Archive for November, 2008

Japanese and Chinese people to candidly discuss disputed matters….  Musings hachiyorenge

Fujio Akatsuka, the late cartoonist, observed the end of war on Aug. 15, 1945, in northeastern China, then Manchuria, when he was 9 years old. That evening, he saw the red sky become almost completely covered by a huge, ominous flock of crows. That scene of contrasting black and red was the most impressive of his childhood and he remembered it throughout his life.

“Watashi no Hachigatsu Jugonichi” (My August 15), a collection of pictures by about 100 cartoonists about their experiences on that day was published in Japan in 2004. A Chinese version will soon be published by People’s Daily Publishing House, which was approached by the Japanese people involved.

The collection includes works of many cartoonists who were in Manchuria when the war ended, including Akatsuka and Tetsuya Chiba.

Some of the works depict family members in a rural town who talk about their readiness to commit suicide after hearing Emperor Showa’s statement broadcast on radio that Japan had surrendered or that people were fleeing the advancing Soviet troops.

In China, many young people are fans of Japanese comic books. But the same young people harbor anti-Japanese feelings over historical issues, according to “Chugoku Doman Shinjinrui” (A New Breed of Chinese Who Love Anime, Manga Comics) written by Homare Endo, a professor emeritus at Tsukuba University, and published by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Endo has conducted a survey on the sentiments of Chinese students.

How will the collection of pictures depicting Japanese feelings about the war be received by Chinese people? The answer has yet to be known, but there is one thing for sure: New buds are sprouting, allowing Japanese and Chinese people to candidly discuss disputed matters.

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

日中の間で本音の議論をする芽が生まれつつある・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華


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Nov. 22 marks the day of the happily married couple….  Musings hachiyorenge

Tenshin Okakura (1863-1913), an art curator, married while he was still at university. His wife seems to have been an impetuous woman. During a marital tiff, she tore to shreds his graduation thesis on the theory of the state, a work he had labored over.

To meet his deadline with only two weeks remaining, Tenshin was left with no alternative but to knock out a new graduation thesis on an art-related theme.

“Tenshin’s course in life may well have been decided at that point,” his grandson Koshiro Okakura writes in a Bunshun Bunko series pocketbook titled “Miscellaneous Stories of History” of Bungeishunju Ltd.

Tenshin later founded the Japan Art Institute. If that marital row indeed resulted in him moving into the field of art, its significance cannot be merely cast to one side.

Nov. 22 marks the day of the happily married couple. The day has been so designated because Nov. 22 or 11/22 can be read as “ii fufu,” meaning a good husband and wife in a play on words.

Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. conducted a questionnaire survey of about 1,200 married people, asking them to describe their marital relationship with one kanji character. The survey showed that a majority of those married up to 15 years used kanji meaning “happiness” or “love,” while those beyond that threshold chose kanji meaning “endurance.”

According to Koshiro, his grandmother would limit Tenshin in his later years to one small bottle of sake (equivalent to 0.18 liter) with dinner. Tenshin often recounted Conan Doyle whodunits in front of his family over dinner, but just as he reached the climax of each story, the wily Tenshin would fall silent for a moment and say, “Another bottle…”

“Endurance” also requires strategies.

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

11月22日は語呂合わせで「いい夫婦の日」・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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I looked shabby as I walked by…  Musings hachiyorenge

There are many poems by Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912) that will make readers sink deep into thought and reflect upon themselves.

The following piece is probably one of these poems.


Coming in front of a mirror shop

It took me by surprise

I looked shabby as I walked by.


I am sometimes startled by how bad my physiognomy is when I find my face reflected on a window of the day’s last train or a mirror on an elevator wall. Even so, deep inside of me, I usually find fault in other people’s physiognomy.

Making sure no mirrors are around you may be a prerequisite for allowing you to live in a happy-go-lucky manner.

“There are many doctors who lack a proper degree of common sense,” Prime Minister Taro Aso said Wednesday at an official function.

There must be some people who misheard the statement as one directed at politicians, as many Cabinet members have been replaced one after another over dubious money deals or gaffes that raised serious questions about their judgment as politicians.

Mirrors should be installed at the Prime Minister’s Office.

In the face of protests from the Japan Medical Association, Aso apologized for the “inappropriate use of language.” Singling out a certain group of professionals for insult could lead to discrimination. His gaffe left a bad aftertaste.

Aso himself will eventually be reflected in the “mirror” of voters in the form of a general election. He has mispronounced kanji characters and used improper language, and I understand the job of the prime minister is as difficult as primary school studies.

However, I am concerned–although it is not really my business–that Aso will end up experiencing similar emotions as Ishikawa if he repeatedly makes ridiculous slips of the tongue.

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

鏡屋の前に来て ふと驚きぬ 見すぼらしげに歩むものかも・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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“Is this a dream?” an old man asks himself quizzically. “Even if it is a dream, I’m delighted just to have this reunion.”

This passage is from “Tokusa” (Scouring Rushes), a noh play about an old man who is reunited by chance with his grown son who has been missing since he was kidnapped as a child.

The joyous moment of such a reunion never came to Tomi Ichikawa. She was the mother of Shuichi Ichikawa, who was abducted by North Korean agents at age 23 from a campsite in Fukiagehama beach, Hioki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in August 1978. She died Saturday at the age of 91 before realizing her dream of being reunited with her son.

Speaking at a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said, “I deeply regret [our failure to return Ichikawa while his mother was alive].”

True, North Korea takes advantage of the weakness of the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso and looks down on the administration that would not seek a public mandate by calling an election and which caused a commotion due to its inability to put forth a consistent policy on the provision of fixed-amount benefits to the people.

The bereaved families of abducted Japanese wait impatiently for the moment when they can embrace their sons or daughters while shedding tears of exultation after they return from North Korea. Such family members are growing older.

“Deep regret” does not make any sense if it is not accompanied by action–whether it be pressure or dialogue backed by pressure.

A person who died at the age of 91 would be generally regarded as one who lived a long life. To the news of her death, I have no words to utter except “Alas.”

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

夢にても逢ふこそ嬉しけれ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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The pain of a devastating earthquake 13 years ago…  Musings hachiyorenge

During the Korean War, the Japanese economy was boosted by what was called special procurement demand generated for Japanese goods. This was when the word, “gachaman,” was coined.

The word means every time a factory machine operated with the sound of “gacha,” there would be a profit of ichi-man yen, or 10,000 yen.

As this example shows, it is true there are callous practices similar to theft committed in the confusion of a fire, or actions to turn others’ misfortune into one’s fortune.

Even so, there is no fool who licks his or her lips even before a fire breaks out as if waiting for the neighbor’s house to be burned down. Or so I thought. I have been proved wrong, as such a person does exist in this big world.

At a meeting of governors from the Kinki region on Tuesday, Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido commented that “if a Great Kanto Earthquake occurred, it would provide an opportunity [to boost the economy of the Kansai region].”

It is not my style to criticize a person because of something he or she said, but I think those were words that should never have been uttered, especially by the governor of a prefecture that experienced the pain of a devastating earthquake 13 years ago.

The episode makes me wonder–albeit unnecessarily–whether Ido was waiting to take seize the opportunity if one of his colleagues collapsed due to an illness or accident when he was a bureaucrat at the former Home Affairs Ministry.

Ido appears to be an honest person who does not want to hide his aspirations. He is not the kind of person with whom people do not want to be friends.

I am writing this column in Tokyo. If a major earthquake strikes with a focus located beneath the metropolitan area, 440,000 buildings will be destroyed and about 4,700 people will be killed, according to one estimate.

Unfortunately, if that hypothesis becomes a reality, people in the disaster-hit area will receive a congratulatory telegram together with relief goods from the Hyogo governor.

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

13年前の痛みを知る県の知事が使う言葉ではない・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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“The main stage of life lies in the future.” …  Musings hachiyorenge

When Yukika Soma was a primary school pupil, a teacher told her class: “Cherry trees symbolize the soul of the Japanese people. A traitor sold our soul.” The “traitor” was Yukio Ozaki, the girl’s father and then mayor of Tokyo, who presented 3,000 cherry tree saplings to the United States.

Cold eyes were cast on the daughter of the politician who hewed to an antiestablishment stance all his life. During the immediate postwar period, when Japan was suffering from an acute food shortage, Soma, the mother of four infants who complained of hunger, did the rounds of farmers to ask for food, but ended up being told repeatedly and invariably that “there’s nothing for the daughter of a traitor.”

The passion and antiestablishment spirit she inherited from her father may have helped transform adverse circumstances into food for her soul. Soma, who devoted herself to the reconstruction of war-ravaged areas through relief activities for refugees, died Saturday at the age of 96.

Ozaki, often referred to as “the father of constitutional government,” went on record as saying that “the main stage of life lies in the future.” He meant that one must strive to pursue one’s lifework until the moment of death so accumulated wisdom and experience can be used for the benefit of society.

Soma worked as president of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, throughout her life. Her father must have welcomed her into heaven with a warm smile.

Soma was born in 1912, the year Ozaki presented the cherry tree saplings to the United States.

What I recall of her life is that it bloomed after braving the elements, just like the cherry trees of the same age that paint the bank of Potomac River every spring.

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

死ぬ瞬間まで活動の本舞台を未来に求め続けよ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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Yoshitaka Takahashi (1913-1995), an expert in German literature, once gave a freshly brewed isshobin (1.8-liter) bottle of renowned sake as a gift to his close friend, author Hyakken Uchida (1889-1971).

Uchida, however, scolded Takahashi when they met later.

Uchida had a hard time drinking his usual sake after having been treated to such tasty sake. “I’m annoyed,” Uchida was quoted as complaining to Takahashi in the latter’s essay, “Jissetsu Hyakken-ki” (True stories about Hyakken).

It is a likely episode concerning Uchida, who was known as eccentric.

On reflection, however, I think success that illuminates one’s life is similar to tasteful sake given as a gift.

Music producer Tetsuya Komuro, who took Japan by storm with a series of megahits in the 1990s, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of defrauding a company president out of 500 million yen. At one point in his life, Komuro earned more than 3 billion yen a year, according to one estimate.

Komuro has not been able to produce hit songs in the past several years, and is riddled with massive debts, mostly from failed business undertakings abroad.

Even so, his lavish lifestyle did not change, according to media reports. For example, his credit card bills totaled several tens of millions of yen apiece, and his monthly rent was 2.8 million yen.

It is not easy for someone who has acquired a taste for high-end sake to become used to one befitting his or her true financial standing after all the good sake has been consumed. Such a fancy for expensive goods undoubtedly widened the wounds that led to Komuro’s fall.

No sake is more difficult for anyone to be intoxicated with in a good way than a delicious sake called success.

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

「おいしいお酒」を頂戴したあとでは・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
ドイツ文学者の高橋義孝さんは、親しく接した作家の内田百ケンに蔵出しの名酒を一升贈ったことがある。のちに百ケンに会ったとき、ひどく怒られたという◆ふだん飲んでいるお酒が、ああいうおいしいお酒を頂戴(ちょうだい)したあとでは飲めなくなる。「迷惑します」。苦情を言われたと、随筆「実説 百ケン記」に書いている。偏屈で知られた作家らしい挿話だが、顧みれば人生を彩る成功も、到来物の「おいしいお酒」に似ているかも知れない◆1990年代に超売れっ子の音楽プロデューサーとして一世を風靡(ふうび)した小室哲哉容疑者(49)が、5億円を詐取した疑いで逮捕された。かつては年収が推定で30億円を超えていた人である◆数年前からヒット曲に恵まれず、海外事業も失敗し、多額の借金を背負った。そののちも「クレジットカードの支払い数千万円」「マンション家賃280万円」といった派手な暮らしぶりは変わらなかったといわれる◆おいしいお酒が切れたあと、いちど肥えた舌が身の丈に合う元の酒に戻るのは容易でない。転落の傷口を広げただろう。「成功」という美酒ほど、酔い方のむずかしい酒はない。

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