Archive for January, 2009

A controversial decision in a sumo bout was once dismissed as “the mistake of the century.” The controversy was triggered by a referee’s decision in a bout that was too close to call between yokozuna Taiho and his opponent Toda during the 1969 Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka–before video came into use for reaching final decisions in sumo from the next tournament in May that year. The referee’s call in favor of Taiho was disputed by one of the ringside judges, and after a discussion among the referee and judges Toda was pronounced winner of the bout.

The decision stopped Taiho’s winning streak at 45. Televised video footage, however, showed that Taiho’s legs had stayed inside the bales indicating the yokozuna to be the winner. Media reporters rushed to the sumo wrestlers’ dressing room while denouncing the decision as “a misjudgment.” But Taiho responded calmly and came out with an impressive statement: “Ultimately, a yokozuna should never give a questionable performance. So I am to blame.”

As even grand champions are not saints but people made of flesh and blood, he must have been frustrated by the misjudgment.

But Taiho’s speech and conduct, which concealed his emotions, possibly reflect the “aesthetic value of restraint” that Kunihiro Sugiyama, a sumo journalist, described as the charm of grand sumo-dom.

Yokozuna Asashoryu made a comeback victory in the just-ended New Year Grand Sumo Tournament after missing all or part of the previous three tournaments. His fighting spirit and sumo performance were flawless. But his fist-pumping celebrations to express his emotions after beating fellow yokozuna Hakuho in a playoff were a far cry from the traditional aesthetics of sumo.

This may be a small thing to say in the face of Asashoryu’s strength in winning the tournament and attracting large crowds of spectators to the tournament. But if such small things are permitted, before we know it, professional grand sumo will have transformed into a somewhat different fighting art. I would not like that to happen.

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

「ガッツポーズ」感情を胸に封じ込め、優勝の瞬間に感情全開・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






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“Son, not all roads in life are paved.” This is copy for an advertisement for the Toyota Land Cruiser that Toyota Motor Corp. once ran in newspapers, according to “Shusaku Nemingu Jiten” (Dictionary of Excellent Works of Naming), compiled by Nippon Jitsugyo Publishing Co.

I recalled this slogan when I heard a news report that Toyota Executive Vice President Akio Toyoda, 52, had been chosen as new president of the automaker. Akio–the eldest son of Toyota Honorary Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda–will become the first president from the founding family in 14 years.

Only a year ago, Toyota could boast of churning out more than 2 trillion yen in annual profit. Perhaps the founding family had envisaged having Akio comfortably drive a luxury Lexus, rather than a four-wheel-drive car, on a highway instead of a rough road.

The financial crisis that blew up last autumn completely changed the business environment for Toyota, which is expected to report operating losses in its next accounts settlement.

A muddy, bumpy road awaits the young new president. There is no infallible road map for corporate management–just like there is no such map for life.

The more you digest the above-mentioned ad slogan, the more charm you will find in it.

Many parents may have whispered the same phrase to themselves when encouraging their children, whose contracts as dispatch workers were abruptly terminated or whose unofficial job offers were withdrawn amid the economic downturn.

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

息子よ、人生は舗装された道だけではない・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






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Yasuharu Oyama, 15th holder of the shogi master title Meijin, reportedly said: “As long as you have a favorite strategic formation [in shogi], you’re still an amateur. Pros don’t have favorite techniques.” Versatility and flexibility are proof of the professional, Oyama noted.

His observations are included in a book, “Yakusha Sono Sekai” (Actors and Their World), written by Rokusuke Ei, an essayist, and published by Iwanami Shoten.

A US Airways passenger airplane that developed problems in both its engines Thursday after flying into a flock of birds during takeoff was instructed by an air traffic controller to land at the nearest airport. The pilot reportedly judged it would be too late to do so, opting instead to ditch the crippled jetliner into the water instead of relying on his “forte” of landing on an airport runway, and in so doing prevented crashing into a densely populated area by a hair’s breadth.

The jetliner successfully ditched in the Hudson River in New York City, and 155 passengers and crew members were rescued safely. As I watched TV footage of the rescue scenes, I was deeply impressed by the professional job done by the seasoned pilot amid relentless stomach-churning tension.

Even after all the passengers were rescued, pilot Chelsey Sullenberger, 58, reportedly remained on board the plane, as it was about to sink to the riverbed at any moment, and walked twice down the aisles to ensure no more passengers were left onboard.

Having seen the behavior of such a true professional, many people through hesitation and embarrassment may find themselves unable to claim to be a “pro” even with the help of Dutch courage.

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

融通無碍、臨機応変こそがプロの証し・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

 将棋の大山康晴十五世名人は語ったという。〈得意の手があるようじゃ、素人です。玄人に得意の手はありません〉。融通無碍(むげ)、臨機応変こそがプロの証しであると。永六輔さんの「役者 その世界」(岩波書店)に収められている





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There is a story that has been passed on about Nobuya Uchida (1880-1971)–a man who founded a shipping company before World War II and was once called one of the three most notable nouveaux riches in Japan.

After the war, he served as the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister in the fifth Cabinet of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

One day, a train Uchida was riding in jumped its rails and overturned.

According to several books, including “Hitotsuki Ichiwa,” (One Month, One Story) published by Iwanami Shoten, Uchida once shouted: “I’m Uchida of Kobe. I’m willing to pay any amount. Help me.”

But in his memoirs, Uchida denied that he had said he would pay any sum of money. It is possible that people embellished the story partly out of jealousy over his wealth.

“I’m Aso, the prime minister. I’m willing to provide any amount of money for cash benefit payments and other economic stimulus measures. Please help my government and the Liberal Democratic Party.” Prime Minister Taro Aso did not shout these words, but the public probably felt they heard them.

A recent public opinion poll by The Yomiuri Shimbun found 78 percent of the respondents are opposed to the government’s plan to pay flat-sum cash benefits. According to the survey, a majority of people believe the government should scrap the cash benefit plan and divert the funds to employment and social security measures.

Many people apparently feel unpleasant, as if bait is hanging in front of their noses. In this case, the bait was set by the government, which was trying to woo votes as if it were distributing pocket money to flatter voters.

The Aso Cabinet’s disapproval rating has finally exceeded 70 percent. Uchida is believed to have said he was willing to pay any amount–but out of his own pocket. The cash payout program is different from Uchida’s story because payments will be disbursed from taxpayer money.

Before the government is overturned, the Aso administration must once again check the course of action it should take.

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

一票ほしさの“釣り餌”を鼻先に垂らされた不快さ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






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Born in Kyoto, Ito Jinsai (1627-1705), a Confucianist during the Edo period (1603-1867), is said to have seen the sea for the first time at the age of 64. As he surveyed the seascape in Settsu (extending over parts of present-day Osaka and Hyogo prefectures), he composed a poem that reads:


Living long

I can embrace the spring of Naniwa sea

In reflection, our happiness lies in health


The poem represents his joy at being able to appreciate the sea of Naniwa (an old name for Osaka) thanks to his good health.

People in those days had a circumscribed sphere of life. Initially, there was a moment when I felt a bit sorry for them, but then I realized that this was the very reason they had been so deeply impressed by one particular landscape.

Votes have started to be accepted for “100 Landscapes of Heisei,” an event organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun to select noteworthy landscapes across the country. Among the 300 candidates are Asahiyama Zoo (in Hokkaido), Shinjuku Golden Alley (in Tokyo) and the Danjiri float festival (in Osaka), in addition to historic and scenic spots.

As I counted, I realized I had visited no more than 30 percent of the listed candidates. Living in an age of convenient transport and having achieved such a low record of visits, I should not be allowed to pass judgment on Jinsai’s sphere of life.

But instead, if I believe I have a huge stock of seeds for future pleasure, it is still fun to see a list of the 300 candidate sites and scenes (carried in the Jan. 10 issue of The Yomiuri Shimbun), including those I have yet to visit.

It is nice to cast a vote for a site or scene that someday might make you think “happiness lies in good health.”

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

「平成百景」日本各地の魅力ある景観を選ぶ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

江戸期の儒学者、伊藤仁斎は京都の人で、生まれて初めて海を見たのは64歳の時であったという。その海、摂津(大阪)の風景を前にして詠んだ歌がある。〈ながらへば なにはの浦の春もみつ おもへば人は命なりけり〉





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Be praying for their safety day and night   …  Musings hachiyorenge

A veteran intelligence agent remonstrates with his junior by saying that the survival of a spy depends on whether he or she has the ability to harbor unlimited suspicion.

This is a scene from “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a spy novel by British author John le Carre.

It is fine advice for spies in novels because they can keep suspicious figures at arm’s length and avoid visiting dangerous places.

The effectiveness of having the ability to harbor suspicion is limited for taxi drivers, who are not allowed to send off dubious characters and who are required to have their backs defenselessly turned to customers in a closed space.

Recently, I have barely passed a morning without seeing the words “taxi robbery” when I open the newspaper.

The taxi industry organization and the Construction and Transport Ministry have begun to devise countermeasures, including installing a partition between the driver’s seat and the backseat and an anticrime camera in cabs.

Catching culprits swiftly is another indispensable element in severing the chain of criminal acts.

Be that as it may, I am shaking my head in the face of such a deteriorated social condition–the situation is enough to remind me of the above-mentioned remonstration in the spy novel while conducting my daily life.

Taxi drivers’ families must be praying for their safety day and night after sending their loved ones to work.

I would like to offer words of appreciation to the driver when getting out of a taxi–that is the least I can do.

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

夜となく、昼となく、無事を祈って手を合わせる・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






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Loses its flavor, people spit it out.  …  Musings hachiyorenge

Surume, or dried squid, are said to have served as lucky charms in Japan since ancient times. They are used as New Year ornaments and at weddings, as well as being buried as a divine offering under the dohyo ring prepared for each grand sumo tournament.

To make surume, fresh squid are cut open and dried. If a good deal of time and effort is spent on preparation, their sweetness and flavor increase and quality is retained for a long time.

The Susami branch of the Wakayama-Minami Fisheries Cooperative in Wakayama Prefecture produces “surumeiru” (surumail), a postcard made from vacuum-packed squid. The branch office sold 20,000 New Year cards of this type at the year-end. Some people likely drank several cups of sake while lightly roasting some surume and recalling the friend who sent the surumail as a New Year greeting.

The ordinary Diet session opens Monday, at a time when people have not yet shaken off the New Year mood. At the outset of 2007 and 2008, we had two different prime ministers–Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, respectively. This time around, we have Taro Aso as prime minister. Just over three months after his Cabinet was established, its approval ratings plummeted.

A Liberal Democratic Party executive lamented the rapid turnover of prime ministers, saying: “When chewing gum loses its flavor, people spit it out. Would it be acceptable to conduct ‘chewing gum’ politics?”

The LDP cannot evade criticism for failing to sustain successive administrations, despite the fact party members elected leaders whom they deemed to be popular with the public in preparation for an election.

Japan will become a poor country if politicians are used once and thrown away, like food being cleared from a shelf when it reaches its expiry date.

A general election will be held before September.

The longer surume is chewed, the more flavorsome it becomes. We should foster politicians that become increasingly palatable, too.

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

味がなくなったらすぐに吐き捨てる・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






創価学会 企業 会館 仏壇 八葉蓮華 hachiyorenge

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