on Japanese environmentalism and Styrofoams

You know how I hate Styrofoams. Well, I was eating dinner just now when I realized how much Styrofoam I already consumed since I arrived here and it would seem that I have no choice for a year.

Japan has the most up-to-date technology in terms of industrial pollution. I haven’t had the chance yet to explore some of their facilities but by just looking around the city, you would know how conscious they are in terms of pollution. You wouldn’t see any garbage around, the waste disposal process is too complicated but effective in some ways and you can hardly smell foul smell in their creeks, not even from their cars.

In the Philippines, the island I hailed from, I am bombarded everyday with several kinds of pollution. From air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. Name it, I probably inhaled, smelled, heard and tasted them.

Here, I can even hear the ants crawl. Well, I haven’t exactly heard any ants nor have I seen one lately. But you get my point right?

Even though I would expect that Japanese people would have one of the highest consciousness in terms of environmental protection (either out of general fear of consequences or discipline) but they can’t seem to get over their love of Styrofoams!

It’s literally everywhere. Whenever I go to the supermarket just to buy raw ingredients for food. Stacks of Styrofoam-packed goods, Styrofoam meat trays, Styrofoam noodle containers! When I’m too lazy to cook, go to Lawson’s or Family Mart, Styrofoam-packed meals! It sizes varies too. They also have this crazy way of redesigning Styrofoams to look like genuine wood!

Styrofoam is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (The company who purchased Bhopal Pesticide Plant in India, one of the most tragic industrial tragedy) for “closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam”. So the generic name for Styrofoam is polystyrene foam. So why do I abhor polystyrene.

Well for good enough reasons:

1. It is designed to be disposable. It has a short life span which means it directly adds up to our landfills and dumpsites.

2. It’s not easily recyclable. And recycling it means incinerating it. And incineration is generally not good.

3. It is not biodegradable and even if it does it will take years and we are not talking about 5-10 years here. It’s hundreds of years. And because of its light weight it does not sell as scrap even. And even when it biodegrades, it can affect groundwater quality and  air quality because of the liquid or gaseous substances it will emit.

4. It is one of the causes of marine pollution, polystyrene foam is one of the “major component of plastic debris in the ocean”.

5. It releases chlorofluorocarbon, the culprit to ozone depletion! CFC is a stable element that when it reaches the ozone layer, it completely destroys it (to put it simply).  Although some innovations were made by switching from CFC to hydrochlrofluorocarbons (HCFCs)  to lessen its ozone depletion potential, however, studies have shown that it has now higher potential to adversely affect our climate! Yes, HCFCs can also cause global warming! And it is said to have greater impact than carbon dioxide!

My list can go on and on, but what I want to say is that for a country with so much potentials, they should be venturing now towards sustainable packaging. There are already existing alternatives to this seeming addiction. They should have already created something more innovative and environmentally friendly. I hate to stereotype but they are Japanese! Come on! Invent something!

I hate it when my being an environmental advocate is stifled by the fact that I have no alternatives. I can probably find some but it would rob me like hell. (I know, i know, if there’s a will there will be a way) It’s not as if they have wet markets here like in the Philippines where I can bring my own container to shop for meat, fruits and vegetables. And another sad thing, traditional Japanese packaging is actually earth-friendly. It uses available materials on hand, not polystyrene!  I wonder what happened to that tradition, probably swept aside with increasing technological innovations. 😦

So for anyone who want to know more about the harms of Styrofoam or polystyrene and to learn about alternatives, check these links:

http://earthcycle.com/home.html

http://www.naturopack.org/

or if you want to know how to be sustainable consumer:

http://www.treehugger.com/buygreen/?campaign=th_nav_buygreen

http://blog.sustainablog.org/

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On cold weather and precious gems

I’ve been meaning to write for these past few days, but it seems I’m out of words. Every time I tried to construct something meaningful, no words come out of my fingers, as if stuck with the numbness of cold.

After two days of continuous rain, the weather abruptly changed. The weather now, as Japanese would say: “Samui desu ne?” or “It’s cold, isn’t?”. And it’s not even winter yet. I was biking earlier and I need to stop to a 100 yen shop just to buy two pairs of gloves just to survive the day. Just imagine biking against the wind, my nose and my hands were freezing! Gggggrrrrr. I suddenly miss the warm 26-28 degrees Celsius Philippine weather 😦

Going back to the topic at hand, I can’t seem to write anything. Well, I am writing now (I know that!), however, thoughts running through my mind seem to be indescribable that written words is not enough to describe it (or I just don’t know how to write really).

A lot happened over the weekend. A good finale (if I might say) to the first month I’ve been here in Japan. (Wow! It’s almost a month!)In this past few weeks,  I’ve experienced things that I never thought I would do, ever.  I met several interesting and unique people. I went to places I used to Google. I’ve done things unimaginable. And I accumulated several knowledge I was ignorant about. To sum it up, my first month was really packed (sorry for the lack of right terms). But somehow, this particular weekend will be stuck in my mind, kept in the lockers of memories to be cherished forever.

It was simply amazing 🙂 It was more than what I expected. And it was more than what I readied myself for. Losing in your own game can be frustrating sometimes, but in this particular play, losing just means gaining something else in return. In this case, I gained an island’s gem.

This gem, although crude and tarnished, is rare and precious. It hails from an island, where its form is molded by the roughness of the seas and its core solidified by the blaze of the sun. It looks simple yet poignant, compact but vulnerable. It is something you want to keep forever, and also something you want to share to the world. It is indeed a treasure.

But this gem I need to let go. For time and distance pushes me to return it to its rightful place. It is not mine to keep. But only mine to remember.

I hope that it will not just be memories though 😦 It would seem like shooting arrows in blindfolds, but I truly hope that fate will work its powers to summon destiny. I would hope to have that gem in my palms again, hold and caress it as one would to its valuable fortune. Have it beside me at all times, embracing my neck where it would be near my heart.

“This destiny I will burn in my heart. Fate will be my goal, for this fate I will pursue until my last breath. No matter how hard it takes. I would bet my life up on it.”

paikot-ikot ang tugtog sa isip ko

So no, not really, there’s no particular song in my mind. But literally though, with my limited playlist, I’ve been playing the same songs for weeks. Bob Marley, I am Sam OST, 50 First Dates OST, Amy Winehouse, Cardigans, Milagros Dancehall, Coffeebreak Island, Joey Ayala, Rosas ng Digma, etc. I am telling you the list is not extensive.

Good thing, sights to see is not as limited as my playlist. With my city map, courtesy of Mr. Ogawa of NPO LEAF, I’ve been trying to put a list of places to visit and things to see. With Panther to accompany me most of the time, I can literally go anywhere (well, within the city  that is). Although my favorite so far is visiting 100 yen shops (for various reasons), I’ve seen some really “exotic” places. (Note: technically there’s nothing exotic in Japan since most are modernized, but exotic for a foreigner’s point of view)

Akashi – As part of our internship program with NPO LEAF, we visited Hyogo Fisheries Cooperative’s office in Akashi City. Akashi is known for its Tokoyaki, called Akashiyaki. A small piece of octopus is placed inside the ball-shaped mold containing mixture of flour and eggs. The difference with typical takoyaki ball is that akashiyaki is often dipped in a soup before eating. Yum! Yum!

My Akashiyaki (one plate costs around 500 yen) 🙂

Proper way of eating Akashiyaki 🙂

Our cook 🙂

Aside from eating their famous takoyaki, we went around town to see actual auction of harvested fish. When they say we were visiting fishing cooperatives, I was expecting all tanned fisherfolk communities, half-naked men and small fishing boats. But no! Fishing is such a modernized technology that even the concept of illegal fishing does not exist in their minds. I was amazed how civilized the fish harvest auctioned was. There is an actual stage where one man stand to market the catch and the shop’s owner are on one side, betting on every baskets of harvest. They even seem to have uniforms too. The fish markets or shop owner’s stalls are like supermarkets. There were mini-restaurants around with little shopping stores. It does not even smell fishy!

Busy Bee Cafe – Ainul and myself decided to splurge some moolah and went to Busy Bee Cafe to experience “night life” in Nishinomiya Kitaguchi. As much as expected, there was no one around the restaurant besides 2 occupied tables (including ours) and 2 waiters. Haha! It was pretty hilarious. Ainul said that it was probably because it was a Monday. I don’t know about your country, but in the Philippines, it doesn’t matter if its a Monday or a Friday. Bars and cafes are usually packed with students or yuppies. I was quite disappointed, so to speak. But had fun chatting with Ainul, sharing our initial thoughts about the program and the people. Hihihi. The music inside the cafe is another thing. But I don’t want to dwell too much that we have to sit through Michael Jackson’s This is it! Hahaha!

The ambiance I really love. It’s a comfortable space for little drinking (not really a “let’s get drunk” place). The food is good too. A little bit pricey but delicious. We had Margherita pizza, seafood pasta and fries. Yum Yum!  They have an extensive list of international beers. German, Belgian, Cuban, Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, Mexican. You name it, it’s probably there. They even have San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen (600 Yen!!!!). Everything in their menu, including beer, is 600 Yen up. Yikes!

Hachiman Jinja Shrine – Literally just in my backyard, it’s a minute bike away from my apartment. What’s funny was, I got lost looking for it. Heh! Blame Google Maps! It is nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that it is surrounded by residential houses. Didn’t get around much because it was already closed when I arrived, so probably will be dropping by next week.

Kyoto Sunday – This is definitely outside the city. Kyoto is an hour train ride from Mondoyakujin Station (nearest station from the apartment). One way ticket costs around 450 Yen. Hitomi-san, a colleague in the ESD program, toured us around the city. Meeting place was over the clock tower in Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station. We have to change trains twice. Kyoto’s weather is colder than Nishinomiya. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any jacket with me. Just my handy pashmina.

First stop was Ginkakuji Temple. The temple is a world heritage site and it charges every adult visitor 500 yen (kashing!) and 300 yen for children. It was amazing, from the hedge going inside the temple, to the zen garden, it was unbelievable. Well kept if I may say. I don’t have any academic or architectural description but wow! Hahahaha!  I can’t stop taking photos, capturing every scene as much as possible. Autumn is just around the corner. I bet this place would look fantastic.

After traversing Ginkakuji Temple, we walk pass through the Philosopher’s Path. There is a story that ages ago, common people would walk this path and gain wisdom. I didn’t gain any but pictures! Hahaha! But I enjoyed cruising along the canals, peeping through residential houses and taking snapshots of bears!

Papa bear with kuya bear and baby bear :p

Big blind bear 😦

Drunk bear 🙂

Casting our shadows over the canal along Philosopher’s Path

We went to other different shrines. Of course take picture, rest a bit. It was a long walk, we didn’t even realized that it was already 2pm, and we hadn’t have lunch yet! No! So we headed off to Kyoto downtown to have a meal. Hitomi asked us if we have any particular Japanese food we wanted to try. Since we can’t think of any, we asked her to decide. She chose to introduced us to okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is Japanese style pizza. Well, it doesn’t really use dough and you don’t need an oven but it was circular and have several toppings so I guess that’s the correlation. But it was delicious and healthy! It was a pretty expensive restaurant but Hitomi-san treated us for lunch. Yay!

My first Okonomiyaki!

After lunch, we went to a supermarket so Hitomi can teach us what’s teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, okonomiyaki mix, fish paste, etc. It was Japanese supermarket for idiots 101. After going around, I was a bit tired when Hitomi-san said it was time for shopping! I went crazy, lots of things to see and buy. Sorry I didn’t take any pictures. I was too engrossed. But with limited money, I was able to buy a few souvenirs (I’ll be here for 1 year and I’m already buying souvenirs, heh!) and some postcards to write my friends with. I was so happy! Hihihi! I even got myself a new jacket (boo for me because I didn’t bring light jackets from the Philippines, only winter clothes!) from Uniqlo. It’s purple, not exactly my favorite color but it’s close to pink :p

There! So far that’s where I’ve been to these past few days. Of course, not including my usual 100 yen store scouting and discount shops visits. And of course, school :p I still go to school every other day! I’m off to do a speech later in front of the whole college and Nishinomiya residents. And Friday, we’re off to Kyoto again for the festival. I’m so excited. I’ve never been to any festival (well, except Fete de la Musique)!!! Yay!

Cheers!

It was a lovely wedding. I was browsing through my friends’ uploaded photos of the ceremony and all I can do was smile. I missed one of the most important occasions for this year. But somehow, I don’t regret missing it. Being there would mean facing their realities, accepting defeat in some ways and regretting the” what could have beens”. They found their happiness, I should find my own.

It has been a surreal journey for me, but it was (and continuously) real for both of them.

I am very very happy for both of you 🙂 I am really am 🙂

Here’s to life ahead! Cheers!

Can I title this, Untitled? :)

How do I begin a story when I don’t even know when it will end?

I have been pondering and wondering a lot. I told myself even before coming here that this would be my contemplation, like prayer springing from my soul. It has been rather mundane, most of the time lonely. But I readied my self for this, but all those preparation has been in vain.

Don’t worry because really I don’t.

It’s just that most of the time, I find myself wanting to write. To narrate stories told as I see them. But it’s not possible. I am not that kind of writer. I know my limitations, and telling stories is one of them.

But I have this. I have dalisay liwanag to tell stories for me, captured in this momentous click of technology. I am grateful for her existence. I am indebted to her perseverance.

Dalisay liwanag is the extension of my self. She is me and I am her.

Sitting here in front of my laptop, I wonder what she thinks of me. What she makes of me? She might be thinking I am some kind of delusional young person, trying to make sense of herself. That’s what I think of me most of the time.

But anyway, enough about the drama! I am becoming more bipolar than the conventional. :p

Today, same as the last 12 days has been uneventful. I see myself peeping into other people’s life stories, trying to understand how this society works. It seems it’s no different than us. It’s just that they bow their heads more. They quite fashionable and well, they have nice skin. :p  But really, Japanese, despite their history, seems to be the same as everyone else. They’re human beings (who don’t like speaking in English). But I know there’s more to it than what I see or have been observing. There is a certain grace in what they do. And they seem to enjoy having roles, conforming without being identical. I am not sure.

Anyway, I have less than a year to know and understand.

See? I don’t know how to write. My ending is very far from where I started. I don’t make sense at all. I seem to be just talking to myself. Crazy.

 

P.S. I got myself a copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club! Yay! 🙂

Finally!

times like this makes writing a necessity

I’m alone in my apartment listening to 50 First Dates soundtrack. I found myself crying for nothing. Ever since I arrived here, there are moments of sudden sadness, striking in the most unconventional circumstances. I don’t know what to make of it.

Today wasn’t necessarily bad. It was quite a nice day (to put it simply). I went to school, biked around town, paid my bills, cooked dinner, typed my assignment and suddenly *BOOM* instant loneliness.

I don’t like dwelling on emotions, particularly ones that I can’t understand (or don’t want to understand).

Maybe it was biking along the river that made me so melancholic. *Sigh*


Date with Panther :)

My weekend was dampened by the rain and the grueling final exam due today. I stayed inside the apartment, restless, tired, with no chair. (I should probably buy one of those comfy floor chairs I saw in ACTA earlier.) So today, I decided to roam around the city. The weather is perfect, my assignments half done, what better way to spend the day than having a nice date with Panther.

By 2pm, I was off to Tokojin Temple, dependable Panther carried all my weight.  I double checked the direction via Google Maps, just in case. It was the same road as the college, so no way I would get lost. I don’t have any expectations from this trip, I just wanted a reason to go out. I parked Panther in one of those bike parking space, made sure I secured him properly. And I bid him goodbye. I walked a bit uphill (heh :p) because bikes are not allowed inside.

Tokoji or Eastern Light Temple was derived from the Paradise of the Buddha of Medicine, from where light emits in the direction of east. But the temple is popularly called Mondo Yakujin Temple because it has been famous for the benevolence of  Yakujin Buddha, who drives away evils. Yaku is the wisdom of ancestors to address the turning points of our life.“Yaku” means misfortune in the Japanese language and represents suffering and disaster. When our life is observed, we see certain turning points that result in a variety of physical, mental and social changes. At the same time, it gives us an opportunity to recharge life energy, to prepare for further development, and to reflect on what we have done in the past with mental composure. Taking this into account, the idea of Yaku is the wisdom our ancestors intuited. Yaku gives us a chance to reflect back on the life we have lead in the past.

 

Even if it was a Monday, there were handful of visitors to the temple but of course I was the only foreigner. As a souvenir, I bought something for household safety and for travelling (this one is for Panther). It took me some time to get the right “amulet” because of language barrier. Hehe 🙂 But I felt better after having it, I may not be a Buddhist  but I respect their religion and beliefs. I stayed for an hour inside, passing each and every halls and shrines, paying my respect and asking for blessings.

The tourist that I am. I camwhored a bit just to prove that I was indeed there. Here is a photo of me trying to get the right angle. :p

I went back to where Panther was waiting and took this picture:

That’s me riding Panther (doesn’t sound right) and here is Panther carrying all my stuff 🙂

After Tokojin Temple, I went straight to school to check if the assignment question was already posted. Too bad it wasn’t there so Panther and I headed to another destination – Nishinomiya Kitaguchi. We encountered a bit of an accident when I tried to go in the pedestrian lane and mistook the pavement to be leveled. I almost fell off Panther but was lucky that I didn’t. But I broke my sandals. Boohoo. Good thing there was no car in site when that happened or else. Whew! Lucky, lucky, lucky.

When I was heading towards Kitaguchi, I took a wrong turn (again!) and was lost for a while. But I continued traversing the roads as if I really knew the way. Good thing my sense of direction was not completely flawed because I did arrived in Kitaguchi. Hehehe. I parked Panther across ACTA Mall, said goodbye, yet again.

I was supposed to go to the library in ACTA mall but went straight instead to the 100 yen store. I needed Mighty Bond! But 100 Yen store is super love and I can’t help but buy more that what I needed :p  I discovered that there was a bigger one just below the station so I went there too. Let’s just say I spent more than necessary. Hihihi. I thought of going around more but realized that it was dinner soon, so I headed back where Panther was waiting.

I thought I went to the wrong parking space because Panther wasn’t there. I tried to remember where I left Panther but I knew that it was that spot. I started panicking, cursing to myself. I tried to look for a security personnel but there was none. I was thinking how much Panther cost (priceless), what to do, who to call (I don’t have a phone) while trying to calm myself down. I started to lose all hope when I saw Panther parked in a different space! Whew! Thank God/Buddha/Allah! But the challenge was not done, Panther was parked in one of them automatic bike-lock structure. I have no idea how to take that cuffs away. I panicked again. But the parking area was deserted, almost! I saw this woman walking towards one of the bikes parked. I shouted “Sumimasen!” and started fumbling out words, explaining what I need her to do. She gladly obliged and assisted me of getting Panther back. Hallelujah! I couldn’t thank that lady enough, I kept bowing saying “Arigato! Arigato!”.

Super stress!

The date was mostly a disaster. It was mostly, no, all of it were my fault. I have been careless this past few days, leaving stuff in the street, leaving my luggage inside the airport. But I was glad, and I am still glad that nothing happened to me and to Panther. It was not a complete disaster after all. We were able to visit the Tokojin temple and it was Panther’s first time in Kitaguchi. Yey! But I promised to make it up with him. I will plan a better adventure for us!

 

P.S.:I pedaled my way back to the apartment, and of course, was lost again. Something is definitely wrong. 😐