Monthly Archives: May 2014

Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup

An article called MOMS TO EPA: RECALL MONSANTO’S ROUNDUP arrived in my inbox this morning, the day after I’d posted Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food.
It tells the  stories of  how two groups of mothers, Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, discovered that the serious health problems their children suffered from were linked to exposure to the chemical glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
When these moms had their sick children and the rest of their families’ glyphosate levels checked, the tests revealed high, unsafe levels in their children’s urine, in the families’ drinking water, and in the mothers’ breast milk.
This turned them into activists who are now taking action to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world.
The stories of their children’s suffering from entirely preventable illnesses are heart breaking – their stories of how they brought their children back to health by removing all GMOs from their diets are inspiring.
I’m also reprinting the article here because it contains links to the plentiful scientific research findings that demonstrate the serious harm being done to humans, animals and the environment by glyphosate. I’ve added a Source list after the article.
Glyphosate is the active chemical in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on crops grown from its Roundup Ready seeds. Roundup Ready seeds have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate – allowing farmers to douse their crops with Roundup herbicide without killing the crops themselves.
Since Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1975, it has become the best-selling herbicide in the world. Its prolific use has led to the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds – inducing farmers to spray ever heavier amounts of Roundup on their crops.

Note: I’ve added a list of sources to the bottom of the original article.

 

 

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The Organic Consumers Association’s article:

 

Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup
By Alexis Baden-Mayer
Organic Consumers Association, May 29, 2014

For related articles and information, please visit OCA’s  All About Organics page, our Genetic Engineering page, and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

 

Hell hath no fury . . . like a mother whose child has been sickened by a toxin that’s almost impossible to avoid.

Two activist groups, Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recall Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world.

Now is the time to do it, they say, because the EPA is conducting a registration review of glyphosate.

Representatives of the two groups contacted the EPA to request a meeting. When the EPA ignored them, they rallied supporters. In just three days, about 10,000 moms from all over the country rang the phones off the hook at the EPA.

A week later, five Moms Across America leaders were sitting around a boardroom table with nine EPA employees who have the power to recall Roundup. The moms brought lawyers, scientists and advocates from Organic Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, Beyond Pesticides and the Truth-In-Labeling Coalition as back-up.

What was supposed to be a one-hour meeting turned into two. The EPA’s Dana Vogel, director of the Health Effects Division in the Office of Pesticide Programs, and other EPA staff stayed glued to their seats as one mother after another shared heart-wrenching stories of parenting children with life-threatening allergies, severe gastrointestinal problems, mysterious autism-spectrum disorders, and major nutritional deficiencies.

The common thread in those stories? Exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.

Wrenching tales of preventable illnesses

The activist moms had long suspected pesticides might be behind their children’s health problems. So they had their families tested for glyphosate. The tests showed unsafe levels of glyphosate in their drinking water, in their breast milk and in their children’s urine.

That’s when they resolved to get in front of the EPA. And when they did, they told their stories.

Moms Across America co-founder Zen Honeycutt recounted how when she learned of the link between glyphosate and autism, she had her middle child, who had been exhibiting autism symptoms, tested for glyphosate. His urine had 8.7 parts per billion glyphosate—eight times more than is allowed in drinking water in the E.U. She immediately eliminated all potential sources of glyphosate from his diet. After six weeks, the glyphosate was out of his system. And so were the autism symptoms. He stopped hitting people, and his grades went back up from D’s to A’s.

After a year of eating organic, her eldest son’s walnut allergy went from a 19 to a 0.2. It’s no longer life-threatening.

In fact, all of the mothers’ children suffered from deteriorating conditions until they put them on all-organic diets. When they figured out that going organic was the only thing that helped ease their children’s symptoms, they started investigating the food they had been eating for possible causes of their children’s poor health.

Each mother began to suspect glyphosate.

Zoe Swartz, leader of East Coast Moms Across America and founder of GMO Free Lancaster County told the EPA, “I’m really angry that I didn’t know that there was glyphosate in the food I was feeding my daughter.” She described her toddler’s problems with “leaky gut syndrome” which has been linked to glyphosate exposure. After three weeks of an organic diet, the child’s symptoms began to disappear.

Megan Davenhall of Thinking Moms Revolution, mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism, told the EPA, “It’s going to be a long road for us.”

She began her research when her son was diagnosed at age three. As she turned to organic foods, and eliminated chemicals, he started to grow—something he hadn’t done for two and a half years. He weighed only 38 pounds at age six. Now, Davenhall told the EPA, “He’s doing better. He’s not off the spectrum. … It’s a long road for us, because my son was so very damaged. … He was skin and bones and it’s taken us years to recover his gut health.”

“The damage didn’t need to happen to him,” Davenhall said. “And I don’t want to see it happen to one other kid out there, not one. What we feed our kids, what we put into our bodies, is the most important thing. Healthy food should be available for everybody. It needs to happen. It needs to happen today.”

Sarah Cusack of Thriving Family Health talked about her daughter Claire who at 12 months, changed from a happy, easy-going baby to a miserable, constipated baby who was literally starving. She was emaciated. She had a huge bloated belly. At 20 months, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. But the turning point came when she switched to an organic diet. Claire is now a healthy six-year-old. Her mom is a health coach. Cusack says that an all-organic diet is the centerpiece of her practice. She’s seen improvement in clients with myriad health problems, including migraines, eczema, rashes, gastro-intestinal conditions, mood disorders like anxiety and depression, constipation and auto-immune conditions.

Swaying decision-makers with Science

After the testimonials, It was time to hit the EPA with hard science.

Honeycutt delivered a 20-minute presentation on how glyphosate figures as an environmental cause of so many of the diseases impacting our kids today. She left behind a binder, prepared by Moms Across America volunteers, packed with scientific articles supporting her assertions. Zen’s presentation and the materials she presented to the EPA covered the following points.

•    Exposure to glyphosate correlates with chronic illness. Chronically ill people have significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their systems than healthy people.

•    Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor which is toxic to placental cells. This means it may impact our ability to conceive and carry healthy babies to term. It may also cause breast cancer.

•    Glyphosate destroys the gut bacteria we need for good health. Scientists have observed that in chickens and cattle, glyphosate kills the good gut bacteria while leaving behind bacteria that causes food poisoning. Glyphosate’s negative impact on our microbiome may be the reason for increasing rates of allergies, celiac sprue and gluten intolerance, and colitis and Crohn’s disease.

•    Glyphosate makes vaccines far more toxic than they would otherwise be. When children are overexposed to glyphosate, they are more likely to react badly to vaccination. There’s an intricate connection between the gut and the brain, such that an unhealthy digestive system translates into pathologies in the brain. Aluminum, mercury and glyphosate work synergistically to create severe deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain. This may be what’s causing the epidemic levels of autism and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

•    Glyphosate is a chelator that deprives living things of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. This is how glyphosate kills plants. It may also be how it’s killing people. Glyphosate-induced vitamin deficiency may be a factor in the growing cancer rates. Glyphosate has been directly linked to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A recent meta-analysis found that exposure to glyphosate doubled the likelihood of contracting B cell lymphoma.

Will the EPA consider this evidence and move to protect our children from glyphosate?

We’re about to find out.

For five years, the EPA has been collecting and analyzing data. This year (2014), the agency will publish a risk assessment and open a 60-day public comment period. Then it will publish a proposed registration and provide another opportunity for public comments.

Finally, the EPA will make a registration decision to either continue business-as-usual, place new restrictions on the use of glyphosate, or to take it off the market.

Moms want it off the market.

Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution are currently working with the EPA to develop protocols for an independent scientific study of glyphosate in breast milk for inclusion in the agency’s review.

These moms won’t stop until Roundup is recalled and they need your help. Please join the Recall Roundup campaign at Moms Across America or Thinking Moms Revolution.

 

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association.For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website.Organic Consumers Association · 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603 ·
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This is the article as it appears on the Organic Consumers Association site: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_30153.cfm

 

 

SOURCES CITED IN THE ARTICLE – listed in the order the links appear

All About Organics pageWhy We Should All Eat More Organic Food. Organic Consumers Association. See:  http://organicconsumers.org/organlink.cfm

Genetic Engineering page:  Earth Open Source. GMO Myths and Truths. Organic Consumers Association. See:  http://www.organicconsumers.org/gelink.cfm

Millions Against Monsanto pageMillions Against Monsanto. Organic Consumers Association. See: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/

Moms Across America:  Moms Across America. See: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/

Thinking Moms Revolution:  Thinking Moms Revolution. See: https://www.facebook.com/thinkingmomsrevolution

recall Monsanto’s Roundup:  See: https://www.facebook.com/events/897793350237253/

glyphosate:   Mercola, R. (April 15 2014). New Studies Reveal Damaging Effects of Glyphosate. Organic Consumers Association. See: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_29790.cfm

tested for glyphosate:  Glyphosate Testing Kit for Urine and Water. See: http://www.microbeinotech.com/Default.aspx?tabid=57

unsafe levels of glyphosate:  Glyphosate Testing Full Report: Findings in American Mothers’ Breast Milk, Urine and Water. See: http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/glyphosate_testing_results

Zen HoneycuttCA State Grange Rally for GE Labeling Jan 6th CA Capitol Steps- Zen Honeycutt’s Speech. Moms Across America. See: http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/ca_capitol_steps_speech

glyphosate and autismJeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Stephanie Seneff about Glyphosate. See video:  http://vimeo.com/6591412

GMO Free Lancaster County:  See:  https://www.facebook.com/GMOFREELANCASTERCOUNTYorg

linked to glyphosate exposure:   Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy 2013, 15, 1416-1463. See: http://groups.csail.mit.edu/sls/publications/2013/Seneff_Entropy-15-01416.pdf

Thinking Moms Revolution:   Thinking Moms Revolution. See: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/

Thriving Family Health:  Sarah Cusack Scholl. See: http://www.thrivingfamilyhealth.com

Exposure to glyphosate:  Kruger, M. et al.(2014). Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans. Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology, 2014, 4:2.
See: http://omicsonline.org/open-access/detection-of-glyphosate-residues-in-animals-and-humans-2161-0525.1000210.pdf

Glyphosate is an endocrine disrupter:   Gastnier, C. et al. (2009). Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology, 2009, 262:3, 184-91. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19539684

toxic to placental cells:  Richard, S. et al. (2005). Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2005; 113:6, 716–720. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257596/

ability to conceive:   Mercola, R. (April 1 2014). Roundup Toxicity May Impact Male Fertility: Study. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/01/Roundup-toxicity-male-infertility.aspx

cause breast cancer:   Thongprakaisang S. et al. (2013). Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food & Chemical Toxicology, 2013, 59, 129-36. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170

Glyphosate destroys the gut bacteria:  Sustainable Pulse. (Sept 7 2013). New Review Shows Glyphosate Destroys Human Health and Biodiversity. See: http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/09/07/new-review-shows-glyphosate-destroys-human-health-and-biodiversity/#.U4i24ighy-9

chickens:  Shehata. A. A. et al. (2013). The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Current  Microbiology, 2013 66:4, 350-8. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23224412

cattle:  Kruger, M. et al. (2013). Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum. Anaerobe, 2013, 20,74-8.  See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23396248

Glyphsate’s negative impact on our microbiome:  Polan, M. (2013). Some of My Best Friends are Germs. New York Times Magazine, May 15 2013. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=all

increasing rates of allergies:  Basulto, D. (2014). The secret to treating your allergies may lie in your stomach. WashingtonPost.com, April 17 2014. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/04/17/the-secret-to-treating-your-allergies-may-lie-in-your-stomach/

celiac sprue and gluten intolerance:  Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 2013, 6:4, 159–184. See: http://sustainablepulse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Glyphosate_II_Samsel-Seneff.pdf

Crohn’s disease:  Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy, 2013, 15:4), 1416-1463. See: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

Glyphosate makes vaccines far more toxic:   Viadro, C. I. (2014). Sulfate, Sleep and Sunlight: The Disruptive and Destructive Effects of Heavy Metals and Glyphosate. Mercola.com. See:  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/08/heavy-metals-glyphosate-health-effects.aspx

epidemic levels of autism and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s:  Seneff, S. (2013). Roundup: The “Nontoxic” Chemical that May Be Destroying our Health. The Weston A. Price Foundation. See:  http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/Roundup-the-nontoxic-chemical-that-may-be-destroying-our-health/

growing cancer rates:  Hardt, R. (2014). Glyphosate it binds minerals and cuts off the production of neurotransmitters and hormones: A visual connection of the routes of diseases and cancer. Academia.edu. See:  http://www.academia.edu/5772865/GLYPHOSATE_IT_BINDS_MINERALS_AND_CUTS_OFF_THE_PRODUCTION_OF_NEUROTRANSMITTERS_AND_HORMONES….A_VISUAL_CONNECTION_OF_THE_ROUTES_OF_DISEASES_AND_CANCER

exposure to glyphosate doubled the likelihood of contracting B cell lymphoma:  Schinasi, L. & Leon, M.E. (2014). Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2014, 11:4, 4449-527. See:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24762670

Moms Across America:  Moms Across America. See:  https://www.facebook.com/MomsAcrossAmerica

Thinking Moms Revolution:  Thinking Moms Revolution. See:  https://www.facebook.com/thinkingmomsrevolution

Organic Consumers Association:  Organic Consumers Association. See: http://www.organicconsumers.org/

 

 

© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

 

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food

Updated 4/9/2016.

 

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DEFINITIONS

You’ve no doubt heard about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but perhaps not understood why many countries have already banned them and  why so many people in the US want foods containing them to be labeled so we can make the choice to avoid eating them.
GMO stands for GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM. GE (GENETICALLY ENGINEERED) and GM (GENETICALLY MODIFIED) are other names for the process of genetically altering foods we eat – and more.

 

GENETIC ENGINEERING VS HYBRIDIZATION

 

A baby zedonk - offspring of a zebra and a donkey
A baby zedonk, offspring of a zebra and a donkey = a hybrid animal
I want to point out that genetic modification is not at all the same as hybridization, which has been done on crops and food animals for centuries without posing serious damage to the soil, the environment and every living thing. Hybridization is the crossbreeding of two species, either naturally in the wild or intentionally in order to gain the most valuable attributes from each specie – for example, the mating of a male donkey and a female horse produces a mule, several different types of roses are deliberately crossbred to produce hybrid tea roses, the loganberry is a cross between the raspberry and blackberry. Hybridization IS NOT genetic engineering.
In contrast, genetic modification is the process of forcing genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. Genetic engineering forcefully breaches the naturally occurring barriers between species.

 

SOME EXAMPLES OF GMOS

(Information from GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014):
  • Corn + DNA from soil bacteria that is naturally immune to RoundUp herbicide + e. coli bacteria + soil bacteria that causes tumors in plants (allowing the plant’s cell walls to be breached) = RoundUp Ready Corn – one of several RoundUp Ready crops engineered by Monsanto. (See A Note About Monsanto below.)
  • Strawberries and tomatoes injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing
  • Goats injected with spider genes to produce milk with proteins stronger than Kevlar for use in industrial products
  • Salmon genetically engineered with a growth hormone that allows them to keep growing beyond their normal size
  • Dairy cows injected with the GE hormone rBGH (also known as rBST) to increase their milk production
  • Rice injected with human genes to produce pharmaceuticals

 

A NOTE ABOUT MONSANTO:   GMO’s are the latest in this giant international company’s long list of dubious contributions to the world. Monsanto is also responsible for Agent Orange, PCBs, DDT, Dioxin, Aspartame, Saccharin, rBGH, rBST and Terminator Seeds that grow for only a single season, forcing farmers to buy Monsanto’s GE seeds every year instead of saving seeds from the prior harvest as they did for centuries. In 1997 Monsanto  re-branded itself from a “chemical” company to a “bio-agricultural” company. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)

 

 

 

farming-before-and-after-monsanto-any-questions

 

The genes injected into GMOs can be derived from bacteria, viruses, insects, humans or other animals so GMOs are also known as transgenic organisms. Since genes operate in complex ways that are still not fully understood, genetic engineering often produces unintended and damaging consequences. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)

 

GMO-Stats

THE BIG SIX PROMINENT MANUFACTURERS OF GMOS & PESTICIDES

  • Monsanto, the international genetic engineering giant
  • Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a DuPont subsidiary
  • Syngenta
  • Dow Agrosciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical)
  • BASF (primarily a chemical company but rapidly expanding into biotechnology
  • Bayer Cropscience (a subsidiary of Bayer)
(Sourcewatch, 2014)

 

Countries that grow genetically modified crops, listed by number of acres:
Credit: Alice Krelt, NPR
Credit: Alice Krelt, NPR

 

Countries requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods:

 

GMO Labeling Worldwide. Credit: thegoodonyabar.com
GMO Labeling Worldwide. Turquoise=requires labeling of genetically engineered foods. Grey=no labeling required.
Credit: thegoodonyabar.com

 

 

 

FOODS CONTAINING GMOS

Information from GMO-Awareness.com. See GMOs Defined.

According to the USDA’s report for 2013, the percentages of these crops grown in the US which have been genetically modified are:
  • Quest brand tobacco – 100%
  • Soybeans – 93%
  • Corn – 90%
  • Cotton – 90%
  • Sugar Beets – 90%
  • Canola -88%
  • Hawaiian papaya – more than 50%
In addition, the FDA has recently given its approval for these GMO crops:
  • Alfalfa – widely fed to meat and milk producing animals
  • Kentucky Bluegrass – even more widely fed to meat and milk producing animals. Kentucky Bluegrass is already an invasive grass in its natural state and will spread even more uncontrollably with genetically engineered resistance to RoundUp (Monsanto’s herbicide).
11.4.13-sandy
As of 2014, the FDA is still undecided about whether to grant approval for farmed salmon containing a growth hormone.
And here’s something that should give you pause:   The Environmental Protection Agency (FDA) now regulates the RoundUp Ready corn described above (90% of all corn grown in the US) as an insecticide because it has been engineered to produce its own insect killing chemical as it grows!
So when enjoying your buttered popcorn while watching a movie, remember you’re consuming an insecticide — probably coated with a butter-flavored GMO product.
 80
GMO crops  spread with a ripple effect, a tsunami really, all through the processed foods we eat — infant formula, breads and other baked goods, tofu, catsup, tomato sauce. GM feed is given to animals who produce milk, meat and eggs — so you’re eating GMOs in your steaks, burgers, fries (potatoes and the oil they’re cooked in), ice cream, cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, and veggie burgers  (whey protein). Even non-food items often contain GMO ingredients: soaps, detergents, cosmetics, shampoo and bubble bath – products whose ingredients get absorbed through the skin, our largest organ.

 

Unexpected Sources of GMO Corn
Unexpected Sources of GMO Corn

 

 

In 2005, the Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. The percentage is surely higher now, nine years later.

 

Source: USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA's Economic Research Service How common are genetically engineered crops?
Source: USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA’s Economic Research Service How common are genetically engineered crops?
If you’ve been following any part of the battle in the US to get mandatory GMO labels put on foods and food products containing genetically modified organisms, you already begin to grasp the political complexity of the problem.  Around the world, 64 countries already enforce the consumers’ “right to know” laws for genetically modified foods. Some have gone so far as to ban the sale of GMO foods in their borders.
So far, the Food and Drug Administration has resisted GMO labeling in the US. Monsanto and other large companies in the food industry – including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – have poured huge sums into influencing the FDA not to label GMO-containing products and into advertising to defeat movements in several states  endeavoring to establish mandatory GMO labeling within their borders.

 

These companies provide 90% of the foods sold by grocery stores
These companies provide 90% of the foods sold by grocery stores

 

 

 

BOYCOTT COCA COLA PRODUCTS TO LET THE COMPANY KNOW YOU DISAPPROVE ITS ONGOING FUNDING TO BLOCK GE LABELING

And sign the petition.

 

 

Coke's 'healthy' drinks contain unlabeled GMOs
Some of Coke’s ‘healthier alternative’ drinks
An email today (5/29/2014) jointly from The Center for Food Safety and The Food Revolution Network asks people to boycott all Coca Cola products:

“In 2013, Coca-Cola secretly funneled more than $1.5 million dollars through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in order to block an initiative that would have required the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). …. Now GMO labeling initiatives are developing in 29 states including Oregon and Vermont. We think it’s time for the company to stop fighting our right to know what’s in our food.

“We’re engaging hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to spread the word about Coca-Cola’s secret campaign contributions, and encouraging people to boycott the brands they market as healthier alternatives until they change their ways.”

Coke and the company’s other sodas are made with high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Both sweeteners are derived mostly from GE crops: corn and sugar beets. Even soda consumers trying to cut calories are getting a dose of GMOs: Aspartame, the most widely used artificial sweetener, is created from genetically modified bacteria.
In addition to its soft drinks, Coca Cola produces many drink brands marketed as “healthier alternatives” – Honest Tea, Zico Coconut Water, Odwalla, Vitamin Water, Simply Orange, Fruitopia, Minute Maid, Hi-C, Peace Tea, Naked Juice and Powerade.
You can add your name to the boycott petition here. (Food Revolution Network & Center for Food Safety, 2014)

 

 

These companies oppose labeling genetically engineered foods
These companies oppose labeling genetically engineered foods

 

 

 

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH GMOS?

 

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Genetic engineering involves combining two entirely unrelated species in a lab – species that could never cross breed in nature and thus require complex techniques to forcefully combine their genes into a single organism.
The mega biotech industry claims the FDA has “thoroughly evaluated” GM foods and found them to be safe. THIS CLAIM IS UNTRUE.
In the last 20 years NO studies have been performed in the US to test whether GMO products are safe for human consumption. NO American scientist has determined how much of the toxic herbicides and pesticides that have been genetically engineered into crops remains inside the plants when they’re eventually consumed as food. No long-term testing has been conducted to assess the impacts of these toxic substances on human health, animal health, soil health or the health of the environment as a whole. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)
gmo-tomato
However, research conducted by scientists not on the payroll of the bio-tech companies into the safety of GMO food indicates that GE foods are not fit for consumption.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has reported that animal studies have detected serious health risks associated with GE food. These include: infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in the GI system and other major organs. The AAEM advised physicians to tell their patients to avoid genetically engineered foods.
About 20 years ago, the FDA allowed GMOs into our food supply without requiring any labeling. Prior to their decision, the FDA’s own scientists had repeatedly warned that GE foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects including allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. These scientists strongly urged long-term safety studies. They were ignored.
In the intervening 20 years, independent scientific research has discovered many deleterious effects from genetically modified foods:
  • Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
  • Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer and smaller babies
  • More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were also smaller
  • Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy diet underwent significant changes 
  • By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters became infertile
  • Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed negative immune system responses and signs of toxicity
  • Cooked GM soy contains as much as seven times the amount of a known soy allergen as non-GMO soy
  • Soon after GM soy was introduced in the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%
  • The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer.
  • Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.

See Institute for Responsible Technology: Genetically Modified Foods: Are They Safe?.

And:
  • Immune system dysregulation (asthma, allergy and inflammation)
  • Accelerated aging
  • Infertility
  • Dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis
  • Insulin dysregulation
  • Cell signaling dysregulation
  • Problems with protein formation
  • Altered structure and function in the liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen and GI system
  • Still births
  • Birth defects
  • Premature death

See GMO-Awareness.com: Gmo Risks

 

Mice born to mothers who were fed GM soy were smaller (mouse on right) and had higher mortality rates than control group mice (mouse on left). Credit: GMO-Awareness.com
Mice born to mothers who were fed GM soy were smaller (mouse on right) and had higher mortality rates than control group mice (mouse on left). Credit: GMO-Awareness.com
Unlike the FDA-required safety evaluations for new pharmaceuticals, no human clinical trials of genetically engineered foods have ever been required.

 

 

Credit: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine
Credit: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine

 

Independent studies have uncovered a host of toxic effects in humans, plants and soil exposed to glyphosphate – the principal ingredients in Monsanto’s widely-used herbicide RoundUp and the chemical the majority of GMO crops have been genetically engineered to withstand. See GMO-Awareness.com: GMO Risks for more information.

 

Crop being sprayed with pesticide
Crop being sprayed

 

While the GMO industry argues that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, is minimally toxic to humans and other mammals, the findings of a rigorous study suggest otherwise. Glyphosate residues  are found in the principal foods in our Western diet – sugar, corn, soy and wheat. These crops are almost entirely grown from GMO seeds and sprayed with Monsanto’s herbicide RoundUp. From the published abstract of the study: (Samsel & Seneff, 2013)

“… glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.”

If you want to know more about the research, watch this informative, easy to understand interview with one of the study’s principal investigators, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The video is called The Health Dangers of Roundup (glyphosate) Herbicide. (Canty, 2013)
A major finding of this research is that glyphosate has profound negative effects on the bacteria making up our gut microbiome – where most of our immune system lives. Glyphosate destroys the beneficial bacteria in our guts, causing an enormous range of diseases.

 

 

I highly recommend finding an hour to watch this interview. It will change your understanding of how what you eat affects pretty much everything going on in your body.
The genetic engineering industry has claimed for 20 years that GMOs are the only hope for feeding the ever-increasing population worldwide. They claim that GMOs “increase yield, reduce the need for pesticides, produce drought-fighting plants and contain more nutrients”. Yet they have been unable to produce any convincing evidence that these claims are true … and considerable evidence that they are far from true.

 

 

 

DANGEROUS GMO FEED FOR PIGS – AND THE REST OF US

(Mercola, 2014)

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Most pigs in the US are fed a mixture of genetically engineered soy and corn. Overcoming the many obstacles the industry puts in the way of doing any research on GE foods, a large, high quality  research study has demonstrated that this diet produces severe inflammation in the pigs’ stomachs. The pigs’ diet that was tested simulated the diet most Americans consume daily – a variety of genetically engineered foods.
The findings: Compared with pigs fed a non-GMO diet, sows eating a typical diet of GE soy and corn were more than twice as likely to have severe stomach inflammation and male pigs were more than four times as likely to develop severe stomach inflammation.
Results from study of inflammation in stomachs of pigs fed a GMO diet
Results from study of inflammation in stomachs of pigs fed a GMO diet. Different levels of inflammation found, clockwise from top left: Nil (stomach of non-GMO fed pig, No. B41). Mild (stomach of non-GMO fed pig, No. B15). Moderate (stomach of GMO-fed pig, No. C34).  Severe (stomach of GMO-fed pig, No. D22).

 

The independent study was conducted by a respected Australian scientist, Dr Judy Carman. Dr Carman is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Flinders University in South Australia and director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, where she investigates outbreaks of disease. She also does research on nutritional biochemistry in metabolic regulation in relation to cancer.
The genetic engineering industry goes to enormous lengths to prevent any independent research that might lead to negative information about its products. First off, it has stringent patent laws in place to prevent researchers from obtaining any GMO seeds to study.

“Yes, there are a number of problems for anyone doing research,” Dr Carman notes. “They usually center around getting the money to be able to do the research… But you also need to get the materials to test. In this case, it’s the seeds from the genetically modified (GM) plants… But it’s very difficult to get GM seeds to test.

“If a farmer wants to buy seeds to plant in the field, the farmer has to sign a technology user agreement, which means [he]… is not allowed to do any research on those seeds, and is not allowed to give them to anyone else to do research on either.

“You basically have to find some way around that that’s legal – and we did, but it took us quite some time. Otherwise, you need to go to the industry to ask, ‘Pretty please, can we have some seeds?’ We did that as well. The conditions placed upon us getting those seeds were such that we couldn’t legitimately try and get the seeds from most companies.”

Funding is a major barrier to such research. Most of the agricultural universities – the ones that would conduct these studies – obtain their funding from the very companies that make the seeds so the universities aren’t willing to jeopardize their lucrative relationship with the industry. In Dr Carman’s case, her team was fortunate enough to obtain the funding for its research from the government of Western Australia.
Then there are the personal abuse and attempts at professional discrediting these mega-companies direct at anyone who does manage to obtain seed samples and study them. Many independent scientists have ended up losing their entire careers when they’ve revealed negative findings.
Dr Carman prepared herself for these attacks by electing to forgo receiving any salary for her work. She was also fortunate in that her team was able to obtain funding for their research from the West Australia government. Nonetheless, she has survived six separate attempts to have her removed from her various university positions over the last six years.

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 MONSANTO-US GOVERNMENT OVERLAP

Much has been written about Monsanto’s control over regulating bodies in the US government. The biotech-agrobusiness mega-giant virtually has in its pocket Congress, the White House, key appointments to the USDA and the FDA, and even a Supreme Court Justices – Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto for four years before being appointed to the Court. This arrangement aids the passage of Monsanto-friendly legislation and protects the company’s GE products from being adequately regulated by  the USDA or FDA.

 

steviehaston.blogspot. com. 2013
steviehaston.blogspot. com. 2013

 

 

If you’re interested in a good summary of the longstanding cozy relationship between Monsanto and the various branches of our government, I recommend taking a look at Josh Sager’s article Monsanto Controls both the White House and the US Congress. (Sager, 2014)

 

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FROM THE FDA’S WEBSITE :

“FDA    U. S. Food and Drug Administration: Promoting and Protecting Your Health

“FDA’s Role in Regulating Safety of GE Foods

“Using a science-based approach, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates foods and ingredients made from genetically engineered plants to help ensure that they are safe to eat.

“Since people have been modifying plants for thousands of years through breeding and selection, FDA uses the term “genetically engineered,” or “GE,” to distinguish plants that have been modified using modern biotechnology from those modified through traditional breeding.

“FDA regulates food from GE crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and disease, including making sure that all new GE plant varieties pose no pest risk to other plants. EPA regulates pesticides, including those bioengineered into food crops, to make sure that pesticides are safe for human and animal consumption and do not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment.” ( FDA, 2014)

 

 

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THE BOTTOM LINE FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH

Either of these labels in the US indicates the product is at least 95% organic.
Either of these labels in the US indicates the product is at least 95% organic.

 

Assume foods made with sugar from sugar beets, soy, corn, or any of their derivatives contain GMO ingredients – unless they are certified as organic or are labeled as non-GMO.

 

label gmo large

 

I’ve written about GMOs elsewhere on this site. See also:

 

NOTE:  
Much of the information in this post is  derived from a useful website called  GMO-Awareness.com. I urge you to check out that site – it’s chock full of interesting and useful information about  the genetic engineering of our food supply that is adversely affecting our health and the health of the planet with serious long-term  consequences.

 

 

REFERENCES

Canty, K. (2013). Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Stephanie Seneff about Glyphosate. See video: http://vimeo.com/65914121

FDA. (5/9/2014). FDA’s Role in Regulating Safety of GE Foods. See: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm352067.htm

Food Revolution Network & Center for Food Safety.  (2014). Boycott Coca-Cola. See: http://cokeboycott.com/

GMO-Awareness.com. (2011-2014). GMOs Defined. See http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-defined/

GMO-Awareness.com (2011-2014). GMO Risks. See http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-risks/

Institute for Responsible Technology. (2006-2013). GMO Dangers – Genetically Modified Foods: Are They Safe? See: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers

Mercola, R. (5/18/2014). Large Pig Study Reveals Significant Inflammatory Response to Genetically Engineered Foods, Mercola.com. See http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/18/gmo-foods-inflammation.aspx?e_cid=20140525Z1_SNL_MV_1&utm_source=snl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=mv1&utm_campaign=20140525Z1&et_cid=DM45580&et_rid=530782318

Sager, J. (2014). Monsanto Controls both the White House and the US Congress: No Matter Who Wins the Presidential Election Monsanto Benefits.  See: http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-controls-both-the-white-house-and-the-us-congress/5336422

Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013).  Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy – special issue Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality,  15:4, 1416-1463. See: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

Sourcewatch.org. (2014). “Big 6” Pesticide and GMO Corporations. See: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/%22Big_6%22_Pesticide_and_GMO_Corporations

 

 


© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

 

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

A Visit to the Old Japan

Updated 7/8/2014.

I’d first wanted to visit Japan in my mid-20’s when I began taking pottery lessons and became enamored of those earthy Japanese glazes and the sublimely imperfect ceramic shapes. There were potters’ trips that would have let me work and live at a few pottery villages and participate in their wood-fueled kiln firings. The trips cost something like $1500. If I recall correctly, that price even included round trip airfare. But I was young and didn’t have the money.
While such a trip would no doubt have provided a wonderful set of experiences and might have changed the course of my life, it turns out this 2014 trip was worth waiting for – and also let me see glimpses of the old Japan my younger self was seeking.

 

Early bowl - JRH A little bowl I made years ago – still in use. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

THE FOUR MAIN ISLANDS OF JAPAN
The archipelago that is Japan is made up of 2,456 islands. Its varied climate ranges from cool temperate in the north to tropical in the south. Honshu (where Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Hiroshima are located) is the largest. Hokaido, (where Saporo is located), to the north of Honshu, is the second largest. Shikoku, between the Inland Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, is the smallest. Kyushu (where Nagasaki is located), to the south of Shikoku, is the 3rd largest.


japan_map

 

Our Geographic Expeditions trip, Journey through Ancient Japan: Shikoku and Kyoto with Don George, began in Kyoto on Honshu and then continued for another week on rural Shikoku Island. It was all that I’d hoped it would be – and much more.

 

 

KYOTO IN CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME
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The trip began with a few days on my own in Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for over 1000 years  – just as its cherry trees were coming into full bloom. Even having seen DC’s Japanese cherry trees in bloom when I lived there and having spent years enjoying the large variety of cherry trees during NYC spring times, nothing prepared me for the sensory saturation that is the cherry trees of Kyoto in full glorious bloom in early April.
In Japan, sakura, ornamental cherry trees and their blossoms,  are a symbol of the ephemeral nature of life – the Buddhist notion that life is overwhelmingly beautiful and short, like a cherry blossom. The rich symbolism of sakura is aptly used throughout the various Japanese art forms.
Cherry trees Philosopher's Walk.Kyoto
Cherry trees in full blossom along Path of Philosophers, Kyoto. Lots of locals and visitors were out enjoying them. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

Weeping Cherry Trees.Kyoto Garden
Enormous old pink weeping cherry trees at Saiho-ji Temple  (Moss Temple) in Kyoto  – like pink lace overhead. We also got to practice calligraphy by copying a Zen Buddhist sutra at the temple, which originated in the 6th century and was re-established in 1339. 120 kinds of moss grow in the extensive and beautiful garden. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry trees along a canal parallel to Reisen-dori, just past the hydroelectric power plant's dam & shortly before Kawabati-dori, Kyoto
Cherry trees along a canal parallel to Reisen-dori, just past the hydroelectric power plant’s dam & shortly before Kawabati-dori, Kyoto (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

LUCKING UPON UOSUKE SUSHI
During the first day in Kyoto, while on foot to visit the Nishijin Textile Center to see a kimono show (Nishijin turned out to be quite far away – my map made it look close by NYC standards), I was walking along the lovely canal in the photo just above and wasn’t entirely sure I was heading in the right direction – and my jet-lag confused stomach began announcing it would appreciate receiving some lunch.  A small, unassuming sushi restaurant came into view up the street just past that spot. This turned out to be one of those fortuitous being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time experiences.

 

Uosuke SushiUosuke Sushi, Kyoto (Photo: J. Hardin)

It was still early so it was just the chef and I.  I showed him a card explaining my gluten free requirements in kanji and English and that I had my own individual packet of gluten free tamari. There was some negotiation – Japanese for him, English for me – that also involved a phone call to someone who was somewhat bi-lingual and then he realized he could do it if he omitted the tamago (sweet egg omelet – usually made with soy sauce). So he served me green tea in a gorgeous ceramic cup and began preparing a wonderful chef’s choice lunch – the best sushi I’d ever had.

 

Uisuke 2

 

Uosuke 1

 

 

 

 

Chef Uosuke at work (Photos: J. Hardin)

 

Uni (sea urchin roe) has never appealed to me when I’ve tried it in the US. As the chef was preparing individual pieces of sushi for my meal, he showed me a large piece of uni to ask if I wanted it. I shook my head no but then reconsidered since it actually looked good and there I was in Japan. It turned out to be sweet and  delicate tasting. Turns out I’d just never had really fresh uni before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASea Urchin. (Photo: en-wikipedia.org)

Two other memorable things happened at this restaurant:
Uosuke has a sophisticated collection of Japanese ceramic tea cups, plates and dishes so you’re apt to be served your meal on something old and quite lovely. He also has a gorgeous ceramic vinegar crock sitting in a place of honor right across from the restaurant’s front door. It’s very old, heavily flashed with ash from the wood fired kiln and partially collapsed during the firing.You can see the unglazed areas where balls of clay were placed and another such jug was stacked on top of it for the firing – the raw balls of clay kept the two pots from sticking together. Old. Simple and lovely. Very wabi sabi – sometimes translated as beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete, as exemplified by the rough, simple beauty of Japanese folk crafts – 侘寂 in kanji.  A satisfyingly beautiful piece to me.

 

Old pot at Uosuke Sushi
Old vinegar crock at Uosuke Sushi (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

Chef Uosuke also proudly showed off a framed note from Richard Gere, who’d dined there one day – complete with a photo. I guess Gere carries them with him for such occasions. Uosuke asked if I knew the movie, “Pretty Girl”.
I had such a good time at this restaurant and the walk to reach it along the cherry tree lined canal was so pleasant, I returned two more times before we departed for Shikoku Island – the final time with two members of our group, who also enjoyed the place.
After lunch that first day I did finally make it to the Nishijin Textile Center. The walk there included an enjoyable stop at a tiny Japanese clothing store where the shopkeeper showed me a program from a Rolling Stones concert she’d attended; along a river with its wading cranes and small children playing with their parents along its banks; past some old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines; and through the enormous old Imperial Palace grounds with its huge weeping cherry trees in cascading pink bloom.

 

 

KYOTO IMPERIAL PALACE GROUNDS
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Imperial Palace, Kyoto. (Photo:  www.dgolds.com)

 

 

 

 

imperial_palace_courtyard
Kyoto Imperial Palace courtyard. (Photo: www.taleofgenji.org)

 

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Weeping cherry trees on the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds. (Photo: www.japan-guide.com)

 

 

 

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Elsewhere on the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds. (Photo: www.planetware.com)

 

 

 

Kyoto_Imperial_Palace_Aerial_Photograph
Aerial view of the vast Imperial Palace grounds. (Photo source unknown)

 

Imperial_palace_in_Kyoto._Before_1902
Kyoto Imperial Palace, before 1902. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
I stopped several times to ask directions of young people who looked like they might know some English. The last one didn’t know where the address was, consulted an old woman on a bicycle and then walked me there himself – about 15 minutes out of his way. I’m pretty sure he was on his way home from work. Other people in my group also reported being walked to the door of the place they were trying to find.

 

NISHIJIN TEXTILE CENTER – AT LAST
Arriving at the Nishijin Textile Center, I learned the final kimono show of the day was to begin soon, giving me just enough time to revive a bit and take a look at the textiles and kimonos for sale in their shop. The Center offers the experience of dressing up in one of their everyday kimono and wearing it out and about for a day. Fortunately, I’d already decided to pass on that.

 

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Nishijin Textile Center building, Kyoto. (Photo: Nishijin)

 

 

Weaver at Nishijin. (Photo: www.virtualtourist.com)
Weaver at Nishijin. (Photo: www.virtualtourist.com)

 

 

Kimono Show at Nishijin. (Photo: www.japan-guide.com)
Kimono Show at Nishijin. (Photo:  japan-guide.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processed silkworm cocoons. (Photo: livesoftheplanet.blogspot.com)
Processed silkworm cocoons. (Photo: livesoftheplanet.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Part of a kimono show at the Nishijin Textile Center. (Photo: tripadvisor.com)

 

 

Died threads: (Photo: purpledonsu.blogspot.com)
Died threads: (Photo: purpledonsu.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing silk thread from the cocoons.  (Photo: article.wn.com)
Preparing silk thread from the cocoons. (Photo: article.wn.com)
Finale of the kimono show I saw
Finale of the kimono show I saw (Photo: J. Hardin)
A cab ride back to the hotel seemed in order after that – and led to the discovery that Japanese taxis are driven by uniformed, white-gloved drivers and their seats are protected by spotless white lace covers.
Kyoto taxi cab with white gloved driver & lace seat covers. (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)
Kyoto taxi cab with white gloved driver & lace seat covers. (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)
WAGASHI-MAKING LESSON
Another Kyoto highlight for the foodie in me was a hands-on lesson in the art of making delicately beautiful wagashi (Japanese sweets) sculpted from doughs made of sweetened glutinous rice flour (mochi) dyed a variety of colors – pink, green, yellow, brown and white. Our attempts at crafting this edible art form to look like cherry blossoms in honor of the season weren’t entirely successful – but they tasted good nonetheless when we got to sample them with cups of matcha green tea served at outdoor tables set up in the shop’s courtyard – and take home the ones we didn’t eat. The sweets shop has been in operation for nearly 150 years.
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Making wagashi from different colored mochi doughs. (Photo source unknown)

 

How ours were supposed to turn out - recognizable as cherry blossons
How ours were supposed to turn out – recognizable as cherry blossoms. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

SESAME TOFU
One day we had lunch at a restaurant specializing in varieties of tofu made fresh daily in Kyoto – including a  quite pleasant, pale yellow version made from sesame seeds instead of soy beans.
rather-desperate-goma-dofu
Handmade gome dofu (sesame tofu) – a Kyoto specialty. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 SCENES AROUND KYOTO AND NEARBY NARA
Shinto torii in rain.Kyoto
Shinto torii gate on a rainy day in Kyoto (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

Statues on a residential street, near a small Buddhist temple
Statues on a residential street, near a small Buddhist temple, Kyoto. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

View from a lane, Kyoto
A small canal viewed from a bridge on a residential lane in Kyoto. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls in a covered shopping arcade in downtown Kyoto
Girls in a covered shopping arcade in downtown Kyoto (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The famous rock garden at the Zen Buddhist Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto.  An interesting feature of The garden was designed so that from any vantage point at least one of the 15 rocks is always hidden from the viewer. It is said that a truly enlightened person can see them all at the same time.
The famous rock garden at the Zen Buddhist Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto. The garden was designed so that from any vantage point, at least one of the 15 rocks is hidden from the viewer. It is said that a truly enlightened person can see all 15 at the same time. (Photo: japan-guide.com)

 

 

Giant Buddha hand at the 320-year-old  Hall of the Great Buddha, Todaiji Temple in Nara
Hand of Buddha at the 320-year-old Hall of the Great Buddha, Todaiji Temple in Nara. Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan (710-784). (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persimmon Leaf Sushi - a specialty in Nara. Slices of cured fish are placed on top of sushi rice in a wooden mold and pressed. The block of sushi is cut into rectangular pieces and each piece is wrapped in a persimmon leaf.
Persimmon Leaf Sushi – a specialty in Nara. Slices of cured fish are placed on top of sushi rice in a wooden mold and pressed. The block of sushi is cut into rectangular pieces and each piece is neatly wrapped in a persimmon leaf. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in the Todaiji Temple, Nara. (Photo: taleofgenji.com)
The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in the Todaiji Temple, Nara. (Photo: taleofgenji.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sika deer outside Todaiji Temple, Nara. They've apparently inflicted damage on visitors. See the warning sign toward the end of this post. (Photo: daviding.com)
Sika deer outside Todaiji Temple, Nara. They’ve apparently inflicted damage on visitors. See the warning sign toward the end of this post. (Photo: daviding.com)

 

 

 

NISHIKI STREET – A FOOD LOVER’S PARADISE
Just off the wider shopping arcade seen in the photo of the two girls above is the Nishiki Street Market (Nishiki Ichiba – 錦市場), a 15′-wide, five-block long, covered walkway lined on both sides with 126 shops, a few small  restaurants, and stands selling ready made foods. Each little shop specializes in a single type of food or product and everything for sale here is locally produced or procured. Referred to as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen”, it’s a food lover’s paradise.
You can view, sample, and purchase every sort of Japanese food and food-related item imaginable here, some unique to Kyoto – fresh vegetables and fruits, a huge variety of Japanese pickles, fresh and dried fish and seafood, meats, dried beans, teas, fresh eggs, vegetables in miso, wasabi salt, fresh tofu and tofu skins, all manner of things on skewers, wagashi and other sweets, freshly roasted chestnuts, sushi,  cookware … and much more. There’s a hand made knife shop founded by Fujiwara Aritsugu in 1560 and operated by the Aritsugu family for over 400 years.

 

Nishiki Street Market Arcade
Nishiki Street Market Arcade. (Photo: flickriver.com)

 

Vegetable stall
Vegetable stall. (Photo: theguardian.com)

 

 

Roasting chestnuts in a Nishiki Market shop
Roasting chestnuts in a Nishiki Market shop. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

Skewered foods
Skewered food vendor. (Photo: concierge.com)

 

Dried fish & seafood stall
Dried fish & seafood stall (Photo: J. Hardin)
Local Kyoto produce
Local Kyoto produce. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

Inside Aritsugu Knife Shop, Nishiki Street
Inside Aritsugu Knife & Cooking Utensil Shop, Nishiki Street. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Japanese sweets
Beautiful Japanese sweets. (Photo: travelworld.jpn.co.jp)

 

 

SHIKOKU ISLAND
As Don George, our knowledgeable guide, wrote, “Although it is a main island, Shikoku is what most Japanese consider tooi inaka, the deep countryside … a Japan I hadn’t known existed: A place of farms and fishing villages, mountainside shrines and seaside temples, rugged seacoasts and forested hills, time-honored traditions and country kindness.” (George, 2012)
A comfortable bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima and then a leisurely ferry ride across the otherworldly Seto Inland Sea delivered us to the port city of Matsuyama – and we were in the magical land of Shikoku.
We encountered rivers so clear you could see through to their bottoms, snow capped mountains with wild cherry trees blooming down their slopes and into the valleys, tiny villages of old tile-roofed houses sporting solar panels, the Milky Way splashing across the sky at night in the mountains of the central Iya Valley, thatch-roofed farm houses several hundred years old and still inhabited, traditionally dressed farmers working rice paddies and fields – if the automobiles, electric and phone wires and solar panels hadn’t been there, you might wonder what century you were in.
We slept on thin futons under Japanese duvets in tatami-matted rooms; soaked in onsens (hot mineral spring baths); bathed in beautiful tubs on open balconies overlooking a wild mountain vista in the Iya Valley; toured a castle atop a hill in Matsuyama – begun in 1602; visited picturesque outdoor food markets; participated in the searing of bonito tataki (lightly charred outside, raw inside) on an outdoor grill behind the fish market in Kochi; ate vegetables picked that same day and fish who had been swimming in the sea a few hours earlier; milled buckwheat between old grinding stones and made soba noodles which got turned into part of our lunch at the little restaurant across the walk; drank local sakes and Japanese sodas called Pocari Sweat and Calpis everywhere; toasted homemade  mochi cakes (a ‘bread’ made from finely ground, sweet glutinous rice flour) on top of a wood stove until they were crispy outside and melting inside at Kaiyu, a peaceful eco-lodge at Cape Ashizuri on the Pacific Ocean; carefully crossed a double-vined bridge spanning the Iya Gorge (I myself made it only a few yards across the widely spaced slats and decided to turn back); visited a paper museum in Ino to see washi (handmade paper) being made; stopped in Uchiko to visit its old Uchiko-za kabuki theater and a traditional candle making shop that’s been in existence for 200 years; climbed around inside the vast and damp Ryuga-do Cave – formed 175 million years ago and containing artifacts, earthen vessels and dwelling remains dating from 300 BC to 300 AD; and took part in a tea ceremony inside the thatched-roof tea house at the Ritsurin-koen, an Edo-style garden.

 

The Seto Inland Sea, the large body of water separating Japan's large islands of Honshū, Shikoku & Kyūshū and  linking the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan.
The Seto Inland Sea, the large body of water separating Japan’s large islands of Honshū, Shikoku & Kyūshū and linking the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan. (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)
 Matsuyama Castle, high above the town - begun in 1602 by Yoshiaki Katoh, a powerful daimyo (feudal lord) in pre-modern Japan
Matsuyama Castle, high above the town – begun in 1602 by Yoshiaki Katoh, a powerful daimyo (feudal lord) in pre-modern Japan. (Photo: styleofeye.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For sale in the Kochi fish market - these fish were swimming in the sea a few hours earlier
For sale in the Kochi fish market – these fish were swimming in the sea a few hours earlier. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super fresh bonito fillet being seared over rice straw on a grill behind the fish market in Kochi - for our lunch at the restaurant across the street run by the fishmonger's wife
Super fresh bonito fillet being seared over rice straw on a grill behind the fish market in Kochi – for our lunch at the restaurant across the street run by the fishmonger’s wife. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remote Iya Valley, Shikoku Island. (Photo: onsenmeijin.com)
The remote Iya Valley, Shikoku Island. (Photo: onsenmeijin.com)

 

 

 

Hotel Iya Onsen, overlooking the mountains and the Iya River below.
Hotel Iya Onsen, overlooking the mountains and the Iya River below. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

Taken inside cable car going down to the hot spring baths by the Iya River at Iya Onsen Hotel
Taken inside cable car going down to the hot spring baths by the river at Hotel Iya Onsen. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

Balcony with bathtub overlooking the mountains at the Hotel Iya Onsen
Balcony with bathtub overlooking the mountains at the Hotel Iya Onse. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot springs baths on Iya River
Hot springs baths on Iya River. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

Grinding buckwheat for soba noodles
Grinding buckwheat for soba noodles. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen at river, Iya Onsen Hotel. (Photo: discovernihon.blogspot.com)
Onsen at river, Iya Onsen Hotel. (Photo: discovernihon.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

Eating our soba noodle lunch. Our hostess (also our noodle teacher) is an award winning Japanese folk song singer and serenaded us after lunch
Eating our soba noodle lunch. Our hostess (also our noodle teacher) is an award winning Japanese folk song singer and serenaded us after lunch. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

The Oku-iya  double vined bridge over the Iya -gawa River. The Heike clan built it to access their riding ground in Mt.Tsurugi about 800 years ago. If an enemy was in pursuit, they could easy cut the bridge.
The Oku-iya double vined bridge over the Iya -gawa River. The Heike clan built it to access their riding grounds in Mt.Tsurugi about 800 years ago. If an enemy was in pursuit, the Heike could easy cut the vines. (Photo: J. Hardin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the vast Ryuga-do Cave near Kochi
Inside the vast, 175 million year old  Ryuga-do Cave near Kochi. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

Japanese woman posing for us
Japanese woman posing for us in Kotohira. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uchiko-za Kabuki Theater in Uchiko-cho, built in 1916
Uchiko-za Kabuki Theater in Uchiko, built in 1916. (Photo: japan-guide.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Shop in Uchiko-cho that has made traditional Japanese candles by hand for 200 years. They're made from sumac wax, don't drip & have a clear scent.
Shop in Uchiko where the same family has used sumac wax to make traditional Japanese candles by hand for 200 years. These candles don’t drip & have a clear scent. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

Old pines in the Ritsurin-koen, an Edo-style garden. We participated in a tea ceremony in the garden's thatched-roof tea house.
Old pines in the Ritsurin-koen, an Edo-style garden in Takamatsu. (Photo: bonsaitonight.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea ceremony in the Ritsurin Garden tea house. (Photo:  J. Hardin)
Our abbreviated tea ceremony in the Ritsurin Garden tea house. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raking the rock garden outside the tea house in Ritsurin Garden. (Photo: flickr.com)
Raking the rock garden outside the tea house in Ritsurin Garden. (Photo: flickr.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Kinryō-no-Sato Sake Museum in Kotohira. (Photos: J. Hardin)
Kinryō-no-Sato Sake Museum in Kotohira. (Photos: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

Pocari Sweat vending machine
Pocari Sweat vending machine. (Photo: J. Hardin)
Then there were the white-clad people on pilgrimage to visit Shikoku’s 88 Esoteric Buddhist temples – on foot, in cars and buses, on motorcycles and bicycles. The entire pilgrimage consists of a 1,647-kilometer circuit around the island. An estimated 100,000 people visit all or at least one of these temples each year.
Modern Shikoku pilgrims
Modern Shikoku pilgrims. (Photo: japan.nanoda.com)

 

 

 

Shikoku pilgrims in 1909
Shikoku pilgrims, 1909. (Photo: davidmoreton.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temple 37, Iwamoto-ji, in Shimanto, with its painted ceiling panels
Temple 37, Iwamoto-ji, in Shimanto, with its painted ceiling panels. (Photo source unknown)
Another view of the ceiling of Temple 37. (Photo: J. Hardin)
Another view of the ceiling of Temple 37. (Photo: J. Hardin)
Outside Temple 37 we met a man of indeterminate age in the process of making his 12th such pilgrimage on foot. He looked to be quite fit.

 

Man on 12th Shikoko Island pilgrimage
Man outside Temple 37, a stop on his 12th Shikoko Island pilgrimage. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

His pilgrimage book
His pilgrimage book. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

KAIYU ON CAPE ASHIZURI
One of the most enjoyable places we stayed was an informal, family-run and oriented eco-resort called Kaiyu on the semi-tropical southwest side of Shikoku Island. It’s near  scenic Cape Ashizuri and has its own onsen (hot springs bath) overlooking Ooki Beach on a lovely section of the Pacific Ocean. Kaiyu’s onsen uses no chemicals and is fired with wood. Everything about it has been designed to help quests reconnect with nature.
Just to make the point that Kaiyu is a magical place for your body and soul, this is the scene we woke up to our first morning there:
Double rainbow over Kaiyu. The chimney is from the eco-lodge's onsen.
Morning rainbow over Kaiyu – actually a double rainbow. My phone’s camera wasn’t good enough to capture the second arc above. The chimney is from the wood-burning furnace for the eco-lodge’s onsen. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

Graceful Pacific Ocean beach in front of Kaiyu
Graceful Pacific Ocean beach in front of Kaiyu. (Photo: Kaiyu)

 

 

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Inviting onsen at Kaiyu
Inviting onsen at Kaiyu. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Kaiyu website)
Wood burning furnace heating the onsen's pools
Wood burning furnace heating the onsen’s pools. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

Looking out over the beach from a room at Kaiyu
Looking out over the beach from a room at Kaiyu. (Photo: Kaiyu website)

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve written about lovely Kaiyu and its delightful owners, Mitsu and Tae Okada, in a previous post so refer you there for more information and more photos of the eco-lodge, the onsen, beach, and Tae’s beautiful food:

http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/04/25/japanese-food-gluten-free/

Also see Kaiyu’s website.

 

 

 

CHIIORI – A 300 YEAR OLD MINKA
We stayed one lovely night at Chiiori (House of the Flute),  a 300 year old minka farmhouse purchased in the 1970’s byAlex Kerr, author of the interesting book Lost Japan. Minka (traditional farmhouses) are built of rough wood beams and posts held together without nails, and are usually covered with a thick thatched roof. No tatami mats on these floors – just the dark beauty of the old wood planks. Kerr’s house is now part of the Chiiori Trust, a non-profit organization  working to restore sustainable tourism and agriculture in the rural Iya Valley of Shikoku Island. These photos of Chiiori demonstrate its charms:

 

The local tourist bureau delegation greeting us on our arrival at Chiiori
The local Tourist Bureau delegation greeting us on our arrival at Chiiori. The man on the far left looks so much like a Japanese version of my Uncle Sidney I could hardly take my eyes off him. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large main room at Chiiori
Large main room at Chiiori. (Photo: fujijardins.com)

 

Another view of Chiiori's main room, with its old cooking pit in the center
Another view of Chiiori’s main room, with its old cooking pit in the forefront. (Photo source unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

The kitchen at Chiiori. You can see old tonsu step chests at the left and the supports for the thatch roof at the back
The kitchen at Chiiori. You can see old tonsu step chests at the left and the supports for the thatch roof at the back. (Photo: justintwood.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking up the mountainside at the front of the minka. (Photo: george-osd.blogspot.com)
Looking up the mountainside at the front of the minka. (Photo: george-osd.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

Looking out over the Iya Valley & the mountains out Chiiori's front door
Looking out over the Iya Valley & the mountains out Chiiori’s front door. (Photo: vagabondrtw.blogspot.com)

 

I also highly recommend watching Davina Pardo’s lovely short (15:37) documentary MINKA for the story of another ancient Japanese farmhouse. The film is a meditation that will leave you feeling serene and refreshed.

 

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In 1967, Yoshihiro Takishita, a Japanese law student at the time, and John Roderick, an American journalist based in Tokyo, rescued an ancient farmhouse found in the snow country of Japan and rebuilt it on a hill in the Tokyo suburb of Kamakura, where it overlooks the sea.  Minka is an intimate story about architecture, friendship, memory and the meaning of home.
At the time, Takishita knew nothing about the work of renovating minkas. He figured it out as the project went along – a labor of love for his adoptive father, Roderick. Since then, he has dismantled, moved and renovated 35 other minkas in Japan and other countries. He also writes and lectures about architecture, collects and sells Japanese antiques. He has established an NPO for the preservation of traditional houses in Japan and is president of the Association for Preserving Old Japanese Farmhouses.
I also recommend reading Roderick’s wonderful book about his home, Minka: My Farmhouse in Japan.

 

Minka

 

If you’re still curious about beautiful old minka farmhouses and want to see more pictures of them, here’s what you get if you google imagery for ‘minka farmhouses‘.

 

 

 

LIFE SIZED DOLLS IN THE IYA VALLEY
Our stop at the doll maker’s house was completely serendipitous. Don had noticed her ‘scarecrows’ last year when the tour drove through her village. In the intervening year, he’d done some research and learned a bit more about her.  This year she was standing out by the street adjusting the pose of one of her dolls just as we were driving by.  So we stopped, Don asked in his fluent Japanese if she happened to be the artist, and she graciously invited us to walk up the driveway to the front of her house, where her work table is located along with a benchful of her dolls.
Bench of Shikoku doll maker's work in front of her home in the near-abandoned village of Nagoru
Shikoku doll maker’s work on a bench in front of her home in the near-abandoned village of Nagoru. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

Ayano Tsukimi, the doll maker, with more of her creations
Ayano Tsukimi, the doll maker, with more of her creations. (Photo: emptylighthouse.com)

 

 

 

 

The 64 year old artist’s name is Ayano Tsukimi and the small village is Nagonu. There were  hundreds of people living and working in this village in the remote Iya Valley when she was a child living with her family here. Now the village’s school has closed for lack of students and there are only 36 residents left besides her.
Tsukimi has been coping with these losses by making life sized dolls to look like the people who have moved away or died. Ten years ago, after she’d planted seeds that failed to sprout, she decided she needed a scarecrow for her garden so made one to resemble her father. Since then she has made hundreds of dolls.  They are placed out in fields, alongside the road, up in trees , in and around her house – and whole classrooms of them populate the abandoned school building.

 

Classroom of dolls in the abandoned school
Classroom of dolls in the abandoned school. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

Dolls - teacher with students at the abandoned school
Dolls – teacher with students at the abandoned school. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

Don George with principal doll in front of the old school
Don George with principal doll in front of the old school. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

Ayano Tsukimi crossing the bridge near the old school where many of her dolls reside
Ayano Tsukimi crossing the bridge near the old school where many of her dolls reside. (Photo  businessinsider.com.au)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More of her dolls –
Life sized doll of the artist's father
Life sized scarecrow doll of the artist’s father. (Photo: globalpost.com)
Doll with fishing poll. (Photo:
Doll with fishing poll. (Photo: inside.com)

 

Doll up in tree
Doll in a field. (Photo: digitaldeconstruction.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doll of a boy at a fence
Doll of a boy at a fence. (Photo: beautifuldecay.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doll of a child on the school's staircase
Doll of a child on the school’s staircase. (Photo: artribune.com)

 

Getting to see these life sized dolls and meet their creator, a woman of great feeling and personal dignity, was a moving experience.
A Berlin-based film maker named Fritz Schumann was also moved and intrigued. He has made a short documentary about Ayano Tsukimia and her dolls called The Valley of Dolls. The film (in Japanese with English subtitles) is wonderful – both beautiful and sad. It’s posted on Vimeo – you can watch it here. I highly recommend it.

 

Documentary about Ayano Tsukimi & her life sized dolls: "The Valley of Dolls"
Documentary by Fritz Schumann about Ayano Tsukimi & her life sized dolls: “The Valley of Dolls”. (Photo: vimeo.com)
A coda to this story: A few of us were in need of a bathroom while we were looking at the many life-sized dolls around the outside of this artist’s house so Don asked if she would allow us to use hers. We expected a squat, possibly in an out building. Instead, she invited us into her home  (which is also filled with her dolls, including the entire wedding party in fine clothes below), where she had one of Japan’s finest: A multi-function Toto – complete with a heated seat.

 

Wedding part dolls inside the artist's home
Wedding party dolls inside the artist’s home. (Photo: J. Hardin)
You just never know!

 

 

 

MY FAVORITE INSTRUCTION SIGNS

 

Sign warning that the deer roaming free in the park area of this temple in Nara may bite, kick, butt & knock down frail people.
Sign warning that people may be bitten, kicked, butted, or knocked down in the Deer Park next to the  Todaiji Temple in Nara. 100’s of sika deer roam freely here. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

Multifunction Japanese toilet. It may be hard to make out but the 3rd illustration on the right is saying not to wash a baby in the toilet.
A multifunction Japanese toilet made by Toto. It may be hard to make out, but the middle illustration on the right is saying not to wash a baby in the toilet. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

The control panel of an especially complex Japanese toilet
The control panel of an especially complex Japanese toilet made by Toto. (Photo: cybersoc.com)
Instructions about what's not allowed at this playground
Instructions about what’s not allowed at this playground. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

BUDDHISM – SO PRACTICAL
Here’s a small example of why it’s so pleasant to be in a country with a strong Buddhist legacy:
We were outside Tokushima City visiting Ryōzenji, Temple 1 of Shikoku’s 88 Esoteric Buddhist temples on the pilgrimage route and the most holy. Amidst all its beauty, it came into my awareness that we hadn’t taken off our shoes to enter the temple – and neither had the many pilgrims or anyone else. Since we’d had to take off our shoes to enter every other temple, many restaurants and hotel rooms, this seemed odd so I asked our Japanese guide, Hiro, about it.
His response was that it was a practical matter: This temple receives so many visitors that everyone’s stopping to remove shoes and then later put them back on would create a traffic jam.
I’d encountered something similar in Bhutan: At a Buddhist temple on the side of a mountain, we had left our shoes in an anteroom and were seated on the floor in the shrine room having been told to sit in a way that the bottoms of our feet were not facing the shrine since facing them toward it is considered disrespectful. I and another woman were trying to figure out a respectful position we could sit in comfortably and realized at the same moment that there wasn’t one. So we leaned over to tell our guide that we couldn’t sit like that and would wait outside. He looked surprised and told us we could stay, that it’s only asked that people do their best.
Now this is a religion with beliefs and practices a person could live with!  It takes into account practical matters. It teaches its followers to do their best instead of instilling guilt for not obeying some rigid dogma. And if you’re having trouble dealing with something you’re feeling – such as envy or hatred, it offers huge, ferocious gods who are more powerful than your feeling and can help protect you from it instead of threatening you with eternal damnation.
Fudō Myō-ō - A wrathful protector god venerated by the Shingon sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.  Fudō converts anger into salvation. (Photo: Handbook by Ishii Ayako)
Fudō Myō-ō: A wrathful guardian god venerated by the Shingon sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Fudō protects all living things by burning away impediments and defilements to aid them toward enlightenment. (Photo: Handbook by Ishii Ayako)

 

 

 

The Dalai Lama describes Buddhism this way:
(Photo: quotesvalley.com)
(Photo: quotesvalley.com)

 

 

 

 

And here’s something interesting about religion in Japan: Most Japanese don’t believe you have to follow only one religion. It’s common for families to have Shinto ceremonies for their children at birth and then again at ages three, five, and seven. People usually have a Christian wedding and then a Buddhist funeral. The interlinking of the various religions in people’s lives is often summed up in the phrase ‘Born Shinto, Die Buddhist’.
If you want to read more about this pragmatic approach, I recommend looking at ‘Japan’s Pick and Mix Religions’ on a website called God Knows What … an irreverent look through the worlds of religion, anthropology and skepticism.

 

Our shoes outside the kabuki theater in . (Photo: J. Hardin)
Our shoes outside the Uchiko-za Kabuki Theater. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Ryōzenji, Temple 1 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. (Photo: redbubble.com)
Inside Ryōzenji, Temple 1 on the Shikoku pilgrimage. (Photo: redbubble.com)

 

 

Water garden outside Temple 1. (Photo: J. Hardin)
Water garden outside Temple 1. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

Fountain on grounds of Temple 1 - with statues honoring the souls of babies. (Photo: J. Hardin)
Fountain on grounds of Temple 1 – with statues honoring the souls of babies. (Photo: J. Hardin)

 

AND THERE WAS MUCH MORE! If I’d included every interesting thing, this post would be many times longer.

 

A THANK YOU TO MY FELLOW TRAVELERS
In addition to the warm welcome we received from people we met in their restaurants, homes and out of the way places, the people who made up our GeoEx traveling group added a big bonus to the whole set of experiences: Don George, our American guide who’s fluent in Japanese, knowledgeable, generous, funny and truly enjoys people. Hiro Kasagi, our Kyoto-based Japanese guide, who shared his broad range of knowledge with us and made sure I wasn’t eating anything that would trigger my gluten allergy. And all eight of the other people on our tour – all of whom possess a deep knowledge on some arcane topic and, most importantly, have a great sense of humor. Laughing deeply and frequently with a congenial group of people is a vacation all on its own.

 

 

So dewa mata, Japan – see you later. I hope to make a return visit.

 

Ikebana-103                                                               (Photo: tx-english-ch.com)

 

And when I met up with my cousin during a long San Francisco Airport layover on the way home, she didn’t recognize me at first. When she finally realized who I was, she said she’d noticed a dark haired woman coming up to her and thought, “Who is this Asian woman stopping to ask me for directions?” Others since then have also said I now look a tiny bit Japanese. What is it about a few satisfying weeks in Japan that changes a person’s appearance?

 

REFERENCES

George, D. (2012). Japan’s Past Perfect. National Geographic Traveler. See http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/shikoku-japan-traveler/

Kaiyu Eco-lodge. See its website:  http://kaiyu-inn.jp/en/menu_01.html

Kavanagh, C. (date unknown). God Knows What … an irreverent look through the worlds of religion, anthropology and skeptism. Japan’s Pick and Mix Religions. See http://godknowswhat.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/japans-pick-and-mix-religions/

Google. (5/11/2014). Imagery for ‘minka farmhouses’. See https://www.google.com/search?q=minkas&es_sm=91&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=WQVwU7TJH7TQsASDqoGwCw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1276&bih=865#q=minka+farmhouses&tbm=isch

Pardo, D. (2011). Minka. See the documentary at http://vimeo.com/20658635

Roderick, J. (2007). Minka: My Farmhouse in Japan. See:  http://www.amazon.com/Minka-Farmhouse-Japan-John-Roderick/dp/1568987315

Schumann, F. (2014). The Valley of Dolls. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/valley-of-dolls-japan_n_5240780.html

 

© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

 

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

Laughter – Watch the Birdie

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We know becoming engaged by something funny brings us completely into our bodies … and that feels really good. Laughing works quickly, provides lasting positive effects, is free and appropriate for all ages, and has no negative side effects.

 

PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins that lift mood and relieve pain
  • Protects from the damaging effects of stress by reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels
  • Increases the response of tumor and disease fighting antibodies and cells in our bodies
  • Strengthens the diaphragm, abdominal, facial, respiratory and back muscles
  • Normalizes blood pressure
  • Increases vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood
  • Has a positive effect on blood glucose level
  • Boosts energy
  • Relaxes the whole body
  • Quiets the mind
  • Increases alertness
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces aggression
  • Improves coping and social skills
  • Is grounding
  • Burns calories
  • Is fun

References:  (Griffin, 2008) and (Winderlich, 2014)

Laughter is good medicine indeed.

 

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So, in case you’re up for a bit of easy, free healing,  here are three charming short videos of some magical birds doing their thing.

 

sulphur-crested-cockatoo

DUBSTEPPING MR PATRICK
Mr Patrick, a lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo, is totally engaged in dancing to a dubstep song in this first video. I can see him fitting right in at an East Village club.
Here’s the video:
Mr Patrick, Dubstepping Parrot

 

 

 

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BIRD TO YOUR MOTHER
Disco, a highly verbal parakeet, is enjoying himself playing with phrases he’s learned and inventing others – apparently just for fun. Here’s the video:
Disco the parakeet
If you love this video, check out the many others of ‘Disco the Parakeet’ on YouTube.

 

 

 

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MOON WALKING BIRDS
And last but not least, here’s a red-capped manakin of the Amazon engaged in his fantastic mating dance. The video:
Moon Walking Birds

 

 

Feeling more centered now?

 

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See Laughter, Meditation & Breathing to read more about why laughter is so good for us.

 

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REFERENCES

Griffin, R.M. (2008). Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter. WebMD. See http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter

Winderlich, M. (2014). 10 Reasons Why Laughing Is Good For You. Discovery.com – Neuroscience. See http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/10-reasons-why-laughing-good-for-you.htm

 


© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

 

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.