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Archive for July, 2008

“No longer valid to maintain a hereditary political succession system …” Musings hachiyorenge

Shonan Yokoi, a Confucian scholar assassinated immediately after the 1867 Meiji Restoration, introduced the U.S. presidential system to the Japanese as an example of the merits of American politics since the time of George Washington in his 1860 book “Kokuze Sanron” (Three Theories for National Policy).

“The authority of the president is handed down to a wise man, not to his son,” Yokoi wrote.

To govern for the benefit of the entire nation, it was no longer valid to maintain a hereditary political succession system. Instead, seek a wise man from broader spectrums of the society for the task. So wrote Yokoi, who sounded an alarm bell to a turbulent Japan in the closing years of the Edo period (1603-1867).

Since then, Japan has paid close attention to U.S. presidential races, which are held every four years. This year, Japanese seem to be quite interested in the race.

According to a survey of peoples in 24 countries by the U.S. pollster Pew Research Center announced last month, Japanese ranked top on the list of people who closely follow U.S. presidential races with 83 percent, surpassing 80 percent for U.S. citizens. Germans ranked third with 56 percent, followed by Britons at 50 percent.

The survey results may be a reflection of how much Japanese are worried about serious global matters related to the United States, such as North Korean issues, the situation in Iraq, Iran’s nuclear development program, the dollar faltering as the key currency and the economic slowdown.

In the 1860 U.S. presidential race, Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln defeated his Democratic rival. The next U.S. president–whether he is Democratic candidate Barack Obama or his Republican rival John McCain–must be a truly wise man. Otherwise, countries around the world will be troubled in these testing times.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

もう世襲で地位を継ぐ時代ではない… 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
明治維新期に暗殺された思想家の横井小楠(しょうなん)は、万延元年(1860年)に著した『国是三論』で、ワシントン以来のアメリカ政治の優れた一面として、大統領選挙の仕組みを紹介している。「大統領の権柄(けんぺい)、賢に譲りて子に伝えず」◆天下のための政治をするには、もう世襲で地位を継ぐ時代ではない。賢人を広く天下に求めよ。激動する幕末の世に向けて、覚醒(かくせい)を促す警鐘だった。以来、4年に1度の大統領選には日本も大いに注目してきたが、今年は関心の高さが際立っている◆米世論調査機関ピュー・リサーチ・センターが先月発表した24か国調査で、大統領選の行方を注視していると答えた人は、日本が83%で第1位。米国の80%を上回った。第3位は56%のドイツ、英国でも50%だ◆北朝鮮問題やイラク情勢、イラン核開発、基軸通貨ドルの揺らぎ、景気減速など、日本にとっての深刻な心配事がそれだけ多いということの反映なのだろうか◆万延元年の選挙では共和党のリンカーン候補が勝利した。民主党のオバマ氏であれ、共和党のマケイン氏であれ、真の賢人でなければ世界中が困る今の局面である。

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“Nomo blazed a trail for Japanese MLB players…” Musings hachiyorenge

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), a U.S. writer known for such works as “The Grapes of Wrath,” reportedly said, “Genius is a little boy chasing a butterfly up a mountain.”

I learned this quote from the book “Sugoi Kotoba” (Great Words) written by Yoichi Hareyama and published by Bungei Shunjyusha as part of the Bunshun pocketbook library.

“Look down, and you can see what a distance you’ve climbed”–even if the boy was praised like this, he might simply say, distractedly, “But all I did was chase a butterfly.”

Swap the butterfly for a baseball, and the boy could be hurler Hideo Nomo, 39, who has just announced an end to his career. Nomo blazed a trail for Japanese pro baseball players, including Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, to climb the peak of U.S. major league baseball. Never have we heard emotional, let alone boastful, words from Nomo about his achievements.

Nomo won the rookie of the year title, posted 123 wins and recorded a no-hitter game twice during his major league career. After leaving several great footprints in the major league history, Nomo announced his retirement Thursday.

He said he had some regrets, indicating that he has no interest in the view from a mountaintop and is still chasing an imaginary butterfly.

Let me introduce a work from Hikaru Koike’s anthology of poems “Teki Teki Shu.” It reads:

 

Nomo’s hips as they turn toward us

Sticking right out

What a breathtaking posture

 

No longer will we be able to see his “tornado” pitching style that sent winds tearing through the minds of spectators.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

日本人メジャーリーガーの開拓者… 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
「怒りの葡萄(ぶどう)」などで知られる米国の作家ジョン・スタインベックは語ったという。「天才とは、蝶(ちょう)を追っていつのまにか山頂に登っている少年である」と。晴山陽一さんの著書「すごい言葉」(文春新書)に教えられた◆遥(はる)か眼下を見おろしてごらん。何とまあ、高い所までのぼったね。そう褒められても少年はぽかんとし、「ぼくは蝶を追ってきただけで…」と戸惑うのみだろう◆蝶を白球に変えれば、少年は野茂英雄投手(39)の姿に重なる。日本人メジャーリーガーの開拓者が切り開いた登山道があればこそ、イチロー選手や松井秀喜選手の今があるのだが、その人の口から自慢はおろか感慨めいた言葉さえ聞いたことがない◆新人王、123勝、2度の無安打無得点…大リーグに数々の偉大な足跡を刻み、野茂投手が引退を表明した。「悔いが残る」という。頂上からの眺望は眼中になし、少年の目は今も幻の蝶を追っているのだろう◆小池光さんの歌集「滴滴集」から。〈野茂の尻こちらむくときつき出せる量塊の偉(ゐ)は息のむまでぞ〉。見る者の胸に風を呼ぶ、あのトルネード(竜巻)はもう見られない。

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a “parental fool” overly preoccupied by his or her children…” Musings hachiyorenge

The late TV scriptwriter and author, Kuniko Mukoda, once said, “If the word ‘baka’ (fool) is ever banned from broadcasting, I will stop writing TV dramas.”

Indeed, the word is often used in daily conversation. Tora-san, the protagonist of the famous movie series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” (It’s Tough Being a Man), would often say to an old acquaintance of his from the Shibamata area of Tokyo: “Hey, are you still the same old fool?”

But, putting Tora-san’s amusing usage to one side, the word is generally difficult to use.

According to reports, the mayor of a city won a libel lawsuit against the publisher of a weekly magazine that called him “the fool mayor.” The ruling was recently finalized.

Trying to learn a lesson from this lawsuit, I made up my mind to use the word fool as little as possible.

My resolution has been a little shaken, however, on seeing the erratic, unprincipled behavior of those involved in the spiraling scandal over the employment of teachers in Oita Prefecture. The Oita Prefectural Board of Education announced Wednesday it would revoke its employment of teachers who passed recruitment examinations with rigged results. The people who effectively bought teaching positions for their children with bribes have ended up humiliating them and turning their lives upside down.

If a person becomes too much of an oya baka–a “parental fool” overly preoccupied by his or her children–we cannot help but remove the word parental from this expression.

When I looked up baka in the Japanese dictionary Shin-Meikai Kokugo Jiten published by Sanseido Publishing Co. I came across the word “bakabaka,” which the dictionary described as a word used by a woman to criticize a man coquettishly.

I sometimes let the word baka slip out of my mouth unintentionally, but I have never heard any woman say the word bakabaka to me, although I would like to hear it.

Baka is ultimately a word you cannot use as you wish.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

「親ばか」も度を越せば… 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
向田邦子さんは生前、語ったという。「『バカ』が放送禁止用語になったらテレビドラマをやめます」。たしかに日常会話でよく使われる言葉である◆柴又の昔なじみに「おい、相変わらずバカか」と呼びかける“寅さん”の名人芸は別として、一般には使い方がむずかしい。週刊誌に「バカ市長」と書かれた市長が発行元の出版社を名誉棄損で訴えた裁判で、市長側の勝訴が確定したという◆これを他山の石に「バカ」はなるべく用いまい…とは思えども、大分県の教員採用をめぐる底なしの無軌道ぶりなどを見ていると、その誓いも少々揺らぐ◆県の教育委員会は不正に合格した教員の採用を取り消すという。賄賂(わいろ)でわが子に教員の資格を買い与えた親は結局のところ、子供の人生を狂わせ、辱めただけである。「親ばか」も度を越せば、親の一字を消さねばなるまい◆三省堂の新明解国語辞典で「ばか」を引く。「ばかばか=女性が、相手を甘えた態度で非難して言う言葉」。言いたくもない「バカ」はつい口をついて出るわ、聞いてもいい「ばかばか」は聞いたこともないわ、ままにならない言葉ではある。

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“How wonderful it is that I can do something for others!” Musings hachiyorenge

Born and raised in the Kansai region, the woman seems to have been a fan of the Hanshin Tigers. In a diary entry dated the day when the Tigers scored a come-from-behind victory, she wrote: “Relieved a little bit now that the Tigers have extended their [Central League] lead by four games. I wish I could recover from illness like the Tigers did in today’s game.”

Whenever a summer comes around in which the Tigers are looking good, I am moved to take a book from the shelf. Titled “Wakaki Inochi no Nikki” (The Diary of Young Life) and published by Daiwa Shobo, the book was written by Michiko Oshima in her hospital bed. Her correspondence with a male university student was made into a film, “Ai to Shi o Mitsumete” (Looking at Love and Death). In the film, the character playing the part of Michiko is named Miko.

In the summer she entered Doshisha University, Michiko was hospitalized for treatment of chondrosarcoma, a type of malignant cancerous tumor, that developed on her face. While undergoing a series of difficult operations, she looked at her life of exhaustion sometimes with desperate eyes and at other times with eyes of faint hope. Despite her hardship, her diary is filled with words of gratitude toward the people around her.

She took care of other inpatients in the same room as her during mealtimes and washed their clothes for them. “How wonderful it is that I can do something for others!” she wrote in her diary.

At a time when we have seen a series of incidents in which some people vented their ill luck and misfortune by injuring innocent strangers, my heart is refreshed whenever I read her diary. It contains a poem that goes: “Strong beat of twist music heard from a hospital pillow/Feeling the calmness of youth afflicted by disease.”

She died at age of 21 in August 1963 without scoring a come-from-behind victory over the disease. The 45th anniversary of her death is coming soon.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

関西で生まれ育ったその人は阪神ファンであったらしい。首位阪神が逆転勝ちを収めた日の日記にある。「4ゲーム開いたのでちょっと安心。私の病気も今日の阪神の試合のようにはいかないものか」◆阪神の元気がいい夏を迎えるたび、書棚に手が伸びる一冊がある。映画にもなった「愛と死をみつめて」のミコ、大島みち子さんが病床で綴(つづ)った「若きいのちの日記」(大和書房)である◆同志社大学に入学した年の夏、顔に発症した軟骨肉腫(にくしゅ)で入院した。難しい手術を繰り返し、命の消(しょう)尽(じん)をときに絶望の、ときに淡い希望を交えた目で見つめながらも、日記は周囲の人々に寄せた感謝の言葉で満ちている◆同室の患者に食事の世話をし、代わって洗濯をし、「人につくせることは何と幸せか」と書く。不幸や不運の鬱憤(うっぷん)をかかわりのない他人を傷つけることで晴らす者が後を絶たない昨今、読み返すたびに心が洗われる◆日記に歌がある。〈枕(まくら)辺(べ)を強く流れるツイストに/病む青春の静かさを知る〉。病魔を相手の逆転がかなわぬまま、21歳で死去したのは1963年(昭和38年)の8月、まもなく45年になる。

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“It’s the Yonmanrokusen-nichi (46,00 days) and it’s in the height of summer’s heat.” Some might remember with nostalgia this narration from a rakugo story “Funatoku” by the eighth Katsura Bunraku.

Today falls on this year’s Yonmanrokusen-nichi, when temple festivals are held for Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Paying a visit to a temple on this day is said to be worth 46,000 days of meritorious deeds. The visit to a temple described in the rakugo story was probably made in scorching heat as July 10 of the old calendar is around mid-August on the current calendar.

Now, people living in the Tokyo area stroll along stalls set up for Sensoji temple’s Hozuki-ichi, or the Grand Cherry Fair on July 10, while waiting for clear blue sky of the height of summer. Many remember the fair as a rainy-season event.

Actually, 46,000 days represent more than 100 years–a figure that makes some people wonder about our planet in the distant future. Then, the expression, “the height of summer’s heat,” may come to mind because of a pressing global issue.

This year’s Group of Eight summit closed in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, on Wednesday. The G-8 leaders agreed that the world should share the vision of halving global-warming gas emissions by 2050.

This agreement may be like the small flame of a grand cherry fruit now, but it will be an important flame for antiglobal warming steps for the earth in the next 100–or even 1,000–years.

A haiku poem by Kenkichi Kusumoto reads:

 

Who should I invite

To go

On Yonmanrokusen-nichi

 

A long journey has started toward preventing the Earth from suffering the height of heats, and many countries are invited.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

「四万六千日、お暑い盛りでございます…」。落語「船徳」を口演する八代目桂文楽さんの声音を懐かしく思い出す方もおられよう。きょうは観音様の縁日「四万六千日」、この日にお参りすると4万6000日分の功徳があるとされる◆旧暦の7月10日は新暦に直せば8月の半ば、炎暑のなかのお参りであったろう。いまは東京近辺の人ならば、浅草寺の「ほおずき市」をそぞろ歩いて夏本番の青空を待つ。梅雨どきの風物詩になっている◆4万6000日といえば100年を超える歳月である。その数字にふと遠い未来の地球を想像し、「お暑い盛り」という言葉が浮かんでくるのも時節柄だろう。北海道洞爺湖サミット(主要国首脳会議)が幕を閉じた◆温室効果ガスの排出量を2050年までに半減させる。その目標を世界全体で共有する。サミットの合意はほおずきの実のような小さな炎ではあれ、地球100年、1000年の計を担う炎でもある◆俳人、楠本憲吉さんに一句があった。〈誰を誘いて行かん四万六千日〉。地球を「お暑い盛り」にしないための長い旅がはじまる。もろもろの国を誘いて。

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At this time of year it is common to hear birds chirping during breaks in the rain, sounding like they are impatient for the showers to stop. Hearing this often gives me a poetic feeling like that of the late actor Kiyoshi Atsumi, who wrote a poem that reads:

Rain a while ago–

where did the sparrows go?

 

Every piece written by Atsumi under the pen name Futen (literally, flying deity) sounds gentle and sad, as if he is speaking softly to the small creatures around him. They are all unforgettable. Among them are:

Typhoon the previous night–

where did the butterflies go?

 

Larks flying

as if always searching for something

 

A lone green shoot–

what are you going to do?

 

Columnist Eisuke Mori reportedly has found 173 unpublished works by Atsumi. One of them reads:

A lone wild dog seen

as an autumn day falls

 

Only a flying deity could see the world this way. Another newly found piece goes:

Spring rain falls silently

on a glorious path

 

This one is said to have been written in January 1995. According to the book “A Funny Guy–Kiyoshi Atsumi,” written by Nobuhiko Kobayashi and published by Shinchosha, Atsumi had revealed that he had a terminal illness to his attendant, Seiji Shinohara, three months earlier. “Shino, I have cancer,” he said, making the phrase “glorious path” sound heavy with meaning.

Atsumi composed the piece on spring rain in August of the following year, shortly before he took the last glorious path.

He died at the age of 68, his departure from the stage like that of an actor treading a rain-spattered hanamichi walkway.

This summer marks the 12th anniversary of his death, which was mourned by many people.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

雨音がとぎれると、待っていたように鳥のさえずりが聞こえる。雨の季節には幾たびか、渥美清さんの詩情を借りて「さっきの雨どこにいた雀(すずめ)」と問うてみたいときがある◆〈ゆうべの台風どこにいたちょうちょ〉。号「風天(ふうてん)」、渥美さんが傍らの小さな命に語りかけた句は優しく、さみしく、どれも忘れがたい。〈いつも何か探しているようだなひばり〉も〈土筆(つくし)これからどうするひとりぽつんと〉もそうである◆コラムニストの森英介さんが、渥美さんの未発表173句を見つけたという。その一句。〈秋の野犬ぽつんと日暮れて〉。風天ならではのまなざしだろう◆新たに見つかったうち、〈花道に降る春雨や音もなく〉は1995年1月の作という。作家小林信彦さんの「おかしな男 渥美清」(新潮社)によれば、渥美さんはその3か月ほど前、付き人の篠原靖治さんに、「シノ、おれは癌(がん)なんだよ」と打ち明けている。「花道…」の一語が重い◆沸かせに沸かせた舞台から雨に煙る花道をひとり歩み、68歳で惜しまれつつ世を去ったのは、その句が詠まれた翌年8月のことである。この夏で12年になる。

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There is a senryu poem from the Edo period (1603-1867) that reads: “A koban coin is shaped such that it can serve as a lid for the mouth.”

The poem likely is about what we now describe as “hush money.”

Indeed, the oval coin is conveniently shaped for lidding the mouth.

If a company has enough time to consider putting a lid on a person’s mouth, it should devote that time to pondering ways to make consumers smack their lips.

Uohide, an Osaka-based eel trader suspected of having falsely labeled Chinese eels as domestic, reportedly paid 10 million yen in hush money to an employee of a seafood-wholesaler client.

Uohide explained that it started putting false labels on its products after sales of Chinese-made products plummeted earlier this year in the wake of a poisoning scandal over pesticide-laced gyoza dumplings made in China.

However, the company tried to disguise its misdemeanors by handing out the hush money and making it appear that fictitious companies were involved in the transaction of its eels. The firm’s behavior was thus malicious in nature.

When a mouth-shaped koban coin is placed on its edge, it looks like a zero. Zero is a strange number. While 1 can be changed to 10 or 100, zero, if absent-mindedly multiplied, nullifies any number–no matter how large. If you count them, you will realize a large number of companies have indulged in this kind of foolish multiplication.

It is said to take three years to master eel-cutting, eight years to master steaming and a lifetime to master grilling–the key processes in producing grilled eels.

A considerable amount of time also is required for a company to establish its credit. But everything can collapse in a split second.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

江戸川柳に、〈小判は口のふたにするかたち也(なり)〉とある。いまで言う「口止め料」を詠んだものだろう。なるほど、口の蓋(ふた)には都合のいい形をしている◆口の蓋を考える暇があれば、消費者が舌鼓を打つ口もとだけを胸に描いていればいいものを。中国産ウナギの蒲焼(かばや)きを国産と偽っていた販売業者「魚秀」(大阪市)は、納入先である卸売会社の担当者に1000万円の口止め料を渡していたという◆中国製冷凍ギョーザによる中毒事件のあおりで中国産品全体の売れ行きが落ちたことから、魚秀は産地偽装に手を染めたというが、架空の会社を介在させての隠蔽(いんぺい)工作といい、口止め料といい、悪質というほかはない◆口の形をした小判を縦に置けば、「0」に似ている。0とは不思議な数字で、1を10にも100にも増やせる反面、うかつに掛け算をすると、どれほど大きな数字もすべては無に帰る。指を折ってみれば、愚かな掛け算をした会社の何と多いことか◆ウナギの蒲焼きは俗に、〈裂きは3年、蒸し8年、焼きは一生〉という。企業が信用を築くのにも長い歳月が必要だろう。〈転落は一瞬〉である。

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