Recent News and Developments
- November 2012: Yuichi Nakajo, Director of Collaborative Research Center Ashikaga Institute of Technology, reports on his solar cooker usage research - Yuichi Nakajo's field is the development of solar cookers for use in mid-latitude regions. He concentrates on designing cookers which work in Japan all the year, because the primary use of them is for education. The solar panel cooker, Educooker 003, was designed to be robust, and at the same time offer good concentration of the wide range of the sun's elevation by employing a ray tracing technique. Now we are going to put the durable plastic version, developed through the joint research with the Japanese largest aluminum foil company, Toyo Aluminum K. K., into the market. Our other products include plastic concentrator types with discretely approximated parabolic reflectors for uniform and safe heating. To satisfy the need and wants from all users, we prepare the kits with various types with wide price range. Many Japanese say solar cookers are only educational materials and are not reliable, because you cannot use it on the rainy days. But I do not believe it. Last March I sent all the members in my laboratory the Educooker to several disaster areas by request, but unfortunately I did not receive any replies. I suspect most of them were never tried. We cannot force them to use solar cookers, but at least warm food and warm drink could be of considerable help. I reconfirmed the importance of everyday education of solar cooking for everyone. That is the reason I conduct more than fifty classes each year. For more information: email@example.com
- November 2012: Niconet Tsukuba has been introducing solar cookers to local citizens in Japan to increase people’s awareness of environmental and global issues, as well as to make small changes from their fossil-fuel-centered lifestyles to eco-friendly ones. Our programs are usually performed in an informal and relaxed manner, by our motto “Niconet’s 3E = Enjoy, Environment, and Eating.” Solar cooking is, in fact, effective for promoting communication with others. In 2011 -2012, we worked with the faculty of a local university to conduct an analysis on the efficiency of the Sun Peace solar cooker which was developed by our member Yuko Tomioka, by using thermo-graphic devices. We plan to include the results in our Solar cooking recipe booklet, which will be available on the web this year. In recent years, we also have focused on hand-made “retained heat cookers”. We introduced that newspaper as an effective material for insulating. While we are mainly active in the local area in Japan, some members are also active in other countries. Our member Fumi Sakurai stayed in Madagascar for two years, where serious deforestation is evident. She introduced villagers to the solar cooker Sun Peace. This solar cooker is easy to make because it does not require measurement. She suggested to some key persons in villages to use aluminum sheets of used snack packages for reflective material. It was found to work successfully in the sun-rich climate. Some villagers who learned how to make/use solar cookers became “teachers” and started to share the skills with others. In Japan, introducing such information is also useful for educational purposes.
- June 2012: The JSCA participated in "Eco Life Fair 2012" held on June 2nd and 3rd at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo. The fair was sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment, and was attended by 66,000 visitors. We exhibited many types of solar cookers and demonstrated solar cooking in the "Solar Zone" created for the first time this year. We cooked rice, made popcorn, and baked cakes and cookies.
- May 2012: The Japan Solar Cooking Association participated in "Jambo! Kiyosato Tanzania Village" held May 3rd through the 5th, and hosted by the Educational Experiment Project in Kiyosato, Yamanashi Pref. The event introduced nature and culture of Tanzania with movies and craft shops. Since we have been promoting solar cookers in Tanzania for several years, we exhibited solar cookers and demonstrated solar cooking in the village.
- October 2011: Two members of Japan Solar Cooking Association, Yasuko Torii and Toyoko Nishikawa visited 5 villages around Kitulo National Park located in the south western part of Tanzania to promote solar cooking. This was the fourth visit since January 2008. They exhibited parabolic cookers, handmade box and panel type cookers and demonstrated cooking at October Mpeto Festival 2011 held on October 2 in Matamba town. Many visitors watched and enjoyed tasting solar baked cakes and popcorn.
- October 2010: Mr. Ohmura has designed an inflatable version of a parabolic solar cooker. It is called the JP Solar Balloon Cooker.
- November 2009: The Ogawa Crown Company has begun manufacturing small, portable parabolic solar cookers that fold up in a similar fashion to an umbrella. The 1-meter diameter reflective shell of the “Sunny Cooker” is made from a unique aluminum-coated polyester cloth, structurally supported from the center and along the outer edge by flexible plastic poles. This lightweight shell essentially hangs from a metal pot stand that sits atop a foldable tripod and is fixed to the shell at two points. The central pole of the tripod connects to the pot stand through a zipper in the shell. The vertical angle of the reflector is adjustable by zipping or unzipping the shell to the appropriate distance and literally locking the zipper in place with a key. The Sunny Cooker sells for approximately $350, weighs about 3.5 kilograms, and comes with an iron kettle. A sample of the Sunny Cooker was kindly provided to Solar Cookers International by the Japan Solar Energy Educational Association. SCI Staff and board members have experimented with the cooker and have successfully boiled water and cooked popcorn. The device has been shown at multiple events, including demonstrations at Google’s international headquarters in Mountain View, California, and at National Defense University and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Reported in the November 2009 Solar Cooker Review.
- Spring 2007: Solar Cooker Challenge for Africa is the name of a proposed project by an NGO in Japan called Solar Cooker Japan (SCJ). Its goals are to promote the planting of the Jatropha trees while also promoting solar cooking using a new prototype: the Balloon Solar Cooker by Mr. Toshi Omhura, one of the founders of SCJ. Mr. Kazimito was in Nairobi, Kenya recently, holding preliminary discussions with Solar Cookers International East Africa Office Director Margaret Owino about a partnership. A team from SCJ later followed with the prototype cookers for field tests in Kenya. SCI (EA) welcomes this new development and will conduct field tests on the new cookers on behalf of SCJ. Their goal is to enable in-country production of the same cookers, should they pass the field test.
The History of Solar Cooking in Japan
A Clean Energy Utilization Research Study Group was established in Japan in 1994 to organize activities for a range of environmental initiatives in that country. A Solar Energy Festival is held annually in the north of Japan; the Solar Energy Society's International Symposium was held in the country in 1992. Most Japanese people are not interested in solar cooking for themselves, as they use gas or electricity for cooking and find that to be satisfactory. But many view solar cooking as an opportunity to teach people about larger energy issues. A book on Solar Cooking, "Cooking by the Sun" was published in Japanese in 1995, edited by members of the group, and several types of cookers are manufactured in Japan, largely for learning more about the technology and for additional research.
Japan has one particularly faithful solar cook, however. Her name is Yasuko Torii, and she has invented a number of cookers that she displayed at several world conferences. One was a very small box cooker, the other a larger version made of an aluminum product used in Japan as a drip pan for ovens. She has been an active promoter of solar cooking for over ten years. She had recently created a solar cooking mailing list for the country, with most of the individuals living in Tokyo.
Recently, an announcement was made about the manufacture in Japan of a household size parabolic for sale in the Japanese market. The device is a dish reflector, mounted on a tripod. One other related commercial product manufactured is a stainless steel, well insulated hay box made by Toyota, and sold in various nations of the world. Both devices are expensive and not well suited therefore for poor countries, but could be marketed to middle class audiences in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Climate, Culture, and Special Considerations
Articles in the media
- August 2008: 'Backyard naturalist' finds it fun to be green - Japan Times
Solar cooking blogs
Books on solar cooking
- Solar Cooking - Heinle & Heinle Pub
Manufacturers and vendors