environment

Coral in Japan’s Ogasawara Islands being threatened by Chinese poaching ships

While the vast majority of Japan’s population is crammed onto its four largest islands, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, the country’s territories extend much farther out to sea. For example, if you head about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of downtown Tokyo, you’ll come to the Ogasawara Islands, one of Japan’s most remote settlements.

We’ve talked about the Ogasawaras before, and how their beautiful ocean scenery has been helping to attract tourists (and perhaps even a new chef), to the archipelago. Recently, though, the islands have been seeing an increasing number of extremely unwelcome visitors, in the form of ships coming from China to poach coral.

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Oysters’ amazing cleaning skills shock Japanese netizens who question their shellfish habit

You may be familiar with oysters as the delicious seafood best eaten raw (or as ice cream) and served in months ending in “r,” but did you also know the little guys have impressive filtering skills that can clean even the dirtiest water?

Eating its fill of plankton and other particles floating around, a fully grown oyster can filter more than 50 gallons (189 liters) of seawater in one day. After seeing a few videos demonstrating this cleaning ability, some Japanese netizens started to question just how appetizing this made the once delicious-looking oyster.

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As we’ve seen before, many beaches across Japan are in dire need of a clean-up. It’s a major problem that requires a lot of time and effort to remedy. Of course it’s at times like these that we usually look to the adult entertainment industry for solutions.

Sure enough, like the social crusaders they are, the major masturbation aid brand Tenga has stepped up and is cooperating with environmental group Umi Sakura on the Umi Sakura Over-18 Trash Pick-Up.

The reason this event is restricted to adults is that for every bag of trash collected, volunteers are rewarded with a free Tenga pleasure device.

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Gundam creator isn’t making his new series for you, doesn’t care if you don’t like it

Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino always seems to be seething at someone. Recently, he had harsh words for the anime voice acting industry, and now he’s gnawing even further up the arm that’s connected to the hand that feeds him by setting his sights on a new target: all adult Gundam fans.

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Coca-Cola’s new vending machines don’t need electricity during the day to keep drinks cold

In some ways, the huge amount of vending machines in Japan seems like a win-win situation. In a country that gets incredibly hot and sticky in the summer, it’s nice to never be more than a few minutes’ walk from a cold drink, and for beverage companies like Coca-Cola, the machines are a huge source of income.

That said, all of those vending machines are essentially coin-operated refrigerators, collectively sucking up a huge amount of electricity. In an effort to cut down on their energy consumption, Coca-Cola has developed a new type of unit that spends as much as 16 hours a day not using any electricity at all to keep its products nice and cool.

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Tea for trash – “Methane Cafe” offering free drinks in exchange for patrons’ kitchen waste

It’s often said that, rather than splashing out on expensive new appliances and fitting solar panels to our roofs, it’s the smaller changes we can make in our daily lives that will have an enormous positive effect on the environment. The act boiling a kettle, for example, may seem like a relatively harmless one, but – often because we boil more water than we actually use – we waste thousands of tons of carbon every single day simply by making cups of tea or coffee.

With that in mind, a new members-only cafe has recently opened its doors in the town of Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which uses energy from patrons’ kitchen waste to boil the water needed for a relaxing brew, making the green tea they serve some of the greenest in the world by far.

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Honda readying a Fuel Cell Vehicle for buyers next year, just in time to challenge Toyota

Toyota recently announced it plans to begin consumer sales of a Fuel Cell Vehicle sometime around the beginning of 2015, which has the potential to be a huge step towards a more environmentally-friendly system of personal transportation. Rival carmaker Honda isn’t about to let Japan’s largest auto manufacturer have this new field all to itself, though, as it looks to be moving ahead with plans to start selling an FCV of its own within the country that aims to be the class leader in both performance and price.

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Yamagata politicians say thank you to… air

When life is going even reasonably well, we often forget to show our appreciation for that which we have. It’s easy to become complacent and fixated on more and better, and it’s only when we suddenly lose the things that have become commonplace – running water; free Wi-Fi; a Starbucks on every other corner – that we miss them.

One thing we’d probably all notice is missing even faster than 24-hour Facebook access, though, is the air we breathe.

With that in mind, assemblymen in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture recently took a moment out of their day to pay tribute to the very air around them, throwing their arms up and taking in a tasty lungful.

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China to remove six million cars from its roads in an effort to make city air breathable again

Chinese cities have featured a lot in the news over the past few years. With the country experiencing rapid economic growth and its industries going into overdrive – though often with scant regard for the environment – the air quality in some cities has deteriorated to the point that health organisations have warned against spending too much time outdoors. The country’s rivers, too, bear the scars of progress as factories pump tons of waste into them, in some cases turning the water dark red.

Thankfully, though, the Chinese government has pledged to address the situation, and has this week announced plans to remove as many as six million vehicles from its roads in an effort to detoxify city air.

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Sex, sushi, and suicide – Everything you need to know about Japan in infographics 【Video】

Hey, you! You’re a busy person! You have status updates to write; tweets about your lunch to send; videos of cats dressed as humans to watch. You don’t have time to read things like some kind of ridiculous, well-educated duck.

So instead watch this video, which tells you everything there is to know about Japan – covering population, annual food wastage, social awkwardness and much more – in just 10 minutes and 59 seconds.

Go! Time is of the essence!

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What’s the deal with these new nose gadgets Chinese policemen are wearing?

What’s that man wearing in the picture above? Is it a new subculture fashion trend born in Harajuku? Or maybe some kind of bulky nasal strip? Actually, it’s an incredibly high-tech nasal air purifying device to combat air pollution.

The smog problem in several major Chinese cities is impossible to ignore, and poses colossal environmental and health risks unless drastic action is taken soon (it apparently even forces couples to take wedding photos while wearing gas masks…). There has been recent talk of using drones to fight the smog, but in the meantime the police department of one city in northern China is taking precautionary measures to protect the health of its workers by providing them with specialized breathing equipment.

It’s not quite as cool looking as the mask worn by, say, the titular character of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but just wait until you read everything that this little contraption can do.

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“Recycling in Japan” or “Reasons to get it right and avoid eternal shame”

Is Japan’s recycling system the most complicated in the world? It sure feels like it sometimes. Household waste must of course be separated into burnable and non-burnable, but after that there’s a dizzying array of recycling categories to break your non-burnables into. Since Japan is a relatively small country without masses of land to use for burying waste, the vast majority of waste used to be incinerated. However, with increasing ecological awareness in the 1990s came new legislation to minimise the amount of waste being burnt, and promote recycling.

Public awareness of the need to recycle is high, but the system can be baffling for new foreign residents. The problem lies not only in the array of recycling categories, but also in the apparent overlap between them: the grey areas. Is an empty pizza box considered recycled paper? Or is it burnable? Paper packages? “Other”? And if a bottle is made of a different type of plastic to the standard PET, is still a “pet bottle”, or is it just “plastic”?

Today we bring you six reasons to learn what goes in what box, and a few hints for getting it right along the way.

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Tokyo’s new rentable bikes are a great start, but the city is still far from bike-friendly…

Close your eyes and throw a stick in pretty much any Tokyo neighbourhood, and there’s a good chance that you’ll hit someone riding a bicycle. With roughly 72 million bikes on the streets of Japan, they’re an essential part of daily life for many, especially in urban areas where space for motor vehicle parking is both limited and expensive.

Last weekend, though, we stumbled upon a fleet of sparkling new bicycles that couldn’t be more different to the typical mamachari shopping bikes that everyone from junior high schoolers to worryingly wobbly grandmothers pedal around town. Sleek, compact, and with”Suicle” stamped on their crossbars, these lime-green lightweights are available for anyone with a prepaid IC bus or rail card and a half-decent sense of balance to rent.

Eager to know if the ride, and the process of renting and returning, was as smooth as a nearby sign purported it to be, we took a couple of the mini bikes out for a spin.

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Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

In October last year, Yokohama City joined forces with Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for a special project dubbed Choi-Mobi Yokohama. Furnishing the historic port city with a small fleet of rentable, ultra-compact electric vehicles, Nissan set out to examine the feasibility of making such modes of transport commonplace in urban centres. Allowing anyone with a valid license to zip around the city – emission free, of course – for just 20 yen (US$0.19) per minute of use, ultra-compacts like the Choi-Mobi are tipped to be a useful replacement for taxis and private vehicles in urban areas in future years.

The concept alone was enough to have tech-heads and environmentalists alike grinning from ear to ear, but on April 1 this year, Nissan asked a group of Choi-Mobi renters to use their time together inside the vehicle to convey important messages to one another, telling not April Fools but “April Truths”.

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The best night views in the Maldives are on its magical shores

The Maldives has always been a popular honeymoon destination, known for its crystal clear waters, gorgeous beaches and glamorous, resort-style accommodation. As if the area wasn’t romantic enough, at night there’s a breathtaking natural phenomenon that transforms its shores into glimmering waves of iridescent blue. One visitor who stumbled on the unbelievable sight likened it to the starry night skies of the Milky Way and took to the internet to find out the cause of the mysterious occurrence.

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In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.

Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

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Air quality in Beijing now so poor that sunrises are being broadcast on giant TV screens [UPDATED]

As if today being a Monday wasn’t depressing enough, media outlets are reporting that the air quality and visibility in China’s capital city has become so bad that the state has begun televising live footage of sunrises on enormous screens ordinarily used for advertising. That’s right: with the real thing now almost completely hidden behind a thick layer of smog, people are actually watching nature on TV.

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Moby Drink: Iceland creates a beer made with endangered whale bones, can’t sell it

Japan gets a lot of press for its continued whaling operations, but it’s not the only country that still hunts whales. Iceland also fishes a couple hundred whales a year and is one of the last remaining commercial markets for whale meat.

In fact, during the upcoming winter festival of Þorrablót, the traditional nosh is pickled whale fat along with such delicacies as burned sheep heads and pickled sheep testicles. Now what’s a real Viking to wash all that down with? Why, whale beer of course!

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Days of thick smog leave Shanghai residents gasping for fresh air

Air pollution in China is a serious problem, especially in urban areas in the east like Shanghai. Over the past week, the city has been dealing with a particularity nasty bout of smog that has far exceeded safe levels according to its own Air Quality Index. The smog has been heavy since around the beginning of the month, with one of the worst days on December 6 that saw pollution levels over ten times that of the air in neighboring countries.

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Bama, China: Home to some of the oldest, healthiest people in the world

With rapid developments in medicine and an overall increase in awareness when it comes to our general health, in many parts of the world people are living to an age like never before. Although many of us pay careful attention to the advice given to us by medical professionals, health and fitness magazines, and the media in general, curiously some of the healthiest and oldest people in the world rarely visit their doctor, nor do they have access to the information that we in the developed world do. Is it possible that the secret to longevity lies elsewhere?

A village in Bama Yao Autonomous County, China, is one of five locations across the globe where people are known to live far beyond the global average, with few suffering from health problems during their lifetime. Many of the inhabitants of this village live to be more than 100 years old, and despite the villagers’ environment being a tropical region where ultraviolet rays are strong, women of the area have a pale complexion and are strikingly attractive.

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