routine and environment itself in order to promote a good night’s sleep.

How to sleep: Write a sleep diary

Before making any changes to your routine, a good place to start is with a sleep diary. Keeping a diary for a week will give you a general overview of how you sleep and will identify any issues or particular triggers for bad sleep.

How to make a sleep diary

Each morning for one week, make a note of the hours you fall asleep and wake up, how many hours of sleep you have each night in total, and whether you were awake for any period. It is also a good idea to rate the quality of your sleep out of 10. Our phones now have functionality that can help to track sleep too, the benefits of removing technology from the bedroom may outweigh the insight gained.

Once you have the information about your sleep patterns, have a think and note down any factors which could have influenced the quality of your sleep in a good or bad way. For example:

  • Did you have any stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) within two hours of going to bed?
  • What was the temperature of your room?
  • How light/dark was it?
  • How noisy was it?
  • How messy is your room?
  • Did you look at any screens before going to bed?
  • Is there anything you were/are stressed or worried about?

You can either make a diary on paper, create a spreadsheet or use sleep-tracker app on your phone to fill in the details. Although this will initially take a little bit of time, having a week’s worth of information about your sleep patterns in front of you will mean that it is much easier to see where you might be going wrong and what external factors you can adjust to promote better sleep.

Also note whether there are any differences between days when you are working/studying and your days off. Sleep specialists recommend trying to keep to a regular daily sleep routine that doesn’t fluctuate too much between weekdays and weekends. They advise that you try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, whether that it Monday or Saturday.

And this is where Kaizen can be really helpful. It might seem daunting to try to change your whole sleep routine in one go, but making one small step at a time will encourage you to adopt better bedtime habits – and hopefully once one change starts to make a difference, then you will be motivated to make more.

Read on for some ideas for small changes that you could make to your sleep routine, both in terms of the environment in which you sleep and the actions you take before bedtime to promote sleep.

How to sleep: Improve your sleep environment

Having your bedroom as a calm, clean environment free from clutter and external interruptions is key to good sleep. If you are really busy or tired then the thought of having to entirely transform your bedroom into a minimalist, serene paradise might seem too big an ask, but there are some small things you can do to make a difference. And once you have adopted one change, then try another to see if it makes even more of a difference.

Declutter your room

Your room should be as calming as you are able to make it. Designating it as a decluttered space which you use exclusively for either sleeping or sex, and not for watching TV or Netflix on your laptop, will help to promote good sleep.

First Kaizen step: you might not always have huge amounts of time to tidy your entire room before bed, so set a timer on your phone for five minutes and just tidy up the area around your bed, so at least that area is free of clutter.

Change your sheets regularly

Changing your bedsheets once a week or at least every fortnight can help to promote good sleep.

First Kaizen step: if you are really tired and the idea of changing your entire bed linen feels too much, then just change your pillow cases and/or bedsheet. The rest can be done another day!

Block out noise altogether

If your street or building is noisy then try sleeping with ear plugs and see if it makes a difference.

Play relaxing noises while going to sleep

If you have trouble getting to sleep then try playing a relaxing sleep playlist or white noise (lots of sleep apps have these, along with YouTube and Spotify).

Shut out the light

Your room should be as dark and cool as possible. If you can’t afford black-out blinds or thick curtains and find the room too bright, then try sleeping with an eye mask and note any differences to the quality of your sleep.

Sort out your mattress

If you think that your mattress could be what is causing issues, start to save a small amount (say, the price of a sleep-depriving coffee) each day towards a new one. Or if you are renting, then try asking your landlord to provide a new one. If a new mattress is out of your price range, then consider investing in a mattress topper, which are much cheaper and can make a big difference.

Surround yourself in some nice smells

Scents like lavender and bergamot have a calming effect. Find a scented candle, pillow spray or aroma diffuser and see if making your room smell nice makes you have a better night of sleep.

How to sleep: Transform your bedtime rituals to promote good sleep

As well as making sure you create the optimum sleep environment, there are certain changes you can make to your actions in the period between returning home and going to bed in order to promote better sleep. As babies and children, we are coaxed (and occasionally strongarmed!) into a set bedtime routine, but as adults we often forget to perform such rituals, in favour of scrolling through Instagram or binge-watching the latest boxset.

Read on for some ideas for ways in which you can improve your pre-bedtime routine.

Get out the loungewear

When you get home, immediately change into comfortable clothes to relax you and encourage your body to start to shut down.

Have a soak

Try having a warm bath or shower before bedtime – perhaps with added lavender oil – and see if it makes a difference to your sleep quality.

Take off your makeup

If you don’t have time or the inclination to have a full bath, then try taking your makeup off as soon as you get through the door and apply a soothing face mask.

Hide your phone

Having phones and laptops in your bedroom can be a huge distraction. Try sleeping with your phone in another room and see if it makes a difference — or if the thought of that is too terrifying (!), then at least put it on airplane mode for when you are asleep.

Have a communication blackout

In the same vein, try to avoid social media or work emails for at least 2–3 hours before going to bed so that you don’t have any interactions whirring around your head.

First Kaizen step: have a few nights of a complete social media and communication ‘blackout’ and register if it has an impact upon the quality of your sleep.

Be organised

Organising yourself for the next day can be hugely beneficial for sleep in that it declutters your brain and gives you less to worry about the coming day. Try packing your bag, sorting out your breakfast items and/or packed lunch, and hanging up your outfit for the next day and see if that makes any difference to your sleep.

Be a bedtime yogi

Try doing some gentle bedtime yoga or meditation exercises before bed to help to promote sleep. There are lots of tutorials online or you can use a meditation app. Remember to keep it to very light exercises so that you don’t overstimulate your mind and body too much before bedtime.

First Kaizen step: for one week, try meditating for five minutes before bed.

Do a ‘brain dump’

If your brain is still whirring, another idea is to get a piece of paper and write out a ‘brain dump’ of everything that is on your mind from that day. It doesn’t have to be anything coherent or fully-formed – just write out everything that is troubling you. This can also be a really useful exercise if you wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep.

Read a good book

Just six minutes of reading before bed has been shown to reduce stress levels by two-thirds and promote good sleep. Choose a couple of nights of the week where you read before bed rather than look at a screen and see if it makes a difference.

Remember: you can do absolutely everything right and there may still be a way that your body decides to rebel against you and give you a bad night’s sleep. So don’t beat yourself up if you have any setbacks when trying to improve your sleep routine. Be kind to yourself and just focus on one small thing you can do to improve your sleep the next night.

Keeping track of your sleep and the impact of any changes to your routine is key to identifying the ways in which your body is responding to the slight tweaks in your behaviour before bed and in your sleep environment.

By: Sarah Harvey, Stylist

Source: How to Sleep: Try Japan’s Kaizen Method to Cure Insomnia and Sleep Anxiety

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Stackable Picture   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385046/
Steven Alvey’s   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/351754
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The Race To Develop Plastic-Eating Bacteria

In March 2016, scientists in Japan published an extraordinary finding. After scooping up some sludge from outside a bottle recycling facility in Osaka, they discovered bacteria which had developed the ability to decompose, or “eat,” plastic.

The bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, was only able to eat a particular kind of plastic called PET, from which bottles are commonly made, and it could not do so nearly fast enough to mitigate the tens of millions of tons of plastic waste that enter the environment every year.

Still, this and a series of other breakthroughs in recent years mean it could one day be possible to build industrial-scale facilities where enzymes chomp on piles of landfill-bound plastic, or even to spray them on the mountains of plastic that accumulate in the ocean or in rivers.

These advances are timely. By vastly increasing our use of single-use plastics such as masks and takeaway boxes, the Covid-19 pandemic has focused attention on the world’s plastic waste crisis. Earth is on track to have as much plastic in the ocean as fish by weight by 2050, according to one estimate.

However, experts caution that large-scale commercial use of plastic-eating microorganisms is still years away, while their potential release in the environment, even if practical, could create more issues than it solves.

Overcoming an evolutionary barrier

The scientists working to find and develop plastic-eating organisms must contend with a basic reality: evolution. Microbes have had millions of years to learn how to biodegrade organic matter such as fruits and tree bark. They have had barely any time at all to learn to decompose plastics, which did not exist on Earth at any scale before roughly 1950.

“Seaweed has been around for hundreds of millions of years, so there is a variety of microbes and organisms that can break it down,” said Pierre-Yves Paslier, the co-founder of a British company, Notpla, that is using seaweed and other plants to make films and coatings that could replace some types of plastic packaging. By contrast plastic is very new, he said.

Still, recent discoveries of plastic-eating microorganisms show that evolution is already getting to work. A year after the 2016 discovery of Ideonella sakaiensis in Osaka, scientists reported a fungus able to degrade plastic at a waste disposal site in Islamabad, Pakistan. In 2017 a biology student at Reed College in Oregon analyzed samples from an oil site near her home in Houston, Texas, and found they contained plastic-eating bacteria. In March 2020, German scientists discovered strains of bacteria capable of degrading polyurethane plastic after collecting soil from a brittle plastic waste site in Leipzig.

In order to make any of these naturally-occurring bacteria useful, they must be bioengineered to degrade plastic hundreds or thousands of times faster. Scientists have enjoyed some breakthroughs here, too. In 2018 scientists in the U.K. and U.S. modified bacteria so that they could begin breaking down plastic in a matter of days. In October 2020 the process was improved further by combining the two different plastic-eating enzymes that the bacteria produced into one “super enzyme.”

The first large-scale commercial applications are still years away, but within sight. Carbios, a French firm, could break ground in coming months on a demonstration plant that will be able to enzymatically biodegrade PET plastic.

This could help companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, with whom Carbios is partnering, achieve longstanding goals of incorporating large amounts of recycled material back into their products. They’ve so far failed to succeed because there has never been a way to sufficiently break down plastic back into more fundamental materials. (Because of this, most plastic that is recycled is only ever used to make lower-quality items, such as carpets, and likely won’t ever be recycled again.)

“Without new technologies, it’s impossible for them to meet their goals. It’s just impossible,” said Martin Stephan, deputy CEO of Carbios.

Besides plastic-eating bacteria, some scientists have speculated that it may be possible to use nanomaterials to decompose plastic into water and carbon dioxide. One 2019 study in the journal Matter demonstrated the use of “magnetic spring-like carbon nanotubes” to biodegrade microplastics into carbon dioxide and water.

The challenges ahead

Even if these new technologies are one day deployed at scale, they would still face major limitations and could even be dangerous, experts caution.

Of the seven major commercial types of plastic, the plastic-eating enzyme at the heart of several of the recent breakthroughs has only been shown to digest one, PET. Other plastics, such as HDPE, used to make harder materials such as shampoo bottles or pipes, could prove more difficult to biodegrade using bacteria.

Even if one day it becomes possible to mass produce bacteria that can be sprayed onto piles of plastic waste, such an approach could be dangerous. Biodegrading the polymers that comprise plastic risks releasing chemical additives that are normally stored up safely inside the un-degraded plastic.

Others point out that there are potential unknown side-effects of releasing genetically engineered microorganisms into nature. “Since most likely genetically engineered microorganisms would be needed, they cannot be released uncontrolled into the environment,” said Wolfgang Zimmerman, a scientist at the University of Leipzig who studies biocatalysis.

Similar issues constrain the potential use of nanomaterials. Nicole Grobert, a nanomaterials scientist at Oxford University, said that the tiny scales involved in nanotechnology mean that widespread use of new materials would “add to the problem in ways that could result in yet greater challenges.”

The best way to beat the plastic waste crisis, experts say, is by switching to reusable alternatives, such as Notpla’s seaweed-derived materials, ensuring that non-recyclable plastic waste ends up in a landfill rather than in the environment, and using biodegradable materials where possible.

Judith Enck, a former regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in the Obama administration and the president of Beyond Plastics, a non-profit based in Vermont, pointed to the gradual spread of bans on single-use plastics around the world, from India to China to the EU, U.K. and a number of U.S. states from New York to California.

These are signs of progress, she said, although more and tougher policies are needed. “We can’t wait for a big breakthrough.”

Update: This story has been updated to clarify the timing of a discovery of plastic-eating bacteria by a Reed College student.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I cover the energy industry, focusing on climate and green tech. Formerly I covered oil markets for commodities publication Argus Media. My writing has appeared in The Economist, among other publications.

Source: The Race To Develop Plastic-Eating Bacteria

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Related Contents:

Arthur, Courtney; Baker, Joel; Bamford, Holly (2009). “Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris” (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum.

Japanese Stockmarket Enjoys a Suga Rush As PM Steps Down

The Japanese stock market has hit a 30-year high following the resignation of prime minister Yoshihide Suga.

Japanese stocks have hit a 30-year high following the resignation of prime minister Yoshihide Suga. Suga, who has only been in office for a year, had become widely unpopular as his government failed to get on top of a surge in Covid-19 infections. A slow vaccine rollout and the controversial decision to go ahead with hosting the Olympics despite the pandemic also sapped his support. He will step down before a general election scheduled for later this year. 

Japan’s Topix index reacted to the news by hitting its highest level since April 1991, says Bloomberg. Investors had once had high hopes for Suga, who vowed to accelerate Japan’s digital shift (see also page 28). In February this year the Nikkei 225 index hit the symbolic 30,000-level for the first time since 1990. Yet it fell back as Covid-19 came to dominate his premiership: “Suga had created an atmosphere of uncertainty… there was a perception that Japan was ‘in a mess’”, says Richard Kaye of Comgest Asset Management Japan.  The Topix has gained 6.5% during the past month alone.

In most countries investors dislike the uncertainty of an upcoming election, says Takeshi Kawasaki for Nikkei Asia. Not in Japan. “Looking at the ten early elections held since 1990, stocks rose nearly every time between the day of the lower house being dissolved and the election date”. 

What seems to happen is that headlines about Japanese politics grab the attention of foreign money managers. They decide they like what they see and buy. “Typically at the mercy of trends in US equities” thanks to Wall Street’s tendency to set the tone for world markets, Japanese stocks are likely to go their own way over the coming months.

By: Alex Rankine

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Critics:

The Tokyo Stock Exchange (東京証券取引所, とうきょうしょうけんとりひきじょ), abbreviated as Tosho (東証) or TSE/TYO, is a stock exchange located in Tokyo, Japan. It is the third largest stock exchange in the world by aggregate market capitalization of its listed companies, and the largest in Asia. It had 2,292 listed companies with a combined market capitalization of US$5.67 trillion as of February 2019.

The exchange is owned by the Japan Exchange Group (JPX), a holding company that it also lists (TYO: 8697). JPX was formed from its merger with the Osaka Exchange; the merger process begins in July 2012, when said merger was approved by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.[2] JPX itself was launched on January 1, 2013.

The TSE is incorporated as a kabushiki gaisha with nine directors, four auditors and eight executive officers. Its headquarters are located at 2-1 NihonbashiKabutochō, Chūō, Tokyo which is the largest financial district in Japan. Its operating hours are from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m., and from 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. From April 24, 2006, the afternoon trading session started at its usual time of 12:30 p.m..

Stocks listed on the TSE are separated into the First Section for large companies, the Second Section for mid-sized companies, and the Mothers section for high-growth startup companies, and the TOKYO PRO Market section for more flexible alternative investment. As of October 31, 2010, there are 1,675 First Section companies, 437 Second Section companies and 182 Mothers companies.

The main indices tracking the TSE are the Nikkei 225 index of companies selected by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan’s largest business newspaper), the TOPIX index based on the share prices of First Section companies, and the J30 index of large industrial companies maintained by Japan’s major broadsheet newspapers.

Ninety-four domestic and 10 foreign securities companies participate in TSE trading. See: Members of the Tokyo Stock Exchange

Other TSE-related institutions include:

  • The exchange’s press club, called the Kabuto Club (兜倶楽部, Kabuto kurabu), which meets on the third floor of the TSE building. Most Kabuto Club members are affiliated with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Kyodo News, Jiji Press, or business television broadcasters such as Bloomberg LP and CNBC. The Kabuto Club is generally busiest during April and May, when public companies release their annual accounts.

Market Movers

Constituents of the Nikkei 225 with the highest percent gain over one day.

ListingLastChangeVolume
Shinsei Bank Ltd8303:TYO1,968.00
JPY
+228.00
+13.10%
9.68m
Toho Zinc Co Ltd5707:TYO2,841.00
JPY
+130.00
+4.80%
805.10k
Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd3099:TYO808.00
JPY
+35.00
+4.53%
2.68m
Hitachi Zosen Corp7004:TYO947.00
JPY
+32.00
+3.50%
3.45m
DeNA Co Ltd2432:TYO2,167.00
JPY
+72.00
+3.44%
709.60k
Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd9107:TYO6,380.00
JPY
+190.00
+3.07%
5.45m
Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp4188:TYO1,040.50
JPY
+26.50
+2.61%
5.67m
Meiji Holdings Co Ltd2269:TYO7,260.00
JPY
+170.00
+2.40%
537.60k
Pacific Metals Co Ltd5541:TYO2,094.00
JPY
+44.00
+2.15%
596.40k
Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co Ltd5706:TYO3,590.00
JPY
+75.00
+2.13%
587.70k

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Japan Is Innovating Mobility As A Service And Creating A $61 Billion Market

Japanese trains are famous for cleanliness and punctuality. If a bullet train is five minutes late, it’s national news. Railway companies also operate large station shopping complexes and have played a major role in the growth of Japanese cities. But their bottom line is overshadowed by shrinking ridership due to the declining population. To compensate, they’re trying to address passenger concerns about the coronavirus while making it easier for tourists, women and elderly people to get around. That’s where a uniquely Japanese effort to promote mobility as a service (MaaS) comes in.

Made-in-Japan mobility

MaaS is sometimes thought of as on-demand transport such as ride-hailing services or vehicle sharing, but it’s more than that. According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, MaaS is a system of search, reservation, payment, etc. that optimally combines multiple public transportation and other travel services in response to the travel needs of each local resident or traveler on a trip-by-trip basis. It is an important means that contributes to improving the convenience of travel and solving local issues by coordinating with non-transport services at destinations such as tourism and medical care.

The ministry is promoting MaaS, leveraging Japan’s transportation expertise, including the ability to move millions of people every day around large cities like Tokyo quickly, efficiently and on time, to further improve mobility in Japan. Public and private interest in MaaS in Japan has sparked expectations of major growth: in 2019, Yano Research Institute forecast the domestic MaaS market will hit 6.3 trillion yen ($61 billion) in 2030, up from 84.5 billion yen ($813 million) in 2018 and growing 44.1% annually from 2016.

In 2019, the Japanese government began to work on MaaS policies in earnest. They emphasize the need for data sharing to build standardized MaaS rules and platforms. They also stress the need to realize efficient mobility services by connecting a variety of mobility mode and infrastructure data, wider implementation of cashless payments and subscriptions with destination service-related data. In addition, they focus on new services provided by new types of vehicles. These include AI-equipped vehicles for on-demand transportation, electric small mobility vehicles, and self-driving mobility services. Japan is using this approach to cultivate its own spin on the concept, known as Japan MaaS.

“Japan differs from the West in that its public transit systems are predominantly run by the private sector,” says Tsuchida Hiromichi, director of the ministry’s Mobility Service Promotion Division. “This means different players can work together to make MaaS as efficient as possible.”

In a regional approach to promoting MaaS, the ministry is working with local governments and private-sector companies. The aim is both to improve transportation options for local residents, especially elderly people in rural areas, and to make it easier for foreign visitors to get around to parts of the country that are off the beaten path for travelers.

MaaS is already taking root in different regions of Japan, says Tsuchida. In Fukuoka City and Kitakyushu City, Toyota Motor and Nishi-Nippon Railroad (Nishitetsu) launched a multi-modal smartphone mobility service called “my route” that lets users plan an outing by inputting a destination and then selecting from different routes and means of travel, including walking, buses, trains and taxis. The app has payment services as well as destination information such as restaurants and cafes. It entered full service last year, and joins a nascent MaaS infrastructure in Japan including popular apps that help commuters navigate complex transit networks in big cities.  

“Japan has many transportation players, with competition resulting in better services,” says Tsuchida. “That’s why transportation in Japan is punctual and safe and has broad coverage. Each of these aspects is sophisticated in and of itself but by combining them, MaaS in Japan has great potential.”

Creating a MaaS market

Hidaka Yosuke worked as a train driver, conductor and maintenance specialist for 12 years before he decided to become an entrepreneur by setting up his own company dedicated to rethinking transportation. Established in 2018, MaaS Tech Japan creates solutions that maximize the value of MaaS for companies and governments. It compiles big data on transport and payments and develops white label apps for MaaS.

“As a train driver, I worked in rural areas with many old people facing mobility challenges,” says Hidaka, who drove trains on the 575-km Tohoku Main Line and other JR East lines before becoming CEO of MaaS Tech Japan. “I became convinced that the rapidly aging society is not a problem that one company alone can solve.”

MaaS Tech Japan is a data integrator collaborating with transportation players to provide mobility solutions. It works with private companies and local governments including the prefectures of Tokyo and Hiroshima as well as Kamishihoro Town, Hokkaido and Kaga City, Ishikawa. It combines various kinds of data related to hundreds of providers such as rail and taxi operators, and conducts simulations on passenger flows to show clients how their transportation needs can best be served.

For instance, it has cooperated with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to suggest ways of easing congestion on mass transit systems to mitigate spread of the coronavirus. It has also proposed ways in which Kaga City can use mobility solutions to help elderly people get around and to help tourists discover lesser-known attractions such as its hot springs. Aside from local governments, MaaS Tech Japan is partnering with the state-backed New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Microsoft Japan, Tokio Marine Nichido and other players eager to promote MaaS.

The startup is also looking to incorporate MaaS solutions involving autonomous vehicles, energy savings and smart cities.

man sitting in office chair

“Aside from the challenges of aging populations and coronavirus, we want to help tackle climate change and the need to decarbonize the economy because this is all part of the smart city,” says Hidaka. “We want to work with businesses, consumers and governments because collaboration is the key to a solution for mobility. We aim to make a strong contribution in this area.”

Note: All Japanese names in this article are given in the traditional Japanese order, with surname first.

To learn more about MaaS Tech Japan, click here (website in Japanese).

To learn more about MaaS policy by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, click here (website in Japanese).

Japan

Japan

Japan is changing. The country is at the forefront of demographic change that is expected to affect countries around the world. Japan regards this not as an onus but as a bonus for growth. To overcome this challenge, industry, academia and government have been moving forward to produce powerful and innovative solutions. The ongoing economic policy program known as Abenomics is helping give rise to new ecosystems for startups, in addition to open innovation and business partnerships. The Japan Voice series explores this new landscape of challenge and opportunity through interviews with Japanese and expatriate innovators who are powering a revitalized economy. For more information on the Japanese Government innovations and technologies, please visit https://www.japan.go.jp/technology/.

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Prime Minister’s Office of Japan

Through innovation, Japan is offering solutions to various challenges that the world faces. Watch the “INNOVATION JAPAN” series and get inspired. Innovation Japan https://www.japan.go.jp/technology/in… _______________ Prime Minister’s Office of Japan YouTube Channel is operated by the Government of Japan. □JapanGov https://www.japan.go.jp/https://www.facebook.com/JapanGov/https://twitter.com/japangov/ □Prime Minister’s Office of Japan and His Cabinet http://japan.kantei.go.jp/index.htmlhttps://www.facebook.com/Japan.PMOhttps://twitter.com/JPN_PMO

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Japan To Release Radioactive Fukushima Water Into Ocean

The new Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, is facing additional international pressure over the weekend, amid reports that Japan will be accelerating plans to dump millions of gallons of radioactive water directly into the ocean.

Reports have being widely circulated among Japan’s leading news agency and across international media that suggest the decision has already been taken by the new Japanese Government, and will be publicly communicated later this month.

Over 1.2 million tons of radioactive cooling water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant will be released. Recommended For You

Residents travel on the opened road in f
The May 2011 tsunami devastated Japan. AFP via Getty Images

While the water will be treated, it will still be radioactive. 170 tons of new radioactive wastewater is generated each day and is stored in 1000 specially designed tanks.

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Environmentalists and local fishermen have been urging the Japanese Government to reconsider this option, after almost a decade trying to build back their reputation around the plant, where elevated radioactive levels can still be detected.

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14 Apr 2011: 17 tons of tuna caught off Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean were put up at auction … [+] AFP via Getty Images

South Korea still bans all seafood imports from this part of Japan, and has held urgent talks with Japanese counterparts to try and find a more measured approach to managing the Fukushima water crisis that would not risk the environment or human health.

The outrage over these plans come just three weeks after Prime Minister Suga personally visited the Fukushima plant, on September 26.

Japanese Prime Minister Suga inspecting the water at Fukushima.  This comes amid a scandal engulfing Japan's scientists.
Japanese Prime Minister Suga inspecting the water at Fukushima. This comes amid a scandal engulfing … [+] TEPCO

It follows a series of policy announcements by Japan that raises questions about how effective the country is a sustainable steward of the ocean amid the global climate and biodiversity crisis. In 2019, Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission to begin commercial whaling. At the UN shipping regulator, the IMO, Japan chairs the influential Environment Committee and has consistently pushed for much lower emission and pollution standards for its powerful shipping lobby.

Running out of storage space

A Look At TEPCO's Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant In Fukushima
29 Jan 2020: Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) employees walk past a storage … [+] Getty Images

To cool radioactive fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan had pumped 1.2 million tons of water through the rods and this water became contaminated with radioactive tritium. Once used for cooling, this radioactive tritium cannot be removed, so the water was placed into storage.

Japan is now running out of space as it rushes to fully decommission the nuclear plant. The clean up has already cost the Japanese utility owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), $200 billion.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Environment, its tanks will be full by 2022.

Japanese Ministers under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Government had been pushing for the dumping of radioactive waste in the ocean for years. Last year, Japan’s environment minister said that the only solution was to “release it into the ocean and dilute it.”

“There are no other options,” he said.

With the new Prime Minister in place, it looks like Japan wishes to move ahead quickly.

Japan ignoring UN advice

JAPAN-POLITICS-NUCLEAR-QUAKE-TSUNAMI
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (front) visits Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in … [+] JAPAN POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Several UN human rights experts had been urging Japan not to release the radioactive water, amid fears it would drift into the coastline of neighboring countries and enter the food chain.

This comes as Japan appears to be rushing forward the decision following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and using the cover of Covid-19 to restrict debate.

Scandal surrounding Japan’s Scientific Council

New particle accelerator in Dresden rock cellar laboratory
04 July 2019, Takaaki Kaija, physics Nobel Prize winner from Japan and member of Science Council of … [+] picture alliance via Getty Images

Prime Minster Suga is already engulfed in a scandal around political interference in the once neutral Scientific Council of Japan.

A pattern seems to be forming with the new Japanese administration, where there has been greater political interference into academia whenever scientific truth appears to be inconvenient.

In the Japan Scientific Council scandal, several academics had challenged the Japanese Government on whether the growing militarization of Japan’s armed forces was permitted under the Constitution. They were then rejected from the Governing Board of the 206 member organization. This is the first time such an interference has occurred, and had been widely criticized by Japan’s academic and research community, including several Nobel Prize Winners, who argue this is political interference in academic freedom.

This comes on the back of Japan taking a very controversial position on climate change, the oil spill response in Mauritius due to a Japanese vessel, and now with significant questions about the safety of releasing Fukushima water into the ocean.

Released as ballast water?

JAPAN-POLITICS-ENVIRONMENT-DIPLOMACY-WHALING
A captured minke whale is unloaded from a whaling ship at a port in Kushiro, Hokkaido Prefecture on … [+] AFP via Getty Images

One of the ideas that had been suggested in Japan was whether the radioactive Fukushima water could be taken as ballast water in ships, far away from Japan’s shores.

This would be in strict violation of several UN ocean ship pollution laws, called Marpol.

However, the IMO has been criticized for being lax in the monitoring and enforcement of such laws that it was so proud to announce and accept external funding for from another UN trust fund, GEF, in 2017.

As islanders in Mauritius are still reeling from the aftermath of the deadly oil spill, new questions are being raised about the potential content of the ballast water from the Japanese-owned and operated vessel.

MAURITIUS-ENVIRONMENT-DISASTER-OIL
An aerial view taken in Mauritius on August 17, 2020, shows the MV Wakashio bulk carrier, belonging … [+] AFP via Getty Images

70 days on, and there are an unprecedented number of unanswered questions, ranging from how much oil was actually spilled in the oil spill, to the amount of ballast water that was being carried by the empty 200,000 ton Capesize iron ore bulk carrier (one of the biggest ships in the ocean), to what has happened to the fingerprinting of the oil.

The Japanese owners of the Wakashio, Nagashiki Shipping, have not responded to any question from the media since August 30, prompting further anger among Mauritians who are still in a state of national environmental emergency.

Hundreds of local fishermen have been banned from venturing into seven of Mauritius’ coral lagoons amid high cancer-causing PAH readings from fish samples. Yet, large industrial fish farms just five miles from the oil spill have been allowed to continue producing and selling 3 million fish into international export markets.

The oil spill surrounded the one major aquaculture farm in Mauritius, yet it has been permitted to continue exporting fish amid a general ban in the lagoon
Satellites show the oil spill surrounded the one major aquaculture farm in Mauritius, yet it has … [+] Ursa Space System | Iceye

Satellite analysis by Ursa Space Systems and Iceye, taken in the immediate aftermath of the spill showed the toxic oil spreading ten times in size in just five days, reaching Mauritius’ more northerly islands, 14 miles away.

President Macron folds to Japan’s weaker climate position

FRANCE-LEBANON-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Japan’s position on the ocean has been strongly criticized, and it has been found putting forward proposals that would undermine the Paris Agreement.

Global shipping is the sixth largest emitter of carbon, and produces more carbon than France and Germany combined.

President Macron, once seen as a champion for the environment, appears to be siding with Japan at next week’s crunch UN talks on ship emissions that will decide the trajectory of ship emissions for the next decade.

US-FRANCE-SHIPPING-CMA CGM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin is the largest container ship to ever call at a North America port, seen … [+] AFP via Getty Images

Japan’s proposals are less than a quarter of the level of ambition needed to meet Paris commitments on climate change, leaving shipowners with very little changes that they need to make to their ships.

With France having the world’s fourth largest container ship company, CMA-CGM, whose revenues at over $30 billion are more than double that of Wakashio operator, Japan-based Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), meeting emissions targets would have impacted the French shipping company harder than the Japanese major.

Perhaps this was the deal that was needed to allow Japan to get rid of that other inconvenient problem – radioactive Fukushima water.

Nishan Degnarain

Nishan Degnarain

I am a Development Economist focused on Innovation, Sustainability, and Ethical Economic Growth. I currently work with leading Silicon Valley technology companies on sustainable growth opportunities, particularly targeted at lower income nations. I Chair LSE’s Ocean Finance Initiative, am a member of WEF’s Global Expert Network, and a member of CCICED’s China Council. My book on Sustainability in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, called ‘Soul of the Sea in the Age of the Algorithm,’ focuses on an Ocean and Climate Renaissance and builds on my experience as an Economic and Innovation adviser to Fortune 500 CEOs and Governments around the world. I hold degrees in Development Economics from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and University of Cambridge.

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Ending over seven years of debate on how to dispose of the radioactive water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant,… Tokyo is reported to have finally admitted that it plans to release the water into the sea. Kim Hyo-sun has more. The Japanese government will most likely to release radioactive water from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean,… amid growing concerns over its environmental impact. Citing government officials, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun reported Thursday that the Japanese government will convene a Cabinet meeting on the matter this month to reach a final decision.

A massive amount of underground water has seeped in to cool the reactors that suffered core meltdowns in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The space, however, is expected to run out by the summer of 2022,… with contaminated water increasing by about 170 tons per day. The stored water has totaled 1-point-23 million tons,… filling up over 1-thousand tanks as of last month. In September, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo wants to “make a decision as soon as possible,”… on how to deal with the increasing water,… during his visit to the Fukushima plant.

According to Mainichi,… it would take at least two years until the water is actually discharged into the sea following the government’s final decision to do so,… as a new system as well as an approval by Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority are required. Until then, the Japanese government will most likely try and persuade local fishing communities and residents who are widely opposed to the idea. It’s also expected to face increasing opposition from neighboring countries like South Korea. Kim Hyo-sun, Arirang News. 2020-10-16, 07:00 (KST) #Fukushima #radioactive_water #Japan 📣 Arirang News(Facebook) : https://www.facebook.com/arirangtvnews 📣 Arirang News(Twitter) : https://twitter.com/arirangtvnews 📣 News Center(YouTube) : https://www.youtube.com/c/NEWSCENTER_…

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