February 1: How to reduce food waste

In Japanese grocery stores and supermarkets, foodstuffs usually have a "best-before" date (a kind of expire date) added to their packaging. Many customers will select items that have many days to go before the best-before date, for the obvious reason that they don't need to hurry to consume it – or avoid the risk that the item may no longer be fresh, or safe to eat, if the best-before date is close. The result is an enormous waste of food, even though most of it is still safe to eat on its best-before date.

Some stores are planning – or have already introduced – dynamic food pricing, meaning categorizing the same products into three types, labeled A, B or C. The prices are based on the number of days left until the best-before date of each product. For example, if the date is two days away, the price is 10% off the list price, labeled A. The next day, the product will be discounted 20%.

It is hoped that the dynamic pricing system will drastically reduce food waste, which in Japan amounted to 5.7 million tons in 2019, equal to one bowl of food wasted every day by every member of Japan's population of about 125 million.

February 5: Indonesia moving its capital from Java to Borneo

Jakarta, Indonesia's capital of about 10 million people, has been increasingly congested, polluted, prone to earthquakes, and gradually sinking into the Java Sea. It has been described as the world's most rapidly sinking city, and at the current rate, it is estimated that one-third of the city could be submerged by 2050. The main cause is uncontrolled ground water extraction, but it has been exacerbated by the rising Java Sea due to climate change.

Beyond that, its air and ground water are heavily polluted, it floods regularly and its streets are so clogged that it is estimated congestion costs the economy $4.5 billion a year.

Indonesia was once known as The Netherlands East Indies, when it was a Dutch colony from 1800 to February 1942, when Japan occupied it, until August 1945. It declared its independence in 1949. It is an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, but 54% of its more than 270 million people live on Java, its most densely populated island, where Jakarta is located.

Now the government, headed by President Joko Widodo, has decided to construct a new capital on the island of Borneo, near Balikpapan, an East Kalimantan seaport with a population of about 700,000. The new capital will be called Nusantara, an old Javanese term meaning "archipelago."

move capital

"The construction of the new capital city is not merely a physical move of government offices," Widodo declared at the end of January. "The main goal is to build a smart new city, a new city that is competitive at the global level, to build a new locomotive for the transformation...toward an Indonesia based on innovation and technology and a green economy."

But skeptics worry about the environmental impact of plunking down a sprawling 256,000 hectare (2,560 km2) city on East Kalimantan's wildlife - which includes orangutans and leopards - and on its water systems and flora and fauna. About 1.5 million civil servants will eventually (by 2045) be relocated to the new capital, according to provisional estimates, beginning with about 8,000 by 2024. By that time, the construction of a new presidential palace, the national parliament and government offices will have been completed on 56,180 hectares of cleared land. Roads linking the capital to other cities in East Kalimantan will also have been constructed.

The committee overseeing the construction is led by Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zahedan Al Nahyan and also includes Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder and chief executive of Japanese holding company SoftBank, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who now runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

What effect all this will have on Jakarta and the people who stay behind is unclear. That Jakarta's population will shrink is clear, but by how much nobody can tell.


April 14: Opening of the Floriade Expo 2022 in Almere, the Netherlands

The Floriade, first held in 1960, takes place every 10 years. This year's Floriade features 40 participating countries, each with their own "pavilion". Japan's pavilion, based on its well-known Satoyama Farm Garden, was the first to be completed. Its themes are closely related to the Floriade's main theme "Growing Green Cities," the need to combine cities and villages with nature.


The Floriade's total area covers about 60 hectares, with each participating country laying out their own garden and building their own showcase houses. The Floriade also features a spectacular 850-meter-long rope way (cable car) above the park. After it ends, in October this year, the park will be turned into a village, with a target of over 600 houses, including the showcase houses built for the Floriade.

Almere is located in the province of Flevoland, reclaimed land to the east of Amsterdam. Starting 40 years ago, various kinds of trees were planted on the soil, resulting in a bushy woodland, now part of the Floriade Expo.

April 17: Ukrainian students who fled their home country accepted by university in Fukuoka

More than 60 male and female students who escaped from war-torn Ukraine have so far been accepted by the Japan University of Economics in Dazaifu, Fukuoka, located not far from your Habri team's city of residence. They will be studying Japanese language and culture, and during their last week's entrance ceremony, the school's brass band performed the Ukrainian national anthem, the title of which translates as "Glory and Freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished."

So far, Japan has accepted over 500 refugees from the war in Ukraine. Remarkable, considering Japan's location on the other side of the globe, and the present scarcity of flights connecting Europe with Japan as airplanes avoid flying over Russian and Ukrainian territory. Even a document we sent by registered airmail from Fukuoka to Holland on March 30 took two weeks to reach its Dutch destination.

© 2022 Hans Brinckmann