Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sign that the Age of the Eco-Hospital is Near

In the countryside near Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture, sits Asia's most ambitious eco-hospital. Built five years ago with the latest in medical technology, Shuwa General Hospital was a first in Asia in terms of scale and technical sophistication.

The man who built this hospital is its chief director, the 76-year-old Dr. Hideo Yoneshima. The doctor is well known in Japan's medical circles for his research and analysis of hospital administration. Yoneshima combined his desire to give the best medical care with the incredible planning skills of first-rate architects Muroi and Kobayashi and the superior technology of Taisei Corp. to create Japan's first eco-hospital.

An eco-hospital is a hospital that lives in harmony with nature and channels nature's energy. For example, the crisp country air outside of Kasukabe City ventilates the hospital, coming through the windows because of an impressive circulation system. The system uses data from the automated meteorological data acquisition system (AMEDAS) about the climate around Kasukabe to break down and scientifically control circulation. The system has been ventilating the hospital well for five years.

The hospital also cools itself through rooftop gardens that harness the cooling power of flowering plants, which help the hot air evaporate. This cools the ground in the garden, which cools the concrete on the rooftops. The five-story building is kept at a comfortable temperature in this way. The impact of using less energy is big. The hospital lives in harmony with its surroundings.

Shuwa General Hospital has been drawing interest from near and far over the last five years. Its very existence gives me a sense that the age of the eco-hospital is drawing near.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Responding to Criticism of My Article 9 Argument

Lately, I have been getting all sorts of responses to my opinions. Some people support my stances, while others attack them. I hope the discussion continues to be lively because lively debate helps democracy thrive.

I've received several letters recently that strongly criticize my defense of Article 9 of Japan's Constitution. "Without a strong military, we can't protect the peace," wrote one person. Another writer expressed a strong fear of China. Extreme fear of other countries is what leads to the thinking that Article 9 should be revised and that Japan must have a strong military to avoid falling apart.

These extreme thoughts are dangerous. I believe that Japan should proceed confidently down a path of peaceful economic development. This is the way to protect the peace. Developing a healthy economy and living as a peaceful country are the best ways to protect Japan.

Please don't hesitate to criticize my opinions. Let's have a vigorous debate on all fronts.

Resist War & Keep the US at Arms' Length

If one were to say that we're on the verge of losing the peace, the speaker's claims would be written off as so much exaggeration. But it's no exaggeration. Peace is facing a crisis. War is approaching.

First and foremost is the war in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is calling for a reinforcement of troops stationed there. Every country that has invaded Afghanistan has left in defeat. If the US starts to wage war in earnest in Afghanistan, it will antagonize the whole of Islam.

The next hot spot is the area surrounding Israel, where an aggressive regime holds power. This is a dangerous situation.

The political powers in North Korea continue their provocative acts. If the US and other countries in the region become angry with North Korea, war could break out.

Also, dispatching Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces to the coast of Somalia to fight piracy is fraught with danger.

More danger lurks if the Self-Defense Forces are sent to Afghanistan. East Asia is upset at the instability fomented by North Korea. Whatever sacrifice we must make, we must also defend peace. Engaging in war is not an option.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What the LDP & DPJ Should Do before the Election

In politics, it's important who is on top. The Democratic Party of Japan is torn over whether to go into the coming election behind party leader Ichiro Ozawa or without him. It's become clear that a certain enterprise has donated enormous amounts of money to Ozawa, and the lower house representative's top aide is being charged with violating the political fund control law for mishandling political fund-raising.

Many of our citizens are disgusted by the openness to financial influence the DPJ chief shows at the very time when his party has a chance to take power and make him the prime minister.

Even some DPJ candidates in the coming election are puzzled. Party supporters are starting to say that running under Ozawa will kill the DPJ. Yet the party leaders continue to leave Ozawa on the mound. It's an odd choice.

The Liberal Democratic Party also faces difficult questions, though they have been eclipsed by the Ozawa problems. Once the DPJ solidifies, there's a likelihood that the move to dethrone Prime Minister Taro Aso will be re-ignited within the LDP.

Both parties need to reform their leadership before they negotiate a dissolution of the lower house and set a date for the next election.

It is the responsibility and duty of political parties in a democracy to show a clear commitment to voters. In this time of tectonic change, what sort of country does Japan want to become? What kind of economic policies will it take to fight unemployment during this serious recession? Will it defend or reject Article 9 of the Constitution, which defines Japan as a country of peace? Will it sublimate or liberate itself from the current US-Japan relationship? Will it build a society based on harmony and cooperation or competition? Will it decentralize power and give the provinces more autonomy? These are the basic questions confronting our country, and the people deserve clear policy and vision from their leaders. This is something that should come from each and every candidate, not just the heads of the political parties.

To overcome the problems facing the country today, a fresh breeze needs to blow through the political world and change all this trifling and contentiousness. Lately it seems like politicians are stirring up trouble just for the sake of it. These meaningless battles are harmful and useless. All parties need to cease such activities and begin building a collective framework to help us out of this recession.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Democrats Should Embrace Ally's Plan

Should the Democratic Party of Japan put forth an economic plan?

It can learn from the People's New Party because the DPJ ally has produced an excellent economic proposal.

The People's New Party has recommended a route for escaping this economic crisis: Five years of concentrated fiscal expenditure to the tune of about 40 trillion yen (or 8% of Japan's GDP) to stabilize economic growth and raise tax revenue.

The DPJ should strike an agreement with the People's New Party and adopt this emergency proposal as its own.

The People's New Party budget proposal consists of 11.1 trillion yen of direct fiscal spending in reduced taxes and 34.5 trillion yen in public works aimed at the nation's future. The direct fiscal spending would establish a better safety net, invest in energy, the environment, reviving the provinces and food.

This is the best proposal put out by any political party so far. The DPJ should make every effort to keep it alive.