Category Archives: science

Kampo & Chinese Medicine

The Japanese health care system is imaginatively and brilliantly eastern- western integrated and yes, supremely “ying” and “yang”. To expand on the document I published with the U.S. – Japan Foundation many years ago, the following describes kampo which is covered by health insurance providers in Japan. Japanese kampo is the study of traditional Chinese medicine that began in the 7th century. While kampo includes acupuncture and holistic wellness, herbal medicine has become the centerpiece of modern kampo. Herbal medicines have been used in China for thousands of years. They have been standardized and manufactured for widespread commercial use in Japan.

The medicinal use of plants was called the Shennong Ben Cao Jingo in China which was compiled around the end of the first century B.C. At the time, 365 species of herbs or medicinal plants were identified and classified. Chinese medical practices were introduced to Japan through Korea during the 6th century A.D. From 608 to 838, Empress Suiko dispatched young physicians to China. In those years, Japan sent 19 missions to Tang, China to research and bring back Chinese herbal medicine to Japan. Today in Japan, 148 different, mostly  herbal abstracts can be prescribed under Japan’s national health insurance system (source: National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114407/). Modern day Kampo is different from modern traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While TCM incorporates Chinese philosophy such as yin and yang, Japanese campo favors a more scientific approach.

The first volume of the treatise included 120 drugs harmless to humans, the “stimulating properties”. These herbs are described as “noble” or “upper herbs” (上品):

chineseherbs

The second volume comprise 120 therapeutic substances intended to treat the sick, but have toxic, or potentially toxic properties of varying degrees. These are tonics and boosters, whose consumption must not be prolonged. In this category, the substances are described as “human,” “commoner,” or “middle herbs” (中品):

The third volume has 125 entries containing substances which have a strong impact on physiological functions and are often poisonous. They are taken in small doses, and for the treatment of specific diseases only. They are referred to as “low herbs” (下品), these include:

Japanese/ Western Influence:

Yumoto Kyūshin (1876–1942), a graduate from Kanazawa Medical School, was a key proponent of scientifically interpreting and testing Chinese medicine. His “Japanese-Chinese Medicine” (Kōkan igaku) published in 1927 was the first book on Kampō medicine in which western medical findings were used to interpret classical Chinese texts. The significance of these Japanese publications is documenting the application of clinical trials and empirical data to determine specific chemical properties and their functions within the Chinese herbs.

Sho-Saiko-To:

One such example today is Sho-saiko-to. The Chinese herbal medicine “Sho-saiko-to” is a mixture of seven herbal preparations, which is widely administered in Japan to patients with liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Sho-saiko-to contains

  • Bupleurum Root,
  • Pinellia Tuber,
  • Scutellaria Root,
  • Ginseng,
  • Jujube,
  • Licorice, and
  • Ginger.

The herbs include such properties as baicalin and baicalein, and saikosaponin which possess anti-fibrogenic activities and the ability to inhibit hepatoma cell proliferation. Clinical trials have been confirmed in the U.S. by Natural Wellness for their SST product – http://www.naturalwellness.com/products/sho-saiko-to-sst.

The following are not connected in any way to sho-saiko-to, but are similarly organic and naturopathic. These herbs and foods are known to be easy on the liver and/or health remedies for the liver:

  • lemon/ lime,
  • avocados,
  • turmeric,
  • leafy green vegetables,
  • green tea,
  • walnuts,
  • garlic,
  • olive oil,
  • dandelion leaf,
  • beets,
  • carrots,
  • broccoli,
  • cauliflower,
  • grapefruit,
  • apples,
  • cabbage,
  • quinoa,
  • millet/ buckwheat.

Each of the 365 species of herbs and medicinal plants and various combinations from Chinese medicine and Japanese kampo are either healing agents, serve as preventive health care, or support ongoing health maintenance.

But don’t forget, there are a range of healthy remedies in standard western herbs which we already incorporate into our daily consumption extravaganzas. The standard cooking herbs pictured here are a healthy supplement to your diet.

herbgarden

By Chris Kenji Beer, Koto jazz

Sources: National Institute of Health, Japanese Society of Oriental Medicine, Natural Wellness, Wikipedia , shosaikoto.com, iherb.com.

 

metamorph senses (new CD release & a koto jazz tune)

This new CD mostly live production was crazy, experimental fun – anchored by a few George Winston covers, a touch of Narada/ Silver Wave- style new age, a koto jazz tune, and some “off the beaten path”, eclectic wacko improvisations . . . and you have a metamorphosis of the senses –

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chriskenjibeer5

metamorphsenses_final02

 

KotoJazz 84: Low Budget Area Garden Design

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, succulents, smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licourish ferns, and the featured "dragon" weeping blue spruce pine.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine.


60-80% of a garden’s beauty can be made from resources already available around your home or among friends. Remember, nature offers its own beauty that may only need minor enhancements. I personally don’t care for regularly maintaining a yard, especially constantly mowing lawns. It just brings out the sneezing in me. Lawn mowing is among the world’s biggest wastes of water and consumes unnecessary time in my lazy, stubborn opinion. Frankly, it offers no creativity or inspiration of natural beauty.

AREA GARDENS:

We start with creating a garden image in your head. Imagine an idyllic beautiful scene in your head. Then, dig a space of dirt, any shape you want it to be. Apply that idyllic scene to this bare space. First, simply turn over the grass and put it upside down, occasionally scraping off the loose dirt to further expose the grass roots, so the grass is certain to die. Then, take cedar droppings from underneath cedar trees in the back yard and spread it throughout the dug out space. Cedar is highly acidic and will largely reduce if not eliminate the need for weeding the area garden space. Not much of anything can grow under cedars; maybe a few rhodies (rhododendrons) which thrive in acidic soil.

In the case of the above pictured garden, I dug out the entire side of the front yard off of the concrete path. I left a few “accents” of grass to provide lining for the area garden’s borders. These can be easily held at bay with an occasional weed whacking. If you want you can raise the garden, which I did for the area garden beyond the concrete path toward the top of the above photo. You can raise it as much as you like by simply adding more soil to the area and more mulch. I moved the rhody from another part of this house where it was hidden away, and is now featured in the raised garden. A general rule when creating your own garden is to place the larger items –  bushes, trees, or stones – toward the back, while shorter smaller flowers and plants should be placed toward the front. As a taller, larger bush, the rhody serves as an attractive back drop to this area garden.

BORDERS & HIGHLIGHTS:

Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.
Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.

It’s always nice to have borders for the area garden so as to define its space. Borders can be stone, bricks, slate, wood, bamboo pieces, even plants. In this case, I used stones found in the ground when digging out the garden area. As for the larger boulders highlighted around the rock creek, I was fortunate to find a friend who was excavating a part of his property and was trying to get rid of these beautiful blue-hued boulders (with more to come in later phases).  These boulders give the impression of a mountainous terrain with a valley carved  out by a rolling creek. Reinforcing this mini- mountain  scene is the meandering  creek. I place various types of sheet moss, tree moss, and fern moss on the north, more shaded side of the garden area. Eventually, all dirt areas you see in the garden will display a plant, fern, moss, or ground cover of some type to add personality.

DRY CREEK:

The dry creek appears to naturally flow between the larger boulders. Each boulder enforces a bend in the creek, as it does in natural creeks. Large creek rocks are generally placed toward the outer borders of the creek, while smaller rocks are toward the center, again mimicking these natural occurrences in nature. The creek narrows and appears to flow into a small lake in the foreground toward the street. I recommend using black creek rocks if available; otherwise, the varied colored rocks will do. To make the dry creek, I dug out the space and put in a thin layer of cedar mulch, then a thick layer of sand to prevent weeds from growing in the creek rock. Soon to come will be a natural stone recycling water feature at the beginning of the dry creek.

aviary-photo_131187409183508298

FLOWERING PLANTS & THINGS:

As for the flowering plants and things in this area garden, I looked for anything that might complement the “bones” of these area mounds. Fortunately in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plant life growing everywhere, some considered weeds in some circles. For example, ferns, wild white flowering heuchera, crocosmia, and wild blue bells grow like weeds in this region, but one can never get enough of their natural beauty.  I placed the wild heuchera on the north side and underneath the rhody where it thrives in shady areas. I scatter the wild crocosmias, blue hyacinths, and blue bells unevenly throughout the area gardens to reinforce the natural look. The blue bells and hyacinths  will flower in the spring while the crocosmias flower in late summer into autumn. I also have a relative of the ‘lamb’s ear’ ground cover which grows wild here and flowers a gorgeous deep magenta flower at the ends of each antler-like stem. I also have another ground cover that emerges a bouquet of hundreds of tiny white bulbous flowers during the summer and autumn seasons. I plan to add various types of ornamental grasses in addition to the Japanese red grass and the yellow bamboo grass clumps around the garden areas.

I have shoots of Japanese red grass planted to the side of the weeping blue cedar, tulips and other bulbous flowers not yet blooming scattered around the area gardens as well. I was gifted a rosemary to add a year round pungent aroma and a gorgeous orange rose bush.

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, the garden includes two dry creek rock gardens (one in the foreground of the featured image and the other in the background as a minimalist Zen garden), featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, a Japanese lace maple, a coral bark maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, an elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, purple asters, rhododendrons, anenome flowers, echinacea, 3 types of hellebores, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, shark tale, razor and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine in the foreground.

kenji-win_20160928_114305

PURCHASED HIGHLIGHTED ITEMS:

The low budget provided for a few highlighted features, such as the Japanese lantern, Japanese coral bark maple, the weeping blue “dragon” cedar, Chinese purple lantern flowers, two red dogwood bushes, and a few ground covers such as English daisies, heucheras, and grasses. Outside of sweat equity, the total budget was a remarkable mere $141! For the future, I plan to add another raised garden across the walkway in the front, mock bamboo, a Japanese purple lace maple, ornamental grasses, and maybe a rare plant such as an aromatic variegated pink daphne, a cone flowering hydrangea, Asian tiger lilies, or a few exotic pink or magenta Japanese anemone flowers. The blue pots can feature beautiful maples such as local vine maples, or anything that requires a controlled environment such as bamboo.

 

Japanese style rock creek garden
Japanese style rock creek garden in the making.
The "Before" photo - What the garden looked like before moving into the house.
The “Before” photo – What the garden looked like before moving into the house.

Japanese Health Care Offers Private Sector Options

US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly

Though published so along ago, I was cleaning out the basement storage the other day, and came upon my only printed copy of US-Japan Foundation/NCSL – Japanese Health Care for Elderly which was published by US-Japan Foundation and National Conference of State Legislatures (1990). I couldn’t find it anywhere. It has been referenced on a number of library websites, but no copy. I realized my co-author Dr. Bill Steslicke and I may have the only copies, along with a few die hard former legislators around the country, so here is a Word doc version. Noteworthy- 1) certain Japanese companies may form their own in-house HMO-style coverage and provisioning. 2) Japanese insurance covers eastern medicine, including but not limited to herbal remedies and acupuncture.

Seattle’s Biospheres – Exclusive Connection to Nature?

Because “Amazon employees need connection to nature” (geekwire quote). Yes. We all need connection to nature; it connects us to ourselves. Hopefully, parts of it will be accessible to the general public –

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/amazon-biospheres-will-happen-inside-giant-glass-orbs-company-building/

The most recent news as of July 26 by the Seattle Times is that there will only be opportunities for public visits. Specifics  are not yet available. Generally, the space is closed to the public, though much can be viewed from the street.

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Whales Breaching Live @Northwest FOLKLIFE

From the Sounds from the Coast CD, “Whales Breaching is a celebration of life, sharing the seas with our ocean friends, and a hope that we will never take them for granted. Let’s support their rights as our own.

 

Mono No Aware – Acceptance

Sea-Tac Airport – The first photo features CD covers of Pearl Jam by Muni One. Mono no aware in Japanese means the awareness of the impermanence of everything, and acceptance of things as they are. The second photo shows samples of the Chihuly glass productions.

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Patrick Wilson’s SyntHorn on the koto jazz tune

For the off beat eclectic innovator, the SyntHorn is an amazing, fun and crazy instrument. One of my neighbors and friends Patrick Wilson in Seattle created a digital instrument he calls The SyntHorn (short for synthesizer horn). The horn itself produces an unique, distant echoing cavernous sound effect. The SyntHorn includes the horn, a mini- digital keyboard, Oscillator, Chaoscillator, Monotron delay unit, two Internal Horn speakers, and one external speaker. Since the the features and function completely run on rechargeable batteries, it can played anywhere at any time. A carrying strap fits over the shoulder. All this resides in one unit.

Here is a sampling of Patrick live on the SyntHorn –

3                   2

Join me in my next performances at C&P Coffee, Columbia City’s Royal Room, and Stone Way Café to hear our progressive electronic jazz. Patrick, a former DJ at a local college radio station, will join me in jazzing up my koto jazz tunes and offer up a few of his own originals with my accompaniment on the keyboard.

It makes sounds and rhythms you’ve never heard before.

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Do Our Over-stressed Brains a Favor – Come To Nature

“A concrete jungle destroys the human spirit,” former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew .

Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia
Bukhansan National Park, near Seoul, Korea. Photographs by Lucas Foglia

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_fbp20151215ngm-calltowild&utm_campaign=Content&sf17049277=1

Chris Published

In addition to articles on this KotoJazz.com blog, I have been published on a wide variety of topics in various publications, including an editorial in the Seattle Times, LinkedIn, and Asia Pacific Economic Review.  The National Conference of State Legislatures published two key publications I co- authored about the Japanese Health Care for the Elderly and the status of U.S. statewide health care legislation:

Wildlife and Nature Pictures – A True Respite from the Daily Grind

I find refuge and inspiration of the photos of the “Wildlife and Nature Pictures” website on Facebook. As a pretty new member of Facebook, I highly recommend this site for viewing all the beauty of nature that the world has to offer. Here is a picture of a corridor of blooming pink Cherry blossom trees in Japan:

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience

In other blogs on this site, I talk about how the natural world connects with and replenishes us, performs a balancing of our energy, such as through the negative ions emissions of moving water – waterfalls, streams, and ocean waves – and also deep forests such as old growth forests. We become stressed and toxic by the fact that downtown areas have very little natural life surrounding it, have a deficiency of negative ions, and carry an excess of positive ions.

This article about nature emitting neurotransmitters takes it to a new level. It seems the premise of the blockbuster movie Avatar (by James Cameron) and its premise is pretty close to how things really are in the natural world. This is a good read:

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience.

Koto Jazz 66: Gong Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! (belated)

Come join a celebration at the end of the Chinese New Year on March 6th, 6-8pm, Friday, Dragonfly Holistic Healing across from the Fremont bridge is having a “Chinese New Year” celebration open house, featuring koto jazz piano by Chris Kenji at Dragonfly Holistic Healing, 760 N. 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103; Fremont neighborhood. Website: DragonflyHolisticHealing.com. Come join us for a Free Admission party. Gang Xi Fat Cai!

Koto Jazz 56: Song Stories – Mount Index Ice Caves

This new age musical tune was inspired by a hike with my friend Kim. We climbed to the ice caves at the summit of Mount Index off highway 2 just northeast of Seattle.

The Mount Index ice caves were leaking typical eerie, echoing sounding drops of water melting off blue ice, which increasingly gathered and coalesced into more and more tributaries of water racing toward the opening of the ice caves. It is the beginning of the water cycle, passing beyond alpine lakes and converging with glacial streams and eventually, rivers racing toward the Pacific ocean.

It’s one of my fun trance-like tunes of quirky frivolity reminding of the simple world we live in and the majesty of the basic elements that give us life.

KotoJazz 44: “A New Dialogue with Nature”

My apologies in advance for this “detour” from art and the nature of gardening and koto jazz music. This “KotoJazz 44” blog entry is about the revolutionary nature of Nobel prize winning physicist Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ and “Man’s Dialogue with Nature” in their international bestseller, “Order Out of Chaos”. Though published a while ago in the 80s, it could not be more relevant than today, including the topics of this blog. As Alvin Toffler puts it in the book’s preface, “it is the processes associated with randomness, openness that lead to higher levels of organization.” In all structures associated with life and life forms, even social life, before change occurs, it is forced toward a non-equilibrium state and approaches a critical moment or bifurcation point where it transforms/ morphs into a “new path of development” that is not predeterminable.

This is also very true of creativity in music and art. It sums up modern music and art in so many ways, including modern jazz and especially koto jazz. Koto jazz may have some predetermined melody and style, but its origins are rooted in the very musical expression of nature. Out of the “randomness, openness” of nature, and our open, often random exploration of music and sound, we can connect with the core of our own Nature. This is the ultimate goal of Koto jazz music. For me, patterns of nature unpredictably and indeterminably morph into new patterns, at times interrupted by chaotic resonance, then transforming into a new efflorescent chime or melodic sequence. We are the heirs of this new perspective on art, science, and life.

Prigogine and Stengers’ views reach into all areas of our social, political and business life. Take the management theories of John Morgridge, the former chairman of Cisco Systems, as an example. Probably a key period of my professional life was having a sit down dinner/ interview with Morgridge back in the mid-90s. A key point to this article I wrote about him was about the randomness and openness of putting together project managers, engineers, creative designers, and others (without titles) needed to complete a business project. Over time, the open organization evolves and forms its own natural organization where at times the engineer or the designer leads the group rather than the business manager.

The way Morgridge described it in the interview is reminiscent of the brilliant book written by UC Berkeley professor Ori Braufman and Rod A. Beckstrom, “The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”, and Braufman’s more recent book (2013), “The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success”. You cut a starfish in half, it can grow into two starfish. Prigogine and Stengers also “undermine conventional views of thermodynamics by showing that, under non-equilibrium conditions, at least, entropy may produce, rather than degrade, order, organization”– and therefore life itself. This is true of business, society, nature, music and art, with music and art leading the way. It is one of many reasons why we must support the arts– it is the very fabric that shapes who we are. Koto jazz tunes can offer the mind and spirit not just an escape but a solution, an order out of the natural chaos that precedes it.