Archive for the ‘Lotus Sutra’ Category

Poet Bunmei Tsuchiya (1890-1990) penned a work that reads:


Because of this mother and father,

I exist here, but this isn’t

something to be said presumptuously


In a House of Representatives election called 3-1/2 years ago by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito gained more than two-thirds of the lower house’s 480 seats, winning a public mandate for Koizumi’s pet policy project of reforming the postal service.

The current Aso administration came into existence thanks to the enormous number of seats obtained in that election. In other words, the combined will of the people in favor of the postal service privatization can be seen as the “father and mother” of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Aso has touched on the possibility of reexamining the management structure of the four privatized postal companies. The law on postal service privatization has a review provision that allows for a reassessment of the reform’s fundamental direction. But if Aso seeks to alter the way the four privatized postal firms are run, he should consult his “father and mother” first.

When Aso was asked why, despite being one of the ministers of the Koizumi Cabinet, he had indicated the possibility of reviewing the management setup of the four postal companies privatized in October 2007, he responded angrily, saying: “I was against it [the postal service privatization]. I won’t find it amusing if I’m held responsible for it.” I wonder how different he is from a petulant child who complains to his or her parents, “I didn’t ask to be born!”

If Aso wants to redraw the blueprint of the postal service privatization, he had better seek the opinion of his “father and mother” by dissolving the lower house for a general election.

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







Read Full Post »

The legend of the “overnight castle” built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) in Sunomata (now Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture) and Ishigakiyama (now Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture) has been passed down from generation to generation.

People would have been unable to believe their eyes when they saw emerging from the morning mist a huge castle on the mountain top, where no structure had been seen at dusk the previous day.

Knocking down the stone structure of a pyramid to make it cylindrical would be no less difficult than building Toyotomi’s overnight castle. I am referring to the major task of putting an end to the brokering of postretirement jobs for bureaucrats by government ministries and agencies by the end of this year–a pledge made by Prime Minister Taro Aso.

While some of their colleagues who joined the civil service in the same year have climbed the career ladder, many bureaucrats find themselves prodded to leave their ministries or agencies before retirement age. The personnel structure of a government ministry is pyramid shaped with the veteran administrative vice minister–the most senior in the organization–standing at the peak and new recruits at the base.

The elimination of the amakudari practice of bureaucrats landing cushy jobs in the public or private sectors, would lead to many bureaucrats not on the fast track remaining in their ministry or agency until retirement age.

Bureaucrats in the Kasumigaseki district in Tokyo, where government offices are concentrated, are likely to fight every inch of the way to thwart the planned transition to a cylindrical personnel structure.

The prime minister’s spirited intention of doing his utmost to eradicate the amakudari practice, which has sown the seeds of corruption, is praiseworthy. But, this “construction project” will hardly succeed without detailed blueprints and unbending faith in the initiative.

According to some accounts, the overnight fortress in Ishigakiyama was a papier-mache castle created overnight by building a skeleton structure in the woods, covering it with paper to give the impression of white walls and then cutting down the trees surrounding it.

I hope the “11-month castle” the prime minister has confidently said he will build will not turn out to be a structure of papier–mache.

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






Read Full Post »

One of the dozens of possible winning techniques in sumo is gassho-hineri (clasped-hands twist-down) in which a wrestler puts his hands behind his opponent’s back, as if in prayer, and twists him down.

The punishment meted out Monday by the Japan Sumo Association to Wakakirin, a juryo-division wrestler who was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana, could be likened to gassho-hineri, with the JSA clasping its hands together in prayer. Instead of meting out a punishment of expulsion, which would mean Wakakirin would not be entitled to receive a retirement allowance, the association decided on the lesser punishment of dismissal to allow him to receive the retirement benefit if he so requests.

A favorable interpretation of the punishment might view the JSA as having shown clemency by praying for the wrestler’s rehabilitation. The organization’s chairman, Musashigawa, said: “He’s only 25. Expulsion is too severe a penalty when considering the rest of his life.”

But it is also possible to interpret the punishment in a negative light. With the lynching death of a young sumo wrestler carried out under the pretext of training still fresh in our minds and court trials on suspected match-fixing, public attention is focused on the state of professional sumo.

In light of the sensitive timing, it is difficult not to wonder whether the JSA clasped its hands in prayer in hopes the wrestler would not disclose something detrimental to the sumo world after it handed him the lesser punishment of dismissal to allow him access to a retirement allowance. I hope this is nothing more than a petty suspicion.

The JSA currently is experiencing a mitokorozeme (three-pronged attack) over drug scandals, bullying during training sessions and the controversial behavior of yokozuna Asashoryu.

I would have preferred to see the JSA hand down an authoritative tsukidashi (pushing out), instead of the more equivocal gassho-hineri punishment.

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

退職金の出る「解雇」妙な暴露だけはしないでくれよ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






Read Full Post »

The late writer Kuniko Mukoda never simply pocketed money she happened to come across. As money that had fallen down to her from the heavens, she would accept it with gratitude.

“Even though the action of putting the money into your pocket is the same, this difference in attitude will later affect the strength or weakness of a person’s integrity,” writer Teruhiko Kuze said in “Furemosede” (Without Even a Touch), a collection of essays to mourn Mukoda’s death. (The book is published as part of the Kodansha pocketbook series.)

Kuze, who was Mukoda’s close friend, has also died.

This passage from Kuze’s essay came to mind when I read an article quoting Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto as saying, “I want talented people from outside–people who are tightfisted with other people’s money.” Hashimoto, who will soon celebrate his first anniversary in office, made the remarks during a joint interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun and other media organizations.

Interpreting Hashimoto’s expression, “tightfisted with other people’s money,” I would say it probably means he is seeking people who will not squander the money of others–taxpayers’ money–as if spending money they had just come across. Hashimoto is probably seeking people who see even 1 yen as a gift from the heavens not to be wasted.

The second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 was approved by the Diet yesterday.

Did the government allocate the “gift” of taxpayers money to policies seen as sufficiently effective in stimulating the economy? Wasn’t there any notion of money being lavishly thrown at voters?

To borrow Kuze’s words, I am still unable to make out the strength or weakness of the integrity of the man who stuck to this widely unpopular flat-sum cash handout plan–Prime Minister Taro Aso.

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

「他人の金にせこい」天からの頂き物として1円たりとも無駄にしない・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華






Read Full Post »

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





Read Full Post »

“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






Read Full Post »

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





Read Full Post »

Older Posts »