Friday, February 25, 2005

The Three Towers of Kyoto

The First of Kyoto's 3 towers...
The Tower of tradition: Toji Temple. Posted by Hello

The Ivory Tower of Power. Kyoto City Hall. Posted by Hello

The most recent of Kyoto's towers:
The Tower of Stupidity.
Kyoto City's new Tokuhobu ' Clean' Centre ( Incinerator), hidden in the forest just north of the city makes compliance with the Kyoto Protocol's guidelines on waste minimisation near impossible.
Posted by Hello
"We, as representatives sustainable (sic) of the city that gave birth to the Kyoto Protocol, take our responsibility toward the global environment seriously.
With hard work, perseverance, and a measure of luck, we hope that the world will eventually find that that the trust it has given to Kyoto, the cradle of climate change prevention, has been well-placed indeed.

Unfortunately, traditional divisions within the local administration, combined with difficulties in coordination, continue to present substantial barriers to local development and climate change prevention."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Zero Waste ?

Every night in Kyoto, 8 tonne trucks like this one are loaded ( at great cost) with recyclable materials and taken directly to the city's Incinerator ,- when they could be making a lot of money by recycling everything ,-as they are supposed to be according to the Kyoto Protocol. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Kyoto Protocol was created here, in our city of Kyoto.
The name "Kyoto" will become even more deeply ingrained in the hearts of people around the world as they depart on their journey to achieving the prevention of global warming.
As such, the world may look to Kyoto City and its people as an example.

And some general observations on what has ( and has not) been happening in Japan with regard to moves towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions :

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The problem in the foreground, the solution in the background ? Posted by Hello
Prior to 1997, the word 'Kyoto' conjured up images of Japan’s traditional past but since that time, Kyoto has become synonymous with the Protocol signed here by representatives of the majority of the world's governments to start working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically , since that time, as a result of a lack of leadership from Central Government and from Japan's local territorial authorities , Japan's emissions have continued to increase.

To date the Kyoto City and State Governments have failed to implement policies that would facilitate achieving any of the goals outlined in their namesake Protocol.

They have, so far, only served to provide a useful example of how unwilling political leadership can stand in the way of moving toward actual reduction in C02 emissions.

I have written these pages to highlight the discrepancy between the Government of Kyoto’s stated policy and the actual situation as it is in Kyoto on the 16th of February, 2005, when the Protocol comes into effect. (2,625 days after its signing).

The text in white is taken directly from the Kyoto City Government’s web-site:

The text in green is my own observations, comments, and suggestions.
I took the photos in Kyoto over the last year.

We citizens of the world need our Governments to take a pro-active role in establishing the infrastructure which enables us to succeed in our efforts to stop global warming.

Talk must be followed by action.

Doublespeak is doubleplusungood !

Gridlock as usual in Kyoto Posted by Hello

The bike stops here! Posted by Hello

Until September 2004,about 500 commuters were using this area along side Kamo River ( about 3 km north of the City Centre) to park while they were using the nearby Demachi Yanagi Subway station. Posted by Hello

Kyoto Government workers removing bicycles from the area (see the picture above)in which about 500 bicycle commuters were parking until September 2004 when it was barricaded off with scaffolding with any bicycles that remained being impounded.
This was the second major attack on an area established informally by cyclists who need to park near the Demachi-Yanagi transport hub.
The cat and mouse game continues with cyclists leaving their bikes in yet another illegal area further up the river.
Posted by Hello

Go to this URL to see 'Bicycle destroy' video in Onomichi

A thread about the dangers cyclists present .

A humourous account from Mike in Tokyo

My new (2006 September) weblog on urban utility cyclism.

No Bicycle Parking Nowhere !!!

These signs banning parking and telling your where you can pick your bike up after it has been confiscated can be seen whereever you'd ever want to park your bike in Kyoto.
(you can click on this image to enlarge it a bit ).Posted by Hello

On your bike Kyoto !

“The overuse of automobiles is a major cause of global warming.”

We aim to create safe, reliable, environment-friendly systems of transportation, and to create a city that can be enjoyable for everyone to live in, a city that encourages people to support environment-friendly transportation,
to reduce the use of private automobiles, and a city that provides safe, enjoyable areas for walking and riding bicycles.”

-yes , but what is really happening about promoting cycling as a means of transport in Kyoto?

Despite the good intentions expressed in the above in which they acknowledge the role bicycles can play in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions, cyclists are still being treated (in February 2005) by the Kyoto City and Prefectural governments as an incidental nuisance and they continue to persecute those who do chose to cycle here by threatening confiscation for ignoring the blanket ban on parking bicycles basically anywhere in the city.

Enabling and encouraging people to take up cycling as their main form of transport within the city would be the easiest and most effective action the governments in Kyoto could do toward reducing greenhouse gases.

Discontinuing the current practice of confiscating ‘illegally’ parked bicycles is the first and easiest step local government should take to show they are serious about achieving their stated aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Why do people use bicycles in Kyoto?

In Kyoto the bicycle is the main choice of transport for a large number of its residents for getting around the city, to get to and from work and school and to connect with subways and trains.

It is possible to cover distances of up to about 6 kilometres within Kyoto faster on a bicycle than in a car, especially when taking into consideration time spent waiting for traffic lights and time taken to get into and out of ( expensive) parking.
Although cyclists are legally required to ride on the roads, it is commonly accepted that a cyclist is a ‘fast-moving’ pedestrian, and as such enjoys the freedom to choose to be either.
Helmets are not required and are quite hard to find in Japan.
Mothers can often be seen with up to 2 children riding in specially fitted seats and with all the shopping in one of the baskets.

For more see this page on cycling in Osaka by Paul from San Fransisco.
The Kyoto Environmental Citizens' Foundations' page on cycling in Kyoto
The Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute Page 
Some similar viewpoints from a Japanese cyclist in Tokyo.

The geography of Kyoto City .

Kyoto is located in a basin about 12 kilometres across surrounded by mountains to the north east and west and is mostly flat with a network of roads of running north-south and east-west with smaller streets and narrow alleys ideal for bicycles running between them.
There are also pathways running along-side the 2 major rivers that run through the city from north to south as well as along the other waterways that flow through the city.
-Anywhere and everywhere.
Where CAN cyclists park in Kyoto ?

In defiance of the ubiquitous signs outlawing bicycle parking all over the city and warnings of confiscation and fines, large numbers of bicycles can be seen parked near subway stations, shopping centres, along pedestrian walkways and generally as close as possible to wherever their owners were going.

The Kyoto City Government seems to have no desire to implement a solution to the bicycle parking ‘problem’ and is using bicycles as a 'cash cow’ by deeming that all bicycles parked outside their pay-for-parking areas are 'illegal’ and that they are 'subject to confiscation and a‘handling charge’( fine) of 2,300 yen to be paid upon collection’.

It would be interesting to know :
how much money the Kyoto City Government is making from this extortion,
whether any of the money is being used to find a solution to the 'problem’, and if it regards this system as something of a job creation scheme
-or just a 'nice little earner'.

Trucks laden with bicycles being taken to these impounding centres are a common sight in Kyoto and large numbers remain unclaimed due to the economics and inconvenience of making the trip to reclaim them.
Unclaimed bicycles are‘disposed of’ after 4 weeks.’

Kyoto City regards parked bicycles as visual pollution and has published a brochure expressing its unfriendly attitude towards what it sees as the ’unsightly problem’ of ‘illegally’ parked bicycles describing streets lined with bicycles as 'ugly’while those with none are deemed to be 'beautiful’, -while choosing to ignore the real problem of streets jammed with carbon-burning vehicles which take up about 10 times more space with an average occupancy rate of one person per vehicle.

What IS the Kyoto City Council doing to try to solve the bicycle parking ‘nuisance’,-without persecuting cyclists and dissuading its citizens from taking up this healthy and environmentally-friendly means of transport?

Over the last 2 years (2002-2004) in the area surrounding Kyoto’s main transport hub, the Kyoto JR & Kintetsu Railway stations,
all free bicycle parking has been eliminated.

The places where cyclists could (and should be able to) park their bicycles have been blockaded off with planters, concrete blocks scaffolding and ropes and a few pay-to-park facilities have been established either in the very same places or very nearby.

Despite this development and the signs which threaten them that their bicycles will be confiscated and impounded in a very hard-to-get-to location on the other side of the city with the imposition of a 2,300 yen ( US$20) fine, cyclists are choosing to take the risk and park their bikes for the time it takes to do their business in the post office, to meet friends coming in on trains, to go into the department store and for whatever it is they have to do, for which they should not have to feel obliged to pay the 150 yen being demanded by the operators of the pay park facilities.

The 674 spaces at the new Kintetsu Station bicycle pay parking facility ( 150 yen per time or per day ) which was installed in late 2004 to replace the free parking area ,are often full and there is a significant and often similar number of bikes under threat of removal for being parked illegally just outside the facility , owned by otherwise law-abiding people who really have little choice.

30 percent of the people using the facility are people coming from outside the city on a daily basis and picking their bikes up in the morning, riding to work and then parking them back there overnight .
70 percent are people who live in Kyoto who catch trains to other places and leave their bikes parked there all day, many paying by purchasing a monthly pass.

While the existence of pay bicycle parking facilities is good for those who want and can afford to pay for the security such facilities provide,
those cyclists who do not wish to use them
should not be subject to obligation,
nor be made to feel threatened by confiscation and fines
by a Local Government which has a stated policy that it is doing all it can to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.

The ever-present threat of having one’s bicycle removed by the Government provides a major deterrent to taking up cycling in Kyoto.

Suggestion: The least the Kyoto City and State Governments can do for cyclists is to provide a feeling of security by initiating a different system for identifying which bikes are in fact abandoned and stop harassing people who's decision to cycle will help to reduce CO2 emissions.

What ARE the Kyoto City and Kyoto Prefecture Governments doing to promote cycling as an alternative to using carbon-based modes of transport? ( a rhetorical question).

Suggestion: Imposing a charge on motor vehicles such as has been done in London would be a better way to raise funds to establish free bicycle parking facilities , while deterring the unnecessary use of carbon-burners.

Environment-Friendly Purchases
“Businesses and industries also have a huge impact on global warming.”

“As consumers, we shall support the environment-related efforts of businesses and industries by choosing low-energy products and products designed to last a long time, endeavoring to make environment-friendly purchases.”

Links to some of the Environmental groups active in Kyoto.

Kyoto Environmental Citizen’s Foundation.
Kiko Network. ( specifically working on climate change related issues).

Tsukai-sutette jidai kangaemashou.
( Let's think about the age of built in obsolescence ).

Miyako Ecology Centre ( funded by Kyoto City).

Japan Environmental Exchange.

MOTTAI NAI !!! ( What a waste! )

Just one of the hundreds of unsorted 'gomi' piles that accumulate up to 3 times a week in central Kyoto, to be picked up and taken to the new Tokuhobu 'Clean' Center Incinerator,- with the threatened 10,000,000 yen fine ( US$94,000) never being enforced. (and for more on 'mottainai' go to :
Posted by Hello

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, Recover, dispose

Waste management in Kyoto is a shocking embarrassment !
Observation: Among the general population of Kyoto there seems to be very little awareness of the issues that the Kyoto Protocol sets out to address and NO evidence of any behavioural changes on the part of businesses or by individuals, to work towards achieving those goals.
(February, 2005).

The current policy which maximizes the amount of materials being disposed of at Kyoto’s recently constructed Incineration Plant is an economic and environmental disaster which only benefits the small number of people directly involved: politicians, trucking companies and the company operating the plant.

Ironically , in 1999 just 2 years after Kyoto hosted the COP3 talks which ended with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouses gases, the Kyoto City Government commissioned the building of (what they call) the Tokuhobu ‘Clean Center’ in the forested hills about 4 kilometres north of the city’s northern edge.

This very unfortunate decision made by Kyoto’s Political Leaders
to build and run, at enormous cost,
the Tokuhobu‘Clean Center’ (Incinerator),
-after the city hosted the COP3 talks in 1997, has locked the people of Kyoto into a waste management regime which contravenes the Kyoto Protocol’s guidelines on waste minimization as it is dependant on the maximization of waste*, meaning that compliance can only ever be brought about by a directive from Central Government, -or even more unlikely, by pressure from the citizens of Kyoto who by some miracle, have become aware of the benefits of adopting a comprehensive policy on achieving Zero Waste
( as is being done successfully, for example, in New Zealand ).

*This incinerator needs as much plastic as it can get in order to keep the burning temperature high enough to destroy the dioxins which it will otherwise be producing. For more on Incinerators go to:

Although some small recycling operators are managing to survive by getting people to voluntarily put out their recyclable goods on appointed days, probably more than 95% of the city’s household waste is put out unsorted, in plastic bags and is taken directly to the Incinerator.

The Kyoto City Council is making no apparent effort to set up facilities that would assist recycling operators to divert waste from going to the incinerator while it is allowing residents to contribute to the waste stream with no enforcement of any of its own regulations.

Fine for putting your trash out: Up to 1,000,000 yen.
(never been enforced)

Suggestion:The Kyoto City Government must enable its citizens and businesses to achieve the goals set out in the Kyoto Protocol by:
-putting in place infrastructure and facilities to enable waste to be diverted for reuse and recycling
-draw up a legal framework that rewards waste reduction and penalizes waste producers.
-review all its contractual relationships to reflect the Kyoto Protocol guidelines,
-educate all its citizens and business community on the benefits of minimizing waste.

Respect the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Kyoto-bound,-choke out . Posted by Hello
Kiko Network is a non-governmental organization (NGO) supported by individuals, organizations and regional networks from all over Japan.
Our goal is the practical implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the prevention of dangerous climate change.
We have engaged in activities relevant to our five objectives.

Kyoto City Institute of Health and Environmental Science

Another view.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Promises promises...

Kyoto in Kyoto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover , Dispose

What the Kyoto Governments have committed themselves to doing....

(full text available at:

日本語 :

Remember, THEY said it ,
-It is up to US to hold them to it

"Honored by the fact that the Protocol was adopted in Kyoto and named after the region, we have concluded the Kyoto Global Environment Declaration under the names of 15 organizations, announcing to the world that Kyoto is determined to devote all its energies to preserving the global environment.

Based on the Declaration, we have set our targets high at realizing a 10% or more reduction of Carbon dioxides emission a year by 2010 compared to that of 1990.

Citizens, businesses, environmental organizations, and local governments in Kyoto have been making efforts together for the targets. "

January 1, 2000
Teiichi Aramaki , Governor of Kyoto Prefecture
Yorikane Masumoto , Mayor of Kyoto City
Kazuo Inamori , Chairman of Kyoto Chamber of ,Commerce & Industry

- A Message to the World about Preventing Global Warming,
from the People of Kyoto City -
"The Kyoto Protocol was created here, in our city of Kyoto.
The name 'Kyoto' will become even more deeply ingrained in the hearts of people around the world as they depart on their journey to achieving the prevention of global warming.

As such, the world may look to Kyoto City and its people as an example.
It is with self-awareness and pride that we, as residents of Kyoto City, and as residents of the world, work to carefully observe and foster the ideas set forth in this Protocol."

A message of hope from The Miyako Agenda 21 Forum
(full text is at:

"We, as representatives sustainable (sic) of the city that gave birth to the Kyoto Protocol, take our responsibility toward the global environment seriously.

With hard work, perseverance, and a measure of luck, we hope that the world will eventually find that that the trust it has given to Kyoto, the cradle of climate change prevention, has been well-placed indeed.

-but they couldn't resist adding this cry for help...

"Unfortunately, traditional divisions within the local administration, combined with difficulties in coordination, continue to present substantial barriers to local development and climate change prevention."


Some positive statements by the Kyoto Prefectural Government on the exact nature of how to achieve minimisation of greenhouse gases :

( remember , time has been taken to translate all this into English , presumably in the expectation that the foreign media might be interested in what Kyoto itself was doing )


I put this web-log together to highlight the dangers of letting our government live by the images they create and present to us , and to remind us that we can have a role in holding them to their stated policies.

Governments which are not taking leadership in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are standing in the way of individuals and businesses who are.

Such is Kyoto.

If we don't change , we'll end up where we're going.

AL in Kyoto.

E-mail to:

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover , Dispose

What are the Greenhouse gases ?
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Methane (CH4)
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Check this link out for some more general information.

Why we need the Kyoto Protocol ( from Radio Australia 19th of March ,2005.)

Who links to me?