The Iskandar Malaysia Project: A Model for Asia and the Future?

I had a chance to visit Johor the other day which is a region in the southernmost tip of the Malay peninsula. It is an area currently in the middle of a huge, comprehensive urban development project called Iskandar Malaysia (the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) is a Malaysian Federal Government statutory body).

Iskandar Malaysia covers a land size of 2,217 ㎢ which is three times the size of Singapore and it is easily accessible by bridge from Singapore.

This development project began in 2006 with an announcement by the Malaysian government and it is now is a massive project being undertaken with Singapore. The Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) discusses proposals for the High Speed Rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the Singapore-Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS), and other joint ventures between Malaysia and Singapore.

Despite such extensive development, whenever I have passed through this area in a taxi, all I have seen so far in 2014 is a lot of worksites and fields of palm trees. The city of Johor Bahru is small and is lined with high-rise buildings on the opposite shore. It’s the kind of city where you sense that life moves at a slower pace than larger cities.

Singapore view from Johor Bahru. My flight to Johor departed around 7 a.m. from Subang (Kuala Lumpur) and took less than an hour. Seats were occupied by business passengers. If the High Speed Rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is completed successfully by 2020, it will take less than an hour and a half to get to the Iskandar area by train.

The vision is to create a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing, and for Iskandar Malaysia to be the first choice for investment, work, living, and recreation. To achieve this, five flagship zones from A to E have been designated as key focal points and are expected to develop into targeted growth sectors.

Flagship A: Central business and financial district.
(Johor Bahru city centre)
Flagship B: Education, medical and tourism districts,
(Nusajaya) Johor new state administrative centre.
Flagship C: Distribution center focusing on port and marine services.
(Western Gate Development)
Flagship D: Industrial and manufacturing hub
(Eastern Gate Development)
Flagship E: Distribution center focusing on airport services.
(Senai) A hub for information and communications technology.


I visited the education district called “EduCity” in Flagship zone B which invites foreign education institutions to set up in the zone. Marlborough College, one of the U.K.’s prestigious schools famously attended by Princess Catherine, opened its first overseas school in this zone in 2012. Approximately 50% of students live in Singapore and go to school by bus, so you can imagine how close Singapore is to EduCity.

Students from four to eighteen years old study on a 90-acre campus
with boarding school from eight years old and accommodation for teachers.

The campus is just like a scene from a Western film;
the only difference being that it’s very hot in Malaysia.

Malaysia expects Singapore’s economic bloc to expand to the Malay Peninsula with its vast areas of land and competitive labor costs as an advantage. In 2005 before the project started, GDP per capita for Iskandar Malaysia was about USD 14,790-half of Singapore’s which was about USD 30,000. This is expected to rise to USD 31,000 by 2025.

However, because Singapore believes that it is better to build ties with Iskander Malaysia to become more competitive internationally and prevent the flow of foreign investment into other emerging countries in Asia, it recommends that this region be used by foreign-affiliated companies based in Singapore. If everything goes to plan, Iskandar Malaysia may become a blueprint for Asia and the distribution of economic power in this region may change in the near future.

As a member of Sugawara Institute, I am concerned about environmental issues surrounding this project. The Malaysian government is promising a reduction in CO2 emissions of 40% compared to 2005 by the year 2020 and, in particular, wants Iskandar Malaysia to be a model for a sustainable low carbon metropolis in Asia.
And this is where Japanese environmental technology takes the spotlight!

A Japan-Malaysia collaborative research project on “Development of Low Carbon Society Scenarios for Asia” has begun with a research team that consists of multidisciplinary researchers from both countries. The challenge has begun in Iskandar Malaysia for infrastructure and architecture that brings to fruition a low carbon society.

Although there is an energy to life here in Malaysia which I can’t experience in Japan, heavy traffic jams are a daily event, construction works are everywhere, and I worry constantly about the impact of air pollution and waste gases on the environment. I can only hope that Japanese environmental technology will come to the rescue as its use becomes more widespread throughout Asia.

Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute

Recommended spots for viewing cherry blossoms

Posted on JAPAN TODAY on March 28, 2014


“Hanami” or cherry blossom viewing is one of the most traditional Japanese customs during the spring season. Parks on weekends and in the evenings on weekdays are full of people drinking and singing karaoke usually in the last week of March and the first week of April.

Here are a few popular spots in Japan.

Roppongi Hills (Tokyo) From April 3 until 13. You can enjoy cherry blossoms from the sky at Tokyo City View. “Sunset Cafe” will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
More information:

Ueno Park (Tokyo) Yoshino and other kinds of cherry trees draw big crowds. Entrance to the park is free between 5 a.m and 11 p.m.
More information:

Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo) The park has 1,300 cherry trees consisting of 65 kinds that each flower in different times. Here you can enjoy 420 Yoshino trees followed by the flowering season of 500 Yae cherry trees until the end of April.
More information:

Sumida Park (Tokyo) It is possible to enjoy the sakura trees with a glimpse of Tokyo Skytree both at the park and from sightseeing boats. The sakura festival will be held until April 13.
More information:

Meguro River (Tokyo) The sakura trees along the paths of the Meguro riverbank are gorgeous. Walk along the riverside and you’ll see differences of views in the upper and lower reaches.
More information:

Chidorigafuchi (Tokyo) Enjoy a rowboat ride through a tunnel of 260 cherry trees along the moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace. More than 1 million people come here to enjoy hanami from all over Japan.
More information:

Senko-Ji Park (Hiroshima) It is possible to enjoy sakura trees in bloom anytime in Senko-Ji temple until the middle of April. You can get to the top of the mountain in three minutes by ropeway and enjoy the beautiful view.
More information:

Okazaki Park (Nagoya) The park has 1,000 cherry trees which will be lit up after sunset with lots of stalls along the river. “Okazaki Sakura Festival” will be held from April 1 to 15 with “Ieyasu Procession (April 6).”
More information:

Matsue-Jo Yama Park (Shimane) The park was selected as one of the 100 most beautiful cherry blossom spots in Japan. Matsue Castle Festival will be held until April 15.
More information:

Matsumae Park (Hokkaido) More than 10,000 cherry trees will welcome you for about a month from April 28 to May 20. It was also selected as one of the 100 most beautiful cherry blossom spots in Japan and 68th Sakura Festival is to be held from April 26 to May 18.
More information:

Tadamoto Park (Kagoshima) The park was selected as one of the 100 most beautiful cherry blossom spots in Japan for its beautiful 2-km line of 1,000 cherry trees.
More information:

Original article: JAPAN TODAY

It’s official: First cherry blossoms mark the start of spring

Posted on The Japan Times on March 26, 2014

Spring officially arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday when Japan’s weather agency announced the start of the cherry blossom season.

Forecasters watching trees at the capital’s central Yasukuni Shrine said the city’s first blossoms had appeared there, marking the beginning of two weeks in which Tokyo’s parks, temple grounds, schools and streets will explode in pinks and whites.

“Cherry blossom is a good gauge to let us know that spring is here,” a Japan Meteorological Agency official said, adding that this year’s first blossoms had appeared at the usual time.

Japanese culture prizes the perfect but delicate blossom, whose transience — they only last a week — is seen as a reminder of the fragility of life.

Trees in Tokyo will be in full bloom in about a week’s time, turning parks into huge picnic areas where friends, family and colleagues gather for sometimes raucous, alcohol-fueled celebrations that can last for hours.

Much of the west of the country is already in bloom, while the north will see flowers as late as May.

Original article: The Japan Times

From UK 6 Pancake Day

At this time of year in the UK, there is “Pancake Day” which is not familiar to Japanese people.

Pancake Day is formally known as Shrove Tuesday, a date in the Christian calendar that marks 40 days of Lent before Easter, during which Christians fast. Tradition has it that pancakes were eaten using ingredients you can’t eat fasting.

The pancake is not like a Japanese “hot cake” – it is more like a crepe. People eat them with sugar and lemon juice on the top.

Further, people enjoy “pancake races” on this day at many towns. The race means people run with a frying pan carrying pancakes between two points, and stems from when housewives went to church with a frying pan because they were so busy preparing pancakes.

I am going to introduce how to cook a traditional English pancake. Please try this when you want an alternative to Japanese hot cakes.

100g flour
A little salt
2 eggs
200ml milk
50g butter

Caster sugar
Lemon juice

1.Add to the large bowl your sifted flour, salt, and eggs and mix well with whisk until the lumps go.

2.Add milk and melted butter and mix more until they get smooth.

3.Rest the mixed ingredients in the fridge for a couple of hours. (The mixed ingredients get smoother in the fridge.)

4.Get the pan hot, add 2 tbsp. oil to the pan. Then turn over when the pancake becomes brown in colour. Repeat on the other side.

5.To serve, sprinkle caster sugar and lemon juice on the top. Enjoy!

Grape seed promise in fight against bowel cancer

Released on EurekAlert! On February 10, 2014

University of Adelaide research has shown for the first time that grape seed can aid the effectiveness of chemotherapy in killing colon cancer cells as well as reducing the chemotherapy’s side effects.

Published in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE, the researchers say that combining grape seed extracts with chemotherapy has potential as a new approach for bowel cancer treatment – to both reduce intestinal damage commonly caused by cancer chemotherapy and to enhance its effect.

Lead author Dr Amy Cheah says there is a growing body of evidence about the antioxidant health benefits of grape seed tannins or polyphenols as anti-inflammatory agents and, more recently, for their anti-cancer properties.

“This is the first study showing that grape seed can enhance the potency of one of the major chemotherapy drugs in its action against colon cancer cells,” says Dr Cheah, researcher in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

“Our research also showed that in laboratory studies grape seed taken orally significantly reduced inflammation and tissue damage caused by chemotherapy in the small intestine, and had no harmful effects on non-cancerous cells. Unlike chemotherapy, grape seed appears to selectively act on cancer cells and leave healthy cells almost unaffected.”

The researchers used commercially available grape seed extract, a by-product of winemaking. Tannins extracted from the grape seed were freeze-dried and powdered. The extract was tested in laboratory studies using colon cancer cells grown in culture.

The research showed grape seed extract:
• showed no side effects on the healthy intestine at concentrations of up to 1000mg/kg;
• significantly decreased intestinal damage compared to the chemotherapy control;
• decreased chemotherapy-induced inflammation by up to 55%
• increased growth-inhibitory effects of chemotherapy on colon cancer cells in culture by 26%

“Our experimental studies have shown that grape seed extract reduced chemotherapy-induced inflammation and damage and helped protect healthy cells in the gastrointestinal tract,” says Dr Cheah. “While this effect is very promising, we were initially concerned that grape seed could reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.”

“In contrast, we found that grape seed extract not only aided the ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, but was also more potent than the chemotherapy we tested at one concentration.”

Co-author and project leader Professor Gordon Howarth says: “Grape seed is showing great potential as an anti-inflammatory treatment for a range of bowel diseases and now as a possible anti-cancer treatment. These first anti-cancer results are from cell culture and the next step will be to investigate more widely.”

Fellow co-author and joint lead researcher Dr Sue Bastian, Senior Lecturer in Oenology, says: “These findings could be a boost to the wine grape industry as it value adds to what is essentially a by-product of the winemaking process.”

Original Article released:

Link Cited on: LINK de DIET

Spring’s Best Fruits and Vegetables

Posted on REAL SIMPLE by Melinda Page

How to choose, store, and use this season’s most versatile fruits and vegetables.

Choose an artichoke that is deep green with tightly packed leaves that are closed at the top. Blackening on the stem is a sign an artichoke is old. Keep artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. To prep one for steaming, trim the tips and stem. Steam until tender and the leaves pull away without too much resistance. Serve with a vinaigrette or melted butter for dipping.

Whether thin or thick, asparagus stems should be bright green, firm, and straight. The buds, or tips, should be tightly closed. Wrap the bottoms in a damp paper towel and keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. Before cooking, rinse to remove sand from the tips and snap off or trim the bottoms (peeling is not necessary). Asparagus is good raw, blanched, broiled, or roasted.


Baby Lettuces
Look for leaves that are whole and unbroken with no signs of wilting or browning. For optimal flavor, select a mix of several varieties. Keep unwashed greens in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to four days. They should be kept separate from apples and pears, which give off ethylene gas and can turn lettuce brown. To show off the delicate flavor of the greens, dress them simply with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.


The best cherries are plump and firm with unblemished, glossy skin in a uniform color; a deeper red yields a sweeter taste. (The exception is Rainier cherries, which have a creamy yellow and red exterior.) They’re highly perishable and should be eaten within a day or two of purchase; those with stems typically last longer than those without. Don’t wash the fruits until you’re ready to eat them—moisture speeds decay—and store in a bowl or open plastic bag in the refrigerator. Cherries are delicious eaten out of hand or pitted, tossed with mint, and served over ice cream. Cooked cherries make an excellent accompaniment to duck or pork as well as a sweet filling for pies.


New Potatoes
Freshly dug young potatoes should have firm, smooth skin (usually red or tan) and be free of sprouts, soft patches, and green spots. Store new potatoes in a paper bag in a cool, dark, dry place, like a pantry shelf or a basement, for up to three days. There’s no need to peel new potatoes; simply scrub them with a brush. Firm and flavorful, they’re ideal in potato salad: Boil new potatoes until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes, then toss warm with vinaigrette and chopped fresh chives.


Peas (Snow, Garden, and Sugar snap)
Ripe snow peas should be light green and almost translucent, with tiny seeds. Look for garden pea pods that are glossy, crunchy, sweet, and full of medium-size peas. Sugar snaps should be bright green with plump pods. Keep unwashed peas loosely wrapped in plastic in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to four days. Snow and sugar snap peas can be eaten raw after removing the stems and the strings. Garden peas should be shelled and blanched in boiling water just until they turn bright green.


A fresh, tasty radish is firm when squeezed and free of cracks. Remove the leaves and keep radishes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Just before using, trim the stems and the root ends and wash. For a fresh side dish: Braise radishes in butter and balsamic vinegar until barely tender, 6 to 8 minutes, and serve with mild fish, like striped bass.



Rhubarb stalks should be firm, not limp, with a deep red color. Keep unwashed in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to one week. Remove the leaves before using (they contain oxalic acid, which is toxic if eaten in large quantities). Rhubarb is quite tart and is best when cooked with sugar in compotes or used as a pastry filling. Try it in pies, crisps, or cobblers, or paired with strawberries or raspberries.


Many green onions picked before they are matured are referred to as scallions, but true scallions are a distinct and milder variety. Fresh scallions should have bright green tops and firm, white bases. Keep bunches unwashed and wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Trim the roots just before using. Scallions are ideal grilled, sautéed, and sliced raw in salads, soups, and sandwiches.


Look for deep, darkly colored, and unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing. Keep unwashed spinach in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. Chop off any thick stems, then swish the leaves in a bowl of cold water. (They can be sandy, so change the water several times.) Spinach can be sautéed, steamed, baked, and served raw.


Look for deep, darkly colored, and unbroken leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing. Keep unwashed spinach in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. Chop off any thick stems, then swish the leaves in a bowl of cold water. (They can be sandy, so change the water several times.) Spinach can be sautéed, steamed, baked, and served raw.


Original Article: REAL SIMPLE

Happy White Day!

March 14, 2014

I received a “return gift” for what I gave on Valentine’s Day in last month.
My boss who is way older than me gave me assorted French cookies in a gorgeous box.
It must be much more expensive than what I gave him.
My husband also brought home a gift of cookies.

I felt so happy about his kindness and thoughtfulness that they did not forget rather than getting something back.

I would like to keep in mind that I will tell my appreciation to people anytime even if it’s not some special days.

Spring Flowers

The month of March has passed almost halfway, but it is still cold due to the record breaking cold winter. But if you look around in the nature, we can steadily find spring here and there.

Speaking for spring flowers, we instantly imagine cherry blossoms, sakura. But flowers of Japanese plum, ume, and peach, momo, also indicate arrival of spring.
They all look alike, don’t they? It is not easy to distinguish which is which only at a glance, but each flower has its own characteristics.

Can you tell which flowers are Sakura (cherry), Ume (plum), and Momo (peach)?

The colors of flowers vary depending on the species of each tree between white, tint pink, vivid pink, and red. Pay close attention to the petals of each flower.

Ume, plum: Round petals, bloom directly from branches (no flower stems),
(Left) leaves come out after flowers fall.
Momo, peach: Sharp petal edges, short flower stems, flowers bloom with leaves.
Sakura, cherry: Small split at petal edges, long flower stems,
(right) leaves bloom as flowers begin to fall

Now, let’s look at the illustrations of each flower.

How is it? You can tell the difference.
It is not too long until we get to see the full bloom of those beautiful spring flowers in many places in Japan.