Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Increased Security For the Hokkaido Summit

The upcoming G8 summit meeting in Hokkaido has been on my radar for some time now. Large posters in Japanese and English are all over the subway system explaining the presence of the safety-orange vest wearing security guards on patrol. Starting this past week these have also been reinforced with uniformed police who are highly visible, batons drawn and ready, outside the ticket gates at every station I've used recently. Minako suggested that this could be explained because the diplomats might be flying in to Tokyo and then catching connecting flights to the summit venue in the far north.

When I went shopping yesterday near my workplace, I noticed three officers standing at attention next to three separate telescoping metal gates, ready to block off their respective roads. I had certainly seen these gates around town before, as they're a permanent fixture on the roads anywhere near the US embassy, but this was the first time I'd seen them on the way to the market. It turns out, according to Google Maps, that the German Embassy is directly behind National Azabu. There is a building marked as "Chinese People's Japanese Cooperation Building, Embassy Annex" close by, and the French, Norwegian, and Finnish embassies are each just a block away, in different directions. I knew this was a big embassy area, but I didn't realize how dense they really are on the ground here. I have to say all this security makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it's time to start seriously considering the move to someplace quiet, like Hokkaido. Oh, wait...where was that summit going on again?

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Butter Shortages

The first time I heard about this issue was in a brief mention in the blog of another foreigner living quite nearby me. Then I made a (delicious) quiche that exhausted all the butter in our fridge. When Minako went to get some more she found that our local supermarket Santoku, normally a veritable cornucopia of comestible delights from around Japan and overseas, had almost no butter on the shelves. Single stick packages of pre-sliced pats was all they had in stock.

I had some time to check out the situation yesterday and found that margarine has almost entirely replaced butter on the shelves of two high-end supermarkets near my office: National Azabu and Meidi-ya. What they did have was predominantly imported and they both had signs describing their policy of one package of butter per customer. Naturally the prices were higher than usual as well.

After being used to American and Japanese abundances, this was pretty shocking. Apparently increased costs for dairy food stocks as well as higher demand for dairy products is to blame.

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