300,000 to take part in Earth Day around Japan

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Japan celebrates the last Earth Day of the millennium today with up to 300,000 people expected to join in the festivities at more than 100 sites around the nation.

Events in the Kanto region will center around Hibiya Park in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, where the two-day Earth Day 2000 Japan will emphasize “experience” and “global living” in the 21st century.

Exhibits will focus on new proposals for transportation systems — solar, wind and natural energy — as well as energy-saving home appliances. Others will concentrate on food, offering information on genetically altered food or selling organic vegetables. Organizers say commercial groups are more involved this year than ever before.

On the empirical side and with an emphasis on air pollution in Asia, the groups will help check nitrous oxide levels in the air using ready-made kits beginning at 4 p.m. today. The same measurements will be carried out by 80 groups in 16 countries around Asia.

On Sunday, a bicycle parade from the park to Tokyo Station and back will take place, coinciding with a similar parade in Seoul.

Organizers hope that getting people in the saddle and pedaling around Tokyo will heighten appreciation of bicycles as clean and viable means of urban transportation as well as provide food for thought about air pollution and global warming. The ride will start at 1 p.m. and last for about an hour.

“No matter how many laws we create, it is up to the young people and local citizens to heighten awareness about preserving the Earth. Earth Day is a concrete means of doing that. I think that’s great,” said Environment Agency head Kayoko Shimizu, who is scheduled to attend the event Sunday.

Earth Day in Japan was first held in 1990, after U.S. organizers called on foreign environmental groups to take action. That year, 1,000 groups pitched in to launch 200 festivals around the archipelago.

Earth Day celebrations at Hibiya Park will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

For a complete rundown on Earth Day 2000 in Japan, see http://www.earthday-j.org/ For information in English, see http://www.earthday-j.org/english/ And for international information, check out http://www.earthday.net/