I think spectator sports are best watched live. But there are games I want to see again later on tape, such as the women's World Cup soccer final last year that was won by the Japanese national team. Watching a replay of an exciting game can bring unexpected discoveries and add to the sweetness of victory.
"Hayabusa Harukanaru Kikan" (Hayabusa's Long Journey Home), a film to be released shortly by Toei Co., may make the audience feel as if they are watching a replay of their favorite hard-won match.
"Hayabusa," an unmanned spacecraft developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was launched in 2003 and successfully returned to Earth in 2010 after collecting samples from a small asteroid. Three movies, of which the above-mentioned is the second, have been made by three filmmakers to glorify Hayabusa's feat.
Ken Watanabe plays a scientist modeled after Junichiro Kawaguchi, the Hayabusa project chief. A female Asahi Shimbun science reporter is played by Yui Natsukawa. I feel honored that the film's producers used the Asahi name. Nobuyuki Tsuji, a pianist, composed the theme music that brings out the melancholy that underlaid the mission.
Commenting on the film, Kawaguchi noted, "The fruits of science and technology give hope and self-confidence to the nation." In other words, people will gain confidence and communicate their hope to the next generation.
The Hayabusa mission was so fraught with problems that it would have failed had it not been for the sheer determination of the staff to bring the spacecraft safely back to Earth. Before its return, Hayabusa's propulsion system malfunctioned due to corrosion. There was a way to fix the problem, but resorting to it was a huge gamble that could have ruined the whole project.
In the film, the character played by Watanabe makes the tough decision. "Let's do it," he says. "I will shoulder the entire responsibility." Even our country can have a true leader.
The Hayabusa 2 mission, which is now under preparation, will capitalize on the lessons learned from the first mission. It is expected to bring back samples that may be traced to the origins of life.
Some people may argue that taxpayers' money should be spent on Earth. But if the Hayabusa 2 mission succeeds, its legacy will be invaluable to the entire human race.
When the times are tough, there are not many "games" that can be viewed later by the whole nation.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 5
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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